Tag Archives: Singapore

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!

#TheBacktoBlackList #BackToBlackList #BlackList #BacktoBlack

 

Up In Arms

Talitha
Feeling Full of Life

I stay woke
Like for real
It’s 3am
And I can’t sleep
Because I feel my son
Kicking and swirling
Flipping and shifting
Readying himself for this world
And, fear has me wondering
If it’d be easier for him
If he was a girl.
If he wasn’t seen
As criminal before human
As violent,
As a threat,
As a suspect,
As a target
In Wal-mart,
As a nuisance
On the BART,
As a thug
In his ‘hood-ie,
As an animal
To choke,
As a disturbance
To silence,
As a reason
To provoke
His own murder,
As a weapon
To disarm
when his arms are up
In surrender.
I wonder,
While he’s cradled in my womb,
Unseen and unheard,
As it will be until he makes his presence known
By birth and simply living,
If it’s the safest place for him.

#blackgirlspeaks #JohnCrawford #TrayvonMartin #OscarGrant #EricGarner #JordanDavis #MikeBrown

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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Blue Ivy & the Hairistocracy

Blue Ivy and the Hairistocracy

Everyone, hide your eyes! Blue Ivy has once again had the nerve to leave the house and not care about what we think about her hair!! And, her weave-wearing, designer handbag toting, “FlapicCouncilBrownPaper-BagTeswless” mama is to blame and should be forever condemned to the seventh layer of Hair Hell! Gather your banners of judgment and arrows of shame and aim them directly at those “matted,” “nappy,” “linty,” “unkept,” baby locs to remind her that she, regardless of her (parents’) fame and fortune, is not permitted the freedom of wearing her hair unless it is coiffed to societal liking and passes the road to assimilation paper bag test. I mean standard of beauty.

I didn’t think it was worthy of discussion initially, but after seeing my own daughter shine most brilliantly when she is free to make choices regarding her apparel and appearance, I thought more about baby Blue and why her “disheveled” appearance was causing such uproar.  I really had to wonder and research why we, mostly middle-class black Americans, care so much about a toddler’s hair. And, the reasons given were quite telling. 

“It’s not about the texture. It just appears uncombed.”- The Appearance Patrol

I think the real issue here is that we, regular everyday people, care more about perception than the affluent ever have to or the impoverished ever care to do. This has been generational, out of survival and as a strategy to try and impress others for our own praise or advancement, (Massalittle-girl-with-natural-hair, Boss, other people in positions of power in our lives regardless of color, our community, etc.). We, collectively, clutched our pearls out of embarrassment, judgment, & disgust with the audacity of even a child to have the freedom to have IDGAF hair. Doesn’t she know the world is watching? How dare she embarrass (black) mothers everywhere and let her daughter wear her gravity-defying hair without any attempt to straddle and tame it? Blue can’t do what other children can. I’ve heard some say, to my disgust, with a matter-of-factness sharp as cheddar,”It’s a shame she got that nappy hair. It’s a waste of light skin.” Can we agree, we still have issues?

1511681_10203963778644606_5173442313471575513_nWhat’s the difference in the children pictured? They all have wild, IDGAF hairstyles going on here. Yet, they aren’t all critiqued in the same manner. Why aren’t they all {insert every epithet hurled at little girls with coarse kinky hair}? If it’s not about texture, then why didn’t anyone address Halle’s child’s hair, which also looks like she “woke up like this?”

Regardless of who the parent is, who are any of us to judge a child’s appearance strictly based on appearance? I’m not defending the celebrities on trial as much as I’m defending every little (especially black) girl’s right to be unrestricted by her hair. We see non-black celebrity children ALL the time with frizzy, unkempt hair, and we say it’s adorable and whimsical. The only reason ANY of us style (not take care of) our hair however we choose is because of the pressure of society to care about image. It shapes many of our choices.

The celebrity mother in question here has chosen to invest in her image to appeal to the masses and it has reaped her millions. (She would not be on the level she is had she not, & that’s a sad fact. Just compare her status to the natural, and darker-hued entertainers.) That is her personal choice. I, for one, am glad she has not imposed this choice on her child.

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“I don’t have a problem as long as the child’s hair grooming matches the mother’s because she doesn’t have a choice at this age.”   – The High Court of Parental Judgment 

I do have concern with parents who do consistently and selfishly put their superficial wants before the care of their child, which I’ve seen across classes, but I don’t think that’s the issue here. If Blue had what the hairistocracy has deemed “good hair,” I don’t think there would be a word uttered.

I actually felt this sentiment before I had a daughter, especially one that came here expressive and free-thinking. I also cared so much about the perception of others at one point that it paralyzed me to a degree. I wouldn’t go out unless my hair was laid! That was crippling and definitely added to my insecurity.

I realized this began in childhood. We were always shoe-shine sharp whenever we left the house. I was warned not to play too hard because I would mess up my hair, and it would “go back.” All of this carried over into young adulthood. I’m so glad I’m free from that now.

I don’t want my kibibi to go through that at all. On days when I don’t care about the impression we make (truth statement here), I let her decide how she wants to wear her hair. Sometimes, she wants three barrettes, sometimes a head full, sometimes it looks like pictured because she did it herself. Her hair isGabby-Douglas-Medal always healthy even when “it looks a mess.” Why isn’t Blue Ivy’s hair given that benefit of the doubt?

I’ll certainly teach my daughter to take pride in herself and take care of her body, which will inevitably display itself in her appearance. But, I don’t want her so focused on what other people think she looks like, rather than how she feels about herself. Our girls have it hard enough without our judgment of their hair. (I remember cringing about the attack on Gabrielle Douglas too.)

It doesn’t matter if MY grooming of MY hair matches MY daughter’s hair on any particular day. She is an individual, not my accessory. She is also not my reflection in the sense that she has to mirror all of my actions and choices. She only reflects the lessons I instill in her. She has no need or desire to impress anyone at this age, (what a freedom), and her ckahlil-gibran-on-childrenare is never in question by her parents (the people who actually care for her.) The only people that should have an expressed negative opinion about a child’s hair are the people caring for the child and the child her/himself. (Interestingly enough, many of the negative opinions I’ve heard and seen are from people who don’t even have children, let alone young daughters.) Every other negative opinion is only self-serving.

How many of us groom ourselves to impress people we either don’t know, don’t like, or who don’t care? We were trained to care about appearances, and many of us are crippled by image. Let our children be free from superficial societal standards as long as possible. Why does Blue, or any other child, need to impress YOU? What can you do for Blue?LACEFRONT-BABY-WIGS

I wonder if we would prefer seeing children adorned in the same hair styles as their mothers.  Would we be satisfied if little girls rocked weaves or short sassy coifs to “match” their mothers?

 

“It’s about the health and care of her hair, not its appearance. It looks dirty.”                                                   – The Genuinely Concerned Black Hair Police

I’m not sure why it’s assumed that this look means no care was put into their hair. We have absolutely no idea what the state of health of this child’s hair is. We have no window into the daily care of any child, regardless of the media’s invasion of this particular family, so her care cannot be assessed. I also don’t know why it’s assumed that the child doesn’t have a choice at this age. I can’t SPEAK for the other parents pictured here, but my daughter is allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to her hair on most days. It’s my way of teaching her that she has control and ownership of her own body, to the extent of her understanding. It’s the same reason I’m waiting until she asks to get her ears pierced.

The truth is when I don’t care about the impression her hair will make regarding my parenting and her appearance, I let her rock out the way she wants. At this age, that really is the only reason people style their children’s hair. Styling and caring for are two completely different things. No one’s really concerned about the health of any of these babies’ hair. We’re concerned about the appearance. If Blue had two barrettes holding her hair into two puffs, the care of her hair would be no different. No one can tell what the care of her hair is based on the few pictures the media decides we see. We are just offended that she doesn’t try to impress others every time she steps in public, as we were taught to do ourselves.

My daughter’s hair is always clean and cared for, & sometimes we still leave the house looking as pictured; just like we did that day. And, I happened to not match her hair grooming. Both of us were happy, still beautiful, & had healthy hair on our heads. She felt empowered by her choice to wear her hair the way she wanted, and we were not at all phased by what strangers may have thought. Freedom.

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Please post all comments and questions on this blog, and visit http://www.blackgirlspeaks.com for more information about the Black Girl Speaks Movement. 

 

 

How I’m Coming to Terms With My Husband’s Mistress

In-all-the-world-there-is-noToday marks twelve years of friendship with my husband, and eleven years of dating (much more on than off that is). We began hanging around each other my last year at Florida A&M University and started dating exclusively a year to the day later when I was graduating. We have literally grown up and spent our twenties together. We look back on it now in complete disbelief honestly, because to many (even us at one point), we were the unlikely couple, “Dwayne and Whitley” from “A Different World.” But, it works, literally and figuratively.

Throughout this decade plus, we’ve had many of the normal challenges relationships engender, and some uncommon ones as well. We’ve weathered many changes and storms, and so far we’ve made it through each one stronger, wiser, and closer because of it. So far….

This past year of transitioning as wesep_26_oct_16_2007_sin_ewr_sin_us_garmin moved from the U.S. to Singapore certainly came with a few bumps in the road, but nothing we couldn’t handle, and the shift definitely showered us with more blessings than burdens. So far, in terms of our marriage, living abroad and being exposed to so many new opportunities and people has been nothing but beneficial and blissful for us. That is, until she came along.

He told me he wanted one years ago. When we were younger and discussing our dreams and goals and fantasies, he told me, in so many words, that he’d be as faithful as his ambitions and desires allowed, and that eventually he’d have to have a little something on the side. I didn’t discourage or dismiss the idea, because I wasn’t sure if I’d ever want a little something on the side myself, and I knew when we had a family, he would no longer be my only relationship focus. He could possibly need a distraction I thought.

We were striving to build something like we’d never seen and that would likely require different compromises and concessions. It was an agreement and understanding we made long before we took vows. We would never hold the other person back from whatever could bring them their full happiness and fulfillment, and neither of us would settle for unhappiness in the relationship. So, when he mentioned her a few months ago, I wasn’t as surprised by the fact that she was coming into our lives as much as I was by who she is and what she represents.

The Back Story

12016153-black-girl-speaksIn 2005, I began a company called BGS Productions, Inc. that produces my original theatrical performance Black Girl Speaks, along with a lecture series, a host of spoken word products, and a curriculum for adult and teen workshops.  The whole premise behind the company and the movement is to love your authentic self, embrace who you are fully and naturally, and heal by SPEAKing your truths in whatever form you’ve been gifted. At the debut performance, I revealed the dismissal of my relaxer and my newly shaved head to the shock of a full audience, and I’ve been echoing the power of embracing your natural beauty ever since.

My husband was and has been my most devoted supporter, companion, cheerleader, investor, mouthpiece, etc.  He has worn the banner for Black Girl Speaks at times when I was discouraged, has led projects under its umbrella successfully and fully and completely believes in its mission, purpose, and impact. Black Girl Speaks was truly our first born, and we have nurtured her together throughout our entire relationship.

Yet, it has never been my sole focus. I’ve never robbed time or attention from my family to devote to Black Girl Speaks. It’s a shared time. It’s a part of the fabric of our family. Our daughter is even a part of it. I juggle it along with the roles of wife and mother as opposed to putting one down to pick up another, (which could be why its growth has not been consistent.) I see it figuratively as a child for these reasons.

My husband, on the other hand, has to focus solely on one thing at a time.  We learned through counseling early in our marriage that men tend to be more concerned with things and are task-oriented, while women tend to be more relationship-oriented and better multi-taskers. Of course, this is generally speaking as men and women can manage both, but each gender tends to lean more towards one than the other.  My husband is certainly one of those men. He is driven by his ambition and less by relationships.

For example, I asked him recently why he worked so incessantly. I wanted to know his joy factors, his push to always do more in every facet of his life. Mine are to please God, spend quality time with my family, and to help and bring joy to others. It took a little while for him to answer because he never really thought about it, but his big payoffs were going to football games & concerts (he wants to have enough money to travel to go to any game or concert he wants anywhere in the world), and providing for his ailing mother, because “every ghetto boy wants to eventually be able to take care of his mama.” Every one of them is a task that requires his sole focus to complete.

black-man-with-two-womenI knew, if I was going to be dividing his time, attention, energy, and focus with another, I wanted it to be with one I approved of or at least could see myself in a little bit. But, this one is not what I expected at all. There have been others who were equally disappointing to both of us, and they didn’t stick around for long. This one, however, appears to be the one; the one that’ll be woven into our family and seen as respectable even. This one is the one who beckons his call at all odd hours of the night, keeps him from sleeping with and “entertaining” me, and for whom he’ll travel to devote time to on our anniversary. This is THAT ONE, ….and I’m actually happy he’s found her.

The Evolution of Thought

I didn’t like her at all at first. Everything she symbolized was in stark contrast to my personal beliefs. I found her to be superficial and self-loathing.  I thought she was needy and a poor example for my daughter. The fact that she’s Filipino was also surprising because I at least expected her to be Indian or Chinese considering our location and that’s what’s most common here. download

My feelings are evolving though. I can see now that she not only brings my husband joy and lights a passion in him that nothing else could, but she actually is a great asset to us and essential to reaching the collective goals we have. She has already broadened our network and is much more savvy than  I gave her credit for in the beginning. She actually is more a tool for convenience than detriment as I thought.

So, I’m embracing her, long weave, high maintenance, and all. I’m welcoming my husband’s mistress into our family because it would be cruel to make him choose between two fantasies; because this fantasy is actually a part of his destiny and every other one before was ripening him for this one. I am not only going to allow and tolerate her existence, but fully acknowledge and support it as he has supported every dream of mine. This is the greatest gift I could offer him on this our decade plus one anniversary.

The Gift 

Today, I am becoming an (unlikely) advocate and spokesperson for my husband’s mistress, his latest and greatest entrepreneurial venture, Madali hair extensions! (If you know me, you knew better.) 

He is a leading pioneer in this industry already as Madali is the premier hair extensions company to exclusively offer the finest quality of 100% Virgin PURE Filipino human hair.  Madali is also one of a handful of black-owned and operated companies in the beauty and hair care industry, which is comprised of mostly black consumers. (Another problem with our economics, but I digress. #TheBackToBlackList) I not only can vouch for the quality of the product and the service, but I can definitely attest to the ingenuity, passion, drive, intellect, and prowess of the company’s CEO.  

If you wear weave, you should be wearing Madali, and this is coming from the “biggest hater” as I was labeled. I realize that not all women wear weave because they hate their hair, but rather for the versatility and to add ease in the transition to embracing their natural hair. Many professional women wear weave to add ease in their corporate matriculation, because sadly, our hair can still be seen as a deterrent and threat. These women just want the ease and convenience of grooming.   In fact, the name Madali itself means “ease” in Tagalog, a language of the Philippines.

I also realized that more than any other role I play, my most important is helpmate, queen to my king. And, to be that, I must offer the most in spousal support, else I could be on the receiving or giving end of it. He needs me to support this vision, or it’ll perish. He needs me to SPEAK in its favor, or he’ll get discouraged. He needs me, and this relationship is the most important one I have, so I’m stepping up to my responsibility.

Madali has been a challenge and benefit, a risk and reward. She has tested our faith and relationship and has actually made me a better wife in the process.  I’m supporting my husband, his dream, his destiny, his vision to empower others through economics, and yes, his side chick, Madali, wholeheartedly. And, you should too! http://www.madalihair.com  logo

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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