Don’t Be an Idiot, Woman. Study Before You Vote!

I have come to belief that inside every woman, there lays a feminist and her feminists tendencies are expressed in degrees depending on the individual. From demands for equal work for equal pay to the utter shunning of male company and indulgence exclusive lesbian relationships, there are certain things that women will not tolerate from men or male driven institutions.

I myself am an ‘infant’ feminist. I live in a bubble and am fortunate that I have not had any of my rights or personal trampled on within that bubble. I know that other hard core feminists/womanists look at me (and women like me) with scorn because I am pro-life and have chosen to stay at home and raise my kids instead of using my degree in fast tracking my career in the arena of government or banking or wherever else these women think my life should lead. They think I have no backbone and that I represent a threat to full female equality. And to some degree I don’t blame them. As reprehensible as my lifestyle is to them – as an individual who has chosen the ‘traditional’ role of the woman – there is a woman far more dangerous than I or my ilk will ever be. And that woman, by sheer power of her utter stupidity and indolence, nearly aborted the infant feminist within me.

Let’s just call her “Becky”, since I’ve long forgotten her name.

I was driving to clean a house one Friday morning when I tuned in to a local radio station. The segment was called “Relationship Rehab” and Becky had phoned in to discuss the voting habits in her home. She said, and I am NOT kidding, that she votes however her husband tells her to vote.

“There are never any arguments in my house around politics,” she said.

Well, I guess not Einstein. What good would it do your husband to argue with his lapdog?

The female presenters on the show were incredulous, as was I.

“What do you mean you vote the way your husband tells you to?” screeched one DJ. “Does he MAKE you vote his way?”

“No, not at all,” said Becky in a Southern drawl. “He just researches the candidates and their ideas and decides who would be the best pick for our family.”

“What?!” the DJ howled.

“What?!?” I echoed in my car.

“So you mean you don’t look at the candidates for yourself? You just trust your husband to make a choice that affects you so personally?”

“Yeah,” said Becky defensively. “I trust my husband completely! I just think he does a better job at looking at the facts.”

The two women at the radio gasped in disbelief. I myself thought I was going to wreck my car. Seizing the opportunity to explain herself further, Becky continued in hopes of strengthening her argument. She succeeded only in making matters worse.

“He’s very detailed,” she explained. “I mean, he goes over everything page by page.”

“So you don’t look at any of the guys who are running for yourself,” repeated the other DJ. “You just vote the way he tells you to?”

“Does he MAKE you do this?” asked the other again.

“No. He doesn’t,” Becky reminded them. “I was just raised to believe that the man chooses who his home supports and votes for.”

“OHHHHHH!!!!”, we all chorused.

Somewhere, the women of the suffragette movement were stabbing themselves with their freshly cast off needle work and Harriet Tubman was spinning in her grave. I think an angel died at the feet of Jesus that morning as well.

“I just don’t trust myself to make the right choice,” Becky eventually admitted. “And I don’t know why you guys are so upset. My parents have never voted ever at all anyways!”

OOOOHHHHHHH!!!”, we hollered again.

The phones lit up. All around the city, there were women calling in – to come to Becky’s defense. They, like her, voted precisely the way their husbands persuaded (or instructed) them to.  At that moment, somewhere in Zimbabwe, Lucifer was in the middle of encouraging Mugabe to tear down more homes of his impoverished citizens, but he stopped.

“I’ll be back, Bobby,” he said to Mugabe. “I have to run over to Atlanta to check this Becky thing out. I outdid myself this time!”

When they finally found someone to counter Becky’s stance, she ended her tirade in a huff, asserting that the great thing about America is that everyone has the freedom to do what they want to do!


But you’re destroying heaven with your lunacy, Becky! That’s un-American at its core!

Here’s my take: as a Black woman, I could never imagine having anyone tell me how to vote. Blacks were excluded from voting because we weren’t even considered whole human beings for centuries; and women were prohibited from voting because we were believed to be too emotional. We couldn’t be trusted to look at the facts presented to us and make a logical choice in a candidate because that’s what men ascribed to us. Becky, quite literally, set women back to the 18th century with her admission.

I mentioned Harriett Tubman earlier, because apart from fighting for an end to slavery, she also fought hard for women’s rights and was a key player in the suffragette movement. Many women in elite society had never done anything outside of their homes, and in Harriet they found a strong, brave and daring model of womanhood.  She was often called on to speak at rallies. Though illiterate, she was cunning and unafraid. And she was Black. She defied everything that the White male establishment said about race and gender. How could I then allow myself to be led to vote in a way that was against my conscience – or fail to engage my conscience in my vote at all!

Look ladies: we live in the age of high speed internet and a 24 hour news cycle. There are countless political publications – all for free – at your local library. There are radio stations specifically dedicated to politics. C-SPAN (you know that channel you gloss over on your way to E! ?) is always available. You can watch how your senators and congressmen vote on issues that matter to you live. There is no excuse for political ignorance. Not in America. If you don’t know what the candidates stand for and who you should vote for, it’s because you’re LAZY, pure and simple.

If you’re not going to make an informed, intelligent vote, please stay your behind at home on election day. I know why the country is in such ruin now. The inmates have taken over the asylum!

MOM Squad: What do you think? Is it okay for women to vote the way their husbands/boyfriends tell them to, just for the sake of harmony in the home? Do you vote the way your friends do? Have you ever been pressured into voting one way or another just so you would be in compliance with your peers?

This thing is deep. Deeper than I thought!

Color Complexes Lead Some Men to Suffer Needlessly!


I say haaaaaa!!!!!

And in case you’re wondering, I’m growling – not laughing.

I work really hard…every day. My work requires an intense amout of physical exertion and often leaves me with very little tolerance for oafishness. So when I engaged a co-worker in conversation about dating the other night, it was difficult for me to do so with the required level of diplomacy and delicacy needed for the topic. My phasers were already set for ‘kill’ and he was an unwitting target.

Male employees are an oddity in the shoe store where I work and one male employee in particular is incredibly hard to miss. Antoine Thomas is 6’11’. His thin frame and wide hands made him a natural fit for playing basketball, which he did do for a short time before he was expelled from a southern HBCU. He has beautiful midnight skin and an impressive baritone. He’s physically impressive, but by no means attractive…at least not by my or any of the women who work in the shop’s standards. Not that any of that matters. Antoine is confident in his looks and his work ethic, and like many men in the Atlanta area is convinced that he is God’s gift to women and is a catch.

With that mentality, he does what many men between the ages of 18 and 45 do in this city: they simultaneously shop and date multiple women in search of the ‘best pick’.

The pervasive definition of what is the ‘best pick’ is what had my dander up that particular evening.

Antoine strolled over to the section that I was cleaning up after a herd of customers had rampaged through the store. My brow was furrowed in frustration in the wake of the havoc they’d wreaked on shoes, shoe boxes and tissue now strewn all over the floor.

“What’s up,Malaka,” he purred. (I think of Antoine as a jaguar who communicates with deep, guttural purrs.)

I immediately brightened. He and I often engage in wild, playful banter that makes the evening go by much faster.

“ ‘Sup Big A!” I smiled.

He leaned his hip against one of the risers and put his head in his massive hand. His palm swallowed his face.

“Dude, you know I was telling you about these two girls I was going out with right?”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “But you didn’t like the one because she was a messy eater?”

His eyes brightened.


He sighed deeply before continuing.

“Well, the other one I really like, but she’s such a liar! Like a pathological liar!” he exploded.

I laughed and continued cleaning up the mess in my area. I motioned for him to continue while I worked.

“It just seems like every time I find a quality girl, something goes wrong.”

Alarm bells immediately began ringing in my head. If he had just admitted that this girl was a pathological liar, when then made her such a “quality” catch? I had an idea, but I wanted to hear it from his own mouth. I asked him to explain what she had done to make her such a liar.

“Dude, okay. So we went out one time, I paid for everything, and I thought we had a really nice night, you know?”

He sighed again before continuing.

“Anyway, we were supposed to go out again the next night, but she never called and she never picked up the phone when I called her. When I did get in touch with her, she said she had a family emergency – that’s why we couldn’t go out.”

“Oh? What was the emergency?” I asked. That sounded perfectly reasonable.

“Her mom went into labor,” he grunted sarcastically.

“Say what? How old is this girl?”

“27,” he replied.

“And how old are you?”


I looked at him suspiciously.

“Antoine…define ‘quality’ for me.”

He immediately straightened up as he began to describe his ideal woman. He pounded his fist into his palm as he went down his mental list.

“Aww, man. She’s like 5’8”, light skinned, curly hair, nice…tiny waist. I think she’s like Black and Italian.”

He looked at my face, as if waiting for approval. Remembering that I am part Ghanaian, he mentioned something about her being part African…though he could not remember what part of Africa she was allegedly from. I was disgusted, and didn’t bother hiding it.

“You’re so shallow,” I spat. “Just because a girl is light skinned with a big booty, it doesn’t make her ‘quality’. You never mentioned anything about intelligence, consideration for others, or an education!”

My words were stinging and my tone condescending. He looked like a whipped dog. I didn’t care.

“I mean, the woman just told you a bald face lie – an utterly ridiculous one at that-  wasted your weekend, refused to call you back, and all you care about is her rack, some curly hair and some light skin? Man, please!”

I turned my back on him and there was no further discussion on the topic.

It is at this juncture that many color conscious readers out there will denounce me as a “yellow girl hater” or an “angry dark skinned” woman who couldn’t catch and keep a man if you glued him to my lap. But those who know Malaka Gyekye know that it wouldn’t matter if I was arsenic white or tar black, I KNOW that I’m beautiful. That being said, what pisses me off as a non-ambiguous Black woman is the assumption and belief – that has so deeply penetrated every facet of global society – that there is only one standard of beauty and it falls between the color range of peach and caramel brown.

Antoine has spent the last 2 weeks licking his wounds and tending to his bruised ego after being so heinously dealt with by this ‘quality’ woman. And there are hundreds of men in this city and others who suffer the same humiliation and disregard as though it were warranted. Really it’s not. And the only reason ‘quality’ women continue to treat men this way is because it has become socially acceptable. That’s the real Kardashian Affect, as far as I’m concerned: that pretty girls are permitted to lie, lie on their backs for money and insane international fame, and dog men out. It’s okay, because they’re ‘pretty’.

Imagine if a less ‘quality’ (i.e. dark skinned) girl had done the same? Oh, I’d wager Antoine would have a fit.

I have no sympathy, not one iota, for men who allow themselves to suffer maltreatment at the hands of a woman simply because she has a pretty face, wearing their newly affixed badge of scorn like a mental retard . Has it not dawned on you that she’s also in search of her idea of the ‘best pick’?  Perhaps the admirable qualities of hard work, fidelity and gentlemanliness mean nothing to her at all. Perhaps she’s also in search of a six pack and a fat wallet, and nothing more.

 Antoine and his ilk: align your priorities properly. What you give is what you will eventually receive.


So My Son is Failing Daycare…




When Stone started going to daycare 6 weeks ago when the school year started, I was thrilled. As many in the M.O.M. Squad know, he and I have a contentious, abusive, passionate relationship. My son and I love each other dearly, but often clash. He hasn’t yet come to the understanding that the only person whose opinion matters in our relationship is mine. I don’t care whether he wants to take a bath or not, nor do I care if he’s ready for a nap. There are just certain things that are going to happen when I say that they will.

He has never yielded easily, and after a two year battle, I gave up and shipped him off to the pre-k version of military school. I really thought I was doing the right thing. He could color and play with boys his own age and he’d have structure in his daily routine. The girls went to the same daycare 3 years ago and I have a wonderful relationship with the director. I knew he would be safe and happy there; so problem solved, right?

No – not so much.

The daycare has gone through several staff changes in recent years, and most of them have been good. The director told me that Georgia regulations now require all daycare workers have certification in education before they are hired in a childhood development environment. I thought this was wonderful news and was certain that my little Stonie would come out of this experience more academically adept than his sisters ever were. After all, all they did during their tenure was play and sing. Not so with my son! I met briefly with his “teacher” and left him in her capable hands. Two weeks later, I got a phone call from the daycare.

“Mrs. Grant?” said a breathless voice on the end.


“Hi! This is Ms. Dee from DCL, I’m calling you about Stone,” she said darkly. “Are you at work?”

Actually, I was right in the middle of cleaning a shower covered in mildew, so I welcomed the break.

“Yes, I am – but I can talk.”

She objected and said it was no big deal if I was at work. She could call back later. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work. Your child’s school doesn’t just call you out of the blue, and there was no way that I was going to rest easy knowing there was a problem – big or small – with my son. I encouraged her to speak. She seemed to be choosing her words carefully.

“Is Stone potty trained?” she asked warily.

I took a deep breath, because that was a loaded question. His potty aptitude had a lot to do with the weather and what he was doing at the time. If he was riding his bike or eating lunch, then no, he was not potty trained. If he was watching cartoons or helping me put away laundry, then yes, he had the ability to take himself to the toilet without being asked. I asked her why she asked.

“Well, he’s had several accidents this week,” she replied, her voice getting husky with frustration. “If we’re sitting at lunch, he’ll pee on himself. If is he’s on the playground, he’ll just pee on himself. Or if we’re at circle time, he’ll sit there and pee on himself! All he has in his backpack is a pull-up, so I put him in that when he has an accident.”

I understood immediately what was going on. Stone was punking her. He figured out after having an accident one day that he could get a pull-up if he just pissed all over himself. Stone would rather have the comfort of a pull-up than the inconvenience of underwear. I think it’s a boy thing, honestly. I told her what I suspected.

“He’ll have to go to the 2 year old class if he’s not completely potty trained,” she said emphatically. “I can’t stop teaching my class to help him go to the bathroom.”

She made it seem like she was instructing the 3 year olds in nuclear physics. It’s colors and shapes lady. Get a grip! Still, I didn’t gripe with her. I told her I understood and thanked her for calling. Then I called the director.

“Stone cannot go to the 2 year old class,” she informed me. “He and Liya will disrupt each other and that will be a regression for him. I’ve told the teacher to work with him and his bathroom skills.”

I love that woman. I promised her that I wouldn’t send anymore pull-ups to school to tempt him. He hasn’t had an accident since.

Everything went going well at “school” for the next few weeks…that is until assessment time. Suddenly I was being inundated with weekly reports.

Can identify letter N – No

Can identify sound of N – No

Can identify the color purple – No

Can identify the number 2 – No

My heart sank. I knew my son was capable of learning his letters and colors. Where was the disconnect?  I looked at Stone, who by the end of the evening had removed his underwear and was absently tugging on his genitals.  Oh great, I thought. I have a masturbating 3 year old who can’t identify the color blue.

I smacked his hand away and told him to get ready for dinner.

More and more assessments of this sort came home in his backpack. Cannot identify the number 6. Cannot identify what color shirt he’s wearing. On, and on, and on. And then there was the homework he was assigned every night – homework that we never got to because my grade-schoolers had for real homework that needed completion. I was beginning to get stressed out. By the time I got an email from Ms. Dee requesting a parent – teacher conference, I had a full blown panic attack. Marshall wasn’t willing to make the drive from work to meet with her over what he was sure was nothing, and I didn’t have time to come into the school and talk because of my cleaning schedule. She agreed that we could chat over the phone.  She immediately launched into a derision of my son’s capabilities.

“Good morning Mrs.Grant,” she began. “I just want to give you an overview of what’s going on in my class as far as Stone is concerned.”


“First of all, I have a very difficult time understanding Stone. His speech isn’t clear at all.”

This is true. Stone tries to mimic Nadjah’s speech patter which is very fast and articulate. He hasn’t mastered the use of his mouth at this stage, and so most of his words come out jumbled. However, if you pick through them and pluck out key phrases, you can get a sense of what he wants or what he’s trying to convey. That’s usually the case with most 3 year olds, but I’m open to discovering that I’m wrong.

“Also, you have seen from the reports that I’ve sent home that he has a hard time retaining information. I have a milestone chart that 3 year olds should hit at this stage, and Stone doesn’t hit any of them.”

I could tell she was trying to be sweet, but her disdain was obvious. I nodded over the phone, offering a weak “mmhmmm” to let her know I was still there. “

“And I don’t know if he does this at home, but he always chooses activities that he can do by himself,” she continued. “I have centers set up in the classroom, and he never participates with the other kids. Even at circle time, he’d rather be by himself.”

I stopped her there.

“That’s not a concern for me at all,” I replied. “Stone has 3 sisters and friends across the street that he plays with. He’s always around somebody. Those few minutes in that center may be the only time that he gets alone in the day.”

“Oh, okay.”

I was not going to let her label my son as learning disabled AND anti-socail.

“Well, I just have one last concern I’d like to bring up,” said Ms. Dee. “I took the kids on a nature hike around the daycare grounds, and I noticed that Stone stuck his fingers in his ears a lot. He seems to be very sensitive to loud noises. One of the things we’re trained to look for are signs like these, and sticking fingers in ears is a sign of sensory integration disorder.”

Say what?

“That’s true,” I admitted. “He doesn’t like loud noises – like motor cycles and leaf blowers…but his pediatrician has never mentioned anything about a disorder.”

She encouraged me to ask about it, and I said I would. She was about to end the call when I stopped her.

“Ms. Dee…is there anything that Stone does well?”

“Oh. Oh, yes!” she said brightly. “Stone is very well liked by all his friends and plays well with them…when he DOES play with them, that is. He never causes any disruptions in my class and he’s very sweet. I wish I had more kids with his attitude.”

I thanked her for her time and hung up the phone with mixed feelings. Did this slhore basically call to tell me that my son – my beautiful boy and only male fruit of my loins – was an anti-social, learning disabled, autistic, albeit sweet, kid who is so far challenged that he can’t hit basic milestones according to her funky little sheet?!  Given that Stone his just discovered the use of his genitals and is given to touching them often, I supposed it’s a good thing he’s never ‘fondled’ himself in class. Then he’d be labeled a sexual deviant as well.

During the call I admitted that Stone has never had instruction in “classic” education…letters and numbers and so forth…but he knows the difference between a stegosaurus and pterodactyl because we visit the Fernbank frequently. He can solve problems on a iPad after being shown how to do them once. He understands his place in the world and how other people relate to him. He loves to sing and can remember lyrics. Damn it, he’s THREE. I decided that I’d say to hell with her milestones and labels and would pull him out of school…I mean, DAYCARE.

My mother-in-law tried to persuade me not to.

“Work with him every night and prove her wrong,” she said adamantly. “You invested a lot of time in Nadjah and Aya, and you need to do the same for Stone. But don’t pull him out of the daycare. Show her that he’s capable.”

But why should I? Who is this woman to me, besides someone who has caused me added stress? Bah!

So what do you think MOM Squad? Would you pull your kid out, or try to prove the teacher wrong? Is it worth the $200 a week I’m spending to impress someone I don’t even know? What would you do?

RHKOA: Jackie, the Nubby Troll

There are certain groups of people I tend not to ridicule if at all possible. Gays, people with disabilities and the mentally retarded are clusters that I tend to spare any derision. We’re not at the point where we can mock these groups without being bullied into a false apology by interest groups and in turn are scorned for life by the heralds of social media. However, once these groups achieve full equality, it’s game on.  I’m looking forward to that day. Thanks to the civil rights movement and Kanye, we Negroes have finally been accepted into the mainstream and are no longer “special interest groups.” It’s a wonderful thing.

Today, however, the folks with the disabilities have it coming. Well, one in particular: Jackie Marsden, whom I’ve dubbed “the nubby troll.

I hadn’t even met Jackie before I decided I didn’t like her at all. When I woke up this morning, I hastily checked my email to see what orders had come in on my schedule. I had two houses, both in the Cumming area. That meant I had to get up early to make a 30 minute drive. Jackie had special instructions on her order and had sent an email the night before we were scheduled to arrive.

2 of 3 cleaning. All wood floors NO broom!! All surfaces includ closets need to be vacuumed first before damp mop/cleaning otherwise dirt trapped in shine. Mop must also be rinsed in HOT water frequently to eliminate trapped dirt. Plan to clean for full 3 hours. Please dedicate cleaning time to cleaning without distraction (talk on the cellphone or other things).  Glass cook top. Thanks

Her tone said A-class beeyotch.

I might have been too quick to judge her. I asked Hillary what she knew about the woman.

“This is her second cleaning,” Hillary said sleepily. “I did her house about 2 weeks ago with Clarice. She was the woman with the nubs. Remember? I told you it looked like something had bit off her hand.”

“Ohhh,” I said nodding. The email was making sense now.

Clarice had joined our staff a month ago. Like many people in our city, she was out of work and was willing to do “anything” to start earning some income again. After cleaning for three weeks, she suddenly fell pregnant and was told by her doctor that she couldn’t do the job anymore. (Which to a woman who has had 4 kids and worked every day until the day they were born is completely laughable.) As it turns out, Clarice’s sister has also been ill for quite some time. While she and Hillary were cleaning Jackie’s home, her sister called and asked if she could pick her up later and take her to the clinic.

“Sure,” Clarice whispered. “As soon as I get off I’ll come get you.”

That was the end of the conversation.

Apparently, it was this 52 second telephone call that had Nubs’ knickers in such an enormous twist, thereby  inciting her to send such a foolish email. My morning had already started badly. Stone was angry that I’d woken him and removed his precious, urine soaked pull up. He made his displeasure known by shrieking uncontrollably for the entire ride to daycare. I also had not eaten.  It was not the way I wanted my day to start.

When we pulled up to Jackie’s door, she was already standing there. We were supposed to have gotten there at 8:00 am, and had arrived at 8:06. I willed her to say something to me so I could spit at her, but she smiled and greeted us warmly instead. I said an absent “good morning” in response. My attention had been drawn to a moss covered stone monk or saint standing in her flowerbed. He had a strange expression on his face. It made me a little uncomfortable.

I finally got a good look at Jackie’s face when we walked into her house. She had olive colored skin and wiry jet black hair with stray grays darting in and out of the mop settled atop her round head. Her eyebrows were bushy and graying as well. Her voice was warm and inviting, but there was something insincere – and sinister about her face.

“Clarice isn’t with you today?” she asked Hillary, sweetness dripping from her voice.

“Uh uh,” Hillary replied.

There was a moment of awkward silence. Oh! I was supposed to introduce myself.

“I’m Malaka,” I said, mustering a false smile.

“Nice to meet you.”


“Well,” said Hillary. “Let me show you around.”

She led me up the wooden stairs which were covered in brown and opaque fur. The house stank both of the 80 pound beast Jackie called a pet and the remains of his kibbles near the back door. Since we had been instructed to clean without distraction, we went straight to work. Hillary tackled the master bathroom and I cleaned her teenaged girls’ bathroom down the hall. I scrubbed the black ring around the tub with anger and frustration, causing a bottle of shampoo to fall into the tub. It barely missed my head.

“What was that?” Jackie called from downstairs. “Is everything alright?!?”

“Everything is fine,” I replied. “I just dropped the shampoo.”


I went about my duties undisturbed for the next few minutes. Jackie called one of her utility companies and began to complain bitterly about her service. I believe she was kvetching about a router.

“That explanation doesn’t sit well with me,” I heard her say assertively. “I’ve never had the screw come out like this before. Yes – yes I bought a used part, but still…”

What a miserable human being I thought, shaking dog hair from the quilt that was crumpled on the side of the bed in a small bedroom. I dusted carefully, knowing that nothing of substance would come from Jackie’s mouth if it was not a complaint. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of it. A set of dentures sat on top of a blue applied bible. There were scriptures and ceramic Catholic figurines. On the wall in front of the bed, just at eye level, there was a sticker with a motivational phrase painted on it.

My previous inclination to hold Jackie in contempt suddenly dissipated. She was such a tragic cliché that it wasn’t even worth the effort. Clearly she was stuck in a cycle of self-loathing ,regret and seeking to make others pay for it. According to this poster, Jackie was not disabled because she was missing a limb, but rather because her attitude sucked…and big time. According to this poster, she had the mental capacities of a crayfish. Hillary interrupted my thoughts when she saw me cleaning the room.

“We’re not supposed to do this room,” she whispered somewhat loudly.

“Oh. Well she made it seem like she bought a full house cleaning,” I said nonchalantly.

“Hold on. I’m going to ask her which rooms she wants cleaned. She only gets 6 rooms and 3 ½ bathrooms, if I’m not mistaken.”

Hillary strode off determinately. I kept cleaning to room, already knowing that Jackie was going to croak her way into having it some anyway, despite the fact that she was not entitled to it. I was right.

“I only have 2 ½ bathrooms,” Jackie snarled. “Can’t you substitute one of the bathrooms for a bedroom?”

Of course that’s exactly what we did. What’s the point in arguing with a troll on red alert?

I heard Jackie call up the stairs to us again.

“Hey! I have a vacuum that’s just for wood floors. Do you want me to bring it up to you?”

I looked over the balcony and made eye contact with her. Her voice was pleasant enough, sure…but her face looked like she’d spent the morning sucking on rotting lemons.

“No, no. I’ll come get it,” I offered.

I plugged up the vacuum and drew a sharp breath. A plume of vapor shot out of the back end. It reeked – REEKED – of musty dog. I suffered through the stench for an entire hour. I would have gladly suffered a little longer if it meant I didn’t have to hear Jackie’s mouth. Her phone was ringing off the hook.

“Ugh! All these calls!” she bellyached. “What county do you live in?”

I was ignoring her, so Hillary was forced to answer.


“Well, here in Forsyth, we get these robocalls every time something happens,” she explained. “Like if there is an escaped convict and the police want us to look out. Do you get those?”


“Well, you’re lucky,” Jackie continued. “One time we got a call about a missing child, which is fine…but it was in the middle of the night! My sleep was all messed up after that!”

She shook her head in angst as she recalled the event. I shook my head in disbelief. What an evil whore. If she was any sort of Christian, as her plethora of plaques and posters would lead a stranger to believe, she would be up praying for that lost child, or better yet, out helping to patrol for him in her immediate environs. Somewhere, the Holy Spirit just puked. I was sure of it.

The next hour went on like this, with her attempting to strike up conversation and we only answering where absolutely necessary. As someone who has given many people the silent treatment, I’m sure our passive hostility was not lost on her. Finally, it was time to go. I felt hours of pent up tension leave my shoulders.

“Can I write you a check for the tip? I didn’t go to the ATM today.”

“Sure,” said Hillary. “You can make it out to me.”

Jackie changed her mind suddenly.

“You know what? I’m going to go ahead and go to the ATM. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

We continued mopping while she was gone. I was overcome by the spirit of religion that overshadowed her home. There was no love in this house – only a counterfeit version. This woman and her dark heart mocked Jesus and His sacrifice. Then I was overcome by something much worse. Fleas were jumping on the kitchen counter and disappearing behind medicine bottles. UGH!

When Nub…er, Jackie, finally returned, I was loading up the car and Hillary was mopping the entrance. When she got to the car, she was scowling.

“Here’s your tip,” she said, thrusting a wad of bills at me. I put them in my pocket without looking at them.

“Matter of fact, I don’t even want mines. You can have it!”

“Okay!” I said happily. I didn’t mind a little extra cash.

“You didn’t even look at the tip,” Hillary said darkly. “It’s TWO dollars.

“Wait. What? Each?”

“Yes, girl! She done gave us $2!”

That evil, crusty slattern. She was sending us a message.

“You know what that means, right? She’s calling us a pair of $2 ho’s.”

Hillary’s eyes widened.

“Oh, nuh uh!”

“Oh yes she did girl,” I said, moving the car out of the driveway. “She basically told us we could suck her ‘Richard’.”

I felt ill. I wanted to throw the money out of the window, but I’m too miserly. I put the car in drive. Distance. I needed as much distance between me and this woman as possible. But the little handicapped troll wouldn’t allow that, would she? In my side mirrors I saw her chasing us down the street.

“My vaccum???” she screeched.

“It’s in the living room!” I yelled.

“I didn’t see it,” she huffed.

“Then it’s in the bonus room!”

Did this $2 tipping wench really think we wanted her stankin’ vacuum? She motioned for us to wait while she went to look. Sure enough, it was right by the door, where I’d left it.

“I see it!” she said, waving her arm that had a hand attached.  The she looked around and rubbed her arms, warding off a chill in the air. “Is it supposed to be cold all day?”

F*** you!! I said inwardly. All you do is complain! Audibly, however, I told her it was supposed to warm up to 83 degrees and to have a good day.


Don’t you hate people that complain all the time? Do you have someone on your job that you just want to PUNCH IN THE MOUTH just so you won’t have to listen to all that bull? I know you do.  Come on. Let’s imagine it together. Ready?


A Tale of Two Chicagos

As of this morning the teachers’ strike in the city of Chicago continues and there is only one group of people I feel an iota of sympathy for: the families affected by the strike, and more specifically that parents of the children whose children will be out of the classroom for a sixth day.

As someone who lives in a different city and geographic region of the country, it would be easy to look at this tragedy much like one would any other catastrophe happening elsewhere. We often give similar responses when we receive news of hurricanes and murders on nightly broadcasts.

“Aww man…what a shame!” we may mutter, and then go back to painting our nails or playing on our fancy iGadgets.

After all, what can a mere onlooker do in the face of such a calamity besides cluck in despair and hope for the best for the victims? It depends on the individual. While some might sit around and hope and pray in earnest that such a disaster never befalls them, others will look at this event and begin to prepare for the unknown – and possible. Though it may seem improbable that a strike could occur in your city, it is still very possible that there could be other teacher strikes large school districts and metropolises in the country.

What should you do as a parent to prepare for such an event? That really is the $3 million question. By the way, how much IS this teacher strike costing parents…especially poor parents in Chicago and its environs? I have yet to hear any news on that.

In the few newscasts I’ve personally seen covering the drama as it unfolds, I’ve noticed that reporting differs depending on who is covering the story. As with all disasters, both manmade and natural, people experience these events differently depending on race and class. At the onset of the strike, a reporter went into an impoverished neighborhood to discuss their thoughts on the strike. A trio or large, angry Black women belted their disgust, their English sometimes broken as a result of the fury they were experiencing.

“My child has enough problems just growing up here,” said a woman in burgundy highlights, spreading her arms towards the neighborhood behind her. “We got gang violence, poverty, and bad health…and now they wanna take away their education? They barely getting an education as it is!”

Well, she does have a point there. Inner city students consistently test lower than their suburban counterparts. The reasons for that are varied, and I hope civic and political leaders will address those. The blame does all don’t stem from the teacher.

In a radio broadcast, I heard a suburban (and I assume White from her accent) mom give her take on the strike.

“Yes, it’s certainly been  difficult keeping the kids occupied this last week, but I think it’s a wonderful lesson for my fifth grader,” she gushed. “It’s teaching her that if she believes in something, she has to stand up for herself and fight for what she believes in!”

I think that’s a wonderful sentiment. I really do. But when what you are doing – for a percentage increase in pay and guarantees of job security even when you SUCK at your job – is affecting the most vulnerable in society, you come off looking like…well, a bit of a douche.

The fact is, the mom in suburbia (and that certainly includes me) can afford to see the positives in such mayhem. We’re more likely to be college educated and well read. We’re more likely to be married and living in a two-income household, or if we’re truly fortunate, be a stay-at-home mom living off of one income. If a teacher strike happened in Atlanta today, my children and I would be far better off than many of my African American counterparts because unlike many of my sisters, I have the “luxury” of staying at home if I wanted to. I could teach my kids any subject and conscript a tutor to instruct them in any subject I’m not proficient in. However, many of the parents of the students affected by this strike don’t have these options. They don’t have the education, the funds, a dedicated life partner or the resources to bounce back from the greed and inconsideration of others. And by that, I mean the teachers.

I read a story on NPR this morning about how teachers’ expectations can affect student performance. ( A researcher, Robert Rosenthal,  found that expectations affect teachers’ moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.

The study was based on a group of children who were selected at random, all possessing varying levels of academic strength, but were presented to the teacher as ‘high performers’ and ‘destined for success’. With the prejudice that this group of students was gifted in some way, the teachers provided them extra attention and were more focused on their development.

How gifted do these inner city teachers believe their charges are? Let’s be honest. What expectations do they have for their academic performance? What expectations do they have for their futures? Has anyone discussed these expectations with their parents? Has anyone reached out their parents, also previous recipients of this abysmal education now handed down to their kids? The numbers of impoverished children who cannot read at grade level or speak English properly is staggering.

Setting expectations is a first step in achieving excellence. Amy Chua exemplified that in her book Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother.  If you let individuals know what is expected of them, you will be surprised how quickly they can rise to the occasion. If the city of Chicago and other cities in this nation can manage to reset the clock, get parents the tools they need to better themselves and become partners in their children’s’ education, and begin to believe in these kids untapped potential, then we’ll be on a path to ending these impertinent public tantrums a.k.a. strikes.

From school boards to instructors, America has it all wrong when it comes to public education. The proof is in the test scores.

Are you a parent, a teacher or a student? What do you think?

RHKOA: Can You Put that Out? I Can’t Breathe!

There is an adage that says real life is stranger than fiction, and it is a rare treat to encounter someone who is stranger than real life itself. Honestly, I thought they stopped manufacturing women like Shri Bangcroft in the early 90’s. Encountering her was like someone handing me a device run on MS DOS and asking me to send a tweet on it. (Yeah, you sit there and figure that one out.)

I was already irritated when I arrived at her house. Samira and I had driven from Cumming to Snellville in order to clean Shri’s home. The journey alone took an hour and fifteen minutes to complete, and by the time we alighted from my car we were stiff and exhausted. I extracted my heavy frame out of the driver’s seat and made my way up a flight of dilapidated wooden steps. Samira pointed out an army of ants that was scurrying across one of the cracked beams and rolled her eyes.

“This house about to be nasty,” she muttered.

I nodded in agreement. Shri was an Indian/Pakistani name, and so far each Southeast Asian’s home we have cleaned has been in deplorable condition. However, they do keep their grounds very neat. The exterior of Ms. Bangcroft’s exterior was fading blue/grey (a color so washed away it was difficult to ascertain what the house might have looked like in better days) and weeds were growing through the cracked cement. The porch was adorned with a myriad of knickknacks. A bouquet of faux flowers hung from the ceiling, accompanied by red foil decorations of parts of the solar system. I knocked on the red wooden door and waited. A lacquered octagonal shape with Chinese and Sanskrit symbols sat in the center of the door. I peered closer and saw my reflection in a mirrored portion of the object. What manner of Indian woman lived like this? And what kind of Indian name was “Bangcroft”? It didn’t make any sense. It was an peculiar mix of redneckery and mysticism…so you can imagine my surprise when a yellow skinned Black woman answered the door. She was smoking a Black & Mild and glowering at us.

“Hi,” I said smiling warily. “We’re with Spin ‘n Span Cleaning Hands…”

“Hello,” she replied, pulling her cigar to her lips. “You ladies have your work cut out for you today.”

She stepped aside and let us into her “home”. It was like stepping into a time warp. Her walls were painted a strange blue. Instead of invoking a feeling of calm, I immediately felt as though I was drowning. Of course, the heavy mixture of cigar smoke and incense might have had something to do with my sudden inability to breathe.

I tried to remain professional. I asked Shri for a copy of her receipt. She sauntered over to her computer and tried in vain to locate it.

“Y’all just don’t know,” she said, pulling another drag off her smoke. “I’ve had a week’s worth of shit thrown at me in one day!”

“Oh?” I said, trying to sound sympathetic. I was surprised that she cursed so casually with us.

I glanced at Samira. Her mouth was twisted into a ball of disgust. Her eyes had been wandering over the house and she did not like what she saw.

“Humph,” Shri continued. “I have a sixth grader who went to class and decided to act a damned fool.”

I looked at her attire. She was wearing a black and white wrap dress and black sandals with a conservative heel. Her jet black shoulder length hair was slicked to a side part. She would have looked contemporary, save for the burgundy matte lipstick that was plastered on her thin lips. I chuckled and offered a phrase of motherly support. She had still failed to find her receipt, which gave me more time to look around her home.

There were pictures of Malcolm X, Bob Marley and Martin Luther king everywhere. In the foyer there was a poster commemorating the Million Man March, circa 1995. Above the fireplace there was a mantle with all manner of Buddhist paraphernalia: aged sages sitting cross-legged and some sort of silver half human beast throwing up a peace sign. Above THAT sat an enormous rendering of a scene that is difficult to describe. In bright primary colors, two people were battling vampire donkeys and throwing their carcasses into dying trees, while other “normal” donkeys looked on and laughed. I couldn’t wrap my head ‘round any of it…which was probably attributed to the fact that my audio senses were being assaulted by strip club bangers.



Drop it on the floor

Make it


rapped some unknown entity. She finally found the receipt, which was a good thing. The guy on her mixed tape had begun to discuss how he was going to get his “d!ck hard, put it in the back door, and put her lights out”.

I wanted to flee, but I had a job to do.

“We’re sticking together, right?” I asked Samira hopefully.

“Oh, you already know.”

We slipped into our black rubber gloves and went to work. Shri followed us around, giving us directions and referring to herself in the third person…plural.

“We know that you guys usually throw away the plastic bags in the bin, but we ask that you don’t. We recycle them.”

“Sure!” I said reassuringly. “That won’t be a problem at all.”

There was something inauthentic about this woman standing there in her conservative dress. Finally, I got it. It wasn’t her. It was her DRESS. This had to be her go to outfit whenever she needed to present her “corporate side” to the world. Shri Bangcroft was more comfortable in booty shorts and a wet shirt than this dress.

If you attended an HBCU in the 90’s you’ve met Shri. She’s “that sista” who’s read every book you’ve never heard of. She concocts theories in her head and can defend them with such eloquence that even the most learned of scholars would doubt him/herself. A lover of The Roots and Talib Kweli, she shunned the emerging and invasive glam culture that took over our campuses with the advent of Amerie and Destiny and her Children. Shri hangs out with vegans, 5 percenters and weed heads from Little 5 Points…and she’s that chick who can administer at least one sexual act (or five) that will leave a man (or woman) senseless and pondering over it for days. She’s brilliant – and crazy. Like I said, they don’t manufacture women like that anymore.

That still didn’t give her an excuse for living in such nauseating conditions.

Samira went into her son’s bathroom and began to choke.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered.

“It’s a big brick of doodoo in the toilet!” she cried. “I cain’t flush it!”

I folded my hands across my chest. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I set about cleaning up the boy’s room who from the looks of it, is on track to being as odd as his mother.

I made his zebra skinned (yes, you read that right) linen and arranged his pillows. After sweeping behind his bed, I unearthed an apple core, a dumpling and some candy wrappers. From the notebooks haphazardly placed on his desk, I discovered that his name is DeKang. (For those of you who are not from or familiar with the South, that is translated as “The King”.) I imagine that Shri must have a difficult time raising her son. There were signs of mock discipline and over indulgence everywhere; from the half attempt to make his bed to the clothes that lay around the laundry basket, rather than in it. After I tidied up his room, I moved on to her bedroom – which was more like a lair than a place to get a good night’s sleep. The walls were blood red, as though it were place where she offered sexual sacrifices to the kissing, intertwined Hindu gods smiling at me from the glass encasement.

Shri had settled herself on her red silk sheets and had her laptop settled on her knees. I walked past her and decided to tackle the bathroom first. I paused at the door.

Oh. My. God.

Blackness, MOM Squad; Blackness everywhere! And by “blackness” I mean petrified poop under the rim and black mold in the tub. I frantically began to spray bleach, hoping it would melt away the besmirched surfaces. It didn’t.

In my frightened state, I had forgotten to breathe. Gasping for breath I opened the door to her bedroom, expecting and hoping for some reprieve. Instead I was greeted by plumes of Shri’s second hand smoke. How was I to choose between cancer and a melting lung? I took my chances with the bleach. When I finally vanquished my porcelain foe, I staggered to the bedroom and prepared to dust it. Everything was blanketed in particles of dead skin and dirt. Everything except a strange artifact that hung from her wrought iron head board. I got closer so that I could inspect it better. What was that? It looked like a question mark with a ball on either end. I touched with my finger tip. It was rubbery and stiff.

Holy Jesus.

Visions of Shri winding this object between her tulips suddenly flooded my head. I wanted them out. I dusted with urgency and left the privacy of her erotic accommodations.

Samira was finishing up downstairs and had discovered a few things about Shri. It turns out that she WAS half Indian, and her father was a Black kung fu master from Detroit. She was also a CPA – a profession that just didn’t seem right for this character. She had hung her degrees in the darkest part of the house; in the back where she kept her vacuum. It was as though she was both proud and ashamed of her accomplishments.

Samira packed up the car while Shri inspected our work. Did we dust this? Did we make the beds? Did you vacuum that? Yes, yes, and yes I replied sullenly. She turned and looked at me. Her expression oozed of dissatisfaction.

“You know, Malaka…”

Crap! She knows my name!

Someone was supposed to come clean my house in August and they never showed up…”

She was talking, but I was barely listening. I was too enthralled by the sound of her voice, which was husky and throaty. Was that the effect of too much smoking , fellatio, or both?

“I’m so sorry about that?” I replied. “I will certainly have the owner look into that.”

“Thank you,” she purred.

I wished her a better day and smiled expectedly. She said we had done a good job. Was it good enough for a tip?

The closed door in my face said “no”.

*Sigh* That’s okay. The image of Shri being someone’s windup toy was reward enough!

RHKOA: Behind Beverly's Closed Doors

Beverly took in a deep breath and looked around at her newly cleaned surroundings. It had indeed been years since her house had felt and looked so sanitary. She ran her hand along the top of the white wooden ledge where she hung her badge, keys and purses. An image of her smiling face and clear brown eyes stared back at her, reminding her that in a few hours she’d have to get back to the other side of her reality.

There was a 12 hour shift approaching at the local Gwinnett Medical where she worked as an RN.

She traced her hands along the cream banister, now devoid of finger prints and liquid stains, and climbed the stairs. How had she allowed her surroundings to become so unsanitary in the first place? She stood on the top of the landing and inhaled again. The faint scent of lilacs flooded her nostrils. She closed her eyes and relished in it.

“Are they gone yet?”

Beverly’s eyes flew open before answering. Craig was standing at the bedroom door with a beer in his hand. She eyed it gloomily and checked the tone of her voice before answering. She didn’t want to have a fight today.

“Yes, they just left,” she replied softly.

“Speak up!” Craig roared. “I can’t hear you when you talk like that. You’re not in the hospital!”

“Sorry”, she muttered.

Beverly had always had a hard time separating her professional life with her personal one. She WAS a nurse. She lived and breathed her job. It was all she ever wanted to be. Now that she had moved from Chicago to Atlanta, her dreams had become a reality and she was enjoying the full manifestation of years of prayer and hard work. Somehow, she never imagined that part of that manifestation would include a depressed husband and an asthmatic child. She worked in medicine, but she couldn’t cure either of them. She sighed and maneuvered her hefty body around her intoxicated husband.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to take a shower and get ready for work.”

“You don’t have to work for another three hours,” Craig pointed out.

“Yes, but I have some errands I wanted to run before I had to go in,” Beverly replied. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to make it to the grocery store before it closes.”

Beverly pulled on a pair of scrubs and carefully unwrapped her hair. In the mirror she could see Craig staring at her. The look on his face was full of contempt, his eyes icy with disgust. He had never forgiven her for moving the family down to the South. In Chicago he had made a decent living as a security guard at his cousin’s beauty supply shop. It was enough money to put gas in his car and buy nice things for his closet. They had lived in a small apartment and rent wasn’t that bad. Beverly paid most of the bills anyway. Life was good. Suddenly she got it into her head that she wanted to move to Atlanta and get this house. He still remembered the day she gave him the ultimatum.

“You can stay if you want to, but I’m taking Omicron and leaving.”

Craig couldn’t imagine his life without his son. Deep down inside he knew he was a bum, but Omicron was the only thing he felt like he’d done right. No judge in the world would ever give a barely employed Black man with a high school education full custody of a lab rat, let alone an infant. He felt like he’d been bullied into this new life. He hadn’t been able to find a job in Atlanta in months. He wasn’t qualified to do anything, at least not for the pay he expected. He felt worthless.

He leaned against the door frame and glanced at the hallway which was now devoid of pet hair and fur.

“I see they got all your nasty dogs’ hair up off the ground,” he snorted, taking a swig of warm beer.

Beverly ignored him and continued to get dressed.

“You really are a nasty whore,” he spat. “You can’t keep a house clean for nothin’.”

When his insults went responded to, he dug in further.

“In fact, you can’t do nothin’ right. You’re fat and you’re stupid. The only thing you ever did right was lay on your back and carry my baby.”

Beverly spun around and started to say something. She drew in a sharp breath and stopped herself. She couldn’t risk a physical fight before going into work. She and Craig had gotten into it so many times before, but this last time had been the worst. She had nearly killed him with the choke hold she’d put him in. It didn’t matter what kind of names he called her, she still loved him. She was sure they could get back to that teen aged love they’d shared so many years ago. He used to make her feel like she could fly. She had grown up so much…but why hadn’t he? His failure as a man had made him so mean. She was sure moving to Atlanta would be good for him –to stop relying on his family, force him to stand on his own two feet and support his wife and child. Instead it had just made him introverted and mean.

“Can you please pick up Omicron from daycare by 6:30 tonight?” she asked, her expression stoic.

Craig flopped onto the bed and turned on the TV. She rolled her eyes and poured dog food into a bowl for her precious pups. Beverly knew better than to ask Craig to walk or feed the animals. He’d sooner run them over with his truck. The spare room was the only safe place for them while she was gone. When she unlocked the door and stepped over the threshold the dogs came running wildly at her, barking and nipping at her ankles. She welcomed the assault. Her dogs were the only being in this house that seemed to hold her in any regard.

“Here babies,” she cooed. “Here’s your food. Momma will be back in the morning, okay?”

“Shut that damned door!” Craig roared. “Them animals stink!”

Of course he was right. Pet hair and animal feces was now imbedded into the carpet. But what could she do? She didn’t have time to clean and Craig wouldn’t help her. Beverly set the bowels of water and food down and picked up the soiled newspaper that sat was now the same brown color as her carpet. She knew better than to have the cleaning ladies walk into this part of the house. The rest of it was bad enough, but this room might have made them walk out on the job altogether.

“Momma will be back later,” she whispered again, backing out of the door and locking it.

The air no longer held that pleasant floral scent, but now rather carried the familiar stench of failure, neglect, decay and broken dreams. In time she would ask the cleaning ladies to come back. They had given her a glimmer of hope…a sensation that had become far too foreign to her.

RHKOA: Blaxspectations

As a housekeeper, you never know what manner of mess is going to befall you when you enter a stranger’s house. However as time has gone on, I’ve come to anticipate what might greet me at a client’s home based on their name. If they’re Indian there will be human hair everywhere. If they’re White, 8/10 times there will be dog hair everywhere. If they’re Asian the pungent scent of fish or soy sauce will hang in the air, no matter how much Febreeze I dispense. Every race has its attributes that are a cemented standard.

Ah, you’ve noticed that I’ve left out a certain group – a particular culture. I’m going to get to them right now.

It is a rare occasion that I have the opportunity to clean a Black person’s house, and there is a reason for that. As a culture, our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers spent centuries cleaning up after other families because that was the only work they were permitted or encouraged to get. Oprah tells the story of her grandmother showing her how to scrub clothes for her White employer in a stream near her home in Mississippi.

“Watch how I do this, Oprah. You’re going to need to know how to do this one day,” her grandmother said.

Oprah vowed internally that she never would be someone else’s wash woman, and well, the rest is history.

Ingrained in every Black woman is that she must keep a clean home. It’s a stereotype that we have within our community. Diversion from this stereotype, therefore, elicits the ultimate of all insults:

“Ugh. That heifer is just NASTY.”

There are few things worse than being called a nasty Black woman. It could mean anything from you left your laundry in plain view of guests to implications that one is a carrier and spreader of venereal disease. There are expectations of one another within our community: something I term “Blaxspecations.” If I am called in to clean up a Black woman’s house, the most I expect to do is mop and pick up some clutter.

So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into Beverly Johnson’s house and was assaulted by the smell of wildlife as soon as she opened the door.

“Good morning,” I said with as much cheer as my soul could muster. “I’m Malaka with Spic n Span Cleaning Hands.”

She looked as surprised to see me as I was to see her. Like I said, I rarely clean for Black women.

“Good morning,” she said hesitantly.

“May we come in?” I asked, motioning to my co-worker.


She held the door open and let us in to her moderate home.

She explained that she had never had her house cleaned before and wasn’t familiar with the process. Instinctively I knew that this meant we were not going to get a tip. I saw a Biden/Obama sticker on the fridge. That only served to confirm my suspicions. Oh well, it didn’t matter. After all, I was only going to have to pick up clutter. I quickly ran over the process, asking us to show us her home and what special instructions she might have.

“ I’ve put my pets up. I have two dogs and a cat,” she informed us. “And my husband is asleep, so you don’t need to clean the room he’s in.”

I nodded and kept my thoughts to myself. What manner of working man is still asleep at 11 o’clock in the morning?

“So your name is Beverly Johnson? Like the model?” I said, trying to break the ice.

She smiled.

“Yes! My mother was a big fan of hers back in the day.”

She didn’t look anything like the real Beverly Johnson. She was tall – about 5′ 9″- but at a whopping 300 lbs was hardly catwalk material. I smiled and continued on the tour of her house, which was all of 3 bedrooms and common living space. It wouldn’t be that bad at all. I asked her how she wanted us to treat her wood floors. She wasn’t picky about that, she said. No matter how hard she’d tried, she hadn’t been able to get the shine back into the floors.

“They haven’t been shiny since I bought the house two years ago,” she lamented.

I noticed that my co-worker Samira had not said a word during the entire consultation. She had been frowning.

“We’re going to get our supplies and get started,” I informed Beverly.

“If you need me, I’ll be in the room with my husband,” she said softly.

She seemed like a sweet lady, which was why I was willing to overlook the piles of dog hair that blanketed the carpet on the top floor. We got our supplies and quickly got to work, choosing a bathroom each to clean.

Sweet, dear Jesus. WHY?

“Oh my GOD!” I whispered harshly.

Samira came into my bathroom and brought me a bottle of bleach.

“You gon’ need this,” she said in her thick Tennessee accent. “If your bathroom look anything like mines, you gon’ need this!”

The entire bathroom floor was covered in wet pet hair. The base of the toilet was brown with human waste, and the bathtub was blackened with soap scum and pubic hair.  I suppose the bathroom I had chosen was Beverly’s husband’s domain, because the expanse of the counter space was lined with grooming products and cologne. What was odd was that there were multiples of them.

“Why in the hell  does he need 3 of the same Old Spice, 4 of the same deodorant and 6 bottles of Black Opal?” I wondered to myself. I concluded that he had to be gay. No regular Black man needs that many grooming supplies.

I didn’t have time to further contemplate this odd behavior. I had a time frame to work within. I wiped the counter with a paper towel and nearly gagged.

 Black people. Listen to me. No…ALL people, listen to me. At no point in time is it acceptable to have this much hair on any surface of your home. Period. Okay?

“Sweet, heavenly Jesus in the sky,” I whimpered.

I scrubbed and scrubbed until the porcelain gleamed. It took an entire hour to clean a 5 X 7 bathroom. It should never take that long under any circumstances.

Samira was scowling as she came out of her bathroom. Her eyes were red and watering.

“Girl, you been crying?”

“Naw! It’s all that bleach I had to use on the tub, but you cain’t even damniit smell it ‘cause it stank so bad up in herr!”

She was right. I couldn’t detect the scent of bleach. A heavy canine scent still hung in the air. And she was angry. Samira is a good Christian girl who doesn’t curse. I knew she was about to come undone.

“We gon’ have to stick together in this house,” she stated. “Ain’t gon’ be no splitting up in here!”

I nodded in agreement, wishing she would lower her voice. I wanted to maintain an air of professionalism, but I understood her frustration. There was just no need to be this nasty.

Next we tackled the master bedroom, which was covered in dust and dog hair. The massive oak headboard had been dulled with years of lint, shed skin and filth settled into the grooves. I wiped it twice. It instantly looked better. I was still trying to maintain a positive attitude, but Samira was making it hard.

“Oh my GOD! I just want to walk in that room and punch both of them in the face!” she raged quietly.

I chuckled under my breath. She was such an itty-bitty thing that the thought of her taking on two huge people brought me instant amusement. It would be like a spider monkey assaulting a pair of wildebeest.

There’s no point in continuing to describe the horror we subjected to at every turn. Fecal matter cemented to the seat and lids of the toilet downstairs. Oily finger prints on every wall. The piles, and piles of dust and dirt that billowed and swirled with every broom stroke. The dead COCKROACH lying haplessly on its back in the dining room – why would you want to hear about any of that?

We concluded the clean up with 10 minutes to spare. I knocked on the door to let her know that we were finished. She didn’t answer, not even verbally to say she was coming out.

Probably in there trying to convince her gay husband to have sex with her, I thought to myself. After all, this IS Atlanta.

When we were exiting the door with our supplies, she finally walked out.

“How does everything look?” I asked hopefully. You never can tell how another Black woman is going to judge your cleaning job, even as nasty a one as she.

“Wow!” she exclaimed. “Look at the floor!”

Yeah, it’s amazing what can happen when you actually mop it.

Samira walked out and waited for me by the car. She was still boiling with indignation and rage.

Beverly pulled out a pen and began to write on a piece of paper. Perhaps I had judged her too quickly. Was she about to destroy another assumption I had made about her as a Black woman, this time in the positive? Was she about to give us a tip?

“So what are your names again? Can I request you guys when I want to get my house cleaned?”

I thought Samira was going to grow fangs and suck the life out of her. I smiled and provided her with our names and wished her a great weekend.

“You took ladies! Y’all have a great weekend too!”

She shut the door and that was it.


RHKOA: Holy Rachetness, Batman! I Just Want to Get My Supplies!

I’ve spent that last few days deep in thought, pondering over what point I should introduce you all to the Housekeeping saga. I finally made a decision this evening. To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, the most adventurous of all Hobbits, it is best to begin the telling of all tales at the beginning.

I work for a company called Spic ‘n Span Cleaning Hands, which employs 5 -10 people at any given time. Turnover at Spic n Span is very high. It would appear that most people do not have an affinity for work as a mobile domestic servant. Although, given the state of the economy, you would think they would give it more of a chance. With unemployment in the double digits for African Americans in this country, you might imagine that my people would welcome a real check for real work. But we’re a proud folk, so I do not begrudge anyone for not wanting this job. It is difficult and looked lowly upon.

Harriet Bookman started the company for her mother early this year. I told you about her before. At 26 she has a Master’s degree and has accomplished more in her few years than many women decades older have or possibly ever will. She employs her sister Hillary as a cleaner as well. Louisa Bookman – whom we refer to as ‘Big Lou’ on account that she stands at 5’ 11’’ and weighs well over 200 lbs – is a sweet but no nonsense character. She named her two daughters after strong Black women in hopes that they would emulate them. Harriet was named after Ms. Tubman, as you might have guessed, and Hillary was named after Mrs. Clinton. Technically, Hillary Clinton is not a “black woman”, but her husband WAS the first Black president of the United States. It’s more of an honorary title than anything else. The women of the family are light skinned, and not particularly attractive. However because of their statuesque builds, it’s difficult not to notice them. Perhaps that is what Yolanda’s problem was.

Some people just have “yellow girl hate”, as Big Lou put it to me one day.

Yolanda Jones is Harriet’s next door neighbor. With her petit build and toned body, she might actually be pretty if it weren’t for the perpetual scowl she wore on her face. She snarled every time she rode past in her silver Toyota or peeked out of her curtains to ‘spy’ on the neighbors, and looked away when anyone tried to wave in greeting. The ‘I love Jesus’ bumper sticker affixed to the back of her car is bewildering to all who know her. She truly is a miserable person. Perhaps the state of her blackened heart had something to do with her two teenaged sons robbing and raping a number of our neighbors in recent years. I don’t know; that’s just my suspicion. It became the subject of conversation one early morning when I went to go pick up my cleaning supplies from Harriet’s garage.

The summer air was thick and stifling, and a light mist hovered all around us. Now that I think about it, the atmosphere was quite apropos. Very Braveheart-ish, if I could describe it that way.

Harriet pointed to her neighbor’s garage door. There was dirt and leaves flung all over it, clinging to the wood in a most unbecoming manner.

“I threw that sh*t on her garage door last night,” Harriet whispered loudly.

She proceeded to tell me how she had parked her car outside of her garage, only to discover a few hours later that a heap of potting soil had been dumped by her tire. A note was affixed to her windshield as well. Park in front of your OWN garage it read. Yolanda was the assumed culprit. I stood listening to the details with wide eyes. I have never met this woman, and didn’t know there was a history of bad blood between them. I just showed up that morning to get a vacuum bad and a new broom.

“Excuse me,” said a voice from the balcony above. When it went ignored, it became more insistent. “Excuse me!”

I motioned towards Harriet and pointed at Yolanda’s slippers. That’s all I could see of the woman.

“Your neighbor wants you,” I informed her.

Harriet sighed.

“Yes?” she said with irritation.

“Uhh, look,” the feet said with attitude, “I don’t know what it is that is y’alls problem, but you keep disrespecting me!”

Harriet bristled.

“Who’s disrespecting YOU, when you the one out here causing trouble?”

The feet weren’t listening.

“You know, you come out here and let your children draw in my driveway with their chalk, and it’s just rude!”

“You better read the Home Owner’s guidelines again, chick,” retorted Harriet. “You don’t have a driveway. This stretch of road is public property!”

Clearly there was some history here that I didn’t know about. I gathered my supplies and sat in my vehicle, preparing to leave. There was a house to clean at 8 am, and I had 30 minutes to get there. Upstairs the feet were still talking trash, hurling a torrent of insults to no one in particular. We had both stopped listening.

“I’ll see you later, Harriett,” I said.

“Wait a minute. I have a new shirt for you to wear.”

She went inside to gather it. When she came out, Yolanda was still talking.

“…and it ain’t even you I got a problem with. It’s your momma.”

“What about my momma?” said Harriet stonily. Her eyes flashed and the tips of her ears got red. This was a side to her I’d never seen. When she spoke next, her accent had completely changed. She had gone Memphis on her neighbor. It was as though the Sword of Omens had summoned the rest of the ThunderCats. Big Lou and Hillary came filing outside of the garage next.

It’s hard to accurately describe the melee from that point on, but I can share with you that the words “raggedy a**” , “b*tch”, “your unemployed a**”, “ratchetness in 3D” and “why did you raise a rapist?” where thrown out there. There was an invitation for Yolanda to come down from her porch, which of course she declined by rolling her neck and declaring she “won’t scared”. That’s when I laughed.

“What you laughin’ fuh?” she snarled. “You better hope your kids don’t rob nobody either!”

I said some things to her that made her pause and take a quick breath. They weren’t nice things. They weren’t nice things at all.

“You might have Jesus on your car, but you got the devil in here,” I said in conclusion. “Come down here so I can slap the Hell outta you!”

Of course, she didn’t.

By this time it was 7:30 am and I had to leave. There was a house that needed cleaning and I was determined to make my friend’s company a success! As fate would have it, the adrenaline rush I got from partaking in that dawn ghetto showdown prepared me for what I was about to encounter in my very first client’s home that day.

What was it? I’ll tell you tomorrow.


The Real Housekeepers of Atlanta

I remember how quickly I fell in love with the city of Atlanta. As a first time visitor in 1999, it was like no other place I’d ever seen or lived in before. There was so much glitz and glamor at every turn. When I stepped outside of the doors of my friend’s apartment, opulence confronted me at every corner. To my right a sleek BMW would whiz by and toned blonds were perpetually jogging on the sides of busy roads. No one jogs in Ohio. The apartments nestled in the environs of Sandy Springs and Buckhead were enormous and sat on well-manicured landscapes.  The very expanse of the homes on New Northside Dr. took my very breath away. I’m giddy even as I recollect the emotions accompanied with those memories  now.

It was quickly decided that the moment I graduated from university I would be moving to this bustling southern metropolis. Armed with a bachelor’s degree and a positive attitude, I was ready to take on Atlanta. After weeks of searching and failing to land a job in my chosen field (the one I’d paid $60,000+ for),  I finally got a gig as an office admin earning $25K per annum… but I was CERTAIN that within a year, I too would join Atlanta’s growing elite society and cement my place as one of the city’s nouveau riche.

That was 12 years ago.

And while I haven’t gotten the keys to one of those luxury vehicles that dot any given Peachtree Road, I have at least traded my MARTA pass for a car with some air-conditioning and decent tires. (That took some doing, trust me.)

A myriad of unforeseen circumstances have led me to the state in which I find myself today, including the loss of that $25K job, which evaporated after the dotcom bubble burst. I was informed that by all who loved me that this was a blessing in disguise, and that I was too “smart” for that job anyway. I took solace in the utterances of my sympathizers, bouncing from one failed company to the next…all the while comforting myself with the ‘truth’ that I was too smart for those enterprises anyway! The irony today is that now I find myself employed in an occupation that requires little intellect at all. It requires little more than a steady pulse and a sturdy back, really. How smart do you have to be to mop a floor? You see, I am now one of Atlanta’s Housekeepers: A silent, mobile force that keeps this metropolis from falling into utter ruin, one toilet brush stroke at a time.

No one thinks about a housekeeper until it’s too late. When there’s tomato sauce embedded into the very fibers of a carpet, or the shower floor is so encrusted with filth that one is never sure what the original color of said floor was in the first place; that’s when we get called in. For some odd and amusing reason, most customers think that a housekeeper can wave her scrubbing wand and make 3 years’ worth of dirt disappear in 30 minutes. It just doesn’t happen that way. To make it analogous to the times, it’s very much akin to asking Barack Obama to fix 10 years’ worth of economic damage in 3. You’re just being set up for failure!

However unlike the president, I don’t blame the homeowner/predecessor for letting their home fall into such disrepair… but I do talk about them. And badly if they give me cause to. No, no! I would never say anything disparaging about their revolting ways to their face…that’s what this new series is for. It’s my personal reward for all the hard work I do in this unrewarding job that I’ve willingly taken on.

The common thread that binds all Atlantans is that behind the glitz, glamour and bling, most of these people are NASTY. And the nastiness traverses all income brackets – from the millionaire next door to the impoverished hoarder two streets over. This series is not meant to discuss the filthy conditions in which I often find myself (although there will be plenty of that to regale you with), but rather to imagine the life of these people based on their actions in those brief moments I share with them in the most intimate of settings: their home. How and what a person keeps in their house is more telling of their personality and lifestyle than any word they will ever speak. The condition of a person’s house will always provide constancy or betray the words and deeds of that individual. Cleaning houses is like a daily endeavor in crime scene analysis and psychology. Maybe I AM smart enough to do this after all!

And so here it is MOM Squad. As David S so aptly put it a few weeks ago, I’ve gone from “writing about The Hue Violet to living it.” I never knew how true his words would ring. I’ve gone from pursuing living my life in an expansive house to cleaning them for a living. Oh dear God, what a sense of humor you have.

 These are the tales of a merry band of maids, just trying to scratch out a living in the Hollywood of the South. I bring you the tales of the Real Housekeepers of Atlanta.