Tag Archives: Africans

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

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 

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!

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Have a Seat at My Table

There are two older women cooking in my kitchen, and neither is my mother, grandmothwomanandchildcookinger, or close aunt. Considering the fact that for many southern American women such as myself, the kitchen is a sacred place where traditions are continued, future generations are pruned, and recipes are kept in furtive volts of the heart, to offer your haven to another without close supervision is both an honor and sort of a ritualistic trust exercise.  Though reluctant to pass the baton initially, I welcome this reprieve now with raised feet, a much more swollen baby belly, and a newfound confidence in the current keepers of the holy grail that is my book of recipes.

It’s been one week since our new home assistant, (“helper,” Foreign Domestic Worker) started, and I’m already living a completely different life. We’re on week two of training. (Of course my OCD forced me to develop a training and work schedule complete with tentative meal plans, emergency task lists, and duties outlined by the hour, day, week, and month. A bit much?) She spent this last week helping me reorganize my kitchen after we found a termite infestation (insert gag reflex) in one of the cabinets, (one of the many oversights of our previous assistant), and learning the tasks outlined in the training manual.

Today, she is enhancing her Western culinary skills by studying under the tutelage of another FDW who’s employed by friends of ours. I did not even waste the time, energy, and money to “invest” in my previous assistant in this way because the capacity just wasn’t there. To fully understand the contrast between the two, you’ll have to revisit the past eight months.

The Process of Getting Help

We hired *Joylyn after a debacle with *Mae (see “The Help(er) Part III” from Sept. 2013).  After a stream of crazy interviews that usually ended in tears and sob stories that bordered on deplorable and outlandish, we finally decided to hire Mae. Before we could even begin the process of completing the paperwork, she sent us a barely coherent text message stating, to the best of our understanding, that her employer wouldn’t release her from her contract.

Mae worked for a traditional Chinese family that employed very rigid restraints and practices; some of which included rationing her food portions, forcing her to sleep on the kitchen floor, and only allowing her to have one day off a month. This was just one of many sorrowful tales we were told as we interviewed dozens of women looking for an escape from their despots. Some spoke of abuse and compelled me to cry myself; others made me think they were vying for an Emmy for their role on “As the Teardrop Falls.”   Mae appeared more honest and less of a whimpering damsel who could cry on cue. We thought we were freeing her in a sense by offering her a much more amiable position that would bring her closer to her sister who lives just a few floors up as an employee of friends of ours.

So, when we got the text and realized she was unwilling to fight for her right to be transferred, we became a bit desperate. *Joylyn was one of two final interviewees, and was only selected because the one we preferred was in a similar predicament as Mae. We didn’t want a repeat repeal.

Please, Have a Seat

Her first night, she came to us one late stormy evening, hauling her life’s belongings in a single, bulging, weathered suitcase up the concrete flight of stairs leading to our condo building, instead of taking the elevator that would place her at our door step. I opened the door to her bright smile, as damp, limp, wiry hair clung itself to her forehead and cheeks like a fitted veil.

IMG3147-LJoylyn was twice the height of my two-year-old by a wayward hair, and probably no wider.  After first offering to sit on our floor, she timidly agreed to sit at our dining room table to discuss the employment contract and duties. My husband was out of the country, so it was just she and I, equally nervous, trying to grasp and make an ample first impression.   I made mine and broke the ice by pouring us both a glass of white wine; an unusual gesture that had a lasting effect.

Day 1

She was awake before we were, waiting for instruction. That was a good sign. I gave her a brief tour of our home and explained the morning tasks again. She mentioned in the interview that she was familiar with cooking and could follow recipes, so I was eager to see what she could do in that area. I needed someone to at least serve as an assistant chef when I didn’t have time to make dinner or when I needed help with preparation. Having worked for a Chinese family for four years, and a British family for only six weeks, she claimed to be well-versed in Asian cooking and somewhat comfortable with Western dishes as well. To our dismay, we soon found this to be one of the greatest misleading fabrications since hearing, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” As kind as she is, Joylyn could hardly pour water, let alone boil it to make anything when she first arrived.

Whole_No.15_Chicken__96994_zoomThe first and last meal she prepared for us without guidance was steamed chicken and rice. The chicken was dry, chewy, and unseasoned, and it still looked raw in color. The rice, well the white rice (we eat brown or black rice), was perfect in texture, though bland. We soon learned that making rice in a rice cooker was her only specialty, and really, the only thing she liked to eat aside from chicken feet and fish heads.

She also claimed to be experienced with young children, but we found that this experience actually hindered her.  The original family she worked for used her in the capacity of a full-time nanny for their infant daughter until she was four-years-old. By nanny, I mean full-time servant. According to Joylyn, the child was not encouraged to do anything for herself and the parents were not involved in her care. Joylyn shared a room with her, fed, bathed, clothed, and obeyed (yes, obeyed) her every request. She was constantly appeasing her and acquiescing to every command from the pampered toddler. This type of servile behavior did not bode well with any of us, especially the kibibi, whom we’ve taught to be more independent and respectful.

Joylyn was constantly trying to appeal to our daughter. Sometimes against my instruction, she’d offer her certain sweet treats or allow her to speak to her in a manner that I did not tolerate or excuse. I’ve seen this type of behavior with other children and their assistants, and I’ve always winced at it. I actually had to intervene once when a young boy of about seven years, screamed at and struck his assistant repeatedly because she said it was time to leave the playground. This type of occurrence is not uncommon. It’s just something we cannot allow in our home.

I remember once, when the three of us took one of our first trips to the library, I left Joylyn and Lil’ Bit to charportrait_ivyread in a corner while I sifted through bookshelves to find at least one or two books with characters that reflected our family. After weeks of explaining to Joylyn that she must be firm with Lil’ Bit and uphold the boundaries we’ve set, she finally tried flirting with the word “no” to a request for pretzels.  By this time, my little one knew how to play the fiddle, and the request turned into a command. I didn’t witness it, but I was told by both, that when another “no” was uttered, my sweet, angelic, cherub morphed into a tiny torturous tyrant and snatched the pretzels before smacking Joylyn with them and stating through gritted teeth, “You don’t tell me no!”

Well, let’s just say, my child lost every bit of her precious mind in that moment and I, in turn, had to match crazy with berserk right there in the children’s corner of the public library in front of an audience of docile Asian women and children, grasping their books and dropping their jaws in awe. Nothing like that ever happened again, but I was constantly intervening to assert some discipline when Joylyn failed to assert herself. It confused my child, as it would any child. She hasn’t mastered giving respect even when it’s not expected or worse yet, when it’s rejected.

Joylyn’s deficiencies began to outweigh her usefulness over time, and my patience an2954269188_Bad_Cook_answer_4_xlarged tolerance began waning increasingly once I became pregnant. Simple blunders like going to the market to get “Cheerios” and instead retrieving “Oh’s,” or “Corn Flakes” instead of “Corn Pops,” began to gnaw at my nerves; especially considering I’d write down the exact name, brand, and its location in the store, and I’d text her an exact picture of the item I needed. I also noticed Lil’ Bit became less enthused to do things when Joylyn was involved and would ask for “Mommy and me moments” more often when Joylyn was near.  My husband was growing more annoyed by her adaptations to my recipes or alterations to meals I’d already prepared that she simply needed to heat and serve.

As much as we enjoyed her colorful stories about her Filipino upbringing, or her current events about what was happening in the Philippines or in the park on Sundays, we were not entertained at all by the fact that we were paying for services that just weren’t being provided. I was still handling a great deal of the domestic work and missing time with my daughter because of it. I found myself more frustrated with her presence than relieved by it. Because, as employers, we are completely responsible for the salary, food, shelter, medical care, insurance, dental care, and overall well-being of our employee, Joylyn became more of a burden than a blessing.  It was time to make some moves.

To Be Continued….

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Don’t Pinch Me

I have died and gone to the JW Marriott in Dubai! If this is a dream, let me slumber.

With my king beside me, my kibibi underfoot, and my blessing inside me,  I’ve seen the sunrise and moonlight dance together over the vast view of ornate mosques, galloping horses dark as midnight, African goddesses in stained glass windows anchored by the prodigious statues of African emperors, and a beautiful myriad of people from all over the world. As far as I can see, there are symbols of growth, transition, progress, and pride. The juxtaposition of opulence and reverence is intriguing as I’ve rarely seen these two sides on one gold coin.

After a seven and a half hour flight on Singapore Airlines, (If you’re going to fly economy, then Singapore Airlines is the best way to do it.), we were greeted by our hotel representative standing singly holding a large sign in a leather bi-folded frame printed with my husband’s name spelled correctly in a bold font. This in itself is somewhat familiar, but the fact that we were greeted in the area reserved for distinguished guests before being escorted through the hurried bustling throng of  taxi drivers and less exclusive greeters, as we were led to our private chauffeur of a smaller version of my husband’s dream car, the Mercedes S600, made it a little special.

On the journey from the airport, Salna*, our South Indian driver, was all too excited to boast of the historical and touristic treasures of Dubai. Having lived here for 15 years, he has adopted Dubai as home and donned himself the tour guide and information resource for first time visitors. We learned about the unique attractions like the world’s largest mall and musical water fountain, the Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s largest hotel or man-made structure, imagethe seven emirates that comprise the U.A.E., and how wonderful and safe Dubai is because of their beloved ruler, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed. Despite this not being his native country, Salna* clearly felt like he was an embraced part of it and proud to be so.

When we arrived at the dual towers of our hotel, we were warmly greeted by Khatasie*, a beautiful South African young woman who’s only lived here for three months. Our kibibi was immediately enamored with her. She too begin boasting of both her home country and Dubai, urging us to visit again and again. Now, of course, I attribute a great deal of their hospitality to the fact that it is the industry in which they are employed, but there was something refreshingly genuine and kind about them as well. The same could be said about Di*, our chef from Nepal to whom our little one was also drawn. She usually only speaks enough to be polite, if even, but she actually entertained a conversation with Di*, going as far as to mistakenly say she was from Abu Dhabi and “it’s fun.”

We’ve only been here for twelve hours, and it’s already made a significant impression. Now, we’re heading off to explore. The mall must be conquered!

Why We Must Forgive

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I was walking through a parking lot today, and I saw a sign that read, “If reason is on your side, show forgiveness. If justice is on your side, show humility.”

At first, it rattled me considering the state of anger wherein I’ve traveled increasingly since the Trayvon Martin trial, and where I’ve resided since this past week’s Jordan Davis trial. Why must they, (justice and reason), be mutually exclusive? Why does the gift of justice come so sparingly to my people? Why must we always be the strongest and forgive? I had to pray about that thing.

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I was reminded of the power of and that comes through forgiveness. It’s not letting anyone off the hook. It’s stopping yourself from being hung by your own rope. It’s letting go so you can progress in healing. It’s the gateway to productivity, and now is certainly time to be productive.

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So, I am choosing to forgive for my sake and ours collectively.

I forgive those who lay in idle complacency and serve as spectators to our genocide.

I forgive those who offer no alternative and do nothing to aid in our collective struggle other than serve their own individual pool, but who feel authorized to criticize, denounce, and ridicule strategies that are devised for the very people they’ve chosen to neglect or pity.

I forgive ignorance.

I forgive those who are so entangled in their own emotions and feelings that they cannot understand our plight enough to even fathom the thought of a group seemingly excluding them to heal within themselves.

I forgive those who throw baseless accusations and antiquated insults because they are afraid and personally offended that we are personally offended by our plight in this country.

I forgive all who are in the position to do so, but fail to empathize.

I forgive all who are in a position to do so, but fail to help.

I forgive those who look like they are African, but offer no other indication of such.

I forgive our would be leaders who have chosen their comfort, status, and fortune over using their platforms to propel the progress of the disenfranchised.

I forgive those in our community who have fallen victim to self-loathing, and in turn hate and seek to destroy us all.

I forgive those who have had the audacity to take a life that they didn’t birth, love, understand, or embrace with little to no remorse.

I forgive the history of America, though it’s never acknowledged its fault or current effects or asked for or felt the need for our forgiveness.

I forgive myself for not being more forgiving sooner and for putting my faith in anyone other than God and the Spirit of God within us.

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I forgive, because I must; because I need to heal; because we need to progress; because you’re worthy even if you don’t believe it; because we’re worthy even when we don’t see it; because that’s what I’ve been instructed to do; because reason is a gift too.

Because we have work to do, I forgive you.

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