Birthday Con(ned), 2016

“Sigh…”

I looked up from my phone, irritated. It seems like Nadjah is always sighing about one thing or another these days.

“What? What is it?” I demanded. I was in no mood for her mercurial tween angst. Her episodes had been a burden on my nerves for weeks.

“Well… It’s just that my birthday is coming up, and I think it’s going to be pretty lame because we’re not in Atlanta any more.”

I softened a bit. It just so happened that in that very moment, I was missing Atlanta as well. I missed the blending of cultures; the hundreds of venues and events from which to choose for entertainment; and Chick-Fil-A. We always miss Chick-Fil-A. And DragonCon. The painful memory of its omission from our social calendar was still fresh in my and the children’s minds. We’ve been attending the Con as a family since Aya was in a stroller. I put my hand on Nadjah’s cheek and sighed with her.

Now I understand completely what happened, of course. Hindsight is always 20/20. It is because she caught me snacking on roasted peanuts and raisins instead of waffle fries and thick ketchup that I found myself beholden to the ridiculous idea that I proffered. The torment I have experienced over the previous two weeks is of no one’s making but my own – for it was with my own lips and through my own face that I said:

“You know what? Since we didn’t get to go to DragonCon this year, why don’t we have ‘NadjahCon’ for your birthday?”

“What?”

“Yeah! You and all your friends dress up in cosplay, we’ll have some games…”

“…and a photo booth, and prizes!”

“Ok… Sure.”

“I’m going to be Hatsune Miku blah, blah, blah, blah, blahhhh….”

I had no idea who or what this Hatsune Miku person was, but knowing my child as I do, I knew that creating this entity was going to cost me a pretty penny. *Spoiler alert: It has.*

For the next 4 days, every conversation we had was about the invitations I was promised to design and make.

Put me on an invitation!
Put me on an invitation!

“Mommy, I drew Hatsune like I said I would. Are the invitations done yet?”

“Mommy, did you do them yet?”

“Mommy…the invitations!”

 

Mind you, we have no functioning printer in our house, so I have to run to a local joint called The Print Shop and give them 60 cents per page anytime I need to fulfill an order. 60 cents doesn’t sound like a lot, until you multiply it by a billion. Because guess who didn’t line up her images correctly? Yes. This chick… this chick right here. And guess who had to pay The Print Shop a nice little grip to re-print the cards? You know don’t how much I wish the answer to that question was Your momma!

Sigh.

At this point, it’s all gotten completely out of hand. I’m making pterodactyl eggs, commissioning a local seamstress to make superhero capes for the kids who are SURE to show up without a costume and scattering money all over town for props. I am behaving like a Nigerian mother but operating without an Oga’s budget. You think my husband is in support of this foolishness?

“Why can’t she just have a couple of friends over, have some pizza, and have a sleepover?”

I would have (possibly) been in favor of that plan if Pastor Grant hadn’t done that thing when he bends his body at the knees, widens his eyes and speaks in slow, deliberate terms. Like he’s talking to someone in the process of making a series of poor, regrettable decisions and he’s trying desperately to get through to them with reason.

Naturally, I rebuffed his suggestion with a counterpoint of my own.

“That’s LAME, Marshall!”

And that’s how your craftily challenged blogger friend here ended up making a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shell out of papier-mâché and several “indestructible” shields out of cardboard and hot glue.

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As I was mulling over my self-inflicted wounds, the eldest of my loin fruit joined me in the living room and settled herself on the sofa across from me.

“Yes?”

“You know what, Mommy? I was thinking. Instead of calling it ‘NadjahCon’, can we just call it ‘BDayCon’?”

NadjahCon sounded too self-absorbed, apparently. I just looked at her, grunted my approval and redesigned the invitations…again.

Yesterday, after I’d gotten back from Home Express (the US equivalent of Dollar Tree), where I had dropped the same obscene amount of money that every woman leaves in any discount store where she walks in with the intention of getting ‘one thing’, a thought occurred to me.

Maybe…maybe Nadjah could’ve gotten her best buddies together and just gone OUT for dinner. Maybe…maybe milkshakes with her friends could have been good enough. Perhaps – and I was just standing there in the sun thinking out loud, mind you – but perhaps we all could’ve just watched the highlights of DragonCon 2016 on YouTube instead of trying to live out a counterfeit version in the middle of South Africa with a bunch of kids who have no idea what cosplay is or how it works or might not find it interesting in the least.

Oh well. We’ll never know, will we? Tomorrow I go in search of PVC pipe so that I can construct a frame for the steampunk inspired photo booth. Like I said, I’ve gone too far to turn back now.

I’m glad we changed the name of the party to BDayCon 2016. It’s totally apt. Not only did I get conned into producing a major party, but I played myself.

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*This isn’t one of the worst mistakes I’ve made in my parenting journey, but it certainly isn’t one of my finest hours. Have you ever parented out of guilt? At what point did you decide this point was far enough and decide to pull back? Or are you like me – just riding all the way into the Danger Zone with no decorum nor common sense? Discuss! 

 

 

 

The Religious Right Has Ignored Its Role in Propagating Abortion. That Ends Now.

Q: “Serious question: Evangelicals, how could you do it? How could you support Trump?”

A: “We did it to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. We did it to protect the unborn.”

 *******

“So excited! I took my daughter in the booth with me to vote today. I asked her if we should vote for the candidate who wants to save unborn babies, or the one who doesn’t. We voted to save babies.”

 

This is just a small sample of the conversations I’ve seen online from those who have been brave (or nonchalant) enough to voice for their support for Donald Trump.

Pastors routinely encourage their congregations to vote for the candidate that’s going to protect life, support Israel and defend heterosexual marriage. There is rarely any critical examination of a candidate beyond these three mandates, the logic being that believers are in this world, but not of it. (Ref John 17:16) Over time as the Evangelical Movement has become mainstream and the most recognized form of Christianity after Catholicism, and abortion and gay marriage have become THE voter issue(s) that Christians care about. I know my pastor couldn’t stop talking about it. It’s a narrow way to view the world, and it is unhelpful, as it takes into no consideration why women often feel compelled to seek an abortion in the first place. In order to do that, the church (and all who follow the tenants of any Abrahamic religion, really) would have to look itself in the mirror and accept blame.

Being a single-issue voter is not a trait that inspires admiration; however, it has been a luxury that the American voter has enjoyed ever since Civil Rights had been achieved and Roe v Wade was enacted. In terms of core values, there is nothing that truly separates Democrats from Republicans. The difference is only in the approach to achieving their goals. This is why no matter who wins a presidential election, Americans have been able to work together to achieve those core values. That is not the case with the election of Donald Trump, a man who has vowed a complete shut down on Muslims entering the country, vowed to impose “law and order” (read police harassment) in inner cities, encouraged his supporters to physically assault protestors at his rallies, promised to hire a special prosecutor to jail his political opponent, advanced ideas about jailing/punishing women who carry out abortions and preyed on women sexually, just to name a few. Oh, and he has some casinos that feature nice restaurants. I wouldn’t want to be accused of being biased in my assessment of Donald Trump.

I’m not here to discuss with my Bible believing friends and readers how for support for a Trump presidency is inconsistent with calling yourself a holder of Christian values. How do you justify electing a man who completely embodies the opposite of all the values you say you hold dear? I won’t discuss today how hurt I am to discover that your latent white supremacist biases would allow you to vote for a man who has the endorsement of the KKK precisely because his rhetoric has been racist and because his proposals would adversely affect marginalized groups. You’ve convinced yourselves that God is white and/or holds Republican values, and any conversation on the topic would be futile. I see where we stand.

Today, I want to talk to you about your ‘one’ issue…the issue you said would preclude you from supporting Hillary Clinton due to her stand: Abortion.

Do you recognize the part you have historically played in making abortions not only necessary, but desirable? You probably don’t, but that obliviousness is also a luxury privileged groups enjoy. And yes, Christians have been the privileged majority in America since its inception.

Abortion has its roots in shame and guilt, two emotions that paternal societies and religions have used to manipulate the multitudes for centuries. Let’s consider Mary, who was chosen as a vessel to carry God’s Son and fulfill His word. What did Joseph have to do when she informed him of her divine pregnancy? He took her away, not wanting to make an example of her. Being with child outside of the bonds of marriage was a grievous (and punishable) sin. Societal attitudes towards unwed mothers haven’t change in over a thousand years. In the 1940s and 50s, we saw how unwed mothers in Europe and America were forced to either give up their babies for adoption (or sale), or uprooted from their family life completely in order to cover the shame of getting pregnant out of wedlock. How many couples have been forced into shotgun weddings to cover the humiliation of getting pregnant out of wedlock? How many lives have been completely destroyed as a result of those forced unions? The conservative/Abrahamic religious mind and attitude toward women and pregnancy has wreaked havoc across the world for generations.

In West Africa amongst the Akans, there was a saying that ‘a baby was for us all’. A baby, no matter the circumstances of its birth was something to be celebrated. Everyone played a part in that child’s success. It takes a village to raise a child is a concept Hillary Clinton – and others – coopted from Africa. But what have we seen with the spread of Judeo Christian values in Africa? The tyranny of shame surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Just as it is in America, there is only one right time to have a baby, and if a child is conceived outside of those confines, it’s cause for humiliation, not celebration. Most of the time, women and girls are made to shoulder the burden of that humiliation, while men are spared any torment. In the face of this, an abortion looks like a more attractive option.

The Church is not really pro-life. The modern Church is merely anti-abortion. If the Church was pro-life, it would have put structures in place to support young women and girls as they prepare to bring life into this world. Pastors would not spit hateful words to make these women feel like criminal delinquents. Unwed or not, women would feel more confident in announcing their condition. This is not the case.

After a yearlong tryst with Douche Bag, I found myself pregnant. We had already ended things prior to this discovery, so I had no intention of marrying him. He took the news poorly, as was to be expected. However when I told by a select number of Christian counterparts, I was told I needed to “go see Pastor XXX and pray and ask God’s forgiveness!”

When a friend of mine got pregnant and decided to keep the baby, her paramour – who was a deacon in the church and later became her husband – was stripped of his duties while she was whispered about behind her back and made to feel like a pariah.

My South African housekeeper’s daughter got pregnant at 17. I’ve known her since she was 13. When I hugged her and told her I couldn’t wait to meet her baby, her mother said, “Get down on your knees! Tell Malaka that this was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life!” This is a church going woman.

These stories are not unique. These are the norm. So when I hear Christians claim that they voted and supported a violent fascist for their presidential candidate because he’s going to protect the “innocence of life”, I call bull. What about the innocent men that populate America’s overflowing prisons? What about the law abiding same sex couple that gets hateful words hurled at them? What about the immigrant who really wants a path to legal citizenship, but finds his/her path blocked at every turn by unnavigable legislation and is forced deeper underground just to survive? Not everyone can emigrate from Slovakia and find their path to citizenship by marrying a septuagenarian billionaire. These lives are innocent and worthy of protection as well. You do yourself and the God you serve a grave disservice when you refuse to be nuanced in your advocacy. God doesn’t just care about one group of people, and neither should you.

To the degree that your cause and preaching has participated in making a woman feel uncomfortable/ashamed/desperate in her state of pregnancy is the degree to which you’ve driven her to have an abortion, the very procedure that you find so repugnant. We shame women for getting pregnant, we shame them for seeking public assistance to bring a healthy baby into the world, we shame them for terminating a pregnancy that nobody – maybe not even herself – seems to want. Again, this is not being pro-life.

Evangelicals who overwhelmingly supported Trump will have to take a hard look at themselves over the course of the next 4 years, when they watch their neighbors battle severe illnesses with Ibuprofen because they no longer have access to healthcare, or when their children come home to report how their friends have taken to shouting “Go back to Mexico/Africa! Build that wall!” in the lunchroom. When the chaos that has ensued over the last 48 hours has not fizzled out but only heightened and expanded in other unanticipated areas. You will have to tell us all then if criminalizing and blocking a woman’s access to abortion was all worth it.

*I’ve focused on Christianity in this piece because it’s what I’m most familiar with. What does your religion or worldview say about pregnancy and life? Does it support women, or does it force, punish and dictate how their bring life into the Earth?

Why I Am Very Happy With My Children’s South African Education

One of the tenants of being a Good African Mother is to make sure that your children have a quality education that will ultimately prepare them for one of three respectable professions – those being: Doctor, Lawyer and Engineer. (Engineer usurped ‘Banker’ about 15 years ego, coinciding with the rise of the proliferation of social media, a tool African Parents employ to spy on their African Children.) With Chimamanda’s rise to prominence and influence, we may be able to add “author” as a fourth option to this coveted list, but I suspect that any foray into the world of professional writing will have to be preceded by an attempt – at least – at one of the previously mentioned professions. On second thought, that wouldn’t be advisable. The shame of being forever known as the African Child who dropped out of medical/law/engineering school would be too much to bear…unless you’re Chimamanda.

The lesson is, just become Ms. Adichie if you harbor no plans of becoming a proper professional.

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Whatever career track my children decide to follow, it’s my job to prepare them for it. Some people have expressed concern about the quality of education that the Grant kids will be receiving in South Africa, a concern that I carried with me coming from the US as well. South Africa’s educational statistics are pretty grim. There’s no denying that. Only 71.2% of grade six level South African children are literate (source: Unesco), this despite the $1, 225 South Africa spends on primary education per pupil, one of the highest investment amounts on the continent. The legacy of apartheid in education is still very real, and effects policy today. Students who live in townships are routinely bussed into more affluent school districts where there are better teachers, better facilities and better chances at networking with who will become colleagues and leaders in the future. If you’re reading this and it sounds eerily familiar – say, the way education and opportunity works in America – you’re not too far off. Affluence works the same way globally.

While we are not as wealthy as the average Plettonian, we still find ourselves in an income bracket that is above what the average person of color earns in this corner of the country. The education that our kids are benefiting from comes at a premium, and I have no delusions about that. We pay R1000 per child per month. The average domestic worker or day laborer can reasonably expect to earn R3000-4000 a month for their labor, earnings which must be spread over rent, feeding, transportation and other living expenses. I spoke to a Zimbabwean art dealer who wanted to get his son into Plett Primary where my kids attend school, and he lamented that it was really “difficult” to get the boy in. Without saying as much, I knew he was talking about affordability.

Good and quality education should not come with a steep price tag, but it often does. South Africa is no exception to this. Since we have found ourselves in this fortunate position, I will take the time to say that I do appreciate what and how my kids are being taught here. The pace is much faster than what they were accustomed to in the States, and they are being taught fundamentals that are being lost in Western education… fundamentals as basic as handwriting.

My eldest child is very much like her mother and has abysmal handwriting. Because very little schoolwork is computer based in this country, it is essential to have neat and legible handwriting, something that her teachers emphasis with every project she turns in. Developing this skill will only go on to assist her with the visual art career she claims she has decided to pursue.

I believe my children are getting a more rounded approach to education. In addition to core subjects like math, language and science, they are taught life skills and ballroom dancing. Sports is considered equally important as any other subject on the time table, and after leading a largely sedentary school life in the States, it’s great to see my children take an interest in clubs that are physically demanding. And the best part? They are free. I don’t have to pay a bunch of money in dues, fees or extra equipment that would likely go unused. Every term, they are given a chance to explore a new sport club, including surfing. Our teachers are generally willing to help our kids after school to get them caught up in the subjects they are struggling in; but I can’t say for certain that this is the sort of dedication you could expect from a township teacher who might show up to work drunk, if at all.

Everything sounds rosy, right? Up until 7th grade, everything will be. That’s when it pretty much goes to crap.

Primary education in South Africa provides a solid foundation for learning, but high school is much trickier. Our options for high school are very limited in this area. There are three schools from which to choose: Plett Sec, which is the equivalent of East Side High pre-Joe ‘Batman’ Clark; Wittedrift which is a’ight; and Greenbay College, which is non-accredited. There are just no good choices for high school to prepare one to compete globally…unless you live in a larger city like Johannesburg or Cape Town where education is more likely to be privatized, for profit and accessible to those who can afford it. This same trend follows through to university, which has had students protesting and toi toi-ing on campuses across the nation to needle the government to keep its promise to provide free tertiary education.

What to do about preparing for university is a problem We will probably have to home-school our kids once it’s time for high school, a prospect no one in this house is looking forward to. If I thought they could bear it, I’d send them to Ghana to attend HGIC, but I don’t think that they qualify as academic enough. I’m raising a visual artist, remember? HGIC only graduates future Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers.

I might have better luck with this African Mothering thing with the younger children.

 

*Do you home school your kids? Would you ever consider it? Did your parents home school you – and if they did, do you feel it prepared you for life? I really want to know!

 

 

How Do White Men Feel When White Women Pass Them Over For Black Men?

I like to imagine the guys over at Men’s Health/GQ/Esquire/Popular White Male magazine tossing around a mini foam football to each other as they pitch ideas for an upcoming issue.

“How about testicular cancer?”

“Nah. We did that last issue. Exposés on cancer cycle every 4 months. Don’t want to alarm the readership.”

“Right…right.”

“Five foods to feed your muscles?”

“Nice play with alliteration, Josh, but we’re looking for something edgy…something we’ve never done before.”

A shadowy figure emerges from the back of the room. The Ping-Pong table once occupied that space, before it was unceremoniously replaced with the communal keg following HR’s approval, of course. It was Ryan. Ryan was a rogue…and one of the most respected minds at Pop White Male Mag. He’d clearly been guzzling from the keg.

“What if…and this is crazy, but hear me out… What if we did a story about how rejected white men feel whenever we see a white chick dating or married to a Black guy.”

Gasps erupt all over the room.

“Ohmigod. Like, we could talk about how Black Dude probably has this enormous cock.”

“Or how he shoots a basketball really good!”

“Dude! Or how he’s probably amazing in bed…!”

“Thanks, Will. I think we covered that already.”

Photo credit: major league dating
I’m just going to sit here by this still water and contemplate my abysmal life because white women keep leaving me for Black men! Photo credit: major league dating

Soon the room is buzzing with chatter and ideas about all the reasons why white men would suffer from apoplectic feelings of rejection just knowing that there was a white woman – famous or not – who’d chosen to wed herself to a Black guy.

“Guys, guys. We can take this even further. What if we had a double feature and talk about how white-on-white crime is destroying the white community?”

More gasps.

“Jeeezus! That’s brilliant!”

“All those meth moms neglecting their kids…”

“And the baskets of deplorables who rape their step kids…”

“Or traffic little blond girls during football season…”

“Ohio would be a GREAT place to gather special interest stories on white-on-white crime…”

“All we have to do is pitch it to the guys upstairs.”

A hush falls over the room.

“They’ll never go for it.”

“I know. MAN! It would’ve been such a good feature. It’s not fair! All the Black magazines get to do it.”

“Right. But that’s because we don’t have to portray the same image they. We’re heterosexual WASP men…we have a different standard, y’know?”

“Can’t be seen rolling around in the gutter, fishing for ideas…”

“So! Five Foods to Feed Your Muscles it is?”

Everyone agrees and gets to work.

 

******

 

Can I tell you how desperately I wish the men and women who run these “progressive & enlightened” Black blogs, online forums and infotainment spaces would come to the same conclusions about interracial dating, particularly where the feelings of Black women are concerned? Because it really is akin to lobster diving in the gutter for story ideas. Just like there are no edible lobsters in a sewer near you, there is no story about Black women and feeling some kind of way about Black men who have “passed us over”.

I honestly don’t think we’ve cared as a group since Waiting to Exhale.

Nevertheless, in the previous 24 hours alone, I’ve seen two articles about successful Black men who have chosen to marry white women (Damon Dash and Luke Cage’s Mike Colter). Both articles relied on old tropes to advance the idea that there are hoards of bitter Black women who stew at home in rollers and satin caps, furious that aforementioned famous Black Man had the gall not to choose a woman that looked like them. This woman does not exist, or rather; she does not represent the majority of Black women’s feelings on the matter. The average Black woman doesn’t care who you date/procreate with. You know why? Because most of us – the vast majority of us – understand that most of these men exist in realms outside of our daily existence. Our chances of interacting are slim to nil. Secondly, a Black man’s choice to date outside of the race isn’t a personal slight or a rejection. That choice only translates into rejection when Black men actively do things like this:

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(You can peruse the rest of Vibe’s tawdry list on here http://www.vibe.com/2012/07/10-reasons-black-guys-prefer-white-girls/)

You know what? If I was a white woman reading this I’d be offended beyond belief. This is ignorant trash, feeding on equally tired ideas about white female fragility and subservience. I’m here to tell you that a white woman will absolutely destroy your world and set your body on fire if you cross her.

As for Black women?

We don’t care, we don’t care, WE DON’T CARE if Black men prefer white women. All that we ask is that you not disparage us in the process of exercising your right to choose your companion. I don’t know of any other race that so proudly speaks ill of their women for teehee’s and retweets or a cheap coin or two. You can legitimately talk about an appreciation for Kate Upton’s wavy hair without expressing a disdain for Janelle Monae’s luscious locks. If you happen to prefer Gwyneth Kate Paltrow’s flat bottom over Serena William’s plump rump, so be it! Both are beautiful in their own right. Black women honestly don’t care. What’s hurtful is when you feel a need to insult us, our features, our experiences, our existence itself to justify your dating preferences. If we’re “angry, bitter and mouthy”, it’s because we constantly have to defend ourselves from a verbal onslaught.

Lots of successful (and just as many futureless) Black men are married to white women. However, many more men who pursue marriage are married to Black women.

Overall, statistics show that the percentage of Black women getting married is actually on the rise. The U.S. Census Bureau is also shutting down rumors that Black men are not marrying Black women. Nearly 90 percent of Black men had Black wives in 2010, compared to only 9 percent that were married to white women.

The entertainment and sports industries are not reflective of reality. A Black man like Kanye needs to live in the Kardashian’s parallel universe, because he’s not equipped to deal with the realities that most Black people have to deal with. So yes, in that sense, he was very fortunate that Kim passed over a legion of white men to marry him.

But then that brings me to my original point. Why has no publication ever dedicated as much time to investigating how white men feel about being overlooked in favor of Black men? Are they not a part of this equation too, or are hurt feelings the domain of Black women alone? I mean, I know why this question has never been asked, just as well as you do. The perception is that white men are paragons of virtue and gallantry. He is Hercules; Socrates; Caesar. Even his faults provide models for instruction, which is why men like Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump can maintain positions of power. Redemption is for white men. If a white woman would pass all of that over in pursuit of a Black male who represents the antithesis of all these things, then she must be a defective, irredeemable model.

And this is why you will never hear the words ‘And when she get on, she’ll leave you’re a** for a black boy’ written into a Top 40 song anywhere, any time, in the history of anything. Because power dynamics.

In conclusion, I would like to speak on behalf of the Black Women’s Delegation and assure we are not jealous and we don’t care. We care about rent. We care about getting the A/C fixed before next summer. We’re focused on making sure our sons and daughters live to a ripe old age and survive this here police state. All these imputed hurt feelings about being ‘passed over’ for white women is nothing more than white noise.

 

Any white guys reading this today? How do you feel when you see white women with Black men? Does it hurt? Do you feel rejected? Do white women make you feel inferior/inadequate for not having coarse, curly hair or jet black skin? I’m here to listen…

I Watched the Clinton/Trump Debate With My Kid and It Was EPIC

I can't believe someone was thinking EXACTLY what I was thinking! I literally just chanced upon this image! Source: worldofwonder.com
I can’t believe someone was thinking EXACTLY what I was thinking! I literally just chanced upon this image! Source: worldofwonder.com

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced each other in their first public debate vying for the position of ruler or the Seven Kingdoms where one of them will eventually govern from King’s Landing aka the White House. Seriously, if there was ever a better metaphor for Game of Thrones, it was the mess that unfolded before us on Monday night. There was Clinton – blond, cold and calculating as Khaleesi Daeneryys Targaryen herself, and Trump who couldn’t decide whether to channel Joffery Baratheon or Jeff Portnoy from ‘Tropic Thunder’. I mean… both characters are white dudes with blondish hair and erratics behavior, both with names that begin with a letter“J”, so whatevs and close enough as far as Trump was concerned.

I ended up watching the debate 18 hours after it aired because I value my sleep far more than I do investing my time to two wealthy white people spout platitudes and deny their racist proclivities (one more convincingly than the other), and by this time my oldest child had gotten home from school. She flopped onto my bed and gave me a quick hug.

“Whatcha watchin’?”

“The presidential debates.”

“Oooo! Mind if I watch with you?”

“Nope. Slide on under the covers.”

And that she did. By this time, Lester Holt had welcomed the audience to the forum, informed us that Clinton had won the coin toss and assured us that both candidates had agreed to the two minute time limit allotted to answer the questions put before them. The entire world already knew that Trump had zero intentions of sticking to these rules. The man doesn’t even possess enough integrity to pay his taxes, so sticking to a two-minute monologue was a pretty big ask. I knew this, every adult reading this blog knew this, but for children watching a debate of this style for the very first time – and having the cognitive maturity to understand what was going on – watching Donald Trump flagrantly disregard these rules was shocking.

My daughter is 11 ½ and her reactions were priceless.

“Why does he keep interrupting her when she’s talking?” Nadjah asked, clearly perplexed. My explanation was not swift enough. “Oh my GOSH! Let the woman talk!”

I chuckled to myself, and then I grew pensive. This was a good learning experience. The exasperation that she felt at this moment is something she would eventually learn to cope with. As she leaves our nest and eventually enters the work place, she too will be interrupted by men, be told that her years of schooling and experience is “bad”, and held to a moral standard that some douchebag in khakis and Sperry’s has never lived up to a day in his professional or personal life.

“Mommy. Why is he sniffing life that?”

Because he’s probably on drugs, baby. 89.99% of all wealthy white men do some form of recreational drug or another.

I didn’t say this, of course. I don’t want to spoil it for her when this reality smacks her in the face when she eventually enters the political realm and begins to walk in her aspirations. And for selfish reasons, I want to hear the shock register in her voice when she calls home at 29 and informs me that virtually every dudebro in her office is on one form of an upper or another.

“Oh my GOSH. Mommy! Did you see the way he just talked to the moderator? Did you see how he just snapped on him?!?”

Yes, baby. I did. That’s called Jim Crow…when white men like Trump would call Holt ‘boy’ and berate them for looking them in the eye. That’s how white men spoke to Black men routinely up until 1982.

I didn’t say that though. I said, “Yes, Nadjah. I saw that. He sure is rude.”

“Wait…didn’t George Bush start the Iraq war? Why is he blaming Obama for that?”

“Because he’s crazy, sweetheart.”

Dude. WHAT??
Dude. WHAT??

More time passes and the train wreck is only getting more gory. Nadjah’s face is twisted and contorted with pain every time Trump claims to have a good relationship with the “Blacks… I mean African Americans”. I can’t help but laugh scornfully.

“Oh my goodness. Mommy! Did he really say all of those things about women?”

“Girl. He’s been saying horrible things about women his whole life!”

“And THAT’S why he can’t keep a wife,” she concluded, lips twisted as they dripped the bitterness of this truth.

Neither one of us is a Hillary fan, but my daughter and I have grown to respect her in the previous weeks. I could never bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton, but the reality is that she is the only CLEAR choice for the job. Trump simply isn’t qualified to serve in the position of President of the United States of America. He’s divisive, bigoted, sexist, a cheat and once this IRS audit is concluded, may possibly be unmasked as a criminal. And I think that is why so many Ghanaian men like him.

Just as I am amused and pleased by kid reactions to the debate (It means we are finally raising a generation of civic minded youth. Too bad these two candidates form the slimy stew we’ve asked them to pick through and determine a victor from), I am equally appalled by the reactions by Ghana’s male (aspiring) elite. A large majority of them – at least online – believe that Trump not only performed well in the debate, but that he was also more “personable and likeable” than Clinton in those 90 minutes.

WHAT?!?

You truly mean to tell me that if Hillary Clinton had responded in like kind, interrupting with accusations like “Lies!”, “False!” and contemptuously addressing the moderator with, “Now wait a minute…did you ask me a question?” you would find that behavior befitting of the leader of the free world? You don’t believe Donald Trump was either articulate or likeable or even lucid in those moments. You don’t believe that for a single second. The only reason Ghanaian men (and men all over Africa caping for him right now) support Trump is because he represents the very worst of toxic male masculinity that is only tolerated because of wealth. Dassit. Trump represents the guy that the reprehensible man buried not-so-deeply in these men wish they could boldly and publicly be: the sexist, cheating, unrepentant bigot shielded by privilege and powerful connections. These are men who pay lip service to the cause of equality and justice, but given the opportunity, they’d gladly trade the beggar’s rags of goodwill for a chance at stepping on the little guy. It is the ONLY reason someone like Donald Trump would be seen as a hero on an acceptable human being. If he’s gotten this far in politics and in his business dealings, it means that they have a chance as well.

Wanlov the Kubolor said something in an interview a long time ago that has always stuck with me. Paraphrasing, he said the average Ghanaian isn’t looking for equality or justice. The average Ghanaian is just looking for his turn on top.

That’s the only motivation an African Trump supporter can have. It’s not because he’s a successful businessman (because he really isn’t) and it certainly isn’t because he holds the “conservative Christian values” the lot of you claim to hold so dear. It’s because he’s a petulant douchebag whose privilege allows him to get away with anything he wants – including robbing children and the military by refusing to pay his fair share and calling it “smart”. That’s your role model. Never mind his opinion of you as a Black immigrant is so low that he’d see you targeted and abused by law enforcement on the street and then have you deported. Noooo…as long as he keeps women in their place and games the system, he’s your guy.

To quote Esther Armah, “Thank God none of you can vote.”

But know that you’ve exposed for the Black white supremacists that you are. Seek help for your self-hatred, okay?

 

Do you plan on watching the next debate, or did this one turn you off? Are you a Swing Voter? Did either candidate’s performance sway you? For our part, Nadjah and I will be up and ready on October 9th for more fun and shenanigans!

Fist Bumps to the So-Called Social Media Feminists!

A July article written by Betty Kankam-Boadu and (re)published on Starr FM made the social media rounds yesterday afternoon to the mirth and amusement of all who chimed in to comment on Ms. Kankam-Boadu’s contribution on the conversation surrounding feminism in Ghana. My initial reaction after I read the article entitled “To the so-called feminists on social media; the struggle is real!” was one I struggled to unriddle, until I went to sleep and drifted off into dreams of my children. Betty Kankam-Boadu’s (who shall at some points in this post be referred to as ‘BKB’) written attempt at shaming what she calls “social media feminists” (and it was such an attempt) reminded me of watching a toddler waddling into rush-hour traffic on a long holiday weekend. It left me alarmed and tense. Like, who let you outside of the safety of your crib and into these dangerous streets? You ain’t Barry Allen. You ain’t the Flash! You ain’t equipped to be here! Bless your heart…

In Betty Kankam-Boadu’s somewhat waffling analysis (which you can read here) she takes potshots at the advocacy efforts of feminists like Lydia Forson when she says:

“Let me give this to them, I like the fact that they get people talking about whatever issue is being discussed. But after jumping on Hamamat Montia’s viral red carpet “situation” by telling all women to get naked and do whatever they want with their bodies any day any time anywhere, how do you measure results?”

There were a few other people on Twitter/Facebook to support Ms. Montia’s choice to wear whatever she bought and paid for at a celebrity event – since she IS a sentient being and all – but they are not as visible as Lydia Forson. So yeah…It’s safe to assume that Betty was dissing Lydia specifically for not having measureable results. She then goes on to cite the work of a bunch of people with whom she has no social or cultural connection (Brandon from Human’s of New York, a barefoot Julia Roberts at Cannes, etc.) who are doing what she feels is tangible and therefore more admirable activism. It’s really disappointing (and telling) that Betty couldn’t point to a single Ghanaian/African feminist activist to drive home her argument. Perhaps our local champions are not good enough, eh? Kinna Likimani, Dorcas Coker-Appiah and Jessica Horn are all women doing the work on and offline…and more importantly, doing it with respect to our cultural context.

Which brings me to my next point.

becca1Maddddaaaaaam. Come ON! How much does Accra have in common with New York? How does Cannes even compare to the VGMAs? Sister…please. You say Julia Roberts showed up barefoot at an event in silent protest to women who were previously turned away for not wearing heels. Just this weekend, Becca showed up on the Glitz red carpet preening in a plunging neckline, greedily posing for pictures next to a grand piano until the morality police swooped in and demanded both an explanation and an apology for her attire. It could have been her moment as an African woman to reclaim agency not over just her body, but stand for women whose bodies are routinely poked, commented on and commodified all over the nation. Instead, Becca threw her stylist under the bus, blaming her for the now-deemed fashion faux pas all while playing the victim. You know who came to her defense? Those ‘social media feminists’ you so clearly disdain. Don’t try to deny your revulsion for this group. Obviously, the term – like ‘armchair researcher ‘and ‘Instagram model’ – is used as a pejorative and not meant to be complimentary… shaming people into ceasing behavior that you take umbrage with.

Here’s the reality we live in today: Our veritable lives are lived out online and often through and/or social media. Heck, it took the creation of Pokemon Go just to get droves of millennials – who spend the better portion of their day online – just to go outside for a few minutes. Brick and mortar businesses are closing shop all over the world and focusing their retail sales efforts to online channels. Whether you want to believe it or not, a hashtag CAN bring an organization to its knees. Reputations are won and lost online. For the first time in history, people can participate in the political process in real time thanks to social media. So it would ONLY make sense that there would be social media feminists who concentrate their advocacy efforts to online spaces. It’s often the only spaces that these voices are ever heard. Right now, a hoard of feminists are in Bahia plotting ways to create a feminist internet, so BKB and any other like-minded individuals had better get their minds right and their hearts ready.

The idea that these women (and men) speak up are “just in for the cheap popularity” is absolutely laughable. The sought popularity Betty Kankam-Boadu so glibly assigns to these women often comes in the form of online and threats of physical abuse. There is a very good reason that very few of Ghana’s celebrity or civilian core speaks up publicly about hot button issues in this patriarchal society. It’s more beneficial to stand with the oppressor than to number yourself with the oppressed. Wanlov the Kubolor is only one of the few names in entertainment I can think of to take such a stand repeatedly, and we’ve seen how Ghana’s music industry has treated him and the FOKN Bois duo over the years. So no: I very much doubt anyone does their social media activism for the benefit of cheap fans. If anything, it comes at a great cost. That’s why Becca and Hamamat chose to cower and cast blame on stylists and photographers: they’ve deemed the cost of seeking self-actualization as too high and therefore sought real cheap popularity by kowtowing to the whims of a fickle public..

Since Ms. Kankam-Boadu spoke so boldly about her objection to social media feminism, I expected to Google her name and find a list of great activist exploits revealed to me. You know what I saw? Some social media activism. One thing on #MarchAgainstMisogyny (a hashtag and online movement created by Philip Ashon) and…nothing. Even her LinkedIn profile is devoid of any tangible work she’s doing as a self-proclaimed feminist. She’s a journalist…period. But she admonishes others “You better get on your feet and do the hard and uncomfortable stuff.” Does SHE have a cause she’s leading and she can rally feminists to? I’m sure everyone would love to hear it. Because if BKB were to be judged by the same standard she’s upholding others to, there’s going to be Big Trouble in Little China.

To conclude, I’ll leave you all with quotes from these three brilliant women whose reactions sum up the matter succinctly. Listen, all ye who have ears, and perhaps learn.

 

Ask again oooo...
Ask again oooo…
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Prrrrreeeeaaaccchh!!!
We are all grateful!
We are all grateful!

My Girls Live in Africa And We’re Afraid to Get Our Hair Braided

South Africa…

Land of the Big Six and the Proteas. Land of Mandela’s birth. Land where edges go to DIE.

One of the things I was most excited about in moving to South Africa was the prospect of having my hair slayed every week. Compared to prices in the States, cornrows and braids are delightfully inexpensive here. You can get your hair cornrowed in a fairly intricate style for R90-120 ($6.50 – 8.50) and get box braids for around R200 ($13.50). Of course, being an America, the prices I am quoted are subject to an ‘American tax’, so hairdressers are wont to tack on an additional R50 to the prices local women are generally quoted. This doesn’t offend me. It’s just the African way of doing business. It’s the accent. Ghanaians do this to me at home as well. And in the grand scheme of things, I AM making out better paying these prices than I would in the States… except when I’m not.

There is always a price to pay when you’re getting goods and services at a discount; and in South Africa, that price is your edges.

9 out of 10 Black women (in this part of the country) are not in possession of their edges. The numbers on TV are not much better. It is truly a heartrending vision to behold. Every whisper of hair has been snatched, tucked or ripped from Black scalps across the nation, as if they were wayward truants being punished for escaping their internment. Black hair is to be seen… but not seen… if at all possible, ya dig? In other words, tame your nappy knots, they’re offensive.

The idea that Black hair – especially and even on the African continent – is offensive is one that is ingrained in large swaths of society. Black women are not permitted to love their hair. Overwhelmingly, they can’t (and therefore don’t) take pride in it. I have yet to see a Black woman just let her hair be. Curly weaves and wigs are the order of the day where I live on the Garden Route. That sewed in or glued on artificial hair floats and catches the wind as women sashay by. And yet curiously, I have not seen a twist out, an Afro puff or braid out in these parts to date. Even my locked sisters have their tendrils tightly wound, tucked and folded on itself. Black hair is not free in South Africa!

This was something we discovered fairly quickly once the girls began school.

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Last month I wrote about the veritable angst and frenzy our school’s administration had worked itself into over the styling of the girls’ hair. To Amana Academy’s credit, they do not police Black hair in the tyrannical ways I’ve heard other schools in and around Atlanta do. Girls are also allowed to wear hijabs at Amana without fear of reprisal. To attend school, hair simply has to be clean and neat. You know…a standard most parents have for their kids. As a result, the girls learned to be creative with their hair, were willing to explore new ideas about their hair and have conversations with their peers about all types of hair. In third grade, Aya and her friends formed The Hair Club, where they would sit at recess and positively “talk about hair.” Now, this may seem prosaic, or even silly to the ordinary observer, but these girls were participating in truly a revolutionary act; an act that was only made possible because their school fostered a permissive and safe environment.

Switch to the other side of the world: New school, new culture.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 4.44.53 AMI’ve been thinking about (and doing) a lot hair lately because a line item in their elementary school’s code of conduct says, “false hair pieces or braids are prohibited”. The first day I read this rule, I prayed for God to save me from the massive stroke I felt coming on. How can you prohibit braids…in AFRICA? What kind of colonialist/apartheid/Jim Crow hellbroth is this and who brewed it? And more importantly, why? You want to kee me and all the Mamas?

Whatever the reasons for the policy, I now find myself washing, blow drying and pressing three heads every weekend (with midweek touch ups required thanks to the humidity) in order to be in compliance with this “no braids” standard. However, I have come to the realization that I am the only dummy adhering to this rule, as I’ve seen dozens of Xhosa girls skate around the school’s premises with extensions and cornrows.

But ain’t a single one of them in possession of their edges; a reality that petrifies my kids and me. We were all witness to the aftershocks of the one time I let a Cameroonian woman get a grip on my follicles. The incident left me with a headache, scalp irritation and hair loss for days. It’s not a scenario I am eager to repeat or subject my girls to.

See the sides of my scalp? Edge banditry!
See the sides of my scalp? Edge banditry!

Why is it so hard for African women to learn to properly care for their hair?

I have long maintained that the deficiency harkens back to the trans-Atlantic responses to racism, education and all its systems. I think what’s happening in Pretoria is partial evidence of that.

In the years following Emancipation when African Americans could legally get an education, schools were segregated by race. Economically disadvantaged white children who lived in close proximity with former slaves would sometimes attend these schools. But for the most part, the environment was Black. The teacher was Black, the administrative board (if the school had one) was Black, and Black mothers saw to the care of their children’s hair which would be neatly plaited and perhaps have a ribbon tied into if it was a special day. Finally, their kids could take pride in their hair and not have to subdue it with a rag to facilitate fieldwork. Black women were experimenting with new ways to nurture and style their hair. (Enter Madam CJ Walker.)

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On the other side of the Atlantic, education was facilitated largely by white missionaries and European stakeholders. Girls were made to chop off their hair in boarding and day schools alike, because African hair was (and still is) considered a distraction. They intimated that girls would spend too much time doing their hair, and not enough studying. It’s a nonsensical argument that holds no water and cannot be backed by any study or empirical data, but it stuck. And as a result, we have a whole continent of women who are just now learning how to properly nurture their hair and not see it as a threat or the enemy.

In either instance, Black pride and ability has been made to bow to whiteness. Where there is integration, there is always – often coerced – assimilation. When African American girls integrated into white schools, society and entertainment, lye made a triumphant strut onto the scene. A conk was considered a Black male right of passage. Straight hair signaled that you were grown, and more importantly, successful. This is why it frustrates me to no end when otherwise well-educated folk like Whoopi Goldberg confuse cultural appropriation with assimilation. One is oppressive and exploitative and the other is for survival!

No rule in school is JUST for school. It follows you and becomes an extension of your character and shapes your view of yourself, the world at large, and your place in the world. So when we’re telling girls like those who attend Pretoria High that they must chemically straighten their hair and “fix themselves” in order to be in compliance with school ethics, and then further bar them from speaking their native language(s) because it is also a violation of the code of conduct, the idea that their Xhosa/Zulu hair and heritage is inferior follows them long after matriculation. It has taken African women years of rehabilitation to get over this hurdle, only to have their daughters experience the same needless, harmful trials.

Pretoria High Students protest racist hair policies
Pretoria High Students protest racist hair policies

My alma mater, SOS HGIC, had (and still has) a very open and supportive hair care policy. Girls could wear their hair in cornrows, braids, weave or perms. We learned about hair care from each other. And guess what? Our studies were not affected in any way. In fact, HGIC female graduates are arguably the most successful, well-rounded and effective influencers in Ghanaian society today.

…And ALL of us are in possession of our edges.

 

What? You thought this post was about equality and education? Nah mehn, this is about keeping these African edges safe!

Does your school have a discriminatory language or hair policy? Has a lot changed since you were in school, or remained about the same? Are you of the opinion that policing hair is a valid approach to positive outcomes in education? 

There’s an American Woman Walking Around Plett with a Vibrator in Her Handbag

Honestly, I forgot it was there.

Just wait! Let me explain.

August is Women’s Month, and last night I went to our school’s annual ladies get together: Fabulous Women. Fabulous Women…what? Dancing? Eating? They said, “Haibo! We said ‘Fabulous Women.’ Finished! You just buy your ticket and come. And so I went.

The event was hosted at White House and catered by Nguni, two of Plettenberg Bay’s most iconic brands. Walking in there was like being in a medieval Viking fairy tale. The room was lit by ornate wrought iron chandeliers, the light of which reflected off of shiny, sable wood floors. 20-foot long dining tables were adorned with the colors of fall – rust colored foliage and wild berries of blood red.

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It was definitely intimidating, but there was a cash bar that aided more than a few women with their quest to secure liquid courage. Many of them became far more sociable with a mojito in their hands. Soon the room was filled with chatter, albeit polite and tepid.

The guest speaker for the evening was a local entrepreneur whose name I didn’t catch. She’s the owner of Elixir Skincare, an essential oil and aromatherapy line produced in South Africa. The importance of this will become apparent enough and soon.

Elixir Lady had set some jars of some of her potions and lotions at each guest’s seat – scrubs, facial oils, lip balms and heel repair serums. She told us to dig and play with the items before us as she spoke passionately about the benefits of essential oils. One of those benefits is how they positively affect mood. If I had to guess, I’d say there were about 100 women in the room, each releasing an aromatic cornucopia at different intervals as they scooped out product from the jars. Within minutes, the atmosphere in the room was altered. It was charged, electric. Women were gasping and “on my!”-ing and touching each other everywhere. It was like participating in an opium-fueled stadium rave…but without the vomit and ever-looming threat of death. We were all glistening and oily and smelling and feeling good. What was even better? Some of my favorite TV characters were in the room!

I felt GREAT. Better than I have in a long while… Which is how everyone in the room found out about the contents of my purse.

A few lucky women (I was not one of them) had numbers stuck to the bottoms of their seats. Those numbers afforded them gifts or vouchers to redeem at stores all over the area. There was more (moderate) shrieking and polite applause as ladies went up to the MC (known as the Mommy of Ceremonies) to collect their prize. The Mommy of Ceremonies broke the momentum by asking each woman to pick up her handbag and counting the items inside.

“Please raise your hand if you have 5 or more items in your hand bag.”

Hands shot up all over the room.

“10 or more.”

“20 or more!”

“25 or more?”

There will still a few of us with our hands raised. Eventually the MC reached the 65 item or more mark. One girl stared me down menacingly, as if to doubt the veracity of my claim that I had such an enormous haul in my handbag. I mean…come on. I’m a mom for FOUR kids who just moved here from Atlanta. I have at least 65 merchant cards and snack bags alone in various parts of my purse! I confidently kept my hand raised until I and two other women were instructed to come to the podium to prove we had as many items as we claimed in our bag.

I unzipped all my compartments and began to empty them onto the table. Chop sticks, a fork, a shot glass, 3,000 receipts and a sanitary napkin made an appearance. And them something blue tumbled out…something I hadn’t seen in quiet a while.

“A vibrator…? Dude. I have a vibrator in my purse!”

A sampling of the many items in my bag.
A sampling of the many items in my bag.

The MC turned red and her co-host did a back bend, slain under the weight of her disbelief and laughter. Vanna White was there handing out prizes for the raffle. I saw her whisper something to the co-host, who whispered something back which then prompted Vanna to double over in laughter.

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I was rewarded with a bottle of wine and a bag of body scrub and body potion for being one of the winners of this challenge. Score!

As the number game continued, the MC broke the pattern again by asking if “the woman who had worn her animal print thong to the evening’s event would please stand.”

That’s when Brienne of Tarth got up, dug her hand into her backside, hollered “Whoop whoop!” and revealed the top of her we albino leopard thong – to the horror and amusement of all in the room.

Brienne_Mother's_Mercy

“Ooooh, no!” gasped some.

“Haaaa HHHAAAA!” chortled others.

Brienne ain’t care. She ran up and claimed her prize letting haters hate and choke on their bobotie.

indexI was engaged in conversation with Doris Day, my daughter’s new teacher when I heard Mommy of Ceremonies issue a dare.

“If there are any ladies brave enough to come up here and sing…”

I pulled out my chair and leapt to my feet. “ME!”

“But you haven’t even heard the song yet!”

“It doesn’t matter. Me!”

banoomaint-2f6a636e544229fMy friend Divyanka Tripathi stared at me wide-eyed. “Can you sing?”

It was more of a statement than a question, probably borne of the stereotype that ALL African Americans can blow…and play basketball.

“Girl, naw I can’t sing,” I replied. And then I ran to the podium to get the mic.

“The song choices are I’m Too Sexy and Rochelle.”

“I don’t know Rochelle.”

I’m Too Sexy it is then!”

Now, to be quite candid, I don’t know the words to I’m Too Sexy either – which I announced unabashedly, because as I said I was feeling GREAT by this time of the evening – and proceeded to croon a list of things which did not match me in sex appeal.

I’m | too sexy for these seagulls | too sexy for my jumpsuit | too sexy for this twist out…

White women went screaming everywhere, caught up in rapture. Is this what it’s like for the brothas? If so, I get it. You can be TOTALLY mediocre and be the darling of the party. And the darling I WAS.

…Or at least I was until Axl Rose’s twin sister came forward and gave a raunchy rendition of Rochelle, a Euro-pop rock ballad I have never heard and am not likely to hear again. The judges couldn’t decide who sang the best (or worst) so we split the prize: a hamper from some boutique and another bottle of wine. YES!

AxlRoseTeasedHair

By this time, all these teachers were turnt up. They’re ready to let loose. Someone has my purse and is discretely showing my vibrator to anyone who cared to look. 7/10 women cared to look.

Just as I was preparing to leave, I felt a tap on my shoulder. The tapper is the co-host for the evening.

“You are SUCH great fun!” she gushed. “Would you open the dance floor with me? It wouldn’t be right if you didn’t.”

I stared at her with tears in my eyes. No one has EVER asked me to open the dance floor. You know why? Because it’s on the list of Black Things (cornrowing, wrapping hair and singing) I can’t do! Did you think I let that stop me?

You shoulda seen your girl flopping around that dance floor. My new friends were flopping with me.

After I exhausted myself, I went home with wine, essential body oil, tissue and my vibrator, all of which Divyanka Tripathi’s mom told me should “make for a really good time with my husband.”

A few people have told me they’ve heard I’m an author, which is surprising because I’ve only mentioned it to two people. By next week, I expect that my butcher will greet me with a sly smile and make some cunning comment about meat and electronics.

Not Just in Africa: A History of ‘Hyenas’

An article on BBC about a man hired by a community in Malawi to have sex with children went viral this week. Eric Aniva, the man featured in the story, is locally known as a ‘hyena’ and is paid approximately $6.00 to have sex with girls once they reach puberty. The members of this community, and others across Malawi, believe the ritual cleanses the girls and has the added benefit of protecting their families from the wrath of the gods. If the girls refuse, their families could be stricken with pestilence, crop failure and/or death.

As these published pieces often do, this article elicited much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth by anxious Africans terrified of earning the reputation that we are ‘primitive’ as a continent, willfully bucking against the glories and benefits of human evolution. They swooped into the comments section on social media to condemn the practice (rightfully) and cry out to God, wondering when-oh-when we would see the light and be saved from our backwardness ( to my surprise). You can read the entire BBC article HERE

source: bbc.com
source: bbc.com

Beyond provoking an ick response in me, this article served as a reminder of trivia I’d picked up some time ago. Eric Aniva was not the first ‘hyena’ I’d read about. The first time I’d heard about a man using his erection to ‘cleanse and protect’ the community was in the church. Yes, you heard that right. In Jewish, Roman and Greek customs, women’s bodies were considered ritualistically unclean. Her menstrual cycle – or any issue of blood – was considered an abomination.

We women bleed for all kinds of reasons: when we’re on our periods, when we’re stressed, when we’re giving birth, when we lose our virginity. That last order of business was what powerful, despotic men were most interested in…and somehow successfully convinced entire communities that their personally handling of that particular women’s issue was in everyone’s best interest. Church leaders persuaded (and eventually mandated) that every new bride be brought to the priest – God’s representative in the earth – in order that he dutifully deflower her. You must understand; his phallus was consecrated and therefore protected from her demonic first blood. Now, voila! No more Bloody New Brides in the realm for newlywed hubbies to have to concern themselves with.

It was kind of like a magic trick, except in every instance the trick ended in rape.

The practice of powerful men using their influence and authority to coerce women and girls into having sex with them is one longer than memory. It cuts across race, cultures and continents. The privilege of droit du seigneur – the right of the lord – is well documented and was practiced across medieval Europe. It gave feudal lords, land and title owners, men of noble birth and other rich scoundrels the legal right to have sexual relations with newly wedded brides on the first night of their union. You might recall the scene in Braveheart when King Longshanks gathered all his noblemen to discuss Scottish malcontent and the uprisings mushrooming in the north. He said,

“Perhaps it’s time to re-institute an old custom – prima nocta. First night. If we cannot route them out, we’ll brrrrreed them out.”

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Or something like that.

Point is, prima nocta was a real thing and poor red headed girls all over Scotland were made to spend their wedding night with some unctuous, obese English lord. *Shiver*

The English adopted prima nocta from the Romans, who had invaded and conquered Britain under Caesar. It was all fun and games until these jokers took the practice to a whole new level, when lords began charging men a fee for the ‘privilege’ of sleeping with their new brides. Men who could not afford to pay could not marry.

In the end, all this pretense about using old man cock to ‘cleanse’ a woman’s body, ward off potential evil events and the imposed idea that this is all very honorable comes down to one thing: Agency.

Who owns women’s bodies?

If we were to track the timeline of the human experience as a whole, there are only faint whispers of time when women have ever truly belonged to themselves. Cultures where women were given the same rights and privileges as men – including sexual agency – have been destroyed by crusaders of Abrahamic religions and replaced with the gender disparity we see now. If you’ve ever wondered why ancient Egypt was considered such a den of iniquity by the modern church, I would hazard that the culture’s permitting a woman the ability to rule as a Pharaoh would be a good place to start. And yet the land of Egypt served as a safe haven for prophets, kings and even young Jesus Christ Himself for a time.

Say what you will about feminism, but the movement has given young women and girls a powerful tool: the right to say “NO”. Where women are concerned and when I think about the church, Islam and the shadowy, ubiquitous myth known as African Culture, I think about obedience first and foremost. But rights? That’s somewhere down the line long after go and marry, if it even makes the list at all. Speaking as a former Muslim and a born again Christian, I confess that I have had to unlearn and reject almost everything I’ve been indoctrinated with as far as my gender is concerned.

When we teach young girls that they have the right to say no, we give them authority. They should be able to say no to female genital mutilation; no to dropping out of school in order to serve male whims and destiny; no to hyenas who are paid to ravish them just as they are entering womanhood’s doorstep.

That brings me back to my surprise at the responses of a good many people on Facebook who typed out their cries to God, pondering when things in Africa will change. The answer to that is simple: When WE decide to change them.

When we decide that women are full human beings.

When we decide that girls are not objects that we can physically mar for culture’s perverse pleasure.

When we decide to give women their place as influencers – not just through tokenism – in society.

When we decide to educate not just ourselves, but our communities about the benefits of a healthy, thriving female population and the positive generational ripple effects.

All of this requires a dynamic shift in power structure. What did it take to end this practice in churches, fiefdoms, kingdoms and remote outposts? Was it easy? Doubtful. The dominant classes do not relinquish their hold on power easily.

Even in different parts of the continent where we think we’re doing okay with gender politics, there is still room to grow and improve. I think about Africa and the type of girls self-proclaimed progressive men raise, but would never marry themselves. Girls who are assertive, intelligent and driven make impressive daughters but are not considered wife material. Now why is that? Perhaps this is a hyena tradition of a different sort.

I’ll Never Be Able to Make My Children Happy in Africa

Not that that’s a problem.

I’ve all but abandoned the quest to guide and ensure my children’s happiness.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t do everything in my power to make sure that they are healthy individuals, equipped with the tools to lead sorta successful lives at some point in the future. But happiness? That’s not something I can do for them. It took going to Shack Church to realize this.

Our family goes to worship at a church in Kwanokuthula (Kwano for short), a township just outside on Plett in the direction of Cape Town. In township hierarchy, Kwano is where Soweto was in the 1980’s before Blacks, now armed with middle class income, moved (back) into the township and gave it an economic shot in the arm. There is another township called Qolweni that is about 2 miles down the road, westward. The folks in Kwano call Qolweni a bad place to live. It’s kind of like the pot calling the kettle black, but not really. This pot has some shine to it, ya dig?

Anyway. That’s where we worship.

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Like any township, Kwanokuthula is subject to extensive power outages. These Sunday mornings without electricity don’t bother me. In fact, I prefer going to church without power. EVERYONE has to participate in praise when there it no electricity. There is no competition between the praise leader, her microphone and portable loudspeaker and the children in gumboots stomping their feet with the lights are out. It’s great. I love it. My children don’t.

The two Sundays that we have attended church in Kwano (two weeks ago we were in Port Elizabeth visiting at a colored church) my children have sat sullenly in their seats, their spoiled little faces curled up like sour milk, looking aloof and eager to do nothing else but leave.

They are not used to ‘doing church’ this way. In America, every charismatic church has a similar format: You have praise and worship in the main sanctuary, collect the offering, and send the children back to children’s church where they will be instructed in Biblical half truths and perhaps watch an episode or six of ‘Veggie Tales’. Then they’ll draw a picture of a cross with crayon and present it to their parents. It’s their reasonable service.

Ain’t no children’s church in the township. Ain’t no crayons and TVs. Ain’t no graham crackers in exchange for feigned obedience. Here, you have the word of God, some hymns, and for the next two hours, it’s all done in Afrikaans and/or Xhosa. If you’re lucky there might be a guy who speaks English in the congregation called up to translate a portion of it.

The first time my kids sat frowning and hunched over in their chairs after being so warmly greeted by our new church family, I felt sorry for them. This was new for ALL of us, and my husband was the only one who rushed into service with gusto and authority. I tried to soothe them with promises that it would all be over soon and we’d be home before they knew it; We couldn’t possibly sleep here, right? The guarantees did nothing to console them. They became more and more drear until the final song was sung and the township disappeared from view once we piled into our car. It was only then that the spirit of life filtered into their bodies and their attitudes became bearable again.

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The second time (this Sunday) I was having none of it. They had just eaten a warm breakfast and had plenty of time to laze about until we announced that it was time to leave for church. It began with the youngest caterwauling the moment we pulled up in front of the building, protesting about the length and decibels of worship. I ignored her, but she’s a persistent Muppet. Eventually, she got a reaction from me, although it was not the one she was hoping for. The other three were sitting stone-faced yet again and I began growling under my breath as the spirit of revelation hit me.

“All right y’all,” I snapped. “New rule: When everyone else is standing, YOU stand. When everyone else is clapping, YOU clap.”

Did they like that? Not one bit. Did I care? Even less.

Because in that moment – the moment where everyone else was singing joyfully about stomping Satan under their feet, complete with pantomime – I came to a divine understanding. If you can’t find happiness in a place where you’re within 15 minutes walking distance of a clean beach, have access to a river where you can fish and canoe, a big ol’ field to run around in, cable TV, snacks on demand and internet access (even if it IS sometime-y); and all it costs you is some obedience and/or gratitude? Then there’s nothing I can do to make you happy. That kind of joy is something you’re going to have to invoke from within yourself. In the meantime, you better sit up in this Shack Church and fake praise Him until you make it!

MOM Squad, can I tell you how free I feel now? I anticipate experiencing many moments of this sort of freedom.

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Now that summer break is officially on for everyone is the northern hemisphere, how has it been going for you? Do you feel pressure to keep your kids entertained every moment of the day? Do your children’s cries of “I’m booorrrred!” stir an unsettling emotion within you? Discuss!

Get free, MOM Squad! Get freeeeee!!!!
A rainbow and a sign of God’s covenant. Get free, MOM Squad! Get freeeeee!!!!