Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

Dans les bars les gens s'amusent et s'oublient
Et moi dans le noir je reprends goût à la vie
Je reste à l'écart, confie mes peines à la nuit
Ce soir.
- Diam's

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Parenting 101 (Part 2.1): W

15 September 2011, 21H45
Any moment now I expect to receive a message or a phone call informing me that my friend has delivered her much anticipated daughter, W. I cannot put into words how utterly thrilled I am about the arrival of this child who is the first born of one of my oldest and most highly treasured friends. I am thrilled, exhilarated and not more than a little scared. In fact to be quite honest I'm in a mild panic about how well I will do as a member of the village it will take to raise her. There is so much to consider! She is black, African and female and for that alone there are heavy odds stacked against her. She will be born in the potential firing line of many “isms.”

Racism - even here in Africa the land of the origin of the species she may find herself treated as a second class citizen.
Sexism - Women are still jostling for a space and an identity that makes sense for them and that doesn't require their having to prove themselves to anyone.
Imperialism - Be it China or the West, everyone is trying to get their hands on the land of her ancestry and she may in all likelihood fail to benefit from the wealth of resources endowed to the land of her birth as they will be channeled toward another little girl across the Atlantic ocean.
Tribalism - she is the product of two tribes with a long history of dissonance and unresolved conflict
Capitalism - and the stranglehold it has on us all from the cradle to the grave

So we need a plan. We need to know the lay of the land we have brought her into and we need a strategy to equip her as well as we can to navigate through it successfully such that she thrives and reaches her full potential. Besides ensuring her optimal physical and intellectual development we must do more to ensure that she hits the ground running. So right now, on the night of her birth, while I am giddy with anticipation, here are a few thoughts dancing around my mind.

We will show her that an aeroplane takes off against the wind not along with it. We will show her the freedom of birds in flight, and how they must overcome the powerful pull gravity in order to fulfill their destinies. Life is inherently a struggle to overcome very strong forces, it is by necessity and by nature a very difficult exertion of a living being from a state of chaos to order. We will teach her that she must fly.

Her hair in its natural state will be an untamed mop of tight black coils that remains dead still in the wind and through which no besotted boy will be able to run his fingers adoringly. They will call her exotic if her skin tone is darker than caramel. A man will deliver lectures in which he will claim to have empirical evidence that black women are the ugliest women in the world. We will remind her she is made in the image of Infinite Grace and that dark chocolate and liquorice coloured girls are beautiful too.

We will teach her that a smile, her smile, if genuine and heartfelt can melt stone cold hearts on any day of the week, any time of the day. We will tell her to use it liberally with the confident assurance that like sunflowers leaning towards the sun people will be drawn to her and bask in her radiant warmth.

We will show her that the greatest privilege is to be able to give and that she should seek to exercise this privilege at every possible opportunity in whatever way she can, big or small. The smallest gestures can completely change the course of another being's life and she should never take for granted her power to impact the lives of those around her.

It is our responsibility to demonstrate to her that everything finds its meaning and purpose as an expression of love, that love is the only legacy worth leaving and that outside of love we might as well be a troop of screeching chimpanzees.

These are just a small handful of "the what". It is obvious that the job ahead is a great one and that we will need to keep our wits about us and think clearly and constructively. Which brings us to the final part of my series on parenthood, Parenting 101 (Part 2.2) in which I will discuss lionesses and cubs and hopefully arrive at a reasonable workable "how" to raise amazing human beings, using myself and some of the amazing people I know as references.

We all have different reasons for smiling at the sun

Exploration. Discovery. Gratitude. My explorations have led me to discover, with gratitude, Joshua Bennett. There is not really a great deal that I can say except that he gives me hope, a profound hope that I will share with  you in my long overdue post on Parenting 101: Part 2.

"10 Things I Want To Say To A Black Woman" - Joshua Bennett

‘I wish I could put your voice in a jar. Wait for those lonely winter nights when I forget what God sounds like, run to the nearest maximum security prison and open it. Watch the notes bounce off the walls like ricocheting bullets etching keyholes into the sternums of every brother in the room. Skeletons opening rose blossom, beautiful to remind you that the way to a black man’s heart is not through his stomach, it is through the heaven in your hello. The echo of unborn galaxies that pounces forth through you vocal chords, and melts ice grills into oceans, baptizing our lips, until harsh words fade from our memories, and we forget why we stopped calling you divine in the first place.’

"Women" - Joshua Bennett and Justin Reilly
We all have different reasons for smiling at the sun.

Mine just happens to be you. 

So let's pretend that gravity is an inside joke we have with the ground. 
Grab me like a drunken bouncer 
and hold on for dear life
I promise I won't let you fall.

Because I've been dropped before.

But love shouldn't feel like an accident,
Like two high speed hearts crashing,
Mistaking the sparks for stars.
And I can no longer settle for love that won't last
Living life as a condor in a coffin, married to the mud,
When I was promised the clouds.

Joshua Bennett is an award winning performance poet with an outstanding academic background in English and Africana Studies. He was featured in the HBO series Brave New Voices and has performed at the Sundance Film Festival as well as at President Obama's Evening of Poetry and Music at the White House, where his piece entitled Tamara's Opus which was dedicated to his sister literally reduced me to tears. 
"Until you have seen a deaf girl dance you know nothing of passion."