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.

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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.

Someone Needs To Go Digging For Treasure!

Yesterday, I was carelessly flipping through channels, trying to find something, anything, that would allow me to empty my mind for a few minutes, before refocusing on the multitude of readings and papers due for any/all of the four English classes I thought it a great idea to take this semester. I needed a break… before I broke. So while flipping, I stumbled upon a Dr. Phil episode and tuned in just in time to hear a young black girl say, “I know I am Caucasian.” I was as hooked as I was stupefied. Her name is Treasure. She is sixteen. The following is the part of her story we were exposed to… because you must know there is so much more we are not privy to.

I had only missed approximately ten minutes, so unfortunately, I spent the next forty minutes or so (gotta have that commercial time) listening to one of the saddest realities I have heard. Treasure, who is as dark-skinned as I, informed all of the world who was unfortunate enough to be listening in, that she does not believe she is white, she knows she is white. She knows it in part, because every morning she wakes up, she wakes up with an amazing life and if she were black, that would not be the case. Additionally, she knows it (aside from knowing it in her blood and bones), because her ears are not black people’s big ears, her lips are “not too big or too small, but perfect,” her hair is “naturally straight” (I smelled the chemical all the way in my home; but who am I?) and, her body is very much like Kim K’s, who has the perfect body (it is not and she does not). Another tell-tale sign for Treasure that she is in fact not as afflicted with blackness as we, is that she speaks very well (she does) and she does not behave like us. She called black people “hood rats, fat, ugly, niggers, losers and hoodlums.” She said Hallie Berry and Lupita were “hood rats, disgusting and ugly” and the only reason they were ever name “Most Beautiful” was because black people needed a “token.” She said all of us were criminals and all end up incarcerated. She has contacted the KKK, says she would be honored to attend their meetings and look forward to the day they send her a hood. She says Trump is the best president ever.

She is sixteen. And, she is in such a crisis (although, according to her, we are the delusional ones and the ones who should seek help).

As I listened to this young lady, I vacillated between wanting to hug the stupid out of her and wanting to fuck her up! But, I quickly realized… she is already quite fucked up! I, like all of the audience, watched and listened with my mouth hanging open and my skin crawling. I spent the entire show wondering just what went wrong and who was responsible for the brokenness and crisis this young woman was in. Because I, like most who would experience her, find it necessary to ‘blame’ someone or something. The alternative, that this is just who she is, invites the thought that, without a cause, she is beyond repair. If we cannot blame the go-to, parents, her social circle, some kind of physical or emotional abuse committed on her by a black person, colonization, something we can identify, address and fix, then we are left with a severely damaged young lady, unleashed onto an as-yet unsuspecting world. And here’s the thing, this world, our world does not need one more person, especially a black person and one young enough to have many years left, spewing more hatred at us. We are already struggling under the weight of a hate that has spanned generations and one that buckles our backs and dents our souls. We do not need those vessels of hate to consume what should be one of our own and unleash her back onto us. We need her voiced raised in solidarity with ours. Not against ours.

Something happened to this young lady. And sadly, something will continue to happen to her as long as her damage is not reversed. I am sickened by what I heard. I am devastated with what I am left to feel. I realize it is so easy to hate her. But, why bother? She so clearly already hates herself.

Mr. & Mrs. Tears & Kisses.

I am fascinated by the ‘encouragement’ some people give in the face of momentous life events. And, some even go so far as to attempt to ridicule or shame into a behavior they find more appropriate, or that makes them more comfortable. I and my family, have just experienced one such momentous life events. Let’s address this…

On July 28th my daughter got married. The day… that day is one I still struggle to find the words to properly articulate my emotions. I will say this. Everything was perfect. Everything was terrible. The perfection of the moment arose from a parent’s comfort in knowing her daughter was happy. Her heart was home. Her soul was cherished. And yet, every terrible moment arose from that same knowledge. Listen, every wish I had ever had for my child started with her soul-safety and sprouted roots from there. That wish has been actualized. What I never did however, was envision what the moments after that moment would look like… for a parent. What the reality of handing your child off to a life-partner can manifest… in you. I now know. There is a duality that is soul-wrenching. I know, I know my child is safe. Her heart belongs to a man who cherishes it. A man who is dedicated to cradling her soul and helping her to give it wings. A man whom she adores. I have experienced peace. But, there is such a fullness in what they have between them, I mourn the possible shrinking of the space I once inhabited… in her.

I cried. I cried in uncontained elation and I cried in sorrow. I cried because on that day, I watched my daughter cross the threshold from my child to his wife. I saw it happen. It scared me. It made me smile. My tears were a forgone conclusion to this momentous event, however. Those who knew me expected the tears. My daughter expected the tears. I expected the tears. What I did not expect and reject outright however, are those who (not my daughter) encouraged me to “don’t cry” and those others who label expressions of emotions “drama.” I could have a question here. I could ask “what is wrong with [my] tears?” but instead I will state, there is indeed something wrong with you for finding the show of emotion in the face of such an emotional life-changing moment either dramatic or should be handled stoically.

Listen, in no way am I disparaging those who internalize their emotions; I respect we all get through in the ways that work best for us. What I am fascinated by, is the naiveté and utter foolishness that allows for one to cry at the ending of a relationship to a stranger (and, I could care less how long you have been together and how many times you “got down”… you are literal strangers!) and yet reject the expression of emotion when attached to a child. Ahm… related. Shared DNA. Gave birth to. Ridiculous! We are more comfortable and think justified with the outpouring of emotion – regardless of the emotion – when applied to celebrating a success, loss of something or someone, the purchase of a damned house. We cry and celebrate at the birth of a stranger’s/celebrity’s baby, yet dare to tell a mother to “don’t cry” when her child takes those life-changing steps?!? Don’t be stupid!

I will cry, laugh, celebrate and do it all outwardly at every single momentous step my child takes! I will write, tweet and blog about it! I will bring the “drama.” I will make her feel as important and more so even, as you all did when Michael Jackson died and yall wailed and carried on! I know her. I talk to her. We laugh and cry together. She knows my name and I know hers. I gave birth to her. Why would showing the world just what she means to me ever be something I need to hold in? Why are we so more willing to express to our lovers and not our children? Why would I ever leave her to wonder how I felt about her? Or ever let anyone in the world think she was unloved? Un-cared-for? Unprotected? Why would I never allow her to see yet another manifestation of what loving her does to me? My tears in those moments, mean as much as any of the words I have ever spoken. As much as any of the disciplines I have ever doled out. As much as any of the clothing I have bought or food I have provided. They mean as much as any of the hugs and kisses I have given. As much as any of her tears I have wiped away. My tears in those moments are my acknowledgment that love is a verb, not the noun some think.

Yesterday my daughter relocated to the other side of the world to start a new life with her husband. They are embarking on an adventure I know will be spectacular. I awoke this morning to messages from them both; she’s arrived safely. I am proud of her. I am excited for her. I am in tears. And that makes me proud of me.

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body…” Elizabeth Stone.

See-Saw.

At times some marvel at the transparency I choose to allow in my life. They graciously use words like “brave” and “badass” when describing…. me. Many times, when I hear it I shrug it off, not because I am disrespecting their opinion, but because I am overwhelmed by the sentiment. You see, I do not consider myself “brave” I consider myself a product of all I have been through and, because of those experiences, I have dedicated to no longer living in the shadows… of fear, rejection, secrecy, survival, abuse or other people’s limitations or hang-ups. The former years of my life I tacitly gave away to others’ agendas and now? Well now I reclaim it. You see, humans have a way of keeping you close as long as you are useful and summarily discarding you once their agendas have been fulfilled. I get that. What I reject outright however, is my participation in this scenario; and what I have realized once I introduced myself to me, is that I had been participatory in their subjugation and silencing… of me. Let’s address this.

History, and certainly our more recent history, should teach us that there is very little I, or you, have experienced or could experience that another, or many anothers haven’t or will not. Now, don’t get all pouty… you are still quite unique; I promise. And some of what makes you most unique are your responses to those experiences. How you process any experience you may have, actualizes from the remnants of other experiences you have had. The layers of past emotions are what we all draw from when embroiled in our current situations.

Yes, I am transparent. I am so because experience has taught me that baring my soul – my joys, pains, insecurities, hopes… my scars – gives me strength. Strength, because I step from the shadows and show up understanding my imperfections are not unlike yours and, I am entitled to them. As you are. We need to stop allowing others’ agendas to confuse our fates and purposes here. We need to disallow others from stealing our goodness for their own purposes, leaving us to navigate the barren carcasses left in their wake. We need to stop allowing the emotional and physical vultures from feeding from us and fattening their own coffers. We need to stop believing the lies people tell that are meant to cripple us just because they recognize and are threatened by our strength and joy. We absolutely must stop others from dimming our lights, plunging us into darkness, leaving us to navigate from the shadows.

So, I speak. I share. I listen. I am not “brave.” I simply cleared up the delinquency and got the lights turned back on.

I can see.

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