Author Archives: Malaka

Seven Lessons in Seven Days

Somewhere along the way in late 2016, I (apparently) uttered the words “I desperately need a vacation from my family!”

Now, I don’t recall ever saying this aloud – but as the old Negro proverb goes, “From your lips to God’s ears!!!” That is how I ended up being banished to Tsitsikamma National Park for seven days and seven nights. It was my husband’s birthday gift to me: Solitude. Ostensibly, solitude to write, as I have also professed aloud that I want to go on a writer’s retreat at some point in 2017. (That I DO remember saying.)

It was a sweet gesture from a man who dotes on me, so I have tried my best to make it work to my advantage. Unfortunately, that attempt was in vain. I have discovered in these past seven days that though I often crave silence, I am terrified of it when bestowed to me over long periods of time. There is a silver lining, as luck would have it. My solitude forced me to pay attention to everything around me, as I had little to no access to the Internet (a cumulative one hour over the course of seven days) and only one DVD to keep me company in all that while. That DVD was Graffiti Bridge, starring Prince. I’ve owned Graffiti Bridge since 2006 at least, but have never watched it until this week. I watched it for four consecutive nights until my family came to see me on Sunday with more movies. As he always does, the Purple One taught me something special about this thing we call life.

 

Lesson 1: Divine Providence

“What God has for you is for you.” That is a saying I used to repeat in worship because it was cute, but after watching Graffiti Bridge, I firmly believe it. Did you see how many times Morris Day & The Time blew up the Glam Slam, or set a fire, or destroyed Prince’s equipment? The answer is LOTS. And STILL, no matter what, new instruments always appeared in time for the next battle or the Glam Slam was restored to its industrial splendor just in time opening hours; as though it had gone through a modest renovation rather than a demolition attempt. If something is meant for you, all the pieces will eventually line up for you to have it.

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Lesson 2: Effort

I opened my hut window to let some air in, which always runs the risk of letting other things in. On this particular occasion, a fat horsefly buzzed its way into my room. I was content not to bother it as long as it didn’t bother my food or me and as fortune would have it, it eventually got bored and decided it would leave. It buzzed its way back toward the window. Instead of following the breeze and flying out, it flew toward the pane of the adjacent window, desperately trying to fly through it.

Y’all.

I watched this dumb fly climb up the pane, ram its head into it, fly to the base, climb up it again, and ram its head into the glass – repeatedly – for 15 minutes. It did this until it DIED from exhaustion. The fly entered my room full of loud, buzzy piss and vinegar but would have died in silence if not for the undignified “thunk” of its corps hitting varnished wood.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-42-27-pmThis taught me two things: a) If you’re dumb to get yourself into an unfamiliar situation, be smart enough to plan your way out. b) Effort without strategy can have fatal consequences. Sure, the fly could see its goal – the woods outside – from the clear glass, but that barrier was there for reasons. Just because something takes on the appearance of your success doesn’t mean it’s true to form. If you keep running into the same clear glass wall, maybe it’s time to shift course just a bit.

Or else you gon’ die.

Lesson 3: Vanity

Vanity is often regarded as a negative characteristic, but I believe it can be put to good and positive use. Embodying vanity can be healing. An albatross showed me this.

With miles and miles of beach available at its disposal, this particular winged sea rat chose to waddle in the one rock pool formations that was closest to me. It bathed itself with thoroughness and surprising attention to detail. The albatross made a big fuss about making rings and waves in the water that was still and peaceful before its aggressive arrival. After its ablution, it then chose to preen itself on the singular rock that was directly in my line of sight. Every once in a while it would stop fussing with its feathers to check if I was checking it out. After we made intermittent (and sufficient) eye contact, it continued its grooming.

To the world, the albatross is an unattractive nuisance with an irritating bird shriek. But in its own eyes, it is a siren of the sea, the peacock of the waves. How else can a seagull gain the effrontery to assume its presence is a desirable one? In this way, I learned that we must all shine and glory in our own light; Yes, even we who qualify as winged rodents.

Lesson 4: Perfection

Have you ever spent the day in a perfect environment, where someone else has thought of EVERYTHING? Well in this case, that someone happens to have been God. As I said, I went to Tsitsikamma to write, but most of my time was spent in reflection and contemplation. Why? Because perfection does not inspire creativity. There’s nothing of value you can add to perfection. It’s as futile an act as gilding the lily.

Can you imagine throwing extra muscles on Indris Elba? No. No you can’t. Because what’s the point? See how perfection robs of you the very desire to take a creative risk?

Lesson 5: Honesty

Piggybacking off of perfection is a lesson in honesty. And if I’m truthful, sitting out in the woods alone was not the course to successful, productive writing…at least for me. This is because the woods, the darkness, the perpetual crashing of the waves and the very pine planks that housed and protected me from the elements invoked sheer terror within me. That leads me to…

Lesson 6: Courage

Most of our greatest fears begin in the mind. A lot of us don’t even get a chance to fail, because we won’t take the shot(s) needed to experience failure nor success. And even though I did not succeed in writing the Great African Novel during my sabbatical in the forest, I did at least walk away with a new understanding and appreciation for the part our cognitive framework plays in overcoming doubt and fear. In my case, I overcame my fear of being overridden by cockroaches.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-40-51-pmLook at these walls. Tell me these walls don’t look like cockroaches! Every night, I kept vigil with the light of my cell phone to make sure that the knobs in the walls did not come to life with beetle like pestilence with the sole aim of crawling into my ears and inhabiting my brain. *Shudder!!! *

I could’ve let courage fail me and insist that my husband pick me up long before the seven days had come to a close, but instead, now I get to boast to you all about how brave I was in my insulated cottage with plumbing.

Lesson 7: Trust…with Caution

A doe and her fawn came to nibble on the tender shoots that sprang up all around the campsite at the park. Although I was in striking distance of either on two occasions at least, I made it a point to keep a respectful and wide berth. Although the animals were somewhat comfortable in the presence of their human neighbors, I believe everything NatGeo tells us about animals and wildness. I can hardly think of a dumber way to die than a head-butt to the gut from Bambi’s mom.

This analogy works in the human world as well. It works for virtually any situation. From credit card sharks to the lady offering “free” samples to bonbons at the mall, it always pays to sprinkle your trust with a little bit of caution. Because one minute, you’ve lost yourself in the blissful delight of gourmet chocolate and the next, you’re $5,000 in chocolate branded credit card debt.

 

And there you have it! I turned my mess into Muesli. Have you had any impacting lessons come your way this early in the year yet? Do share!

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Have You Ever Told A Lie That Ate Away At Your Insides?

As I type this, it’s been 3 days since my 39th birthday and I’ve been living in a forest hut in virtual solitude.

You see that? That’s not entirely true. In your mind’s eye, you probably imagine me sitting in some darkened hovel in the woods with only cheetahs and baboons for company, when in reality, I’m at Tsitsikama National Park, there is a well-stocked restaurant called the Cattle Baron just a lazy 15 minute walk away and a cleaning lady comes to tend to my cabin every day around 10am. Words have the power to create perception, which is why I imagine the bible advises us to use our tongues wisely. You can mess someone up with one false word.

I hate liars. Don’t you? There’s nothing more vexing than catching someone in an easily verifiable lie. What was the point in the endeavor, you wonder. People lie about the silliest of things – like their age, their income…even the size of a crowd at their inauguration. Eventually, it all comes out in the wash and instead of the respect/admiration/adulation that the liar hoped to earn by telling the falsehood, all it warrants them is mistrust and scorn from the audience.

Yeah…I hate liars. So what do you do when you become the thing that you hate?

I lied about something once, and it’s been tearing away at my spirit for several days. Unlike the sort of lie that only has consequences for yourself (e.g. a butt whuppin’ because you took all the Snickers from Grandma’s candy dish and swore you didn’t), a lie whose ramifications have a domino effect are the worst to contend with. Oftentimes, once the lie is told, there is no way to restore everything that could/will be taken from the accidental victim. For instance, I earned the reputation for being a slut in high school after some dude told his friends (and therefore half the school) that he’d got into my panties. The immediate consequence of this was that it emboldened a number of undesirable nyuggaz with a scrotal itch to request if they could use my vagina as a scratching post. It was now confirmed that I was “easy” after all. Fortunately, I’m sure if you ask around today, only a handful of people from my year group would remember the incident and the damage to my reputation it caused, but I do; naturally. And naturally, I imagine that the two young women who my lie affected will remember the circumstances and the effects for many years to come.

As I mentioned before, I’m sitting in this cabin/hut all alone, and it’s given me a lot of time to think, reflect and remember a myriad of things. For some reason, foremost among these thoughts are two sisters – twins – who came into the retail store where I was working in Alpharetta many years ago.

The sisters were about 5 or 6 years old at the time. They wore identical hairstyles: big, shiny braids and baby hairs impeccably laid as though an offering for the ancestors. They were friendly, sweet little girls who didn’t bother their mother as she shopped for her shoes. They were the type of kids you wanted to give things to because they were so good, you know? (We got a lot of bratty, darn near feral kids running in that store all the time, so the twins were a breath of fresh air.) So because they were the sort of kids one gifts things for no reason at all, I ‘gifted’ them a blank store gift card each to aid in their play. I’d picked the prettiest cards on our shelves.

“So you guys can pretend to have your own money as you shop at our store!” I said brightly.

“Yay!!” said the twins. “Thank you!”

And play they did.

Satisfied that I’d made two little girls day a little cheerier, I returned to my post at the check out lane, where I watched another cashier help their mom. She called for the twins to join her and they quickly obeyed. A few minutes later, the twins returned to the store, their mother raging ahead of them. She came directly to my station at the check out lane.

“Did you give these two girls THESE?” she growled, throwing the two worthless gift cards on the counter in front of me. She looked as though I’d given her children poison.

Now, before I go on and tell you what I did, you guys have got to understand: I’m afraid of Black women. I have been afraid of Black women MY WHOLE LIFE. You never know if you’re going to get cussed out, get the devil cast out of you, or be welcomed into a bosomy hug; And because this particular Black woman (about 10 years my senior) looked like she was about to cuss me out, I did the only thing that previous experience coupled with my flight or fight reflex told me would keep me safe, at least for the moment. I lied.

“Noooo…” I said breathlessly. “No.”

Her posture straightened and her forehead lost a few of its wrinkles. It was if I’d sucked the wind out of her sails with one word. She left without another word to me and shouted for her twins.

“Come on, y’all!”

As I stood there shaken and in a cold sweat, I watched the trio leave and heard the girls protesting mournfully. “But she did give it to us, Mommy. She did!”

And then they were gone. And I never saw the family in my store again.

Ohhh, but this week I’ve seen them in my dreams and in my waking moments! I don’t remember exactly how many years ago that incident was, but I’d put it around 7 or so. The store had just been renovated around that time. That means the twins are now 12, possibly 13 years old. The tween years are tough. Children are still trying to hold onto their innocence while adolescence quietly beckons them to all its drama. Today, I sit in my cabin and imagine what those twins look like. I wonder if they were ever able to convince their mother that they were indeed telling the truth and that I was a cowardly liar, not them. I wonder if she beat the brakes off of them when she returned to their vehicle and uses my falsehood against them on occasion. I wonder if my lie cost them the complete trust of their mother for a very, very long time.

That’s really what’s eating me up inside. I have no way of knowing if they turned out all right; and worse, I have no way of reconciling my sin other than to pray for them and hope I get the chance to make amends some day, by some miracle.

In our home, we have been dealing with two children who have problems telling the truth the first time, which is what probably has me reflecting on my own folly. Even when they know we know their lying, they stick to and build on the untruth until it crumbles all around them. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I/we have created an atmosphere that causes them fear the consequences of telling the truth rather than the horrible fallout that always follows a lie.

Or maybe a lying spirit is inherited. Who knows? I’ll ask a dreaded Black woman to cast it out of us all, if that’s the case.

If I could give an encouragement to just one parent today, I’d say this: When it comes to kids, don’t always assume that the adult at the other end of the exchange is telling the truth – not at the expense of a healthy relationship with your child. Believe your child first so that they know they always have a loving champion in you. Even if it does turn out in the end that the child was lying, at least they have that assurance that you loved them enough to have faith in them until the truth exposes them. I believe love is far more effective at drawing out an honest confession than fear and mistrust ever will be. I hope that in this way, we can teach our kids (and maybe a few adults) to love truth more than we hate/fear the lie.

 

Wait a minute! Allow me to disabuse you of the notion that I’ve lost all my savagery! I do believe that there are situations in which an untruth is prudent. For instance in answer to the questions “Was that good for you?” or “Do you like the way I styled your hair?” a response in anything other than a tepid affirmative will result in bruised egos and a fruitless attempt at a do over. But now I wonder, in this age of “alternative facts”, how precious is the truth? How precious is it to you, personally?

 

 

Vicki Yohe Unleashes Peak Beckery On The Church

When I saw a former co-worker refer to Vicki Yohe as ‘Tricky Yohe’ as a result of some foolery she had allegedly executed, I bristled. I challenged him to show me evidence of what the warbler had done to earn the moniker ‘tricky’. Surely this was a case of mistaken identity! I’ve seen Vicki Yohe perform live on at least two occasions, and on both she was all sweetness and light, sprinkled with a little bit of thunder. That’s how the church likes its worship leaders – saccharine; yet ready to rally the troops to war with a melodious battle cry if necessary.

Maybe that shield maiden spirit had momentarily overtaken Vicki, compelling her to publish this meme on Instagram just a few days ago.

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*Blink*
*Double blink*
*Siiiiggghhh….*

As if the meme itself weren’t abhorrent enough, Yohe doubled down on the disparaging posture behind it by appending her own, unambiguous thoughts, challenging those who oppose (now) president Donald Trump, his VP, his cabinet pick of unqualified dolts and his abhorrent taste in furniture by saying that they could “march all they want and protest all they want, he’s your president now!”

And then had the nerve to add a hash tag: exciting times ahead.

Exciting times for whom, exactly?

This is what postmodern, history revising Christians/Evangelicals like Yohe need to understand: This was a not a normal election and Donald Trump is not a “normal” president, let alone human being. Trump’s campaign was run – and won – on fear and hatred, which last time I checked did not constitute as fruits of the Spirit. The day after he was announced the winner, a number of college campuses suspended their classes in order to provide grief counseling for students, and elementary-aged children in with dense minority (and Muslim) populations went to class feeling a LOT less safe. In my own house, all the way in South Africa, my eldest child felt compelled to call up her immigrant and first-gen friends to make sure they wouldn’t be separated from their families in the wake of this new presidency. THAT’S the kind of president Yohe, Dobson & Co. support and helped get elected: A pussy-grabbing, tax-evading, offspring-lusting, adulterous cad who haunts the dreams of children. We haven’t even gotten to the bit where he promises to unleash ‘law and order’ (read: stop and frisk, which also happens to be a constitutional violation) on communities that are populated with people that look just like me and my family, rather than like Vicki Yohe and hers.

But about that…

vicki-yoheIf you’re sitting here wondering just WHO the heck Vicki Yohe is, don’t feel bad about your ignorance in the least. Vicki Yohe is a blonde, Amish-looking woman with a decent set of pipes. Performing on Church Chitlin circuit has buoyed her career. You see, Yohe sings Gospel, or a form thereof. She’s very much given to runs, and when no one else in the industry would really give her a chance, we took her in. “We”, meaning “Black Folk”. Because that’s what we do. We are constantly extending the hand of reconciliation. We take in everyone’s orphans, fix ‘em up, encourage them, put ‘em on and then the moment they get on, they leave us for a white girl. Or in this case, a tiny-handed, anus-mouth-shaped Tang Aberration that happens to occupy the highest seat in the land.

For Vicki Yohe to suggest that Jesus is excitedly sprinting His divine self – with luggage in tow – back into the White House because godliness is hallmark of the Trump administration is not only laughable, it’s insulting. Her suggestion smacks of the sort of idiocy that has so many people disgusted with the church body at large, and it makes a mockery of God the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The only reason Joshua the Messiah would be running to the White House at that speed would be so that He could bleed all over it with the hope of redeeming it; not because He approves of any the shenanigans going on in there. Now, as you might imagine, the Internet grabbed a hold of her digitized foolishness and drug Vicki for filth. I can’t say she doesn’t deserve every word of verbal chastisement lobbed at her, and when the Sable Saints drag you, it’s bound to leave a mark.

It is in the realization that she’d been marked that caused Vicki to go full Becky on us, rather than leaving it be and letting time heal all wounds. Check out her ‘apology’:

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Right? You read that, right? Like, why is this in the third person? Because that coward couldn’t even craft her own “I’m sorry”! Oh, you were all big and bad when you told women all over the country – women who have survived assault, or had to comfort a friend in its aftermath, or who fear its impend for themselves or fellow woman/girl – that they could ‘march all they want’ because their voices didn’t matter, right? And then aren’t you the same woman, insulted by both your white AND Christian privilege who assured Donald Trump that if so many oppose him, he must being doing something right? Then why you running scared now? After all, you got all these people on the Internet streets opposing you…surely by your own logic… you’ve said and done something praiseworthy? But you’re scared, because now your livelihood and reputation is at stake.

As insulting as it was to insinuate that the Obama White House was devoid of God’s presence, it is even more repugnant that Vicki Yohe, through her publicist (who is clearly another white woman or a very, very young, very naive white man) would attempt to cause division among Black believers by putting the blame for her idiocy on the feet of Shaun King, a vocal voice in the BLM movement.

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All Shaun did was read your filth for what it was. That she would now try to cause a rift between Black Lives Matter and the Black church by alleging that “they” are trying to destroy her is some slimy white damsel in distress raggedy-ness that only deserves one place: the trash can. To now ask Christians – ostensibly Black Christians – to rally behind God’s will (i.e. her protection) while putting aside their Blackness and/or womanhood (i.e. our identity) is not just mischievous; it’s cruel. More so as I have yet to see an overzealous officer/sexual deviant/oppressor alive who takes the time differentiate if a potential victim meets any of these criteria before exacting their terror. Now we are being asked to choose between the two identities for her sake? Is this ever asked of white believers? In the words of Sister Whitney Houston the departed, Hell naw!

No one is trying to ‘destroy’ Vicki Yohe. Vicki Yohe played herself. Yohe posted that meme, Yohe added her comments, and now Yohe got herself uninvited from the Church Chitlin circuit, which happens to be populated by people that look like me, and which also happens to butter her bread. That’s what’s got her shook right now. She’s staring at red in her ledger with a potential loss of cheddar.

Unfortunately for her, most people have read write through her pathetic attempt at pivoting and punting, and true to their word will never buy another Yohe album or have her invited to minister to their congregation(s) again. And yet fortunately for Vicki Yohe, she insulted the first Black president’s administration, disregarded the safety of children of color, and rubbished the feelings of women. The spirit of patriarchy is strong in the Black church, and there will certainly be those pastors who invite her back to unload her warbling alto on their members. She won’t even have to repent. All she’ll have to do is weep some pretty white tears, brood over her “trials” (never mind that they were brought on by her own doing) and all will be forgiven. The elders of the church will be called to form a prayer circle around her so that “no weapon formed against her shall prosper”; when in reality they need to be praying for the spirit of self-control to come over that mouth. They will serve as Charlamagne to her Tomi Lahren.

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I could just vomit.

The American church – and all who emulate it – is in really bad shape. As we sit, the only two requirements needed to qualify as a godly person/government are tied up in opposing two concepts: Gay marriage and abortion.
That’s it. That’s all! As long as you oppose gay marriage and abortion, you get a cape and a certificate from the Evangelical/Charismatic movement that reads Super Saint.

However, these aren’t the only issues that are dear to God’s heart and it’s disingenuous to propose that they are when someone as prominent as Yohe says, “Barack Obama introduced policies that Christians did not agree with”. What you are saying is that the Obama administration made it easier to gain access to safe abortions and paved the way to legalize gay marriage.

But what was the Father’s mandate to Adam in the Garden? Was it not to watch over its protection and proliferation? And yet we have a climate change denier who removed all references to the phenomenon that is harming Earth. Is that a Christian policy?

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Or what about when God instructed His people to ‘make the alien welcome you, for you were once wonderers in the land.’ Do Trump’s attitudes towards immigrants and his policy on immigrants sound vindictive or godly to you?

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What about training a child up in the way that s/he should go? Have you seen Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education? Is this the way you want our future to go?!?screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-3-21-28-am

 

Ma’am! Vicki Yohe! Go have a seat somewhere. It’s going to take you a while to come back from this – not because of what you’ve done – but because of who you are. The Blessed Auntie Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
Today, we believe you to be Becky, Choir Leader of the Bedraggled and of the Highest Order of Messy.

The Rejuvenating Power of Creation

In the summer of 2009, I paid a drop-in visit to my cousin in Ohio. She’s an extroverted introvert, so I knew my chances of catching her at home were pretty good. And home she was, just as I’d predicted.

Her house was exactly as I recollected, punctuated by the same accessories and scents that nestled themselves in memories from my previous visits. There were the beige suede sofa and love seat that she’d recently purchased to replace her old furniture, a color chosen because she’d raised 3 kids, who I suspect that though now fully grown, had robbed her of the confidence to commit to white. The beige suede matched the beige color on the walls and the beige carpet on the floor. The kitchen smelled of microwaved popcorn, and the guest bathroom in the hallway of potpourri. Upstairs was the “chill room”, where she bade me to follow her. It still carried the dank, earthy fragrance of weed, which she tried (unsuccessfully) to mask by opening the window and spraying Febreze after I’d informed her on arrival that I was not alone; Marshall was with me. To this day she is convinced that my God-adoring, deacon husband would judge or think poorly of her for harboring this ‘vice’. He doesn’t.

Amid all the familiarity, there was something visibly different about her house – or this room, rather – on this particular visit. My cousin pointed to a desk that used to house a laptop, a teacup and stacks of files.

“I make jewelry now,” she said proudly.

My eyes widened. “Really? Like…for real? You? Make jewelry?”

“Yeah, li’l nigga,” she laughed. “Come over here. Let me show you my stuff.”

You have to know my cousin to fully appreciate my surprise. She’s nothing if not analytical. Every job she’s ever held, for as long as I can remember, has been in accounting or payroll. She works with numbers. She went back to school to get her degree so that she could work with numbers in greater detail. Even when she worked with one of the country’s biggest fashion brands a few years ago, it was so that she could work with their numbers, not their clothing design team. Her idea of “freshening up her wardrobe” was to slip a silver necklace over her beige blouse to bring out the bling in the rivets of her mom jeans. So this new interest in jewel tones, baubles and jump rings came as a total shock.

The table was covered with all the trappings accessory creation, as well as some of her completed work. Some were really good; others not at all. In every piece, you could see the evolution of her new craft, not yet perfected, but getting much better with time. She tried to slip a beaded bracelet over my wrist, measured to fit her anatomy, but she’d lost a lot of weight since I’d last seen her and I’d gained far too much. It would be a shame to destroy the fruits of her hard work and send beads flying all over the room so soon upon arrival, so I told her to leave it be.

“What got you into this?” I asked with genuine interest.

“Girl! It’s therapeutic as fu…It’s therapeutic.” (Remember, The Deacon was in the room.) “It just helps me take an edge off, you know?”

I did not know, but I nodded as though I did, nevertheless.

She sat down to show me how she chose her beads, how she strung them together, how you have to make sure you tie knots securely with the whatchamacallit “so that your shi… errr…stuff don’t go flying everywhere.”

When her demonstration was completed and I had appropriately ooo’d and ahhh’d, we popped some popcorn, turned on Snapped, and caught up on family business.

I have only just begun to appreciate what ‘edge’ my cousin was referring to on that visit so many years ago. At the time, she was 42 and as I prepare to celebrate (or survive) the final year of my 30s, I see for myself how essential, how powerful it is to create something beyond what you believe is to be your scope of ability. I see this not only in myself, but in women whom I share a common generational experience with as well. I’d hazard that most women who reach their 40s are inspired to stretch their limits creatively, if they have the privilege to. By this time, life has knocked you about in myriad unforeseen ways, and it becomes natural to want to strike back.

Although I am a writer – and therefore a member of the creative arts – I have never considered myself a “creative”. Perhaps if I were a singer or a spoken word artist I might deserve the mantle…certainly if I were a visual artist…but I’m just a writer. It’s like being a daffodil in a field of sunflowers. Sure, I add color to the landscape, but even you will admit that the word “novelist” does not form an immediate association with the word “creative” in your mind’s eye. (Shhh…it’s okay.)

As a writer, I have to depend on words to create a vision, and lots of words if my inner thesaurus shuts down. But folks who are sculptors, photographers, tailors! Ahh…those are the creative arts. There’s something about conceiving a thing and seeing it manifest from raw wool, ink or cloth into item that is not just useful, but striking, that makes a part of your soul come alive. This is especially true if you’ve never seen yourself as capable of such a skill. Extending yourself beyond the norms of what you are most known for, what people would consider as “your thing”, is therapeutic as fu… It’s therapeutic.

This is how I know: On December 29th, 2016, I developed a tension headache that progressed into a full-blown migraine; my very first. It lasted twelve days. I thought I was going to have a stroke, my head was going to explode and then I was going to die. I couldn’t do much writing in that time – because I literally couldn’t THINK. But I knew I had to do something besides lie on my bed and wait out the pain. Sitting still and doing nothing for 12 days would kill a part of me I couldn’t do that. I discovered that what I could do was keep my upper body very still and use my hands to create something, even if that something wasn’t a string of coherent sentences. It was in those 12 days that I conquered my fear of the sewing machine and made fabric necklaces. Concentrating on something other than my affliction was essential to my survival. Some of you will be the fortunate recipients of the fruits of my anguish.

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These are my migraine inspired neck pieces: Purple Pain (L) and Scatter Your Brain (R)

See more of Elom's work at elomayayee.com

See more of Elom’s work at elomayayee.com

I discovered something else in that time. When I could bear the light emanating from my phone, I traveled around Instagram to see what my IG Tribe was up to. Everyone was ringing in the New Year creating. Nimi was knitting and Elom was taking phenomenal portraits…better portraits than she has in the past. (By the way, both women hold degrees in rocket science or volcano exploration…or something. I’ve not known them to be visual artists or craftswomen until lately.)

Nimi makes whimsical handmade scarves, booties, cute things. She's also a writer:www.nimisword.com

Nimi makes whimsical handmade scarves, booties, cute things. She’s also a writer:www.nimisword.com

Similarly, my sister (who is not on IG and who will probably fly to South Africa to beat me for sharing these images without her permission) had designed, drafted and built kitchen and living room furniture from scratch.

Not “assembled”. Built.

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She has a Masters in physics, and apart from those wood-planing sessions in JSS, has no formal training in carpentry. But this was IN her.

Unauthorized photos of my sister's work.

Unauthorized photos of my sister’s work.

If you look around your circle of friends, you will likely discover that any number of them has some hidden, untapped talent waiting to burst forth and give them new life. You may be tempted to encourage them to sell their creation(s) once discovered, but quell that encouragement if you can. Some of us create with the intention of selling our productions, but most Secret Creatives won’t. For the latter group, the profit is in the making of the item, not in making a profit. It is my personal belief that because we’ve been so wholly programmed as a culture to monetize everything – every act, every skill, and every thought! – that the sweetness of infant invention loses its savor and we abort creativity before it has a chance to live because our first thought is “What if it doesn’t make me money?”. As though if it does not offer a pecuniary return, it’s worthless. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a wind of fresh life that fills and rejuvenates you when you create something new; and that oxygen – that feeling – is far more precious than money.

This weekend, I was having coffee and a cry with a neighbor and our conversation took an unexpected turn to the creation story. We pondered over what God could’ve possibly been thinking when S/He made crazy stuff in the beginning. Things like water moccasins and lungfish and those little electric jellyfish that live at ocean depths that will crush you if you venture there without the right equipment. What were you thinking, Lord? Why make any of that? Now I imagine God’s answer would be: “Because I CAN.”

That’s good enough for me.

 

What hidden treasures lay inside of you? What CAN you create?

It Is Important That We Not Treat President Akufo Addo The Same Way That We Treated Former President Mahama

It appears that Melania Trump and Nana Akufo Addo completed the same course in Plagiarism at Trump University, the only difference being that Melania actually took credit for her “work”, saying with pride that she wrote her speech with very little help. Nana Addo has left his speechwriter to take the fall for his inaugural faux pas, which leaves many people (myself included) feeling some kind of way. All that NPP talk about personal accountability rings sort of hollow in the wake of this unofficial response to what is now an internationally recognized blunder. It’s one thing for the condescending Western media to carry a story…it’s a different beast entirely when Al Jazeera turns your error into headline. That’s how you know you’ve really FUBAR’d your job.

We can’t really feign shock at President Akufo Addo’s (or his aide’s) propensity for passing someone else’s work off as his own, can we? First of all, the New Patriotic Party has such an extensive and enduring hard on for being associated with the Republican Party – going as far as boasting about their twin elephant mascots and the coincidence of their parallel tenures in power – that they will do anything to imitate big brother…including, but not limited to pilfering intellectual property from Democrats politicians.

And let’s not act like NPP hasn’t been here before. The party that was supposed to represent a “change” in Ghanaian thinking and attitudes exhibited the same cultural proclivities for taking creative/intellectual property and passing it off as their own on several occasions. It is almost a year to the day that Kow Essuman – self-professed personal aide to then candidate Nana Addo – said that he would send back any invoice requesting payment for the unauthorized use of intellectual property by his party with a “NONSENSE” stamped on it.

We don't pay people and we don't attribute sources, either!!!!

We don’t pay people and we don’t attribute sources, either!!!!

It is now obvious that Nana Addo’s campaign team learned nothing from the experience. After all, since at the time they were only taking advantage of a lowly Ghanaian visual artist, their arrogance was warranted. It turns out that behavior was just a dress rehearsal for something much grander! On Inauguration Day, author Nana Awere Damoah playfully asked if those who had access to the brochure could spot any typos, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Brochuregate that dogged and embarrassed the country during the 2016 Independence celebrations. In a bid to outdo that gaffe, NPP saved the sweetest pepper for the proverbial waakye for the last. The PRESIDENT was going to parrot your favorite philanderer and warmonger and mine in 3-2-1…!

What a wow.

In an August 2016 interview with NTV, Hugh Masekela called Africans ‘bad imitations of those who oppressed us’. He intimated that Westerners don’t come to Africa to see Africans. They come to see the animals and the natural wonders, but don’t come to see US. Why? Because we are slowly, steadily, progressively losing our heritage and cultural identities in all spheres, politics and diplomatic relations most of all. Someone made the very poignantly observed hat in the history of all the brilliant and globally recognized thinkers that Nana Addo (or his aide) could have plagiarized, not ONE was an African. They had their pick from Patrice Loch Otieno Lumumba, Nelson Mandela to Ghana’s own Kofi Anan to draw “inspiration” from, but it appears these Black men weren’t good enough. Instead, they opted to cull from the inaugural speeches of Bill Clinton, JFK and George Bush, the lattermost whose excerpt was originally quoted by Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president who believed that Jim Crow and segregation was a benefit for Negroes. 

But you see, we cannot drag President Akufo Addo in the way that that they deserved, and certainly not in the way that their social media foot soldiers spent months dragging now Ex-President Mahama, because it’s Nana Akufo Addo and NPP at the helm, and both he and his party are purrrrfect. Did they not assure us on the campaign trail that the battle is Lord’s? Surely as its victors, Nana Addo is God’s anointed and appointed president and therefore impervious to imperfections? Major Prophet Sekou Nkrumah told us as much when he published this (misleading) meme of his father and a bespectacled boy on his personal Facebook page a few weeks ago.

Sekou wanted us to believe that this was a picture of his late father and Nana Addo as a boy. Turns out this was a kid from the South...of America.

Sekou wanted us to believe that this was a picture of his late father and Nana Addo as a boy. Turns out this was a kid from the South…of America.

Oh yeah. The party faithful loved that. Drank it up like Kalypo. The prophesy had come to pass!

As already mentioned, we cannot treat President Akufo Addo the same way Ghanaians treated John Mahama. Because reasons. And it is for those reasons that I posit the following questions as though there were being asked of Dramani Mahama and not his successor.

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Wow. So are really supposed to believe that after fighting for this position for 28+ years, you Mr. President didn’t have some exclusive, personal thoughts on what you wanted to say to the Ghanaian people? You haven’t been working on an inaugural speech since the 90’s? You didn’t have enough time to craft your own notables and quotables? Because I know if I had been rejected as many times for the office of the president as you have, I’d have some things I’d want to get off my chest. I’d have some things that needed saying, and I certainly ain’t pulling the words of Clinton and Wilson to reflect my mood. Is this what the words “I am a Ghanaian” represent now? Red, white, blue and Bush?

When I published my first book and had my first launch, I knew exactly what I was going to say and how I was going to say it. I may have run my ideas by a few people, but those were MY words. And when I drew inspiration from other authors, I certainly gave them credit because I know how long and arduous it is to think and write something memorable. Did your speechwriters run the inaugural address by you first and vice-versa? Did you approve it? Because if you did, it means you hired incompetent, unscrupulous speechwriters. How are the Ghanaian people supposed to have the confidence that you will hire competent, honest ministers, engineers and the like to steer the country towards much needed change? Why are you surrounding yourself with people who don’t even have the foresight to bring you water on a Harmattan day? Incompetence!

Furthermore, I knew exactly what I was going to wear.

And who decided for you to wear that kente? (The colors and theme of which I loved, by the way.) But WHO? Eh? It’s admirable that you harbor such body positive feelings about yourself and all, but don’t you think it was a little too early to introduce your mitties (man titties) to the nation? Every time you adjusted that massive cloth, we saw belly and moobies. Was there no ntama available? What about modesty? What about this generation that is looking up to you for guidance? Do you want big-breasted boys and girls to also be flashing their flesh for the public? I guess when you’ve made it to the top, you can bare it all, our sensory receptors and nightmares be damned.

Honestly, I’m glad the inauguration address was hampered by such and epic mess. I don’t know what Ghana would do if the office of the presidency weren’t a constant embarrassment to the nation, which is why I am grateful to the sitting leader of the nation.

What a way to launch.

You had ONE job, and all the slangs in the world can’t cover the fact that far too much of your speech was a sad carbon copy of white male thought and therefore, subversively, spoke to the white supremacist that is latent in every Ghanaian. How are we supposed to fight it when our leadership keeps nourishing it? You admit that our challenges are fearsome while quoting verbatim the words of an American. Chai!

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But we must never challenge or  ask these questions of a purrrrfect president who represents a puuuurfect party. Nana Addo and his team would never be guilty of such laziness and pathetic faux pas. They assured us as much while they were trolling their opposition and trolled their way to victory. Only John Mahama and NDC would do such a thing. This is why I have taken the liberty of introducing you to your new Commander in Chief, Nana Dramani Mahamaddo.

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Because NPP is perfect and because change as come.

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No. SHUT UP over there! Don’t tell me to chill. Do you know what it’s like to be waken from sleep with alerts from your Nigerian friends laughing at you? And to watch people you’re supposed to respect working over time to defend the sort of nonsense they devoted a years to decrying. YOU shut up!

 

 

Jerry John Rawlings Just Shaded Alfred Oko Vanderpuije To Hell


Former President JJ Rawlings is a man of many talents and titles, including but not limited to:

  • Coup Maker
  • Benevolent Dictator
  • Boom Speech Giver
  • Democracy Re-Introducer
  • Doctorate Holder
  • Peace Negotiator

Now, he can add a new title to his already impressive litany of appellations: Shaolin Monk. And not just any Shaolin Monk… One who has mastered all 36th chambers of stylistic combat. Because it is only someone who has been tested and weathered by time, intensity and adversity that could wordlessly quash the ambitions of a social climber such the Bearded One. Did you see this?

 

 

It was the block felt around the Continent. From Cape Town to Cairo, people are empathetically wincing from the ultimate shading that Accra Mayor Vanderpujie found himself subject to and eclipsed by. Did you see the way he fell aaaaall the way back? Oko is a man who lived through the 70s, and he knew exactly what time it was. When Shaft gives you that stare, you don’t talk back. You know a roundhouse kick to the head is coming so you take your cue stick and leave the bar if you don’t want trouble. Rawlings is Shaft and Vanderpujie is That Other Guy.

What did this man think was going to happen in the wake of these shenanigans? You just don’t run up on another Black man on the red carpet, like some star struck groupie, and expect to get a lollipop in return. What do you think this is? Carnival? Jerry ‘One Man, One Toilet’ Rawlings didn’t even have to say a word – didn’t even have to look the dude in the eye – before Oko Vanderpujie found his lane and obsequiously stuck to it.

That’s power. With a mere hand gesture, a grown man who has spent his entire career terrorizing Accra’s civilian population and throwing his clout around like an elephant marking its territory was disciplined like a class 6 pupil who dared to speak during the headmaster’s address at assembly.

The universe is full of visual wonders, and not all of us will be blessed to see them in our lifetimes. Aurora Borealis, a full Blood Moon, a volcanic eruption that gives birth to a new land mass are among these wonders. So too is Jerry Rawlings’ snub of Alfred Vanderpujie listed among those impressive natural phenomena. It was a display so dazzling that the ancestors stood and took notice. I can see Dr. Rawlings’ Scottish forefathers – Braveheart included- standing and applauding their son. His name will be mentioned in the halls of Valhalla with awe and trembling, and it is for this reason that for the remainder of our time here, we shall refer to him by his super-villain code name: Dr. Boom.

Some people have expressed their disdain for Dr. Boom’s behavior towards Oko. They say that he should have modeled his behavior after Barack Obama, who although having endured unpardonable insults from Trump and the GOP at large, was able to sit down and speak with either party, as a statesman ought. Barack Obama repeatedly displays magnanimity, they say. Obviously, I haven’t crept into Dr. Boom’s secret lair for his reaction to this criticism, but I would imagine his response to his detractors would go something like this:

Will you kip kwah-yet?!? Will you just sharrap over there? Ok3 mini? Barack Obama is what. Let me ask you a question: Is Barack Obama ME? I have toenails that have seen more adversity than Barack Hussein Obama has. I appreciate that the brother has had a hard time in the White House, but real talk, I’ve taken dumps that have endured more pressure than he has. You know why? Because African politics; that’s why. Obama only has a passing familiarity with the way this continent works. In his 50 years living on the planet he’s been here, what, 5 times? And then has the gall to tell us about how we need to run things. Lemme tell you something: I LIVE here. Do you know what kind of SHYTE I have to listen to from my co-leaders in ECOWAS alone? These people are not serious. But because everyone has an ego, tempered only by an army corps that they have to keep satisfied, there is a way we have to relate to each other. You can’t show fear. You can’t have shook feet. You can’t be too accommodating. Everyone is ready to show that he’s harder than the next guy. So when a nigga like The Bearded One steps outta line, it is incumbent upon me – nay, imperative – to remind him what zone he belongs to. There are levels to this. In the political atmosphere, there are levels, I said! Oko occupies the troposphere. I’m outchea in the thermosphere. Above me are God and the ancestors. So naturally, I reached deep into my spirit man and Mortal Kombatted him with my chakra.

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Call me when Barack Obama has flown a fight jet between a 10-foot space and lived to tell the tale. Then we will all have something to vibe about. I’ve set up an entire village for Liberian refuges. Dude can’t even get his government to talk about letting Syrians into the country beyond saying ‘no’. But you want ME to act like OBAMA?

indexBe like Barack Obama indeed. If this were a movie – say “Tropic Thunder’ – I’d be Kirk Lazarus. Obama would be Kenvin Sandusky… really smart, with just enough talent to pass for a decent character actor and grateful for the opportunity. Oko is Jeff Portnoy: just here for his farts. So no…I did not let him walk with me on the red carpet uninvited. If I executed the snub correctly, he should be hearing Ludacris’ Move B*tch from now until 2018.

 

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I mean seriously. I don’t think Alfred Oko Vaderpujie understood what mindset Dr. Boom had to be in at that moment. The man was there to listen to the final eulogy for the party he founded and has guided for the past 30+ years, and Oko popped out of thin air and into his personal space like Jar Jar Binks at Buckingham Palace at teatime. Why???

Did you call me to come here? No? Well here I am!!!

Did you call me to come here? No? Well here I am!!!

The State of the Nation Address had to be a sobering moment for the former president. The demise of the NDC, for the next 12 years at least, is inevitable. Because if Mahamudu Bawumia decides to run in 2020 and proves himself to be true to who he was on the campaign trail, NPP will be undefeatable. The NDC is going to have to raise up a political rock star of Freddie Mercury proportions to even have a shot at the presidency in the shirt term. Does the NDC have a Queen front man waiting in the wings that we don’t know about? Doubtful. All of this must have been weighing heavily on Dr. Boom’s mind when this jester in a Hawaiian button-down shirt interrupted his thoughts and tried to keep step with him. If you were at a function to bury your vision, wouldn’t you have shut down the miscreant who has dedicated a portion of his energy to making sure that vision met an undignified end? Of course you would. Hence: BLOCKDT.

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May the enemies of your progress be blocked with the strength of the Rawlings Shade-Step-Windmill combo. If you employ this maneuver, your obstacles will have no choice but to fall. Watchaaa now!

Is Sugabelly Sick… Or Are We Just Too Repulsed to Admit That’s She’s Right?

Sugabelly is a personality on Twitter who has gained notoriety through expressing radical views on feminism and her disdain for certain aspects of Nigerian culture, among other things. I followed her for about 24 hours 2 or more years ago, but I found her espoused positions on Abrahamic faiths not just intolerant (which is inconsequential, as we are living in a post-tolerance age), but unnecessarily malevolent. She routinely makes it a point to denigrate people who ascribe to Judeo-Christian beliefs and I personally didn’t require that sort of abuse in my life. Nevertheless, she has a legion of followers and a verified account, which is to say that she may not be astute in all her suppositions, but she certainly has influence. All this is to say that I only hold a vague familiarity with the way her mind works, so I don’t pretend to speak for her. Like Charlie Sheen’s wish wish for 2016 to take Trump instead of the slew of talented people it felled, Sugabelly does take a position many have wrestled with internally, but would never be stupid/courageous enough to assert publicly.

This is one of her most recent contributions to the conversation about gender and oppression in global society.

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I hardly know where to begin. One person described Sugabelly as being that “one chimpanzee who couldn’t wait to begin controversy in the new year.” It’s been pretty quite on the news front – the media’s constant shoveling of Trump’s shyte notwithstanding – and I was really hoping that we’d begin the first conversation of the new year with something more mundane. Something like…oh, I dunno… 10 ways to lose 10 pounds in 10 days, but the Innanet gods would not have it so. So here we are.

Women like Sugabelly are not particularly welcome in nouveau (African) feminists circles because they pose a real threat to the advancement of the African feminist agenda, such as I have casually observed it. She – and the women who ascribe to her values – are seen as extremists, and unrepentant ones at that. The average African feminist is more DuBoisian in her approach to equality, seeking to integrate (and ingratiate) themselves with men, whereas Sugabelly is far more radical; dare I say early Malcolm X in her approach. Her utterances often give the Talented Tenth of Afri-feminist leadership palpitations, but few women are willing to take her on directly. Frequently, they are content to discuss and deride her from the safety of their inboxes or personal Facebook walls, but rarely in her mentions where it truly counts. I see why. Sugabelly is relentless and malicious. She’ll hurt your feelings BAD, and it’s hard to recover from a Sugabelly inflicted injury.

But as to her latest remarks: Does she have a point? It will shock you to hear me say it, but I believe so. In a twisted way, I think she’s right, and the way people interact (or avoid interaction) with Sugabelly herself is testament to that.

Before you misunderstand me; NO, I do not think that women should begin wholesale, systematic murder of men every time they are slighted. That would be to advocate the same fragile masculinity we all universally agree is a juvenile and abhorrent response to a negative experience. I wish – and do hope – that Sugabelly will take the time to express her views in detail, but in the immediate absence of that occurrence, I will attempt to interpret what I think is her eventual conclusion here.

Men see men as human, while men see women as objects. This was the conclusion that one of my favorite bloggers and thinkers came to on a recent thread on Twitter. A woman is something that a man acquires, which is why men comfortably equate their relationship with women to the condition of a car, a timeshare, what have you. Because women are objects to be acquired, possessed, controlled and governed, there is a diminished fear of women, certainly a tapering of respect for the gender. We see this in how relationships with women are pursued, however casual.

Image source: pintrest

Image source: pintrest

Assume a man – your average Joe of average breeding – is looking to expand his social circle of male compatriots. Say he’s looking to play basketball with a new set of friends. What are the chances that he’s going to sit on his stoop and “holla” at every passing guy who looks like he’d be fit enough to engage in a pick up game? Very slim, because men are more likely to respond violently if they feel like they’ve been disrespected.

“Ei, dawg. Ei! You wanna hit the court with me yo? Then maybe we can hit the showers afterwards…. Whatsamatter? You don’t like new friends? I’m just trying to holla atcha, homie!”

He’d get his clock cleaned, for sure. Or even if he didn’t he’s subconsciously aware that engaging with another man in such a manner increases his chances of a series of blows to the face. And yet women are expected to respond favorably to catcalls, whistles and comments from perfect strangers about their bodies or what the verbal assailant would do to that body behind closed doors. Because women aren’t “human”. They are “women”, which is something else entirely in the minds of many men. #NotAllMen

It is unfortunate that the threat of violent retaliation is what motivates people (in this conversation, men) to treat others with respect and dignity. If more men found themselves among these statistics, I’ve no doubt that the conversation – and attitudes – about respecting boundaries where women are concerned. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women published the following quick facts on its website:

  • In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
  • In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related death were reported in 2007; an unknown number of murders of women and young girls were falsely labeled ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’.
  • In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners.
  • In the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, 66 percent of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.

It is estimated that in America alone, an average of 3 women are killed per day by her intimate partner.This speaks nothing of the women who are assaulted in bars, parks and other public spaces for unforgivable infraction for not speaking back, refusing to provide a working phone number upon request and “not smiling”. Can you imagine a man smashing another man in the face because he didn’t smile in response? If there is violence against another male to be perpetrated, it’s in response to stepping on another man’s new shell toes or bumping into him, causing him to spill his drink. Even then, the threat of violence is quickly deescalated and neutralized with a simple, “My bad, bruh.”

Naturally, I don’t agree that women should have to resort to slapping the taste out of every man who presents himself as a disrespectful figure, but I do acknowledge that that sort of fear has power. The threat of immediate, swift and brutal retaliation is how African slaves were kept in check all over the New World and how African dictators maintain power. The threat of bodily harm, or withholding resources that will eventually lead to the body’s ability to thrive, is an effective tool of oppression. And right now, that tool is employed with regularity by patriarchal men.

Is Sugabelly’s assessment that societies can’t improve until women begin to employ the same oppressive tactics, including killing? Yes; but just as sick is the society/justice that gives a man 3 months in jail for raping a woman behind a dumpster, or one that forces 13 year old girls to marry her rapist. I think that as repugnant as her assertion is, it is even more so that global attitudes about gender relations give it credibility. The grim reality is that she’s not entirely wrong. By and large, our global societies are founded on and governed by the idea that might = right.

If only we could all be more like Iceland…