It’s Going to Take Some Time For Me to Learn to Pray Like an African

*Dear God: I know that I will probably be punished for what I am about to write. I may even go to hell for it…but I have to get this off my chest. I hope you will understand.

                                                            Yours sincerely and with love,

                                                                        Abena Gyekye

 

A few days ago I wrote on our family’s mission blog (34DGZ) about a demon manifestation that happened at Shack Church. The closest I’ve ever been to an alleged demon manifestation is when I was in 6th grade or thereabouts. I was living in Labone, and the kids down the street were telling me about how their half-sister was growling as their mother/aunty was beating her. Her eyes were “glowing red” in the darkness because “Mary is a witch.”

Now Mary WAS an awful little gob of phlegm and a horrible human being in general…but she was no witch. At least not in the nature my former playmates ascribed to her. She had no magical powers and couldn’t cast a spell over a pot of porridge – but she did steal and she did lie and she was rebellious for no honorable cause, and that made her close enough to an evil spirit in the African sense as would ever be.

I stopped rocking with Mary shortly after that. (This was the same chick who came over to my house to whip my sister’s behind for some candy. I told you guys about her a few years ago.)

If I were to diagnose Mary, I’d say she was criminally insane, certainly suffering from kleptomania and severely lacking in affirmation and affection. But a witch? Nah. It is my personal belief that a lot of Africans tormented by “evil spirits” just need someone to treat them with some common courtesy and need a non-judgmental ear to pour out their issues upon. You can’t do/say anything in this part of the world without the devil coming into play somewhere.

Got a stomachache? It’s the devil eating your insides.

Suffering from insomnia? It’s the witches in your village dancing in your dreams.

Your brand new car won’t start? Eeesss de devil oooo! Someone has put juju in the engine!

So anyway, because Christian African is so acutely aware of the devil’s presence and interference in daily life, the church spends an inordinate amount of time trying to cast him out.

Cast the devil out of your finances.

Cast the devil out of your ministry.

Cast the devil out of your marriage.

Cast the devil out of your children.

Eh? No, no. We cannot cast the devil out of your philandering husband who is spending all of your household finances on university girls and exploring his secret homoerotic desires with willing young men. Your husband is the head of the household. As for that one, longsuffering wife, you must just submit.

But back to the devil:

How exactly does one cast the devil out? Why, with fire, of course! The devil comes from the pit of hell where eternal flame glows and all unclean souls go to burn in agony forever. Conventional military wisdom has taught us that in warfare, we “fight fire with fire.” How much more spiritual warfare? I think this is why the typical charismatic African church spends all morning and a good portion of the afternoon praying fire.

At the exorcism I witnessed, the very earnest pastors and church mothers surrounded this young woman shouting:

“Fiya! Fiya! FIIIYA!!”

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Oh. Was something burning? Or are we trying to burn this girl? What is the purpose of yelling “Fire!” in the house of the Lord? Ironically, the next afternoon I was on Twitter and a man tweeted a similar experience. His girlfriend had dragged him to church and in obliging, he soon found himself under a hail of “Fire!”

“We were there praying for healing and then the next moment the whole church was shouting ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’ for one hour…”

A few weeks ago, another user tweeted his church experience where the pastor exhorted the entire congregation to ‘roar like a lion’.

“Nah, fam. I’m good”

I mean, seriously. Roar like a lion and then what?

These are the lines that I don’t think any Christian should cross. Because you know what the next step is? Obinim stomping on your wife’s belly with his leather moccasins or your daughter in the aisles on her hands and knees, following a pastor around as he asks repetitively – and rhetorically – “Where are my sheeps?” (Yes ooo. Sheeps. With an ‘s’.)

 

But you see, these are the things that get African Christians excited. (Unless they are Catholics. Catholics don’t want no part of these shenanigans.) This Sunday, I was asked to pray over a few people who had addictions in Shack Church. I mean, my prayer life is okay, but it ain’t authoritative enough to be breaking no addictions. Still, I did as I was bidden to do and prayed for folk to be released from the bondage of addiction.

It was an earnest prayer. In fact, I thought it was a very good prayer. No one was really responding, however, so I decided to switch it up a little.

“Fire! Fire! I call fiyaaa!!!!

Ohhhh….The hallelujahs came rolling in after that. I was so tempted to shout “Wind! Water! Earth!” just to see what would happen….😦

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This is my confession, friends.

 

 

Stop laughing.

If Only I Could Solve All of My Problems Like A ThunderCat

Last night, I felt it prudent to lose myself in a bit of 80s nostalgia. The past 8 days or better have constituted a general failure in the spheres of civil rights, global peace and adulating in general, so an escape to a time when all of these principles were things for my parents to fret over at dinner was just what I needed. I gathered my family around me, fired up the old DVD player and popped in Season 1 of the Thundercats. Noises in the living room vacillated between stunned silence, disbelieving grunts and postulations about what each character meant when they employed certain puns during unambiguous scenarios. And if there’s anything any 80s cartoon is good for, it’s the liberal use of puns.

With the Thundercats as our guide, my family of 6 +1 house guest sprinted and leapt around Third Earth. Without warning, we found ourselves an audience to Lion-O’s Anointment Trials. Lion-O – like most African leaders – was the presumptive Lord of the Thundercats after his father’s demise. That means he inherited his position. Having never proved his worthiness or right to the title of Lord of All Cats, it was incumbent upon Lion-O to go through and successfully complete the Anointment Trials to earn this title. The Thundercats code of honor required his friends to do all they could to stop him. He would have to be as strong as Panthro, as swift as Cheetara, as cunning as Wily Kit and Wily Kat and beat Tygra in a battle of the mind.

Oh

My

God

Somewhere along the line in 1985 as a latchkey kid, I’d missed all of these episodes. Tragic! No matter. Watching them 30 years later was just as exciting, if not even better. I was rooted in my seat, transfixed by what I was witnessing. A thought came to my mind – a silly one, if I’m honest. I didn’t banish it. I entertained it. What…what if *EYE* could solve all of my problems just like a Thundercat? What would that look like? Well first, I’d begin by:

 

Shouting ‘Hoo!’ At Every Freaking Thing

Lion-O was not permitted to use the Sword of Omens or the Claw Shield during his Anointment Trials, and for good reason. The Sword of Omens makes him invincible, and on a regular day, he’s encouraged to make use of his weapons. At stasis, it’s a pretty sharp dagger that becomes the length of his body after the impassioned scream of one word: Ho!

Ho (or heaux, as I’d pronounce it) is imbued with magical powers. Yell ‘heaux’ and your whole squad shows up to help. Yell ‘heaux’ and fierce light will emit from your accessories, blinding your opponent.

Man, I could see myself now. What’s they problem? Chicken salad too dry? Sweet tea ain’t cold enough? Not burning enough calories on the treadmill? Kids won’t leave me alone to make these pancakes they asked me for?

HEAUXXXXX!!!!

Everyone scatters…tasteless salad, annoying kids, everyone! Problem solved.

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Beating My Problems to Submission

You ever seen Panthro fix the Thunder Tank or any other mechanical object lying around Cats Lair? What’s the first thing he does? I’ll tell you. He smacks the crap out of it and yells “Dang BLAST IT!”. And guess what? The machine starts working again. That’s because Panthro runs a tight ship out there at Cats Lair. You don’t really want to go toe-to-toe with Panthro. I don’t care if you’re a spreadsheet or a coffee maker. You take one look at Panthro’s biceps and that grimace and you know it’s in your best interest to comport yourself. How awesome would it be if you could just smack the pudding out of a pile of reports and yell “Dang BLAST IT!” and everything work out fine? Like, your boss and your colleagues just think you’re a wizard because you can just beat your way to success?

Heck yeah. You know you would.

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Sprinting and Back flipping Away from Undesirable Situations

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Police brutality was (and if this annual trend stays true, will continue to be) a big problem last week. The world watched two men DIE on their smartphones and televisions…in one case in real time.

But what if you had another way of escape.

A person can pretty much tell if a store clerk, the lady at the DMV or a cop is going to give them a hard time. What if instead of suffering through the entire nasty encounter, you could just backflip your way to safety and peace? Or, OR, how about this. What if you’re taking an evening stroll, minding your own business and all these fuqbois on the sidewalk just won’t let you have peace. They keep harassing you. They keep touching you. If you were a Thundercat, you could use your super speed and just get to the QT to pick up that Freezoni and get back home. Because sometimes, all a girl wants in life is peace and a slushy, syrupy drink.

Making a Joke Out of Everything…and Being Cute While You Blunder

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There are some people who do this anyway; make a joke of serious issues, I mean. Everything is a bloody joke. They lost your luggage?

“Oh…it’s funny how that happens. Have a nice day, eh?”

They put a hole in your wall while moving in your furniture?

“Hahahaha!!! Oh, don’t worry! You can file a claim with my company. My boss will give you a call. I get off at 5pm.”

Braided your hair with Yaki number 613 instead of number 27 like you asked?

“Oh. Ehehehe….But this one too is a style.”

Maybe you yourself are one of these people. Maybe you are just prone to screwing everything up.

But you ever notice how SOME people manage to get away with this? It’s because they are cute! Somehow, when you’re CUTE, your blunders don’t seem so egregious. Just like who? Willy Kit and Wily Kat. Don’t be a screw up and be ugly. You’ll get kicked off the team.

Pretend None of Your Problems Even Exist. Like, Just Don’t Acknowledge Them.

This has got to be my favorite coping mechanism by FAR. During the fourth day of Lion-O’s Anointment Trial, he had to defeat Tygra in a battle of the mind. I suuuuwear, I’ve never seen anything like it. Tygra was standing at the top of the hill, right? And Lion-O had to get up to him. All of a sudden, Lion-O stops and starts fighting AIR. Actual, empty air. Because why? Because Tygra is at the summit, all mystical and Asian talmbout some, “Let him see what is not there…”

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Yo.

You can do that?

Because I SHO NUFF would be at Suntrust’s Headquarters with my mortgage in my hand hollering “Let them see what ain’t there! Let them see a zero balance!”

That’s not how it works in real life, though. In real life, if you don’t pay off your balance, you have a foreclosure.

I’m sure my kids would love to have this Tygratic ability to make ish disappear. Like that stinking room and those bad grades.

“Let Mommy see what’s not there!”

 

 

Yeah.

ThunderCatssss….Heaux.

Thundercats.ws-Site-Relaunch

 

Several Ways in Which Black Lives Matter is Nothing Like the Ku Klux Klan…And Why That’s a Good Thing

This week, in yet another stunning display of utter ignorance, Tomi Lahren went on Twitter to compare the Black Lives Matter Movement to the KKK.

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The tweet has since been taken down, but taking down such a divisive, ignoble and quite frankly idiotic position such as this one is tantamount to setting a house on fire and then throwing a cup of water at the burning visage with hopes of dousing the flames. You can’t make incendiary statements like this and think that erasing them changes the effects. It’s just ludicrous.

As foolish as Lahren is, she is neither the first nor the only person to make the comparison between BLM and the American terrorist organization known as the KKK. Both Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have attempted to draw parallels between the movement and the Klan. And once Sean and Bill have formed an opinion and made a decree, it becomes doctrine, worming its way into the conservative psyche were it incubates until it manifests as right wing “fact” on forums with burning crosses and silhouettes of men hoisting rifles. You know…micro-sites that ‘Real Americans’ like Joe Walsh frequent.

In any case, the entire comparison is absolutely asinine, and one has to wonder if people like Hannity, O’Reilly and Lahren are really that uneducated OR are simply pandering to the sympathies of a population that they know to be unenlightened about the horrors of American history in order to pay their own bills. I find it hard to believe that the man who researched and wrote Killing Lincoln would lack the ability to do honest research about the myriad atrocities that the KKK have meted out against communities of color for the past 150 years. I know Bill O’Reilly is a widely read man and I therefore am compelled to assume the latter. I know he is not ignorant, so that can only mean he is unscrupulous.

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There are thousands – if not millions of ways BLM is nothing akin to the KKK, and those differences are counted in Black lives lost at white supremacists’ hands. For the sake of brevity, let’s just focus on these six:

The Klan is highly organized and efficient

In as much as it hurts to admit, we have to give the Klan props for its organizational skills. They are and always have been a well-oiled machine. When you come from the dominant class and majority race that controls resources, this is easy to do. It’s difficult to get the Black Lives Matters organization to respond to an email, but then they haven’t had 151 years of training, organizing and recruiting talent for their cause to facilitate the sort of efficiency the Klan has long exhibited.

Now, this may seem like a soft comparison, but it leads to the next point of differentiation which is…

 

Control of Resources

Structural economic oppression has been one of the KKK’s most effective tools in their terrorist agenda. Historically and repeatedly, Black American businesses and enterprises have been bombed, burned and sabotaged by white supremacist agents. Greenwood Ave, Chicago, Atlanta, Rosewood and even the nation’s capital, Washington DC have all been subjected to race riots and calculated destruction, reducing aspiring neighborhoods to rubble and blood. These are just a few examples of white destruction of Black property on a grand scale. Across the country, countless Black business owners would find themselves driven out of business or killed if their enterprise posed a threat to white prosperity.

Thomas Moss, grocer and friend of Ida B. Wells was lynched with two other men when their business posed a competitive threat to a white grocery store owner in the vicinity. Again, this is only one of numerous examples.

In order for BLM to be anything like the KKK, every white business owner MUST feel that they are under attack. They must feel that members of the Black community can and will harm them fiscally and physically at any moment…and will do so confidently and with impunity. The BLM chapter in New York would literally have to fire bomb 5th Avenue, the New York Stock Exchange and all of Wall Street to mirror the Klan.

That’s not what BLM wants. The group and all those loosely associated with it want equitable and fair treatment from financial institutions and gatekeepers, but this is not going to happen, realistically. The real truth is that until Black people begin making it a policy to spend exclusively (or primarily) in their own communities and supporting Black owned businesses, we will never have the power to neutralize the effects of this oppression.

Premise and policy of racial supremacy

The KKK was founded on the belief that white lives (where ‘white’ means Anglo-Saxon and Protestant), white culture, white religion, white hair (you get the picture) are superior to any person of color. This belief then became policy, affecting not just Black people, but Jews, Mexicans, Native Americans and even the Irish who were considered ‘Europe’s niggers’.

Every group of people feels that there is something inherently special about them…some differentiation that makes them better in one way or another. We can use the jollof wars as a harmless example, if you like. However it is only whiteness that has historically had the power to turn that belief into federal or state policy.

Not too long ago in America’s history, a Black person of either gender could find themselves scourged or maimed for looking a white person in the eye when addressing them. As an inferior, unequal being, you did not reserve the right to eye contact with your betters. Black people were restricted from using public amenities, shopping in particular establishments, and even had their clothing policed. Klan members and the silent, complicit white majority ensured that these codes were strictly enforced.

BLM has no such policy-making abilities. As a Black woman, I have no right to walk up to a white guy and snatch their Sperry boat shoes off his feet because wearing them constitutes a violation of Pig and Jim Crow laws.

Furthermore, all white men/women/children would have to be conditioned to not just fear Blackness, but to understand that offending Black sensibilities could result in the loss of life, property or liberty. There would never be justice because white folk would be too afraid to speak up against atrocities. Intimidation would be the order of the day. A culture of silence and relying on the supernatural to intervene where the law has failed would become the order of the day.

How did the Klan assist with this conditioning? Because….

The Ku Klux Klan, especially in the South, was the beneficiary of state funded financial and political support. In fact, the Democrat party was run by the KKK in the early part of the 20th century. Political kingmakers like Leander Perez (who infamously quoted as saying, ‘The best way to hate a nigger is to hate him before he is born.”), Senator Robert Byrd and David Duke are just a handful of state and federal legislators who were active members of the KKK. I know of no BLM member who enjoys such clout and even if they did, I doubt they would condone, order and facilitate the type of devastation this Good Ol’ Boy network exacted against communities of color. And before you say it, one lone wolf sniper in Texas maketh a policy of widespread terror not.

Which leads us to the final distinction:

The KKK’s policy of employing extreme physical violence

Until BLM protesters begin firebombing white establishment homes, dragging white men from their beds and hanging them in the town square, raping white women and girls, some as young as 12, or mowing down entire neighborhoods under a hail of gun fire, even as residents flee… Until that becomes not only policy but an actionable plan, this comparison is disingenuous. It’s actual BS. The KKK is a terrorist organization, tolerated by the majority of liberal white America because it has never affected them. That tolerance has allowed them to morph and reorganize like a cancer. You can’t compare a couple of unarmed kids with placards and slogans to men on horseback, pick up trucks and nooses to the latter.

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All Black Lives Matter protestors want is for the state sanctioned and murder of Black people to stop. How is this hard for such a large population of the country to understand? White people should all be grateful that African Americans have been so longsuffering and forgiving this far. Trust me, you don’t want the tables turned and the shoe firmly affixed on the other foot. Neither do we. It takes too much effort and energy to oppress another group. In the words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Is Tomi Lahren REALLY The Right Voice for White Moral Outrage?

Up until a few days ago, I had never heard of Tomi Lahren. Tomi is a conservative pundit who makes her living trolling Black pain and mining Black disenfranchisement for every cent its worth. She’s a worm who moisturizes herself in the tears of Black orphans. Just evil. Tomi uses Black culture, its heroes and its villains alike to provide herself with relevance. She and Piers Morgan – that unctuous British bigot – have that in common. Lahren currently works for the Blaze, but given the outrageous nature and asinine commentary on social events, it’s safe to bet that she’s jockeying for a position as one of the Fox News Blondes.

One of Tomi’s most recent targets was Jesse Williams…or specifically Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech at the BET awards. She asserted that BET was giving Mr. Williams a humanitarian award for spreading ‘racism and hatred’. Anyone with half a brain listening to that speech would never come to that conclusion…but we’re not dealing with someone operating with a full deck of cards. We’re working with Tomi Lahren. Watch her videos for yourself and see if I’m exaggerating! Every time I hear her voice, it’s like hearing human bone scrape against asphalt. Just torturous!

Anyway, this week, Ol’ Missy Lahren hopped onto her embossed leather soapbox with the intent of tackling the murder (and it was a murder) of Alton Sterling, who was selling CDs in front of convenience store when two cops tackled him and put 6 bullets in his back and chest. Her voice got thinner and thinner as she launched her high pitched whine about why Black folk have this penchant for turning criminals into martyrs, Alton Sterling being the latest. To demonstrate that society was better off without Alton Sterling’s existence, she offered the following tirade as evidence of his apparent unworthiness to live:

“Here’s what know about Sterling. Sterling was a registered sex offender. He was previously arrested for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, unauthorized entry, domestic abuse/battery. In 2009 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for marijuana possession and for carrying an illegal weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.”

I’m listening to and looking at this woman this woman rattle off all these “stats” on Alton Sterling, looking at her lips grow tighter and tighter as she screeches her faux outrage, and all I can think to myself is ‘Wow. This sounds like the average weekend itinerary from whatever trailer park you just extracted yourself from.’

What we ALSO know about Sterling’s sex offender registry is that his was 17 at the time and the girl he was engaging in sexual contact with was 15. Similarly, you may recall in 2003 when 17 year-old Genarlow Wilson was convicted and handed a 10-year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with another teenager. I would imagine that there are many Altons and Gernalows unfairly charged and floating through the American justice system, thus providing harpies like Tomi Lahren the ammunition to deem these men’s lives worthless.

Everyone knows that Black people are handed harsher convictions by the criminal justice system for the same offenses that white Americans commit. The long-term repercussions for Black people are far more devastating than they are for white Americans. Study after study has proven this. Again in 2003, The American Journal of Sociology published the results of a matched-pair experiment in which the participants were split equally by race, black and white.

What the study revealed is that employers were more likely to call Whites with a criminal record (17% were offered an interview) than Blacks without a criminal record (14%). And while having a criminal background hurt all applicants’ chances of getting an interview, African Americans with a non-violent offense faced particularly dismal employment prospects.*

That’s important. But what’s more important is that Tomi Lahren is proof of this phenomenon herself. While this woman sits on TV night-after-night, delighting her bigoted viewers by insinuating that the deaths of these Black men, women and children at the hands of the police are somehow justified because of their criminal pasts, Ms. Lahren forgets that she has a past of her own that isn’t so squeaky clean. In a stunning turn of events, Tomi Lahren found herself exposed…by none other than Black Twirra.

Aubrih Stan, who goes by the handle @yauniexo had finally had enough. She exposed Tomi Lahren for the prostitute and shoplifter that she is and came with receipts. Twitter, who like Facebook, is deeply invested in preserving white integrity, deleted Aubrih’s tweets and from what I gathered, shut own her account for a time. But it was too late, because the innanets never forgets and the innanets makes copies. Within hours, everyone knew that Tomi Lahren had spent 14 years of her life whoring herself out for pay and stealing items from Target in 2008. And yet here she sits, with her own show on the Blaze. If all things were equal, we could call Ms. Lahren’s good fortune “the American Dream”…a dream that allows you to trade your nightmarish past bent over the arm of a sofa, sucking oily old-man-cock for a few 20-dollar bills for a lucrative career in media. In reality, it’s nothing more than White Privilege. I can’t think of any former hoes of color in this century (besides Mama Maya, God rest her) who the establishment would even let remotely close to becoming the voice of righteous indignation.

And don’t get me wrong. I do love my prostitutes. They have changed the course of history and affected social events from the days of the Rahab in Bible to Cardi B in 2016. And I applaud Tomi for having the strength to pursue that….career. It takes a great deal of inner fortitude to participant in the sort of anal play for pay that I’m certain her clients demanded of her. But is THIS REALLY the woman that hateful white America (and all you coons who cape for their cause) has chosen to be the voice of American morality? Because that’s what it comes down to in our society. If you’re Black and have any blemish in your past, you deserve to die at the hands of police. It doesn’t matter if you’re just walking home, or going for an afternoon drive, or selling CDs, or listening to loud music when you’re killed. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t engaging in criminal activity in the moment when you were killed. As long as you have a record, an infraction even as mundane as a trip to the principles office, you deserve death in this moment or the future.

Heaven forbid, we apply the same standards equally. Heaven forbid Tomi Lahren finds herself a victim of sexual assault. How callous and asinine would it be to say “Well, you know she’s be a whore for half her life. She deserved it.” No one deserves to be raped, just like no unarmed person deserves to be murdered by the police.

People like Tomi Lahren, who live high in their towers, made of ivory and glass shouldn’t let the altitude make them delusional. You can’t be a ho in a pencil heels lobbing grenades while you’re sitting on a drum of liquid nitrogen with your name on it. That’s just unwise. The last time I checked, prostitution and theft by taking were both criminal offenses in Amurrrca, Tomi.

Have you heard of Tomi Lahren? Do you find her as despicable as I do? Discuss!

 

*Source: thesocietypages.org

I Moved to South Africa Because I Couldn’t ‘Call in Black’ in America

“Can I ask you a personal question? It’s one I’ve been dying to ask you since you guys walked into the office that first day.”

I braced myself for an inappropriate query before chirping an apprehensive “Sure! Go right ahead.”

“Why did you move to South Africa…when so many people are leaving?”

This is proving to be a difficult question to answer, as she was not the first (and certainly won’t be the last) person to ask it. I faltered and offered an unintelligent, canned response. Something about exposing my children to a “new culture” and providing our entire family with a “change of scenery”. Her tone was saturated with such utter shock and disbelief, as if our decision to relocate to this country was a tragic mistake that needed irrefutable justification that I desperately wanted to give her an answer that would satisfy her incredulity and curiosity. This paltry attempt was all I could muster.

“I just feel very much at peace here,” I concluded.

She responded with a flat “Umph.”

The inquisitor was the admin at what is to be our children’s new school. Even though she and I have only met on two occasions, we’ve established a mutual respect for one other. She’s a straight shooter who calls it as she sees it; my type of woman. Ordinarily, I would have responded with the same sort of directness that we both embody…but how do you begin to explain to a stranger that the impetus behind the decision in question is fear? And specifically, the fear of becoming prey – carrion for a militarized American police force? The real truth was shrouded in much more gloom. The peace I described wasn’t so much as me running towards something positive in South Africa in as much as I was running away from something far more frightening. And though our family’s mission web page is chockfull of flowery prose about our emigration being spawned from a desire to encourage Godliness, entrepreneurship and the like (which would have been the more inspirational response and the one my husband would have given), my personal motivation is and has always been rooted in a desire to escape a feeling of latent terror. Was she – a white South African woman – ready for that level of truth? How uncomfortable would that make her? I couldn’t be sure, so in providing this saccharine coated answer I instinctively did what Black people in America have been trained all our lives to do: Make white people feel safe.

A year or so ago, Evelyn from the Internets created a video in which she suggested that Black people ought to have the option to “call into work Black”, the same way people call into work sick. She performed a hilarious – but poignant – sequence of morning rituals to illustrate her point. Before we get out of bed, almost everyone in this modern age does the same thing: we check our phones for the time, the weather and the news. When you’re Black, that news seemingly always involves the death of an unarmed Black man, woman or child at the hands of the police. Then comes the predictable chorus from the majority population admonishing the dead for refusing to “obey authority”, effectively pouring salt in our collective gaping wounds while blaming the slain individual for their own tax-payer funded murder. This is sprinkled with the insidious insistence that Black folk are imagining that race and racism are factors contributing to any of these events.

This cycle has been on rinse and repeat for the past 500 years, and the load doesn’t seem to get any lighter.

In the days leading up to and following our fairly successful transition to the southern hemisphere, I have noted the absence of the dreaded Hash Tag. You know the one: the one that announces the identity of the slain youth/college kid/activist/jay walker/loosie cig seller/what-have-you on Twitter. The hash tag that carries the weight of the details of this person whose life has been cut short because (s)he “looked suspicious” or “resisted arrest”…even when there is no indication of what they were being arrested for in the first place. The hash tags that are permanently seared into your consciousness like the molten metal of a slaver’s branding iron. The hash tag tweeted and retweeted like a death knell.

I knew that they were out there – the unnamed and killed – but there was no evidence of it online or anywhere else. I tried to convince myself that maybe I HAVE BEEN overly sensitive. Maybe 2016 was different and the police had learned how to do their duties without taking life, and taking it violently and wantonly. Maybe the nightmare I was running away from in America was actually over.

Maybe…But even my instincts told me that this was neither true nor possible. The absence of these names and faces from the public consciousness were more likely due to media suppression than the police’s sudden ability to do their job humanely where Black bodies were concerned.

And then it happened. This morning I awoke to the news of Alton Sterling’s sidewalk execution on July 5th. Before the dawn’s early light had filtered through my bedroom, I saw him wrestled to the ground and heard a series of shots that silenced Mr. Sterling’s questions. “What did I do? What the f— did I do?”

Then I heard the officer pause his gunfire before shooting him three more times. That old, familiar shroud of grief cloaked itself around me again. That white-hot pain that I’ve learned to anticipate every year threaded its way through my heart. I was crestfallen, but today I experienced something different.

I experienced relief.

I experienced gratitude.

I experienced an indescribable bitter sweetness, one that I imagine must be similar to survivor’s guilt.

Because for the first time in my adult life – and more specifically since becoming a mother – I don’t have the same sense of fear that is dovetailed with the experience of raising a Black boy in America. I don’t worry that once he’s grown and barely out of the house (or playing in the park), his name will be this summer’s dreaded hash tag. In watching Alton Sterling die, I feel the grief that follows yet another Black life lost – this time because he was selling CDs and had a gun in an open carry state – but I don’t feel that same ancient weight…the one where I seriously have to wonder if I or someone in my immediate family could be next. I don’t feel like I’m living under a terrorist’s threat any more. I feel sad…but more than that, I feel free.

The Guardian keeps a tab on the number of people killed by police in the USA. Alton Sterling is Number 558 in 2016. That’s more lives snuffed out than calendar days thus far. And we all know Number 559 is not far behind. We can feel it. He/she could be lost and needing directions or failing to use a traffic signal right now. There is no ultimate guide for keeping yourself safe and Black in America. Ours is the struggle of the pine tree, pleading with the axe to find a new purpose at Christmastime. There’s no way in that equation that the pine tree comes out the victor and every day is Christmas.

As far as South Africa is concerned, perhaps this is still the honeymoon phase of my new arrangement, but I don’t feel “Black” in this country – at least not in the way I did in the States. I don’t feel like my children or I have a constant bull’s eye on our backs. I’m not naïve. I know that the safety and acceptance we’re experiencing now is because we’ve been ‘othered’. Sure, we may be Black, but we’re Americans above all. This makes us a novelty and that sort of discrimination benefits us now, but as we adapt and adopt more of the customs of our host’s society those perceptions could change.

I’ll deal with that when the time comes. For the moment, I’ll happily trade exoticism for a sense of safety. And because calling in Black is never going to be an option, this is the next best thing I could have done for my peace of mind.

 

The Stunning Conclusion to The Chronicle of My Lost Bag

At 7:03 am today, my husband went out to the living room to restart our Internet. I lazily looked out of the window waiting for the sun to peek over the cliffs and provide our house some much needed warmth. We live in the shadow of a mountain, meaning sunrise is a delayed phenomenon. I heard his voice in the distance, and it had taken on a business-like tone, which was odd for this hour. His work calls to America didn’t start until around 2 pm local time.

IMG_4635

“Yes. Yes, it does have some teddy bears in it. Errrm…baby shoes? No, we don’t have a baby. That might not belong to us…”

I sat straight up in the bed. Was he on the phone with the airline about our bag? My heart began to pound fiercely against my rib cage. Just Monday, Lauren Fulford-Andrews from the Virgin Atlantic baggage service wrote me a heartfelt (probably canned_ email response about how sorry he was that my bag was lost and how unusual of an occurrence it was. He hoped that it wouldn’t change my opinion of the airline, but unfortunately there was nothing Virgin Atlantic could do about the lost luggage. It was up to South African Airways, our final carrier for our trip, to either provide reimbursement or locate my bag. In return, South African Airways pointed me back to VA, stating that the bag was NEVER scanned through Johannesburg but that I was welcome to fill out a claim form. I would have to come to Jo-burg (an 8 hour drive) or Port Elizabeth (2.5 hour drive) to do this. We drove the 2.5 hours to Port Elizabeth 2 Saturdays ago, only to discover in a follow-up call days that SAA could have emailed us the form…the woman who picked up our call that day just decided not to give us that option.

After itemizing the contents of my bag, the total to be reimbursed came to R24,000 (about $1500). As all of my Twirra followers know, the previously lost Ghana Must Go bag contained all of my winter boots, my First Lady Hat, my Sutra flat irons, several pairs of heels and an odd assortment of items. I wear a size 10 shoe and have wide calves. It’s difficult for me to source shoes that are both stylish AND a good fit because my feet and legs are not “mainstream”. So when I heard talk of items that sounded familiar to mine, I was filled with indescribable glee!

“Let me let you talk to my wife,” Marshall said, handing me the phone. “She’s the one who packed the bag so she would know.”

“Hello, M’em? This is Cyril from South African Airways in Port Elizabeth.”

“Hi! Hi, Cyril. Good morning!”

Oh my God, y’all. I felt like I was a contestant on The Price is Right.

“Yes. I think we have your bag here. It just came in from Virgin Atlantic in Jo’burg today!” Oh, really! So despite all their claims that SAA had to have the bag, VA had it all along? Cyril was still talking. “There are some teddies…so black and white teddies and a corduroy bag?”

Those didn’t sound familiar, but I HAD just packed up a whole house. Who knows what I’d stuffed in there at the last-minute. “Is there a grey dolphin in there,” I asked. Liya came crying because her Pop Pop had won her that dolphin at the Clark County fair last summer and she REALLY wanted it back!

“Yes! I see a dolphin.”

My heart began racing at a new pace.

“Do you see some boots, Cyril?”

“Yes…Some gum boots. And a big, big men’s shoe.”

That was Marshall’s one pair.

“What about black boots? Do you see any riding boots…err…tall black ladies boots?”

“I see some tekkies. A white one with pink laces…Nike. And also a black one with pink laces.”

My Nikes and New Balances. Oh my GOD! This was my bag!

“Cyril. Do you see a hat? A white hat!”

Cyril, my angel from lost baggage at South African Airways paused. He told me that he’d have to empty the whole bag to see if he could find a hat. He teased me, informing me that was stuffed pretty well. I giggled. I HAD stuffed it. I had stuffed full of my favorite boots and shoes and my sister’s hat.

“Yes. I know.”

Finally, he asked me to describe the bag itself. It is red and yellow and white, made of vinyl.

“Then m’em, this is YOUR bag!”

I squealed. I literally squealed! This luggage has been missing since May 29th. Today is June 30th. I had already resigned myself to reality that it was GONE. That I would never see my First Lady Hat again, and that I’d have to run these uglass Easy Spiritis I’d flown into the country with into the ground until I got back to the States and re-buy everything.

“We will be at your house in an hour. You can expect us at 8, ok? Maybe 8:30. Okay, you make it 9 am. We are coming now now.”

“Sure! I’ll see you then!”

I shot up out of bed and took a shower. I wanted to be clean and presentable when my bag arrived. I waltzed around the house with a smile on my face. NOTHING was going to ruin this wonderful day. The lamb that was lost was finally coming home!

At 11:21 am, the guys from SAA showed up at the door. They laid Ghana Must Go at my feet. That was my bag alright! But why did it look so… thin?

“I need to see if all the items are inside,” I said.

The man with the clipboard told me I ought to. So I did. I dumped the contents of my found bag onto the floor and couldn’t believe my eyes.

Out tumbled all of the kids’ stuffed animals.

Out tumbled two pair of sneakers.

Out came 1 purple Sam Edelman heel and 1 black Pink & Pepper heel. Their mates were NOWHERE to be found.

Out tumbled my beaded Kenyan flip flops and a Guess satchel I’d bought Aya to play dress up with when she was 5.

Out came 1 pair of rain boots.

No leather riding boots.

No suede tall boots.

Nadjah’s Tommy galoshes were a vapor.

My quilted waterproof boots were nowhere to be seen.

The Sutra and BayBliss flat irons? You can just forget that. Those run at $120-150 a piece.

The First Lady Hat?

*Sigh*

This was the last time the hat was seen or worn in public. :(

This was the last time the hat was seen or worn in public.😦

Essentially, they took everything of value…anything with a label, from the bag. I looked at the driver and his mate as though they were bringing me news of Hodor’s death. No…as if they were Brandon Stark trying to explain away their part in Hodor’s death! What a betrayal. What a violation! I felt hollow inside. I still do.

“Some of my things are missing.” My lips curled as though I had just been made to swallow cat urine – a hoax, thinking it was lemonade.

The driver shrugged. “You can call this number and file a claim for the missing items. I’m sure your husband is very familiar with the procedure.”

He impatiently asked me to sign a sheet of paper saying he’d delivered the bag. I refused to sign it. I told my husband he could have that “honor”. I didn’t want my name anywhere near that fraudulent sheet of parchment.

I felt cheated. Like I’d been invited to a banquet, gotten all dressed up, and only been served moldy bread and tepid water. Why would someone DO this? Why would you take SO MANY things that don’t belong to you??? Why, Virgin Atlantic? Why, South African Airways? Why, white Jesus?

So this how the story ends. I have my bag, but I don’t have my stuff.

There is no way I’m getting my stuff back. They can’t be traced. I may get compensated for my stolen belongings, or I may not. Virgin and South African may try to toss me about the same way they’ve been doing for the past 30 days. Even if they do reimburse me for my stolen items, where would I go to shop? Plettenberg Bay is a village….a beautiful village…but they don’t have diverse shops that cater to women of my stature.

I fault Virgin Atlantic for this entire fiasco. They said SAA had the bag in their possession and they never did until today. SAA gets a lot of flack and has a bad reputation in the industry for losing passenger’s items, but this time it wasn’t their fault. There is no version of this that ends with Richard Branson on my door step personally apologizing for hiring sticky fingered goons in his organization. There is no version of this where I spend my first winter in South Africa with warm feet. There is only this lengthy form that I fill out and send back into the ether with hopes that an agent takes the time to give it serious consideration.

But FIRST, I have to fill out a police report and have an officer stamp it with an official seal. Can you believe that? YOU (Mr. Airline) jack ME and I have to swagger into the police office to report you. You know you are a thief. Go and report yourself!

 

PS: I’m aware that there are loads of typos in this post. I don’t care. I can’t go back and revisit this. It’s just too painful.

 

Have you ever been robbed by an airline? Did you get justice? DO you think Richard Branson will come by for tea and tell me how sorry he is that his company mucked up?

Stop Saying “Africans Sold Themselves Into Slavery”. Dig a Little Deeper.

If you happen to find yourself in Savannah, GA during the tourist season, you may also find yourself on one of the many trolley services that offer historic tours of the city. Each tour is unique, as guides pepper important facts with tidbits of information from their own lives or offer their own opinions of the impact of historical events on themselves, the city or the region. On one of our recent visits to Savannah, we decided to try out the Confederate version of these trolley rides. Actors dressed in period garb hop on and off the trolley, portraying Eli Whitney, Mary Telfair and other of the city’s most famous residents.

Our driver that day was a jovial Black man who went by the name ‘Hollywood’ and peppered his monologue with high pitched groans – attempting to imitate the sound of a woman at the peak of a pleasurable (possibly sexual) experiencing. He had his Sambo act down pat, which in itself made me uncomfortable. He was proud of Savannah’s confederate past, replete with its importance as a commercial cotton and slave trading center. But when he went full on Pharrell, I was overtaken by an unsettling desire to leap from the moving bus and my torment at Hollywood’s hands.

“I want to tell all the white folk on here that slavery is not your fault. Oh yeah! Yuh-yuh-yuh see, the Kings and Queens of great African empires sold their own people into slavery. Africans sold themselves into slavery! Slavery was around in Africa long before white people got there. You don’t need to feel no guilt about that.”

It was an awkward moment for all of us, white and Black alike. Inherently, we ALL knew that this was an oversimplification of events, but since Ol’ Hollywood had sold his soul to the Confederacy and its Trolley Service for a pittance, it was his duty to propagate this half baked – and now increasingly accepted – aberration of the truth.

“Africans” didn’t sell each other into slavery. Traders, warlords and snitches from distinct and unrelated tribes did.

I know that in this age of anti-intellectualism and cognitive sloth that it’s easier to lump all of Africa into one massive monolithic society, but we must resist the urge to do that. Africa, its people, its cultures, languages and customs are diverse. And diversity often provokes tension. A part of that tension is a sense of superiority. Superiority feeds tribalism. And so when the Dutch, French, Belgians and British (and everyone else who participated in the Scramble for Africa) decided that they were no longer interested in congenial trading with Africans, desiring instead total control of their resources – slave labor being one of those – they instituted a tactic known as divide and conquer, exploiting ancient tensions between these tribes and ethnic groups. There were no “Africans selling other Africans”. The distinctions among whom we now think of as the homogeneous African were in those days very clear. For instance, there were Fantes allying themselves with the British in exchange for protection from their stronger northern foes in the Ashanti Empire, who found their capital burned and their citizens marched through to forest to waiting dungeons and ships all along the coast as a result of that alliance. Divide and conquer was replicated all over the continent – all over the world! – treaties were made and broken, the tribes who allied themselves with the French/English/Portuguese assimilated to their culture, assisted their allies by feeding, fighting for and procreating with them, and the real work of colonial expansion could begin.

To say that “Africans sold each other into slaver” is about as accurate as saying “Africans invited Europeans to colonize them”. There are as many documented examples of resistance to the never before seen brand of chattel slavery that the French, British and Portuguese had introduced to the continent as there are for support of the venture. Queen Nzinga fought fiercely against the ravages of slavery and all of the fallout that came along with it. She understood how destructive slavery was for her people and her neighboring kingdoms. At the same time, the Kings of Dahomey enriched themselves by inciting wars and trading the human lives of their captors, like flesh at a butcher’s shop, in markets. These people would later be marched and sold down the coast to dungeons likely never seen by these greedy kings.

In 1807, Britain declared all slave trading illegal. The king of Bonny (in what is now the Nigerian delta) was dismayed at the conclusion of the practice. He (in)famously said:

“We think this trade must go on. That is the verdict of our oracle and the priests. They say that your country, however great, can never stop a trade ordained by God himself.” *

 It is important to understand that these slave raiding and trading kings, seduced by the wealth offered to them in guns, butter and whatever other trinkets the Western nations were peddling, did not see their captors as fellow Africans. They were Hausa, Dagaare, Ewe, Wolof, etc. They were others. In the timeline of the African continent’s existence, the concept of the unified, unilateral African is barely 20 seconds old, if that. It’s sexy, but it’s equally damaging to think that Africans have always thought of themselves as African first. It is for the sake of this flawed concept that people think that ‘African’ is a mother tongue, or that Africa is a country, and why American celebrities and philantrpopists can stand in the midst of captivated crowds, extolling the virtues of ‘African culture’ and how it reenergized their spirit. You went bungee jumping at Lake Victoria, then on safari and a Black boy brought you a Grapetizer. What about that particular experience denotes African culture? Eh?

I’m getting off track.

In the coming days – and as these things always do in the summer months when the streets in underserved communities all across America turn into killing fields – Black people everywhere will be asked to look inward, reflect upon their current state and ponder how THEY are to blame for their current condition. Invariably, some sanctimonious genius will piously assert (on Twitter, likely) that the Black man is to blame for his misfortune because we’ve been “selling each other (out) out since Africa”. That this is the curse of the black condition.

The tragedy is that globally – regardless of your race or ancestry – we have all been lured into accepting the idea that Black people are identical in our Blackness. That’s not because this idea supports or furthers our well being, but because it makes the work of white supremacy and/or black disenfranchisement easier. Before the one-drop rule became the standard to determine one’s Blackness – and destiny, by extension – there were about 200 racial classifications to describe blackness based on hue, hair texture and facial bone structure. This caste system and the classifications that accompanied it were replicated all over the New World. In Argenita, people of African heritage were categorized as:

  • Mulatto: Black and White parents.
  • Morisco: Mulatto and White parents, although in the early phase of Spanish colonization the term “morisco” also denoted a Muslim who had converted to Catholicism.
  • Albino: Morisco and White parents.
  • Quadroon: one-quarter Black ancestry/three-quarter White ancestry.
  • Octoroon: one-eighth Black ancestry/seven-eighth White ancestry.
  • Tercerón: White/Mulatto mixed, an octoroon.
  • Quinterón: fifth-generation Black ancestry/one parent who is an octoroon and one White parent.
  • Hexadecaroon: sixth-generation Black ancestry.
  • Zambo: Black/Amerindian mixed.
  • Zambo Prieto: Black/Amerindian mixed with predominant Black.

You can imagine how complicated this was…which is why eventually we were all loped into the category of ‘Negro’, regardless of how mixed ones ancestry may be. Similarly, it requires too much effort and investigation to identify one of our best-known pop performers as a Sisaala singing woman from Funsi in Northern Ghana. To the rest of the world, Wiyaala is an African singer, and it’s just that simple. Because as we’ve stated before, Africa is a country.

What I want people to walk away with is an understanding that 1.111 billion people, the population of this chicken leg shaped continent, though similar in some respects, do not identify universally as one thing. Recognize our diversity and individuality. Recognize that it wasn’t “Africans” who sold each other into slavery, but rather unscrupulous men partnered with other equally morally bankrupt men. There were no Ghanaians selling other Ghanaians. Ghana didn’t exist. Africa as we understand it today didn’t exist, either.

 

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite high school teachers, who always made room for my insanity, Chriss Tay. Thank you for contributing to the woman and thinker I am today. Thank you for making history classes fun and relevant. I hope to make you proud, always!

 

*Source: The Story of African Slavery/bbc.com