Remembering My Angel

Nine years ago I went with a friend to Akropong to visit his family house. It was an impressive building that towered over all the other single story slate-roofed houses in the area. It was his grandmother’s residence and was a queen mother to the town. She had passed away earlier in the year.

He showed me around the house before finally stopping in the back yard where a beautiful gazebo had been erected. There was a marble tomb set directly in the center of it – his grandmother’s final resting place. I looked at my friend and felt torrents of pity for him. His eyes were fixed on the cold stone vault and they had begun to mist. He placed his palm on his heart to steady himself. After a while he was able to tear himself away from the spot and carry on the tour, even though the pain of her passing was still very palpable.

At the time my own grandmother was very much alive, and lived a few towns over in the same mountain range. I didn’t go and visit her that day, but now I wished I had. I always took it for granted that she would always be around. I should have taken every opportunity to spend as much time with her as I could. I could only guess what kind of pain my friend was suffering through at the time, but I didn’t want to empathize with him. I couldn’t put myself emotionally in that position of loss.

Instead, Fate put me there whether I wanted to go or not. She died 5 years later.

I’ve written about my grandmother’s passing before, but this week there is something different about her memory that I’m experiencing this week. My thoughts of her are far more visceral, and they are all centered on love.

If there was one thing I could bet money and my very life on, it would be that my grandmother loved me unconditionally and unreservedly. I don’t know if it’s a Ghanaian trait or just one peculiar to my family, but we rarely uttered  the phrase “I love you” to one another. Instead, we would try to demonstrate that love in various ways (if walking by your sibling and farting can be classified as a demonstration of love). My grandmother demonstrated it with the great care that she showed us at every opportunity. No attention to detail was spared. There were never lumps in our fufu and she always took the bones out of our fish. As we got older and more self-sufficient, she demonstrated her love by ‘advising’ us before she left after her visits. I used to roll my eyes as a teenager in those times, but I recognize what a wonderful tradition it was. She always told us to study hard and choose our friends carefully.

“And don’t do anything to disgrace my name,” she used to say to me directly. “You know you are my namesake.”

I was named Abena Owusua in her honor.

Feigning contriteness, I always nodded respectfully, thinking back to several things I might have done that week alone to ‘disgrace her name’.  It didn’t matter. She was never disappointed in me; even when I had committed the most unspeakable act imaginable: I’d had a baby out of wedlock.

I still have the letter she wrote to me.

My dearest Abena,

I hear you are having a baby. For the first 3 months you will feel very sick, and then you will feel better. You might also experience some pains in your left side…

I braced myself, but it never came. There was no word or reproach or reprimand; just that loving, sage advice she always had handy.

abenas Of all of her grandchildren, I’m the child who looks most like my grandmother, and that has always been a great source of pride for me. She was stunning in my eyes. My sister is the one who’s most like her in word and deed though. They are both patient, artistic and constant. You won’t find a more dependable person than my sister, and that’s a trait she inherited from my grandmother.

I don’t remember the date my grandmother died, but I do remember the day. It was cold and overcast and I was at the gas station when I got the call from my father to say she had finally slipped away after suffering a head injury. He waited for me to break down and cry so that he could tell me not to. I told him I was alright. I hung up with him whispering my goodbyes, drove home, went up to my room, put my face in a pillow and screamed until I was done.

Unlike my friend, I can’t tell you where my grandmother’s final resting place is. I sent money to pay for the funeral, but I couldn’t afford to attend it myself. Even if I could, I don’t think I really wanted to. I didn’t (and never will) want my last memories of my grandmother to be of her holed up in a box in the ground. I want to remember her swathed in her favorite blue and white cloth, looking at the sky and predicting rain. That was the last conversation we had when I left her house all those years ao.

Every so often, when I was a really little girl, she would grin broadly and spontaneously warble the refrain to Miriam Makeba’s Malaika to me. “I love you my angel”, the song says.

I wish I had told her that she was my sweet angel, too.       

Go Find a Mountain and Climb It

Women’s issues have been all over the global news lately. With headlines ranging from the horror of domestic violence to the struggles so-called ‘left over women’ in China, one can’t help but look at herself and ponder her place in the world and what society assumes that place is.

In my circle, the issue of weight and body image has been prevalent in our online discussions. It seems trivial, but my BFFFL, Nana Darkoa wrote an excellent piece about the political implications of being a constant victim of body shaming, which in simple terms is the practice of commenting –rather negatively – on another  person’s physical attributes, particularly if they are seen as “fat”. “Fat” in Ghana, and most of West Africa I suspect, being “fat” is subjective. Generally, anyone who is larger than an American size 2 is considered “fat”. You can read Nana’s article here.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been a victim of body shaming myself on more than one occasion. In fact, while in Ghana on vacation, I was called fat no less than 3 times by both strangers and people I consider friends. I have never understood why Ghanaians feel so authorized to comment on another person’s weight, but there you have it. We don’t walk up to ugly people and tell them how gruesome they look that morning, but when it comes to weight, all tact goes out of the window!

I jokingly said that I was going to start a television program called the “Obolobo Show” that featured fat people doing amazing things. And then it dawned on me a few days ago that “fat people” do amazing things every day!

bungee My husband and I are by no means small people, but we’re relatively active. We’ve gone snorkeling together in the Caribbean. I’ve bungee jumped from Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa– the highest bungee point in the world according to Guinness. I’ve climbed Roberg Mountain and ran down a sand dune with an almost 90 degree gradient. In short, I’ve done things people half my weight have never attempted nor would consider trying!


I’ve come to the conclusion that a healthy weight is whatever size and heft you have determined allows you to live your best life. If that life is limited to sitting behind a desk or on a couch flicking through channels or scaling summits at your national park, get your body in the shape to do whatever it is that you want to do successfully!

I’m on a campaign to show that society’s definition of fitness – or its appearance rather – isn’t gospel that must be unilaterally accepted. I suppose the bullying that Governor Chris Christie found himself the target of was part of the genesis of this realization. Having someone who is not your physician declare that you might “die in office” because of your weight is enough to set anyone on edge. I completely understand his firing back at the media and Dr. Connie Marano, who looked into her crystal ball and determined that his demise was near based on the size of his waist line. I wonder if she has counseled our sitting president about his smoking habit? Last I heard, lung cancer kills people too…

IMG_2122 To test my resolve, I drove an hour north to Amicalola Falls to hike up the steps…alone. This is a big deal for 2 reasons: Dawsonville is Confederate Country and I have enough sense to be afraid of the Klan (although if I’m honest I have a better chance of being shot in Bankhead than strung up in the Georgia backwoods) and secondly, I’m scared of heights. But I did it, and it was fun! No shaking!

I’d like to encourage anyone who has considered living a more active lifestyle that you’ve seen as out of reach because your “fat” or “Black” or “poor” or whatever excuse you’ve accepted as prohibiting you from doing it –or having the right to do it – to try. I’d love to hear your stories….and then we can all be on The Obolobo Show!


A Man Slaps Your Baby. What Would You Do?

I have purposely ignored this story because I didn’t want to believe that there was any merit to it. Surely, there had to be more to the report. After all, how could a 60 year old man viciously slap a 19 month old baby, instruct his mother to shut her “nigger baby up”, and expect to sip his Coke on the rocks like nothing ever happened?

Well, that’s exactly what happened on a Delta Flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta this week, and no, there is nothing more to the story. This was not retaliation for the baby crip walking over to his seat and calling him a ‘mofo’ earlier in the flight. The guy was just an evil douche bag who somehow felt justified enough to touch a child that was not his own.

Here is the link story so that we can discuss.

slapperSo let’s just put this into context. Think about your race/ethnicity for a moment. Now: The plane is about to land, the altitude changes, and your baby’s ears begin to pop. You’re trying to soothe him, already flustered because flying is so uncomfortable anyway. Suddenly, an irate, sweaty, ogre-ish looking man turns around, opens his palm and screams:

“Shut your wetback baby up!”

“Shut your curry eating baby up!”

“Shut your honky/cracker baby up!”

“Shut your Jap baby up!”

“Shut your kike baby up!”

“Shut your nigger/tar baby up!”

…and then: SLAPS your wailing child.

My heart is racing just thinking about it.

What would you do? Discuss! Discuss!!!


A Hairowful Experice: What Happens When You Do Your Hair At the Thrift Store…

The New Economy/The Great Recession/ whatever moniker you’ve assigned to this financial fiasco we’ve found ourselves in has forced millions of Americans into habits that are foreign and sometimes uncomfortable for them. These are indeed times of hardship, and with a Congress and White House that can’t seem to get anything done or work in tandem to give even the illusion of progress, it would appear that we are in these difficult times for the long haul.

When the bottom dropped out 8 years ago, citizens reacted in a myriad of ways. Some shot and executed their entire families before taking their own lives. Others took a more moderate approach by hosting fewer parties or shopping at food banks. Then there are those of us who have lived in a recessionary America since the Emancipation Proclamation and we’re raised on how to take a dollar and make it stretch all week. Cultures that have long been adept at taking a pot of rice and beans and a cup of flour and turning them into a four course meal were not so devastated by the emerging (read ravaging) new economy. Still, we are always looking for ways to save money while still giving the façade of prosperity, just as our foremothers taught us.

Thrift Store Awesomeness

It was for this very reason that Mom Five Times (M5X) – my cohort in conservative crime – and I ventured to Empire Beauty School in Dunwoody a few days ago. With almost a dozen children between the two of us, we are perpetually on the hunt for a bargain in order to meet our families’ physical needs. She and I have little in common, but the peculiarities that we do share – those being an intense appreciation for coffee, cackling, and an inability to do hair – have bonded us together in a fulfilling friendship over the years. It is the lattermost trait that took us into the doors of the beauty school that fateful Saturday morning.

We each have three daughters who individually possess long and/or thick hair. Neither of us can cornrow, or barely braid at all for that matter. There have been more than a few occasions where we’ve sent our children to school looking busted. There’s just no denying it. Finally, we decided that there was no good reason for our girls to look so ill-favored, particularly after we researched the price list on the school’s website.

“Girl. It’s only $40 for box braids…and $20 for braids and twists!” she exclaimed excitedly.

“You can’t beat that,” I grinned.

“I’m going to call them and see if we can get an appointment for this weekend,” she said, turning very business-like.

M5X was in the zone. She lives for two things: Jesus and a bargain. I watched her scuttle off to a quieter part of the house to make the call. When she returned, she informed me that they only do walk in appointments between the hours of 9am and 1pm.

“Let’s meet there at 9:00 then?”


Now, the thing that is so peculiar about Empire Beauty School is that it is the only school in this area that caters to Black hair specifically, unlike the Paul Mitchell School whom I’ve had several bad experiences with. I was thrilled that they would be able to understand the needs of and style my girls’ natural hair without all the hurdles and confused frowns that all the hallmarks of almost every visit to the Paul Mitchell School.

M5X and I arrived at 9:15 am the next morning, armed with bags of hair. There was already a line at the door. Crap.

We were instructed to give our names at the counter and to have a seat. The school was on the second floor of a strip mall in a middle class neighborhood. The walls were painted a warm butterscotch color and there were about 40 stylists stations lined up in the facility. By 9:30, no one had begun to get their hair done. Forlorn Black women with sneakers and scarves sat with their arms crossed defensively across their chests as they waited. One brown skinned girl was shouting on her cell phone in Amharic, sending patrons fleeing her shrill, unpleasant timbre.

Finally, at 10:00, M5X and I were called to the register.

“What service did you want to get today?” asked a glossy dark skinned woman clad in black knit and adorned in silver accessories.

“I’d like twists for one of my girls and cornrows for the other,” replied M5X.

“And I’m getting cornrows with extensions for mine,” I added.

“That will be an extra $30 for extensions,” I receptionist informed me.

I wanted to balk, but I knew that that would not do. I checked my emotions and nodded emphatically to indicate that the absurd upcharge was ok. We were instructed to sit back down and wait to be called.

I took some time to look around the room, since I had little else to do. The girls were playing on tablets and Nintendos, and M5X had engrossed herself in a travel magazine. It was an hour and a half into our wait before the sounds of blow dryers and the smell of burning hair finally began to fill the air. Progress, at long last. All of the students (or ‘Future Professionals’ as their aprons boldly proclaimed) looked positively miserable. None of them looked as though they had any joy in their tasks, but more so than the girl doing box braids on her client directly opposite. I contemplated taking her picture, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Just to give you an idea
Just to give you an idea

Her skin was the color of oatmeal, dotted with raisins, and she had a weave that sat just below her shoulder blades. Each track of hair was a different color: blond at the base, pink on the crown, green in the middle and turquoise at the ends. She wore a tight white T-shirt and shiny black pants and popped her gum methodically as she parted her client’s hair. It sounded like a hail of gun fire. I mean, she looked like a reject from the Bonner Brothers Hair Exhibit. I stared at this aberration of professionalism and wondered if she’d ever considered a career in the circus in lieu of doing hair. She certainly had the costuming down, and UniverSoul is playing this month, coincidentally…

At 11:00 we still had not been seen. At this point, more students began to casually traipse in at go to their lockers. An enormous Mammie-like woman walked around to the “waiting area” dragging a towel around her, wiping up drips of water on the floor. Loni, M5X’s second daughter had unwittingly dropped her drink on the floor (which was covered in hair from the day before) and on the vacant stylist station where she was sitting. The Mammie huffed and wiped up the spill.

‘”Somebody spilled water all over this counter,” she said loudly to one of the students standing opposite her.

“And they just left it sitting there?” she replied in disgust.

“Mmmhmmm,” said the middle aged woman.

She then turned her attention to Loni, who was ignoring the whole conversation and was sitting with her legs folded in the swivel chair.

“Sweetie,” the woman said patronizingly, “I can’t have you sitting in my BRAND NEW chair with your legs over the arm. You’ll have to sit over there. This is the salon. That’s the waiting area.”

The two spaces were a foot apart.

Seeing that there were no other chairs in the waiting area, she pulled two chairs from the nail station in the corner and instructed Loni and an elderly patron (who was also waiting in the salon) to sit on those.

Soon we had passed the three hour mark of just sitting and waiting. All of the girls were hungry and agitated. I went to Wal-Mart to buy us some snacks and passed a door that said “Kiddie Kutz” on the way out. Could this be a miracle sent from on high? I took a chance and walked in the door. It paid off. They did ALL kinds of kids’ hair.

I whisked my girls out of the pathetic realm of Empire Beauty School and into the regal world of Kiddie Kutz, where they were treated to complimentary juice boxes and cartoons. It cost me $90, which was $40 more than I intended to spend that day, but totally worth the experience and time saved. Nadjah had a party to get to at 1:00 and we had to leave.

What happened to M5X? Seven and a half hours after we arrived, her girls finally got seen. I think they finally left the salon around 5pm. It was a ghastly experience. The students derided her girl’s hair, calling it “damaged” and picking at it disdainfully. I would have been livid. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But I suppose that is the cost of doing ones hair at a cut-rate, budget institution. M5X and I discovered another bond that we share during this adventure though: There’s not enough hood rat in either of us to ever entice us to darken those doors again.

It’s SO hard to get your hair done in North Fulton, I swear.

Shopping While Sensitive

Working in retail is a lot like holding position in public office. You have to have thick skin, be ever ready to face derision and scorn, but somehow feign appreciation for the maltreatment meted out to you. Of course, a politician’s six-figure salary compared to my $8/hour as a part time retail associate makes this task a lot more tolerable…unless you’re Nancy Pelosi who is “barely making ends meet” on $174K a year and thinks a decrease in her wages would be “below her dignity”. Her words, not mine.

Yesterday while at work, I found myself in an unusual situation. The scene I am about to describe to you has played out in retail establishments and restaurants across this nation for decades. It is one that minorities, particularly African Americans, have had first-hand experience with or know someone very close to them who has at some point: prejudice.

This Sunday at work was a markedly lazy day. There were fewer shoppers than normal, and I found myself relishing in moderate pace that we rarely get to enjoy at the store. Every customer who came to my line was greeted with a genuine smile, instead of the demented, Joker-esq grin I plaster on my face when the lines are long and our patrons’ patience is short. A petite yellow skin woman approached my line with an item for return and determined look on her face. I smiled broadly and greeted her.

“How are you today?” I asked genuinely.

“Well, I was going to exchange these for something else, but I’m so hot right now all I want to do it return them,” she seethed, setting a pair of Mix No. 6 boots on the counter.

I stopped smiling and took the boots from her.

“Why? What’s the matter?” I asked, holding her gaze in mine. I wanted her to know I was truly concerned.

“One of your associates made me feel very uncomfortable,” she replied, holding my stare.

I was surprised. The staff that morning was definitely the friendliest and most professional of the bunch. The usual suspects who find some way to offend our customers had either left or been fired months ago. Who could have transgressed this woman, and in what manner?

“What happened?” I asked in a low voice, setting the boots aside. I leaned in so that we could have a private conversation.

“I was in the back looking at shoes to exchange these for,” she began. “And one of the women who works here kept looking into my bag, like she thought I was trying to steal something!”

I looked around the room and tried to figure out who that might be. We had two Black women, a Dominican and two Caucasians on staff that day. Unlike certain employees, none of us skulks the customers. It’s just not in our nature. I apologized to the lady.

“I’m so sorry you were made to feel uncomfortable,” I offered. “It’s not our intention as a store to make anyone feel unwelcome here.”

“I am so hot!” she repeated in a near growl.

I began completing her return, while she carried on about how she had been shopping all over town and spending money to prepare for a big business trip to Spain. An idea suddenly struck me.

“You know, maybe our associate thought you had a cute bag?” I suggested. “Perhaps she wanted to compliment you.”

The lady shook her head vigorously and held up a ratty, scratched, brown leather purse.

“No, she wasn’t looking at my purse…she was looking IN my shopping bag.”


I was just about to ask if she wanted to speak to a manager when she pointed the culprit out.

“That’s the party right there,” she said, muttering menacingly under her breath.

“Alicia?” I said with genuine surprise. “She’s a manager here…”

“I know I don’t look like much today, but on a normal basis I’m cute!” the lady raged with contained composure.

I gave her a quick once over. She was wearing black sweat pants and a black velour hoodie. Her sneakers were plain white and her hair was pulled back in a messy pony tail. If you looked at her sideways and stared really hard through your Klan glasses, you might think she was a criminal…but other than that she looked like a lot of the other harried women who frequent our shop.

I apologized to her again for the discomfort she felt. This prompted her to launch into a monologue of her accomplishments thus far.

“I am college educated, and just got back from a trip from China. Like I said, I’m on my way to Spain to do work for a Fortune 500 company. I been spending money all OVER town!”

I smiled and handed her her receipt, wishing her a safe trip abroad.

“Make sure you let her know how I feel,” she said, tucking her purse under her arm.

“I will,” I promised.

I waited until she’d left the store in a huff, saying once more how “hot” she was with the whole situation and purposely not staring at Alicia as she excited the door before I approached her. I relayed what had happened. Her green eyes registered disbelief.

“What?” she asked incredulously.

“She said you made her uncomfortable…like she was a thief or something.”

“Malaka, I’ll tell you exactly what happened,” she said tersely. “I remember that lady. I was on my way into the bathroom and was tucking my shirt in as I walked by her. That’s it.”

Alicia was wearing several layers that day. She demonstrated her movements to show me what had transpired. Alicia is from the west. She’s tall and lithe, and does everything deliberately, including talking. A slow stroll with her eyes cast downward might have easily been misconstrued as an attempt at lurking around a customer…but only to a customer with a certain amount of personal baggage.

The melancholy look in her eyes made me feel sick. Alicia looks White, but she’s got some Arab floating around in her DNA. She spent years working as a nurse in Haiti and the Virgin Islands. She is by no means a racist – at least not in the Down South Dixie, cross burnin’ sense that we’re accustomed to in these parts; but as the movie Crash revealed, everyone harbors some level of racial prejudice within them, no matter what their social leaning. It was obvious that that’s what the light skinned Black woman was accusing her of: racial prejudice based on her own negative views about herself.

Alicia sighed and refocused my attention.

“Now she’s gonna call or write corporate about it!”

“Yeah…probably,” I said, nodding in agreement.

shoes The incident was reminder to me about how we see ourselves in the presumed, false reflection of the public eye. In rattling off her ‘accomplishments’ the High Yellow Lady merely revealed her own insecurities about herself. Even if she flipped burgers at McDonald’s, she would still be working for a “Fortune 500 company.” It doesn’t matter if she was going to Spain or to the moon this week. The only thing that matters (or should have mattered) is how she viewed herself and what value she placed on HERSELF. She knew she wasn’t in the store to steal…should she have allowed her misperception to rob her of a better pair of shoes? I don’t think so.

Have you ever been out and seen someone make a complete fuss and a fool of themselves over something trivial? Do you think High Yellow Lady was warranted in her dismay? Do Black women walk into the shopping world with a chip on our shoulders based on we’ve been treated historically?


You Know What I Did Last Summer…

Note: To my knowledge, there are no South Africans in the MOM Squad. For those SA readers who specifically drop by the blog and leave me nasty Twitter messages or comments that I never approve, I know that South Africa is not one big township. The following post is merely a summary of part of an extraordinary summer I spent in the country. If you’re going to say something negative after watching/reading this, save your energy. I’ll just trash it and it will never see the light of day – at least not here. I’m even annoyed that I have to begin my post in this manner. Tschewww….!!!


It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up on two years since my family and I traveled to Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. I still remember the nervousness I felt visiting a country I had only seen in documentaries and the fatigue I felt after spending 17 hours in the air with four kids. However, the three months we spent in the country was well worth all the pain leading up to the trip, and I’d gladly do it all again.

As anyone who knows me – and I mean truly knows me – can attest to, I have a big, soft, bleeding heart despite the callous exterior I present to the world. In this culture that celebrates Cristal, Kanye and Kim Kardashian, I have discovered my own personal truth that leaves me convinced that although the likes of these people will be remembered, possibly even immortalized by popular culture, they will never be appreciated  in the same manner that hundreds of nameless and faceless people who serve humanity will be. Proverbs 11:25 says:

The generous soul will be made rich,

And he who waters will also be watered himself.

I’ve tried it, and it’s true. There is nothing more fulfilling (or addictive in my case) than giving what you have, and watching the fruit of that generosity manifest in returns you never anticipated. It might be in the form of money, sure…or it could be in something far more valuable, like a new friendship or knowing that someone in another part of the world is thinking of you with kind thoughts. Whenever I think of my ASP kids that live in Qolweni, an involuntary grin soon follows those resurfaced memories.

I turned 35 this year and am determined to use this year in the service of others, as much as I can, no matter where in the world I find myself. After months of threatening, my husband made this short video to document our trip which I had to share it with you guys! I hope it inspires you to do something you’ve had on the back burner or that you thought was too far out of grasp to achieve.  Go ahead and go for it. 🙂

The Awesome Evolution of Rambro and Other Things in the News


When Jamie Foxx was doing the media rounds and promotions for Django Unchained a few months ago, Bill O’Reilly – whom I am a huge fan of – went absolutely berserk when Foxx explained the plot of film.

“But don’t worry,” Foxx said in conclusion. “I get my revenge and kill all the White people.”

The crowd laughed, most likely in response to the obvious absurdity of the very idea.

Bill O’Reilly was not so amused. He called Jamie Foxx’s utterances “despicable” and “racist” and a whole host of other unflattering adjectives. The majority of Americans got it though. Only in a Black man’s wildest pipe dreams would he be able to go on a revenge fueled campaign of carnage directed solely at the powerful white elite and expect to come out unscathed.

As if to prove that very point, enter Chris Dorner…or as he was affectionately known prior to his eminent death, Rambro.

Chris Dorner simultaneously captivated the imagination of the nation and struck terror in the hearts of law enforcement in California. In the unlikely event that you are unaware of who this enigmatic madman was, he was an ex-police officer ( who was described as former military, to ex-CIA, to ex-FBI agent, and finally just ex-cop) and  was fired from the LAPD for misconduct a few years ago. In a 20 page manifesto that he posted online, he swore vengeance against the entire police force, vowing to destroy them and their families, ironically in order to “restore his name”. He made good on his promise and killed six people , including the daughter of the chief who fired him and her fiancé.

The entire state of California went on lock down. For the first time in American history, the government was considering using a drone to locate and destroy an American citizen on American soil. Officials then said it was only a “consideration”. Yeah. Sure. Within hours of that announcement, Dorner was located in a remote cabin in Big Bear, thanks to “eye witness tips”.

The officials went ballistic. They’d got ‘im! Rambro exchange fire with law enforcement before an explosive  device was launched into the cabin where he was holed up. All firefighting efforts were kept at bay, in an effort to either burn him alive or force him out of the cabin, presumably to shoot him dead. Either way, the scenario had to come to an end before nightfall, officials said emphatically.

It’s easy to understand why. After all, it’s difficult to find anything in the dark…and you certainly don’t want to exchange fire with an armed man who has the advantage of the cover of darkness. This was easy to understand for everyone but Anderson Cooper, who stunned the world with this asinine question:

“Is it more difficult to find Black people in the dark?”

Long. Blank. Stare.

Yes. He actually said that on the air, and paid for it too. Jim Crow was not that long ago. There are certain questions White people just aren’t allowed to ask. Like ever.

Rambro – who went out in a literal blaze of glory – is now presumed dead; and in other Black History news, President Obama gave his first State of The Union address on the same night he died.  I couldn’t tell you what he said, because I’m certain it was all rehashed nonsense.


Have you had a McDonkey Today?

“Good morning! Welcome to McDonald’s. Can I tempt you with a biscuit and ass sandwich?”

“I’m sorry. What?!?”

“An ass breakfast sandwich. We call it the McDonkey.”

“And why is that!?!”

“Because all of our sausage meat has a little bit of donkey in it…80% to be precise.”

Does that make you want to gag? Well it ought to. Apparently there are a number of pubs and restaurants across Europe who have been unwittingly serving horse meat burgers to their patrons. Go ahead and let that sink in. Americans have little way of (or interest in) tracing what happens to their food from slaughter house to plate. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself gobbling down on an Eeyore Special at one of your favorite restaurants in the not so distant future.


Protecting and Serving Those who Slang Crack  

This was a personal favorite of mine. Ten Atlanta police officers were arrested this week for taking bribes from drug dealers in exchange for their protection.


One of these individuals was a MARTA police officer, which at first glance seems baffling, but when you consider that the most efficient way to do a drug deal is on a moving train, it makes perfect sense. In case you were wondering, they were all African-American, with the exception of one Hispanic officer.


Bye y'all. I'm out!
Bye y’all. I’m out!

Oh. And the Pope resigned. I can’t say that I blame him. What with the Zombie Apocalypse out in Minnesota, I wouldn’t want to deal with this foolishness either. The world has officially gone mad!

MOM Squad – what captivated you this week where you live? What did I miss?

Grannies and Girl Scouts

The elderly… what a manipulative, cunning bunch.

Just wait! Give me a second to explain.

This weekend I went with Aya to a senior assisted living home in Buckhead.  She and the members of her Daisy troop went to the home to make Valentine’s Day cards with the residents so that they could earn their service badges. I wasn’t sure how the whole thing would pan out, largely because I did not have much confidence in the girls’ social skills. Generally, kindergarteners and first graders have not developed a strong filter or a keen sense of what’s appropriate to say and when. What if one of the residents farted? I could hear it already.

“Ewww! What stinks?!?” they would shout in unison.

I was mortified before we walked through the automatic double doors. The girls’ conduct before we began the event did not give me cause for much more confidence.

As we sat in the lobby waiting to be ushered upstairs, the girls were getting increasingly fidgety and louder. I heard one of the older ones say that she had been to this facility before, and that old people sometimes smelled funny. I gasped, grunted, and pulled Aya away from her friends.

“You listen to me very closely,” I warned under my breath. “You don’t say ANYTHING that isn’t kind to or around these grandparents, you hear?”

She nodded that she understood. Unconvinced, I rattled a short list of stereotypical things about old people that she was not allowed to say. Anything about smell, walking, hair loss, bumps or warts were chief among these. Chastised in advance, she walked away to go sit with her friends. Soon we were called up to visit with the ‘grandparents’, which was the unofficial moniker that had been assigned to the elderly charges we were visiting today.

We walked into a neat, but almost sterile meeting room where almost 20 residents were seated.  The girls paused at the entrance and looked around. The other moms and I encouraged them to walk in and greet the men and women sitting and waiting expectedly for us. Personally, I was thrilled to be there. These were the types of things I dreamed of doing when I was a kid myself. It was all very Sweet Valley High and all the quintessential American experiences I’d read about as an impressionable child, but rarely got a chance to experience. (Like that camping trip last year.)

“Why don’t we have each of the girls pick a table to go to?” the charge nurse advised.

IMG_2096 Aya and her friend Leelee walked cautiously over to a table next to the window where two very old women were sitting and smiling shyly. One of them had a scarf tied securely around her head. The other had a pretty brown wig with bangs that she had carefully arranged around her eyes – one of which was milky. In a weird way, she reminded me of my own grandmother who also had a fondness for wigs.

Aya and Leelee were talking to each other and ignoring the grannies. I approached the table and had them introduce themselves.

“My name is Eileen,” said the one with the wig.

“This is Aya,” I said, smiling. “My name is Malaka. I’ll be back with some paper so you can start making your cards.”

“I want paint!” Leelee shouted enthusiastically.

“I’ll be back with some paint then!”

The other moms were busy getting the stations set up as well. I looked around the room and discovered that there were not enough Scouts to sit with grandparents. Not knowing whether it was appropriate or not, I asked a trio of old women if I might join them.

“Sure honey,” one of them croaked. “Come on and set down.”

I looked around the table and smiled to cover up my nervousness. All of the ladies had silvery, brown hair. They were all wheelchair bound and one of them looked like she was dead. She hadn’t flinched or fluttered her eye lids since we came into the room. I extended my hand to the two who were alert.

“My name is Malaka,” I said with a grin.

“I’m Bishop, Jessie Bishop,” replied one. She was not smiling.

“I’m Esther,” said the other sweetly. She returned my smile and made me feel welcomed.

“Pleasure to meet you both!”

I sat down and handed them some colored paper and busied myself with folding the one I had in front of me.

“What are we supposed to be doing?” asked Jessie Bishop. (She always said both her names in conjunction.)

“We’re making Valentine’s cards,” I repeated.

“Well…I don’t know how to do that.”

I looked at her in disbelief as she stared blankly at the neon pink sheet of paper I had set in front of her. She was being sincere – she honestly did not know how to make a card. Gingerly, I walked over to her wheel chair and showed her what to do.

“First we’ll start by folding our paper in half,” I said gently. I didn’t want to sound condescending, like I was talking to a child. I was overwhelmed by how much it felt that way…almost like I was showing Stone or Liya how to do craft.

When I looked to my right I saw that Esther was busy sticking lips and hearts on a perfectly formed sheet of blue paper.

You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” I said mischievously.

“Oh yes,” she said softly, never taking her eyes off her art. “I used to teach pre-kindergarten for almost 40 years. Getting’ the children to learn their colors and shapes, ya know.”

I was impressed. Sometimes you forget that the elderly had a life – a real, meaningful life – before age set in.

After I had gotten Jessie Bishop started on her card, I went and sat down to finish my own craft. She called me back.

“Well I stuck this sticker on there…what do I do now?”

Her paper was yellow (she didn’t care much for the pink one I’d offered her before). I guess she could have colored it?

“Why don’t you write a note on it?” I suggested.

“What should I say?”

I looked at Esther, who was smiling privately too herself.  She had written BE MINE on her card and was gleefully penciling red hearts on it.

“How about ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’,” I said simply.

Jessie Bishop paused and mused over that. I thought I had lost her to some mental break. I interrupted her thoughts to make sure she was still with us.

“Is that alright, Miss Jessie?” I asked.

IMG_2099 “Oh yes, honey,” she croaked. “And on the inside we can write ‘God is love’.”

And that’s exactly what she did.

We were supposed to stay for an hour and a half but we ended up staying for two. The Scouts were chattering with their grandparents about colors and classes, and I had discovered a lot about my two new friends and they about me. (The third lady never woke up). Jessie Bishop was 89 years old, and would turn 90 on March 2nd. Esther was 85 and had given birth to 12 kids. Both were native to Georgia, second-borns, widows and great grandmothers. We talked about everything; from C-sections to cornrows to gang violence and Jacob Zuma.

I showed them pictures of my children and my vacation in Axim. They were genuinely impressed to find out I was from Ghana.

“You’re from Africa, you say?”

“Yes ma’am. I just got back to Atlanta from a trip home as a matter of fact.”

“Is that where you got that skirt? It’s beautiful!”

“Yes, my friend has a fashion line called MAKSI Clothing. She made this.”

Esther eyed my red and black skirt and nodded.

“I bet that material cost about $5.00 a yard. That’s good quality cotton.”

They practically begged me to source a skirt for them, which of course I could not refuse to do.

“I’ll save up my money for when you come next time,” said Jessie Bishop wistfully.

“Mmmmhmmm,” agreed Esther.

“It was so nice meeting both of you,” I said earnestly, hugging them both.

Miss Esther gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“I love you,” she told me matter-of-factly.

“And I love you too,” agreed Jessie Bishop.

IMG_2097 Before I had a chance to think about it, I told them I’d loved them as well and gave them both another hug before we departed. I had to come and see them again. They were so sweet, and complimenting, and delightful…just cunning!

I’m glad I was conned though, and in such a pleasant, loving way too. It was undoubtedly one of the best days I’ve had in recent memory.

Have you ever visited an old folks’ home? Was it a happy or sobering experience? If you haven’t it’s definitely worth a trip.



I Don’t Have Malaria. I Have Cellulose.

There’s nothing like the thought of losing your life to get you back on track, is there?

Last week I found myself in agonizing pain. I had tremors in the night and frequently broke out into sweats. My throat was dry. My entire body was wracked with pain. And I had the sniffles. I instantly knew what was going on in my body: It was malaria. God awful, red blood cell depleting malaria.

What was I going to do?

I called into work on Saturday morning and explained my symptoms to my manager. Being from Nigeria, he was all too familiar with them.

“Eh? You know they can’t cure that thing here o!” he warned ominously with a laugh. (Why do Nigerians always laugh in the face of calamity, anyway?) “The only thing they’ll do in this America is quarantine you.”

“Hmmm…I know,” I said solemnly.

I had a friend in England who contracted malaria while on a recent trip to Ghana and the doctors were at a complete loss as to how to treat her. As my manager said, they merely quarantined her.

“You berra go and find an Indian doctor quick-quick!” he advised.

“I will,” I replied. “Anyway, you’ll see me at 10:00 according to the schedule.”

He didn’t offer to let me stay home, so that was that. As promised, I showed up to work and tried to make myself useful.

It was no use.

Every time I spoke to a customer I had a coughing fit. Every time I bent over, I came up feeling lightheaded. All I wanted to do was go home. I told my manager as much.

“Look at the way you are sweating, joh!” he exclaimed. “Yes, yes. Please. When the next person comes in, go home.”

I was grateful.

As I climbed into bed, I wondered how this had come upon me so quickly. I replayed every bite I had gotten while on vacation in Ghana. I had been so careful with the bug repellent. I rarely got bitten at all! But getting malaria is like losing your virginity: it only takes one good penetration to achieve an undesirable result.

I immediately cursed Mildred, the airport worker  who had injected me with a syringe full of nothing and charged me $15 for it. She had done this to me. SHE had sealed my doom. That wretched, wretched woman!

Marshall came to my side and lovingly administered pain medication to me.

“This is Advil Cold & Flu,” he whispered softly as he offered me a tall glass of water to drink it down.

I look at him contemptuously.

“I have MALARIA, not a cold!” I spat.

“Still, it will help with your congestion,” he said soothingly.

“I’m not congested,” I wailed. “I’m in pain. Terrible pain!”

“It will help with that too.”

I don’t remember what or if he said anything after that. Soon, I was fast asleep. And a funny thing happened the next morning: I felt better. 50% better, in fact. It was a miracle! I told my husband as much.

“Well that’s good,” he smiled. “I’m glad you’re doing better, even if it’s moderately so.”

“I know right. It’s amazing! How did Advil cure my….”

And then it dawned on me. I did not have malaria at all – and never did.

You see, Reader, I have been working out religiously every day since I turned 35. I figure this is my last year to get in shape before I lose all the elasticity in my skin and my body goes directly to hell. I have a routine that includes the elliptical machine and the tread mill. I rarely deviate from it. Now, last week, I was approached by one of the trainers at LA Fitness, peddling a “health assessment.”

I told him to git gwine far away from me.

He was shocked.

I was ever so serious.

He was persistent, and I finally agreed to take on his challenge. No muscle bound man with wavy hair was going to punk me! I am an African woman, after all. I had to rep for my race and my sex. He took me through the most painful work out I’ve had in my life. He did things to my body that no man has ever done, nor will do again…BUT I completed his routine, which included an immeasurable number of squats, lunges and about half a dozen inappropriate things with a medicine ball.

“Congratulations,” he said with genuine surprise. “Most people don’t ever finish the assessment.”

“Uh huh…” I gasped. Screw you and your assessment.

“Well if you ever need a person trainer…”

“I don’t want you  or anyone else coming near me!” I wheezed.

“Most people say ‘no’,” he admitted with a snicker.

I told him I was off to the sauna to sweat out some of this pain and thanked him for his time.

That’s when I caught “malaria.”

The work out was so intense I thought a tropical disease had manifested in my body. Go ahead. Say it.

Oooo chale! Shyous!!!

Have you ever worked out so hard you thought you were sick? Or studied so hard you thought you had gone mad? Or prayed (or smoked) so hard you thought  you were Jesus? Marinate on that for a while.