Today is my son’s 12th birthday. 12 years! Time flies and flies! Motherhood has, of course, changed me…for the better. Over the years since I’ve become a Mother, I have seen a lot of things that assault what it means, for me, an African woman who is consciously single, to be a Mother. Be clear, when I say consciously single, I mean that. I ended my marriage but not my interaction with his dad (my was-band). It was after our divorce that I got pregnant. His dad and I discussed remarrying and my answer was a resounding no!

Don’t get me wrong. I still have love for his dad. We went through a lot together…and apart…and there is no other man in the world, if it was possible to go back and re-choose, that I would have chosen to be my child’s father. I recognized, even at that stage when my child (aka fetus) wasn’t formed enough to move inside me, that two different things were at play. There was the relationship of a man and a woman. And there was the relationship between father and child. I believed then and still believe now that it’s wasn’t necessary for his dad and I to be together in order for his dad to have a relationship with our child.

Still, I was a womanist and when I found out I was carrying a boy, I sat in the ultrasound room and cried my heart out. Of course, now I look back and say “that was hormones”. But still, I had spent a lot of time and emotional energy deciding on a name for a girl. I was convinced, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to give birth to a girl. Still bound by a patriarchal understanding that women can’t raise boys to manhood, I wasn’t at all happy about the fact that my child was going to have a penis!  So I cried, something I do only when I am extremely upset!

But then the day came. When I felt the first contraction, I immediately gave up any idea of giving birth naturally and said “give me the epidural”. I look back now and say “you punk, you were so scared of the pain, you allowed the nurses to give you a shot in your spine” and said shot numbed me so much I was unable to feel my legs, let alone “push”. And the white female doctor, who was so unfamiliar with black women’s health issues, that she had to look up, in my presence, what it meant that I carried the sickle cell trait, decided, eventually, that she would have to bring my child into the world through a Caesarian. And she also gave me a scar I haven’t been able to eradicate to this day; presumably because black people heal unlike white people…

Still, I love that scar and I love the boy I gave birth to. I realized, pretty quickly, that my womanist bent meant I was more qualified, emotionally and culturally speaking, to be a mother of a boy than I was of a girl. In other words, I wasn’t a “girly girl”. I don’t wear makeup. Whenever I wear a dress or a skirt, people in my circle feel it necessary to exclaim and exalt me for doing so as if a dress or a skirt suddenly demonstrates to them that I possess a vagina; even though I do so whenever the weather is conducive. I don’t torture my feet by wearing what I call “hooker heels”.

I used to agonize about the above like it meant that I was, inherently, deficient in feminine qualities (aka “ain’t I a woman?”). And then I had a conversation with a now-former Sister-friend and said conversation resulted in me saying “I’m okay and have been for quite a while”. I realized that it wasn’t me that was deficient. The motherhood model was what was deficient.

Once I realized, and embraced that I was and continue to be, able to raise a boy to manhood. I realized that all the patriarchal/hotep folks who were very vocally against women raising boys weren’t against it because they doubted a woman’s ability. They were against it because they disagreed with the kind of man women such as I were raising. We weren’t (and are not) raising our boys (they don’t consider the girls) to be the Barack Obama version of Kaitlyn Jenner. (Ponder that for a moment)

As I routinely state on my private (friends only) Facebook page, I am raising a man, not a slave. And as my child (and I) celebrate his twelfth year of existence in a country where black children can’t play in a park without being murdered by those who are alleged to “protect and serve”, I give thanks to all I am that enables me to do so (raise a man, not a slave).

So…happy, happy bornday (he was born, I gave birth) to my very, very beloved yng blk star. May you continue to thrive and grow…and define for yourself what it means to be you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blerd Mom Chronicles

February 2, 2016

Urban dictionary describes “blerd” as such:

A nerd who is of African American decent [sic]. A BLack-nERD.
Turk: “My cousins a blerd”
Carla: !?!?!
Turk: A black nerd.

Based on their definition I am not a blerd because I am not of “African American decent [sic]”. It’s not necessary to go into my ancestry. Suffice it to say that at 48, none of the elders in my family were born in America. So I may not be a “nerd who is of African American descent [sic]” but I am a black nerd, a blerd.

My son, who is, partly, of African American descent, agrees; pointedly and comically. The other day, when I was near the completion of a marathon session of watching all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (something I do every once in a while),  I told him that watching Jessica Jones reminded me of Buffy and Buffy reminded me of Jessica Jones so I would be watching both series of Jessica and Buffy again. He hugged me, thus cementing his reputation as the “huggingest boy in the world” and showed me (with his finger) the tear he was “shedding” because his mom was turning into a nerd. I’m African-centered so of course I corrected him: “blerd not nerd”.

Recently, the huggingest boy in the world has surpassed the previous holder of World Record of number of hugs given in the space of sixteen minutes. And he achieved that stature as a result of his delight at my pointing him toward Black Nerd Problems. We bonded over this article: Ancestry For Nerds: How I Found My Blerd Roots Hiding in Plain Sight. I was regaled with tales of racist encounters he has has in gameville: “Oh, I didn’t know your people like sci-fi”. “I’m not racist. I love the character of Guinan on Star Trek. She was so magical and feisty”.

(I thought to myself they don’t know about the Color Purple Whoopi.)

I said “yeah and I bet those are the same people who objected to John Boyega playing Finn in the latest Star Wars movie or a Black actress playing Hermione or  Rue in The Hunger Games being black.” The minute I mentioned Rue and the Hunger Games, I knew it was confirmed that I am indeed numbered among the blerd universe. My son knew it too and we did the thing that is fundamental to our family: we laughed.

When I became pregnant, I made the conscious decision to a full-time stay-at-home mother. Eight years later, I have come to the conclusion that what I thought was a personal decision is more than that. It is political. It has been made abundantly clear to me that such a decision is supposed to be only the purview of married women whose husbands work at jobs where they earn a wage that makes the lack of two incomes a non-issue.  It is not a decision that society permits low income, not-completely college-educated women-such as myself. My status as a mother is, apparently, qualified by the pejorative “single” as if the way I mother my son is somehow qualitatively different than the way I would mother him if  his father and I hadn’t divorced before he was conceived…and also by the fact that I turned down his father’s remarriage request after our son was conceived.

The links below provided today discuss this “situation” in terms that define the saying “the personal is political”.

http://socialistworker.org/2012/07/23/single-mother-myth:

As long as our society is organized around the existence of the nuclear family, no matter how mythical that ideal has become, those who live outside it will be punished. In our society, the entire cost of raising the next generation of workers is pushed onto the private family. This represents a massive savings for those who run this society. Women’s unpaid labor in the home–in the U.S. alone–represents more than $1.4 trillion each year, according to the estimate of United Nations researchers in 1995.

http://bit.ly/MA7YMC:

Rather than opining on whether [Marissa] Mayer will be a good mommy, what we really ought to be talking about is why the workplace remains so incompatible with motherhood in the first place – and why we assume that fixing that incompatibility is women’s work.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/6/?single_page=true

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

Our women must not pull back in the face of the many different aspects of their struggle, which leads them to courageously and proudly take full charge of their own lives and discover the happiness of being themselves, not the domesticated female of the male. Today, many women still seek the protective cover of a man as the safest way out from all al that oppresses them. They marry without love or joy, just to serve some boor, some dreary male who is far removed from real life and cut off from the struggles of the people.

Often, women will simultaneously demand some haughty independence and at the same time protection, or even worse, to be put under the colonial  protectorate of a male. They do not believe that they can live otherwise. No. We must say again to our sisters that marriage, if it brings society nothing positive and does not bring them happiness, is not indispensable and should be even avoided.

Let us show them our many examples of hardy and fearless pioneers, single women with our without children, who are radiant and blossoming, overflowing with richness and availability for others-even envied by unhappily married women, because of the warmth they generate and the happiness they draw from their freedom, dignity and willingness to help others.

Women have shown sufficient proof of their ability to manage the home and raise children – in short, to be responsible members of society – without the oppressive tutelage of a man. Our society is surely sufficiently advanced to put an end to this banishment of the single woman. Comrade revolutionaries, we should see to it that marriage is a choice that adds something positive, and not some kind of lottery where we know what the ticket costs us, but have no idea what we will end up winning. Human feelings are too noble to be subject to such games.

Excerpted from Thomas Sankara Speaks

the things children say

July 16, 2010

my child asked me the other day if someone we’re familiar with "thinks well"? i laughed and laughed. what a question from a six yr old! after i finished laughing (and calling everyone i know) i asked him "do you want the truth or a child appropriate answer?

he’s my child: he wanted the truth.

"some people just have ‘boo-boos’ in their head but don’t think they have boo=boos in their head. they think you have the boo-boo”. my son looked at my like i was crazy. i started laughing. “it’s true!” 

of course, being a child, he still wants to talk to this person. the innocence of children. such innocence is admirable but in the real world such innocence is at a premium. i can’t have my lil black star be a sitting duck for the irresponsible people {aka boo-boo heads”} of the world but what i’m realizing and accepting [with sincere thanks to the universe] is that it’s not my battle. it’s his.

my psyche will not be the landscape on which this “battle” will be fought; his will. my only duty to him in this matter is to make sure he comes through without a boo-boo of his own in his precious head.

Twelve years ago, before I was a Mother myself, I gave my Mom a copy of Mothers of the Revolution. Reading the subheading of the book: The War Experiences of Zimbabwean women, she thought it was going to be the war experiences of gun-toting nappy-haired women who don’t hesitate to shoot upon seeing the white of someone’s skin. But it wasn’t. It was about the quiet, non glamorous, non-romanticized work of revolution; the work that is so quiet we don’t normally see it unless it’s not there…or unless it’s a threat to the dehumanizing status quo.

The whole question of motherhood, revolution and writing has been on my mind lately due to a conversation I had with a sister-friend about the sacrifices inherent in good mothering/parenting. She says that she may not be cut out for motherhood because she wants to be able to spend time writing and having mornings in bed, etc. Oh, how I can relate! What wouldn’t I give for just a week of that!! Then I look at my chocolate bundle of goodness, stubbornness and just plain 6 yr old boyness and I think no. Mornings in bed alone or with a man or a book or music or just the sunshine streaming through the window can’t compare with his scream of laughter when I tickle him in his armpits or the tightness of his arms when he comes to me for a hug after being hurt or even the endless questions that have me telling him to hush.

What’s even more ironic about her position is the fact that she had previously informed me, during one of my venting sessions, that my Son is now my revolution. I had understood that since writing

Sankara Mantra (7 Months)

Lashes like mine
Eyes like mine
even in the way
they peruse a room
Skin like mine
but darker.

A bafflement inside me
every time I hear him
referred to as black.
(how’d you get such a black baby?)

It has happened twice.
Just like my response.
(black is beautiful.)

His mouth like his father’s.
He even smirks like him
causing an almost instantaneous
transfer of affection.

Sankara
whose birth filled the holes
that were consuming my heart

Sankara
who is entranced by his reflection
in the mirror
has begun to stand.

I am in awe of his determination
and the fact that
at barely seventeen pounds
his head is already past my knees.

Sankara
who I brought into an oppressive world
clutches his walker with his pudgy fingers
and walks completely around it.

I watch with a joy that is miraculous.

Sankara
Who I brought into an oppressive world
is owed happiness and well-being
and that is a debt I will pay
like Malcolm said
by any means necessary.

 

Still even though I love my revolution too deeply to ever to ever abstain, this quiet work sometimes gets to me.  I once wanted to be louder than oppression. Now I find myself writing poems about wanting quiet! The same sister-friend mentioned earlier says it’s due to maturity but I miss immature me!  I miss the woman who wrote oppression should be shot down like john f. kennedy. I don’t quite know the woman who wants it quiet like days at ocean beach. I don’t know much of anything except there’s a richness to my life that wasn’t there before…no matter how much I gave of myself to the people and causes I believe in.

I guess I just have to unite womb and mind. The pre-mother me heard Tupac say “I’m your son” and even though he wasn’t talking to me, I said yes. And now that I’m a mother, I’m still saying yes.

 

Links:

http://www.postcolonialweb.org/zimbabwe/miscauthors/mothers1.html

Louder than Oppression

My Spirit Talks

sinew under skin stretches as i open my eyes, look at the clock and start counting. ninety minutes until the other human being who resides with me has to be at school. as i run through the ritual, i find myself missing those days when time was an entity to enjoy, not count.

i hate counting. i hate constantly eyeballing the clock but i what i hate most is what i’m teaching my six yr old as i tell him over and over he’s wasting time.

i heard myself tell him that this morning and even after the flag went up the first time, i heard myself repeating it several more times.

how can time be wasted? i mean, literally, when time is constantly being reborn. there’s always going to be another minute coming. if not for me, then for someone. and if not for them, then for someone or something else. can something that doesn’t stop be wasted? is time the one thing that has an endless flow? how to demonstrate the endless nature of time…and still get him to school on time?

i hate counting. i hate to be counted even more; which is why the census form is still in its envelope. is statistical data really a requirement for fixing neighborhoods across the country? i would’ve thought having the desire to fix neighborhoods across the country would be the main ingredient for success. plus, when i think of how the government’s little counting games can end up in gerrymandering, i’m even more reluctant. 

in addition to the other reasons are the fact that it brings to the mind the plantation when africans were counted as things…and sometimes not even fully things but 3/5ths of a thing.

and if that isn’t enough….

it also reminds me of when i used to visit my ex-husband in prison and if i went at shift change time, i’d have to wait almost ninety minutes while they counted every single inmate in the place. they did this several times a day – even w/o a single report of a prison break or any other possibly legitimate reason other than capitalism’s insane love of counting.

i hate counting. i hate being counted but certain people can count on me.

Contraband Marriage

March 17, 2010

We make it work by inches.

Our hands extended above our heads

pushing at the concrete

understanding that

even if it’s turned into a wall

that wall will one day crack and then break

under the pressure of our hands

and we will breathe free

Contraband Marriage book cover

In prison, a place where emotions based on affection are just about non-existent, love becomes the rarest of commodities; and as such is both highly prized and legislated.

By falling in love with a man who was incarcerated, I was participating in an activity considered contrary to the status quo on a variety of levels. Black people aren’t supposed to love one another. Black women aren’t supposed to love Black men. And no one is supposed to love the prisoners. But it happens and such love becomes contraband; something to be smuggled in and experienced on the sly.

Contraband Marriage covers those oppressive times and travels along the hemline of loving after incarceration, digging deep into its affects on that love, my walk into motherhood and how simple the decision to disentangle became when a child was involved. In multi-color, it paints the pains of the personal being political, the bumpy terrain of healing and the beautiful difficulty that can be forgiveness. It is a love story written in lyric and free form, set in reality with a different ever after.

ISBN:  978-0-9789355-5-9

For previews and ordering info, please visit my storefront.

Mad!!

January 10, 2010

This mad reader is mad! Not mad as in Ebonics mad but the English definition. I am irate. Bad books do that to me. I was at Target the other day looking for something interesting to read. I know, I know. What Mad Reader in her/his right mind goes to Target for their reading material? In my struggle to institute one stop shopping, I ended up at Target. If I hadn’t been distracted by the need to get toilet tissue, pull-ups and the sled my child has wanted since before this season’s  most wintry weather arrived, I wouldn’t have bought the book that makes this Mad Reader mad!

What is the name of the book? The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. The title is undoubtedly attention getting for someone referred to as revolutionary heathen and other names of that sort. But I can’t find any degree of love for the daughter or any of the characters.

I had written notes about the book upon my initial read. Then the voice of a friend who has a penchant for nicknames mentally intruded and said tachamo (which, alongside dolphin and bubba, is what this friend sporadically calls me), you’re not giving the book a chance. So I stopped note-taking and continued reading.

But. Oh. My. God. If reading were to be suddenly made into a torture tactic employed by the cia, all the cia agents would need in their arsenal is this particular book.

Maybe it’s the result of my reading habits being deeply rooted in awareness that “people of color” are the majority of the human inhabitants of planet Earth. I want to learn their history, read their stories, absorb their lingua franca and then reciprocate by sharing my own.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that there’s almost nothing of me in this book. I find that too alienating to continue, let alone reciprocate. What could I reciprocate? That in this book, any vestiges of me reside only in the misshapen head of an enslaved African child and the notches on the narrator’s Uncle’s saddle; notches which indicate the number of indigenous people said uncle has killed.

Whatever the reason, 125 pages into a 332 page novel, this Mad Reader is throwing in the towel. It may be premature. I may find, if I continue to read, that the teenage narrator grows to have normal (read non-Puritan) powers of discernment and regrets being enamored of murderers…simply because they talk to you and call you daughter and tell stories in a way different from normal Puritan culture. It may be. It just may be. I’m can’t drum up enough interest to find out.

************

The same friend mentioned above  laughed when I told her my feelings about the book. She said that means the book was effective because it made me feel what the Puritans were like. Of course, I don’t like them ( the Puritans and/.or the characters in this book) but they weren’t likable people. The book does an admirable job in showing that. Their society seems tense and forbidding. The land of Jonathan Edwards and his Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God. So I will keep reading and give a final analysis so the Mad Reader can close the book on this particular read.

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For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria:

I’ve started reading this already but have been interrupted by other reading interludes: A Thousand Splendid Suns; Something Torn and New; I, Alex Cross; The Epic of Askia Mohammed; Our Sister Killjoy.  I’ll be discussing some of them in later posts as they do fit the meme.

After reading the above paragraph, I realized someone reading this might think that my detours on the reading path are the result of a disinterest in Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (FRK). Nothing further could be the truth.

The other day after a reading bout with Something Torn and New  by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, I had the thought that he just might transplant Malcolm X as my ideological father. However, I quickly realized it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. As a writer, Ngugi helps me to be centered and connected to what is ultimately most righteous about writing. As an African, Malcolm helped me to be proud. Both help me to be a better human being. But there’s no denying they are both men. As historian Edna Gay said in her introduction to Wives of the Leopard (another book on my list),

“Dahomey seemed a place where women prior to the colonial period had enjoyed extraordinary liberties and powers – an ideal subject for a young woman, like so many others at the time, looking for patterns of female autonomy different from the experience of the West”.

I didn’t realize how hungry I was for “patterns of female automony different from…the West” until I started reading about FRK.  All the contradictions black women, in general and conscious black women, in particular, face were experienced by Funmilayo. She responded to these pressures and contradictions by drawing closer to Africa (and African culture) rather than divorcing herself.

I believe that part of her ability to do so was fostered by her parents’ belief in educating girl children. In fact they believed in it so much, they sent her to England to continue her education…even though she was deeply in love with her future husband. While in England, she chose to drop her Christian first name of Frances and be known only by the African Funmilayo. This, at age 19 in 1919. Also at some point in her activist life, she also chose to forgo wearing european clothing.  All this while still remaining a Christian. How was she able to manage what seems to be incompatible identities? What was it about her husband that made him supportive of her goals? Basically what lessons can we glean from her life and doings that would enable us to be healthier and whole instead of fractured and ill.

As I stated at the beginning I haven’t finished the book yet. Therefore I don’t feel qualified to post this like it’s an actual review. These are simply my first impressions. When I finish it, you know I’ll have more Mad Reader thoughts.