Category Archives: Marriage

Lemon Squeeze

beyonce-lemonade-albumBeyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is not playing with y’all simple handkerchief head, panty-waste asses no fuckin’ mo’! She just put all our business in the streets with “Lemonade.” And, by “our,” I mean every(black)body!  She told all y’all that held her up as the next feminist sheroe to, “fuck yo’ feminism and all its exclusions of the terrorism of black bodies.”  She ain’t here for that shit and she ain’t gotta pretend no fuckin’ mo’.  Checks been cashed. She rich bitch! She ain’t nobody’s pick-a-ninny, mammy, or negro wench. She ain’t window dressing or keeping calm for not none of y’all.  

Now, if you watched that whole montage of black beauty, brilliance, and womanhood and still think it’s just about Jay Z’s alleged cheatin’ ass, you missed the whole fuckin’ point. Bey ain’t told nobody nothin’ about her business in ever. Oprah couldn’t even crack her ass. You really think she just put her journal to a beat ‘cause y’all bffs in your head? Ya’ll so busy tryin’ to put a name to where Jay been dippin’ his paintbrush, that you can’t see the whole picture. That was the minor plot. These simple surface basic bitches ‘round here thinking they done found a roaming husband support group in Bey. I can’t even deal! So, I’mma have to let somebody with a little bit more patience break it all the way down til’ it can’t be broke no fuckin’ mo’.

Lemonade

Pitcher 1 – Intuition

On the surface, Queen Bey is referencing the power women are known to have to be spiritually connected with those they love.  We tend to know when our mates mess up, step out, transform from the lover who only seeks us as a source of affection to an infidel.  We feel the haunts of strangers in our corridors and bedrooms. We pray to catch you uttering a name other than ours in the clandestine corners of our shared spaces. We pray you see us see you so our inner visions can be confirmed; to know we are not “crazy” or “insecure” without just cause.hqdefault

We know. Even when we silence the internal discourse that reveals it and suppress the evidence you leave trailing behind, your dishonesty is palpable. We are each others confidants standing in solidarity without sharing a single word because we hold true to the declaration that “what happens in this family, stays in this family.”  That mandate, the root of our cyclical heartaches and familial destruction.

beyonce-and-mathew-knowlesMany of us have seen it time and again; first as an infantile witness, now as an object of the indiscretion. There is a lineage of malfeasances that some men {and women} uphold. It is unspoken, but understood by everyone for generations. It is seen in the familiar eyes of outside children with no last names. Proof is revealed in the glances of whispering women in back pews of the sanctuary. It is the look of pity and shame bestowed upon the children and spouses of the adulterer. It is the critical, shifting moment of womanhood when a daughter juxtaposes the perfection of her father with his failures as a husband. Oh, we know. Yet, we still try to make a home with you.

“You remind me of my father / A magician / Able to be in two places at once. /…. Like the men in my family, you come home at 3 am and lie to me”

 

This is often why wives are persecuted when husbands are unfaithful. “She had to have known,” they say. “She must not please him,” they relent. “How could she be so ‘great’ if she can’t even keep a happy home,” they scoff. Women are lashed on both sides of the “stand by your man” debate and criticized for being the “other woman” even if they believed themselves to be the only woman. Rarely is the man offered a scarlet letter with which to adorn himself.

Contrarily, men are demeaned intellectually rather than in deed. They are denigrated in the belief that their actions are beyond their control. “They can’t help themselves.” The implication is that men are so feeble in mind and tawdry in character that they would all roam from one willing woman to the next save the controlling claw of their “ball and chain.” Both suppositions derogate the roles and expectations of husbands and wives. So, as women, we usually play the role of being taken by surprise when these misdeeds come to surface.

But, here in this first chapter of the visual album “Lemonade,” Beyoncé owns our power of “Intuition.”

Visual Recounts of Intution

Cornrows                                                                                                                                                  Bowed head                                                                                                                                                  Dirty                                                                                                                                                            Blonde                                                                                                                                                                    Fur                                                                                                                                                                  Chains                                                                                                                                                            Fluid deadened grass                                                                                                            Deconstructed brick                                                                                                                                Walls                                                                                                                                                            Black woman                                                                                                                                        Kneeling                                                                                                                                                      Head                                                                                                                                                           Draped                                                                                                                                                                   Cloaked                                                                                                                                                   Hooded                                                                                                                                                               Black in tall grass                                                                                                                                     Hands clutched                                                                                                                                    Tunnels                                                                                                                                                                  Solidarity                                                                                                                                                      Pale faces                                                                                                                                                 Words about nothingness                                                                                                   Encompassing everything                                                                                                               Building emptiness                                                                                                                                    Black women                                                                                                                                      in Formation                                                                                                                                                  On the edge

Teetering

Jump

Leap

Crash

Submersion

-Muthafuckin’ Rose & Black Girl

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.

fer

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.

__________________________________________________________

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

Saturday Seasons

black_family_playing_on_bed_together_BLD082106I used to love Saturday mornings as a kid. My sister, brother, and I would compete to see who would wake up first. Then, the three of us would race to and leap into my parents’ bed while screaming, and tickle them until they would begin swatting us away like flies at a picnic. If they didn’t respond fast enough, one of us would grab their heads as another would forcibly peel their eyelids back until the oculus was bulging from its socket and we’d blow our morning breath on the ivory ball.

They’d try to smother us with pillows and put us back to sleep and we’d always pummel through the mountain of fluff louder and more rambunctious. They’d plead for our silence to no avail. My dad would eventually wake up and make his famous thin pancakes with the crispy edges and mom would let us watch TV for the first time all week, (before The Cosby Show won our Thursdays). Saturday morning cartoons were the backdrop for syrup dripping and family snuggling on the couch.

black-couple-in-bed-pf1In college, I didn’t see Saturday mornings. I slept until there were fifteen minutes left before “The Caf'” stopped serving breakfast, and then I’d almost trip over myself to get there and catch the last of the waffles before going back to snuggle into slumber. As a young adult, the Saturday morning sleep-in was practiced with proficiency. It wasn’t until I married that I saw Saturday before noon and that was only to “snuggle” and go right back to sleep.

black-family-in-the-bedNow, Saturday mornings have a completely new meaning. We’re the parents! The prince begins his screeching wake up call before seven, followed by the kibibi’s rhythmic knock for permission to enter. Our bed is now bombarded with little feet and tickles and giggles and demands to rise to make oatmeal. The logic of a three-year-old literally says, “I’m awake, and Little Gege is awake, so you have to wake up…now.”  I’m sure this is the reprisal for my own child-like reasoning with my parents.

These seasons of Saturdays have been a marker for each phase of my life; each one enjoyable and something I excitedly anticipated each week. They all passed too briefly it seems now. So, until my little alarm clocks grow too old to think we’re cool, I’m going to relish in this new Saturday snuggle and watch “Doc McStuffins” while eating oatmeal with a wide smile and great appreciation for this new day. Good morning!

On Raising Our Children

For my friend and brother 

We don’t raise our children
to mourn the loss of them.
We don’t love them wholly                                                                                                               to watch the life vacate from their bodies                                                                                     and ascend beyond our reach.

We don’t raise them                                                                                                                             to lower them into the cold cavities of the earth                                                                           and see them no more.                                                                                                                     We don’t hold them at our breast                                                                                                  or carry the breadth of their bodies on our chest                                                                           to be robbed of their embrace.

We watch them age,
transform,

question,

fall,

and rise,

so that we may experience                                                                                                               the fullness of their maturation                                                                                                       and witness the formation of their youthful imaginations.

We raise our children to love                                                                                                       and be loved;                                                                                                                                         to be reflections of Love;                                                                                                               the Love that is, was, and ever will be.

We, the village that cradles them,                                                                                               the crowns that bow and summon                                                                                            the guiding beam of our God and forefathers,                                                                        We raise our children so that they may have life                                                                      in all of its fundamental rights and concessions,                                                                  that they may create something better with it than did we.

We raise them

to bury us.

The reverse is cause for lamentation.

It’s All in a Name

maxresdefaultThe first time I saw a naming ceremony in person was in Tallahassee.  A young couple presented their first born son to a community of elders, peers, and children and charged us to be his collective guiding force, protector, and reminder of his purpose by helping him uphold the weight of his name’s meaning. The experience had a profound affect on me as a young educator unfolding into the woman I was meant to become. It solidified my belief that a person’s name can be empowering and prophetic, as my name had been.

Years later,before we had any children, my husband and I decided that I would name any that we had because he chose our family’s last name; it’s an African name that defines the mission of our family. We agreed that our children would all have names reflective of their heritage and lineage and that defined their purpose and legacy.  We also agreed that they too would be presented to our community in a naming ceremony, though he had never seen one. I knew, long before either was conceived, that we would have a daughter and a son and their names came to me very clearly after much thought and consideration.

Because my husband could not wait the typical month to reveal the name, our daughter’s naming ceremony was just days after her birth. In her nursery encircled by love, we introduced our newborn, Aminata Louise, to her maternal grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and Godmother. We informed them that she was named after Queen Aminata of northern Nigeria and that we would call her Amina, both of which mean honest, faithful, & trustworthy.  Her middle name, though not of African origin, is to honor each her paternal great-grandmother, and maternal aunt and great-great-grandmother. Its German and French roots mean “renowned warrior.”  We remind her through the echoing of her name that she is of regal lineage because of her ancestors; that she must exhibit integrity and honor in all she does and that she must be courageous and brilliant.

Our son, a month old already, still has me in awe of having a son at all. The thoughts of mothering a son as opposed to a daughter are completely different. I was equally excited about both, but I was much more concerned this time around than I was with my little girl. I know girls. Connecting with them is innate for me.  Boys offer me a challenge, and I feel less equipped to guide them. I knew his name needed to embody strength and offer him encouragement if ever I couldn’t.  I knew he needed to be reminded of his greatness because the world would tell him otherwise.

Ceremony ProgramWe presented Amiri Jasir James to our beautiful village in Singapore just days after his prolonged birth. We were so fortunate to have my parents present along with our new extended family here. Everyone stood in a circle as we explained that the name “Amiri” honors the late renowned poet and prophet Amiri Baraka, who just transitioned months earlier. It means “Prince” or “Leader” in Arabic; “the height of trees” in Hebrew, and “the East Wind” in Maori. All of which are fitting because he too must know he is regal, must strive to reach higher heights, and know that he was born in a very foreign land by no accident. His first middle name means “bold, courageous, honest and inventive” & the second is the name of his paternal great-grandfather, great-uncle, and a host of other men in our family.

During the ceremony, we explained and demonstrated libation before taking a parental pledge. The present Godparent and Community also took a pledge to offer guidance, counsel, support, and love. My husband read a rousing tribute to our son, echoing the lessons he has been charged to teach him. Amiri was then anointed with oils and milk to symbolize God’s protection and good fortune. Lastly, the community welcomed him into this world and we, as his parents, rededicated him to God.  My father closed us in prayer as we sang “Thank You Lord” together and tears scrolled down my face as I reflected on the auspiciousness of the moment. The event was celebrated with soulful dishes from each household as we feasted and rejoiced for our new addition.

Both of my children will know how their names came to be what they are; why they must uphold their meanings, and the wealth of love that is their birthright as it was displayed in their naming ceremonies.  I am so fortunate to have seen a glimpse into what we as Africans in America have lost when I witnessed my first naming ceremony in Tallahassee, and to be able to recreate the experience with our own community here in Asia.

 

Notes For a Speech

African blues
does not know me. Their steps, in sands
of their own
land. A country
in black & white, newspapers
blown down pavements
of the world. Does
not feel
what I am.

Strength

in the dream, an oblique
suckling of nerve, the wind
throws up sand, eyes
are something locked in
hate, of hate, of hate, to
walk abroad, they conduct
their deaths apart
from my own. Those
heads, I call
my “people.”

(And who are they. People. To concern

myself, ugly man. Who
you, to concern
the white flat stomachs
of maidens, inside houses
dying. Black. Peeled moon
light on my fingers
move under
her clothes. Where
is her husband. Black
words throw up sand
to eyes, fingers of
their private dead. Whose
soul, eyes, in sand. My color
is not theirs. Lighter, white man
talk. They shy away. My own
dead souls, my, so called
people. Africa
is a foreign place. You are
as any other sad man here
american.

-Amiri Baraka