Sunday, August 19, 2012

When vengeance isn't so sweet...

"Holding onto something" was another prompt author Nancy Peacock assigned in our writing class. The following is what I came out with.

The news of the accident hit Antah like lightening, except that she was still standing on her two feet and he wasn't. So why wasn't she overjoyed, or perhaps, just a bit happy?

This moment was forcing her to reevaluate her life. In her mind, it had been normal - a childhood full of joyous incessant banter with her siblings, an excellent education, a great marriage, a pair of loving children, and a house in the suburbs - safe for those moments when she felt rage crawling up her throat and her neck muscles tightening up, shooting pain into her jaws and temples, then to her head. She felt the pain again.

So yes, she should be elated to hear that he'd been beheaded in that early morning accident, but she wasn't. Instead she was sobbing uncontrollably. All her life, he'd remained near, in her mind. She cursed him day in and day out, wished him the worst things imaginable and there it was. It happened, a violent, painful death so why was she just sitting there, unable to jump to her feet and begin dancing?

Her fingers crawled for her cell phone on the small computer desk she occupied in the corner office. She dialed a number, the one to the only person she'd ever come close to confiding into.

"Summer, do you remember years ago when you told me about the priest who molested you?" Summer began to say something, so she rushed her words to drown the voice on the other line. She feared hearing something that would stop her momentum and keep this secret entombed within her. "Well, that day, I wanted to tell you that weren't alone but I couldn't. I was ashamed."
"Why, Babe?"
"Well, I, too, was molested. One of my dad's friends...I just got a call. He's dead, and I can't stop crying. Why, Summer? Why?"
"You tell me. Why do you think you're crying?"
"I don't know, Alice." She lamented. Her forearm slid across her eyes. When she thought she had her tears under control, two fresh streams began coursing down along her nose. Their salty sting in the corners of her mouth made her quiver momentarily. "I'm 45. I spent all my life, raging inside. Didn't even notice it until my dentist told me that I grind my teeth in my sleep and I realized that I grind them alright, but with my eyes wide open, every time I think of this man, his hands in places I didn't want them. I thought if he died I would...."
"be celebrating?"
"Yes, celebrating," Antah murmured. "I felt dirty but I went back and back again...Now he's dead."
"Shush! Antah. Listen. The shame is his, not yours. He's met his maker - and that too isn't your fault. You, Antah, now need to accept that you did nothing wrong. You were just a child. You need to travel to that place within you and root out that shame. It's not yours."

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Abandoned, like thousands of blogs every day. No, this one wasn't and is not. See, professional life has tightened its dizzying choke hold around my days, squeezing itself in every spare minute that seems to open up. In the evening, it delivers me to an even mightier choke hold, parenthood, this one even more enslaving but fortunately rewarding.
Abandoned, not. The tale of the lives of millions of African women need not be abandoned by the ones of us who had the privilege to learn to read and take pencil to lay words on paper.
It is my humble mission to be their voice. So, no I won't abandon this blog. Regardless of the dizzying pace of western life, I will make time to use that voice.
So please, visit often and be amazed by the lives of these courageous women.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Letter to my son...(THE TALK sec. Part)

April 2, 2012

Dear Mohamed,

We spoke about this the other day when you came home. I wanted you to have my words in writing too because of the timely importance of this subject.
Son, this conversation should have taken place a long time ago when you stepped out of the cuteness of childhood to become the fine young man you are. It’s never too late to save a life.
This is not to disclaim anything your dad and I taught you to-date. America is still a wonderful country where you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. The world is still a place full of wonderful people. But son, for some you have reached the age when a black man is often unfairly perceived or suspected to be threatening or dangerous.
Don’t just rely on your clean cut appearance, your pants sitting at your waist right where they belong, and the limpid, proper words streaming out of your well-mannered lips to blind them from the only thing you’ll always be in their eyes – a black man – never good enough for their daughters, their neighborhoods or the position you’ll someday ascend to through sheer hard work that demands of you more than it will ever demand of others.
It may be a little while more before prejudiced minds cease to judge you based on the color of your skin, the hoodie on your head and the white sneakers on your feet.
Until then, baby, watch your steps, mind your tongue and be aware of your surroundings.


Monday, April 2, 2012


Two weeks ago one of my student soldiers told me that a black teenager carrying only a packet of Skittles his hand had been shot dead by a white male who thought he was suspicious.

Right there, I told the young man the following:
“If you look closer, you’ll find that this adolescent is from a middle class family. It wouldn’t even dawn on him that he was doing something wrong walking in his own neighborhood. A lower class black kid knows better and wouldn’t do that, unless he’s up to no good.”

I suddenly felt a punch in the gut. The na├»ve kid I was talking about represented my own sons, and also the soldier in front of me. He was born and raised in the US from African parents, academics. Just like this soldier at some point in his life and most middle and upper class black boys throughout the country, my sons are growing up, moving comfortably in their environment and interacting with their friends and neighbors, oblivious of yet another insidious danger to their well-being.

I felt guilty. Throughout their lives, my children have heard their father and I parrot motivational speeches to success, blistering criticisms – of course laced with love – and veiled warnings about lurking predators. “Never play at Johnny’s house when he’s not there,” I’d often say when I really meant “beware of Johnny’s dad, even if he’s Johnny’s dad. Who knows if he is a dirty mind?” But I didn’t realize that our children and us, never had what a black mother on NPR today called “The Talk,” a conversation African-American parents have been having with their sons since way back, to warn them of the dangers of being black men in America.
Like this soldier’s parents, having been born and raised elsewhere in the world made me either oblivious or dismissive of certain undeniable realities. I was going to have the talk with my sons, to begin with, with my seventeen year old, exactly Trayvon Martin’s age. I decided to handwrite him a letter first, in case I trip over my word during the conversation and lose some of the crucial words streaming through my brain right this moment. 

Read letter next...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Allow me to address a subject that has nothing to do with Life in Africa for a moment. This can help save you precious time.

I spent a couple hours yesterday trying to get rid of Chrome. I love Chrome but for a reason irrelevant to my post, I had to momentarily uninstall it. If you ever have to, know that the usual Start Menu ~ Control Panel ~ Add and Remove Program does not work and doing so can throw your computer out of wack.

There are many suggestions online but most are either too complicated or simply won't work. Here is what worked for me easy and simple. Just make sure that toward the end of the process when you're entering the command for Windows XP or Vista that USERPROFILE OR LOCALAPPDATA is in lower case. 

I hope it helps you too.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Children belong to the father...or do they? Part 4

"Hey people, can you see that I stuck my finger in my own eye the day I pulled this bright girl from school and gave her in marriage?" Sirima snarled as he pointed to his daughter.
"Sirima, your blood pressure. Please, calm down," one of his wives advised.
"Sirima, God recompenses each one of us for our deeds. You did a good thing," Madinah said. "Marriage is a woman's dignity and you did what any good father would --."
"Nonsense," Sirima interrupted her. "The girl was smarter than all the boys in her classroom. Maybe all girls are not meant for smoky kitchen. Don't you all go to the maternity ward? Who is the nurse practitioner there? I thought it was a woman, hum? Maybe I should have listened to Hawah's teachers not you people. My daughter would be a nurse today, with everybody respectfully calling her Madame."
"Sirima, God has a different plan for everyone."
"Madinah, don't add to my pain. You people always invoke God to excuse your failures. You all got me into this."
"Okay, but there is no reason to despair. Let's send a delegation to Tandja. I'll join it so we can apologize to Tandja for Hawah's shortcomings and she will reenter her marriage," Madinah offered.
"No way. She is not going. Not back to a marriage to that halfwit. I was the one who disregarded talks about their son's mental unfitness. Look how they pay me back. My daughter is going nowhere."
On that, Sirima rose from his seat and stormed out of the room.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Children belong to the father...or do they? Part 3

Hawah began reading.

"Dear Sirima,

I pray that this letter finds your family and you in peace. I wanted to bring to your attention the event that took place here in my home. It is about Hawah and Manda's marriage.

It has been nine years since we brought the kola nuts and since Hawah has been here. After all of that time, she hasn't been able to assimilate into our family. According to Bakaro, none of the other women in the house can claim her as a friend. When it comes to Bakaro herself, she has been abused all that time by Hawah, day in, day out through that time. If it weren't for the kindness of our three other daughters-in-law, she would have died of chagrin a long time ago.

Now, Manda, my poor son. There is no husband and wife relationship between him and Hawah in the bedroom. I won't go beyond that except to say that Sedi being the only child they've had all this time is proof, if you need it.

My in-law, before I continue, know that my respect goes out to you. At this time however I regret to have to say that we're returning your daughter to you. She is released from the binds of matrimony we had placed on her. 

God's will is our will, and yours.


Djegui Tandja."

Each word drifting off Hawah's lips dissociated her further from the person on the yellowed notebook paper she held between her fingers. For a minute, it felt as if she was reading for one of the many neighbors who routinely enlisted her help when they received a letter. She looked at the words again. This couldn't be her they were talking about but she had no power against accusing in-laws, she thought. She took a deep breath, exhaled and clinched her jaws, readying herself for her father. Slowly she raised her head, blinking repeatedly to push away the tension in her temples.