I’ve been in a marriage and a few relationships and always take a relationship autopsy when they end. Of course, I take time to mourn them and eat more than I should, go into my shell and hate every man standing. I don’t want them to look at me, smile, hell even breathe. When I come out of this, I go into my self-improvement mode, and I’m eating right, running 25 miles weekly and doing things I put on the back burner while in the relationship.Read More
Vibing With The Kids
I’ve been a parent for over 18 years now, and the best part has always been watching their minds at work. One day they’re talking the cutest baby talk, and the next minute they’re getting their Socrates on, and philosophizing on life with you and all you can do is stare at them in awe and wonder how you created such masterpieces. Yes, I’m that Mama; the one that’s their biggest cheerleader, hype man, and the one they can’t stand— lovingly of course.Read More
Written by Mwabi Kaira
I had the pleasure of seeing the excellent and very moving Black Panther, three days before it was released in theaters last week and I couldn’t wait to talk about it. I then went out of town so I couldn’t see it with my kids but loved seeing everyone all over the world post about it. I came back to town and jumped back into all my responsibilities, so I haven’t been back to see it, but I’m itching to see it at least twice more by the weekend. More than anything, my heart swelled with pride seeing all of us melanin folks represented in such a way that brought tears to our eyes.
Wearing African print if you’re not Hotep has only become fashionable these past few years. It used to be the fastest way to be the laughing stock. Seeing black folks wear African print garb to the theatre was so beautiful and empowering. Hearing T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye roll off of black tongues without people overthinking it is nothing short of amazing. My waiting-on-a-table- at-restaurants-and-Starbucks name is AJ because you all wore me thin, swearing you couldn’t pronounce my name. I have tried giving lessons; Muah (like a kiss) - Bee, I’ve spelled it out letter by letter but you all keep going back to Yambi, Wawee, and whatever variation of my five letter name you feel like calling me that day and I just quit. Because of Wakanda all of you are about say my name three times just like Destiny’s Child if you ask me for it. I have no time if you won’t commit to saying it right.
Being transported to Wakanda is so crucial because we are represented in the film. No one’s skin was lit differently to fit in with co-stars, we got every hue of melanin. One wig made an appearance on the screen; it was a nuisance. We didn’t have to imagine ourselves on the screen like we have to do 95% of the time because it was a reality. Being from Africa, I typically watch scenes shot in Africa under a microscope because they are rarely accurate to real experiences. It’s usually apparent that the production takes place on a soundstage, and they’re either overdone or underdone. Black Panther got it so right and didn’t just focus on one region of Africa. With T’Chaka, I felt like I was in the room with my Grandfather and missed him. Ramonda said things that my mother still says to me. Nakia and Oluye were like my sister-gurls and Shuri my little niece. What I know for sure is that had M’Baku walked by me and said, “Gurl, let me holla at ya,” no one would ever see or hear from me again. I'd be with him, enjoying my life.
The video of the two little black boys outside the theater saying which one in the poster they were, followed up with the video of the little girls and their spears performing like Oluye and her Army was heartwarming. This theme reveals why representation is so important. Before November 2008, I could tell my sons that they could grow up to be President, and I’m sure they believed it but seeing someone that looked like them become the President solidified the dream that much more. Everyone involved in Black Panther made history and have started a movement that I pray continues forever. For this moment, we’ll eternally be grateful.
Written by Mwabi Kaira
It’s love week, the one week of the year when self-pity is at its highest. It's painful to watch. Single folks suddenly zoom in on their singleness and all that's wrong with them, the world, and everybody breathing. It’s like watching a sad movie; a usually jovial and outgoing person suddenly becomes sullen, and their smiles and happiness are replaced with status updates about the lack of good men and women and how they ain’t shit.
Even though I was married, I sent myself flowers on my 25th birthday. Most people hear that and think my husband must not have been romantic. He was, but I felt like a grown-up woman walking into her Queendom. I say that to say I’ve never been one who allows society to dictate what I want. My husband probably took me to dinner, and I still got presents that day, but I wanted particular flowers delivered to me complete with a card that read, “Live your life girl” and I did just that.
After my divorce, I naturally carried the same attitude into my new single life. I’ve never taken Valentine’s Day to be a day to feel sorry for myself. I buy myself flowers all the time, not just on Valentine’s Day, and I find things to do that interest me. This year my neighborhood bar is having a “Non-Romantic Singles Night” that I’m going to. The bartender explained the night to me last Friday when he invited me, and I can’t remember the details, but he had me at Non-Romantic. I plan to have a few drink and laugh the night away.
Beloveds, you have a choice. Don’t scowl at your co-workers if they get flowers delivered at work. Don’t be that person looking through your timeline getting madder by each post as couples show their social media love for one another. Don’t let this trigger you. Log off. Do something loving for yourself and treat yourself how you want to be treated. This year do something different and remembers that self-love and self-preservation is the way to go. Ask yourself what you need and be the one to fulfill that need.
Tips for Valentine’s Day:
- Do not get upset looking at people’s love posts because you are not in a relationship.
- Do not compare what you receive from your partner to what others earn; this is your relationship, not theirs.
- Do not downplay your love to avoid offending others.
- Celebrate yourself today because you are love and loved.
Valentine’s Day is about commerce.
Cry if you want to but know you don’t have to. Instead, refocus your energy and live chile. I’ll be down to my neighborhood bar celebrating life and margaritas. Smooches.
Written by Mwabi Kaira
The most significant thing I don’t miss about being boo’ed up is the social media drama. They love your social media presence when they’re pursuing you but act like you’re out here selling everything from the follicles on your head to your toenails on the Gram once you’ve established a relationship. I’d understand if I was being Kim Kardashian with my posts and attempting to break the internet, but nope, I’m just out here posting smiling pictures in cute outfits mixed in with inspirational quotes but stayed getting accused of who knows what.
Teyana Taylor posted a picture of her banging body in a Fashionova outfit over the holidays, and it was received with several likes and comments as are all her posts. Her husband Iman Shumpert commented on it as well but not in his usual cutesy “I’m glad you’re mine, and I get to enjoy you forever” way. His comment was asking another man to explain why he liked Teyana’s post. I’m not familiar with Juju of Love and Hip Hop fame, but I am an avid listener of The Breakfast Club and watched both her and rapper Cam’Ron, her ex-boyfriend’s interviews. They have recently ended their ten-year relationship, and per Cam’Ron it was because it wasn’t fun anymore and he didn’t like how invested Juju was in her IG. Juju countered by explaining that all she ever wanted from Cam’Ron was respect on IG; she didn’t like the perception he was projecting by the posts he loved. She also did not like how he eventually let one of his female IG friends go at her not come to her defense.
Both these situations had me thinking about IG relationship etiquette 101 and what it entails. Does it include policing your mate's posts and analyzing every comment then having a stank attitude about made up scenarios in your head? Or is the first rule to respect and trust your mate? Are friends breaking code if they like or comment on their friend's mate’s post? Is that off limits?
I get it; no one is posting just to post, whether it is the clear intent or buried deep down, validation is at the core. We want to see likes, and we want the “looking great” comments. It’s what we do with it that takes us to murky waters. If not getting them makes us snappy to our mate then we must pause and re-evaluate. If in moments of disagreements with our mate we choose to get our fill from admirers from the Gram then we must hesitate and re-evaluate.
What I know for sure at this stage in my life is that I can’t be in a relationship with someone who feels that they come second to the Gram. I can’t be questioned about my moves on the Gram because if you have to ask me, we haven’t established what we are doing. I won’t police a mate and spend too much time over-analyzing because I don’t have the energy for it. I’ve done it, and it's not fun. If I’m in a relationship with you, you see whatever I post in real time. If I think my outfit is cute, I’m wearing it for you to see and asking you if you think it’s cute. I’m posting as an afterthought. How are you going to be mad? I still believe that one day I will be in a relationship that will set and keep my soul on fire. We will be open and honest with each other, and social media won’t ever be one of our issues.
Written by Mwabi Kaira
I didn’t know what gay was growing up. It wasn’t discussed or poked fun of, no disparaging comments made at the dinner table, and we indeed weren’t warned to stay away from gays. There just wasn’t a reference point. In my early teens, a group of teen boys formed a dancing group and the scandal in my town was that the man behind the team was a pedophile because he was a much older white man in a foreign land, who took in five teen boys and funded their dancing. I was at a comprehending age by this time but still didn’t correlate this alleged pedophilia to being gay. Never mind the grown men inappropriately touching young girls in my town, but that’s a whole other story. It wasn’t until my sister left for the US in 1991 and returned the following summer that she questioned if one of my friends was gay because of his high pitched voice and mannerisms. She had to go to a whole new continent to learn what gay was and bring it to us.
I arrived in Kentucky in 1993 as a wide-eyed and very shy 17-year-old. I was more concerned about adjusting to this new world and keeping my head above water. I was holding on to my culture while desperately learning a new one. It took a while, but I eventually found my footing. I’m ashamed to say this, but I didn’t discover books by African-American authors until 1994. I’ve always been an avid reader. I graduated from Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl to reading novels in the 6th grade, but all I knew was Sidney Shelton, Danielle Steele and every Mills and Boon romance novel. We moved next door to an African-American family in Lexington, KY and I will forever love Stephanie Jones for introducing me to Terry McMillan. After that my world opened up and I boycotted white authors for a decade just to catch up.
I have tried hard to remember how I came across E.Lynn Harris’ debut novel Invisible Life and I can’t. I am so thankful that book came into my life. Raymond and Kyle became my friends instantly. I didn’t care who they slept with, and I was just so happy to have a human connection with these men on the pages as I turned them. I celebrated their successes and cheered for them as their story unfolded. I bought and read every E.Lynn book on the day they released after that. I even remember getting a CD with a catchy R&B tune with one of them. He was ahead of his time.
I met my ex-husband sophomore year in college. He was a football player. I was quick to dead any homophobia and let him know where I stood; we had no right to dislike a human being just because of who they loved. I told him he probably had gay teammates and although he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about, he did change his tune on being homophobic. Why do heterosexual men always assume gay men want them anyway?
We were a young married couple with small children in the early 2000’s when I saw that E.Lynn would be at a book signing in Cincinnati. I made plans to go since we had family in the city who could babysit. We were happy to have a childless date night, but I forgot to tell my husband which author we were going to see. I was just so excited to meet this beloved author. We got to the bookstore and looked around and eventually found some seats. My husband tapped me on my shoulder right before the reading and asked, “Where have you brought me?” Looking back, it was hilarious. I should mention that my husband was hard to miss, he was 6’3 and over 300 pounds of football muscle. He stood out in this crowd and was the thing who didn’t belong. He was way out of his element. He was my hazel eyed gentle giant and knew this was important to me. He held my hand and enjoyed seeing me in my element among an author I loved and fellow book lovers.
After the reading, E.Lynn was gracious enough to pose for a picture with me that my husband took. He joked and asked my husband if he had been tricked to come. It is a memory from my marriage I will always cherish.
Because of E.Lynn Harris, this girl from a small Zambian town learned about good-looking men with beautiful hearts who loved life. Because of E.Lynn Harris, I love these men and don’t approach them with preconceived notions of hell and damnation. Because of E.Lynn Harris, I have taught my sons that love is universal and about way more than just who you share your bed. I have prepared them never to make anyone feel sorry for who they are and to never engage in the foolish toxic masculine rhetoric that has been passed down for centuries.
E.Lynn deserved all the things, I wonder if when he sat down to write after he attempted suicide and was in a deep depression back in 1990 that he ever imagined that his words would transform people all over the world and humanize an entire group of people. I hope he felt all the love while he was here. Seeing E. Lynn Harris at the book signing many years ago was me giving him his flowers.
Being a 'woke' immigrant is hard and exhausting. The hard part is being 'woke' in itself and seeing all the injustices, mistreatment and discrepancies placed on black and brown immigrants in comparison to other immigrants. The exhausting part is seeing immigrants of color defend this treatment and agree with it.
Last week dude called my country a shithole. For almost 48 hours, nothing was said to defend it, and then they said he didn’t say "shithole," he said "shithouse." Okay, way to clarify that administration, huge difference there. He said he preferred people from Norway to immigrate to the US because they have something to offer unlike the shithole/house countries of Haiti and Africa —not a country. A year has passed and not only are we still alive, but we are past the shock level of what dude says on a daily basis. This is real life people, our real life! My initial reaction to his comments was what I have been doing for the past year; I laugh hysterically until my eyes water then I remember that I’m a G and get myself right together.
I know I’m not from a shithole/house country, so I wasn’t bothered by the foolery, but the reactions after his statement gave me serious pause and reminded me of being 'woke.' I expected people who look like the dude to chime in and agree with him. After all, most of them have never left their hometowns, been downtown in their cities, left their states or even own a passport. They agreed with him and most likely can’t locate any of the shithole/house countries on a map.
What I wasn’t expecting was people who look like me and live in these countries to agree with the dude as well. I was so frustrated when an African couple I admired who live in Europe came out publicly as dude’s supporters during the campaign. They proudly sported their red MAGA hats. They spent hours on social media defending dude, and the gag is they couldn’t even vote for him. A video of a Nigerian man agreeing with dude went viral a few days ago. He argued that his country was a shithole/house because its citizens were mistreated by the Government. He forgets that every country including the US has problems. To him and many like him, America can do no wrong. They defend the wrongdoing because they genuinely believe their best interests are being protected.
The complexities of explaining racism to black and brown people who don’t live in the US will never be understood unless it is experienced. They really do believe we are overreacting and making a mountain out of a molehill. Just look at Terry Mango, of Stockholm, Sweden, the mother of the boy in the H&M ad bearing the monkey reference hoodie. Did you see her reaction? She said she had been called a monkey before on a cruise ship and had experienced racism BUT still saw nothing wrong with her son Liam’s ad. She, like others, excuse the obvious and until they have lived in the US and actually experienced racism, you are talking to a brick wall.
Another example of the obvious is being questioned about giving birth to your child in the US as a person of color and being looked at under a microscope while doing so. Meanwhile, Russian women are welcomed to Miami in droves to give birth. News stories are written about them and not a little blurb in the small town paper. An entire camera crew, producer, and reporter sent to cover the story that pregnant Russian women hire an agency to help arrange their trips to Miami and pay up to $100,000 for services including finding apartments (paying 6 months of rent up front), doctors and obtaining visas. Never mind sending those news crews to cover the daily injustices we witness on a regular basis.
America likes nicely packaged things with a high price tag, people included. If you show up unpackaged, unpretty and on the sale rack, you won’t be welcomed like the others because you are ruining the pretty aesthetic. The flag is red, white, and blue for a reason; dark colors and dark people are necessary for labor, background and shithole purposes only.
Like I said, being a 'woke' immigrant is hella exhausting.
I stopped making resolutions years ago. I can’t remember the exact year, but I do recall feeling peace about the upcoming new year and reflecting on the year that was ending. I thought of all the good things that happened and measured them against the not-so-good times. I searched for the lessons they taught me, thanked God for them, and ended it with an Amen. The next thing I knew, it was a new year, and I carried on.