In summer of 2012, I interned at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi, Kenya where they conduct very groundbreaking research especially on tropical diseases (and before you ask, yes they conduct ethically sound research that follows World of Health Animal Research Protocols). My favorite part of the internship was the enrichment project where select staff, such as myself, played with the monkeys, chimps, and other primates for at least an hour a day. This enrichment project was created under the reason that the primates should still have a life with some daily fun even though they were being used for research. I was reflecting upon this experience recently and I realized that even humans are primates so we have to remember to always create some joy in our lives. The word enrichment is befitting because it enhances the value and quality of our lives. Another phrase that I love is “la joie de vivre” which is French for “joy of life”.
I personally find my joie de vivre in three things: art, food, and music. I just recently had a quick vacation to Houston that encompassed those three things so let me highlight them below in picture format.
ART (all pictures taken at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)
The Savoy Restaurant is definitely a must-visit spot for Indo-Pakistani food. At the bottom left of the photo, you can see green specks in the naan which are cilantro and Jalapeno peppers. As such, this naan is called “the bullet” naan. This was my first time having it and now I am obsessed. Also, tried goat brain masala which was better than one could expect. My favorite, of course, was the goat biryani.
The main person that inspired my recent trip to Houston is Lauryn Hill as she had a concert lined up on Thursday, May the 9th. Despite bad weather and flash flood warning, we showed up and luckily, she did too. Her performance was amazing and she delivered considering 20 plus years have passed since the release of her album, The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill. Her guitarists and backup singers were on point too. Please watch the clip below for a morsel of her performance.
If there is anything I have learned from rap songs, it is that “there’s nothing like hood love”. That Nelly and Kelly Rowland “Dilemma” kind of love. That 50 Cent “21 questions” kind of love. And to throw it way back, that Bonnie and Clyde kind of love. Now to bring it way to the front, that Nipsey Hussle (Ermias Asghedom) and New-New (Lauren London) kind of love.
At first look, Nipsey was an intimidating looking kind of guy with his tall frame and face tattoos but we now all know, that he had a heart of gold. Lauren London (best known for her performance as New-New in the movie ATL) dated many of the richest rappers in the game such as Lil Wayne and even had his child. However, she found true love with Nipsey. Why? Because like she said in her speech at his funeral, she did not have to wear her “cool girl mask” anymore with Nipsey. Nipsey was her “turn up and her church”. He was not “perfect” and she would never ask him to be. He was and still is “the coolest guy ever” to her. “His soul was majestic.” He was a “gentle father” and a “patient leader.” These are all direct quotes from her beautiful speech at his funeral where she shared a text message that she wrote to him during January of this year while she was watching him sleep. Clearly, Lauren knew what she had found with Nipsey was truly special and I am sure Nipsey made her feel special as no woman would talk like that about a man that mistreats her. I repeat her “turn up and her church.” Many guys can fall into that “turn up” category but very few can be your “church.” That is a spiritual connection which is “beyond this earth”.
Based on her and Nipsey’s spirituality, Lauren is probably better equipped to handle what has happened to her and her family. In her speech, she shared how Nipsey taught her that “you cannot possess people, you experience them.” The few years she got to experience him will last her a lifetime and maybe beyond that. Furthermore, he had told her that “the game is gonna test you, never fold.” “Stay ten toes down.” “It is not on you, it is in you and what is in you, they cannot take away.” I don’t know about y’all, but her speech gave me life and her strength was the real definition of “gangsta.” Even though the perpetrator of his death took Nipsey’s life, the love he shared with Lauren and his family can never be taken away. In fact, she shared that her greatest sadness is realizing that their 2-year-old son is “probably too young to remember how much his dad loved him”.
I hope we may all experience such “gangsta love”. Not gangsta in regards to being in a gang or involved in crime (in the traditional sense of the word), but gangsta in how fiercely we protect it. No side chicks have popped up from the woodworks stating that they were with Nipsey because he was all about Lauren. He was faithful, loyal, and most of all, he financially protected his family so that they would not have to starve without him. Instead of flashing his money for all the world to see on cars and other depreciating expenses, he invested in his community and educated people about financial literacy. As Lauren says, “he was brilliant” and the world is at a loss for such a man. One of Nipsey’s face tattoos says “PROLIFIC” and I had to google exactly what that word means: “producing much fruit or foliage or many offspring.” I believe that based on Nipsey’s hustle alone, his investments will continue to bear fruit for his community. His love, on the other hand, is limitless as it has even inspired people like me who are not a part of his direct community. Maybe we all get to experience this gangsta type of love in this lifetime and those to follow. As Lauren said, “the marathon continues.”
A few weeks ago, a Kenyan girl named Ivy Wangechi was murdered by a love/lust-crazed admirer of her. There are a lot of half-baked theories about why the boy murdered her, including some stating that he was her sponsor as she was in medical school. However, her grieving mother has come out to say that Ivy was on a government scholarship and the only balance they paid was about 20,000 shillings (about 200 dollars) which is not a hardship for them. From what I gathered, the girl knew the boy as they grew up together but had made it clear that she was not interested in him. However, the boy continued to pursue her for whatever reason and had even sent her a gift for her recent birthday. I would assume that the boy expected the girl to fall in love with him after such a gesture and became angry after not getting the response he wanted. The part that we do know is that in a rage of anger, he asked his friend to drive him to where the girl was and hacked her to death with a knife and ax.
When my mom heard about this story, she instantly shared it with me and proposed that I write about it on my blog so shout out to Mamacita as I call her (this is a Spanish nickname by the way, not a Swahili one as she does not have six kids). Anyway, my mom is particularly interested in the psychology of people and love is something that can influence your mental health. For example, the boy in this story was clearly obsessed with Ivy to the point where his mind went to a dark place, premeditated a murder, and committed the act. But before he got to this point, the horror story started with him lusting over Ivy to the point where he believed that he was in love with her. I say “he believed he was in love with her” because I truly believe that anyone who truly loves someone would never kill them (remember that I believe that you can tell love through actions and hacking someone to death clearly is not love). I have also previously confused lust and love in the past so I know how it feels. Lust can drive you crazy because it is a possessive emotion where you want to say that whatever you are so passionately attracted to is yours. Love on the other hand, in my opinion, is a freeing emotion because you want nothing but the best for the person that you care so deeply for. So no matter what the assailant says, I do not believe he loved Ivy.
The question then becomes, how do we stop ourselves and others from becoming obsessed and confusing love with lust? First of all, you need good friends or family that you feel comfortable enough to discuss your romantic escapades with. For example, my friends would always call me out when I was in lust in the past. And to be honest, there is a time and season for everything so when you are young, you may be looking for lust and not love so that is age-appropriate. However, you should never let lust or “love” turn into obsession. If you cannot even sit still and study or work without stalking your crush on social media, then you need to have a deep look at why you are letting that person have so much power over you and your life. Throughout my romantic experiences, what gives me peace is knowing that I am destined to be with someone and it will happen naturally, not by force. If someone does not reciprocate your energy or level of interest, then cut your losses and move on. You should never have to convince someone to love you; it is either that they do or they do not. It is true that we all love what we cannot have but think about it, once you have that person won’t you get bored because the chase is over? So stop chasing and just look for a real connection. Yes, beauty is captivating but beyond that, you should be able to love that person even if they turned into an ogre at night (like Princess Fiona in the Shrek movie). So, in essence, we have to train our mind to read between the lines of a chiseled man or even the curves of a beautiful woman and focus on the substance of their character instead. I am sorry that Ivy died at the hands of a man who claimed to love her when he clearly he just wanted to possess her. May she rest in peace and may her tragedy be a lesson to us all.
May we remember the following scripture: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away”. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Some of you may know that I spent a little over half a decade (six years) in Boston, Massachusetts. So this is a review where I can delve both into being a resident and a tourist of the city. My first trip to Boston was in 2010 with my mom before the start of my senior year of high school to look at different universities in the area (Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and my alma mater of Northeastern University). The one campus that truly captured my eye and heart was Northeastern’s as it was right in the heart of Boston but still managed to be centralized; so you could feel like you were in your own world and still be in the mix of the city within less than a 5-minute walk. I liked being in a worldly diverse school with students from all over the map and being in a city where all these cultures participated, especially in food.
Food. My favorite restaurant in Boston is actually a Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. It is a small place with a cozy vibe as the owner is super friendly and makes sure to talk to every table when he is around. One of my favorite quotes of his is “We are all African” which actually describes my experience in Boston because I made friends with Africans from other countries such as Nigeria and Somalia. I also loved the Boston Shawarma restaurant that I was on Huntington Avenue where my alma mater is located. I also loved eating really delicious Vietnamese soup called pho (thanks to my best friend’s mom for introducing this to me as her homemade pho is still the best in my book) at a restaurant called Pho & I which was also down the street from my school. I also loved samosas and biryani from an Indian restaurant called the Dosa Factory (I actually gave them my email one time to be contacted in case they were hiring). The China town in Boston is actually pretty legitimate and has very authentic Chinese food (sometimes so authentic that it doesn’t match your palette depending on which restaurant you frequent). My favorite is Gourmet Dumpling House which has a really nice pancake dish and obviously amazing dumplings. For brunch though, my favorite restaurant is Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen which has a soul/jazzy vibe with live music and a buffet brunch option. On my recent one-day trip to Boston, I actually did not eat out as my friend cooked shrimp & chicken Jollof for me which filled me up for the whole day (see picture below). It was actually the best Jollof I’ve ever had so shout out to Chef Ola.
Tourist Attractions. A lot of films are actually filmed in Boston so you should already know that it is beautiful (especially in the summer because snow can become a pain after a while). My favorite spot is the Boston Gardens which are right at the end of Newbury St where you can shop from various high-end stores like Gucci and even low-end stores like Forever 21. My friend and I went there to chill before heading to Macy’s which is within walking distance. We actually ended up climbing a tree together (mainly him climbing the tree and helping me up). After Macy’s, we went to the Charles River Esplanade which is another tourist attraction where you can watch sailboat races or just a beautiful sunset. There is also a little park by the banks of the river which I love to visit from time to time mainly for the monkey bars where I like to hang upside down like the primate that I am (every so often I like to do this just to make sure that I haven’t lost this skill yet haha). If you want a great view of Boston (no upside hanging involved), the Top of the Hub Restaurant which is at the top of the Prudential Building (also known as The Pru) is a great place to go especially during a clear day. If you are a museum enthusiast like myself, both the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner (ISG) Museum are a must-see.
Nightlife. One of my favorite places to chill and listen to good music is the W Hotel in Boston. It never disappoints and the African City party this year was held in the hotel so I was excited to attend. My friend and I got there an hour and a half late but the party still had not started. When it did start around an hour later, it was actually a great party with a great DJ playing music from all over Africa (not just Nigerian and Ghanaian music). When he played Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s Umqombothi song that was when I knew he was the real deal. Unfortunately, clubs and bars close at 2am in Boston as it was/still is a Puritan city. This used to really frustrate me when I was in college but now that I am old, sleep is life so I do not mind the 2am curfew at all. Most of the time people have house parties afterward so there are ways to work around it which brings me to my next topic about accommodation.
Travel & Accommodation. I won’t even try to sugarcoat it; Boston can be a little bit racist (I even talked to a white person who lived in Boston who stated this). I will say that I did experience some racism when trying to secure an Airbnb during my last year of school. For example, some prospective hosts will not even message you back based on skin color or will pretend that the dates are actually booked when they are not. Therefore, a hotel is probably the best option if you have a short stay (I guess unless you get lucky with Airbnb). If you are planning to stay in Boston long term, do bear in mind that rent is pretty expensive. You can live further out of the city for cheaper accommodation but if you do not have a car, the commute can be long by train or bus. I chose to stay close to campus because my major required long nights at the library and I wanted to be safe going home. Also, commuting during the winter can be hell with snow covered streets. In general, buy good shoes because the city of Boston requires a lot of walking and if you are a lady, the cobblestone will most likely ruin your stilettos. But one thing that makes Boston stand out from the rest is that it is a very clean city, your shoes will probably still be squeaky clean at the end of the day.
Submissive. The true definition per Google is to be “ready to conform to the authority or will of others; meekly obedient or passive.” If that is the definition we are going by, I do not think any person (man or woman) wants to be submissive in this century or ever. I think when we talk about being submissive in a relationship, we mean to cater to someone’s needs. This does not necessarily mean that you have conformed or chosen to be passive or cowered to some authority as the definition suggests. I believe that for those women and women who are happy in a relationship, they try to cater to the general wellness of the relationship. That may mean that as a man you take out the trash or as a woman, you cook the food. However, in ideal relationships, these are conscious decisions that are made to contribute to the benefit of the unit. I do not believe that this is submissiveness as nobody feels forced to do these activities. Again, each party is making a conscious decision to cater to the relationship.
I saw a quote on social media that said “a woman is naturally submissive to a man who she trusts to lead..even if she’s an alpha female..” 86% of the person’s followers on social media agreed, including myself. But the more I thought about it, allowing somebody to lead is not necessarily being submissive. I would not say that I am submissive just because I try to follow the rules that have been set in place. Instead, I would say that I am a team player because I realize the role I need to play and why I should follow certain rules. This is exactly how I view relationships as well. Two people come together to form a team and agree on particular rules or arrangements. Following these rules, makes the person a team player and not “meekly obedient or passive”. Also, I have seen women lead/wear the pants in certain successful marriages and it is not because the man could not be trusted to lead. It was simply because of their personalities and skills such as money management that allowed these women to be the main leader of their households. But again, I think relationships have to be team-based so where one lacks, the other excels.
The only caveat of this theory is that you never want your relationship to be like a group project gone wrong where one person does all the work. When one person is dominating one aspect of the relationship such as activities to do together, resentment from the other party can develop. Imagine the fight where one person says “I always do this” and the other says “well you are good at doing it so I thought you should always do it”. I think most of us would agree that we should try to help the other person with their dominant area. For example, I like to cook but I need someone who is at least willing to help out by chopping onions or even plating the food. Having someone who can even try to cook a few days a week would be even better but I try to keep my expectations low because some people really can’t even boil water lol. I am sure that the area of strengths for each person reveal themselves as a relationship grows and nobody can dive into a relationship knowing that their partner will be good at managing A, B, or C. I think the beauty of a relationship is getting to figure out how to be a winning team and this can be really fun especially if you have a sports mindset where you want to continuously improve your skills.
So in a roundabout way, what I am saying is that I do not believe submissiveness is the key to a successful relationship. I think teamwork is the key and when I am married one day, I will come back and tell you if I was wrong or right lol. Feel free to share your thoughts as well. 🙂 ❤
Let me start off by saying that I have been a big fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s work since his portrayal of Solomon Northup in the famous movie 12 years a Slave. And similarly, he did not disappoint in this movie based on a story about William Kamkwamba also known as The boy who harnessed the wind as he figured out a way to make a wind powered water pump for irrigation during a dry spell in his village in Malawi. As Chiwetel Ejiofor is British-Nigerian, he had to learn Chichewa to play the role of William’s father and to be honest I would think he was a Malawian actor if I was not familiar with his background. The film which was also directed by Chiwetel has received a Sundance Film Festival award but I am sure you would rather read about my thoughts on the film (maybe just a little bit of arrogance there haha). Anyways, let me commence my review.
Film quality. Even though the film is set in a remote area, it does a good job of kind of romanticizing village life and still depicting it in an honest way. The lighting is perfect for the various hues of brown faces that are part of the story. Both English and Chichewa is used in the film with English being the main language and Chichewa used for dramatic effect where it is most appropriate. The sound quality is also good and as weather is an important part of the story, the different seasons are captured beautifully.
Plot/Story line. I think the story is pieced together very well. The background of William’s family dynamics is appropriately presented and all the main characters are given well rounded depictions. The main supporting character is played by Chiwetel as William’s father and we get to see so much raw emotion from him that is truly unmatched. The movie overall can be a little depressing at times but you have to remember that this is based on a true story meaning that people do go through really tough times. Therefore, I think this movie serves as a reminder to persevere despite life’s challenges.
Cultural representation. I love watching foreign movies because it presents as an opportunity to discover new cultures and ways of life. This movie definitely provides this perspective especially in terms of power dynamics within the Malawian village and how education is perceived in the community. Furthermore, it also depicts local politics and how funerals are conducted. I think what touched me the most is realizing that education is not free in a lot of African countries and that this is probably holding the country back in terms of the creative thinkers that are missing out on expanding their knowledge. In the movie, the main character, William, is clearly a creative thinker and he got lucky in finding resources that could help him explore his problem-solving ideas. I wish that we could all commit ourselves to nurturing our own and others’ creative thinking.
I think when I first saw the trailer for the film, I thought it was going to be a simple moving about a young boy who became a hero. However, this film is much more than that. It has a love story, political context, depth, and a certain richness that just cannot be explained. It is rich in life because of how much well the characters are portrayed. And just before you thought it could not get any better, the local chief is portrayed by the Butler Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air (his real name is Joseph Marcell). Let me tell you that Mr. Marcell did a wonderful job with the Malawi accent as well even though we have not seen him acting for maybe one or two decades now since the end of Fresh Prince. I hope to see more from him, Chiwetel, and the other members of this lovely cast. In case you are wondering, the movie is on Netflix for all to view (If you don’t have membership, ask a friend). 🙂 ❤
I like to regard myself as sort of a dare devil. I loved jumping from trees and was not really afraid of heights as a kid. Now I am bit more reserved since I really do not want to die a stupid death, especially after watching 1,000 ways to die with my dad and brothers growing up. But despite my reservations, I have still experienced at least 3 near death experiences (that I know about). I’ll start with the least frightening to the most:
When I was born and still in the hospital with my mom, she fell off the hospital bed and fortunately she was not holding me and luckily, I was lying on the side facing the wall so I did not fall with her. Obviously this is not an experience that I remember but when my mom told me about it, I realized how fortunate I am to have been spared from the numerous infant mortalities that happen on a daily basis. They say that when a woman is pregnant, she is between life and death because of how dangerous pregnancy can be at times. Childbirth still scares me to this day but I guess if others have done it, so can I.
In 2005, my mom and I went to Kenya to visit for the summer. While there, we went to a place known as Eastleigh in Nairobi where the place is surrounded by vendors all over the streets and malls filled with more vendors. I was about 12 years old so I shopping trip with my mom and aunt was a little bit boring for me because they were talking about grown up stuff that I knew nothing about. Anyway at some point, I bent down to tie my shoe and didn’t say anything because I did not want to interrupt my mom and aunt. Next thing I knew, I was essentially lost as I could not find them at all. Now picture me as an innocent looking girl all along in a street filled with people and chaos. The female vendors were looking at me like, “be careful” and they kept telling me “fungua macho” which means “open your eyes”. Since I was young, I didn’t realize they were saying this because they wanted me to look at their products. Instead I thought they knew that I was lost and were warning me of danger. So during these period of being lost, my mind went to dark places as I started imagining myself kidnapped and used as a child slave. Fortunately, that did not happen, as my intuition led me to a three-story mall and I walked through all the booths until I heard the sound of my mom and aunt’s voice. Remember this was the age where kids didn’t have cell phones and Eastleigh was so far from where he stayed that I might have been really doomed if I did not find them.
If none of the previous stories scared you, this is the one that probably will. So this probably happened when I was about 19 years of age. I was home for the summer from college and my older brother had just bought a motorcycle. So me being the dare devil, I decided that I could convince him to let me park it for him in the garage. Somehow he agreed and gave me a quick tutorial on how to press the gas and the break. I guess in my excitement, I got the gas and break confused so I quickly pressed the gas thinking it was the break and the motorcycle (with me on it) sped off so fast that even my neighbors who were outside ran to our garage to see what was going on. Fortunately, our garage had a door to the backyard so I did not crash into the concrete walls of our garage. Next problem was that there were huge oak trees in the backyard that I could crash into and break my head in two as I was not wearing a helmet. Fortunately, I steered left and hit one of the bushes adjacent to the house. The motorbike fell on me and scratched my lower leg a little, which to me was a miracle considering how bad that situation could have been. Like everyone involved in this situation, especially me and my older brother were in shock. It took a while for my heart to stop racing and when we told our dad about it, he was not very happy. However, my brother still kept riding his bike and I decided to just be happy with being his passenger. By the way, the featured picture above was taken about a week or two before my doom while posing with my brother’s bike that was parked in the garage at the time. Little did I know what was to come lol.
When I remember any of these near-death experiences, I realize that I would already be dead by now if I was not meant to be alive at this point in time. There has to be reason that none of those moments were not my time to go meet my maker or just turn into dust. Therefore, they keep me motivated to make good use of my time here on earth. We really never will know when we are going to die, even some people who attempt suicide end up surviving their self-injuries so you never really know. To end on a lighter note: here is a new fun fact that I learned recently. For those who participate in the U.S. daylight savings time, what is the longest month of the year? If you guessed October that is the correct answer as the 10th month has 31 days and because of the extra one hour gained during daylight savings time, it surpasses the other 31 day long months. 🙂 ❤
Since birth, I have always been a daddy’s girl. When my mom used to get frustrated doing my hair as a little girl and want to shave it, my father would tell her to dare to cut it and risk getting returned to her village (this was obviously a joke by the way). But yes, my dad has always looked out for my best interest. When I wanted to get my hair chemically relaxed to be straight, he said no but since I wanted it so bad, my mom said yes. Now I wish I had listened to my father because my hair was so much healthier before. In fact, people I grew up with in Kenya remember me for my long hair. Hair stories aside, I sought my dad’s satisfaction the most (see previous post about how I tried to remain neutral in who I loved more). I think this was because my dad was very social and would brag about the exploits of my siblings and I to anyone who would listen. My mother is more introverted so not so much bragging there but of course, we could tell when she was proud of us too.
They say that when a woman looks for a man, we look for our father’s or our brother’s characteristics in the man we marry. Sometimes, consciously and sometimes, subconsciously. In one of my previous relationships, the guy told me that his goal was to love me more than my father loves me. I did not think much about it then but recently, I thought about it and realized that the man who promised me this made a promise he could not keep. For one, my father has never put me in any situation that could hurt me. Secondly, my father will go above and beyond for anything that is important to me. Finally, I am named after my father’s mother so my father not only sees me as his daughter but also as the spirit of his mother. In essence, my father loves me as one would love their mother and child at the same time.
I am not saying that your spouse can or cannot love you more than your parents. That is too deep of a philosophical question to answer in a blog post but what I do know is that as a woman, your relationship with your father plays a major role in your life. I know some people who did not have the most present or loving father and so they look to God to be their heavenly father. I think this is because we all desire security and love especially when we are young. I am blessed that my father provided both needs. He is not a perfect person but I can definitely say that I would not be the person that I am today, including my achievements, without his support. And to defy societal standards a bit let me share a few interesting characteristics about my dad:
He has beautiful handwriting, actually better than my mom’s because he was taught calligraphy as a child.
He is really good at cutting paper in a straight line and stayed up with me several times during my science fair projects to help me decorate my posters.
The quote that I remember most from him is “work smarter not harder”. As such, I have a slight obsession with problem-solving and have a slight pet peeve with inefficiency
To make this blog post more well-rounded, I will say that we should all aim to be better than our parents and so I am not blind to any bad qualities that I may have picked up from my parents. But I think if you ever ask a woman whether she would prefer a better husband to her or a better father for her kids, she would go with the latter. So with that, thank you to the fathers who help to bring up good human beings into our society. Apparently, some countries celebrate fathers’ day in March so I guess this early fathers’ day blog post for those of us in the U.S.A while it is in due time for others. Either way, thank you for reading. 🙂 ❤
For a book that is only 150 pages long, it captures so much of America that is typically left unsaid. In his book, Coates writes a well-articulated letter to his son about the journey of being Black in America. The journey is described historically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually as Coates tries to come to terms with losing a fellow school mate to police violence. Despite this book being short, it took me a while to read because it covers a very heavy subject matter and can leave you feeling a bit sad at times. But this sadness is truly the reality of what it means to be Black in America (just watch the news). I would venture to say that this book should be required reading for all Americans but clearly I am not the president. So here are the five things I learned from reading this thoughtful book:
Howard University may be the mecca of black intellectual thought and black higher learning. The author of the book, Coates, is an alumni of Howard University along with his wife and his murdered college mate. As such, the book might as well be a marketing scheme for Howard University but to be honest, it seems the author is just sharing his honest experience at the institution. I attended a predominantly white institution (PWI) for college so clearly I cannot speak much about historically black college and universities (HBCUs). I think part of why I never applied to one is because I never felt “black” enough in high school and what I was looking for in a university, was a great global representation. However, it was refreshing to learn about Howard University in the book as the author refers to it as the Mecca and rightfully so as many great Black American thinkers such as Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison graduated from Howard University. Fun fact: Taraji P. Henson and Mr. Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, are also Howard alumni.
“They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” Black history is full of rich stories of struggles, greatness, and humanity. As much as oppressors have tried to bury our history, our language, our culture, we must persist to remember our journey. Our journey is what makes us black people. When you don’t know where you come from, you can never fully imagine where you can go. So make it an effort to read up on black history as most schools definitely do not teach us enough of it.
Double consciousness plays a big role in Black America. The theory of double consciousness was coined by W.E.B. Dubois in his book The Souls of Black Folks and it basically describes how Black Americans have to view themselves from both white and black eyes. Society views Black people one way and therefore, we have to understand how we are viewed and reconcile that with how we view ourselves. For example, if a black person is seen in a predominantly white neighborhood, he or she might be stopped by the cops because it is assumed that a black person would not be able to afford to live among white people. Therefore, as much as society can view Black people incorrectly, we should be aware of it but not let it define us which is an act of double consciousness.
Raising a black child in America is probably one of the hardest things to do. When his school mate is murdered via police violence, Coates visits the school mate’s mom and interviews her about how she feels. The victim’s mom speaks of how she afforded her children the best education, trips abroad, and nice cars; and despite all this, she still could not protect her son from police brutality. This makes the writer very vulnerable as he has a young son and realizes that could be his own fate. As such, this experience inspires this book which is essentially a letter to his son forewarning him about such situations and how to cope with life as a black body in America.
Traveling opens one’s eyes a bit more about who you are. I think this is because you are fed with propaganda wherever you grow up and seeing how other cultures perceive you, can show you the biases of your own self-perception. When the author travels to France in his adulthood, he realizes that he could have grown up with a different childhood if he was not born in the ghettos of Baltimore, Maryland where he was constantly afraid for his life. He was also able to let his guard down as he realized what made him stand out was not the color of his skin but his poor French language skills.
Trust me when I say that this review does not do the book justice. It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my entire life. At times, I had to re-read a whole paragraph over again because it is higher level reading written with the vocabulary of a true scholar. It definitely was a challenge from my typical light autobiographical reads such as that by Kevin Hart (link to my review of his book). Despite the challenge, I truly enjoyed every second of it and my mouth often gaped at the intelligent construction of the author’s words. I hope you do too 🙂 ❤
Since February is the month of love with my previous post delving into love & divine intervention, I would like to dedicate this post to my second love (music). I am saying “second love” because it is more logical for your parent (s) to be your first love. Side note: when I was a little girl, my parents would try to ask me which one of them I loved more and I would smartly avoid the question by saying that I loved them both equally. Luckily, they never asked me that question during my teenage years because music was definitely my greatest love (cue that Ciara track) at that time.
After long days filled with teenage angst and drama, music brought some well-needed peace to my life. Specifically, Bob Marley music was what really spoke to me at that rebellious time. I would listen to “redemption song” at least once a day and knew the lyrics word for word. The guy I shared my first kiss with actually told me that he didn’t think Bob Marley was a good singer and that was a total deal breaker. I think one of the greatest moments in relationships, friendships included, is discovering each other’s music.
In the past year, I have added new music to my collection from Latino, French, and even fellow African friends. But the greatest moment is when someone collects your music and appreciates the songs you adore. On my last Houston trip, I met an African American guy who listened to Davido and thought Davido was Hispanic. I was so happy to tell him that Davido is an African like me. Also later in the year, I met a Hispanic couple who love listening to another African artist known as Koredo Bello. In both incidences, I asked how they discovered such an artist and YouTube was always the answer. So the invention of the century award deserves to go to YouTube, in my opinion, for bringing us music lovers together and helping us discover new music. So in the spirit of sharing music, here are 3 songs that I am currently obsessed with:
Shakira- “Whenever wherever”. I have always loved this song but it wasn’t until this year that I really listened to the song, looked up the lyrics, and realized what a beautifully written song it is. Here’s a little cameo for those of you who don’t have time to look up the full lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weRHyjj34ZE
“Lucky that my lips not only mumble
They spill kisses like a fountain
Lucky that my breasts are small and humble
So you don’t confuse them with mountains”
Sam Smith ft Normani – “Dancing with a stranger’. Definitely a song with better use of the lyrics “look what you made me do” (little shade to Taylor Swift fans). And both artists can really sing the hell out of those lyrics and those that follow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brmW88EO_cI
Patoranking – “Suh Different”. When I need energy, this song delivers just that. It’s also that goodbye weekdays, hello weekend song that never fails. If you listen to the song, you would think Patoranking is from the Caribbean but he is actually Nigerian which goes to show that music transcends borders. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WOHZ9QhI9M