Tag Archives: living abroad

Why BHM Is Still Relevant

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

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

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

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

 

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…..

 

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

 

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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Do It For the Vine

ImageAffluent white men in expensive cotton tees or custom suits sit around exclusive cafes in Hollywood and casually create movies about the type of life we’re living here in Singapore. Of course, the characters never look like us because that would make the surreal even more unbelievable, but it’s our stories just the same.

ImageThis year alone, we’ve had non-stop adventures and cinematic experiences every week. If we weren’t traveling throughout Asia and the southern hemisphere, we were attending or hosting some soiree or serving as tour guides for visiting friends. Just last night we were celebrating three friends’ birthdays in a private party, dancing like our feet weren’t killing us on a rooftop terrace, and singing old school R&B jams in karaoke until the cops came knocking three times and finally kicked us out of our friend’s lavish condo. If it weren’t for the drastic difference in our age and economic status now, I could’ve sworn we were back at FAMU! There has not been one dull moment, and we love it! It’s one of the primary reasons
we are not ready to leave our temporary haven in SE Asia.

When my husband first came to me with the news that we would be moving to Hong Kong before I had even completed a year in Singapore, my first reaction was something like, “I ain’t gon’ do it!”Image

I seriously wanted us to consider a long distance marriage where we commuted once a week. I looked for all sorts of ways to create more financial streams to make it possible. It had nothing to do with any feelings one way or another about Hong Kong. I haven’t been yet, so I have no opinion about it. I look forward to living in other countries one day, but I just didn’t feel like our time here was done.

Inevitably, we know this dream will end, but I’m not ready to wake up yet. Practically, the idea of moving to another foreign place in less than a year with a toddler in tow and a baby in the womb is altogether unappealing regardless of the destination. Couple that with leaving the incredible community we helped establish, the learning center I’ve started, and the organization for women of African descent living abroad I founded, and you have an overgrown, full-blown, hormonal temper tantrum!

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There’s something about the power we have to SPEAK our desires into existence. Once I made peace with the idea of having to uproot yet again, I simply let go of any frustration and stress that I was feeling about it. I trusted that we would thrive either way, and just started stating and believing that we would continue to live this amazing life to which we’ve been exposed. I stopped focusing on what I didn’t want and just focused on what I did yearn.  I wanted my family to feel secure, to maintain the community we have, to continue building solid relationships, expand the learning center, lay the foundation for the women’s organization, and still feel as fulfilled and vibrant as I have been.  I made it clear that I wanted it to be here in Singapore for at least another year, but I am completely submissive to the divine plan.

We ain’t going nowhere! (Well, we’re actually traveling again this weekend, but we’re not moving, yet, that is.) Less than a week after I found this peace with the idea of it and begin sharing the news about the potential move with others instead of wallowing in self-pity, the mister approached his team and informed them of our desires to stay and pleaded the case. Instead of giving us thirty days to move as they did before, he urged them to make the formal offer immediately or agree that we should remain in Singapore for at least another year.  They agreed, and it’s done!

I’m most excited that I get to give birth to our sun, (yes, we’re having a little prince just as the kibibi and I expected!), amongst friends in a familiar setting. The sequel to our life here is secure and I couldn’t be more thankful.

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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!

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.) 

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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#blackgirlspeaks #forgiveness #understanding #peace #progress #TheBacktoBlackList #EmpowermentExperiment #justicefortrayvonmartin #justiceforoscargrant #justiceforalfredwright #justiceforjonathanferrell #justiceforjordandavis #justiceforhadiyapendleton #justiceforjonylahwatkins #reasonforusall

A Message to White Privileged People Who Take Offense to “Black Power” Movements

At our nearby park, there is always a nice mix of people from all over the world.  Parents, mothers or fathers, accompany their children and watch from a distance while mingling amongst themselves. Usually, everyone finds their “own kind” and stick together. “Own kind” will change depending on who’s present. Sometimes it means the same gender, or home country, or expatriates vs. locals. Of course, sometimes it means the same race. That feels very familiar. But, when it comes to race, because there are very few of my “own kind” in Singapore in general, I must infiltrate if I want to engage at all, on the playground especially. home

One day, I happened to strike up a conversation with a congenial French woman, who has lived in Singapore for over six years. It began very mundane at first; how’s the weather here compared to our respective countries; how much more expensive is it here compared to home; where our children went to school and why, etc. We watched our daughters, very close in age, play with their toys in the sand box. One was more practiced in the art of sharing than the other, and one tried to take possession of all of the toys from the other.

Somehow the topic of race and white privilege ensued, and honestly I wasn’t the one to present the subject.

“I suppose I can’t help but have white privilege. I’ve never had to think about it.”

She stunned me with this simple truth. I’ve never heard anyone personally say to me that they were equally aware and ignorant of this benefit. She went on to share a story explaining when it first dawned on her that SHE was treated differently than her “African friends.”

A small group of them were on holiday (vacation) together, and went out for a leisurely night. Two in the group were of African descent, but all were French and none of them ever vocalized there being any difference amongst them. When they were denied entry into a pub most of them had frequented many times before, she initially thought that it must’ve been closed even though it didn’t appear so. It did not dawn on her that she had witnessed discrimination until her “African friends” brought it to her attention. They had been denied entry many times in many other locations, even France to her surprise.

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This sole experience allowed her to take notice of other instances where she’d taken her rights for granted and, you could tell, there were revelations happening even in our conversation. Perhaps this was just a French problem she pondered. I assured her it was not and adduced my own examples. She repeated her initial comment about it being out of her control, and expressed disbelief that there could be anything done about it by anyone. She said this as we observed her daughter continue to snatch my daughter’s toys from her. My daughter eventually took her toys and played somewhere else after all of the play negotiation tactics I’d taught her had failed.

I have come to see, even more blatantly here, that the intoxication of white privilege affords one an extensive list of rights or entitlements  far beyond the scope of those who lack such a luxury.  One of which is that it allows one to feel well within their “right” to comment on, analyze, criticize, and belittle the sentiments of those seen as the inferior (whether conscious or subconscious) , all while trying to impose their views upon the perceived wayward thinker. It goes beyond freedom of speech. It’s freedom of control and authority to admonish that which is seen as contradictory to the majority view. This gift of white privilege is inherent for anyone of European descent, even in America, (though it does not have to be consumed to the point of intoxication), and has also been dispensed sparingly to the “passers,” people of color who could very easily be mistaken for otherwise either in appearance, social status, self-identity, or parallelism in thought or actions of superiority. These are the white privileged people.(See Wide Awake Parts I & II)

This particular “right” has been exercised incessantly in the U.S., but much more noticeably in recent years. With the public upset over the disputatious verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases, which really have crossed all racial lines, there has been an influx of contending commentary from offended white privileged people expressing their abhorrence of the vocalized disgust with the trial’s outcome. How dare anyone question, challenge, or protest the results of the U.S. justice system? The gall of any group to express disdain for the norm, (exonerating white privileged people), in America is unfathomable and met with great resistance.  (See aforementioned explanation of “white privileged people” as it relates to Trayvon Martin’s killer before you exercise your “right” here.) And, therefore, any discussion of making changes that could prevent such outcomes or such actions in the first place are seen as inflammatory, threatening, exclusive, “racist,” and vile. This idea of change and “black power” must be spawned from a spirit of hatred towards the unassuming white privileged people. It just must.

But alas, I must inform you, that pro-black does not mean anti-white. Black people also struggle with understanding this. Yet, I do understand your confusion. You are perplexed by this because, as historically evidenced, the reverse is not true. Pro-white has meant anti-ANYBODY else. When members of white supremacy groups bolster their views with the term, “White Power,” it is certainly laced in hatred and disdain for anyone other than they.

downloadThe implementation of “white power” in the United States of America has been and is systemically in opposition of any non-white person. It has been since the seizing of this country from the native peoples that already dwelled in and cultivated this land.  I certainly understand how and why many project the sentiments of their ethnic predecessors on the rest of the world, but it is simply inaccurate and false.

After posting “The Back to Black List,” we were met with a few comments of discourse. Some were well-meaning and sincere; some were malicious and irate. We were told this list would be viewed as “racist” if it were reversed, and therefore was racist because surely we did not have a right to avoid such a label when the privileged did not. We were asked if our list still included them; not that they wanted to be a part of it or help in any way because they were very content in the utopian land of equality and diversity as they saw it. They just wanted to ensure that no “right” had been stripped from them. Others expressed how hurt they were that we felt a need to “further divide.” There must be another way they admonished, but offered no alternatives or suggestions or assistance. They just wanted us to know that they were disappointed in us for hurting their feelings by developing an action plan without their permission that didn’t directly include them. Still others, and these were by far the most amusing because they looked “black” but were clearly intoxicated, expressed they had absolutely no interest in living among other black people, supporting black businesses, or  “helping black people because they don’t want to help themselves.” This was in response to our action plan to help ourselves. The list has been viewed as “racist,” unGodly, pretentious, and unattainable, and of course, “anti-white.”

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But, there’s that little thing called history. Our ancestors did not enslave, oppress, and enact genocide upon their European counterparts. The opposite is fact, and it was not so long ago in the context of world history. It is in your ancestral lineage to hate that which is different from yourselves. Those who do not, and there are many, are an anomaly. Therefore, I understand why you would want to project that reflection on others. But, that is not who we (most of us) are. The source of our declaration of “Black Power” is one of love and desire for such. You have always had power within this structure; there has never been a need for you to voice it or cry out for it. We’ve known. We’ve always known.

Your declarations of such were to serve as affirmations and intimidations, not demands or requests. And, they were always stemmed from your self-view of superiority and your disdain for everyone else. That is why a list in the reverse of “The Back to Black List” would be racist and unnecessary because it already has been written, but “The Back to Black List” itself is not. It cannot be. Wait for it…..here comes why.

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Only those in power,(economic, political, social, etc.), have the power to actually be racist. The rest of us are simply the pawn in the malicious enterprise of racism, and every other “ism” for that matter. Anyone can have prejudice, but only white privileged people can be racist because we were the prize, never the participants in the race. The only ones that benefit from racism are those in power. The only ones who are adversely affected by it are those who are oppressed. It is very clear who serves the former and latter positions in terms of race, this man-made divisive factor created long before we adopted “The Back to Black List.”

So, I denounce your baseless accusations that we are racists for having the audacity to love ourselves despite all that’s been done to teach us to do otherwise. I denounce the notion that we are racists because we recognize the importance of healing and restoring ourselves before we can fully and lovingly embrace anyone else. I denounce the accusation that we are racists because we decided not to wait for anyone to show up in a cape and save us.  I denounce the idea that we are racists because we have the brazenness to envision ourselves economically empowered. visions_of_black_economic_empowerment I denounce all claims that we, the educated and empowered few of us, will worsen the problem by restoring the economy, infrastructure, educational access in the already segregated impoverished black communities by moving there. They are actually quite humorous. It tells me that you actually feel somewhat threatened that we are empowered enough to SPEAK against the centuries old social structure that has been steeped in enmity and xenophobic practices in this country, and throughout the world.

Otherwise, you would show absolutely no interest in the messages of black empowerment. You would not engage in debate about issues that absolutely do not concern you or affect you and your general way of life. If you did not feel threatened or personally offended, you would not try to exchange racial epithets or hurl insults masked by the elocutionary critiques of your intelligentsia.

You would simply keep scrolling pass our posts, comments, websites, channels, etc., because you’d be confident in knowing that your quality of life will not be disrupted by ours improving, which is true. Yet, your privilege and fear make you feel a bit froggy.

So, jump, but after this post I will not be engaging in any further discussion with you on the matter, and I encourage other “Black Power” activists to take the same stance. This is a joint course in “How to Deny My White Privilege in Matters of Black Empowerment,” “How to Mind My Own Business,” and “How to Share in the Sandbox.” You either pass or fail. Class dismissed.

(I must state some of my “givens,” so it’s understood that I don’t take them for granted. We know that the term “white privileged people” is not a sweeping generalization to describe every caucasian person. Though, every caucasian person can and does benefit from white privilege, we are aware that not all adopt the mentality of the those who become intoxicated by it. We know “well-meaning white people” exist. This article was not to discredit those of you who support the cause of restoring the basic rights of humanity to all. No need to exercise your right in this forum by declaring your decency. We know you exist. We’ve always known.) 

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Wide Awake Part II : The 10 Lessons I’ve Re-Learned About America While Living Abroad

Living abroad automatically enrolls me in an online course of “Race Relations in America in the Presumed Post-Racial Era.” In the seven months of my course work, I’ve been reintroduced to some invaluable lessons.

1. Black men are seen as inept, incapable, ill-equipped, inferior, invisible “boys” when it comes to standard allowances for the majority such as personal or commercial loans, employment, or scholastic admissions and scholarships.

2. Black boys are seen as dangerous, threatening, thuggish, lethal “men” when it comes to justifying their murders with erroneous claims of self-defense.

3. White men, women, and children can and will be justified and excused for any infliction or infraction upon someone black or brown, and if they’re wealthy, any infliction or infraction period.  If any action of systemic justice is taken such as an indictment, it will be far-reaching and unattainable to convict so as to pacify the cries of the oppressed.

4. Black men, women, and children will not be justified or excused in any infliction or infraction period.

5. Black and brown children are not allowed to be children, to engage in frivolous activity, to be seen as innocent, to be mischievous or given the opportunity to mature and evolve as their white counterparts are.

6. Self-defense only applies to the majority culture. This includes any that have assimilated to the point of being mistaken as a member of the majority culture. Black people are not allowed to feel and act with fear because they are only to be feared.

7. It’s worse in the south.

8. “The south is any state below Canada.” – Malcolm X

9. White entitlement, which is an intoxicating and debilitating drug that can be inherently or mistakenly consumed by anyone,  will lead to the following when any minority voices they want to empower themselves:  they will NOT want you to advance in this way; they will feel entitled to voice their opposing opinions in any forum, even yours; they will always play the victim; they will try to beat you over the head with insults and accusations, specifically that you, the oppressed party, are racist; they will not offer support; they will feel threatened and offended by any thought you have to progress your own as the majority culture has done since the inception of this country; they will not take kindly to any encroaching on their way of life; they will try to steal, kill, and/or destroy you, your ideals, your culture, & your identity.

10. Many educated or influential, middle class or affluent Black people will be afraid to recognize or SPEAK on these matters in fear of disturbing their individual lives of contentment and complacency. Those of us who do will be marred even by our own. So is the price of reading of, thinking for, and loving oneself.

I was aware, but did not fully digest the reality of the aforementioned when I actually dwelled in the midst of it. I was honestly somewhat afraid of truly SPEAKing the truths of my experience for fear of ruining relationships, ostracizing myself, or jeopardizing the safety of those I love. (See number 9.) Now, I realize we are all in jeopardy. Our lives are already vulnerable because they are seen as disposable. Our rights to humanity have already been stripped for many, and can be from us all at any time. We have not progressed nearly as much as we have fooled ourselves into believing. What else do we have to lose?

Now, is the time to pool together to focus on what we have to gain. My husband and I have engaged in many discussions about restoring our culture and community within the states. Our ancestors literally slaved to build a country that has continually terrorized us as its inhabitants. It’s time we do something, well within our rights, about it. He has compiled a list, an action plan if you will, that can and should be implemented by all who are focused on rebuilding and restoring black economy, black neighborhoods, black greatness.  Loving ourselves and wanting to support our own, just like all other cultures do already, does not mean we hate anyone else. There is no room or energy for hate. We have to know and understand this first.

I know posts like this will meet with opposition, and I no longer care to entertain it. Again, those who are intoxicated with supremacy will feel ENTITLED to speak even when they are not addressed at all. These things will apply to any one in opposition, regardless of race. Knowing these things, we must remain focused. We can lovingly educate those who are genuinely interested in our cause, but we will not engage in useless banter. We give credence to their voice when we do. If you are in disagreement with the purpose of this post and the following action plan, feel free to keep moving. We’ve got work to do here.

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For those who are wondering what to do now that it has been repeatedly confirmed that our lives have no value. This list is already being implemented by other cultures, the majority culture in America especially. The oppressed cannot be racist, because we hold no economic power. Be not distracted by the intoxicated.

Resource list to help complete the list:

Black Banks: http://urbanintellectuals.com/2013/10/03/did-you-know-there-were-21-african-american-owned-banks-in-the-country/

Effects of Black Schools: 

How to Support Black Businesses: