Metro DC police confirm Stukie has been found. We should be satisfied with that.

The last time I wrote about Stukie’s disappearance, several Zambian media sources shamelessly plagiarized my work. Today I invite those same sources to copy and paste as much of this article as they wish. Everything I have to say is about you.

17 hours ago, the Twitter handle for the DC Police department reported that Suwilanji Situmbeko had been located, to the relief of many. Zambians on social media congratulated themselves for making enough noise to get their “cousin” located. It was a rare moment of national unity – as a number of users pointed out – and now they are demanding answers. So where WAS Stukie?

The reasons that folks have put forth to buttress their (assumed) right to know all the details surrounding his disappearance nclude:

  • Emotional investment
  • Spending money on data bundles to push the #WhereIsStukie hashtag, and
  • But if your boyfriend sleeps around on you and goes missing and you report it, doesn’t he owe you an explanation?

I am sure that Suwilanji is grateful for the online support he has received. I haven’t spoken to him myself, but I sent him an email to express my gratitude and relief that he’s be found alive, and I assume well.

Again, I assume he’s well. I don’t know.

When a 27-year-old man is reported missing – and has been MIA for 14 days – one can never speculate with any accuracy what the circumstances surrounding that disappearance were. And so because there is no room for speculation, an entire cabal of social media users is demanding that their curiosity be satisfied. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that they have a claim on information about what happened to Stukie.

I wonder, have any of these people asked themselves if they are prepared to deal with the truth of what happened? How will that knowledge benefit them personally, or more importantly, how does it benefit Stukie, the “cousin” and “brother” who we as professed family rallied to bring global attention to finding? What if he comes forward and explains himself…and the answer doesn’t satisfy you? What will you do then? Given the speed with which supportive Voltrons turn to virulent Trolls on Twitter, I have a fair indication of how Stukie could be treated by his “Ati! I used data-bundle – to – promote-hashtag– so-you-owe-me family”.

What if what happened to him was worse than you could imagine?

What if he was kidnapped and physically and sexually assaulted at gunpoint over the course of 14 days? Are you going to be there to walk him through the trauma?

What if his abductors only released him on condition of his silence?

What if he comes forward with information and in doing so puts his family at risk?

Or – and this will set your teeth on edge – what if Stukie had a psychotic break, imagined all the incidents he posted online and made the entire episode up in his mind? Perhaps you may recall the story about the Nigerian med school student who failed to turn up at her own graduation party and went missing for 21 days? She was so overwhelmed by her family’s expectations of her that she felt the need to escape and attempt a new life. Remember how she was scorned online (and probably in real life as well) for wasting everyone’s time and playing with OUR emotions? Do you think that that reaction was helpful to her in ANY way? Do you think a similar reaction in Stukie’s case would be healthy for him either?

I understand that people are curious. I even understand the notion that we all have a right to know. What I don’t comprehend is this idea that we must know RIGHT now. There was a time that as a culture, we understood that. We understood the importance of giving people time to process and heal. We are dealing with a real human being’s life right now. This is not a reality show or a LifeTime made for TV film. When (or if) the man is ready, he will come forward and talk about it. I can bet my last cent that there are members of the Zambian media trying to scoop his cousin and/or employer to feed this empty lust for information. Just leave this man be and let him have some peace! Because if you are ALSO not ready to come with resources to support him besides plagiarizing the work of bloggers for clicks on your website, you need to sit this one out too.

In the meantime, since Zambians have seen how effective their efforts have been at locating the lost, perhaps they can use those powers to finding lost government revenues and other missing persons who could do with similar exposure. But for now, Stukie has been found and that should be enough for all of us.

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!

 

 

Where is Doc Stukie?

My friend Dr. Suwilanji Situmbeko is missing, and we are all left with are a series of bizarre tweets and more questions than answers.

Stukie's Facebook profile picture, dated Oct, 2016

Stukie’s Facebook profile picture, dated Oct, 2016

In April of 2015, a 26-year-old Zambian Medical Doctor and MBA candidate majoring in Financial Management named Suwilanji Situmbeko shared his exciting news with me. He had been selected as a Global Health Corps finalist for US12-Int: Global Program Associate, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Out of an applicant pool of 5000, only 150 people would be selected and confirmed for the coveted associate positions. Doc Stukie, as we all fondly know him online, made the final cut and moved to New York from Zambia later that year.

This was no meager feat. Orphaned by the age of 13, Suwilanji devoted himself to his studies and went on to receive a scholarship to study medicine in Algeria in 2007 from the Bursaries Committee after completing 12th grade. He studies kept him abroad for 8 years where he excelled. And it is that same sense of perseverance and dedication that catapulted him to his position at Planned Parenthood.

If time and circumstances allowed, it was my and Stukie’s plan to meet up in New York for our first face-to-face, but they never did. We were ‘strangers’, but he called me ‘sis’ and I called him ‘bro’. I consider him family. He is an avid MOM reader, and was one of the first people to buy Madness & Tea when it was released. I sent him an autographed copy and he sent me screenshots of him giggling on the subway as he read the book. He is a wonderful man, incredibly intelligent, and fierce women’s reproductive rights advocate and today, he is missing.

Stukie moved from New York to Washington, DC to continue working with Global Health Corps (GHC). From what his tweets and other social media activity reveal, he had experienced unpleasant and strained relationships with his roommates, three white women named Erica, Laura and Morgan who appeared to take umbrage with the fact that GHC fellows of color were being specifically chosen to attend media events, signaling that they believed that as white women, they were being discriminated against. It is unclear if this same cabal of women (and the troubles he endured at their hands) followed him from New York to DC where they would continue to room together, but he shared emails typed in January of this year on October 20 and 21st, asking his friends and followers to screenshot them as evidence. Evidence of what, we don’t know. That next day, he was reported as missing.

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Other portions of his Twitter activity indicate that GHC was trawling through his personal Facebook page – which was taken down and then reinstated – after he threatened to sue GHC if they dared to shut down his Twitter account just as they had influenced Facebook to do as well. I can only speculate what he uncovered while working at GHC/Planned Parenthood.

His last tweet says:

Cryptic...

Cryptic…

Someone knows what happened to Doc Stukie, where he is and if he is safe. They know and they are not saying. Suwilanji is much loved. He is an ally and a good friend. He deserves to be safe, happy and back doing the work in medicine that he cares so deeply for. If you are reading this and you know of his whereabouts, if you have any clues or information, please contact the local authorities immediately. Please share his face and details on social media.

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A Black man is missing in the Metro DC area, and he’s not a thug, drug lord or wanted for murder. You won’t see him on Fox news at 5pm. It’s down to us to keep his face and name in the public’s eye.

We are praying for word from you, Doc Stukie. I AM praying for you. We have an unfulfilled coffee date, remember? My treat.

 

I Need My Finances To Find The Hem Of Jesus’ Garment…Quickly

hem-of-his-garment

My phone rang deep in the night as I was settling my head into my pillow. It was a dear friend calling from the US.

“Girl, I know it’s late where you are…but we haven’t spoken in a while so I don’t care.”

I laughed at her candor and told her I didn’t mind. I wasn’t going to be able to go right to sleep anyway. I had too much on my mind.

“What’s going on with you?” she asked.

“Girl,” I sighed.

“Girl!” she exhaled in response.

Now that the universal code for struggle-recognizes-struggle-but-yet-still-holding-on had been uttered, we set about the business of laying out the particulars of said struggle which always are (in no particular order): husbands, children, crazy folk en masse and in general, and finances. Finances were foremost on my mind. I told her as much when she asked:

“Did I miss something on the blog? It’s been quiet.”

“No,” I cackled. “You ain’t missed a thing. I wrote one piece last week, and that’s it. I might not even post this week. I need to figure some things out before I worry about writing…”

And it’s true.

Okay guys: This is me just talking here; just keeping it really real mmmkay? I’m feeling really vulnerable right now. I just need to talk things through. I need a miracle, and more importantly, my finances need a touch from the healing hand of the Lord Jesus Christ…or whatever His Hebrew name was before it was colonized by the Romans. Come to think of it, it’s probably why Jesus don’t really be answering prayer as quickly as we would like. “Jesus” is the Son of God’s field name…like Toby. Remember when the white people stole Kunta’s name in Roots? We done Toby-ed Jesus.

That’s not the point of this post.

Whatever the case may be, my account is hemorrhaging; It’s experiencing a proverbial issue of blood, and it needs just one Benny Hinn TOUCH! of anointing to set it straight.

Benny Hinn at Maple Leaf Gardens on Sept. 28, 1992 photos by Tony Bock/Toronto Star and handout photo.

Benny Hinn at Maple Leaf Gardens on Sept. 28, 1992 photos by Tony Bock/Toronto Star and handout photo.

It’s not like I’m not trying to inject some juice into this dried out fiscal turkey. It’s not like I’m sitting around waiting for someone to just hand me some money. I mean, I’m selling EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. That’s what Oprah and them said to do, right? Provide value for value? Whatchu need? Chances are, I’ve got it.

You need organic deodorant and essential oils? I gotchu.

You need books? Done.

You looking to buy a house? I’m selling one of those too!

Chicka chikow for some chicka chi-change!

Chicka chikow for some chicka chi-change!

The only things I haven’t done yet is tap dance on Vaudeville for a few coins, and in if the price is right, I’ll do that too! Just for that TOUCH!

I don’t have the words today, MOM Squad and Random Readers, which is why I’ve prepared this short video to convey my concern. I don’t cuss (often) and I try to treat my fellow man right (when they aren’t being insufferable douche bags), so why these fiscal trials and tribulations? Doesn’t the universe know that Christmas is coming? Don’t the ancients of days know that there is nothing more cliche than a child in Africa with no access to the delights of commercialized western Christmas? Next thing you know, the dudes from Wham(!) will be on my stoop talkin’ about some Feed the World, and I’ll be forced to listen to their condescension all because my finances couldn’t grab a hold of the heavenly hem!  Not for my children’s first Christmas in Africa. I reject it in Jesus’ name!

dotheyknowitschristmas_960

All I have is this one desire…for the linen of the Son of the Lamb to brush up against my Suntrust account and do its thing.

 

Do you need Jesus to brush up on your dollar bills too? Let’s join our faith with one another, right here in the comments section. Yessss…wind of God, blow. Whooosh!

 

 

Would A Cheeto in Chief Actually Be That Bad?

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There are only 11 days to go before the US election is upon us. Depending on who comes out the victor, half of the country will be in mourning for the next four years while the other half will move forward with muted optimism. No matter what side of the divide you’re on, we (excluding voters at the fringes) have all pretty much agreed that the choices for this election suck pretty hard. It’s a horrible decision; like having to choose between under-cooked chicken and rancid groundnut soup. Either dish has the potential to kill you, but NOT eating (i.e. in this case, voting) would be considered an affront to those who’ve fought so hard in years past to give us access to poultry and groundnut soup. That’s good eatin’! However, I think former sharecroppers and Suffragettes alike could appreciate the dilemma their contemporaries – you and I – face today.

Back when it seemed impossible that Donald Trump could become the front-runner, let alone the candidate for the Republican Party, I asked a particularly snarky relative of mine how bad could it be if he actually did succeed in his bid to become president. This woman snorted with contempt before answering, “It won’t mean a damn thing to Black folk who wins or loses in this election. Never has.”

I knew that to be fundamentally untrue. I mean, the Obamas have given us a lifetime of lovely pictures to look fondly back on. Nothing in the way of policy that has affected positive change for our most vulnerable citizens, but we have truckloads of internet memes and Essence magazine covers praising the couple for leading the nation with “style and grace”. When I said as much to the aforementioned relative, she nearly choked on her own condescension…which I understood well.

The grim reality is that people of color in America have been, and will probably always be, on their own where politics and development are concerned. Sure, politicians hang around churches, barber shops and urban radio stations when they’re pandering for votes, but outside of developing policies meant to punish and contain super predators who populate inner cities, or keep people dependent on the public dole – and then scorning them for their engineered condition – the political elite have never considered communities of color a valuable resource worth investing in. And despite having our most prosperous communities razed to rubble, a school to prison pipeline in full swing, and pervasive hostility that manifests in ways both micro and overt, we keep holding on and fighting back. This is why when calamity strikes mainstream America, we don’t participate in the freak out. Do you remember when the Great Recession first hit and affluent white men were killing themselves and/or their whole families because they lost their 401Ks? The potential for living a life making the sort of wages Black women have had to get by on for decades was more than they could fathom. Being broke is no walk in the park, but it certainly doesn’t warrant a murder/suicide! Even when things are bad, they are only temporary…as would be a Trump presidency.

Since that conversation with my family member, a lot has happened. We’ve had three debates and Trump is no longer tied with or leading Hillary in the polls. In fact, exit polls at early voting have her at 93% chance of winning the election. But if Trump DID manage to eek out a win, I don’t foresee how it would be that bad for Black Americans. No! Just hear me out.

 

We’d be safer. Old Crazy Joe Walsh has already begun rallying the Second Amendment riff raff with a clarion call for all to gather their muskets in revolt the event of a Trump loss. As history has shown us, from cross burnings on lawns, to mass school shootings to Pumpkin Festival riots in New Hampshire, white men mean what they say when they threaten to execute violence. We have long lived to pacify and work around white male fragility, and I know it’s anti-revolutionary for me to suggest that we continue to do so, but until we as a people get real socio-economic and political power, we have to continue to do so. If we work on doing THAT, maybe we can get a better breed of presidential candidate in the future.

It will finally remove the illusion that we can depend on the government to protect us. By “protect”, I mean from policing, to provision of safe utilities, to healthcare. Barack Obama’s presidency did a lot to change the ‘tone’ of politics in America, but it did not improve the execution of policies that keep communities of color safe. Not much of this is President Obama’s fault, as he is limited in what he can do from the Oval Office with a Republican House and Senate opposing him at every opportunity. I think his presidency caused us to become complacent, in a way. With a Cheeto in Chief, there will be no such complacency. We will always be on our guard. We will operate on the offensive, rather than being reactionary to social events. We will keep our eyes peeled for shenanigans of any sort and be more difficult to dupe, as we will be far less trusting. As the great philosopher Frankie Agyemang said: “Trump’s face is like a reversible coat: I don’t know which side to trust!”

As Cheeto in Chief, Trump will drive us to prayer. Yes, Lawd, we gon’ pray. This is always a good position to be in. You know why the Old Mothers lived to be old mothers? Because they were always in a position of prayer. With Trump as president, the name of Jesus will never rest. The Holy Ghost will always be in our midst. We will begin to see ministering angels because. We. Will. Always. Be. In. Prayer.

We will draw closer to each other. There’s nothing like a common enemy to cause people to circle the wagons and close ranks. With a Barack Obama presidency, there was the assumption that everything was good…or at least everything was going to work out. But with President Squirrel Wig (as Luvvie calls him) so close to the nuclear codes, we will be more likely to check on each other. Like, “You okay, Curtis? Just checking on you. I just wanted to make sure the Fuhrer didn’t steal your children in the night or poison your water supply…” We lost some of that sense of community cohesiveness with 8 years under President Obama. It hasn’t helped us!

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EVERYONE would get a passport. Just in case something pops off, it’s always good to have that blue passbook to the world at the ready. You never know. Tavis said that they could re-institute race based slavery in America, and you don’t want to be caught with no way or paperwork to get on the exit boat. The duration of a Trump presidency would be a really good time to go see the world.

 

A Trump presidency is more detrimental to white American citizenry than it is to Black. The former group is more susceptible to deception. We at least know where we stand. He’s already concluded we’re illiterates who live under a hail of gunfire in the inner cities, where we alone, dwell exclusively. The man has no idea how to bring back the manufacturing jobs that Middle America lost to NAFTA, and frankly couldn’t care to. That’s his biggest carrot. He doesn’t even furnish his hotels with made in America goods. This bid for presidency is meant to serve two people only: Donald Trump and his Ego, an unpleasant persona so vast it’s measured in Parsecs.

Trump supporters would be in for the shock of their lives about his ineffectiveness if he won…but he (probably) isn’t going to. As for the ones he refers to as “The Blacks”, we’re going to do with what we’ve always done to survive America; turn sludge into sunshine.

Whichever way the election goes, the results are going to be historic: We’ll either have the first woman woman or the first bipedal crunchy snack running the country.

Behold: Lye Rolls Catcha Mellows!

Hi! HI! HIIII!!!!

I’m excited! Can you tell? I am so thrilled to share something I’ve been working on – or spent months not working on, if I’m honest – recently. I’m not entirely sure what to call the final product, so I’m calling it an InterWebz Audio Storybook (or IWAS) until one of you very brilliant readers can categorize it correctly for me.

There’s been a lot of talk in the news but very little “news” on the airwaves, if you catch my drift. I turn on the TV and I can nearly predict what’s going to be said. It’s Donald Trump and Hillary, Donald Trump and Hillary and then some neon-green eyed former rapper who refers to himself as a ‘trick’ while admonishing hoes of a particular race to “tighten up” before Spanish and white women obsolete skeets himself into the news-cycle to break the monotony before it goes back Donald and Hillary. (If this lattermost story flew over your radar, don’t widen your signal net to try to catch it. It’s not going to edify you in the least. No…trust me. Don’t. Do. It.)

I took advantage of the lull in interesting current events to work on a project I had tabled in early 2016. The beginning of the year was hectic as we were focusing on final exams, projects, field trips and an international move…all excuses I pointed to as evidence that I was way too busy and good reason for my delayed work on the IWAS. The truth was that I was afraid of screwing up. This week, I decided to overcome my fear and just give the IWAS a try. How was I going to fail if I didn’t even try? So after all those mental gymnastics, here it is! My first IWAS: Lye Rolls Catcha Mellows.

Lye Rolls Catcha Mellows was a story I wrote and submitted to Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Award in 2015. I didn’t enter the competition with the intention of winning. (Which might be why I never win at these sorts of things.) Like the Golden Baobab Award which pushed me to finish Sally & the Butterfly on schedule, the New Voices Award served as my motivator to write about a character I don’t often feature in my writing: a little Black boy. All of my fiction has been very female focused and driven, so to give voice to a boy felt foreign, but comfortable.

Close to Home is available everywhere on Amazon.

Close to Home is available everywhere on Amazon.

I wrote Close to Home while simultaneously writing Lye Rolls, and while I always knew that Carlos’ story was going to be presented in print, I wasn’t sure how I would introduce the Nameless Boy and his Grandfather to the world. I knew I wanted something audible because the title is so unique and because I knew the one question I knew I would frequently get if it was put to print first would be “Huh? How do you pronounce this thing?” Long story shortened, the IWAB proved to be the way forward.

For a first attempt, I’m pretty pleased with the result. There are some bloopers that I’m very much aware of and after doing x number of takes, this one was the better of the lot that I decided to go forward with. Keen listeners will hear me say “metcha mellows” at one point and “boys” instead of “boy”. I’m not rerecording it sha. Ayam tiyed! The gbaa police can issue their tickets in the comments section if they like. Ha! Despite the two hiccups, I’m really, really happy. And I have a brand new appreciation and respect for filmmakers and animators. You deserve every coin you earn and you guys that work behind the scenes without the glory really deserve more shine. MAGIX sees your sacrifice, even if no one else does.

Without further ado, I give you the one, the only IWAS: Lye Rolls Catcha Mellows!

 

What do you think? Do you have questions? Do you need a narrator? I’m available for hire.😉

 

*If you are new to writing and/or illustrating and are looking for publishing opportunities, check out the details on Lee & Low Books’ annual awards competition here. May the odds be in your favor!

President Buhari’s Comments About His Wife Kind of Matter…But Really Don’t

Ordinarily I would react to President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments about his wife with irritation and rancor, but a weekend trip to Johannesburg helped me see the situation with new clarity. Here’s why.

At best, we are all 5 degrees of separation from a couple like the Buharis – possibly fewer if you happen to be a person of African heritage born into privilege. Aisha Buhari is the second wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, who at 47 years old wed her at age 18. Only the two of them and their family know what attraction led these two into matrimony – whether for convenience or true love – but relationships between powerful elderly men and inexperienced young women is quite common.

Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari arrives with his wife Aisha, before taking oath of office at the Eagles Square in Abuja, on May 29, 2015. Buhari, 72, defeated Goodluck Jonathan in March 28 elections -- the first time in Nigeria's history that an opposition candidate had beaten a sitting president. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari arrives with his wife Aisha, before taking oath of office at the Eagles Square in Abuja, on May 29, 2015. Buhari, 72, defeated Goodluck Jonathan in March 28 elections — the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition candidate had beaten a sitting president. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Everyone has their own notions about why a man who is so far advanced in years would take up a relationship with a woman barely legal enough to qualify for the demarcation, but those notions are rarely noble. Typically, these men are looking for a mate they can control, guide and groom, rather than a partner in every sense of the term. What’s unfortunate is that these sorts of men fail to understand that a woman is not a car; you can’t just add and take away features and still maintain the same product, essentially. A woman is a more like a tree. She will grow in many directions and in time, turn into something entirely different from the seed that was planted into the ground. I suspect this is what’s happening in the Buharis marriage, and we are all being treated to a front row seat to the show.

Last week, you may have heard that President Buhari made some pretty unsavory remarks about his wife while sharing a stage with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. In response to comments made by his wife in a BBC interview wherein she said that she might not back him in the next election unless he shakes up his government, he said: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

Mrs. Buhari said in the same interview that she is very vested in protecting her husband’s legacy, a passionate cause which likely led her to speak in a way more candidly than Nigerians are accustomed to.

The reality is that Aisha Buhari publicly spoke to a lot of frustrations that ordinary Nigerians talk about every day. President Buhari’s government has been deemed to move too slow, has ushered in a weaker economy, and appears to lack cohesiveness. As a Nigerian citizen who – like her husband – “belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody”, she has the right to voice her thoughts on the politics of the day. The fact that she married a man who aspired to the office of president and was only successful on the fourth attempt does not preclude her from that right. There has been much talk online (and probably more off) that her role as First Lady – a title she has rejected – is to support her husband no matter what. On the other side of the spectrum and in response to her husband’s reflexive sexism, there have been some who have called for Mrs. Buhari to end her marriage to a man who clearly has bias against her for the sake of her gender and her inferior position as his wife. Whether that bias is unconscious or not, only President Buhari can say…but rest assured Mrs. Buhari knows her husband is and always has been. Like Donald Trump and his comfort with saying the offensive and preposterous, this is not the first time President Buhari as said something outdated, sexist and subversionary to his wife and/or about women.

You may recall Governor Oshiomhole’s crass comments about his wife’s virginity on their wedding day while a room full of guests looked on…. guests that included President Buhari. These are the types of “jokes” that men of this stature are used to making about women, our bodies, our place in politics, etc. None of this is actually funny, but their hubris hinders them from recognizing that they are the only ones laughing.

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It’s tempting to believe that comments like these are the mindless ramblings made by men from an era gone by, because we desperately want to believe that humanity is getting smarter…better…more cognitively aware. We must resist that urge to deflect and deny the everyday sexism that women face, particularly from those closest to them. It very much exists.

Just this week I was at dinner with a group of friends where the discussion turned to children and work-life balance. The couples there were of mixed race and heritage, among which was a Ghanaian couple. The husband says, “My wife’s children love to play tennis…”

She stops him with an incredulous laugh and says, “What do you mean ‘your wife’s children’? They’re your children too!”

He retorts, “Ho! How do I know that these are my children? I have no way of knowing!”

The table reacts with stunned silence. He goes on to repeat a Fante proverb about children not belonging to their fathers – without explaining the context – as justification for the offensive thing he’s just implied about his WIFE in front a group of friends and strangers. Clearly, he’s heard this type of “joke” before and grew comfortable enough with this type of jest that he thought he’d try it on for size. He should’ve resisted the temptation, because at 40 years old and with access to education and incredible, wealth, he knows exactly how a DNA test works. That comment was unfair, inappropriate and unwarranted. Furthermore, the proverb was coined before the proliferation of LabCorps. His wife’s response to the gaffe? Silence, as you would expect. Men can be as offensive as they want in public, but women have been conditioned to defend themselves in private.

But in that weekend – which coincided with President Buhari’s belittling comments about his wife – I was reminded that there is little you can do to alter the behavior of a sexist. All you can do is respond to it; and that’s why feminism is essential. To the degree that patriarchy excludes and denies equality is the degree to which feminism is necessary. And the best response to sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination systems is the acquisition of power. That is why President Buhari’s comments matter, but at the end of the day, really don’t.

I am pleased to see that Aisha Buhari has not backed down from her position and her advice that her husband get his political house in order. Her speaking out may not signal the end of their marriage, but it has certainly signaled the end as they have both previously known it.

Folks have reacted with shock to her extroversion, precisely because they expect her to retreat to the symbolic kitchen where she smiles for the camera and disappears in her husband’s shadow. Instead, she has doubled down on her earlier utterances and is on her way to Brussels to talk about women’s role in global security. How could she confidently talk about courage and security while displaying political timidity? And for the sake of “culture”? No! What we are seeing is a 45 year old Aisha Buhari discovering and demonstrating her earned independence. She is slowly (re)crafting an identity apart from “Mr. Buhari’s wife”.

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It would shock people to know that women married into power and privilege have a long history of “defying” their husbands, often in the defense of the disadvantaged. Lady Godiva is a favorite figure of mine. Godiva was aarried to Leofric, the tyrannical Earl of Mercia. After the Danish invasion of Coventry in 1040, Leofric ruled with an iron fist, squeezing the population of its livelihood through taxes and levies. His wife, however, was a compassionate who visited the poor and shared of her abundance with them. When Leofric announced that he was to introduce a new tax that would fiscally cripple the population, she begged her husband to reconsider. He said that the only way that he would ever do that is if she rode through the streets naked on a horse… a great dishonor for a woman of her stature.

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But on market day, Lady Godiva, robed only with her cascading blond hair, went on the ultimate Slut Walk for her constituents. Upon hearing of his wife’s courageous deed, Leofric was compelled to revoke the tax, and the rest became history. She used her privileged position to bring about the outcome she wanted and gained power to affect change in the process.

So while sexism is a vile state of mind and even worse to contend with, I believe we would make better use of our time by changing our reaction to it. Does sexism need to be dismantled? Without question; but we do that with owning our own spaces, resources and enterprises, not appealing to the kindness and sweetness of the oppressor. It’s never worked. Power is the only thing a sexist (or racists, or ablest, etc.) understands, proving Prophetess Beyoncé right in this one regard: Your best revenge in your paper.

 

MX5: Are you reading this? What would you do if FX5 got on international TV and said “my wife belongs in MY kitchen”? Call me later girl!