Tag Archives: adventures

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

Trust, SPEAK, Release

2014 has already proven to be extraordinary and divine! Every January, we meet as a family and outline our goals for the year. We prioritize them and plan for them financially. Of course, we know that the unforeseen will happen, but we try to prepare ourselves for those hurdles as well, at least in terms of having a financial cushion if needed.

This year we planned to travel as much as possible for leisure, to establish a firm educational format for our daughter, to continue developing our community here in Singapore and plan for the one we will join when we return to the states, to complete projects that have been on the burner for more than a year already, to step forward on entrepreneurial visions we’ve been given, and to conceive our second child before the end of the year.

It’s March, and we’ve already traveled to Thailand & Sydney as a family, and I’ve traveled to Bali (again) for a Girls’ Trip. Each venture was AMAZING!!  In January, I began home-schooling my daughter formally and she is thriving; already reading site words, using phonics to read basic words, counting and adding in English, Swahili, and Chinese (we’re working on subtraction), exploring the world around us through the lens of science, and learning more and more about our history and geography. She can identify every country we’ve traveled, the continent of origin of mankind, and all of the countries where her friends have families on a map.  And, she’s only 2 1/2.  (I have to say though, this is mainly due to her love of learning than anything I’m doing.  I have other students like this, and I have those who aren’t. Every child is different, and more specifically, learns differently.)

As an educator, I’ve been developing a curriculum for her since infancy, but this is the first time I’m implementing it on a schedule and with other participants.  She is also enrolled in dance and a drop-off Chinese class, so that I can have a much needed break a few hours a week.  The curriculum I use is African-centered and uses the methods of teaching to a student’s learning style rather than teaching in one uniform way.  The closest resemblance is a Montessori Model, but I implore lessons that are culturally enhancing as well. It is extremely important to us that our daughter knows who she is and what that means in the context of the world we’re living and the the global community-at-large.

One of the ways we ensure that she does see herself is by surrounding ourselves with a community of people that share our culture and desire for expressing and exchanging it with others.  Of course we also immerse ourselves in the truly rich and diverse cultures of which Singapore is replete. However, we understand the value of knowing and loving yourself first in order to fully embrace anyone else without the desire to emulate, imitate, or assimilate.

Before leaving the states, we prayed consistently to have a village, a true community built around the shared love of God and each other.  Who would’ve ever thought we’d find that in Singapore?!  We had to travel to the other side of the world to get it, but we finally do have what we’ve been searching for since we married. The unfortunate part is that we all know this is temporary because everyone is here on an assignment. Once it’s complete, the adventure here is as well and the community changes.  But, at least we have the prototype, and we’re growing. We see each other regularly, support each other in our respective endeavors, engage our children with one another, and empower each other to be great. We see each other for who we are in a world that has tried to make us invisible, criminal, or targets.

The community we’ve helped to build here has been an even greater catalyst to begin planning for establishing and creating what we desire whenever we do return to the states, where we are fully aware that every type of “-ism” exists and the love of guns exceeds that of  humanity. Hence, our development of the “The Back to Black List,”  a list of proposed solutions to help restore a thriving and healthy black community. Again, we know we have to build ourselves first before we can idealize and eventually obtain a world free of racism. (See “Wide Awake Parts I & II,” & “Why We Must Forgive.”)

As we’ve been checking off our goal sheet, I finally buckled down and focused on the many writing projects I have on my plate. I’ve started and almost completed several different works ranging from cultural critiques to marital and relationship insight for adults and teens. Almost doesn’t count when checking off the list, so I have to take the time and discipline to focus on each project. One is a series of children’s books, and though they are all written, the greatest challenge has been finding an illustrator and publisher. You wouldn’t believe some of the experiences I’ve  had in that process.  It’s been challenging and discouraging to say the least, but I think I’ve finally found the right match. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer for me, and get ready to purchase your book before the year ends.

We’ve always been entrepreneurial and we share the goal of empowering the disenfranchised throughout the Diaspora, so we’re still steadfastly working on expanding the Black Girl Speaks brand (www.blackgirlspeaks.com), as well as some other enterprises we’re developing. I think, aside from wanting to empower and employ others who have been marginalized, one of our desires is to avoid being in a position where someone else, “The Man,” is in complete control of our financial security. We lose sleep over the thought of it.

As expected, the unexpected has happened. After setting our goals for the year and finally reaching a place where we feel “at home,” we got the news that my husband’s company plans to move us to Hong Kong before our lease is renewed in June! hong-kong-Ed-meisterNow, we are absolutely loving the life we have in Singapore. Despite the restrictions, and there are many, it really is a wonderful place to live with a young family. Of course, this experience has been enhanced by all of the aforementioned, but Singapore itself is full of reasons to want to stay.  Our neighborhood is conveniently located in a cultural enriched area amidst shops, incredible restaurants, the only 24-hour shopping complex, all of the public transportation outlets, parks, and most of our friends are near.  You can understand why my immediate response was, “I’m not going. I’m staying here.”  I have since journeyed from refusal, to denial, and now I’m at a place of peace with whatever happens.  I didn’t want to talk about it at all, but I finally shared the news with friends of ours during my Bali Girls’ Trip.  I just didn’t want a long, drawn-out farewell.  Now, I realize by SPEAKing it, I released the anxiety that coupled it and I can just be tranquil and reassured that God will continue to shock us with blessings wherever we are in the world.

Baby Bwele in Bali

In fact, He already has! Shortly after discovering that Hong Kong was on the horizon, we found out the new addition to our family was as well. I’m elated to share that we are expecting Baby Bwelé aka Baby Blue aka Bean Pie in September!!  Now, any normal person would probably initially panic at the thought of moving internationally with one child in tow and another on the way to an unknown place where language and culture are barriers and without any reference for physicians. And, I did, because I have normal person tendencies.  Yet, I also have super-natural provision and the certainty that all will be well as it has been.  Wherever we go, we’re blessed. (But, I really, really, really want to stay Lord.)