Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rsas

Oh No She Didn’t: Toni Braxton Calls Her Divorce “Very Caucasian”

Malaka:

I mean…in way, she’s right. *shrug*

Originally posted on The Michigan Chronicle:

tonibraxton

The internet is buzzing around the recent Toni Braxton interview on the talk show Bethenny. On the show singer/entertainer Toni Braxton made some stereotypical comments on why her divorce to husband Keri Lewis has been going so smooth.

According to reports by Madame Noire, the transcribe interview went as follows:

Bethenny: So on the break we were talking about you living in LA?

Toni: Yes, I am in LA and my ex-husband is there but we get along great. We are very caucasian, very white about it.

Bethenny: You are having a very white divorce?

Toni: We are really. We did.

Bethenny: Really. Then I have a very black divorce, no?

Toni: I got that means, I hate you Jodi, I hate you Jodi. That’s what it means to black people. (“Baby Boy” reference)

Bethenny: Got it, so a white divorce is your are bffs

View original 54 more words

Right Now, At This Very Moment

It’s a cold, dreary, rainy day in Atlanta. The downpour and the gloomy atmosphere are fitting, for they match my mood at this very moment. The rain, it appears, is a metaphor for what is going on inside of me. You see folks, I have crippling diarrhea. There is a storm of brown, murky water swirling on the inside of me, looking for any available point for which to make its exit.

I got back from Ghana last night, and I should be very grateful. I say “should be” because I left, landed and returned with life and limb intact. However that is where the grace ends, for you see folks: I HAVE CRIPPLING DIARRHEA.

Can you imagine how that feels? Knowing somewhere in the world some devoted fan is devouring my debut novel, The Daughters of Swallows, and that in that very same moment my bowels are greedily preying upon themselves?

International Selling Author Writhes About in Pain on Porcelain Throne as Someone in The World is Reading her Book!

Barack ObamaYou think that ever happens to President Obama? Sure he  generally looks are suave on TV, but every once in a while he gets this look on his face. Perhaps, and this is just me thinking out loud, while the pundits are screeching over healthcare, he may have a poo-litical battle raging within him as well. Is that why he purses his lips like that from time to time? Like “Yeah, yeah, this is all very exciting guys, but I had some bad sushi last night, and I really need to get back to the Oval Office and take a crap over all your opinion!”

Hmmmm…

You ever wonder if the masterful and brilliant Peter Jackson ever contemplates these same things? Surely he has.  Like “Yeah, you’re watching Lord of The Rings now, but have you ever considered that there might be a ring of fire encircled around my anus at this very moment?! No more milk-based donuts on set please…”

Because that’s where I am now, MOM Squad and Random Readers, in all my “brilliance” I have been brought low by spasmodic contractions of my large (and I presume, small) intestines. When I envisioned my triumphant return from Ghana, completely sold out of every volume I carried on the plane with me, I never once saw myself on my knees in defeat in the bathroom, crying out to God and the ancestors for their mercy and assistance!

What did I eat? Was it that kebab from the blood drive in Korle Bu? My father has warned me about the germs swirling around that area. The presence of super germs in what was once the Korle Lagoon might have cut through the air and touched something I ate or drank. I say it was once a lagoon, because it is now little more than a liquid body storing feces under the oppressive equatorial sun. The stench is unimaginable. It literally goes into your chest and rips the breath from your body.

Was it something I drank? I always drink bottled water, but ever since I encountered a Made in Ghana-tapped from Aburi – draped with the American flag bottle of water earlier this year, I realized one can’t be too certain about their drinking water sources. Deception of the highest order!

What I am trying to get to is this: I wanted to write all about my two week adventure in Ghana from the beginning, but I am now having to reverse engineer that process. You have to come with me down this rabbit hole backwards. You have to feel this pain, in this moment. Why? I don’t know. Because I asked you to. Because you are compassionate. Because I am delirious from dehydration and the online world and all that dwell within are the only people I have in this America to keep me sane!

Have you ever fervently wished that someone would rip the beating heart from your chest just to make the pain of heartbreak, disappointment and turmoil dissipate from your life? You know that the snatching of your heart will cause you immense pain, but it can’t be any worse than what you are experiencing now. You have, haven’t you?

My advice? Don’t do it again!

This is precisely what this bubbling in my stomach feels like. Like a cauldron overflowing with sticky green ooze and some extraterrestrial being is drawing it out in 8 oz batches four or more times an HOUR.

photo(24)I’m back. But don’t expect perfection on the blog for at least another week. I’ve been crapping my brains out since Thursday and my thoughts,  memories and mental faculties are sketchy. I can tell you that some of the highlights of the trip involve a 1.3 million cedi bra, an encounter with a ghost, and being confronted with the face of clueless, blissful, self-assured  patriarchy.

I’ve missed you guys. Did you miss me? ‘Course you did! How could you not miss that face?

One Day, All Crime Will Just be Labeled as “Crime”. I hope.

So, I live in this tiny subdivision out in Roswell. Property values have taken a hit in the last 4 -5 years and we have had one demographic move out and another demographic move in. I’m talking about homeowners versus renters.

In my little enclave, we have people of many races and ethnicities: African Americans, straight up Africans, a few Caribbea Islanders, a mixed race couple, some Caucasians, two Hispanic families and a gay couple, just for spice. Oh. And the neighborhood weed man. Can’t forget him. We all get along because we largely ignore each other except to wave on the way in and/or out of the enclave, or when my girls are selling Girl Scout cookies. Despite our brief interactions, we’ve gotten to know a bit about each other.

“I like your slippers. Where did you get them?”

“Oh! I got them when I went home to Trinidad.”

Or

“Hey! What are YOU guys grilling today? It smells great!”

“Chorizo. It’s from Argentina. Do you know it?”

“No. Never had it.”

“Well try a piece. And here, give some to Stone. He’s so cute.”

argentThat last interaction was with my neighbor Valentina*. She is, as you may have guessed, from Argentina. I guess you could say she is a “white Hispanic”, as I have recently come to understand that Hispanics have a sort of caste system amongst them. I don’t know what the proper term is. I still have to contend with colorism in the Black community, so I’ll leave this for them to deal with.

I like Valentina a lot. She always has a ready smile, a goofy joke, and she keeps her carport clean. She looks out for my kids and I am kind to her dog. I’ve never seen an ugly side of Valentina… until today. Okay. “Ugly” is a strong word. Let’s just say I was “surprised”.

There is a bush/tree/mutated vegetation that grows outside of my house. There is some sort of symbiotic relationship between the pompous grass and some thick weedy thing that grows in this area. The plant is not just an eyesore, but it is a safety hazard as well. I don’t know if you can make out the red and white “no parking” sign in the picture, but it is about an inch taller than I am. I am 5’4”. The mega-bush dwarfs it, and probably is about ten feet tall – conservatively. It is as wide as it is tall, and is dangerous because the kids play around the area. Cars cannot see them, they cannot see cars as they approach. Marshall once almost hit Liya because he could not see her while she was riding her trike one afternoon.

Lord. I hate this thing.

Lord. I hate this thing.

I have complained about this bush for almost a year. Nothing has been done. I finally took a different approach and contacted someone else on my HOA committee. If you live in a community with an HOA, you know it takes a decree from God Almighty and an act of congress to make anything happen. I sprinkled my email with big words. I called and left voicemails with my most Talented Tenth, grating, condescending tone. I took pictures and made YouTube videos. I was being a total jerk. And it was not until I was a jerk that something got done.

A Mexican man named Jorge showed up at my door today to say he was there to cut down the bush. I told him it was out back and that he would need to drive around. As I was coming out of my door, I saw Valentina get into her car. I walked over to say hi. She had been out of the country on summer vacation and I hadn’t had a chance to greet her in weeks.

“Hey, Valentina, what do you think of this bush? Does it bother you?”

Her eyes flashed and she furrowed her brow.

“Oh yes!” she said in her thick accent. “I don’t like this bush at all. It’s so big… you can’t see anything around it. It’s very dangerous. Especially with the kids.”

I nodded, feeling vindicated. I wasn’t crazy. I told her that I had contacted the HOA to have them cut it down.

“They aren’t going to do anything about,” she snarled.

“No, actually, they are on their way now.” I pointed to the black and green landscaper’s truck pulling up. Valentina nearly spat.

banderamexico“If it’s that Mexican, he’s not going to help you. He’s a useless man.”

Yo. I can’t explain to you how she uttered the word ‘Mexican’. It was as if the word left a dirty taste in her mouth, full of bile and contempt.

She spun around and hopped into her car seconds later. I literally didn’t see her leave. The landscaping manager approached me and began to talk quickly. I didn’t even get a chance to address him or the bush.

“I don’t know what that woman said to you, but we have our own issues with her.”

“Okay…”

Then he launched into a missive about how she wanted her carport blown out, how unreasonable she was, yadda yadda yadda.

“I don’t know what issues you have with her, and I don’t care,” I said, jumping to her defense. “The fact is that our HOA dues pay for these services, and she has a right to request them.”

(I stopped myself from saying “and they pay for your hourly wage too”. See? I’m learning tact!)

Eventually I got Jorge to focus on why he was here. Actually, Marshall got him to focus, because I apparently he saw me do a neck roll/hand on hip/squat-kick combo and came rushing out of the bedroom to diffuse the situation. Upon seeing my husband’s herculean frame, Jorge immediately became five times more docile and compliant… and stopped talking to me altogether. This was the second incidence of misogyny in as many days, and I was not having it. I was the one making the incessant requests for this shrubbery to be cut down. He darn well was going to respond to ME!

Marshall had to take a call, and Jorge had no choice but to talk to me. I told him what I wanted, and he said he would do his best.

“That’s all you can do,” I replied, reaching out for a handshake.

I turned to leave and he stopped me.

“This is my card. Call me tomorrow after I’ve talked to the HOA manager. I’ll see if we can do anything else.”

“Thank you, Jorge.”

It ended pleasantly. I wondered if Valentina and Jorge might resolve their differences as well one day? While I am ignorant of the exact forms in which ‘racism’ exists within the Hispanic or Latin community, I do recognize the symptoms as they manifest: the same sneers, side glances, and inflection in one’s tone when talking about the ethnicity of the next person, they are almost universal.

I have heard more white people complain about the Black community’s apathy towards black on black crime in the last year than I’ve ever cared to. Who told these people that we are not concerned about Black on black crime? If my loved one was killed today, I wouldn’t care what color the person was that pulled the trigger. Is the fact that the assailant’s race/color matches mine supposed to be some sort of comfort? And for the record, our community has had plenty to say about intra-race violence. No one bothers to report it.

What does that have to do with my Hispanic neighbor and Hispanic landscaper? Perhaps not much to you, but it was certainly revelatory to me – and it left me puzzled on few issues. So… Hispanics are capable of hating each other? How is that even possible? How long has this been flying under the radar? And when White people kill and rob each other, is that ‘White on White’ crime? Does such a thing exist? Does that mean White people have an intra-racial psychosis that mirrors that of Blacks? You know, like when the guy in the trailer beats up on his wife or rapes his kids. Why does Black crime get the distinct honor of being exclusively racialized, while all other crime gets the benefit of merely being known as “crime”?

No really. Why.

Protect Us from ALL Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

Today marks yet another sad day in our nation’s history. It seems like only yesterday that we were all reeling from the news of the massacre at Columbine, when in fact the school shooting happened thirteen years ago in 1999.

In the unlikely event that you don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m talking about the 26 lives that were taken today by a narcissistic gunman in Sandy Hook, CT who then – in the ultimate act of cowardice – turned his gun on himself and took his own life. 20 elementary school children were killed, the majority of whom were kindergarteners in the class where the gunman’s mother taught.

At this point there is little known about Adam Lanza, the 20 year old man responsible for the shooting. What we do know is that he had two handguns and a high-powered assault rifle in his deadly arsenal. It is speculated that he killed all his victims at close range.

In the midst of this tragedy, America is left looking for answers. How did this happen again? The news these last few months has been flooded with stories about deadly gun violence: The shooting at a mall in Portland, the football player who killed himself and his girlfriend, a shooting at a Wisconsin salon that left 4 people dead, and of course, the horrific massacre in Aurora, CO in a darkened movie theater.

It begs the question: Are Americans safe within the confines of their own shores?

For the majority of us, that answer is ‘yes’. The incidences of gun violence do not result in any greater number of death as a result of motor vehicle accidents, suicides, medical malpractice or a host of other ways that human beings die in this country. However, what separates gun violence from these is the intent behind the result and cold callous indifference in the mind of the shooter, which is what I feel needs to be addressed in America today.

To lose your life, or the life of a loved one, so violently at the hands of an insane person is more than I can personally fathom. I don’t understand how Adam Lanza could have plotted this malicious scheme and not considered the devastation that it would cause in its aftermath. Who knows what plans these bright young children had made for this weekend and the days ahead? Perhaps one had planned to show off to his friends, proud that he had learned to ride his bike on two wheels for the first time. Maybe one had a birthday coming up this weekend? Christmas is coming up. Did one of those sweet babies just want to sit back and take in the twinkling lights on their recently decorated tree…maybe even mischievously steal a candy cane and eat it before mom found out?

What kind of animal does not consider any of this before he takes a life?

The cries for gun control have been ramped up. Should we make it more difficult for people to get guns? Absolutely – but that’s just a Band Aid on a bigger issue; that issue being America’s heart.

I read an article on Facebook that touted how the Japanese have virtually eliminated death attributed to gun violence in their country, and that is to be commended. However, the Japanese have something going for them that Americans by and large do no today. They have a culture that preaches respect for one’s neighbor, country and for themselves. They live by a code of honor. Americans on the other hand have been force-fed the idea that we are all individuals who should not judge each other, and therefore are above judgment…even self-judgment. Every day, we become a more hedonistic society. Even our pulpits are crowded with messages about how to gain wealth and prosperity for YOURSELF and YOUR lineage. When was the last time you heard a good message about loving your neighbor and the level of sacrifice that this love requires? In our daily discourse, do we even discuss preferring our neighbor above ourselves?

Not really.

Now that the two wars we are fighting abroad are drawing to a close, I sincerely hope our government and our citizenry will turn our focus to some serious domestic issues, and that is the crop of terrorists we are breeding right here at home: People growing up without understanding what it means to love and honor your country, your parents and yourself.

Laws and gun control would not have stopped Adam Lanza from doing what he did. This was a young man who came from privilege, who had his heart set on carrying out an evil act. Had there been no gun in his hand, he could have chosen to blow up the school. He could have chosen to poison his intended victims with some bio agent. He could have simply walked into that kindergarten class and slit each one of those children’s throats, just as a man in China did in a school earlier this week.

Sure: We can take guns out of the hands of the insane, the hedonistic, the self-centered and the plain old crazy, but that’s the easy part. It’s merely a populist rallying cry for a bigger problem. We need to return to training up children in the way that they should go, even if it’s not the most popular thing to do.

In the meantime, I join thousands of other saints praying for those sweet babies and the families left behind to deal with their unimaginable grief.

Protect Yourself This Holiday Shopping Season

Well MOM Squad; Black Friday is upon us once again! Some of you are excited. I can almost feel you trembling with anticipation. What’s that in your core? Ahhh…yes. You’re pulsating with glee at the very prospect of getting your clammy little hands on that tech goodie you’ve been looking forward to all year long – and at a deep discount no less!

Others of you (like David S.) couldn’t give a sheep’s wooly arse. I can feel that too, trust me.

Last year a few of you asked me to give tips on how to ‘work’ Black Friday, which I did in the post Black Friday: But only if you dare!  Given my 5+ years as a worker in the retail environment, some of MOM Squad felt my knowledge was vast enough to offer solid, dependable information. I’m humbled. I don’t think 5 years is long enough to become an expert at anything, but given that Barack Obama was only a senator for 3 years before ascending to the highest position in the land, I guess I’m wrong!

This year I want to talk to you about keeping your belongings safe during the height of the shopping season. These belongings include your children too, if you have any.

At my job at the shoe store that I am no longer allowed to mention on my blog (something about social media and violating company rules), I see customers perform any number of stupid and dangerous acts. I believe that these customers engage in this behavior because they are naïve, and have too much faith in their fellow man. Perhaps it has something to do with the holiday lighting and the faint smell of pie in the air.

Or maybe they really are just that stupid.

 As you know, thieves are on the lookout for easy targets to fleece and never are they more active than at the holiday season. It would behoove us all to get into a New York state of mind, and treat EVERYONE with suspicion! You never know who is going to rob you. And no…I’m not afraid that that makes me sound paranoid.

Here is a short list of things you can do to protect your valuables this Christmas.

1)      Carry your purse with you at all times: Ah. Malaka. What do you mean “carry your purse”? I mean just that. I cannot tell you how many customers – on a daily basis – drop their purses on the floor or on a bench and stroll to the next aisle to go look at an item that may have caught their eye. We recently had one customer who did just that, and didn’t realize her purse was missing until a full 20 minutes later! A woman with a baby stroller casually walked by, picked up her bag, and walked out of the store with all said customer’s personal information and cash. Loss Prevention was able to track the woman down with the help of the police, but have any of our other customers learned from this tragedy? Not enough in my view. I walked past 2 abandoned purses just last night.

2)      Use cash whenever possible: This is pain I can share with you from personal experience. Digi-crooks have a method of extracting and copying all your banking information with the swipe of a card. And all they need is your help. Every time you go to a gas pump, a random ATM machine, or slide your card at some shady point of sale location, you open yourself up to having ALL your cash stolen. Just 3 weeks ago, Marshall had his debit card read and copied by a thief gone digital, and they offloaded about $500 from our account, shopping at Party City, Target and some place that started with a W. Because these shopping habits were outside of Marshall’s norm, the bank was able to catch it early, cancel his card, and reissue him a new one. Don’t let this happen to you. Use cash whenever you can!

3)      Insist that the cashier look at your debit/credit card and ID!: This is a touchy one for me, because I AM a cashier, and Black and poor people are funny when it comes to people checking their credentials. Trust me, I have limited interest in taking a gander at your mug shot, but it’s my job to. You see, because stealing has gone digital and fraudsters can so easily copy ones credit and debit card, the only way to make sure that the card being used is legitimate is to check that it has been signed and that it matches the owners ID. Please don’t take offence when a cashier at Macy’s asks you to look at the back of your card. They are not discriminating against you. It is for your OWN protection! If you haven’t stolen anyone else’s identity or card details, this should not be a problem.

4)      Never, ever set your card down: Ugh. This one left me gobsmacked. I had one woman come to my register and begin the checkout process. She swiped her card and then gasped. “Oh no! I have to get the pin number! I’ll be right back,” she assured me. She sprinted out the door and left her shoes – and her debit card – on the counter in front of me. I was aghast. In this digital age, all it would take to get her card information would be a quick click on an iPhone and you can guess the rest. I cannot stress enough how much you should never do this. Never leave your card sitting on the cashier counter, and if you must, lay it face down.

5)      Do the store employees a favor: Listen folks. We can’t go home until you do. If the store closes at 7 pm, please get out. Are we grateful to have jobs? Yes. But how would you like it if I came to your office and threw paper and paper clips all over the floor because I could, and YOU couldn’t leave until I walked out of the door? That’s how I feel when customers are still milling around 30 minutes after closing time. (I realize this has nothing to do with keeping you safe. It’s a self-serving final point.)

Hopefully this advice will get to you in time. With big box retailers competing for dollars, ‘Black Friday’ may be a thing of the past, as they seek to get you in their stores is getting closer and closer to Wednesday.

Have you ever seen anyone make a fiscal blunder in public? What else can shoppers do to be safe and savvy in your experience?

Gone Scoutin’

  Lawd, I hate nature – or rather I hate being outside IN it in the dark and rain.

This weekend the girls’ Daisy troop had a mother-daughter weekend camping trip at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Several of the Daisy troops in the area attended as well, and in all there were about 60 little giggling girls scampering around the building at any given time.

Our all Black troop must have been an oddity. As we set up “camp” by laying our sleeping bags on the carpeted concrete floor, the girls from the other troops peeked into our room, assessed us for a few seconds, and ran off laughing hysterically. They did this several times until one of their parents told them to come back into their rooms and settle down. I didn’t mind, personally. I thought it would be a good ice breaker. After all, we would be sharing time and space together for the next 18 hours or so.

I passed other mothers in the hallway, trying to get their green, brown and blue eyes to meet mine so that I could nod and acknowledge their presence or offer a nonverbal greeting. Their eyes remained firmly fixed on the floor or looking just past me, as though I were a phantom in the aisle and not really there. The ice, therefore, remained firmly unbroken.

The Girl Scout event promised to be a fun one none-the-less. We went on a night hike (in the rain) to look for nocturnal creatures using four of our five senses. It was decided that it would not be in anyone’s best interest to try and taste a nocturnal animal. We were utterly disappointed when it became apparent that we were the only woodland creatures foolish enough to be scurrying about in the drizzle. However, I did hear a wayward goose calling out in the darkness. Our line leader managed to keep the event interesting, pulling possum pellets and owl wings from her purse and letting the girls sniff various odors from the very pleasant (like cinnamon) to the not so pleasant (like skunk musk).

Damp and tired, but invigorated by the prospect of getting some s’mores, we trudged back to the main building where a roaring fire was waiting for us. Each girl was given their marshmallow by the month they were born in, and after each treat was roasted, I looked around for an opportunity to join a different group of moms’  in conversation. After all, was that not the point of coming to a Scout event: To “make new friends”? As a former Girl Guide myself, perhaps my judgment was clouded, but I expected that as adults we would demonstrate courtesy and how to conduct ourselves amongst strangers, by at least offering an introduction or acknowledging the presence of strangers who may be unknown to us, but still part of the same organization. Surely, these are women and girls who share our same ideals? Their turned backs in our direction said otherwise. Had it not been for our Den Mother’s insistence on singing campfire songs, I daresay there would be no spirit of camaraderie exhibited at all. The irony that were doing the very opposite of the refrain make new friends/but keep the old/ one is silver and the other gold  did not escape me. Still, it was nice to have some meager manifestation of my romantic notions of what a Girl Scout camping trip ought to look like become a reality.

After a long night of telling “ghost stories”, and eating left over GS cookies and snacks, we informed our protesting girls that it was time to go to bed.

“There’s a movie playing tonight,” I informed them.

They gasped with glee.

“Where? Where?!?”

“It’s on the back of your eyelids, and you’ll miss it if you don’t look behind them.”

I never said the words “go to sleep”, but within minutes, their gentle snoring filled the room. I hardly slept a wink, of course. Aya had taken my pillow and I don’t do well on the floor. I would have preferred to stay awake, but I was exhausted after having worked the morning before. I passed the night doing a series of motions that mixed sumo wrestling and napping. I was grateful when the rising sun ended my ordeal.

I woke my girls fairly early and took Aya to brush her teeth. Cheryl, our den mother was already up, eating breakfast and forwarding pictures from all of our endeavors so far. I smiled and said good morning to her, which of course she did in return. We were the only people in the bathroom with a few other moms and daughters filed in. Maybe it’s a function of my upbringing, but I thought it was common practice to greet someone when you walk into a room. We remained ungreeted and unacknowledged until one of the mom’s asked me if the sink she was standing in front of was working.

“I don’t know, but you can use this one as soon as soon as we’re done,” I offered.

She grunted and waited for us to finish.

Maybe she just wasn’t a morning person.

I tried to find some common ground in one of the other mothers who looked like she was of mixed Asian descent.

“How did you sleep last night?” I asked, knowing that the night had to have been rough. It was cold and the floor was hard. The answer was a no brainer, and the question was meant to break this wall that was dividing us, or put a chip in it at least.

She remained silent, again not looking at me. Finally, her kindergartener spoke up.

“Horrible. It was horrible!” she cried.

I nodded and agreed.

“Yeah. It was pretty bad.”

With no further invitation to continue any conversation, I went to get my coffee.

At this point, I was done with all these mothers and done with the event. These women had proven themselves, rude, excluding and frigid. My disdain for them was only heightened when I heard a group of them conversing outside about what a “blessing” it was for someone to have organized an event at their church and how “fortunate” they were about how it was “impacting” their youth. I quickly picked up on their Christianese dialect, which only served to disgust me further.

What Christ do you serve that compels you to be so dismissive of your neighbor? Does your Jesus command you slight another group of women because they look different from you? What brand of “godliness” is this? Because whatever they were serving up, I wanted no part of.

Today marks one month since Trayvon Martin’s murder, a crime that has me more conscious of race than I have been in a long time, and I know that I am not alone. It has brought the subject back to the forefront for us as a nation: Black and White, Jew and Hispanic. There are certain ambiguities surrounding Trayvon’s case, but one thing is glaringly clear: the root of this tragedy lies in prejudice, suspicion and mistrust. I am not calling any of these women racist – not by any means. After all, I don’t know them. But judging from their actions, I believe I can safely conclude that they did not believe that neither I nor any member of our all Black troop was worth getting to know. And is that not at the heart of all prejudice? Judging someone’s worth before you form a relationship with them?

All hope is not lost though. Just before we left for our hike, Aya made a new buddy. The little strawberry blond called out to her mother as they sat on the ground clasping hands.

“Mommy! We have something in common!” she said excitedly.

“You must both like blue,” her mother said knowingly.

The two girls nodded enthusiastically and grinned. Her mother and I shared sheepish smiles and turned our attention back to the naturalist, who was giving instructions on our impending morning hike.

The event, though short gave me much food for thought. As I said, race is in the forefront of my mind, but it doesn’t direct my life. I am racially conscious, but not racially controlled. In the wake of Trayvon’s murder, I am reminded of the bevy of inner city outreaches and gang rehabilitation programs that exist in our nation. Has there ever been a suburban outreach program for Whites to help them get over their fear of Black kids in hoodies? I can’t think of one. I would have hoped that a godly organization like the Scouts would have served that purpose, but there seems to be an obviously failure in my thinking in that regard. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in my kids’ generation, it and other organizations like it CAN be.

Living and Loving in Naptivity

“There are days when I wake up, look in the mirror and get so frustrated with my hair. Whenever he hears me in the bathroom fussing with my hair I’ll hear a ‘click!’…and when I turn around Mario is taking a picture of it. He loves everything about it: the texture, the curl, the coils. He just loves everything about my natural hair.”

Mario, my friend’s fiancé and natural hair lover is part of a growing minority – a small number of men who actually like “natural” or unrelaxed hair. (Permed hair isn’t imitation after all, is it?) As intriguing as this is, what fascinates me more about Mario is that he’s not some ‘down brotha from around the way’; he’s a white guy straight off the boat from Germany.

I – I just have never heard of such. Clearly I need to get out more.

I know white guys and black women pair up all the time, but it’s rare that that black woman has the qualities that my friend possesses…namely a PhD and a TWA (teenie weenie afro). I have two cousins that have married white men, but they’re light skinned and bear more resemblance to Beyonce than India Arie. My experience led me to the assumption that if White men DID date outside their race, they would naturally gravitate towards our caramel colored sisters and away from the chocolate chip batch; and therefore towards the ones with straighter hair. My generation and those before have been taught that our natural hair wasn’t good enough for the boardroom or the runway, and it certainly wasn’t sexy enough for the bedroom. ‘Sexy’ hair is long and shoulder length with barrel curls. ‘Professional’ hair is straight and side-parted, tucked behind the ears. So again, Mario fascinates me.

My friend recounted several stories of adversity and defeat that her hair has brought her in the past. Her coils coupled with her pursuit of higher education have run off many a potential paramour and vanquished relationships in their infancy. She told me of numerous occasions where she’d be out on a date after being fixed up by friends, only to have her companion looking past her at some blond dainty girl at the table behind her. On one occasion, another guy left her standing on the floor of a club into the waiting arms and gyrating hips of 2 white girls without so much as an ‘excuse me’!

“Why are Black men so scared of women with PhDs,” I asked with irritation.

“Oh, it’s not just them,” she replied. “There was a FINE white guy who  I started chatting with in a bar and the moment I said I was in school getting my PhD he let out a loud “WHOA!!!”, took a swig of his beer and walked off without another word.”

She laughed and continued.

“I even had one friend who said I must stop telling men I was getting my PhD because it was ruining my social life.”

Interestingly enough, I saw this Youtube video three nights ago that discussed this very topic. Sometimes I can’t believe this is STILL an issue, but I appreciated the honesty from a man’s perspective.

I’ve never really understood this whole thing with Black women’s hair, and I really, really want to. How is it that something that grows out of my scalp, if left untreated, is somehow a political statement? Or that if I don’t go for bi-monthly reapplications of Dark n’ Lovely I somehow disdain Black men who date white women? Indeed, that has been insinuated by many a brother whose first words to afro’d and twisted sisters is ‘Oh…you’re one of them natural girls, huh?’ If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that utterance, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I have always been an advocate for Black women dating outside the race, and Mario is exactly the reason why. There are gorgeous, intelligent Black women languishing and wasting their lives away waiting for their ‘Black love,’ when really they need to be looking for ‘pure love.’ Pure love values and respects the handiwork of God, regardless of the hue of our skin or the heft of our follicles. It certainly appreciates an expanded mind, rather than fearing it. Pure love certainly isn’t jealous. Now that my friend is engaged, she is approached by all kinds of Black guys who previously wouldn’t give her the time of day. The idea that a ‘natural sister’ would consort with a white man confounds them, apparently.

“ ‘Ey shawtey, ‘ey. What you doin’ with him?” they ask with swagger. “Why don’t you come home with me?”

Come home with you? What on earth for?

When oh when will my people break free of the bonds of naptivity!?

Walking Prophylactics

“You guys should do township tours as a family. A day spent with you, and our teen birth rates would go waayyy down.” – Michael L.

Yesterday we went to Sedgefield Market on the N2 with our missionary compatriots. Marshall and I are the only ones with kids. Everyone else in the group is a carefree single just a-servin’ the Lord with a spring in their step and while viewing the world with rose colored glasses firmly fixed to their frown-free faces.

It was a lovely winter day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was warm enough to walk around in short sleeves and sandals. The market had every sort of vendor imaginable and we took our time browsing and sampling the homemade fare that the vendors had come to sell. Well, our friends did. Marshall and I spent the morning trying to keep the children from destroying the tranquility of the bazaar. For the most part we did okay. The children were compliant, even somewhat agreeable – up until “The Scene”, which comprised of a cascading series of unfortunate events that came in waves so violent that it was hard to keep up.

As we sat down to breakfast on tree stumps serving as stools, Aya announced that she wanted a hotdog for her meal. Not one to pass up meat, I said I would have one too. Nadjah had been lustfully eyeing everyone else’s English breakfast before finally announcing that she wanted a plate of bacon. I have her R20.

“Make sure you bring back my change.”

“Okay, Mommy!”

She returned with a yoghurt parfait.

“Where’s the bacon?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh. I decided to get something healthy instead,” she answered simply.

“Okay…then where’s my change?”

“They didn’t give me any.”

What?? Three bucks for a yoghurt parfait? What a rip off. I let it go though. It was a beautiful day, and there was no point in getting upset. That is, until Nadjah took two bites and refused to eat any more.

“You better eat all that yogurt,” Marshall said darkly. “This whole meal cost me 2 hours of work!”

In that moment, I heard a yelp of protest. Stone, who had been uncharacteristically quiet, was suddenly throwing fist-fulls of wood chips and dirt into Michelle’s blond hair and bosom.

“No, Stone! No!” we all chorused.

Just then, Brittany broke into a rowdy cackle at the other end of the table. I turned my attention to find out what was amusing her so much. Nadjah, as it turned out, had abandoned her parfait altogether and was begging bacon off two elderly male strangers who were about to feed their left-overs to their dog.

“Don’t give it to the DOG,” she objected. “Give it to ME!”

Oh sweet mercy.

In the corner of my eye I caught Aya quietly smearing ketchup all over her face and wiping the excess onto her trousers. Just as I was about to admonish her by telling her for the billionth time to use a napkin, I heard Liya walk behind me, contentedly singing in her sweet toddler speech.

“Bah bah bah bah,” she babbled.

What was that in her hand? She was waving something blue that made a crinkling sound as she clenched and unclenched her fist. Oh dear God. It was one of my sanitary towels.

I hardly knew where to begin. Should I grab the Always pad from the baby, wipe the mud from Stone’s hand, give Nadjah a lesson on begging food off strangers before nagging Aya about dirtying herself with condiments yet again? What was the proper order?! Defeated, I hung my head and waited for it all to pass, which by some miracle it did.

After the storm subsided, it was suggested that we consider bringing teen girls into our home to see what a life of parenting really looked like. 5 minutes with some inexperienced knucklehead surely couldn’t be worth all this.

“You guys are walking prophylactics,” Michael declared, handing Liya back to me. He didn’t say it, but I wager he may never, ever have kids. Ever.

Oh Michael, I wanted to say. You don’t even know the half of it. Until you’ve found yourself half- naked on a tin roof during a raging lightning storm because you’re trying to break back into your house after your kids have locked you out…Today was pretty tame.

Here it is folks! The classroom of the future.

Because it darn well ain’t the classroom of the present, that’s for sure.

See this shack? This is an appendage to the YMCA/Church/theater. This is where the kids are supposed to be having lessons, once it’s ‘cleaned up’. Nuh uh. This room doesn’t need cleaning up – it needs a torch set to it. There will be rainbows and ice-cream cones in Hell before I set foot in there with a book in my hand.

  Lemme tell you how bad it is. It’d dark and dingy in there, and the air has a quality that reminds me of something…something earthy. I believe it’s mushrooms – of the ‘icky fungus’ species to be exact. Mushrooms belong outside or in the grocery store, not on floors or walls. The roof leaks and there is no electricity. The first (and last) time I went in there to survey the space, my bulk cause the floor to buckle under me. If you put 10 kids in there, the whole thing would come crashing down. Oh, but it only gets better!

As Marshall was taking pictures of the interior (because I refuse to reenter the space until Satan and his minions are sucking down sarsaparillas), a rat ran by.

“What?!?”

“A rat,” he repeated. “Although I think it might have been a mouse…”

He was trying to make the presence of a rodent less ghastly by intimating that the existence of a mouse is better than that of a rat.

It’s not.

There is a hodgepodge of assorted toys, boxes and just crap over all stuffed in there. I think someone used to live there and abandoned it some time ago. Who knows for sure? There is a Quranic scripture hanging over the door. I could probably decipher it (I used to take Arabic), but again, I didn’t hang out long enough to get a feel for anything besides the immediate and obvious.

But as ‘wonderful’ as this space is, do you know what’s even better? The pastor, the guy who built the church and I assume owns the land, is in CONSTRUCTION…and he owns 3 houses and a B+B in the White side of town. I could scarcely believe it what the news bearer was telling me.  

“You mean to tell me that this dude builds buildings for a living and this is the best he could come up with?”

“Yup.”

“This is his church? The house he built to ‘honor the Lord’?” I emphasized incredulously.

“Uh huh.”

I felt the Too Known American rising up in me. The room made my skin crawl, but that tidbit of information made me SICK.

 It’s so true what Oprah said: ‘If you don’t have a vision for yourself, someone else will create a vision for you.’

Clearly, this was the best this (wealthy!) pastor thought this community was worth. But why should he care? Apparently he shows up when he’s ready, booms his sermons and leaves to his comfortable home in town. At least he fed the people spiritually right? Gimme a frikkin’ break!

So what do we do Readers? What say you? Burn it to the ground, of have a street fundraiser a la Breakin’ 2?

I’ve got the kerosene in my trunk just in case…