‘Black Panther’ Touched Me Deeply and Unexpectedly

Black Panther has been in theaters for three days. I have held my tongue and waited for you all to get apprised for long enough. It’s time to discuss the film as a family.

 

Black Panther boasts a lineup of some of the most celebrated and talented stars in Hollywood, including Angela Bassett (aka the woman who SHOULD have been cast as Storm in the first X-Men), Chad Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o. The film also introduced us to equally brilliant but lesser known talents like Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright and, *sigh*, Winston Duke.

In my circles, Black Panther was the most anticipated film of 2018. We declared February ‘Black Panther Month’. We anointed the 16th ‘Black Panther Day’. The expectancy was palpable. The movie promised something for everyone, from Blerds to Slay Queens and all who dwell in between, aspects of the film and storyline celebrate the spectrum of what it means to be Young, Gifted & Black.

Though Wakanda is a fictional African country of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creation, my community has always shared its ideals and mores, including inventiveness, concern for one’s neighbor, respect for authority and the preservation of peace. If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself: “Well, I’m neither Black nor African, and I share these values”, good. That Stan and Jack were able to take these basic, human traits and apply them to an African nation (however fictional) is the point. Storytelling about what it means to live in and be African has been so skewed that for centuries that the rest of the world has looked on the continent with pity and in constant need of pity. We don’t require pity. We deserve autonomy without outside interference.

Naturally, I look at the digital world of Wakanda and imagine what Africa – and its inhabitants – might have looked like without the imposition of 18th century European standards. The architecture of the skyscrapers featured elements of old Mali. The aircraft were designed to resemble scarabs and dragonflies.

Ancient mosque from old Mali. Numerous sky scrapers in the film featured the unique design aspects of this structure.

At the Council of Elders, the leader of the River Tribe proudly wore his lip plate, paired with a three piece suit. To my irritation, the overwhelmingly white crowd in George where I had my first viewing sniggered every time he came on screen, eager to demonstrate their ridicule. Isn’t that the point, though? What is it about lip plates, or piercings or even dread locks that is so threatening to those to adhere to European beauty standards? It’s a question that we are still grappling with today: In what ways do the visual presentation and celebration of my culture interfere with my competency?

Whypipo in my corner of South Africa found this representation of African culture particularly amusing. Damn colonizers.

Of course, there is no logical answer to that; and in the absence of logic, the overlords demand unquestionable fealty in its place.

The think pieces on Black Panther have already come in a deluge, covering the vital role of women in Wakandan society, their counterparts in modern and ancient history, the politics fueling the storyline, and the torrent of white tears that have provided refreshment as we engage in these conversations.

Armed with what little knowledge I had about the character (we mostly read DC comics and followed Thor’s legend when I was growing up) I thought I was prepared for T’Challa’s mythos upon entering the theater. Nothing could have prepared me for Erik Killmonger (born N’Jadaka), son of Prince N’Jobu and King T’Challa’s cousin.

In the film, Killmonger is the product of a relationship between Prince N’Jobu and an African-American woman he fell in love with. After N’Jobu is killed by T’Chaka, Erik is left as a young boy to fend for himself. His every waking moment is dedicated to preparing to exacting his revenge on the royal family, whom he feels has betrayed him. Eventually, we see Killmonger return to Wakanda’s border with the body of Klaw in tow. He presents it as an offering to W’Kabi, who in turn supports Killmonger’s plot to for global domination using Wakandan technology. He justifies this by pointing out that the world is getting smaller, and that there will be two types of people only: The conquerors and the conquered.

“I’d rather be the former,” he says pointedly.

We see in W’Kabi the sort of irrational fear that has gripped much of American civil society today under the banner of Fuhrer 45’s MAGA Campaign. Finctional Wakanda – like real life America – is the “greatest nation on Earth” and yet there are many in power who remain unconvinced of its might. Nakia attempts to make the case that Wakanda can both share its wealth of knowledge and resources AND defend itself from invaders. W’kabi takes the opposite view, fearing that foreigners will change Wakandan way of life. Killmonger, who violently seizes the throne, presents them with the opportunity to see which assessment is right.

In the Marvel Universe, it is often easy to identify the villain and place him/her comfortably in that category. We cheer when the villain is vanquished. It’s what we are supposed to do. I found no comfort in Killmonger’s demise.

 

Identity

There are many African-Americans (in the literal sense of the term), who were born under circumstances identical to Killmonger’s. My siblings and I were born to a Black American mother and a Ghanaian father. And although we had the opportunity to grow up in Ghana for a time, unlike N’Jadaka, we also had it pounded into us that we were neither American nor Ghanaian enough. This lived experience heightened the impact of N’Jobu’s statement, “I fear you will not be welcome at home. They will say you are lost.”

 

Abandonment

After T’Chaka kills N’Jobu, he and Zuri leave Erik in America and return to Wakanda. It was a cowardly act. In the film, T’Chaka calls it “the truth we chose to omit”. It would be impossible to explain N’Jadaka’s presence in Wakanda without giving account for his father’s absence. I see the parallels of this act in our relations as Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. As a child with feet in either world, I know how much it would mean to me to be fully embraced by the people who serve as the anchor to my roots. Instead, what we experience is rejection and othering, the result of which is resentment. That resentment still does not erase a desire to connect with one’s roots. Often, it heightens it. There is a need for the abandoned child to prove that s/he is still worthy of acceptance. Sometimes, that manifests in unfortunate ways.

 

Intrusion

 Erik Killmonger is a man who has seen more of the world than most Wakandans have, due to their dogged isolationist stance. He knows that Wakanda has the resources to change the fortunes of oppressed people of color everywhere. He feels that they’ve wrongfully misapplied them. He feels its his duty to right this wrong and orchestrates a takeover. That take over includes waging war on the world, subjugating other cultures and the utter destruction of one’s enemies. In effect, Killmonger is not offering Black liberation as much as he is advocating for the replacement of White Supremacy with Black Dominance. He has become the thing that he hates. As they would, many Wakandans take issue with this. This is not the way things are done at home. Dominance is not a part of their value system.

In Ghana, for instance, we’ve seen this same phenomenon take place. African-Americans and ‘Been To’s ‘ often push their ways into spheres of business and culture, imposing their way of doing things on natives. Each side is convinced that they know better. Far too often, there is little dialogue and more energy expended on fighting for dominance. Instead of strengthened alliances, there is further fracturing. In Wakanda, this played out as a brief civil war. In real life, there is name calling on Twitter. Neither is helpful.

 

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors; the ones who jumped from the ships…because they knew death was better than bondage.”

Sketch depicting a African insurrection on a ship. Image source: howafrica.com

 

When T’Challa defeats Killmonger in combat, he takes him to a cliff to witness the magnificent sunset that N’Jobu often spoke of. This scene was both powerful and difficult for me to reconcile. It seemed so hopeless…as though N’Jadaka, the lost son now returned home, stood no chance of rehabilitation or embrace. By his own hand, he chose death over bondage, but one would hope that the most advanced nation n the world would have trained counselors on hand to offer him a different path! The weaving of the historical context and the visuals of Africans leaping from the sides of the floating coffins known as slave ships is powerful, but should either of them truly desired it, T’Challa and Killmonger could have found a different resolution to his insurrection.

Or perhaps he was too far gone. We will never know.

 

There are so many levels to discuss in this film. One could spend weeks analyzing them. But for me, Erik Killmonger’s storyline was central. It was the most relevant to my lived experiences. I know other people connected to it too, for similar reasons. And after all the jubilation and levity and celebration over box office records dies down, the real question becomes: What are WE going to do now?

I believe that’s the query and message that was sent to us all, subliminally.

 

Leave your reflections of the movie in the comments. As I said, it’s time to discuss the multiple layers of this film as a family!

Untitled, because there are no words to define this grief

“We always had a problem with him and pools. The people who own the pool upstairs said they caught him walking around it when I already told him not to. I gave him a hiding. He said he wouldn’t do it again. And then just 5 days later, he came back to report to me about how excited he was to touch the pool water upstairs. I said, ‘Ah! So I have to give you another hiding again because you didn’t learn the first time?’”

She laughed ruefully as she recalled the memory of her son telling on himself. Another memory came back to her.

“And you remember the first time he came to your house, he peed in your pool when he had to use the toilet?” She chuckled a bit.

“I remember,” I answered, laughing lightly. “My whole yard was his toilet that day.”

“Yeah, neh? I guess it was meant to be the pool…”

The levity in the room evaporated as quickly as its unexpected entrance. We five women – the grieving mother and we her friends and family who had come to grieve with her – enveloped ourselves in silence once again. The constant pinging of her phone from the incessant stream of WhatsApp messages swallowed the otherwise quiet. The memory of Matthew was everywhere. There was so much to say and not enough strength to say it.

I met Thandi* in 2016 at a local spa. After months of ignoring the follicle forest that had sprouted on my chin, I went to a local spa to have it waxed away. Thandi was a new employee – new to Plett – and I was one of her first clients. I have always been self-conscious about my facial hair (one of the strange consequences of carrying and bearing a son) and cope with it by being self-depreciating. Thandi put me at ease by taking to focus away from my imperfection and focusing on what had caused it.

“I have a son too,” she said. “Matthew. He’s four.”

“Oh really? Mine is seven. His name is Stone.”

“They don’t stay with me. I’m working to bring them home. Maybe next year.”

Within days we would transition from a client-service provider relationship to becoming sisters.

Matthew lived with his older sister with their grandmother in a township 5 hours away by bus. Like many South African women – single mothers in particular- Thandi had to leave them in the care of family in order to find work wherever she could and care for them as best she can. As a consequence of a failed education system that stretches back generations, many women labor as domestic workers (a term I dislike greatly) and come from a long line of women who have had the thankless job of cleaning up after and caring for other people’s children. Thandi’s life took a different path when she made a decision a divorce and decade ago: she would study beauty therapy. This is how she’s earned money to care for her children, her mother and her son, and recently her former mother-in-law who had charge of the kids. Three households are dependent on her check and occasional tips, a pittance when you consider the long hours and shocking indignities she and other women have to endure in the massage industry. But if she had learned anything in this life, Thandi has learned to endure.

Matthews sudden, silent passing is yet another.

No one saw it happen. At the largest and most popular hotel in Plettenberg Bay, during one of the busiest weekends of the year, no one took notice of a little boy who scurried from the toddler wading pool into the deeper pool just feet away. He had already been told to stay put by his older sister who’d swum off to play with her age mates…but if you know anything about five year old boys, and five year old boys in particular…they are not very good at staying put or being excluded from big kid fun.

I’ve seen the pool at that hotel. It’s designed to allure you, to invite you in. I imagine he was thrilled as he descended onto the shallow steps. Saturday, January 6th 2018 was a hot day in Plett. I imagine the water in the larger pool felt cooler against his skin, which must have delighted him and bolstered his confidence. I imagine he took more steps downward and slipped under unseen. I don’t care to imagine much more after that.

Matthew was discovered at the very bottom of the pool. It was a group of children – no one will say who – that dove under and pulled him to the surface.

We don’t discuss these details as Thandi sits on the floor, supported by a mattress and covered in plain cloth. We talk about my kids’ recent return from Ghana, about the weather and about the precious moments shared with the little boy whose absence had brought us all into that pink bedroom a day after his passing.

His presence is everywhere; reminders that he not only lived, but as most preschoolers do, dominated his domain.

Thandi glances in the corner and takes note of a soccer ball that has been sitting by the bedroom door. It’s blue. Captain America, Iron Man and few of the other Avengers stare determinedly into space from its globular surface. Thandi recalls how Matthew loved to kick that ball with her. Her bully auntie who has been sitting on the mattress with her gets up and takes the ball away. This too I suppose is her right.

Nothing prepares you for the moment you become a mother. It’s just something you learn to do. When a woman becomes a mother, the birth of her child does not change her life alone. The ripple affects go deep and wide. Suddenly, in one moment, we who are her friends and sisters become aunties and godmothers. Her mother earns a grand title. We all have new responsibilities. Life is never the same after the birth of a child.

Life is never the same when you lose him either. Nothing prepares you for the moment you lose your child. It’s just something you learn to do.

There is a grief that is unspeakable, almost incomprehensible. The questions come, in a trickle at first, and finally in a deluge. After the deluge, a steady dribble, echoing the rhythm of your beating heart.

Why…

Why…

Why…

And when there are no answers, at least none that can satisfy, then comes the silence. And it’s the silence that’s the hardest to bear.

We’ve lost children in our family before through miscarriages, within hours of birth, through tragic accidents similar to what happened at the pool. This is an ancient pain, experienced by the First Woman herself. This does not make this moment any easier to carry. It’s something that we must all carry together if we’re to get through it.

 

On the night it happened, we wearily came home to tell our kids. They sat in stunned silence. Aya covered her mouth, as though afraid to breathe. Stone – who was watching YouTube when we arrived home – was back on his computer moments after the announcement. I wondered if he grasped what was being said to him.

“Matthew was one of the 10 people who drowned in South Africa this weekend.”

“What?”

He held up his laptop to me and pointed to the screen. He had been searching for details on his “annoying little brother” and friend. It was a natural reaction for a child of his generation – to seek answers from the Internet… answers that adults could not provide. He took back his device and gave me a blank look before retreating back to the steps and staring into the inky, uncertain night that stretched out before us all.

I don’t want to end this post. I don’t want this to be the end. And though we all have to accept that this is the end of Matthew’s life as we have known it, we will always cherish and give praise that he existed. His life mattered. You had to see him. You would’ve loved him too. The last time we saw him was on New Years Eve where our families watched fireworks from the top floor. Long before midnight, he’d given everyone in the room a big hug that night, something he’d never done before. He was so tiny, but he was a force. A tornado. He’s wrecked our house (and my nerves) on many a weekend. I’d give almost anything to pick up after that wreckage again. I can’t help but wonder if those exuberant, unexpected hugs were his way of saying goodbye.

Fly with the angels, sweet Matthew.

 

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?

 

 

Les Carpede, Walking in Worship

A chance encounter on a street corner

“Who are you?”

“Who are you?” I retorted with a slight roll of the neck.

What a strange question from a total stranger! I looked at the man who’d paused as he was tying his shoes to address me so abruptly. We stood on the sidewalk on Plett’s Main Street, regarding each other.

“What?”

“What?” I countered, visibly annoyed.

“No…no. I said, ‘HOW are you?” he clarified.

Ugh! The South African accent had led me to misinterpret what someone had said to me yet again. This was not the first time. I was quickly sorry for my rudeness to this stranger, so I let my guard down – only slightly – and replied that I was fine.

“You were at Sao Gançalo for dinner with your family the other night, right? You were with your family? American?”

Now I was beginning to panic. Who was this guy? Was he stalking me?

“I eat there fairly often, so it’s very possible that I was…”

“I was there with my son and he pointed you guys out. I’m Leslie, by the way.” He extended his hand and shook mine congenially. “It’s nice to meet you.”

And that’s how I met Leslie Carpede, a Johannesburg transplant to Plett and worship leader who has performed for audiences in America and all over Southern Africa.

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What got off to a bumpy start extended into an amiable twenty-five minute conversation about God, family, the arts and personal choices. I am often asked what led me to leave America to live in South Africa, a question I confess I often have some difficulty answering. I’ve written about it extensively. Upon meeting Les, I found myself asking the very same question while experiencing the same sense of disbelief that my own inquisitors no doubt felt. What could have possibly persuaded him to leave Johannesburg in favor of a small town like Plettenberg Bay? His answer was simple and honest.

“You know, in life you experience so many things. And after a while when you’re in a certain environment, you can almost predict what’s going to happen based on certain events. I love Johannesburg. It’s my home. But I’ve been there and done that. It was just time for something new for myself and for my family.”

I understood his motivations completely. His was the true heart of the adventurer and the artist.

In speaking the Mr. Carpede, it’s difficult not to be infected by his enthusiasm for music, the arts and the Lord. He effuses such a spirit of joy that one passerby – an elderly backpacker – was compelled to interrupt our conversation in order to comment, “It’s so good to hear people laugh!”

Soon our conversation turned to perception, race and identity. He looked at me with hopeful eyes and asked if I could sing.

“What?” I laughed. “Because I’m a Black American?”

Clearly, he was talent scouting. He grinned sheepishly.

“I think it’s a general (mis)conception we all probably have about each other,” I continued. “I assume all South Africans can sing, because so much wonderful music comes from this country. But I know it’s statistically impossible for every South African to be blessed with the gift of blow.”

“You’re right,” he agreed, and proceeded to tell me a story about an African American woman in a church he was performing in who had exasperated the choir director to no end. She refused to admit that she just couldn’t sing!

Fortunately, I hold no delusions about my abilities and spared him the waste of studio time and money by declining to lend my voice to his project. It was the holy thing to do.

What lies ahead for this artist?

Les is currently working on a live studio recording for a worship album to be released at a future date. Amid the bustle of downtown, I took a shot and disclosed that I was inspired to feature individuals who are exploring new passions and/or projects, I asked if I could feature him on MOM. I admitted that this was more to my benefit than his.

“You would really be helping me bring a vision to life if you would,” I added.

“Why not?” he smiled. “It’s all good if it’s for a good vision.”

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If his music is any reflection of his personality, this is one album I will personally looking forward to purchasing. You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy music that makes you feel happy.

About Leslie Carpede

Les is a South African born Pianist/Vocalist/Songwriter. He is an accomplished musician, and well-noted psalmist by leaders in ministry, with remarkable people skills, leading praise and worship from the piano. He is a reasonably well-travelled musician, whose ministry spans South Africa, Lesotho, Nigeria, Namibia and the United States. He regards himself as a “no barrier” musician with distinct versatility, and frequently spends time, composing & producing. He coaches emerging musicians and facilitates performance practical sessions with middle and high school groups.

He holds a Diploma in Creative Ministry from the Rhema Bible Church, Johannesburg South Africa.He currently lives in Plettenburg Bay, Western Cape, with his wife Cecily and their 13-year-old son, Jordan.

For media and music related enquiries contact (+27) 83 249 0064 or Email:songbreeders1@gmail.com

 

 

This represents the third feature in a week of MOMvertising. Are you familiar with Les Carpede’s music? Who are some of your favorite South African worship teams or ministries? Has anyone ever asked you if you can sing (or play basketball) because you’re Black? It’s safe to be honest here. 🙂

Tia Boone’s Marketing Oil Well

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As an RN trained in Western medicine, Tia Boone’s championing of essential oils as an alternative to drug therapy may seem strange. However, to listen to Tia speak on the topic in depth, her fascination and support of essential oils makes total sense.

“I have had this big question on my mind for a while now. How can I serve others? As someone who is passionate about the health of the whole person, what can I learn, share and more importantly – do – that can help others?”

The answer came with NYR Organic whose products benefit mind, body, and well-being, using potent herbs, oils, and extracts, and meet our own incredibly high standards of efficacy. NYR offers a range of products from cosmetics to literature, all with the aim of equipping the consumer with knowledge about what he/she is putting into and on their body. As consumer advocates fight across the world to get companies to disclose ingredients on their labeling, the commitment to transparency and honesty from companies like NYR Organics provide a certain ease of mind to the consumer.

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But what really made Tia a believer in effectiveness of essential oils is witnessing the success in their application first hand.

“I have watched essential oils grow back hair, shrink tumors, and even smooth mosquito bites,” she said.

Drugs and essential oils work in opposite ways. Dr. David Stewart, Ph.D. says this about the contrary mechanics of the substances:

“Drugs toxify. Oils detoxify. Drugs clog and confuse receptor sites. Oils clean receptor sites.

Drugs depress the immune system. Oils strengthen the immune system. Antibiotics attack bacteria indiscriminately, killing both the good and the bad. Oils attack only the harmful bacteria, allowing our body’s friendly flora to flourish.

Drugs are one-dimensional, programmed like robots to carry out certain actions in the body, whether the body can benefit from them or not. When body conditions change, drugs keep on doing what they were doing, even when their actions are no longer beneficial.

Essential oils are multi-dimensional, filled with homeostatic intelligence to restore the body to a state of healthy balance. When body conditions change, oils adapt, raising or lowering blood pressure as needed, stimulating or repressing enzyme activity as needed, energizing or relaxing as needed. Oils are smart. Drugs are dumb.”

If you’ve ever watched someone go through cancer treatment – or even suffered and treated a headache with drugs yourself– you’ve been privy to the sort of side effects that allopathic drugs often have on the human body. Drugs are “dumb” because they are not specific in their attack of the internal ailment.

Tia’s desire to educate people about the benefits of homeopathy is inspired by her relationship with God, an insatiable curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. On a personal level, the discussions we’ve had have been illuminating. I find myself pondering over them for days. And with the oil diffuser going, walking into her house is always like walking into a dream!

If you want to learn more about essential oils, NYR Organics or Tia’s marketing oil well, you can visit her site here.

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This represents the first of five days of MOMvertising. Have you ever tried essential oils or homeopathic products? If so, what’s your favorite? Did you know that essential oils are not actually oils, because they do not contain the fatty acids which is considered as the main thing of an oil. No you didn’t. Don’t lie.

Women in Tech – What's the Real Story?

The good people at Toptal.com reached out to me and asked me to share this article with you about gender and technology…because a blog about marriage, motherhood and the conflict of the African female with her environment has everything to do with programming languages and dev/design.

I can just hear the powerful Enyonam Kumahor and/or Kinna coming for me with shouts of, “Yes, of course the two are related, you ninny! The person is political! All women… and yes, African women… must thrive in tech spaces too! Post it and shut your mouth!”

So that’s what I’m doing.  This is a powerful info-graphic (or graphic-article) about the gaps in gender parity in the field of technology. The stats are quite worrying, but hardly surprising. Please do click on the article below and share!

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Why Can’t We Have an ‘African Bond’? Okay, Since You Asked…

First of all: Happy John Boyega Day! Today –and forevermore, quite frankly – John Boyega belongs to all of us, not just Nigerians. Just like sister Lupita is for Africa. Kenya alone cannot commandeer all her shine!

john boyega

Much has been written and commented about Black representation (or the lack of) in film, particularly in the realm of fantasy and fiction. Even to the casual observer, it is obvious that actors of color get the most work on big budget films when there is a slave narrative to be told or the haphazard biopic depicting our two kings: Mandela and MLK. That’s what has made John Boyega’s casting as a Storm Trooper turned Jedi so exciting for many of us. I mean, according to Hollywood and science fiction, there are no Black people in the future… and certainly none in space! This notion has led to an outcry from entertainment critics and consumers alike. We want to see more people of color starring in iconic roles! We want to see actors and actresses of color portraying complex characters beyond the tired tropes we’ve been dished out to date! We want Idris Elba to play ‘James Bond’!

James Bond, eh?

This is where discord rears its head in our collective chorus. While we do want more representation in the mainstream arts, we can’t decide how to achieve that goal. Should roles that have traditionally been played by white actors be opened up for Blacks, Asians or – gasp – people of Middle Eastern descent? For instance, could Shah Rukh Khan convincingly played Matt Damon’s role in The Martian? (Personally, I don’t see why not. After all Chiwetel Ejiofor played a scientist named Venkat Kapoor, which is about as southeast Asian as a moniker can get.) Or is it up to Bollywood and other non-western film industries to produce their own versions of The Martian and cast the lead with their preferred ethnicity? Some people say yes, emphatically! We have a duty to stop feeding off the fruit of Hollywood and build our own industries!

That’s all well and good, but back to Idris and the ‘James Bond’ question.

Perhaps of all theoretical casting possibilities, this has given folks on both sides of the divide the most angst; has caused the most perplexity. There is no doubt that Idris Elba is a fine actor (a fine MAN, period), a great box office draw and has all of the qualities of a leading man. He would make a far better Bond than Timothy Dalton or George Lazenby, in my humble opinion. The only problem is Idris is Black. Blackety- Black. True, African Black. And a lot of people can’t see past his color and allow for him to portray a Scottish spy who serves in Her Majesty’s most clandestine intelligence agency. Because Black.

I understand and appreciate the struggle that these people find themselves trying to navigate. It’s far more comfortable and convenient to neatly categorize people and put them in a tidy box where they “fit”. Unfortunately, migration patterns and global integration mean that fewer and fewer people are able to identify as one thing specifically. So as Black as Idris Elba is, there is no escaping that he IS a British man – of African descent – and therefore could in real life function in the role of an intelligence operative. However why people are more comfortable with Black men performing the duties of an ‘everyday superhero’, but find discomfort with a 2hr 38min fictional flick portraying the same responsibilities is something only they can explain. It’s beyond me.

Personally, I do think it’s time that we developed our own iconic characters and I would love to see a globally recognized spy of African descent and origin in film. Of course, developing such a character would not come without significant challenges. Part of what makes James Bond such a universally loved character is that his existence is plausible and all of his feats –although Herculean – are feasible. A lot of that has to do with Bond’s supporting cast. Moneypenny is as efficient as she is dedicated to the cause of national defense. She is always at her post as you expect. Q has a first-rate lab in which he designs and develops gadgets for James in order to make each mission a success. But most of all, James Bond has the benefit of traveling around the world with a British passport in white skin.

Ei. Can an African man enjoy these same benefits and manage to get his spy work done? Let’s be realistic.

First we’ll have to pick a country in which to build our African James Bond. Such a man’s effectiveness will really depend on the country of origin. Mauritius James Bond would most likely be the most successful, since that country has the infrastructure and international integrity to support spy work at this level. Ghana James Bond? Not so much.

His passport would only allow him access to certain countries without a visa, and even then he may face discrimination at immigration. Ghana James Bond would frequently find himself selected for “random security” checks, have all his belongings confiscated and summarily his cover blown. Constant power failures means Ghana Q would be perpetually behind in his R&D for Ghana Bond. No R&D means we would constantly be putting Ghana James Bond at risk. As for Ghana Moneypenny, the less said about her, the better. Poor woman is probably rocking herself to sleep after dealing with the constant sexual harassment and requests from her family for money because she’s the ONLY one amongst the lot who’s managed to get a job in Ghana’s dumsor ecomini. Ghana Moneypenny is never at work.

And as far as field work? Kai! There would be no high speed chases to catch the bad guys because traffic patterns would always be clogged. The roads and networks in Ghana make no sense. If Ghana Bond were to rely on the services of the local police force for back up, he’d be S.O.L because the government will have spent the money needed to purchase police vehicles to brand city buses with NDC colors, thereby allowing Ghana Bond’s quarry to escape into the ubiquitous bush. Every thief and armed robber escapes into a ‘bush portal’ that materializes at just the critical moment. True story. Read the Daily Graphic. We don’t catch thieves in Ghana because they always find a bush to escape into.

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Oh! And let’s not forget the perpetual requests from Ghana Bond’s relatives to “carry something small” upon his return/departure to abrokyi. The sniffing airport dogs would have a field day with the koobi. This would only lead to further detention.

Ghana James Bond will never be great…or at least not as great as British James Bond. He could find some greatness at his job, but only within the confines of his office. He can be a superhero of spreadsheets, or something.

And that’s not his fault. It’s his government’s fault. If we were to develop such a character given out current realities, he’d be a tragic, uninteresting cartoon of a man…and that’s why no one has written a script for Ghana James Bond today. The struggles he would face are just not worth it, and no movies-goer would appreciate (or believe) the depth of lies and fabrications that Ghana Bond’s creators would have to descend to in order to make Ghana James Bond remotely interesting.

The struggle. The spy struggle is so real.

Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll LOVE my new book “Madness & Tea”, coming out on e-books on Christmas day!

Viola’s Emmy Win and a System of Salt and Shade

 It’s Monday morning and two days before the official beginning of Fall. I won’t be keeping you for very long, MOM Squad. Like you, I have coffee to procure and a wardrobe that needs rotating. Before I begin, I want to send hugging and high five vibrations to Viola Davis for being the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in the award’s 67-year history! That moment, her speech, that dress and THAT HAIR were historic. *Shakes under the weight of the presence of God’s glorious handiwork*

 

Let me ask you a question since we only have a few minutes. Have you ever sat back, looked around you and marveled at how unrelated events or the experiences of strangers seem to mirror your reality?

 

Take this post from HONY, for example:

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Now, this was the follow up post in this nameless man’s saga. In the previous one, he spoke about how he found himself homeless after a he failed to make consecutive sales in his real estate business. Cue the “awwws” and broken heart emojis from the HONY community. Of course there were the offers for a solution to his dilemma, which is one of the reasons I follow HONY: to watch out for those members of the community who ARE problem solvers. They give me hope. I don’t know what question Brandon asked the Nameless Man to prompt him to respond in the manner in which he did…all I know is that it got a lot of folk of a certain persuasion pretty riled up. Folk who probably think of themselves as “good people”. After all, only good people follow HONY, don’t they?

 

I wish I had a gentler way to put this: There is a psychosis that Good White People have to grapple with, but they can’t do this until they recognize their ailment first. The Nameless Man was not incorrect in his assessment of his interaction with Whiteness as a man with dark skin when he said “…when he’s crushed down one thousand times, and when he absolutely needs it, he will play that card to save his self-esteem vis-à-vis me. I’m not saying it’s a choice. It’s not a moral thing. I’m saying it’s a feature of his soul that he doesn’t know is there.”

Those of us who have ever spent time working in a professional setting know exactly what the Nameless Man is talking about. If you’ve ever had a White woman claim credit for the execution of a marketing campaign (as I have), or had a white male boss posture himself as the originator of a theoretical approach to a scientific or mathematical problem that was brilliant (as my sister, my former room mate, several people on this very blog have revealed to have suffered the same thing), or watched in horror as folk still insist that Elvis was the originator of Rock n Roll, then you have a sense of what the Nameless Man is talking about. History bears out this ugly trend as far back as “Eli Whitney’s” Cotton gin (whose design he reportedly bought from a slave for a nickel) if not before. And if this blatant robbery were not bad enough, the victim is accused of racism for pointing out that the overwhelming perpetrators of these thefts is in fact, white. But Good White People don’t see it this way.

What does any of this have to do with Viola’s win last night? Oh, everything. A soul on Twitter hopped onto the social network to illustrate the complications in the relationship between the races, the Nameless Man spoke of, as though Providence herself lent a hand in this unmasking.

In the opening remarks of her brilliant acceptance speech, she quotes Harriet Tubman:

In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can’t seem to get over that line.

The largely white audience, filled with Good White People claps politely…or in some cases, not at all. They don’t get the significance of what she’s talking about. In fact, Nancy Lee Grahn took to Twitter to express umbrage with Viola’s choice of words and ultimately claiming that this should have been an “All Women” moment.

https://twitter.com/NancyLeeGrahn/status/645917293793316864
She even went so far as to opine that the Julliard graduate should have let Shonda Rhimes write her speech for her!

https://twitter.com/NancyLeeGrahn/status/645796604692160512
As always and never to disappoint, Twitter showed up in the full magnitude of its dragging glory and returned fire with this magnificent response:

In one of her tweets, Nancy Grahn goes on to intimate that Viola has never been the “victim of discrimination”, making her use of Araminta Ross’ address in her acceptance speech insincere.

As you can imagine, it only gets worse from there. I don’t think I’ve seen a Good White Woman flaunt this much cluelessness since Justine Sanco’s tweet about landing in Africa and not being able to catch AIDS because she’s white. Of course Mizz Nancy is all contrition and remorse now, and has duly apologized for any “offense she may have caused” and we are expected to shuffle along like good Negroes…until this happens again at a Kroger check out lane or water cooler near you.

It’s maddening that Good White People can’t see how damaging this behavior is. These are the moments when I wish Wal-Mart sold a tote-along, press my belly Flava Flav doll that sang “You can’t see what I can see!” to emphasis the depth of their willful blindness to the fact that many things are not equal and that every occasion can’t be an All Lives/All Women/All Rainforests time to shine. But none of that matters because this entire discourse was about “me” anyway.

https://twitter.com/NancyLeeGrahn/status/645914373047779332
Whatever.

I want to conclude by thanking Viola for using that moment to show the world a different side to Black womanhood. The side that CBS news and Maury and VH-1 and the hoard of other networks make it a point to bury. The side of Black womanhood that is graceful and gracious. That shares her shine with her sisters. That honors the memory of those sisters who have gone before us. And for reminding me of the importance of my craft when she said:

“…the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

This speech should be dissected and taught in class for its power despite its brevity. I have been tempted many times to stop writing because I didn’t see the point. But if I give up on my craft, I can’t get mad because they keep casting us as maids, or whores, or illiterate junkies…compelling as those stories may be. It’s my duty to write about the many Black women who are lawyers, or homemakers, or secret taekwondo assassins to bring balance to our story. I thank Viola for subtly reminding me of that.

 

 

 

What If We All Conducted Ourselves Like American Police on Our Jobs?

With the constant bombardment of images and videos depicting police brutality, it certainly feels like it is a trend on the rise. I don’t believe we will ever truly know how many people have died at the hands of the American police, since the force and the judicial system itself has staked their collective souls in shielding the institution from any sort of accountability. On the rare occasions that police officers do find themselves on trial for obvious human right’s abuses, the verdict frequently results in the officer(s) complete exoneration. It’s a never ending cycle.

According to the Code of Conduct for law enforcement officials adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 where the term “law enforcement officials”, includes all officers of the law, whether appointed or elected, who exercise police powers, especially the powers of arrest or detention, these persons are required to adhere (but not limited) to the following:

Article 2:

In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Article 3:

Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

Article 5:

No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, nor may any law enforcement official invoke superior orders or exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or a threat of war, a threat to national security, internal political instability or any other public emergency as a justification of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

I’ve highlighted these in particular, because they demonstrate the contravening of these international laws by the American police force as modeled through homicides of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd and hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their lives to a bullet, beating or strangling in America.

The now-accepted explanation by those invested in the maintenance of this form of social lawful disorder – as it serves either to their benefit or because it affects their communities by a miniscule extent – is that because police officers interact with criminals and a “hostile public” all day, they themselves are prone to (re)act violently, depending on who they are interacting with. In other words, a series of bad days can lead up to the ultimate bad day for any American citizen, depending on how the boy in blue is feeling that day.

cops

Oh really? Do these people think police officers are the only ones who experience stress when interfacing with the public whom they are PAID to serve? Well, what if ALL the people who work with the public had the liberty to use force when we “deemed necessary” to bring about a speedy resolution to a sticky or unpleasant situation? What if those actions resulted in the same “repercussions” that the police typically face? I’ve talked to a number of people who have fanaticized about it. Come with me. It’s time for…

 

****MOM MODE!****

It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon at America’s favorite place to buy shoes. A throng of suburban moms and their caffeinated teens mills through the aisles inspecting items, sometimes putting them in their right place, sometimes not. Store associates are working desperately to keep up with the pace of the mess that is being created in the wake of the back-to-school shopping weekend. Lisa has been working at the store for 6 months, after being transferred from another location for disciplinary issues. She looks across the store and sees a woman and her young son try on 8 pairs of shoes. They have left a pile of paper, boxes and plastic all over the area.

Lisa takes a series of meaningful strides and is at the mom’s side in moments.

“Who left this pile of trash here?” Lisa asks, already knowing the answer. It’s not a crime to leave trash on the floor, but it IS rude.

“What?” asks the mom. “There was paper in the boxes. We took it out to try the shoes on.”

Lisa is miffed. Her question has not been answered appropriately. She repeats herself.

“I said ‘Who left this pile of trash here?’ I didn’t ask you about the nature of the stuffing of the boxes! You left a pile of trash here and you’re going to pay for it!”

Indignant, the mother retorts. Never in her life has she been spoken to this way by a store associate.

“There’s no reason to yell!” she screeches. “You are making a scene, and you are frightening my son!” She points to the young boy for emphasis.

Feeling threatened and irritated, Lisa wrestles the mother to the ground and grabs her by the throat, demanding that she confess to putting the paper mess all over her store floor. But the mom can’t speak. She’s having the life choked out of her.

2 weeks later, there is an inquest and Lisa’s conduct has been ruled appropriate. The mother did pose a threat, since she raised her hand and became erratic during what should have been a simple Q&A session. Lisa has been transferred to the administration department where she will spend 9 hours a day off her feet enjoying donuts and water-cooler conversation.

 

****

John works at big box retailer in its tech repair department. His shift is unpredictable. Some days he works from the time the store opens until it closes. Sometimes he only works 8 hours a week. It just depends on how much crack the manager on duty has been smoking when he did the schedule. On this day, John has pulled a double shift. He’s been in the back of the store – an area the staff refers to as The Cage – for 16 hours already.

John doesn’t mind working with laptops and cell phones. They don’t talk back. It’s when he gets called to the front to deal with customers that gets him particularly irate. Today, a man in dark washed jeans, a pale blue buttoned down shirt and a silver bangle on his wrist is standing in his line. John already knows his type: high maintenance. He sighs and calls for the next customer to come forward.

The bangle wearing customer already has an attitude when he approaches John. He drops his Blackberry on the tech desk and leans in during his conversation.

“I brought this device in 2 weeks ago, and the problem hasn’t been resolved!” the customer seethes.

John takes a step back, decides he doesn’t like either his tone OR his attitude and picks up the Blackberry. He then smashes it into Bangle Boy’s temple. It’s been a rough week already, see? John is not to blame. There is an investigation and soon media reports are released to show that the bangle wearing customer had weed in his system. How was John expected to behave when the client had weed in their system???

 

*****

Pots are banging. The floor is slippery. None of the orders are coming out on time. Food is being served cold. When Alara took the job as a waitress to help supplement her income, she never thought it would be like this. She imagined a quirky life making frivolous conversation while serving meals to sanguine lovers in a dimly lit dining room. Sadly, there are no such eateries in her small town, and her big city dreams and demeanor have made her somewhat of a misfit in this diner where she works for tips.

Uninterested, she asks two men who are seated in her section about their beverage choices.

“What will you have to drink?”

The gentlemen are doubled over with laughter. Alara assumes they are laughing at her. She takes a scalding hot pot of coffee and tosses it into one of the men’s face. He screams in agony. His compatriot jumps to his feet and demands that Alara explain herself! What does she think she’s doing! How does is laughter pose a threat! Alara, feeling attacked, pulls a knife and threatens to stab the screaming man. When the sight of the knife only makes him scream louder, she plunges it into his chest.

There is an investigation and Alara is not only given a raise, but is promoted to manager. The customers should not only have been more attentive to her queries, but should not have engaged in any form of merriment in her presence. She was trying to carry out her duty, for crying out loud, and they were interring with that! (A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Alara so that she can retire on a million dollars whenever she’s ready. She’s earned it for her bravery.)

 

Oh. Laugh! Feel free. There is a certain irony to all this that warrants dark mirth. Of course, we can’t allow this sort of behavior to run rampant in American society. We would quickly fall into total anarchy, which is why I am a bit befuddled as to why state and federal officials aren’t doing more to curb the shenanigans of the police. The ideals of white supremacy must be protected at all cost, I suppose.

Have you ever wanted to slap the taste out of someone on your job? If you could get away with it, would you? Do you think the police continue to brutalize (certain sections of) the public because they know they can get away with it? And finally, should Obama be out there chastising African nations about human rights abuses when there are clear (daily) violations of those same rights on the nation that he presides over? Discuss!