Janet Hubert’s Response to Jada Pinkett Was Vital. This is Why.

As much of the viewing public prepares to consume another episode of #OscarsSoWhite, there are a number of people – myself included – who will be abstaining from the ocular throwback to the Jim Crow Era when Black people had to enter the premises through the back door and in their servant livery. I suppose that the Academy, in preparation for the anticipated backlash for yet another whited-out Oscars event, sought out Chris Rock to host the gala with hopes that his consistent (Black enough) presence on stage would be enough to lull us into a state passivity.

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And for some of us, it will be enough. That’s okay! Realistically, we ALL can’t boycott the Oscars. There are a handful of people of color for whom it’s a requirement to consume these cultural televised events, whether they agree with them or not. They have to report on them. They have to be able to refer to them knowledgeably in 20 or more years. In short, it’s their job. It’s for the rest of us to make a stand, should we feel the need to do so. This is the essence of nuance where race and culture are concerned. This is something that folks like Janet Hubert – and those who agree with her wild utterances – don’t get.

In case you missed it, Jada Pinkett Smith posted a video asking the question about whether it’s time that people of color recognize their power and influence over American culture (and global culture, but extension) and pull back from participating in events that continually put us in a place of begging for recognition. “Begging diminishes dignity,” she asserted persuasively. As far as I can tell, she never made a call for specific Hollywood actors to jeopardize their careers by participating in a boycott, but rather asking if it’s not time that we ALL consider shifting our focus and resources elsewhere…somewhere where they will be more appreciated.

This is not how Janet Hubert, the Blacktress formerly known as Aunt Viv, interpreted the sentiments of Jada’s message. In a grainy video described by the UK’s Daily Mail as a “take down” of the Smiths, Hubert launched into a personal tirade bringing up old allegations and foggy memories from 26/27 years ago. She ended her note to the family with the following admonishment: “You guys are not Barack and Michelle Obama. Get over yourselves.”

Ooookay.

I found Janet Hubert’s response petty and sorely lacking in focus where the issue at hand is concerned, but I’m grateful that she made it public; for even in the foolish things of this world there are lessons to be drawn…and both Hubert’s and Pinkett Smith’s messages provide us all with valuable lessons that transcend the Oscars.

Presentation Matters

This is probably the most obvious of all the examples, but it must be said nevertheless. Jada Pinkett took the time and effort to set the stage for which to deliver her message. She is a professional actress, and therefore used professional equipment to convey an important idea concerning her craft and her industry. Meanwhile, the Actress formerly known as Aunt Viv looked as though she was delivering her content as an afterthought from her bathroom/kitchen table using her grandchild’s discarded $49.99 DigiLand tablet. The glare from her glasses and the graininess of it were horribly distracting.

The culinary equivalent of Hubert's message.

The culinary equivalent of Hubert’s message.

If you are in any field – I don’t care if you’re a plumber or the president – presentation matters if you want to be taken seriously as a professional, or as someone whose opinion should be taken uncomicly. Show up to the public with the best tools you have at your disposal! And if you only have a DigiLand tablet, ask one of your neighbors to borrow an iPhone. Everyone has one!

I suppose one could argue that Janet Hubert was simply “keeping it real” and therefore didn’t HAVE to look/sound her best. Dave Chappelle did several skits about when keeping it real goes wrong. This qualifies as one of those incidents.

 

Have Some Understanding of Historical Events…and Your Opponent

Janet Hubert declared that she was unsure about whether or not to do the video and then threw caution to the wind. “I’m 60 years old. I’m gonna say it!”

There was no need for that. She sounds like one of those crazy African patriarchs who consistently forgets to take his Alzheimer’s meds yet insists on running the country despite the feebleness of his mind. If you have something to say, just say it! Wisdom is wisdom, regardless of age. Unfortunately, “wisdom” is nothing something Ms. Hubert exhibited this week.

Her assertion that Jada (and Will, be association) preoccupation with trivial things – such as the Oscars – made them disingenuous and out of touch when “young people are being killed and dying in the streets” doesn’t completely dovetail with her claim that the Oscars are not important, especially on “this day”. (This day being MLK Day.)

Contrary to Ms. Hubert’s confused beliefs, MLK would have been very concerned about a whited-out Oscars, because he understood that minority representation in the mainstream is vital.

One of my favorite stories about MLK concerns him and Star Trek star, Nichelle Nicols. (MLK was a Trekkie, y’all! You better get on board!) In this NPR report, Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura talks about how she almost quit the show to pursue other dreams. MLK convinced her to stay on the show because it she was an important fixture in the civil rights movement. Because pop culture representation matters.

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This is something that Jada Pinkett understands very well. Furthermore, no one can accuse Pinkett of developing the disease of New Blackness. She has been about Black causes for decades. If anything at all, she gives Will Smith street cred. It was foolish of Hubert to attempt to paint her otherwise, when articles abound to prove the contrary.

 

Stay on Topic

Whenever you find (or place) yourself in a situation for which you are attempting to garner public support, it is vital that you keep focus. Jada Pinkett’s message was clear and concise. You got a feeling that there will be some follow up action to her query. (And it was a query, not a directive.) Janet Hubert did not do this. She waffled. I hate to use the word “bitter” where Black women are concerned, but there’s no denying that she still holds an un-quantifiable amount of salt for the Smiths and any of their associates.

The issue at hand is #OscarsSoWhite. Hubert brought up failed alliances from the 90’s and what the Smiths’ production studio is or isn’t doing, conflating her personal disappointments with a broader issue. None of that has anything to do with the Academy’s voting process and/or who gets nominated. That said, I DO agree with her point that the power duo ought to expend more energy in developing other Black actors and behind-the-scenes talent. They certainly have the power to affect change there.

Consider Your League

If there is one thing I learned in 2015, it’s that you can retard your own growth by playing with people who are amateurs. This goes for cooking, driving, acting, policy making, anything.

Let’s be honest: Jada Pinkett Smith and Janet Hubert are not playing n the same league! OF COURSE Hubert isn’t concerned about Oscar snubs and lack of diversity. It has nothing to do with her! What was the last thing YOU saw her in? Certainly nothing on the big screen. And that’s not to say her opinion doesn’t matter…it does. It just shouldn’t matter to the Smiths, or Idris Elba, or David Oyelowo, or Spike Lee, or anyone else who is operating in a different class. She is just not on their level.

In other words, when grown folk are talking, hush.

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Consider How Others Perceive You

In conclusion, it is important that we all understand how our actions affect the way others perceive us. I got a $20 discount off a $60 item at the mall yesterday, just because the merchant perceived me to be a ‘kind person’, the type for which Karma would provide her a reward if she favored. (Those were her exact words.) All I did was smile at the lady and speak to her respectfully.

Janet Hubert alleges that her departure from the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ was preceded by her refusal to kowtow to Will Smith’s ego. There are rumors that she was difficult to work with. Does this video help her cause in getting more work? Does it say the contrary about the allegations levied against her? I daresay it does not. I can’t think of a single Hollywood director who is sitting in his/her chair watching her rant thinking “Wow. This is EXACTLY the kind of person I want starring in Return of MLK, Rise of the Robots!”

How you act in the street can and does affect how often your bank account and a check meet.

 

I feel ambivalent about the release of the two videos. Sure, they served their instructional purpose for the reasons stated above, but Janet Hubert’s video has also served as “white noise”…the type of noise that gets us off focus, off track, and battling each other instead of the real enemy: White Supremacy.

Will you be watching the Oscars? Are you on Team Jada or Janet? Did you know that elephant seals can hold their breath for up to two hours?

Are White People Coming For Our Waakye?

There are things that grieve me – matters of such grave concern that they rob me of sleep when I should be resting at twilight and continue to plague my thoughts during the day. I obsess over these affairs incessantly. I have questions. Questions like:

“Is God pleased with my life?”

“Will the price of oil continue to slide and eventually wreak havoc on our economy?”

“What does it sound like when doves cry?”

“What DOES the fox say???”

“Is Annie okay?”

You see, there is SO much in the world to occupy our thoughts that one hardly knows how to place them in order of importance! But of all the queries in my head jostling for dominance, there is one that has taken center stage and commanded the spotlight. It has perplexed me for nearly two weeks now and I can no longer bear it. I am COMPELLED to ask: “Are white people coming for our waakye?”

You snicker, but it’s a serious question.

A little over a year ago, when the Jollof Wars were at their zenith, a British/Canadian/Other man whose name I have long since deleted from memory, had the absolute gall and impudence to suggest that jollof was actually not a dish of African origin at all. To quote his tweet loosely, he said “Jollof rice was most likely a French invention, as the jollof provided the French troops navigating their way through West Africa with a nutritious, one pot meal that could carry them on the go… Same way curry is a British invention.”

Saa? And yet jollof has not made its way onto the menus of France’s numerous cafes and eateries eh? You don’t grow coffee in France, and yet you have “French coffee”…but somehow jollof –  “a nutritious French invention” –  never managed to make its way onto the tables of either the French elite or working class? If I could have reached out and e-slapped him, I would have. The impudence! However looking back, I can’t blame him for wanting to Columbus something as life affirming as jollof rice. After all, whiting is as whiting does…but this time, he chose the wrong quarry to attempt to conquer. As Jamie Oliver and his lemon wedge discovered, we will fight any adversary who dares to usurp our jollof. In that one thing at least, Africans are united.

Look, my dear white people, many of whom I call friends; you have to understand that this is a very rational fear that we Black people hold. We always have to be on guard, watching and waiting for you to claim credit for our culinary/artistic/cultural intellectual property. You’ve been doing this to us for centuries! You did it with swing, you did it with the blues, you did it with rap, you did it with reggae, you’ve even done it with azonto! We have grumbled through the pain and for the most part accepted that this is the way our relationship is going to work. But when I saw what Whole Foods did to that pot of greens…putting peanuts in greens! … I knew then that waakye couldn’t be far behind; For indeed, waakye is the last frontier for whiteness to conquer and absorb. My heart races with the fury of 10,000 Native American braves just thinking about it!

Whole Foods' ratchet interpretation of what greens should consist of. If this doesn't inspire a slave revolt, I don't know what will!

Whole Foods’ ratchet interpretation of what greens should consist of. If this doesn’t inspire a slave revolt, I don’t know what will!

We beg you with almighty GOD, don’t take waakye from us! Don’t sully it with your blandness. It’s waakye, for chrissake! It’s manna from the heavens!

By the way side lunch at Miss Vern's. Talk about the itis! 😴😴

A photo posted by Malaka Grant (@malakagrant) on

What is waakye? If you are from the Carribean, the South or anywhere in West Africa, you’ve eaten waakye before. Your grandmother has cooked it. Your mother makes it when she’s feeling nostalgic for home. It most likely goes by a simpler name in your abode…something as mundane as “rice and peas”. But YOU know as well as I that rice and peas is not so ordinary a thing.

It is magic.

It is fantasy.

It is the foundation of every good working man/woman’s meal! And it is the simplicity of rice and peas that makes it so complex – that you could look at a bowl of brown rice and black-eyed peas and imagine limitless options to enhance its uncomplicated splendor.

Dinner is served!!! At last! cc @tosinger

A photo posted by Malaka Grant (@malakagrant) on

You might boil an egg and lay it on the side.

You might smother it in stewed beef.

You might garnish it with gari/shredded lettuce/spaghetti (if you want to get really fancy with it!).

There are SO many things to marry waakye with! … Except whiteness. Waakye must never unequally yoke itself with the darkness of the European culinary mind. Because suddenly, without warning, waakye will be paired with kale, or peaches, or peanuts, or some other ungodly thing.

I am shivering just thinking about it.

Friends, we must protect waakye. For if we do not, we will never recover from its loss. They will strip waakye of all its Blackness – just like Napoleon did when he blasted the noses and lips off the Sphinx – and we’ll be left with nothing but a fast fading memory of the once great thing we held in our possession. We will lose control of the narrative. You see what they did in the movie Gods of Egypt?

You KNOW Set ain't look nothing like this. Why you lying?!?!

You KNOW Set ain’t look nothing like this. Why you lying?!?!

Stand and fight! Don’t let them do that to waakye.

 

The Proverbs 31 Wife Sounds Like a Prime Candidate for ‘Burn Out’

This Sunday my Bishop (yes, David. I have a Bishop!) mentioned in passing that the wife of a certain predominant preacher was at a conference and decreed that the gathering of the saints was for our personal pleasure, not for God’s. He intimated that she intimated that our happiness was of greater import than that of God’s. When you whittle it all the way down, she was saying live to please yourself. Naturally, my Bishop vehemently disagreed with that line of reasoning for lack of foundational scripture to support it.

I don’t know who this woman is and I haven’t bothered to do the heavy lifting to search out the video on the Internet. I mention her because her alleged utterances coincide with a tweet I saw the following day got me to thinking: Does my happiness – as a woman, specifically – matter to God, my children, my husband…anyone? I urge you to read the tweet in question and decipher for yourself what is glaringly obvious according to him and millions of other people who think likewise: That mother’s greatest value is when she is being sacrificial.

(Note the glee with which he recounts how he thwarted her second chance at companionship and love.)

Just about every woman in Christendom has heard about the Proverbs 31 Woman: the noble wife as described by King Lemuel by way of recollections from conversations with his mother. The Proverbs 31 woman has been pandered and paraded to women of faith since their first youth camps. Different denominations have their own interpretations about who this woman was and what functioned she served. Some tout her as the ultimate boss chick; an entrepreneur who runs several businesses and an efficient household. Others explain that she her fundamental duty is to bring glory to her husband so that he can sit at the gate with the elders and boast. (She’s more of an admin not a boss, you understand. No woman is greater than her husband.) Still some see her as the perfect housewife. She can spin wool/cotton, she can sew, she’s the consummate interior decorator! Aaaaand she ALSO has servants, which means she’s rich.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is Every Woman! But was she happy?

 

My dear e-friend Sefakor revealed an observation about her grandmother that honestly broke my heart. She said:

She never smiled. And NO ONE even noticed. Is this really a life pleasing to God – dutiful drudgery in the service of people who take no note of your physical (or mental) well-being? I highly doubt that. Or at least, I hope it’s not true. I’ll have to ask God when I see Him/Her.

I read Proverbs 31: 10-31 again this morning and instead of feeling that fire of inspiration that I have in the past, I felt nothing but sympathy for this woman. In my 20s, I would read this scripture and get completely amped up! Those were the days when I was convinced of my invincibility and buoyed by my youth, was sure that I could be Dorothy Do-It-All. But today, all I could focus on were the following phrases, which inspired nothing but weariness:

She gets up while it is still night;

She sets about her work vigorously;

She makes…

She gets…

She goes…

Lawd have mercy. Can you imagine 30,40, 50 years (because them Biblical gals married young!) of fetching, stepping and carrying without taking a break for a vacation? Nowhere in here does it mention where she takes time for herself.

No mention of her friends.

No mention of her feelings towards her gate-sitting husband.

No mention of how she feels about her children.

This is honestly very concerning to me, now that I am approaching 40, for I know one day my children will grow up and leave me just as the Proverbs 31 woman’s own surely did. And even though I have nary a servant, I imagine that once her household became smaller, there would be no need for that much staff to cater to. And now my/her husband – now also elderly (and possibly senile) – would have no place at the gate and no reason to praise my name. What then becomes my present function, since I have lived in the service of others for most of my life? Indeed, you rarely hear messages directed at women over 50 in services. Once they’ve crossed “marrying age”, they are no longer a point of focus.

I ask these questions seriously because I truly believe that women have been groomed to see themselves through the eyes of other people, rather than encouraged to commit to self-reflection and introspection. So far as our husband/my children/my boyfriend, my co-workers/my parents think of us as a good and worthy person, then we must be so, right? And like so many women I know today, The Proverbs 31 woman did everything right. In today’s society and economy, she might be a degreed woman who owns/runs several properties or an online business. She may even be a self-made millionaire or an academic. And yet so many women just like this, who seem to have it “all together” or “have it all” are depressed. The number who have revealed their depression to me in private chats is alarming.

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I have written in the past about my own bouts with depression as well, despite the fact that I had “nothing to be depressed about” at the time. Like much of the Bible (and just about every publication since) we have been conditioned to look at the lives of women from a male’s perspective and for the purposes of male approval. No doubt this is why we never hear from the dutiful wife herself, even though her characteristics are described from the utterances of another older woman (who was possibly in league with the dark forces of patriarchy!).

MX5 and I are supposed to get together for coffee and dissect this scripture at some point. I’d hoped to share our epiphanies with you prior to this post, but it’s not always easy to stick to a schedule when you’re out here in these streets 31 Proverbing on an day-to-day basis. In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear what you Bible-reading (or not) folk think. Do you think she was she happy – or merely conjured joy in the midst of her decades of labor? Did it matter? Does your happiness matter to your family? Does it matter to yourself?

 

 

Monday Morning Blues: The Day We All Woke to News of David Bowie’s Passing

David Bowie passed away today and the tributes to his memory and his art are rushing through and flooding the Internet like a tidal wave.

I still remember the first David Bowie song I ever heard. It was Let’s Dance…a song that is actually incredibly difficult to dance to (if you’re Black). While we had Blondie, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Michael Jackson (of course) and Sting records in our home, we didn’t have any David Bowie. I don’t have fond memories of putting his LP on our record player, but I do distinctly remember the first time I heard Let’s Dance while channel surfing on the radio. There was something very different about that song – and the artist – from everyone else in music for me. It was the sharpness with which David Bowie delivered his lyrics, simultaneously and luxuriously drawing them out and then dropping them with a quick clatter. The guitar rifts and slight Island flair that set the tone of that particular song. And then there was his accent! I was a small child living in the Mid West, and the deliberateness with which he pronounced his words was completely foreign to me. Turned out it was because he was British. We didn’t have too many of them in Columbus, Ohio.

I decided very early that I liked David Bowie.

Dudes aren't 'supposed' to look like this and still draw legions of female fans. And yet...

Dudes aren’t ‘supposed’ to look like this and still draw legions of female fans. And yet…

By the time we got cable TV – and MTV by extension – my conception of what manhood was supposed to look like had been challenged. Between Prince, David Bowie, Boy George and that one dude who sang You spin me right round, right round, like a record baby, round round round round, I became more comfortable with the idea of a man in drag than 21st century society would turn out to prefer. I believe we all did. How else can Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy or the late, great Robin Williams account for their comedic cross-dressing success? I believe any man who gets paid well to dress like a woman owes his kudos to the glam rock legends of the late 70s and 80s, Bowie among them.

He was SO bloody beautiful! Do you remember how you felt when he and Iman announced their marriage? A lot of people found the pairing odd, but it made perfect sense to me. It was only natural that one of the most beautiful men on earth should marry the Earth’s MOST beautiful woman: A goddess. Someone who understood the importance of silk sleeves; and 3 hours to do make up; and the need to secure perfect high heels; and dedication to subtle sexiness. The average woman couldn’t have last 20 minutes in a marriage with David Bowie. Iman shared 24 years with him, only being parted by death. That he died at age 69 – a blush-inducing numerical symbol is strangely fitting. Subversive sexiness!

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I can’t get over the shock of David Bowie’s passing. I had no idea he had been sick. In my mind, he was still as vibrant and healthy as he was when I last saw him, which was about 3 weeks ago. I was watching ‘The Labyrinth’, a movie co-starring Jennifer Connelly and one of my favorite childhood flicks. He was in a blond wig and leather chaps, singing , growling and glaring into the camera in all his Bowie-ness. Honestly, I thought he would be immortal… which is silly, given that we all have a scheduled appointment with Death. Still…

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There has only been one celebrity death that has shocked me to this degree, and that was the untimely passing of Michael Jackson. He was robbed of his life when he still had so much more to give, planning tours and what not before his light was snuffed out. I suppose David Bowie was more fortunate as he could see his last days looming and was able to plan ahead. He had us – those who appreciated his art and his bold effervescence – in mind even until the moment he took his last breaths. As I understand it, he released an album of 7 songs just this past Friday. Music critics have called it his “parting gift”.

I also wonder if David Bowie had a gauge on how many people he inspired through his music and life. On the outside, his very existence was art itself. From his refusal to conform to cultural norms, to his performances, to the way he challenged the status quo, he was art in motion. Very few of us get to live that way: to live out our convictions, not without fear, but rather with bravery. He was a true global icon, and that’s not something one attains by taking the safe road.

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As the tributes come rushing in, we will take note of those made by Madonna, Kanye, Sting and a hoard of other celebrities. But David Bowie meant so much to so many other people. He was precious to 80’s and 90s kids who grew up in remote villages in India, bustling capitals in Africa and the odd 50-something glam rebel in Romania who probably still rocks out to the first ever Bowie album s/he heard to this day.

He was by no means the perfect man (which of us is?), but there is a lot that can be learned from watching his life. Everyone’s life has some value. For me, David Bowie’s life encourages us to be extraordinary. Don’t be afraid to question. Explore new risks. Leave them speechless when you walk into a room and set tongues wagging when you walk out. Live a life that’s worthy to be remembered…and fondly enough to inspire people to forgive your mistakes.

What was the first David Bowie song you ever heard? And better still, do you remember your first reaction when you saw him on TV or on a poster? What a weird way to start the week…

 

The Trouble With Our Tilapia

Two summers ago my husband built an aquaponics system in order to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs. He was inspired by several medium-to-small scale operations that we saw while on vacation in South Africa and decided to give it a try at home. In that time, he’s grown peppers, spring onions, lettuce, mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, green beans (those were not so successful), broccoli (not enough light, so they flowered, but died) and squash.

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An aquaponics system is a quirky little thing. It’s a self-contained ecosystem made of up PVC pipe, hoses, sawn off barrels, water and lots and lots of living organisms. Unlike hydroponics, aquaponics incorporates the use of an animal to create balance in the life cycle of the plant. These animals create waste, which contains ammonia, which feeds the plants. We decided to go with fish… about 12 gold fish initially and then two tilapia, one of which died within days. The last of the goldfish perished two weeks ago after a cold snap, and now only the more hearty of the tilapia remains. And my word, is he/she/it hearty! This is a 2-3 lbs fish we’re talking about here.

This is where the trouble begins.

As I revealed to you earlier this week, we will be leaving the country in a few months. That means we have to begin the process of storing, moving and discarding things. A tilapia is not a “thing”. At least not in my books.  It has been our guest for well over a year, faithfully providing animal waste for the plants we graze on whenever we have a mind to! Now we find ourselves in a quandary about what to do with it. Well, Marshall not so much. His solution is simple: If we won’t eat it, give it to someone who will.

“I don’t know how to approach one of my friends to ask them if they’d like a LIVE tilapia for dinner,” I said.

“Then we can ask Mrs. P if she would like it,” he shrugged. “She’ll probably jump at the chance to eat some fresh fish.”

You remember Mrs. P? She’s our Jamaican neighbor whose house I had to break into a few weeks ago. Anyway, it turns out she is not that sort of Jamaican. She admitted she has no idea how to clean or cut up a fish. Just as I am (apparently) no longer that sort of African. Although I am quite adept at how to skin and scale meat, I find myself reluctant to do so. In fact, I refuse.

While I have been putting myself through all these contortions about what to do with this fish that I can’t release into a river (it’s not native to Georgia), nor bring myself to turn into Friday dinner and that I hesitate to give away because I can’t figure out how to ask the Average City Dwelling American such a question, I suddenly found myself wondering about what my father would say. I could almost hear him, as though he were standing in front of me:

“Ah. But what is your problem? This is meat!”

“But, Daddddyyyyy!”

“Oh gerrout. Let me even cook it for you.”

Was I right in my supposition? Rather than speculate, I decided to tell my father about my dilemma to see what he’d proffer as a solution. I messaged him early this morning about what I’d been wrestling with all night. This is how our exchange went:

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You are laughing. Stop laughing!

The funny thing is, I know that his glibly offered solution to eat the fish isn’t an “African” thing. It’s a practical thing; Because I’m 95% certain that if I were to contact MX5 (who hails from a small town in North Carolina) with the same quagmire, she wouldn’t hesitate with advice about what to do with said fish.

“Girl, you brang that thang over here and I’ll have the grease HOT n’ ready by the time you arrive! That’s meat!”

Oh dear.

The entire dilemma has helped me realize how detached I’ve personally become from my food source(s). For all my talk about “survival skills” and a desire to “live off the grid”, I know that if it came down to it, I could not bring myself to eat this fish. Ever. The food supply chain I have adapted to – where I meander down brightly lit aisle with my shopping cart and gleefully taste samples of carefully prepared tidbits of cheese and chicken – won’t let that sit well with my spirit. I mean, if the tilapia were headless and grilled on my plate, I’d attack it with gusto…but to go to my back porch, capture him/her, gut it and THEN eat it? Nah.

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I have not yet decided to do with our guest/pet/potential main course, but I know a choice will have to be made soon. What would you do? Better yet, what would your grand daddy do? Grand daddy would have it ready by supper, wouldn’t he? Mmmhmmm….

What Incentives Were Offered to Ghana to Host Two Gitmo Terrorists

Source: Al Jazeera

Source: Al Jazeera

 Ever since news broke last night that two detainees of Yemeni origin have been resettled in Ghana after spending years in Guantanamo Bay prison, tongues have been wagging about what the Ghanaian government might have taken in return for harboring the two men. Why Ghana? Why not Oregon? After all, Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby were beneficiaries of America’s “hospitality” at Gitmo, weren’t they? Why then should they not continue to enjoy that hospitality on mainland American soil? Why is America outsourcing its problems and ‘mistakes’ to Africa? Because Americans don’t folks tainted by claims of terrorism – proven or otherwise – living in their “backyard”. Do Ghanaians?

Ghana’s foreign ministry – headed by Hanna Tetteh – released a statement saying that the two detainees had been cleared of any charges involving terrorism and that although absolved, the pair are unable to return to their home country. In two years, they will be free to leave Ghana, (to where, I wonder) and in the interim they will have their movements “monitored”. This claim that Ghana has the capacity to monitor anything has elicited ridicule from the population at large. We can’t get our voter’s register in order, nor do our computer systems have the capacity to enroll the correct number of students in secondary schools around the country (see Wesley Girls), but we can monitor the movement of two highly trained, hardened Gitmo detainees? The only way this works is if America provides the manpower, training and equipment to make that possible. And perhaps that’s what it all comes down to: incentives and gifts.

The move is being hailed as a partnership between Ghana and the USA, with the former given kudos for “its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” However, we all know what this Mahama-led government is capable of…and none of that includes goodwill without greased palms.

According to this chart, Ghana is only one of several African countries that has pledged to accept and transition prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Others include Somalia, Cape Verde and Egypt. Only God knows what negotiations took place to facilitate prison transfers into each of these needy countries. So far, the only inducement that has been made clear is that there is a sense quid pro quo in operation here ; that it behooves these current (and future) host nations to be on America’s good side and be seen as an ally from which “favors” can be potentially drawn later.

It’s never as simple as a response to a humanitarian need or goodwill. Accra and its environs are a constant humanitarian crisis waiting to erupt with the next rainfall.

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Ghana’s willingness to accept the two former detainees could have something to do with furthering AFRICOM operations for the US. Again, to what benefit we probably will never know. These things cannot be found out in something as simple as a quick Google search. When I asked a friend who worked in defense what possible motivation a country like Ghana (or Sweden, for that matter) would have in partaking in such a “goodwill venture”, he was very cryptic on the call.

Locations of all US military operations in Africa. Source: Nick Turse

Locations of all US military operations in Africa. Source: Nick Turse

“There are some words that are very innocent when they are spoken or written separately. Individually, 5 or 6 reports can be labeled ‘unclassified’. But put them together in a stack, and suddenly it becomes a ‘classified’ document that only Top Secret clearance holders have access to.”

“Uh huh…”

“Now, you’re on the phone with me stringing words together like Gitmo, Pentagon and prisoner. On their own, those are just fine. But together…it’s Operation Crosswalk. You gonna have SWAT swinging through your bedroom window if you keep tying certain phrases together.”

“What? Wait. Did you hear that?”

Y’all. I SWEAR I heard a third party click on the other end of our call!

I have no answers to what motivation the government of Ghana would have for accepting two potentially dangerous men, but given the rate at which the Chinese are building school blocks and Malaysians are taking over the telephony industry and Brazilians taking over our major building projects and, and, and, it’s not difficult to cut through the mud and see what’s going to bubble to the surface. In time, these motives will become clear – and specifically when no one in government thinks it is “important”. But by then, it will be too late to draw any real lessons before the same mistake is repeated again.

I’m terribly disappointed (as usual) in Ghana’s ruling government for allowing this to pass without public debate or awareness. I’m disappointed in the opposition who surely knew that this was coming down the pike and failed in their duty to alert the citizenry. Yet again, Ghanaians are being treated like children, robbed of their basic rights on a daily basis. We all had a right to this knowledge, forehand. The only clear beneficiary in this equation is America, President Obama, specifically, as this affords him the opportunity to make good on his early promise to close Guantanamo Bay prison before he left office. Him, and perhaps a few nameless middle men who have received their cut of whatever was being offered to sell out the country, once again. When does it stop?

 

*SWAT, if you’re reading this, I just have questions ooo. I don’t know ANYTHING! I don’t want any wahala.

 

 

How 18.65 Minutes Can Lead To 18 Years (Or More) of Misery

This is a story about the importance of condom use. Yes, some may interpret is as primarily being the sad tale of a young woman who’s bright future was dimmed over a decade ago – the wretched result of straying from the good and godly path for the sake of dick – but it’s mostly about condoms… Condoms and bad sex.

As your humble blogging servant of 6+ years, I still believe in my sacred duty to use my life experiences as an exemplum from which to draw wisdom or decipher a warning. After all, it worked out quite well for my younger sister. In secondary school, she once told me that her key to success has been to look at what actions I took and to do the opposite. Now she holds meetings at the Pentagon, while I hold side conferences with a man who can barely spell his own name.

The New Year being so young, I wanted my first written offering to be full of blessings and gratitude and gooeyness. Alas, it is not to be so and I have come with a different dispatch. And anyway, what would serve the youth better: saccharin or substance? Substance, I say! And so it is with that mission in mind that I come to you with a message about the importance of keeping certain substances as far a way from your precious cervix as possible, particularly if that substance is semen…semen issued from the loins of the most bottom-feeding of men. Fail to do that, and it will only lead to a lifetime of unnecessary turmoil.

 

Scene 1

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

 

1381947927bored-coupleThere had been two months between the space that I said my final goodbyes to him and the night I ended up back in Douche Bag’s bed. I don’t remember who called whom, but as usual, I was the one to make the long drive to Clarkston to “get some”, as he rarely had gas in his car or couldn’t be bothered to leave his home. Any effort to make our pseudo relationship functional was always inconvenient for him.

That’s how it was (and still is) with Douche Bag. Though well-endowed with an impressive hose, he was repetitive, unimaginative and selfish as a person in general and as lover. Him on top…me on top…ejaculation. That was our routine. I knew instinctively how many strokes there would be before we switched positions. One night, much to his surprise, I wordlessly rolled over for our usual position switch, without request.

He asked, “How did you know I wanted you to get on top?”

“Because we do the same thing every time we have sex,” I replied glibly.

The great tragedy is that I never experienced an orgasm the entire year I spent in sexual sin with Douche Bag. The entire affair was the equivalent of having thrown the best parts of my being down a financial and amorous sewer. Constantly broke and borrowing money, he felt entitled to all of me at 25, offering nothing but what the ancients call “a wet ass and empty pockets” in return.

So how did I end up back in his bed – sans condom, as was our custom – knowing all of this? The only explanation I can think of is that I was young and foolish and a glutton for the abuse. The last time I slept with him, the sex was mediocre enough to convince me I needn’t return for more. It didn’t matter though. At the moment he skeeted, about 18 minutes from the first kiss to the last, we both knew I was pregnant.

 

Scene 2

 

arrearsOver the next 5 years, Douche Bag took on his duties as a biological father with the same enthusiasm with which he approached any endeavor in life: middlingly. With casual indifference. With no thought beyond the next two hours. He paid child support when he wanted to. The first year he provided $1,115 for his child’s upkeep. Over the course of the next four he provided a cumulative amount of about the same…all this while daycare costs, diapering, feeding, clothing and transportation were costing me upwards of $350 a week. In the 6 that followed after he took me to court, the state has forced him to be accountable. (I’ve told you all how he’s conjured the cheek to ask me to relive him of his obligation.) God almighty!

I wasn’t thinking about Jesus the nights I spent sweating and pretending to climax in that man’s bed, but I thought about Christ and His mercy much in those days. I thought about why the Holy Spirit hadn’t whisked me away from those faded stripped sheets or why He had never sent a bag lady to my car window to screech a warning. God was not to blame for any of this, though. I knew that. He had spoken in a still, small voice even at the night of the first encounter – from the very moment the words “Aren’t we going to use a condom?” were uttered in shock – and I had swatted that voice away. I should have insisted on prophylactic use, but niggaz is always wenching about how “unnatural” a rubber feels, or how “uncomfortable” they are or how they are “too big” to wear a condom.

This is all garbage. You know what’s unnatural? Spending your European vacation money on childcare because you weren’t ready to be a single mother. You know what’s uncomfortable? Sitting at a desk at the WIC office while the snobbish caseworker scrutinizes and criticizes every aspect of your life. You know who is too big to go through any of that? You are, woman! A sturdy condom will prevent all of this heartache! Please listen to me!

 

Scene 3

RafikiNow it’s been 11 years since the baby has been born. We’re financially stable. We’re debt free as a family. The kids all have savings accounts. Life is good. We’re ready to make some major moves – including a move out of the country. After years spent answering insipid court orders about surnames and visitation schedules that Douche Bag doesn’t adhere to and putting my life and pursuits on the back burner to accommodate his whims, we’ve made a decision to move out of the country and strive for better things.

I call Douche Bag to inform him of this possibility. He has the audacity to hit the roof. Him. The man who has spent the better part of his 47 years on Earth relying on the financial assistance of women has the audacity to try and stop MY flow? Oh, I wasn’t having it.

I cut him off in the middle of his growling “Oh no, no, no…nuh uh!”

“No! You don’t get to go high and mighty with ME. Who do you think you are?”

“You know, Malaka, I done put up with a lot of mess with you…”

“What?!?”

“…as you have with me, but we’ll talk about this face to face…”

I was livid about the tone he was taking. So supercilious and condescending for a man who’s about to loose another job, has been homeless for almost a year, whom I have fed on more occasions than I care to recall and who only sees his kid because I frequently have to transport her to his house.

“When? How? When are we supposed to speak in person? You’re so unpredictable! You’re unreliable!”

I wouldn’t have started yelling if he hadn’t set the tone for the conversation. He reiterated that he wasn’t going to discuss the matter over the phone, and that’s when I asked,

“Why can’t you ever have a mature conversation for once in your life? What is us talking in person going to achieve that a phone conversation can’t?”

“Now you’re being kind of insulting…” he snapped.

“No I’m NOT. Your immaturity stems back to your refusal to wear a condom, your reluctance to pay child support, the way you conduct your paltry business endeavors!”

 

There. I’d said it. I said it on behalf of all the women on several continents whom Douche Bag had impregnated while in the Marine Corps. For the women who had aborted scores of his babies. For the woman who bore his son who is 4 years my daughter’s senior. For the chick he’s probably going to screw this weekend. I said it for 25 year old Malaka, who’s life got taken off track because of one man’s selfish refusal to bag his seed and flush it down the toilet.

 

Finale

image source: elanneka

image source: elanneka

A wise woman once said, “I’ll consider sex outside marriage when they make a condom for the heart”.

Many of us will enter into new  romantic relationships this year.  (Not me. I’ll be celebrating 11 years of marriage.) Let us do so with wisdom and circumspection. Not all will heed this warning. Some of you will be caught in the fire. Just remember you are not the first and you are not alone. 18.65 minutes (the combined length of a Teena Marie, Aaliyah and some other female R&B songstress that was playing that night) changed the entire trajectory of my life. I will have grandchildren with this insufferable man. Look at the guy who doesn’t care enough about you to wear protection and protect your future and ask yourself if he’s really worth your life? Make better decisions than I did. There is also a heart issue during that 18.5 minutes one has to consider. Although a condom can prevent a pregnancy, remember the heart is also vulnerable.