Category Archives: Parenthood

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…..

 

Freedom Papers

The Beginning of the End 

js-watch-co-reykjavik-via-hodinkeeJanuary marked nine years that my husband has worked for the same company.  I think he got a watch or something. Nine is his favorite number; his number of completion. He called it a sign, a confirmation.

For the past few years, he’s contemplated walking away from Corporate America to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. He’s started companies, (www.madalihair.com), invested, researched franchising. He even quit his job months after our first child was born citing his discontent with the monotony and lack of growth; a faithful <<insert terrifying>> move that proved to be rewarding.  The company brought him back in a global role thirty days later, which eventually led us to our wonderful life here in Singapore.

Luck of the Irish 

clifden-castle-irelandLike clockwork, when our son was born last October, he once again expressed the same discontent and desire to leave. Something about having another mouth to feed and  greater expenses ironically makes him want to quit his job. This time, the company offered him a new, but vague position in Europe.  Once our stint in Singapore is over in early summer, we could pack up and move to Ireland so that he could start an undefined role.

Let’s just say that doesn’t sit well with either of us. It isn’t the prospect of moving from the never-ending tropical weather of SE Asia to the bleak and wintry days of Dublin. (Well, it’s partly that for this Southern girl.) It isn’t just that we’d be leaving the firstDublin Marked on Map community we’ve felt a part of since we’ve been married, or the idea of not having anyone to help us with our daily tasks. Though, those are huge factors. But, it’s more the idea of being asked to blindly trust the company to create a position that will be equally challenging and fulfilling for a man whose ambition has always been greater than any fear or even logic at times.

P.S., I’m Out! 

It’s hard to work for someone else when you have your own dreams and you’re not afraid to pursue them.  Both of us have felt this way, but his desire to learn alfunny_worlds_greatest_wife_gifts_sticker-rc7f4cc7d02fc4f599597947f9aa38a0c_v9waf_8byvr_324l he could from his corporate experience and to be in a stable position to provide for his family has kept the man I love punching the proverbial clock for nearly a decade. Through every transition, from Rochester, to Clearwater, to Tampa, to Singapore, I’ve encouraged his commitment and made some sacrifices. Yet, I couldn’t hold my “World’s Greatest Wife” Award and watch him agree to take on a role they couldn’t even define for him in a country we’ve only seen in movies.

Though the lush green rolling hills of Ireland made me weep for romance in P.S., I Love You, they aren’t enough to uproot our family knowing that he’ll be discontent with the company as soon as we land. The plan to work towards a way out was implemented last quarter. He tried to be mediocre, a feat he couldn’t master. Dean Mobley just didn’t train us that way. He tried to hint at the idea of saving the company money by leaving and they dismissed everyone else on his team.  The lone ranger was offered new projects and positions instead of means to leave. The company was just not speaking exit strategy… at first.

“The bird has left the nest!” The text was as cryptic as it was unexpected. He sent the message while at dinner with his regional president. With a baby nursing on one side and a toddler pulling on the other, I had no idea what he meant…at first.

As of the end of Spring, my husband will no longer work for the company!  For the first time since he graduated, he is free to completely chart his own course and decide whether he’ll answer to anyone other than himself (and me). We have had the desire to just go anywhere we want in this world and see what happens. And, now we have the freedom to do it. spin-the-globe-wherever-it-lands-thats-where-well-go 

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!

Something’s Gotta Give

This is why….

“We know this place…,”
This scene is all too familiar;
All too freshly sketched on the canvas of our memory.
We can no longer boast of progression
When we’ve only suffered from the repression of our history,
the continual oppression of our people,
and witness the protection of our enemies.
Amerikkka,
the land of the free and the home of the slave….

For the past few months, I’ve been feeling equally homesick and sick of home with all of the horrendous acts of terrorism against people who reflect me. It makes me feel homeless more than anything. Watching the reports of the events unfolding in Ferguson, New York, Los Angeles and all over the U.S. from abroad makes me feel like I escaped a war zone, but it also beckons me to go back and report for duty.

These images of unarmed civilians being executed in the streets by people who’ve used authority to seek complete control and exercise their expression of hatred solidify my thoughts about what Black America’s next step should be. Make no mistake, there are multiple Americas in our “United States.”  We can no longer afford to pretend that we live in a peaceful, post-racial and fully integrated society in America. We really never could afford the thought. It has cost us greatly.

Tragically, the tremendous efforts and results of the Civil Rights Movement were thought of as a completion of the task to secure our inalienable human rights in American society, instead of as the launching pad to keep pursuing them as they were. Now, most of us uneducated about the plight and goals of our predecessors, look at some of their tactics and recycle them without aim. We march now without a collective and concrete purpose other than unity. We hold rallies and sit-ins without understanding its intended impact and with no strategy to implement once the sit-in is complete. And, those of us with the greatest assets still pursue “The American Dream,” as though we were ever intended to be a part of that script.  

We so desperately want the diverse, peaceful, harmonious democracy America advertises, but we have not completed our healing process and we have yet to fully reconnect within our own community first. We also fail to see that the America we idealize does not exist. We talk about segregation like it’s a malediction and we mistakenly believe that the America we’re seeing is the one of which our forefathers dreamed. This was not the intended result of integration.  And, Martin Luther King, Jr. had an ominous feeling about that.  

“We’ve fought long for integration. It looks like we’re gonna get it. I think we’ll get the laws. But I’m afraid that I’ve come upon something that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m afraid that we’re integrating into a burning house.”

The primary thing integration did was integrate black people out of power and extract the most educated and affluent of us from those with less means and opportunities. It resulted in the separation and division of those of us with the most in terms of education, resources, & affluence from those of us with the least. It taught the two divided groups to detach themselves from the other and be ashamed of that which has been separated. It taught us to assimilate and embrace majority culture so much so that we despise and forget our own. It allowed us to become walking targets and victims of systemic oppression and racist policies. 

Until we pour back into our people by building and supporting black businesses, schools, and communities that uplift us, then we will see this cycle again and again. Anybody can support this mission, but we can let no one thwart it. We’ve had too many casualites in a war we haven’t been strategically fighting. 

We just want the freedom to live in viable and healthy environments and conditions for our families. We want our own {land, resources, authority figures, etc.}  in our own communities because we can’t even knock on a “neighbor’s” door when we need assistance without being murdered (Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride.) We have never experienced “separate but equal,” so we fought for desegregation unaware of the fact that it would only extract us from power and further diminish our humanity in our own eyes. Now, we fear ourselves. We blame ourselves for our own lynchings because we’ve been taught we deserve it. We believe it because we hate ourselves; a direct lesson that is taught with little subtlety in the curriculum of American education. This self-loathing leads to our annihilation.

When we teach our children about sex, we can tell them with certainty that abstinence is a 100% guarantee that you will not contract an STD or get pregnant prematurely. We can teach them how to avoid the pitfalls of drug addiction completely by avoiding drug use altogether.  We can teach them to refuse the candy and advances of strangers and to look both ways before crossing the street.  We can offer them advice to protect them in most circumstances.  But, there is nothing we can say to our children that will offer the same guarantee that they will come back home after an interaction with the police or anyone who places themselves in such authority. Nothing.

We were given this harsh lesson as a nation publicly with the heinous torture and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and his murderers’ unjust acquittal.  The lesson has repeated itself over and over again in recent years with lifeless black bodies standing trial for their own murders while their killers walk free.  If you are black in America, your very existence poses a threat, incites violence, and is used to justify another person’s “self-defense” claim against the criminality that is your skin.

Black people, males especially, have no right to just be themselves. They are not afforded the right of “freedom of expression,” and certainly have no claim to
stand their ground as self-defense.  Where was Trayvon Martin’s right to defend himself against a stalking over-zealous, self-appointed neighborhood watchman?  Where was Michael Brown’s right to humanity when he was gunned down unarmed in the streets and left to rot for hours?  Where was Aiyana Jones’ right to be safe from police in her own home? Where are the rights of all the victims to face their accusers when they are  tried in the court of public opinion posthumously for being the cause of their own murder?

We cannot be dormant and await a rescue. The time for action, true mobilizing, is now. Join us in The Back to Black List Movement!

#TheBacktoBlackList #BackToBlackList #BlackList #BacktoBlack

 

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.

Everybody’s a Genius

GENIOUS-POSTERIt’s important to know your child and to be their advocate. I always want to be receptive to any feedback and criticism I get about my children, but I also want to praise their positive attributes and encourage who they naturally are. This is vital to their holistic development.

So, I got the kibibi’s progress report from her part-time local school yesterday. According to the assessments, she did well in all areas EXCEPT “Music & Movement,” where it was determined that she doesn’t “respond to rhythm,” “participate in music and movement,” “enjoy singing/dancing,” “understand musical concepts,” or “keep a steady beat.”

Now, if you know my child at all, you know she LOVES music and dancing. At first, I thought that maybe she’s not being herself at school. This happens. Then, I remembered she comes home singing all the songs from school daily. And, the posted video where she executed the choreography for the school’s performance with such exuberance certainly displays a response to rhythm and participation in music and movement. Her behavior must be consistent, so that’s not it. (Guess which one is mine.)

In the states, I witnessed many occasions when a student’s cultural differences caused criticism and punitive consequences. This made me reflect on why I loved Sakkara Youth Institute so much and why I started ISIS, (my own school) for her in the first place. I remembered that our children are often mislabeled, misunderstood, misplaced, misdiagnosed, or just missed in the classroom altogether. This is why we need our own schools and educators who are culturally sensitive and aware.

Yet, we are in a foreign land now. And, I have another genius that needs my full-time attention for a while, so we have to operate within the scope. Teacher conferences will be essential. Students aren’t the only ones that need to be educated. Good thing I have a passion for education. Class is in session.

http://www.isisgenius.com

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