You Are Cordially Invited To Get Dressed Up.

Whew!

I like to think of July 24th, 2014, the date of my first post here, as evidence of #whereislipped. I think of today as proof of #whereifell. Let’s address this

There are some quotes that are so very spot-on that when I hear or read them, they resonate so profoundly, I am forced to remind myself I had nothing to do with their inception. Some speak so deeply to my soul, my reality, that I secretly (until now) am convinced that even as I may have had nothing to do with their eloquent articulation, I most certainly must have had quite a bit to do with their intention. Here is one (and the one I referenced earlier): “Don’t look at where you fell. Look at where you slipped…” I absofuckinglutely love this quote! The sensitivity of the mind that conceived of such a remarkable way to encourage us to recognize that where we end up (fell) is not the (entire) story, but rather, we are to look at where it began (slipped), I applaud!

So when I penned my first post, determined to address those things we think about, should think about, talk about, should speak about and simultaneously launched a challenge on FB and documented its progress here, the idea started with a dress. That was #whereislipped. It was in that moment that I publicly revealed my dress fetish/obsession for all to see. That obsession manifested so magnificently the name of this site and my other social media presences, Let’s address This.

Today, I reveal #whereifell.

For the past few months I have been working on another of the manifestations of this passion. I am proud to announce that this Spring, I will be opening my very first dress shoppe! It will be called: Dressed Up and will be located downtown Newark, NJ in the Teacher’s Village luxury development. My shoppe will only sell dresses. No shoes. No slacks. No purses. No accessories. No tops. Dresses. Formal, informal, vintage, long, short. There will only be one size each: small, medium, large and xlarge in each style. They will be unique, funky and classic. They will be those pieces picked by me, worthy of you.

I will keep you all posted on the developments as the build-out progresses. I will let you all know of and invite you to the grand opening. I will inform you as soon as the online component is live. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You are all a large part of the strength I needed to achieve this. Thank you. I will do you all proud. Watch. Mark your calendars… Spring 2019 there will be this thing you will have to attend and all it will call for is for you to be #dressedup.

Love.

The Most Important Check Is Not The One You Write.

I feel depressed.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in bed, alternating between watching ‘Ilyanla Fix My Life’ and ‘Love & Marriage, Huntsville.’ And, even as some may lay the blame for my state of being squarely at the feet of what I chose to binge-watch, sparking a “chicken/egg debate,” I will have to err on the side of, the feelings came first, triggering the mindless choice in viewing (I have never watched either show before yesterday). Earlier, I forced myself out of bed, went to church, literally praying that both the movement and the choice of activity will infuse some light into the heaviness I feel. Nope. And in some respects, I feel worse. Let’s address this

There is a lot happening in our family and that alone could carry the weight of all I feel. But, it does not. As I relayed in my prior post, I acutely feel the separation from school in a negative way. That also contributes to my feelings. A project I am working on is not moving as efficiently as it should. That too is frustrating. And, as if all those are not enough, I am being forced to question a decision I had made a while back that I am no longer confident about.

So, I am struggling quite a bit.

Now, in some respects, something can be done about most of what is weighing me down. As far as my family is concerned, I will pray and do my part. School? I just need to be patient until I resume and, I can even move up the date of resumption. With regard to the last two problems? Well, I am taking steps to force some efficiency into the first and if that fails, I am simultaneously taking the steps to nullify it altogether and, regarding the second? All it requires is my honesty and my ability to appropriately assess the situation to determine its continued viability. Shoot, maybe watching Ilyanla did pay off!

But here’s the thing: even as I know logically what I should do in each circumstance, I am still overwhelmed. And, that feeling of overwhelmed-edness has me a bit crippled. Figuring out if all these feelings are valid or even valid right now is important. Recognizing that just one of these set of circumstances could be the catalyst for the feelings of the others is an important component in deciding what to do or when to do. Figuring out which element is the most crippling and perhaps causing the most and subsequent peripheral trouble is similarly imperative. Allowing myself the room to feel what I do and cautioning myself to follow the tenet to, “not make permanent decisions based on temporary situations” is advisable.

So, I am going through the process.

I am being kind to myself and rejecting the negative stigma some may want to ascribe to these moments of deep or crippling vulnerability. I am going to be kind to myself with the ebb and flow of my emotions. I am going to cry if/when needed and rejoice in those moments that a smile or laugh manages to emerge. I am going to monitor myself with how long these moments of sadness, fear and helplessness last and seek help if they become moments of hopelessness. And, in moments of strength, I will use them to celebrate its dominance over a moment of weakness. I will be careful, methodical and patient… with myself, the process and the circumstances.

I recognize life. I get it is not always pretty. I still know it is always worth it.

PS. I get to write and that allows me some momentary relief from my feelings. I am also quite transparent and not afraid to be vulnerable. Many are not like that. Check up on your people; especially those you consider quite strong and those others who are more closed off. Feelings of hope/helplessness are more common than we would like to think. Check up. Check in. Check on.

Nailing My Separation Issues.

I don’t know where to begin.

Last week I finished my last class for this degree. Hunter College asked for one hundred and twenty credits, my over-achieving ass gave them one hundred and twenty one 😊 It has taken me this long to write about it because I truly cannot, from one moment to the next, pin down my emotions. I feel relief, anxiety, sadness, joy, pride, fear, lost, purposeful, adrift, wonder and loss. Parts of me celebrate, other parts mourn. I know I need a mental (and physical too, for that matter) break, yet I also feel every moment I sit and stare could be put to productive use. I have imminent plans that do not involve school, but wonder if they should. Sigh. Let’s address this

Education has been such an integral part of my everyday for the past few years and as such, I almost do not yet know how to plan an itinerary without factoring in a paper, reading or trying to memorize something. The idea that I now get to read a book purely for pleasure seems decadent. Ha! Truly. The hours I now have to myself to concentrate on the other aspects of my life that are quite important, even as they are full, still seem as if something is missing. Matching my handbag to my outfit as opposed to the backpack that has taken me through every single semester seems self-indulgent. Imagine… an actual choice in purses!

So yes, I am a bit shell-shocked at the moment. But, I will give myself a moment. I understand there is the reverse process to happen now as opposed to the one that got my mind into being a student. But, someone should have done an exit interview with me. Truly. I/we should be mentally prepped and prepared when approaching our final semester. Sure, we get advised with regard to our remaining credit requirements and courses, but we should similarly be advised about the possible feelings of separation or abandonment. Because, it is not easy for some. Like me.

I graduate in May. I look forward to that moment. I will be sitting with my fellow graduates, adorned in my sash-thingy that announces to all that not only am I a graduate, but I am an honor student. I am and will be proud! I will cross my legs just so to ensure you see my chosen and waiting footwear – my Christian Louboutin aka red-bottoms – my graduation promise and gift to myself. I will celebrate with those I love who have tolerated my anxiety and offered encouragement over the past years. I will dance, sing, cry and make a speech. I will wear something absolutely fabulous and post pictures the next day. I will acknowledge my girl Gloria who was to have crossed the stage on that day as well. I will do it for her. I will frame my diploma, launder my gown, perch my cap and wear my ring proudly. Then, I will research the best graduate school for me, apply and get in. I will achieve my Masters degree and my PhD. Yes, mark my words and hold me accountable.

In the meantime however…

Yesterday my dear friend, Mercedes, presented me with this beautiful engraved pen. She, influenced by Virginia Woolf, told me: “A writer must have a great pen of her own if she is to write fiction…” True. But what I also know is: A woman must have a great friend of her own if she is to take on and nail her reality. Thank you.

Let’s Have A Hart-To-Hart, Shall We?

As I sat down to write, I realized this is my first post since the annual calendar rolled over, so, Happy New Year to all of you! I pray 2019 has started as you hoped and if not, that each day brings you closer to what you would like.

The space between my last post and this was necessary for me to successfully finish my Fall semester (I received four A’s), breathe, get through the holidays and start my final semester of THIS degree on January 2nd. I graduate in the Spring. However, I must interrupt my academic focus to address some bullshit I heard the other day that I cannot seem to stop thinking about. Hopefully after I write about it, I can be done with it.

Typically, I refrain, despite the encouragement to do otherwise, from engaging in the day-to-day shenanigans of our so-called celebrities. My reasons for opting-out are many, ranging from: it’s just too easy to it’s just too damned ridiculous! However, when I do encounter those moments that can be used to spark a beneficial conversation, what one may call ‘a teachable moment,’ I speak up. So, let’s address this…

Kevin Hart.

I am sure you are aware of the controversy surrounding him, yes? If not, here it is in a nutshell: Hart got tapped to host the Oscars. Great. Black Man. Big Night. Then, as is the norm these days, anything and everything one says comes back to be held up to the judgmental light of scrutiny, celebrity or not. So, bigoted comments Hart made in the past regarding the LGBTQ community with specificity on how he would respond to his son if he were to be gay, resurfaced. Hart stepped down from hosting the evening and all social-media hell broke loose. Hart gave a lukewarm apology on social media citing his “growth as a man,” blah blah blah and ended up on Ellen. Ellen forgave his prior verbal ignorance and indiscretion, going so far as to encourage the Academy to reinstate him as the Oscars’ host. I guess, if the industry’s leading gay lady can forgive, everyone else should. I shook my head and kept it moving. Until I saw Hart on Good Morning America…

Michael Strahan interviewed Hart last week. The conversation was to center around two things: the controversy and Hart’s upcoming movie. He started with the controversy. And, it is here that I engaged and remain so. When asked how he (Hart) feels about what has transpired since his bigoted and ignorant comments had surfaced and what he would like to say now about them his response (and I will paraphrase, but you may trust the integrity of my doing so) was: “I am done talking about that. I have addressed it. I have apologized. And now I am moving on. It is done. I am done with it. That was yesterday’s news. I am now on today. If you accept my apology, great. If not, that is okay too. I am done talking about that.” Okay. He is done. But I have just begun!

Who the fuck does that ignorant, arrogant black man think he is?! “I am done with it”?! How does he get to be both the one who commits the offense and the one who decides it is time for the wound to be sutured shut?!? Rule number one of being an asshole: Yes, it is your right to be one. But it is NOT your right to tell the world how to react to your being one. What a pompous ass! Way to go showing your growth and contrition, Hart! Perhaps, also, your “apology” may have resonated more sincerely had it not included the word “if.” People, an apology must never include the word ‘if.’ “I’m sorry if I hurt you, I’m sorry if what I said made you feel badly.” Ahm… the only reason we are having this conversation, jackass, is that I have already pointed out that what you did or said did hurt. Where in that is the uncertainty that necessitates the use of an “if”?

So, Hart if’ed the LGBTQ community and then decided it was time everyone got over his callous and hateful statements. He was fed-up with it, so everyone should move on. He has “grown” and he has “learned” and now, “he is done with it.” What an absolutely fantastic world it would begin to be if we, the lesser arrogant, more sensible and sensitive human beings, would show Hart just how “done” we were with him by boycotting his shows and movies. But alas, like some of you have done with the likes of R. Kelly for years, you will continue to find a way to justify separating the inferior-man from their supposed-talent. Perhaps then, we are responsible for creating the arrogance in Hart that allows him to be “done” with his two-week half-assed attempt at contrition. Unlike yall however, I find nothing about him or this, funny.

Do not misunderstand my rejection of Hart with my inability to forgive. Let me be clear however: it is precisely so-called apologies like Hart’s and the subsequent bad or arrogant behavior that make forgiveness difficult. This post would not have happened had Hart responded to Strahan somewhat like this: “I continue to be ashamed of the comments I made in the past and the light in which it portrayed me. As a man who believes himself to have evolved from those moments, I hope it possible that that growth, through my subsequent behavior, will become evident. All I can do from this moment onward, is to continue to live the life that will eventually belie that prior ignorant man and in doing so, prove the sincerity of my apologies.” Not an “if” or arrogance in sight. Instead, contrition, humility, sincerity and purpose.

Now, I’m done.

Mark.ed By Blackness.

Today was my last day of classes for this semester. I have one semester left before I graduate next Spring. Wow! This academic journey has exceeded what I thought academia could provide. What it could do to and for a person. Especially this person. I am awed, humbled, scared, proud, giddy and amazed. I am intimidated by the woman it has made me. My expectations of myself have quadrupled. My expectations for myself have quadrupled. Wow!

Okay, more about that later…

This semester I had a class, Surveying the Black Experience in Literature, the best class of my academic career. What made it earn that title? Well, it was provocative, stimulating, educational, enlightening, questioning, answering, on and on. The novels we read had titles like: Things Fall Apart, King Leopold’s Ghost, Kaffir Boy, Nervous Condition, God’s Bits of Wood, The Farming of Bones and Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. Do you see a theme? We spoke at length about Fanon.

For the class, we were also required to do a group presentation. Because we had the coolest professor I have ever had, her definition of “group” allowed for us to individually prepare our presentation. “Group” meant we stood together to present (I mean… who the hell has time to meet with their peers to work on a collaborative anything?!?). When it came time for our group to present, of the two choices of novel we had, I chose to present on Kaffir Boy. This novel, like no other I have read, provoked all my emotions. I felt outraged, heartbroken, disgusted, embarrassed, disillusioned, duped… I was deeply affected.

If you have not read the book, do. Black or white, you should know this reality in your soul.

Immediately below, I have copied and pasted Wikipedia’s brief synopsis of the author and the novel. Immediately following that, I have posted the poem I wrote as my contribution for our presentation. Warning: it is graphic and uses strong language. Let me know what you think (I can take it).

P.S. Kaffir means, nigger.

________________________________________

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa is Mark Mathabane’s 1986 autobiography about life under the South African apartheid regime. It focuses on the brutality of the apartheid system and how he escaped from it, and from the township Alexandra, to become a well-known tennis player. He also depicted how the young black children dealt with racism and stereotypes. By embracing education, he is able to rise out of despair and destitution.

At his mother’s insistence, Mathabane starts school and learns to love it, rising to the top of his class in spite of frequent punishments due to his family’s late payments for school fees and inability to afford school supplies. He graduates from primary school with a scholarship that will pay for his secondary education.
Mathabane’s grandmother becomes a gardener for a kind family, the Smiths, who introduce Mathabane to books and tennis by sending books and even a tennis racket home with his grandmother for him. He learns English from these books, and begins to play tennis frequently, eventually befriending a coloured tennis player who trains him.
Mathabane joins the high school tennis team and begins to play in tournaments, unofficially sponsored by Wilfred Horn, owner of the Tennis Ranch. It is technically illegal for Mark to play there, but the law is ignored and he becomes comfortable with whites. Eventually renowned tennis player Stan Smith takes Mathabane under his wing when the two meet at a tournament. Stan pays for Mathabane to compete in tournaments and talks to his coach at the University of Southern California about Mathabane attending college in the states. The coach writes to colleges on his behalf and Mathabane earns a tennis scholarship to Limestone College and leaves for the U.S. in 1978.

**Mark Mathabane was born, Johannes Mathabane. Make what you like of his name change… I did**
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Leaving His Mark

I sat down to write a tale or two
I thought it important to explain to you
My thoughts, my memories, my truths, my fears
Hoping for your sympathy. Counting on your tears.
You see, some may feel shame, some may not care
Some may disbelieve, some may even dare
To challenge my words, thinking it a ploy
That I could remember when I was a Kaffir boy.

I know not many remember when they were three
But I dare you to tell me these things did not happen to me:
The raids, the poverty, the filth, the starvation
The hopelessness for black people in my home and my nation.
A father who drank and gambled too
A mother left wondering what the fuck to do!
Because you see, their passbooks were useless, they were incomplete
So no jobs, no clothes and nothing to eat.

Digging through trash, finding a dead black baby
Eating what we found there, thinking that maybe
The white man’s trash will truly be our treasures
You see desperate times do call for desperate measures.
Mothers with their babies strapped to their back
Scrounging for plates, knives, spoons, food, to satisfy a lack.
Rummaging like animals, swatting away flies
Children with fevers, chills and sores… praying no one else dies.

Tribal ways losing to the white man’s laws
Caving under the pressure, desperation exposing its flaws.
You see, you can’t take heritage or customs to the market
Money is the only currency you can actually pay with.
Christianity winning some people over, even converting a few
Just so Mummy start to listen, right out of the blue!
I guess when your belly is always big, but your stomach always empty
White religion may be the only way to feed your pickaninny.

Education comes next, must learn to read
Venda, Shangaan and English. Yes, indeed!
Top of my class, father so proud
Singing my praises; even singing them out loud!
No books, no fees, I take another beating
While mother telling me this will be fleeting.
“Hang on”, she says, “this too shall pass
Show up, stay present, please son, go to class.”

Granny brings me books, comics and sometimes a toy
She gets them from the white woman’s little boy.
She takes me there, I say: Yes, madam, Yes, baas, Yes, Master
But a black man in a white world could only spell disaster.
I step on the wrong bus, “Oh fuck, what did I do?!”
Granny cleaned up the filth caused by my shoe.
You see, that bus was for whites, for the people filled with joy
Not for the woes and worries of an ignorant Kaffir boy!

But the white lady likes me and takes pity on me
Gives me a racket… hey, tennis must be the key
To get out of poverty, hunger and shame
So, you bet your sweet ass I learned the white man’s game!
I studied, I read, I mastered the sport
You must think I’m a sell-out, but I’m nothing of the sort.
I guess I played the game… a little too well it seems
But all I wanted was a shot at my dreams.

My ancestors call me Johannes. I call myself Mark
I married a white woman, but it didn’t make me less dark.
I’m a father now, my children are coloured
Your opinion of that? I truly can’t be bothered.
You see, now I can eat, I have books, clothes and money
Does it really matter to you where I get my honey?
African woman, white woman, short woman, tall, slim or bigger
Because at the end of the day, am I anything but a nigger?

She’s Not Here. But It’s Still Her Birthday.

I truly hate the process of grieving. Shit! I hate the fact that there are reasons to grieve! And, knowing there are “steps” in the process does not help. In fact, the whole world can fuck off with the seven-step business! Those of us who grieve can tell you about the multitude of second-by-second steps necessary to remind our hearts to beat and the encouragement it takes to induce our lungs to expand with air.

Yes, we have reasons to continue living on. There are those still with us in the flesh who also own parts of our hearts and for whom we know our putting one foot in front of the other is important. People we love so much that just the thought of losing them too, our hearts, well, our hearts…

But the cycle of life mandates we come, we live and then, we go. And, it is gangster enough to not allow us a say in how long we stay; perhaps because it knows some of us will never leave. So, it decides for us. And for some reason, it takes some of us way too early (at least for those left behind who still love them) and in other instances, it seems to take the good ones, leaving some of the ugly and wicked behind. No rhyme or reason to its order. But, we all must leave, I hear.

My friend, I miss you. I miss you today, your birthday and I missed you every yesterday since you left a little over one year ago. I take the elevators and walk the halls of our school and still look for and wish I see you. I saw your (full) name as a character in the book, Crick Crack, Monkey the other day and almost lost my breath. Yes, there you were, Gloria Foster, page fifty-one. Thank you for saying “hello.” I continue to challenge the administration at Hunter to include you in the Commencement program at our graduation next Spring; I will not give up. I love you.

Sending you all sorts of birthday wishes in every corner of the universe you now occupy. And know, even as you see my tears and every struggle I have to catch my breath, I am glad and proud of them. Because, my friend, my grief signifies how beautiful you are to be this missed. Thank you for having happened to us all.

Happy Birthday, my friend.

(This was the last picture we took together at a birthday celebration; mine. I now use it to celebrate yours. I love you BIG).

Excuse Me As I Indulge In Some Baby-Talk.

Today, my son was to have been born. It seems however, the Universe decided it better he wasn’t. I miscarried. Six years later, I find myself still missing a presence that was all-too-brief and still wondering at just whom he would have been. With the fullest of awareness that life would have been infinitely different had he been here, all I now have are the speculations as to just what those differences would have looked like. I find myself mourning the beautiful chaos he would have caused. I find myself marveling at the changes he inspired… without being here.

My son showed up at a time when not even I thought he could. He showed up and showed me miracles still happen. He showed up and showed me that dreams, even the ones we did not know we were dreaming, can come true. He showed up and showed me that with love, life can be breathed into any situation. Into every reality. He showed up. Then he left. And what that showed me, is the value of life. The value of his, my daughter’s, yours. And, the value of mine.

I have changed. In many ways I am softer. In most ways I am stronger. My tolerance for the ways in which we tend to waste time, to waste our lives, is miniscule. I am both reckless and thoughtful. I am brave, determined and absolute in my decisions. I am committed to squeezing every ounce of goodness this life can offer and giving back the best of me. I am determined to show up being and looking my best always. That’s how I honor life.

Today I honor all the women, all the parents, who have had their souls touched by this loss. I encourage you to be kind to yourselves. I encourage you to live. Live in spite of. Live because of. Live in honor of.

Happy Birthday, Baby Wiltshire-Alabi.

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