jonubian

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Pain of Mothering

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.  ~ James Baldwin

I sat kissing every one of Nailah’s fingers and toes, crying, after watching the video of Derrion Albert being brutally and fatally beaten.  A mother’s love is almost masochistic. It is unwavering. It requires every fiber of your being to love someone so much that even as she sleeps peacefully you worry and weep.  As a mother, you are somehow saddened by her happiness, fully understanding that one day she will learn the truth about this bitter earth.

My mother passes down stories of our mothers, one being that of my grandmother, who bore eleven children as the wife of a sharecropper in rural Louisiana during Jim Crow. The story goes that she could never shut her eyes until every last one of her babies was safe in her arms…or her home, which was very much like her arms- made up of hopes, timber and tears. At that time, in those moments, My grandmother knew that there was no safety for black boys and girls. Her heart would race, frantically counting those eight boys and three girls, praising God that none were raped, beaten, lynched, made an example of.

As I recall those stories I think of the mother of Derrion Albert. How she also, at some point, kissed fingers and toes. How she loved her son until it hurt her heart. How she also gave to him every fiber of her being in increments of years, tears, and fears. She is my grandmother, and every mother who has loved a child- but somehow exalted because she has to now figure out how to live without the being that made her God.

I also think of Emmett Till as I think of Derrion Albert, the courage it takes to bury a child, all the years that have passed between their deaths and the fundamental difference between their murders. You see, Mamie Till Mobley could direct her anger, outrage, and grief towards cowardly White men. Derrion’s mother somehow has to grieve for her son, and the mothers of the boys who murdered him.  Knowing, I’m sure, that they all lost their sons that day.  She unfortunately does not have the privilege of dreaming of a white sheet to tear to shreds.

I gather that all of these tears and ramblings lead to one supreme consciousness- the look on my grandmother’s face if, for any reason, I would have to explain to her that more so than keeping our children safe from White neo-slave masters, we have to keep them safe from other children, who look just like them.  I imagine her astonishment as I sit with my own.  I’m glad that she has met her Maker and does not have to contemplate such atrocities.

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The Real Truth About Jump Offs

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. ~ Audre Lorde

I loved him. And somehow at that moment in time, I believed he loved me. My parting words to him were, “Thank you for making me feel like a jump-off. Goodbye”. I texted those words because I couldn’t utter them. The highest part of me simply would not allow them to be spoken as that term was for “other women” not ME.  I was wrong.  Language has no reservations.  He had stolen my heart, my body, my trust, my Queendom, all for his desire to sever the parts of me that he lusted from the parts of me that he had no time to consider.  And there were tears and there was pain and although the tragedy of my broken heart is not ingenious or epic, it is authentic and deserves to be told, village to village, in the tradition of our Griots- even if it does allow people to perceive me as being naïve, weak, or someone’s thing thrown away.

Last night, in light of a new blogpost at essence.com, a male friend asked me to define a jump off. I explained that in my opinion, a jump off is someone that is ready to allow sex to, well for lack of better words, “jump off” urgently, in the moment, and without a need for pomp and circumstance. And as I defined it I wondered where our Black womanhood had gone.  I literally could not believe that I had subconsciously etched in my memory this definition that defiled me and my sisters so terribly.  Also in that moment I realized the power of what we take into our bodies as media (music, print, the internet, etc.) and why it is called programming.  I know and love many Black women. I see them as beautiful, courageous, loving, loyal and royal…but also broken, conquered, tired, damaged and apparently jump offs. 

Having studied etymology I fully understand the implications and gravity of language.  In the least, the term jump off is non consensual- whether consciously or unconsciously. It is also anti-woman, as it originated as a term to label, cast, and define a certain woman as not being worth realness, tenderness, or care.  The problem is that this box is not composed of any particular type of woman, but instead any and all of us.  In the end we have to be honest enough with ourselves in that no matter how much we wish to re-define words- we cannot separate them from their origins.  A man will never be a jump off as the origin of the term makes this impossible.  He can, however, continue to be labeled as a big Black buck, and a philanderer- which is somehow just as tragic.

So, essentially, what we have created with the use of this term is a new dogma where women who want to be wifey (*sigh* this word requires an entirely different blog entry), somehow become jump offs. Even if our mouths accept the term, I am convinced our souls do not.  What we perceive as a usurpation of power, is actually a ploy to be less dishonored and humiliated. The power comes from not only NOT accepting the term, but also calling out any person who treats us as it is defined.  Terms become ideals and ideals become ways of life.

In short, and as my beautiful, hopeful friend Joi Spears always says, “Thoughts become things”.  I am a Black woman of beauty and wonder- let your thoughts reflect this and your words project this, otherwise…move around.

Oh here is the article the sparked today’s musings:

http://bit.ly/MDR2z

Owning Our Images

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ~ Audre Lorde

 

One of my greatest insecurities is caring more than I should about what others think of me.  I’m sure most of us, no matter how confident we appear, share this shortcoming.  One might concede that Western Society dictates this as it feeds us images that devour our self esteem and self worth.  However, as I grow and go, I realize how important it is for me to own my image, regardless of other people’s judgments of me, for in the end, it is my opinion that matters most.

As a collective body, as Africans here and abroad, we have lost our ability to define ourselves.  We somehow emerge to be just as confused as others “appear” to be when it comes to recognizing and presenting who we are(notice my quotations as appearances can be quite illusive). Don’t get me wrong, we are nothing if not colossal and non-monolithic- from the poor African farmer to the POTUS. However, as I sit reading a recent article in National Geographic concerning Somalia’s plight for a stable government and tweeting about Kanye West’s supposed “nigger moment” on the MTV Video Music Awards, I realize that all roads lead back to this- an outsider’s view of us being perpetuated as our inside view.

Immediately, we (including myself) dismissed Kanye West as a fool and a brute for observing that, in essence, Black people are being ostracized (if not completely omitted) from receiving accolades in popular music, when, in essence, American popular music has always been grounded in Black music (whether confessed or concealed). It took the beautiful mind of my friend Dwayne Rodgers (or @diggswayne on twitter) to make me ponder why we are so drastically not only against Kanye’s statements, but against Kanye himself.  We are so quick to condemn our own, rarely attempting to understand or offer healing.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that it is less West’s opinions, which whether we would like to admit or not usually hold some substance, and more the irrational and trantrum-esque manner in which he presents those opinions that leaves us up in arms. In the least, we should recognize that he needs therapy/healing more than he needs to be called names or publically emasculated.  Similarly, when we hurl these insults, and our inward opinions appear in sources outside of our community, we become enraged at what we consider misrepresentation- when the foundation of that misrepresentation begins with us.  It reveals us to be just as irrational as we perpetuate Kanye to be.

The same can be said of our callous reaction, or lack of reaction all together, towards the conditions of many nations on the continent of Africa. Today I concentrate on Somalia; a country that has gone almost twenty years without a sound government or the services that one would expect a government to provide.  How many of us made jokes about Somali pirates, and actually found fault with the Somali people for protecting their borders in the only manner available to them?  Anyone from the Horn will lament on the French and others using Somali waters as toxic dumping grounds, or faux vested interest from Western countries, pretending to desire a “stable” government for the Somali people, but instead really wanting to protect direct routes to the Middle East. I am elated that I have a background in journalism and keen reading comprehension skills that allow me to decipher the subconscious messages presented in articles like “Shattered Somalia”, but realize that, unfortunately, a mass of our people do not share that same foundation.  Statements like, “This land is bred for trouble” moves one to conclude that not only is Somalia un-savable, but it is evil- even treacherous, and undeserving of our mercy or concern. I’m waiting to hear the uproar surrounding this mis-information… *crickets*.

So whether here or abroad, on a silly minute level that affects a few (like the Kanye incident) or an enormous level that affects a nation (like in Somalia), we fail to own or images- and thus the manner in which they are manipulated and controlled. Until we change THIS, we can not change our destiny, which Frantz Fanon maintains “is White”.

K’Naan on Somali Pirates:  

Kanye is a nigger apparently… http://bit.ly/Ma9If (a twitter link)