Things I learned Over the Weekend

All Ghanaians look one way

I happened upon a video featuring Sangu Delle, proprietor of Heel the World , this weekend. The interview was remarkable in many ways. From the host’s awkward intro where he clears his throat, mutters through an introduction, his stumbling offer to have Sangu take some tea and FINALLY his pronouncement that Sangu Delle “did not look Ghanaian”, there were many takeaways from the segment.

For my part, it was good to hear that a Ghanaian other than myself had suffered the insult of those dreaded words: that you do not look like what you are. I mean, what is a Ghanaian supposed to look like? Do Sangu Delle and I look un-Ghanaian because we are well-fed and properly groomed in public? What the heck, man!?!

Sangu Delle gave a brilliant, inspiring interview about youth and achievement. What I learned from his conversation is that we will all get further if we look at what we have and build on those things, instead of obsessing over what we lack and wallowing in the same.

 

‘Gator Bait

I had only heard this term in passing in the past, and never really took the time to study it. Somehow, it became a topic of conversation on my job. My co-worker asked me if I’d seen the pictures of Black babies that White Southerners would use as alligator bait.

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. They used to tie babies up over a swamp and wait for the alligators to jump up and snatch them,” he repeated.

He suggested I look it up. It took me 2 days, but I finally did, and in doing so discovered this video.

How devastated would I be if some man scooped up one of my toddlers and brought their lives to such a violent, horrible end? This is why I believe in Hell.

 

Salty enough for the slave ship?

I dropped the kids off in Ohio for Spring Break at their grandparents, much to their delight. Spring Break was looking rather bleak prior to that. Now that I’m back at work, it would mean a week at our local daycare…and the kids didn’t fancy that idea at all.

Anyhow, I discovered my mother-in-law is in the throes of planning a Juneteenth Celebration in her town, and is also working on getting the Gammon House on the National Registry of Historic Sites. The Gammon House was part of the Underground Railroad. She talked about some of the fascinating people she’s encountered while working on the project, one of whom is a professor and historian.

“Did you know they used to lick the slaves before putting them on the ship to test how salty their sweat was?”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. The reason high blood pressure is prevalent in the African American gene pool today is because of how they selected us back then. The more water you retain, the greater the chance you had of surviving the Middle Passage. They generally chose Africans whose sweat was the saltiest and stuck them on the boat.”

Look closely on my cheek. Slave ship ready!

Look closely. There, on my cheek. Slave ship ready!

Judging from the results of my ascent up Table Mountain last year, I certainly would have been one of those Africans slated for a 3 month cruise through Hell. However, knowing myself as I do, I would have found a way to end my life upon arrival in the New World. I couldn’t spend 12 Minutes a Slave, let alone live 12 Years a Slave.

 

Pharrell’s song does actually make you feel Happy

My father-in-law was drafted into Vietnam, which was one of the bloodiest, horrifying, useless and baseless wars of our lifetime. America had no business in that war, and Black men had even less business than that.

One of the most enduring memories that my father-in-law has of that war is the bodies that were piled up in the streets after the Tet Offensive. He said they “sprayed people in the streets like ants” and then brought in bulldozers to scoop up the bodies.

And then he saw ‘Happy’, the Saigon version, and was astounded. He was so pleased that those people had recovered, that they were singing and dancing in the streets – that they had smiles on their faces.

It made him happy.

 

What did you learn this weekend? Was any of this news to? The licking…the licking was the most eye opening.

Does Kwasi Enin Realize What He’s Done?

Education. 

Education, education, education!

Every African who has been fortunate to attend school at any level knows the burden of this single word. Our parents would wantonly hurl it at us like a gauntlet in the face of any infraction, whether real or perceived.

“Heh? You won’t go and sit down and learn your books eh? Don’t you value your education?”

OR

“My friend – you said you want to do what? Go to a school jam? Do you know how much money I spend on your education?”

Even the struggling groundnut seller harangues her young primary school children about their education. If they can do nothing else, they better be able to count and bring home correct change!

Ghanaians, Gambians, Nigerians, West Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora – there is nothing we value more than education. Every West African of any class has had one thing drilled into us since we were a gleam in our Daddy’s eye: Pursue excellence, wherever that may be. I had an old man corner me one afternoon in my parking lot recently, and although he was not an African, he summed up our struggle very succinctly.

“If you gon’ be a monkey, damn it, be a gorilla!”
KwasiEverything we do as West Africans is with “vim”; That certain drive that makes us want to do everything harder and better than the next guy, even in the midst of imitating him/her. Our alcoholics are the hardest core drunkards you will encounter. Nigerians are driven to success at all cost, no matter the environment. Our crooks are the most brazen and innovative around. And now we have this Kwasi Enin unscrewing and resetting the bar for excellence in education.

Like other over-achievers before him, he has just made things harder for the rest of us. Oh, don’t worry! I will get to the part where I laud his accomplishments and even find a way to insinuate that I had some part to play in his achievement, but before I get there, I have to scold him!

You see, in gaining acceptance into ALL EIGHT Ivy League schools in this country, he has just made the existence of every Ghanaian child that much more unbearable. There is nothing that gives a Ghanaian parent more pleasure than boasting about the accomplishments of their children and secretly (never publicly) comparing those feats to those of other kids in their age range. One of my very dear friends is the eldest of four kids, all of whom has an advanced degree. The youngest of the lot is pursuing his PhD. Very frequently, his now-retired father will look at his wife and say:

“Eh? Look at your children compared to those of your friends? Can they say that their ALL of their children has a degree? They can’t!”

It is important to note that only two of these children is actually working in their field of study, and that the PhD candidate will most likely not using his letters in real world experience at all. However, that is none of his father’s concern. His job was to educate his children and get them ready should the opportunity arise. Theirs is to seek out those opportunities. He can therefore take pride in his work.

I say again: Now comes this Kwasi Enin and all his shark-brainess, gaining acceptance into Harvard and co. What are mothers like me to do when it comes time for our children to being their foray into the realm of tertiary education? He has shown that it is possible, and because it is “possible”, all children of his ilk must do it! Why do you think that every West African child born between 1962-1988 has been compelled to go to school to become a lawyer or a doctor? Because Kwasi Enin circa 1953 showed it was possible when we had no examples of that level of success before! It can be done, so it will be done. End of discussion. You will soon see hundreds of Ghanaian children applying to the all of best colleges in the world – in tandem – when one or two of such would have previously done nicely. I can hear the wailing of determined parents now:

“You said what? You only applied to three elite colleges??? Oh God. What kind of a child have I raised? My friend, go and find six others to apply to!”

You wait and see.

My daughter brought home a ‘C’ in mathematics for the quarter a week ago. I sat in bed and mourned as if she had committed the most felonious of crimes. No amount of apology could console me. And now we have the added pressure of Kwasi Enin’s accomplishments on top too? Woi! We won’t survive in the Grant house. Look at what this small boy has done to my family!

With all that said, I salute Mr. Enin. He is a fine young man, and his parents should be particularly proud. Of course, they cannot take this pride for themselves. We all want our slice. We will attribute his success to good Ghanaian upbringing, morals, and a steady diet of jollof or whatever. The family’s pastor will claim his share in the glory for praying over him, as will the immigrant cashier at his local grocery store. We will all say we “knew Kwasi when.”

Let us do what we do best and advise this young man. What advice would you offer him? Me, I would tell him to go to these campuses with caution and to remember Eric Frimpong, who was also an exceptional young man slated for glory. What the American ‘justice’ system did to that boy was unconscionable. Kwasi must remember to walk circumspectly and cautiously. The same tongues that are praising you now are the ones who will facilitate your downfall. Choose your friends carefully o!

Oh yes, and ayekoo!

 

Could You Marry a Man who Has Had HUNDREDS of Sexual Partners?

Whew! MOM Squad. This is the question that has been burning on my mind all weekend. I must unburden myself. In the process, I’m going to do my best not to disclose anything that might give this couple away in case they are watching this space, but let’s get into it!

I got a call a little over a month ago from a man who used to be a friend of mine. He was weeping. Sniveling like a child who’d had his favorite toffee stolen from him by the schoolyard bully. I rolled my eyes and asked him why he was calling.

“I know you’re going to think I’m an a**hole for asking you this, but I really need a friend right now,” he sobbed. “Can you tell me what you like about me, and what you don’t like about me?”

Que? Where was all this coming from, I wondered? And better still, why was he calling to ask ME? As he said, we were not friends, and he knew he had some gall asking me to be one to him in that moment. At his request, I rattled down a short list of his vices. He was a liar, a thief, he broke and made promises he didn’t intend to keep.

“But you’re a liar, above all,” I reiterated. “However I think you try to be a good person and you have a good sense of humor.”

What else was there to say? Nothing, for my part. He began to rattle off a list of what he thought his best attributes were. I sat and listened silently. Then he started to weep some more. He was afraid that he didn’t deserve anything good in life, that he had done so much dirt in his life that it would haunt him, and that he didn’t deserve to get married.

“Ah. This sounds like something you need to talk to your fiancé about, not me,” I retorted.

He was silent for a moment, until he concluded that he would talk to her.

“I think it’s important that you start your marriage off with honesty,” I advised. “If there are things in your past that are haunting you, and furthermore have you calling me for solace, then you need to talk to her about them so that they don’t crop up later in your marriage. You’ve hurt a lot of people.”

“Oh, she knows everything,” he said brightly. “I’ve told her everything, and she says she doesn’t care about the past. That’s why I love her so much.”

“Then you have nothing to worry about,” I replied sardonically.

I recently had the opportunity to meet my former friend’s fiancé by chance. The meeting was unremarkable. We shook hands, obligatorily stated that it was ‘nice to meet’ each other, and went our separate ways. Knowing him as well as I do, I had to wonder about her. She is slight in build, light skinned, shoulder length hair. There is nothing about her that is noteworthy. She literally could potentially commit the perfect crime and get away with it, because she so effectively fades into the scenery.

In regards to my former acquaintance and his lurid, rampant sexual past and his newest conquest, I know that there are a few possible scenarios:

i)                    He did not tell her everything about what he’s done in the past, and if he did, he glossed over the details without entertaining questions

ii)                   He DID tell her everything and she is desperate or unquestionably stupid

iii)                 He told her nothing at all and spun me a tale to save face. Telling her nothing ensures that he gets to keep his meal ticket, as I have come to understand she is quite well-to-do and he has a track record of depending on women to finance his lifestyle.

Could she really know that his man has had hundreds (and this is not exaggeration) of sexual partners, that he has a heap of abortions to his credit and kids littered about the country – nay, the globe – that he either doesn’t provide for financially or barely does at all AND STILL NOT CARE??? Why…because she “loves “ him? Well, this is America, and Black women actually are that desperate. So much of the Black female population suffers from emotional destitution that they become willing martyrs for the cause of gaining that elusive fairytale we’ve all been sold. I suppose this is why you can end up marrying a drug head, a wife beater, or a man-whore who has slept with HUNDREDS of women and still not care!

Good, heavenly Gawd.

I once had an airline stewardess give me a sage bit of advice. She said: “No matter who you are, you are somebody’s cup of tea.” I suppose she was right. You can’t be a king if you don’t have a court jester, can you?

What say you, MOM Squad? Is this too judgmental on my part? Ladies (and gentlemen too) would/could you be able to commit to someone who has willingly had so much sex – protected and otherwise – with multiple partners? Furthermore, what are you risking when you decide not to care about anything in your partners past? Discuss! ↓

I Dream of a Son Not Yet Born

“Before you think of adopting someone else’s child, you need to think of giving birth to your own!”
- My father, 1990-something.

There’s something in an African father who cannot abide the thought of his daughter raising another man’s child, I swear.

Adoption.

It’s a need and a passion that has lived inside of me for as long as I can remember. Maybe it started when I first saw my neighbor’s Cabbage Patch Kid doll, complete with an adoption certificate. (My parents never spent money on frivolous items like name brand playthings when we were kids. I don’t think we’d ever earned anything manufactured by Mattel.) Perhaps it was because my mother was always housing, even if it was briefly, some stray child or another in our home. A fairy could have whispered in my ear that this was my life’s destiny. I don’t know! All I do know is that my desire to adopt has never waned.
I’m usually very careful about who I discuss my adoption dreams with. At the moment, that’s all I can afford to do; dream, that is. The first question folks usually ask me is “WHY??” – and not in a kind, inquisitive way. That one word, “why”, is generally laden with incredulity and implications of madness and stupidity on my part.

Why, when you already have 4 kids?
Why, when your house is so small?
Why, when you’re already so stressed out as a mom?

I don’t know…because. Will that suffice? Obviously “because” isn’t a good enough reason to offer any reputable adoption agency or potential birth mother forced to give up her child for whatever reason, but I can tell you this: My “because” too is laden with intent, purpose and ambition.

When we speak of love in popular culture these days, we often reduce the definition to romantic love. Oftentimes it gets boiled down to meaning sex. Very seldom do we hear about the different types and ranges of love that human beings experience: the love between two friends; the love one has for God; the love between a mother/father and child. I want to adopt a son because I love him already.

I dream of my son infrequently, but recently I’ve thought of him daily. I don’t know what features he will have, but I know that he will be dark. His birth mother and father will have blessed him with skin that I do not have the genetic power to produce. He may be sweet, he may be fiery, he may end up with special needs…I don’t know. All I know is that I love him already, and that I can’t wait to meet him.

Now that I’ve taken on this job and am focused on paying off our debt, I think we are in the right place to begin to plan to bring another child into our family. The first step has been to have meaningful conversations with my husband. Adopting a child is not like bringing home a pet fish, and is not as simple as “saving some infant from a horrible life” as many in American culture tend to believe. I have spent the better part of this week poring over stories of well-intentioned, poorly equipped adults who have adopted Black children, only to return them or “re-gift” them like bad fruitcake because the child was not the suitably grateful, happy-go-luck little negro they expected. I don’t understand these folks. If you make a commitment to be that child’s parent, you have a moral obligation to see that child through whatever they are besieged with. That’s the bargain when you take on the title of “parent”. One doesn’t get the option of turning one’s biological children back into sperm and injecting them into your testes if they don’t turn out as you’d hoped…why then does re-homing abandoning an adopted child become a choice? If it sounds like I’m judging these parents, I AM.

In conversations with my husband, I see that we are not yet ready to bring our son home. There are financial burdens that we were not aware of, and legal obligations that we had not considered. We also need to be emotionally fortified before we bring our young man home. What if he doesn’t like us or our children? Will our existing family unit be supportive enough for him? Can I realistically take on the role of mom of 5 kids when the other 4 have already beaten me down and have turned my husband and I prematurely grey? We won’t know until we try, and we are certainly willing.

baby-feet-bwI have no delusions about adoption, or child rearing in general. My children have cured me of all of that. My biological children have shown me that a child needs more than just “love” to become a strong, smart, high-functioning individual. A child needs shoes, food, discipline, information, the truth, a stable home, consistency and most important, certainty. If God grants us the opportunity, it would be my privilege to show my son all these things and to raise him to be the great man I know he is already destined to be. Yes! I believe my son is destined for greatness. What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t hold this conviction prematurely?

I cannot wait to meet my son, but I know that our union will come at a cost. The only regret I have is that our coming together will mean his separation from another woman. As a mother, that breaks my heart – but I promise you sister, whoever and wherever you are: I will love our son, and do my absolute best to raise him to be the man of our dreams.

Have you ever considered adoption? What advice do you have for would-be adoptive parents? With all the horror stories in the news, is it better to abandon the whole enterprise altogether? Discuss!

When Will Simply “Being African” Be Enough?

Living in the digital age is exciting, isn’t it? I imagine our predecessors in the Stone Age felt the same sense of euphoria after they discovered the many uses of fire that we now feel whenever some new technology emerges that makes our lives easier, better and more fun.

“Oooh! Hey guys! Look what I made!! Let’s call it fire…”

“Ooooh! Hey guys! Look what I made! Let’s call it Skype…”

See?

Living in the Digital Age means we can gather and disseminate news and information at speeds never seen before, and for once, Africans have not been left out on the wrong side of the divide. We have embraced social media like a pair of too-small khaki school shorts on a secondary school boy’s buttocks, and as such, our diverse cultures and talents are being seen and recognized in unprecedented ways. Just a few weeks ago, “tweaa” was trending worldwide on Twitter, and British news anchors were fixing and twisting their lips to get the “tsch” sound at the beginning of the word just right. It was a moment of personal pride for me.

But what does “tweaa” mean? They would ask. What can we compare it to?

Well of course, there is not definitive answer. Tweaa, like ugali, exists all on its own. It’s unique. Ghanaians grappled to find something in Western linguistics that would help our European friends understand it better.

“It’s like ‘rubbish’ or ‘nonsense’.”

“Kind of like ‘pshaw’.”

Ah. What were these lies these men were telling the international media? It’s none of these things! It’s TWEAA!!! It was annoying, so I did what I do when other things irritate me: I turned on Star Trek and refocused my attention on Patrick Stewart’s tight pants.

It is only recently that I have become more aware of the trend to compare the African human experience to that of the supposed superior Western one. I wouldn’t mind if these were one off instances, but it is pervasive inclination, now turned a rule. It has become the norm to hold up something African and juxtapose it to something American…as if this African cloth, song, shoe, literature or what-have-you cannot exist on its own merits.

MajidIn Ghana for example, Majid Michel has been dubbed “Ghana’s Brad Pitt”. Joselyn Dumas has been nicknamed “Ghana’s Oprah”. At her recent reading in Atlanta, Chimamanda recounted how her American agents fretted over how to market her to the US audience because she is so unique.

“We don’t know what to DO with you,” they said. She remarked her surprise, mulling over her belief that American publishers did not have much faith in the reading American public.

When you’re an African, you become accustomed to being compared to some higher Western standard. In time, I think you become numb to it. But once in a while, a comparison so absurd and so hurtful prods you in the backside that it jerks you out of your sleep, and this week, the BBC did the unthinkable:

They compared WizKid to Justin Bieber.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t care too much for WizKid (although that Caro song is my JAM). His fervent #TeamLightSkin stand has high school girls all over Nigerian bleaching their skin and dying in order to achieve some ungodly, unnatural standard and I despise him for it. However, I will not sit by and allow ANY African artist to be compared to Just Bieber. How possible?!? This is a gross injustice, a diss and an insult that parallels no other. To quote Edith Faalong “WizKid is NOT Nigeria’s Justin Bieber. He is Nigeria’s WIZKID.”

Full stop; the end.

Will there ever come a day when Africans are recognized for the merits of the art and innovations we produce? What will it take? I am of the view that if we are always trying to make ourselves and everything we do marketable to “them” we will never truly achieve the prominence we so deserve and are capable of. Chimamanda said something to address this at the reading I attended which I thought was so profound. An audience member asked her if she thinks of US audiences when she writes her books. Her answer was a resounding “no”.

“When Faulkner was writing about Mississippi, I don’t think he ever imagined a Nigerian girl would be sitting down to read it and possibly loving it, but I did. In the same turn, I don’t think my ancestral Nigerian village is any less important or relatable than his small town in Mississippi.”

Comparison analysis in culture is nothing new, and is still as sinister as it has ever been. African Americans have endured similar experiences throughout their history in the country, culminating in the phrase ‘credit to one’s race’ whenever one did something considered exceptional. Nat King Cole, Jackie Robinson and Diahann Carroll were all considered ‘credits to their race.

Have you ever had your work compared to something else as an inferior standard? Are there examples you have seen in the media that give you pause? Do you think it’s not such a big deal to have African culture compared to Western culture? Discuss! ↓

 

 

The Hue Violet: Some Colors Never Change

“Hey!!! I need help changing my clothes!!!!”

Serena had taken to calling Annabelle “Hey” recently. It grated on Annabelle’s nerves to no end. What 39 year old woman responds to “hey”, particularly when the address is elicited from the mouth of a 3 year old brat?

Annabelle and Anitha both glanced up at the stairs.

“Hey, do you mind going to help her?” Anitha asked tersely.

Anitha was still vexed with Annabelle in the wake of a conversation they’d had the night before. Serena’s rudeness had reached a point that Annabelle had barely been able to stand, and she told Anitha as much. This morning’s utterance was simply the latest in a long line of infractions.

“Well, I don’t know where she’s getting it from,” was Anitha indignant reply. “Ravi and I don’t talk like that, and it’s only something that’s come up in the last month or so.”

Anitha thought back to the many times that Anitha had verbally abused her husband in her presence as well as that of her child, using a tone that wasn’t fit for a beast, let alone a man. She let the comment about the “last month” slide and nodded her head. There was no reasoning with the woman.

She went upstairs to see what help the child needed. She had turned her shirt inside out and couldn’t reverse. Annabelle knelt to help her and sent her downstairs.

She had decided that this was going to be a good morning, because the next day was Thanksgiving. She was going to be away from the Rajwani’s for four whole days, and was basking in the promise of peace that lay ahead of her.

When she rejoined Serena and Anitha downstairs, Anitha was tapping her chest with her fingertips, which meant she was mentally generating a list of things for Annabelle to do.

“What time were you planning on leaving tomorrow?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t think dinner is until sometime in the afternoon…”

“Because I’m going to need your help in the morning,” Anitha interjected. “We’re going to Thanksgiving at a friend’s house and she asked me to prepare the turkey.”

Okay. Where was this heading?

“I’ve never made a turkey before, so I need your help.”

“Anitha; I’m not a cook. I’ve never made a turkey before either!”

“Well we’ll have to figure something out. Surely you’ve seen a turkey prepared before?”

Annabelle took stock of the conversation. What kinds of assumptions was this woman making? Had someone cast her as the Magical Negro Who Can Solve All Life’s ills in a low budget film and she hadn’t known about it? She supposed so as she shared a turkey tidbit that she’d picked up from The Chew with the woman.

“Well, I have seen turkey decorated with oranges and placed on kale as a garnish,” she offered lamely.

“Oh good!” Anitha exclaimed. “Can you slice the oranges today? I bought some kale last week as well. And then we can figure out where we’re going to get the turkey from.”

Annabelle inspected the kale. It, like much of the produce Anitha bought in bulk, had begun to wilt and shrivel. It would be unappealing to say the least, but that wasn’t her problem. Dinner was not with the Rajwanis.

Much to Annabelle’s surprise, Anitha took the initiative and found out she could get a pre-seasoned turkey from Popeye’s. She sent Annabelle to pick it up, which she was happy to do. Serena was home from school for the holidays and she could do with a break from the demented duo. She returned with the bird in hand and went to find some mundane endeavor that would separate her from mother and child.

Anitha searched her out about an hour later, again tapping her chest.

“Hey, I’m going to need you to stay in the morning to help me roast the turkey. And can you get a jump on the laundry before you leave for the holiday? It’s beginning to pile up.”

Annabelle took a shallow breath. Despite her opining, Anitha refused to get larger laundry baskets. The family had two dorm room baskets that held just enough for one load. With 8 items of clothing capacity, it gave the illusion of piling up, when – as was just stated – it was barely enough for one load.

 Anitha had already coerced Annabelle into doing the entire family’s laundry, when in reality she should only be doing Serena’s. She cursed herself for complying to this request in the first place, but she could not stand the clutter in the laundry room. There were piles and piles of clothes scattered around the floor when she first came into the family’s employ, some with tags on them, some with yoghurt stains. It had taken Annabelle 2 weeks to sort through the mess. To her disdain, she discovered a box of Cialis buried under Ravi’s pile. The man didn’t even have the decency to discard the packaging for his erectile dysfunction medication. It should have surprised Annabelle, but it didn’t. Even his penis was too lazy to get up on its own.

Strengthened by the knowledge that in a few short hours she would be away from this family and back into the land of the sane, she bent to gather Anitha and Ravi’s clothing and gathered the bulk to her chest. She let the clothing drop with a thud, and turned on the cold cycle. As she began to parse the clothing, her hand touched Anitha’s underwear. What was that buried in the silk lining?

“Oh. My. God.”

There, in the front of the dusty rose panties was a glob the color of onyx and amber. It was the fresh remnants of Anitha’s period, which remained un-rinsed and clinging stubbornly to her six 6 undergarments.

Annabelle cursed before she could do anything else. When she gathered her senses, she quickly threw the stained underwear in with the rest of the clothing and shut the lid before fleeing the laundry room. The memory of Anitha’s uterus blood stuck with her as she let the steaming hot water burn her skin as she washed her hands. Suddenly, she was screaming and didn’t know it.

“Oh my God!”

 

I know Reader, I know.

How Do You Handle Criticism?

Criticism, critique, opinion, junk that folks have to say…this is the world we live in today. My friend Kwesi (his real name) says that because of technology, everyone and ANYone can publish, even if it’s not necessary that they do. News travels in nanoseconds in this century, and opinion goes even further. Opinion and its half-brother, Gossip, have always been quicker to reach their intended target than real news. People are just happier to say what they think about a matter than discuss the matter in itself.

As a blogger, I generally have to contend with how people think about what I write, from style to subject matter. As a rule, I like people, so I am pretty accessible. Some of my most recent friendships have been a result of people following a thread on my blog, predicting my whereabouts and making the effort to meet me. The transition from stalker, to acquaintance to friend in my book is usually a quick and easy one. But as I say, those friendships are not made easily. Because people know so much about ME and judge me based on what I write – which is often personal – they truly believe they have to right to comment and share their personal opinion on my craft.

And you know what? They are right. If I made it public, I made it open to public opinion.

Let’s just be clear: I’m not always open to what people have to say about my craft. There have been times when people have been downright mean, and I’ve had to have my brother chase them off with his own special brand of Troll Repellant. Other times folks have been more tactful in telling me they didn’t appreciate the way I wrote this or expressed my opinion about that. I had one woman invite me to dinner only to tell me that she had serious reservations about how often (and cruelly) I wrote about Douche Bag. She was paying for dinner, so I didn’t tell her off then, but I fumed all the way home.

But then I paused and thought: Perhaps she was right? Perhaps the eternal bashing of my baby daddy was not really good for me, and should my daughter chance upon it in the future, maybe it wouldn’t be good for her either? I mulled over her words – her opinion – let them jostle for dominance over my indignation and my right to write whatever the hell I wanted, and eventually let them win. I adapted. And now I only write about Douche Bag when he does something extremely peculiar that I just HAVE to share with the MOM Squad.

When you’re an artist, comedian, blogger or social commentator, you can’t predict how your words are going to affect the subject of your discourse. Some of us don’t even care how it affects the individual! But it is always important to remember that at the other end of your keyboard or your microphone, there is another person with real feelings that need to be acknowledged, just as you’d want your own feelings done.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of how to handle “negative” criticism was on Chappelle’s Show. In one of the earlier seasons in a skit called Negrodamous, played by Paul Mooney cracked a joke saying “White people love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcom X.”

We laughed, and Dave probably forgot about it…until Wayne called. He wasn’t cool about it, but he was a good sport. What happened next made for television history and became a pop culture phenomenon. Yes, I’m talking about the Training Day parody, with the tagline “Black actors need to stick together.”

It was a valuable lesson for me. In the face of offence, whether it was intended or not, you always have the choice to turn it around if you sit down with the offender and reason things out. It’s hard, but with a little magic, you can actually turn piss into lemonade.

It is never my intention to hurt anyone on this blog (Okay. That’s a lie. There are days when my sole intent is to destroy the very heart of some of my victims, but that’s not usually the case.), so when I do, I am quick to make amends. Mind of Malaka is just that: ideas and thoughts knocking in my head that I write about. My thoughts are not law, and my blog is not the Wall Street Journal. It’s just a place where I make my honest opinions known.

So to the person I have affected recently with my thoughts, if you’re reading, I’d like to take an opportunity to turn pee pee into a sugary delight…if you’re open. You know where to find me.

Black actors need to stick together.

 

How do you personally handle criticism? Has there been an instance when you wished you’d handled things differently? What have been some of the best ways you’ve seen people handle opinion and attitude? Discuss!!