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.

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.

All Aboard the Poop Float

January 22, 2010

This Mad Reader not only reads book, I also read blogs. One in particular inspired me today to blog a response:

Just a few minutes ago, I read a blog called Sometimes Economies Float. I found it very interesting how the consensus (among the writer and readers) was to support Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) decision to continue to bring tourists to Labadee, RCI’s private* resort on the undamaged north side of the island.

Considering the author works in the industry as RCI, it isn’t surprising she comes to the conclusion she does.  After all, it is predicted that packaged travel will increase this year by about 18%. In this time of economic woes, who wouldn’t want a piece of that 18%? Certainly someone in the travel/tourist industry would! So, apparently, would Royal Caribbean.

Of course asking Royal Caribbean to desist its morally bankrupt business practices would be the equivalent of asking lawyers to fight for the repeal of the Crime Bill:  an action that affects their  bottom line and let’s be honest… it’s standard for corporations to consider their bottom line as the bottom line. Pesky notions of corporate social responsibility are avoided with face-saving gestures (such as the million dollars RCI will donate as opposed to has donated).

But that aside, what exactly are people who take a cruise ship to a country that has just suffered a devastating natural disaster going to do at a private resort 85 miles from the disaster?

labadee

Labadee2
 
 
LabadeePalmShip 
 

RCI’s website also suggests other activities:

  • Paddle along the gorgeous coastline of Labadee on a relaxing kayaking tour.
  • Become a pirate for a day
  • Soak up the sun while you float on the waves on a beach mat.
  • Grab a bird’s-eye view as you soar 400 feet above the beautiful peninsula of Labadee on a thrilling parasailing ride

I wonder if  these tourists can catch sight of Port-au-Prince while they’re soaring 400 feet above the beautifula peninsula of Labadee.

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* The designation private means that it’s guarded by a private security force, fenced off from the surrounding areas and passengers are not allowed to leave the property.

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.

Even though I am not a gourmand à la Julia Child or Julie of Julie and Julia fame, I do lay claim to being proficient enough in the kitchen to be able to tempt my child to eat. but for what seemed endless days in a row, he has refused to eat my roasted chicken, my potatoes roasted in butter and dill, my spaghetti and meatballs. Basically anything, as I tell him imploringly, designed to have him grow into a strong man. Of course, he will eat my apple crumb pie w/vanilla ice cream as well as devouring my chocolate lava cakes, also with vanilla ice cream. He has even expressed his delight by telling me how to eat the apple crumb pie in order to get the most delight out of it. But still, I wasn’t playing around in the title of this blog. I was preparing myself…and him…for an impending strike. I was going to refuse to cook for him…or order any food. I knew there was enough leftover food in the fridge for him to eat if he got  hungry enough.

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The whole exercise in tyranny of the minor was made moot when the grand idea of star shaped food to tempt him hit me. But what could I use for the star? The only molds we had in the house were of airplanes and trains. Then my desperate mind thought of his play dough star mold. We both went in search  of it; although he didn’t know why. Pay dirt behind the closet door! I snatched it up, cleaned it, dried it and then pushed it down in the small mound of seasoned raw ground turkey. Then I washed it, dried it and did the same with thawed pie crust; which then went in the oven while the burgers went into the frying pan.

15 minutes later the food was assembled and delivered to the ultimate food critic (and picky eater) who after devouring two of them (they were so tiny, I gave him four) graciously offered to sacrifice his play dough star for the sake of such culinary delight.

“Africans, in the diaspora and on the continent, were soon to be recipients of this linguistic logic of conquest, with two results: linguicide in the case of the diaspora and linguistic famine, or linguifam, on the continent. Linguicide is the linguistic equivalent of genocide. Genocide involves conscious acts of physical massacre; linguicide, conscious acts of language liquidation. Linguicide, writes Skutnabb-Kanga, ‘implies that there are agents involved in causing the death of languages.’ ”

Dismembering Practices: Planting European Memory in Africa

Something Torn and New

Ngũgĩ  wa Thiong’o

Women Unbound Meme

November 19, 2009

I was making one of my semi-regular trips through the blogosphere when I came across the Women Unbound challenge at Black-Eyed Susan’s blog. As a womanist, the idea of women unbound is, of course, intriguing. So I visited the source website

: Women Unbound and once I read about it, I decided to participate at the suffragette level. Here are my answers to the posted questions:

What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?

Feminism means, to me, the white woman’s struggle to have all the legal rights and prerogatives of white men in society.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

To quote Alice Walker: “Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” I like lavender but I love purple.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

Society isn’t structured as if there is just one monolith called woman (or women). What’s the biggest obstacle for some women might not be biggest obstacle for other. So I can’t answer this particular question.

Conquering Europe?

September 27, 2009

Every so often I come across something inside a book that makes me feel good about being myself…my best self, that is. So I’ve decided that those quotes, concepts, etc are worthy of being shared a la the revolutionary daily thoughts group operated by Mwalimu Baruti.

This one is from John Henrik Clarke’s book: Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust.

There are Africans educated in Africa with African money who are scattered all over the world; they want to be everything but Africans. They have turned Africa over to a bunch of thugs. Coup after coup after coup. Who is going to give Africa the stability that it needs? I maintain – and this might be away from the subject – that there is no solution for African people, except for some form of Pan African Nationalism, no matter how you cut it. No matter what island you’re from, no matter what religion you belong to…we must develop a concept of our Pan Africanism that cuts across all religious, political, social, fraternity, sorority lines and allows us to proudly face the world as one people.

and…

Africans and other non-European people must plan and strategize for a New World Order distinctly their own that will be developed by them, for them. Our mission should not be to conquer Europe but to contain Europe within its borders and let it be known that anything Europe wants from other parts of the world can be had through honorable trade.

If we understand our mission, I think we will become aware of the fact that we are in a position to give the world a new humanity that will bring into being a new world of safety and respect for all people.

Heady, isn’t it?

Dirty Words

September 19, 2009

Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. That’s all I kept telling myself. Don’t hyperventilate. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I started muttering to myself. As the rage began to constrict my vision, I told myself “leave, Tichaona…leave this auditorium, this space where they are attempting to indoctrinate my child. So I did and I went straight to the school secretary to find out what I needed to do to stop my son from participating in the pledge of allegiance. “You don’t want your son pledging allegiance to the country of his birth?” Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. Is she really saying such a thing? I could only stare at her for a minute. Then I asked her (trying to rein in my shaky voice) is it your job to ask me that or is it your job to help me find a way to solve it? Then she got down to business and gave me the information I sought.

This happened on a Friday. All weekend I thought about what to do. I vacillated between pulling him out of the Friday assembly altogether and letting him continue without saying anything. Not saying anything further about the matter left me feeling like a collaborator. Then the mother in me acknowledged he’s only five and won’t understand being separated from the rest of the class…and the rest of the class won’t understand him being separated. All the mental furor brought to mind my conundrum when I became a citizen. So I decided to have my child participate…but say his own pledge…one that’s directed inward instead of externally.

I talked to him about pledges and how they are promises to someone or some thing. I told him his pledge should be “I promise myself I will learn how to read”. I say it with him everyday. Let him get indoctrinated by that!

Situation resolved but it did remind me of a poem by Shakur Towns

Dirty Words

Kids say the damnedest things…
Like the time
one of my babies said
“shit”
at the dinner table
or
the time
my baby girl said
“booty”
in front of my mother.
Where do they get this stuff from?
I try to watch
what they
watch
and listen to
what they
listen to,
and we are all
careful
of what WE say…
but still
they come up with some doozies…

My four year old
stopped me dead
in my tracks.
She said something that I will
never
forget.
And she smiled
and said it over
and
over
again.
My heart stopped
my breathing got shallow.
She smiled
like she was PROUD
of herself.
I think
that’s what hurt
most of all.
She smiled like she was
PROUD.
I grabbed her
and all I could do
was just
hold her
tight
against me.
A tear ran down my face
as she kept reciting
like some insane mantra,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

It’s morning in America again, and this time a hung over morning. The left, and most of all the black left, is only beginning to rouse itself from the Obamaland stupor and stumble out into daylight. The president after all, is not necessarily an ally in the fight to deliver health care, or education, or halt privatizations, bankruptcies, foreclosures or unjust wars, or most of the other things that need delivering or need stopping. Now progressives and the wide awake are beginning to leave Obamaland1 in droves, abandoning the automatic stance that the president is an ally in the struggle for peace abroad and justice at home.

Leaving Obamaland photo

On Nov. 4, 2008, I was one of a small number of people who didn’t give Obama the benefit of the doubt. No, I didn’t vote for McCain. Nor was I a disgruntled supporter of Mrs. Clinton. I voted for Cynthia McKinney. I had countless debates with my online community about my support for McKinney and my attempt to pull a Harriet Tubman and free the inhabitants of Obamaland. The basic political line of most of the folks I debated was that McKinney has no chance of winning. But you know what? I knew that she didn’t have a chance of winning. I’m sure the candidate herself knew that she didn’t have any chance of winning. The more I debated the more I became convinced of my position. The thing that concerned me was what would happen when black people get disillusioned? It’s not as if they/we can turn to the Republican. And even though I voted for McKinney as the Green Party candidate, I’m not convinced we can turn to the Green Party. I was telling this to a friend of mine who won’t try and tar and feather me for being anti-Democratic/Republican Party (regardless of the color of the candidate/office holder). She said that the disillusionment would be a positive development in the political growth of the black community. I have to agree with her take.

The only viable place to go (for those who are genuine) after defecting from Obamaland (and consequently the Democratic Party) is down the avenue of self-determination. It’s time for a black political party with black political objectives running its nerve center. Or should I say it’s time again for a black political party with black political objectives controlling its nerve center?