Category Archives: Living Abroad

Why BHM Is Still Relevant

My daughter is four. Just yesterday, we were calculating the number of states she’s visited and how it pales in comparison to the number of countries she’s traveled.  Being an expat kid afforded her opportunities and exposure most kids her age never experience, especially most black American kids.  She is, or at least she was when practiced daily, fluent in Mandarin and the colloquial language of Singlish.  Singlish-SamanthaHanna-722x500She can count in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and French. She can recognize the difference between Asian cultural nuances and people; a characteristic most adult Americans lack. (They do NOT all look alike.)  She is well versed in globalization, and is accepting, loving, and inclusive of everyone. Never has she met a stranger when it comes to other children. This is not, however, because of her exposure to multi-cultures. Her ability to engage cross-culturally is due to the foundation of her education being rooted in a love for her own culture.

A few weeks ago, we were asking questions about Ida B. Wells and President Obama in a casual conversation. She rattled off answers and was able to compare their contributions without hesitation. She ended the dialogue with the statement, “I know all about my heroes because you teach me everyday.” It was a proud moment as her mother and first educator.

She began learning of our “Heroes” as a part of her daily curriculum once she turned 14-months-old.  We would introduce her to a new hero through flash cards and teach her facts about each one.  If I was feeling ambitious, I’d couple the introduction with an activity that cemented who the hero was and what they contributed to society, not just black society, but their impact on the world. She understood the importance of offering reverence to our ancestors and the difference between our ancestors and the ancestors of our counterparts. She learned to appreciate our history, culture, beauty, and contributions at the very beginning of her educational cultivation.  This was intentional and imperative because “culture is elemental, not supplemental.”  Now, each hero serves as a reminder of her own ability and greatness. 

Whenever she feels timid about performing, we remind her of Lena Horne or Paul Robeson or Janell Monae.  When she’s frustrated by math or science, she hears encouragement from the strides of Mae Jemison, Benjamin Banneker, the creator of Mathematics, our ancestor Imhotep, or her uncle who holds a Masters in Applied Mathematics. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/wohist.html When she’s in need of inspiration, we echo the poignant words of our legends Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Countee Cullen. nat_maya-angelou_52814_539_332_c1We do this so often, she understands that it’s a part of our regular exchange. During Black History Month this year, we’ll be highlighting even more living heroes like Eunique Jones and our recent contributions, so that she understands that our greatness is still relevant and being displayed. Not only does this teach her the importance of loving ourselves, it gives her the confidence to walk in any setting anywhere in the world and know that she can hold her own, while appreciating the other cultures represented; appreciation without assimilation. In every great obstacle she’ll face in her life, she’ll know that someone, someone that shares her history, lineage, and culture, has already conquered something similar, and therefore,victory is simply hers to obtain.  This is why…..image008.jpg

 

The Long Roads, Flights, & Tracks Home

Michael BrownA year ago, my husband and I watched the streets of Ferguson erupt in horror. We watched pictures and videos of the lifeless body of one of our young brothers fester in the street for hours and heard about the culprit’s, an officer of the law, flee from the scene.  We learned that Mike Brown, a recent high school graduate,  was struck six times with bullets, at least once with his hands raised in surrender, and later heard the trigger-puller’s legally justifiable defense was that he looked like a “demon.” (How can one be executed for looking like a mythical creature?) Our eyes widened and spirits were awakened and angered as we witnessed the unfolding of a war zone in Ferguson. Gas masks, full artillery, violent and silent protests, arson, police antagonists, and antagonizing police officers, all painted a vivid and horrific picture that resembled that of which we’d seen in visuals after the King riots, both Rodney and Rev. Dr.

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We waited like the rest of Black America for some semblance of justice in the name of the fallen. We waited, though we had still not recovered from the verdict in the trial of Trayvon Martin, who was posthumously convicted of his own death. We waited, though we’d be told of the imbalance of Ferguson’s demographics in terms of police vs. residents, and its sordid history because of it. We waited though the media had already begun assassinating the character of the victim before his body had even been removed from the scene of the crime. We waited like viewers wait for the moment in a scary movie for the running, screaming, female character to get caught. We hoped for the best, but we all knew she would fall and fail. And, so did justice in this instance. I watched Mike Brown’s mother, Leslie McSpadden wail and weep and scream out of agony. Then, I watched her transform and become swathed with a supernatural strength. She reminded me of Sybrina Fulton. She reminded me of Wanda Johnson. She reminded me of Mamie Till Mobley. She reminded me of too many black mothers that have buried their children due to senseless violence that’s sanctioned by the government that should protect them.

We sat in silent reverence, imbued with fury, and watched images of our home country burning from the comforts of our _79245004_024867989-1foreign home in Singapore. We watched, just as we had watched the marches, protests, and riots after Trayvon Martin’s injustice unfold while being surrounded by the opulence and newfound freedom of self-expatriation.  We felt, for the first time in our lives, disconnected from our people as though we’d absconded from the plight and constant terror that it means to be black in America. We decided, with much reluctance on my part, that we needed to move back to the states; that despite the intoxicating and unfamiliar feelings of privilege, entitlement, and freedom, true uninhibited freedom to live and be who we culturally are without judgment or persecution, we needed to commit to our life’s work of helping to restore and rebuild black communities for the sake of our children and our people.  We needed to sacrifice the contentment of our bubble in Asia where we had helped to establish a vibrant black community to begin the Back to Black List that my husband authored where it was needed most. We had to do more than use words to empower. We had to be examples and SPEAK with our actions. The decision was less noble than necessary.

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A year later, our feet are on the ground. We’re back now. We’ve used this entire summer to live as nomads in different states as we researched our selection of cities to live. We gave ourselves the freedom to choose exactly where we wanted to live instead of being mandated by a professional position. (See another post that I’ll find the time to write one day.) Our original list of five plus one had been narrowed to two and a possible by the time we landed on U.S. soil for the first time in two years, but we kept all options open for discussion and consideration.  New Orleans and Oakland were both individual choices vetoed by the other for various reasons. [Insert sigh.] The wonderful city of Chicago which offers all of the culture, food, arts, and opportunities to build and restore is just too cold for too many months out of the year for this Southern girl and this adapted N. Minneapolis snowbird. My flashbacks from living in upstate NY for one year kept haunting me.  That left Dallas, Atlanta, & S. Florida as possible contenders.

map1_dallasOur first choice of Dallas was a practical one. The primary reason for moving back more urgently was because of my mother-in-law’s crippling illness and my sister-in-law’s need for assistance in her care. Living in Singapore made any necessary trips to visit very difficult and even scheduling phone calls could be a nuisance with the time difference. We needed to be in the same country to be able to reach them when needed. They both reside in Dallas. Dallas also boasted of thriving predominantly black suburbs [read communities], a once thriving black community in South Dallas that could be restored, and many fellow FAMU graduates that we knew would be willing counterparts in the process of rebuilding.  Though I’d never been, I encouraged the decision to have all of our items from Singapore shipped to Dallas as a gesture of my commitment to both the Back to Black List and to my mother-in-law and husband.

Atlanta is Atlanta. Those who get that just do. I love just about everything about my native city and I’ve converted a man who once denounced the very thought of visiting to possibly considering it as a place to settle.  We knew it’d be easy to a certain degree to just plug into the well established black network we have there. There are many like-minded people of all races that live in the city and many upper middle-class and affluent black families that haven’t forgotten that they are and the responsibility that comes with that. But, it’s still in Georgia; red state, redneck, red clay, historically black lynching Georgia. So, there’s that.

South Florida is all things tropical and beautiful. Who wouldn’t want year-round summers, mango and avocado trees in your backyard, free daily lessons in a foreign language, and access to the beach whenever? The king’s company, logowww.madalihair.com, also has its main large clients and distributors in Miami. But aside from the aesthetics and his professional benefit, it proved not to offer much for black families in general and didn’t feel as though our vision would be well-received.

Surprisingly, Tampa, my maternal families’ home base made an addition to the list after we arrived. We used it as our home for the summer, renting an airbnb home from a wonderful couple who lived just two doors down from us in the newly gentrified West Tampa. We caught wind of some exciting and new opportunities in the area and were reminded of how wonderful it is to be near family and a familial support system, especially when raising children. There were definitely pros and cons as with each location. We had all the offerings of tropical life and there are many avenues for rebuilding, but the black community is built around elite organizations, historic churches, or childhood allegiances that are all difficult to penetrate for transplants. I went to high school in Tampa and I’m a member of one of the elite organizations and a former member of one of the historic churches, and I still feel like an outsider at times. We needed a city that would welcome newcomers as people migrated to help implement the Back to Black List and one that offered varying commercial industries for those who’d seek employment rather than create it. Tampa became possible, but not likely.

224We spent time in each of the cities searching for homes to either rent or buy, looking for black schools, black banks, and black neighborhoods that could be the foundation for black communities.  We were repeatedly disappointed in them all, but especially Dallas initially because that’s where we put the most effort. Our first visit there in June proved to be surprisingly underwhelming. The article we’d read about one of Dallas’s suburbs becoming the new Black Wall Street was a bit misleading, or perhaps we misinterpreted. Black Wall Street was replete with black businesses that were supported and employed by black people in a community built around strong black schools. I think we are collectively and mistakenly interchanging community and neighborhood. Black Wall Street was a community. The black suburbs of Dallas appear to be black neighborhoods. Communities have their own economies and a sense of collectivism. Neighborhoods are just people who share the same zip code or grocery store. We didn’t find the former there.  [Please let us know if we overlooked something Dallastons.] More importantly to me, the school that we fell in love with proved not to be the best fit for our daughter.

Very long story short, or written in another post, that’s not going to happen. While in Dallas on our last visit, a sister friend reminded me that we have the power to manifest the desires of our heart when in the will of God. She challenged me to write

540x293_20140102_8b7da98709a1ab48d447479d93832c18_jpg down exactly what I wanted, not my husband or children, and to be as specific as possible. All summer, we were leaning on the kindness of others or spending far more than we should to ensure that we, our children especially, were comfortable as we scoured the internet, traveled the highways, and rested in airports in search of our next home. I knew I wanted an African-focused accelerated educational venue for my daughter where I too could contribute my educational experience and knowledge. I knew I wanted a community that spawned from that school, neighboring schools like it, and like-minded people and families. I knew I wanted to finally find a church that espoused the beliefs and understanding that Africans throughout the Diaspora are disenfranchised and that we can be liberated through our faith and collective actions. But, those things weren’t specific enough. So, I made it plain.

I want:

-to live in my native city this year.

-to have my daughter enrolled at the African-focused school of my choice there in Kindergarten or based on her aptitude and social development instead of age.

-to have a support system of like-minded people.

-to live in a house in the actual city limits, within 20 minutes of the school.

-to have at least three bedrooms in said house.

-to have a church home within the community.

-to begin working together with others to implement the Back to Black List as soon as possible.

-peace.

In one day, after many days of tirelessly searching and being disappointed repeatedly in multiple cities, we have finally found a place to call home and truly begin to work towards the liberation and advancement of the disenfranchised. That’s putting a lot on it as my husband would say, but we’ve already put a lot on the whole decision to move back to the U.S. As soon as I decided to envision and ask for exactly what I wanted, the path became clear and easy. I found a house in the exact area we wanted to live. It was available, move-in ready, and we were able to negotiate all of the terms we wanted in less than a week. I’m able to enroll my daughter in her proper placement in the African-focused school of my choice, and I’ll be surrounded by people of all backgrounds and ethnicities who understand the importance of elevating those who’ve been oppressed. And, we both have family there, so that’s built-in babysitters!!

All is not final. We will still be living out of suitcases and boxes for a while, but we’ll be in our own space soon enough ready to do more than watch the plight of those we love. After much indecision, insight, trials, and prayer, we are moving to……….A-T-L-A-N-T-A!!!

Our New Home

What Happens in Dallas, Leaves Dallas

freedom-schoolThis is why…we need our own schools. We need Freedom Schools again. We need schools that educate our children about themselves and schools that exercise the freedom to push our children to their highest potential, just as every other ethnic group has.

Educating and empowering children is a constant focus as it has a direct correlation to our elevation. When I served as the Language Arts Instructor and later principal of an African-centered PreK-8th grade school, I helped draft a culturally enhanced, accelerated, cross-sectional curriculum that challenged teachers and students to meet its rigor. When I left the traditional classroom and began consulting, training, and instructing teachers and students under the umbrella of Behavior Modification, I found that the greatest challenge in every age group was the lack of belief in self and, in most cases with students, who (the people;culture) they represented.   It has always been a long-term goal to either start a school or become a part of the community of one that houses our ideals to remedy this foundational problem.

                                        https://www.youtube.com/embed/GtElCrATcEk“>

Both of my children have had a monthly holistic curriculum tailored to their learning styles since birth that incorporates learning about our culture. I wouldn’t say I’m a Tiger Mom,  (I lived in Asia and saw first-hand what that truly means), but I am in the Big Cat family. I believe all children are born with a zeal to learn and will rise to meet every obtainable expectation, so I set them very high, especially for my own.

While doing our “for now and possibly forever” city search, we knew that finding a community or a place where one could be established easily would be the best fit for us at this time. Finding a school that met our needs was a critical component in the process. We searched Dallas the most extensively because it was the most practical selection for us. After two separate visits, we found the search for housing and thriving black communities to be somewhat lacking. Every home we toured fell below our expectations because it was either too far from South Dallas, where the predominantly black community once flourished, or it was too small, inexplicably expensive, worn, or aesthetically displeasing.  Every neighborhood or suburb that was recommended lacked black businesses and the sense of community we were seeking. We were also warned by natives and transplants alike that the schools in each of the areas we searched were not high achieving.  Sadly, this became a mantra whenever we inquired about the educational system in the city.

Yet, there was one wonderful aberration. We were told about a wonderful school that was both unapologetically black and Christian, two threads that seem to have been slowly unwound since desegregation. We did a school visit and I almost wept tears of joy. The beautiful imagery of our excellence, our ancestors, our history, our children sheathed every inch of the vast campus. Our Biblical tales were painted murals or stained glass windows in our likeness.  The school and idallasts adjoining community center was in the heart of South Dallas and had a track record that began in the 60’s. We envisioned galvanizing others to buy homes in the surrounding area to restore it to its prominence. We thought of the great work we could do there. The school encompassed the entire spirit of the Back to Black List. We were in awe, and immediately decided our choice would be Dallas based on the school alone. Yes, that’s putting a lot on it, but we were just that impressed and eager to get settled and begin working towards our communal goals.

During our first school visit, we’d left our daughter in Florida with my parents. We were informed that she needed to be assessed and we would also have to be screened through a parent interview before acceptance to the prominent private school could be determined. We inquired about the possibility of placing the kibibi in Kindergarten despite being a year younger than the required age in public schools. After completing a full semester of Kindegarten already in Singapore (currently ranked the world’s best and most rigorous school system), we desired to maintain the fluidity of her education as much as possible with placement in Kindergarten for the sake of her academic and emotional adjustment. We were told that the assessment and interviews would not only determine acceptance, but grade placement. Because the curriculum is accelerated, we were told, she would be challenged in PreK in the event that she did not excel on the test. We were very excited about her being in control of her own placement to a degree, and very comfortable accepting the determination based on the outcome either way.

Several weeks later, after constant communication with the Dean of Admissions to schedule the best time to travel with our entire family to Dallas for the sole purpose of having our daughter assessed and finding a home, we finally returned to the auspicious halls of the school. Two other sets of parents were waiting to be interviewed while their children were being assessed. The kibibi was led to a classroom by one of the Kindergarten teachers and returned quite some time later beaming from ear to ear. She had done extremely well; so much so, that it was questioned whether she was truly her age and mentioned that she might actually be ready for first grade. We were ecstatic. It was the first bit of good news we’d had in Dallas during any of our visits. It gave us the motivation to keep scouring houses and neighborhoods near the school so we could find one to call home.
This happened last Wednesday. By Friday, we received the general acceptance letter to the school, to which we replied with an inquiry about her placement. That’s when it all went South Dallas. The following day, we received a letter stating that Kindergarten readiness could not be determined from their assessment and that an individualized curriculum would be established for her to be challenged in the PreK program. Say what now? We were led to believe that after her testing, she would be placed in a grade level based on her performance. Had she not excelled on the test, we would’ve happily accepted the decision and enrolled her in PreK. However, she did exactly as we always implore her to do: her best. We expected the reward for which to be proper performance-based placement as indicated. It wasn’t. This meant that we had the choice of paying 10k for her to repeat pre-school at this amazing school we grew very fond of, finding another less expensive pre-school, starting a school in Dallas that met her needs, or finding another city.
I had such a sinking feeling. We were so ready to end this unsettled nomad family life, but we left Dallas with no home and no school because we were not willing to have our child possibly feel isolated in a classroom simply because the school wouldn’t honor the results of their own assessment.   It was later whispered that the administration felt pressured to place her in PreK in order to avoid the inevitable complaints and accusations of nepotism from other parents. This infuriated and bewildered me even more. I began to feel like we were trying to force ourselves into a place that just didn’t fit at the time. Hence, the final final decision.
Education is at the heart of everything I do, and the experience in Dallas has shown me that I must fully commit myself to using my passion for it to empower others. No child should have to sit and wait to learn with their peers for any reason in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And, no child of mine ever will.

Re-dressing Room: Repatriating into Racism

DallasLogoAll week, we’ve been tirelessly researching and riding through Dallas to determine if it is where we’ll plant roots and begin the process of helping to build a community. It was such an overwhelmingly exhausting and frustrating week as everything we found continuously missed the mark; the details of which I’ll share at another time. Yet, I’m led to share one of a few moments that resonated with me and illustrate exactly what it means to re-dress in the weighted armor of being black in America after being released from its burden for a time.

As we were traveling from house to house in the unforgiving summer inferno that is Dallas with our two young children, we were often driving slowly or parked in the wings of the road to look for our next destination. In one such instance, all of us were preoccupied in the legally parked car and suddenly come upon by two towering horses within hand’s reach of my husband’s window. The silent and steady stroll of the enormous and statuesque figures startled us all as we watched them saunter ahead of us mounted by two men dressed in full police officer regalia. Neither of them looked like the residents of the neighborhood in which we were looking.

Dallas Cowboys

My husband jumped into a protective posture and shouted some expletive. I clutched the knot I was trying hard to swallow in my throat, while my daughter excitedly asked if she could ride them as they kept gliding and canvassing the neighborhood. We had no interaction with them, and didn’t want one. Though we had stopped several other passersby all week to ask one question or another about a particular area, we had no interest in the insight or directions from the Officers Friendly.

My mind became haunted with an imagined altercation between them and my husband that left me breathless for a moment; so much so that I feared sharing it with him then or even describing the scene now. That’s when it struck me.

For almost two years, when living in Singapore, I was completely free to operate in my daily tasks without any fear of being snuffed out like a candle in a cabin in a blustery storm. I don’t mean the type of black woman warrior hear me roar conquering hero type of fearlessness that we must possess in America. I’m speaking of the type of freedom from fear that comes when there is absolutely nothing to fear. I had not one terrifying thought of interacting with international police officers and not living to tell the story because my skin offended them and caused a murderous frenzy. I never feared entering a sacred space and not emerging from it because some wanderer riddled with hatred decided my life had no value. I was, in every instance that my white counterparts are, free from the terminal tumor of racism for just a moment as an expatriate. (I’ll definitely be discussing that in more detail. You know, when I have time and all.)

The freedom from racism is fleeting for it has been completely shed now that I’ve steeped in its bondage all summer. Every week, it seems, there’s another occurrence, a reminder,  where a vibrant black person becomes a lifeless black body at the hands of someone in a position of authority, whether self-imposed or government sanctioned. Just yesterday, as we were leaving Texas, the state that offered the gruesome attack on an unarmed adolescent in McKinney and the brutal silence of our sister in advocacy, Sandra Bland, as warnings of its nature just in this past year, news of the death of nineteen-year-old Christian Taylor surfaced.  And, as is custom, the process of assassinating his character and lauding that of the officer [trainee] involved is happening almost effortlessly; a campaign in which I won’t participate. Christian Taylor, Unarmed, Black, and Deceased

To state that it is burdensome and distressing to re-dress in the constant awareness and fear thacartoon3613t at any moment, any white American can take your life and that of those you hold most dear and there will be no redress, only absolution; that in fact, their actions will be justified, and you posthumously vilified is a grave understatement. We have scoured the states the entire summer aiming for a place to be free again, and unlike the target on Black America, it’s been missed every time.

Repatriation Week One: The Reflection

The road back to the states was an eventful and challenging one, but we’re back! It’s only been five days, and I’ve already gained so much insight. You know I like sharing, so….

Repatriation Realizations Week One:

1. Family, whoever you love and consider that to be, will always make you feel greater than any circumstance and challenge. They’ll always simultaneously keep you humble and elevated.

2. The long distance has irreparably damaged my relationship with Chick-Fil-A and fast food in general. It’s just not the same. That’s a very good thing.

3. We are wasting time discussing anything other than rebuilding our communities. There is so much wealth in investing in ourselves. I cringed when I heard someone suggest a new chain restaurant that is three doors down from its  black-owned competitor that’s been there for years. Guess where I’m going. And, I definitely dropped my tea when someone warned me about the area we chose to temporarily stay because it’s deemed “the hood,” but most of our neighbours are white investors who recognize its value. We’ve got to stop being afraid of ourselves.

4. Do not take your children to Target, especially when one is your husband. It will end badly.

 5. I didn’t miss American TV much, and certainly not its commercials. Every one of them tells me to eat a super-large, super-greasy, slab of fried saucy meat with a side of lard-laden starch;  that I need to diet, have straight blonde hair, and ivory skin to be beautiful; that I need drugs to stay alive, and they all serve as a reminder of the disproportionate distribution of wealth and resources. We own nothing.

6. I completely understand how one group of people can see themselves as superior to another, and how that manifests itself in daily courses of action.

7. I completely understand how one group of people can see themselves as inferior to another, and how that manifests itself in daily courses of action.

8. I left a country listed as number one in structured education, but lacked innovation. I met a seven-year-old neighbour that couldn’t spell his four-letter name, but asked me for Now’N Laters so he could make something. We have work to do.

9. The racial line and the poverty line intersect and merge, but there are some overlaps. Poverty is genocide, and sometimes the death is slow and pervasive, but overall, it’s quick and methodical. We have work to do.

10. I miss my surreal expat life already, but I’m happy to be home. We have work to do.

It Can Happen in an Instant

grapesMy five-month-old son swallowed a grape whole today. Twelve minutes of restricted breathing felt like a brief lifetime slipping away in my arms. Every tragic scenario imaginable played previews in my mind as I swung him upside down, forcing my finger down his throat and beating him in the back to no avail. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t coughing. I was overcome with terror.

“What if he was suffering? What if there was irreparable damage? What if…..the unthinkable??!! “

Nothing can fully prepare you for all parenthood hurls at you. We waited, planned, put all of our proverbial ducks in a row. I secured infant CPR certification, (which has since relapsed), read & studied, and lent my ear to every parent I knew with a wealth of experience. In the moment that I was holding my son and trying to prevent his young life from slipping from his body, I could remember very little of it.

I shoved my finger so far down his throat that I could feel the mass, but not grasp it. I could only push it to allow air in and a stream of blood out onto the floor.  baby-cryingI will never forget the look of confusion and horror on his tiny plump face as I watched my pecan tan baby boy shift shades to that of a red onion. It was as though he was beseeching me to fix it and horrified that I couldn’t. After many frenzied attempts to help him dislodge the pulpous fruit had failed, I frantically ran out of my front door barefoot and screaming for help from anyone in sight. The first two women, just at my doorstep, gasped and walked quickly in the opposite direction. The next pair, a middle-aged couple, ran onto the elevator; they were pressing the button to close the door over and over as I rushed pass them and out into the communal area of our complex.

There were very few in view as I ran closer to the center. An elder woman lying next to one at least half her age were precisely in front of me on the opposite side of the pool. A father with his young child and possibly his parents were directly to my left. A bare-chested man in trunks was lying and reading on the opposite side at the far end, and a woman in the water was walking the length of the pool.  I surveilled each one for some sign of willingness to assist as I screamed for help with such desperation that I began to choke on my own cries. Both the man and the pair of women across the pool stared, but sat motionless.  I ran towards the family. Surely, they would know what to do and be urgent in assisting me. The matriarch pointed and shook her head in curiosity, while the father grabbed his own child to shield them from my screeches.

h5550978The water-walking woman leapt from the pool and motioned for me to stop running.

“Do you know CPR,” I shrieked with my son dangling in my hands.

She told me, “no” before trying to sit me down to help him anyway. Two other women eventually approached. One dressed in a floral frock motioned for others to help. The other, another mother as she stated, grabbed my son and began performing the same steps I had already done at home.

1. Secure baby in arms and hold face down over one knee with head lower than chest. “Be careful! Don’t drop him!”

2. Begin back thrusts. “Five I think, but I’m certain I did more. Just keep going.”

3. Turn face up with head still lower than chest.

4. Begin chest compressions with fingers. “Not too hard. Don’t break his ribs.”

5. Repeat. “Repeat! Repeat!!”

6. Stick finger in mouth and press into belly to remove object. “Do you feel it? Is it in there?” 

His nose was clogged with mucus; his eyes stiff with tears. A stream of saliva and vomit streamed from his mouth with traces of blood, but there was no grape. No crying. No coughing. No unrestricted breathing. It wasn’t working!!

           What if I lose him? Oh God, what if I lose him?!!! Please save my son! I can’t lose him…not like this. Not over a stupid               grape! He’s too young. I love him so much. Oh God!! I won’t be able to go home. I can’t face {my husband}. He’ll never           forgive me. I’ll never forgive me. I can’t go back home without him. I can’t face my parents. What will I tell my baby girl?

No, he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. 

Repeat. Repeat! Repeat!!

I just began praying. All I could do was pray and beg God to save my sweet little baby boy. I had already done all else. The man across the pool finally stood with his phone to the side of his face. “Call 999,” I screamed to *Catherine, our live-in assistant who’d trampled out for help behind me. The head security officer used his two-way radio to request assistance before suggesting we move into the Function Room of the condo. The fellow mother followed.  A timid, wide-eyed teenage boy stood in the lobby with his cell phone planked in his hands recording the raucous. I covered my baby and glared at him as a lioness would her next kill. This was not entertainment. He lowered the phone as we whisked into a private room.

Two petite women came in shortly; one, Bella, announced herself as a nurse. I immediately thought of my sister, an RN in the states, and a greater calm came over me. She took my prince and did all of the necessary steps.

1. Secure baby in arms and hold face down over one knee with head lower than chest. “He’s going to be fine.” 

2. Begin back thrusts.  “I’m trusting You.” 

3. Turn face up with head still lower than chest. “I’m releasing him to You God.” 

3. Begin chest compressions with fingers. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5. He’s going to be fine.” 

5. Repeat. “He’s going to be fine.” 

6. Stick finger in mouth and press into belly to remove object. “Wait, he’s crying! He’s crying!” 

“He’s crying,” faintly, but it was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.  No grape ever appeared. There was just a gelatinous fluid masking his entire face, but he was crying and breathing; labored as it was. My phone began ringing and I noticed the time was 12:12. It was exactly 12 minutes since the last time I looked at the clock and realized my son was choking.  Bella assured me that he would be fine. She pressed his little wiggling toes and fingers to show the color was returning and blood was flowing through his body. Based on his shortness of breath, she gathered that he must’ve swallowed it completely. He looked at me so longingly and wearily and limply fell into my arms just as the paramedics entered the room.

I didn’t fully rejoice until he began sucking his thumb in the back of the ambulance. He fell asleep on my shoulder, but I kept nudging him. I wanted to see his eyes, the fullness and liveliness of them. I needed to see his bright eyes open…at least until I was completely sure he was fine.black-baby_0

The visit at the hospital seemed shorter than the entire ordeal. I nursed him to sleep and squeezed and stared and kissed and held him like I did the day he crowned from my womb. My husband, calm as he is always, was already trying to add levity to the matter by boasting that it didn’t happen on his watch. Though I needed to smile, It was much too soon for the joke.  Even as I type this, I keep staring back at my baby and placing my hand on his back to feel the breath flow through his little body. My incredibly beautiful baby boy is fine, but I’m not…not yet.

One friend witnessed the uproar from her thirteenth floor condo. Her windows were open; feeling the fresh wind and basking in the silence of midday, until it was interrupted with the screeches of a frantic mother calling for help. When she lifted her pregnant frame to the window and realized it was me, she wept and began praying. That’s all the strength she could find to do in fear of putting her own unborn child at risk with the stress of hurried movement. After all was resolved, another friend reminded me to be kind to myself in the next few days and not to allow myself to be overcome with guilt, (too late), while yet another shared a similar story about her own child as a reminder that I’m not alone and all will be well. My son’s Godmother sent me encouraging words and reminded me that I face no obstacle alone. That’s what I needed; still need.

I can’t predict the throws of parenthood. No one can. The best we can do is use what we know in a moment of crisis, and admit we know nothing when it’s time to release it completely.  Tonight, I’m holding both of my babies a little tighter with the looming reminder that every moment is sacred and life is fleeting. He is fine, laughing with the infectious joy that is not of this world. They are both fine. That’s what I need.

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For more information about infant CPR, please visit: http://www.babycenter.com/0_infant-first-aid-for-choking-and-cpr-an-illustrated-guide_9298.bc

Ticking Clock

calendar-numbers-dateThe end is near, and I’m not ready. April 30th marks my husband’s last day working for the company. We have one month afterwards to leave before the police come knocking. Singapore does not allow foreigners to just live here without a commercial purpose that benefits the country in some way. Basically, it’s count down time, but I’m far from prepared.

This should be the time of deciding and finalizing, planning and organizing. Months before our move to Singapore, we had checklists by the week to complete. We were excited about our transition and became mission oriented and strategic as soon as the move was confirmed. Now, we’re <<I’m>> ambivalent and procrastinating the inevitable. Without a mandated location, the plethora of options has become a weight rather than a relief.

imageIf it were just my husband and I….if all of our family members were well and secure….if “ifs” were worth entertaining, we’d probably move to Ghana, or SouthAfrican-schoolroom Africa, or hop from country to country or state to state three months at a time to avoid frigid winters. We’d buy rental properties in each place and use the passive income to build a network of African-centered schools to eradicate the educational inequities that plague the disenfranchised across the globe, especially in the pockets of urban America.

We’d be frivolous and hire a personal nutritionist, chef, and trainer that traveled with us to ensure our longevity and make love in every country code. You know, just to stay in shape. I’d write novels, short stories, and plays while sunning in the sand and stick WritingBeside-theBeach-960x565my toes in the waters of every beach, while he’d find every hut, shack, or family-owned restaurant that served the cultural delectables of the city that hosted whichever jazz, hip hop or soul concert he was attending at the time. We’d perform in backwoods churches and overflowing theaters three or four times a week just to spread the message of hope, resilience, and Coming-to-Americarevolution. We’d truly take our freedom papers, multiply them, and spread the spirit of freedom all over the world. We would get it in!!! IF…..

But alas, it is not just he and I. It’s he, she, he, and me.  We both have aging parents and in the books of failing health, we have one and a possible. We’re already at the stage of caring for our children and our elders simultaneously. Truth is, we only had two years when we didn’t have both. Heeding to the twin bellows of obligation and responsibility, we’ve decided it’s time to go back to the U.S.; a decision I’m torn about daily…..