An “African Booty Scratcher” Take on Wakanda

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So I waited for the hype to die down a bit before going to see the infamous Black Panther.

Let’s get a few things out of the way.

FIRST OF ALL. Winston Duke and Michael B. Jordan almost made a sista jump INTO the screen, mmkay?! I wasn’t ready to feel my soul carry me to the screen the way it tried to. The amount of black men, excuse me, strong powerful black men on the screen was a breath of fresh air I never knew I needed.

The African diaspora and pride throughout the movie was more than I anticipated. There were notes of my culture and the respect for the elders, the tribes, and the land truly lifted my heart. It is difficult to explain why certain things are important to one’s culture, and I feel Black Panther did an exceptional job at displaying it.

Now to the goat meat of this article.

The resurgence of black African pride in America is a wonder to see. Indeed, history repeats itself. My generation is allowed to get a glimpse of what it felt like in the late 1960’s-1970’s in America for black people. Dashiki’s everywhere, black people reclaiming their cultures, the afro is back in full effect, etc. What no one is talking about is how this looks to Africans and the children of those who migrated from Africa.

I was raised to have respect for the Yoruba tribe. Respect for who I was and my family lineage. I was constantly told, “Remember who’s daughter you are.” I was trained to respect my elders, and to represent my African home. We danced Africa. We ate Africa. We dressed African. I grew up with a village of people who raised their children the same way I was raised.

Growing up as a child, it was hard to be the daughter of an African. My mother’s accent was the butt of many jokes. She was harassed. Many of my family members, including myself, were referred to as “African Booty Scratchers.” We were told we looked like monkeys and most of my friends with the same skin color as I were literally claiming to be half white, or half-anything for that matter as long as it wasn’t related to being African. African children were treated as outcasts if they weren’t mischievous.

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Watching these same children who terrorized African children, grow up to be adults wearing African clothes, paying $100 for someone to blindly tell them what African country they are from, and embrace cultures they shunned for years is startling. Yes, I understand that people are raised in ignorance and that what matters now is that everyone is “woke,” times have changed, blah blah blah. The fact that the narrative of our behavior towards Africa has changed is a major step for humankind, not only in America, but abroad as well.

But I can’t deny the shock to my spirit on this one. The child within me is literally watching bullies embrace what they told me I should hate. My full lips, shapely body, cheekbones that I was told came from the blood of monkeys, patterns that I’ve worn on my ebony skin since birth that people are dying to find, are all the rage now. I try not to view it as a trend because I remember how many glass ceilings fell from the unification of black people in the Post-civil rights era. It doesn’t help that my inner child is also smiling smugly at the fact that I was raised in a culture that knew it’s worth and pride before it became “the thing” to do and be.

Watching the descendants of African kings and queens on screen and making their way through Hollywood is poetic justice to the pride embedded within me as a child. I can almost feel my ancestors pointing at it all and saying “See, no matter how deep they try to bury us, we will always sprout.” It has given me hope in having children, because I’ll admit, with the killing of black men and women in America I was hesitant to bring a child into this world.

I could go on for days, but I say all of this to emphasize one thing. Let this be more than a trend. Let’s continue to teach our children that they DO come from kings and queens and prideful people who appreciate their land, their skin, their own people. Let us continue to teach each other that shame only comes from not respecting who we are, and that we are more than what anyone can tell us. If you can embrace Wakanda with so much love and honor, then you can do the same for African countries that truly exist. Visit the homeland. Adopt cultures. Live Africa. Breathe the motherland.

Can you imagine who our children will be when they are taught to have pride in the source of their melanin and to not shun it as children in my generation were taught? I can’t wait to see it all.

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Choices

IMG_2607It’s been a very rough week for Americans. Excluding the fact that we are still having to deal with idiocies of Chief Orange, the country is showing signs of its constant wear and tear.

On a day that was made to celebrate love, another senseless (almost numbing) shooting took place in Florida. Traumatic to those effected, but I can only imagine the amount of Americans who barely blinked at the news. I waited in anticipation for the news to identify the race, religion, and sex of the accused. As soon as I saw his skin color, I then waited for all the reports of mental illness and his rough background to emerge.

On a day to celebrate love, he chose to take lives in a display of hate.

This may seem unrelated or in poor comparison, but it made me think of the choices we are making everyday about ourselves and about others. What are we not doing with our children, our nephews and nieces, our godchildren, etc. that is causing them to choose hate instead of love? The village that is supposed to be raising the child is showing them how to be selfish, and how to only care about their own feelings. It’s as if the concept of “us” no longer exists.

We are finding ways to identify ourselves and our beliefs without being conscious of the fact that it is separating us from one another. How do we rebuild a society that is supposed to nurture, support, and protect our children? When did that stop?

The online speculation and conversation always refers to stricter gun laws, or more medication for FDA approved antidepressants. There is never any talk about bringing back after school programs or summer programs for children to connect with one another and their community. No one is talking about the various outlets funding could provide our children with for them to express who they are creatively. Parents are struggling to make ends meet with as many lucrative opportunities as they can grasp without ever getting the time or the chance to know who their children are growing up to be. We have lost sense of family and togetherness.

There is no sense of community. For any generation living in America, right now, as you are reading this.

It makes me want to volunteer more. Specifically with youth. We are losing ourselves to our own selfish ways and it’s only getting worse.

So what choices are you making to help change the direction we are going in?

What Are We Teaching Our Daughters?

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I have been proud of my culture for as far back as I can remember. I used to do extra credit assignments and specifically showcase what makes the Yoruba tribe so unique. There are traditions and mannerisms that I love about my culture. But as I’ve grown into a woman, I’ve not only began to realize how often the male and females in my culture are treated, but also how it effects us differently.

I come from a family of one brother and two other sisters. My brother, who is first born, received a different level of treatment. Men are coddled. Point blank period. They are spoiled; given the choicest foods, given a higher level of empathy, and given the right to have the final say and final decision in the family. This, to me, is the general make up of how men are treated. Once upon a time, in native times, I’m sure things went that way for a reason.

But let me tell you what happens to women.

Women are taught “life-isms,” or what I like to call, Survival Tactics. Everything a girl is taught from birth, is to help prepare her to be a woman and to live life as a woman. At 5, I was doing laundry. By 9, I was cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning. Now I know some people will think, Oh! you’re just learning to be responsible. Yes, it has it’s perks. It has taught me to be independent and how to maintain a household. But almost every woman with ties to a foreign land will know how serious growing up like this was.

There was a time my mom told me that she grew up with the lesson that her husband would cheat on her. As a woman and a wife, her duty is to make sure the family stays and holds together. To be patient and forgive, because the husband returns to his wife. As a girl, you are taught that men make stupid mistakes, but you have to be smarter. You are taught to find a provider; someone who loves you is a plus. We are raised to support our black men against a cancerous society, and that if something is wrong within the household, it’s OUR fault and WE have to fix it. Everything is earned for us, and nothing will be given to us, and once you’ve accepted this as your life, you will become stronger for it. That’s who and what you need to be. STRONG. You’re expected to go to school and turn away from the advances of men, and the DAY you get your degree, literally people, that evening, you’re asked “Ah ah! Where is your husband?!”

Sigh.

They literally expect for you to jump from education, into a good marriage, and produce babies as fast as you can. They may listen to your aspirations, but that takes second place in the circle of life’s tradition in being a good wife and a good mother.

This then correlates to every other part of our lives. Men being compensated at a higher pay grade than women. Women competing with one another over a man. Body issues because we don’t look like the women our counterparts desire. Women are taken advantage of due to wanting someone in their lives to complete other’s expectations.  Even down to shame because you’re not married at a certain age. Guilt because at this age, your mom had three kids already. As a mother, if your child is misbehaving, the mother is looked at first. What are you doing (or not doing) to make this child behave this way?

You are constantly running a race that has no finish line.

Even as I am teaching myself to be a woman, my upbringing is stitched into the DNA of my life. I feel the pangs of guilt. The self-doubt. All my energy being put into everything and everyone else but me.

Don’t get me wrong, there are positive lessons from this. Forgiveness, patience, kindness. You learn how to raise a village and help others. Some women learn to support others. A level of maturity that cannot be bought is gained from all of this. But understanding how this behavior helps you in life, comes with the trials of life. It is learned after you realize the lesson, and that is hard for us all.

I love my mother. She is THE strongest woman I know. NO CONTEST.

So I change the narrative. I hold her hand longer. I give her kisses. I dance with her. I try to keep an open mind and encourage her to have one as well when it comes to my own personal life. I want her to get a glimpse into how I would raise my own daughter. I want her to understand that I will teach my daughter that there is more to life than learning to be strong. That empathy belongs to everyone. She has a right to speak her mind and not settle for bullshit just so she won’t be alone.

I want to teach my own daughter that this life is hers to take from.

She will know her culture. She will learn from it.

But she will also learn from life.

 

Why You’re Wrong if You’re Not Selfish

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Growing up in the Nigerian culture (and as I have repeated in other articles), you are constantly pressed with the idea that you should always do good in life. Doing good in life is heavily laced with the principle and ideology of giving alms; in other words, helping people whenever you possibly can with whatever you can give. In order to maintain my faith and generally wanting to be a good person, I would constantly have the words bubble floating in my conscience, popping themselves in bursts of reminders when people came to me for help. To me, this was my sanctifying forgiveness in the world of sin that I regularly partake in. As I crawled older, I lost myself in a world of giving, never learning to receive gracefully, and if at all.

Let me explain.

When you are pushed to continue giving according to your religious, cultural, and familial beliefs, you are constantly rejecting the urge to protect “self.” Being selfish is kindly placed on the back burner in a world of wanted need from those around you. After years of attempting to submit my all to those I loved, I felt the emptiness one encounters when they realize they are the only one left in a dark room with a struggling flicker-flame in a lamp; I knew for sure that I barely had any light to give to myself.

Yes, giving to others is commendable, attractive, and it feels damn good. But when you are giving you’re all, the results are worse than not having anything to leave for yourself. You become conscious of the fact that you have become a stranger to yourself.

What color do you truly like? What do you truly believe in? Who are you? Paying attention to others needs leaves you bereft of your own wants and desires.

It’s important to realize that you are also someone who needs attention and nurturing. Taking the time to be somewhat selfish allows you to understand yourself. You are able to heal from fresh and past hurts, and have direction towards the future. Sometimes you have to say no. At times, you may need to shut your phone off, and just chill by yourself. Attempt experiences that will help you learn more of who you are as a person, beyond giving alms. Find and focus on what makes you happy, and live that! It goes without saying that the most important human in your life should be you; take care of self. Who else will know your wants, needs, and desires better than you? How else can you pour from an empty cup? It’s okay to give to yourself, because you may be the one in need of whatever support you are looking for. Focus on you when you need the time to do so, so that your foundation is solid for whomever may come along to lean on it.

It may be wrong to be selfish, but it’s even worse to deprive yourself of the same care you use to tend to everyone else.

Who Are You Letting In?

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It is human nature to want to be everything someone is dreaming of.

Think about it.

After being attracted to someone, we spend time imagining this perfect person to fit our wants and needs. We paint this picture of someone who in most cases, isn’t the person we are imagining at all. Confusion is probably the mildest word I can think of in instances like this. Sometimes, we tend to let people’s words and actions slide because we are so focused on the potential of who they could be and not who they are. Then we get mad at the person or mad at ourselves for putting up with so much nonsense when our time should be valued.

At times, we even try to change who we are to be with someone. In more extreme cases, we change how or what we eat, what we listen to or watch, etc. We become so focused on complementing our counterpart because we see them as being better. This is usually what happens when someone feels like they do not know who they are after a major break up. It’s the fastest way to lose yourself.

The sick part of this is that we continue to repeat the same mistake, person after person, almost as if our hope is more stubborn than our reality.

It is important, despite age, to know that you should be paying more attention to who you let into your world, your heart, your space, than who lets you in.

As you grow, there are comforts and behaviors that you are used to. There are goals you are seeking to achieve. You are unlocking all the maps to happiness, no matter how arduous the journey. This is the time to look around at your friendships, but most importantly, relationships that you are trying to make concrete. If you are paying more attention to who is letting you into their space, and not who you are letting into your own space, you will easily settle for a situation that will distract you. Look at yourself and the people around you. You’ve either been through this, or you know people who’ve been in these situations. The result of not paying attention to what you desire and need are a loss in confidence, distraction(s) that can set you back from your goals, settling for a situation that you are not happy with, losing yourself or the better version of yourself you’ve been striving to become, or becoming someone you never wanted to be like.

You have to fall in love with your flaws and work on becoming a better person for yourself. Knowledge of self is KEY before you can digest knowledge of anyone else. It’s easy to lose sight of yourself. What’s important is to be resilient in placing yourself back in your line of vision. Once you are solid in who you are, finding someone to compliment you will only enhance your life.

Cut It Out!

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These days it seems impossible to be able to share your good fortune with anyone you love. My mother, grandmother, and culture have taught me to always be careful who you say what to. You can never be certain if a friend is really an enemy who hates hearing about any good that is happening for you. Social media does little to help in these situations simply because people tend to portray and write what they want others to believe; and others actually believe in it 100%! Those who are genuinely excited or happy in their statuses can’t even feel the envy of others because 9 times out of 10, they are expecting their friends to share in their joy.

So you believe in the phrases, “Good/Positive Vibes Only”, and “Good Energy Only.”

But for every action, there is a reaction, so hopefully awareness of bad energy is also noted.

Why do we hold onto friendships that are unhealthy?

Friendships can be fragile as it travels through time. We make friends at one stage in our life, and as we grow we realize that what we used to have in common no longer applies. I’ve had harrowing experiences with people I once would have died for (had being the operative word). Lately, I can feel myself being careful with whom I share my experiences or good news with. Despite how happy people may seem, their bad energy does not lie. Believe it or not, this energy, whether conscious or subconscious, can and will affect your life.

CUT THESE PEOPLE ALL THE WAY OFF!!

I do understand that some of these relationships are lifelong. You’ve known each other since you were kids, blah blah blah. Friendships like these, I keep on a cool shelf. Every once in a while we can go out to dinner and catch up. You may even get a text or two, and if I’m feeling generous, a phone call. My answer to their questions is always “Fine.” I give them no ammunition to shoot their bad energy at me with.

It’s okay to feel or not to feel guilty about keeping away from certain friendships. You have to cultivate relationships with those who wish you well, those you can pray with, those who are just as happy as you are when you share your joy. The question to ask yourself is; What are you sacrificing to keep these friendships alive and why?

Why You Can’t Be Friends with Someone Who Wants Your Life

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My mom wanted this to be instilled in all her children. To do good in life, and to watch the people around you. As you get older, your friends change while you’re changing, and sometimes it’s hard to see the people you keep company with. We all experience that one jealous friend who does THEE most in trying to keep up a pretentious relationship. I had one I actually lived with who truly wanted my down fall. Through my own experience and those of others, I have noted 6 ways to identify these fraudulent people.

They’re secretly intimated by your presence because of their inferior complex.

These can sometimes be the people who want to see you one day, and not see you again for weeks. You may catch them staring at you when you’re not facing them; trying to figure out how you came to be who you are and why they are who they are. They pick and choose what friends of theirs you interact with so they won’t feel inferior. They constantly compare themselves to you, or their life to your life.

They are insatiable, never content. They want what you got.

You ever have a friend and wonder why they are constantly complaining while comparing their life and your life? They can have more than you have, and they still want every bit of what you have because they think it will make them as happy as you.

They follow and monitor your every movement and action, pretending as if their intentions are good.

These are the people who constantly want to know where you are going and what you are doing. They need to know every step you take because they are obsessed with your happiness and how you obtain it.

They copy your style and try to outdo you.

They ask where you bought your latest pair of shoes from. They scavenge your closet, they eye your social media, hoping to emulate even one simple outfit. These are the people that always try to one-up you. If you have a brand specific watch, they get the same or a similar brand with a watch that costs more. It’s bizarre, but it makes them feel better.

They secretly wish for your downfall, but adore you in public.

Be wary and vigilant. These are some of the sickest people you will know who will scream to the world on top of the mountain that they love you and you’re their best friend. They are constantly wishing for your downfall in ALL things, both big and small matters. They want to see you fail because their jealousy wants you to fail. They click with people who don’t like you, and tend to egg them on when they are speaking ill of you.

They never truly appreciate your help.

Their egos can’t stand the fact that you’re the one they need to go to for help especially if they are doing better by societal standards (ie. financially). They may pretend to be thankful, or thank you grudgingly, but inside they can’t stop themselves from cursing you for being the one that has to help them.

There are obvious other ways to spot these fake people in your life, but I believe these are the most common. Not every “frenemy” is going to have all of these issues I described, but they will have one or two forms. These people are the ones who may truly want to be your friend, but their own jealousy won’t allow that to happen.

Be careful out there!