Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Haitian Revolution (The Revolt That Birthed a Nation - Part 2)

The Haitian Revolution 
(The Revolt That Birthed a Nation - Part 2: Vincent Oge and John Boukman)
                               by K. Omodele @TheAbeng

How the French Revolution Affected the Haitian Revolution

   After the French Revolution toppled the French Monarchy (King Louis XVI) in 1789*, the French National Assembly issued the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens. News of these events were carried from France, off ships and spread amongst the people of the colony of Saint Domingue, stirring hope among the oppressed and disdain among the upper classes. Then in 1791, this new, revolutionary government decreed that free, property-owning mulattos (gens de couleur) in Saint Domingue were to possess the same rights as plantation owners. Saint Domingue's Colonial Assembly (which was comprised of plantation owners of French descent) refused to accept this decree and bucked against the orders from the new French republic.

Vincent Oge and the uprising of Gens de Couleur

   The colonial plantation owners sought representation in the French National Assembly, but wanted no representation for mulatto freemen. The colony's own assembly excluded mulattos from representation, which poured gasoline on already-fuming racial tensions. In February 1791, the gens de couleur, led by Vincent Oge, rushed to arms and rebelled against the white colonials. But their revolt was quickly squashed, and Vincent Oge escaped to Santo Domingo (the Spanish side of the island). He was subsequently caught and extradited to Saint Domingue, where he was sentenced to death by the gallows. Right before he was hung, he was stretched and quartered**; then, after being hung to his death, his head was chopped off.
   But by now, the flames of insurrection had ignited. In August of that year, the slaves jumped in the fight and the revolt roared towards a full-blaze revolution for emancipation, equality and national independence.

John "Dutty" Boukman (Bookman) - The Obeah man (Vodou priest)

   John Boukman (Bookman in English) was a Jamaica-born, runaway slave. Nicknamed Dutty Boukman, he was a vodou priest (obeah man)  and as a fugitive, he wandered the northern Saint Domingue  countryside, holding clandestine meetings in secluded areas around plantations. His gatherings were intense with vodou/obeah worship and charged with talk of rebellion. Dutty Boukman preached with insight and persuasion; his mystique was powered by spiritual, esoteric rituals passed down from ancestors.
   In Saint Domingue, many slaves were either African born, or one or two generations removed from the continent. Vodou priests were respected, revered as leaders, spiritual griots linking slaves to their African origin. John "Dutty" Boukman's oratory skills captivated his audiences; and at Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman) on August 20-22, he incited the slaves to revolt - from rebellion to revolution to freedom.

The Haitian Revolution (The Revolt That Birthed a nation - Part 3)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Caribbean Culture: Where Does Winding Come From?

Where Does Winding Come From?
by Kaya Omodele .@The Abeng (first published in Method Mecca @ZigZee)

     A while ago, I stumbled across a website where someone was asking "How do you wine dance?" (you know, winding, wineing, wining, however you want spell winding your waistline) Then in the comments/replies, X-amount of people jumped in with they own answers, without thinking, knowing or even considering logic before opening their mouths. ;-)
     Trinis, Yardies, Bajans, GTs, people from the biggest to smallest islands, everybody claiming is they island, and their island alone, that invented winding. And what's more, nuff of them insisted their island wind the best.

     Then, somebody interjected, writing how "Africa is where the dance originated." But, that comment just sat there, unnoticed, midst the bag of noise that surrounded it. So, make me set the whole controversy straight:

     Winding didn't start with dutty wine (dutty wind) nor go-go wine nor dollar wine nor even tiny winey. There's a reason every island knows it, from Jamaica to Trinidad, down to even Bahia in Brazil; even if people perform it with different styles and in different fashions. And it's because of the one thing we all have in common, but nuff of we choose to forget.
     Africa. Africans. Yes, them - the ancestors.

African Dance

     You see, from the earliest times, dancing has played significant roles in African societies. In day to day tribal life, dances were used to ward off evil, express emotions, display fertility, ask for blessings in peace and in war, and even worship in rituals. Not to mention, dance throughout the continent was also used in celebration ceremonies such as marriage, birth and harvest. In other words, dancing affirmed life.

     African dance is distinct in some ways from dancing in other parts of the world where a dancer's entire body acts as a single unit (you ever see people waltz?). In most areas around the world, dancers are taught to keep strict lines in body flow and movement. Not so in African dancing, where the dancer is almost always moving different sections of his/her body to different counts within the rhythm itself. The movement in African dance is much more complex as the various segments of the dancer's body move in conjunction with each other.

Caribbean Dance

     Now compare this to Caribbean dancing. Notice how in dancehall a woman will move her waistline in a different timing than her shoulders and arms. Just like in soca and calypso.
      Now except for spiritual dances like Nyahbingi and Shango, the dancing most of us do here in the West is celebratory and not so much spirituality. But you can still see Africa in the winding skill Caribbean women possess.
     Some things are just imbedded in the genes. Know thyself and recognize!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Longing for, More

"I was cold and I danced to keep warm."~ Josephine Baker
"Ms. Josephine-" Kaya Omodele replies, "this is why I write."

I've suffered a thousand deaths
caged in an eight-by-ten
a bull in a pen
pacing steps, grunting
confined in concreted spaces
designed to
gut spirit from ribs
and plastic wrap thoughts
in stifling loneliness.

When Lonely oozes through
these cinderblocks
and tussles with my dreams
sucking warmth from conscience;
you photos spark the darkness
with so much soul-rousing light,
you taste lingers, sweet,
like tongue kissing time.

Thought you're not here in my arms tonight
your memory I hug tight
I'm so longing for-
a hint of your scent
in that Egyptian-cotton, white sundress
wispy whispers, "Yes,"
of you.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blessed Earthday, Rastafari

There is no night in Zion, there is no night there
HalleluJah there is no night there
Rastafari is my light
I&I need no candle light
HalleluJah there is no night there.

"Let Jah arise and let his enemies be scattered: let them that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of Jah. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before Jah: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto Jah, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah (Rastafari) and rejoice before him."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Abeng Tribute: A Grandmother's Love

Abeng Tribute To A Grandmother's Love
by K.Omodele@TheAbeng

My grandparents' love was pure, over half-century cured. I don't mean theirs was the definition of love because dictionaries only spurt out academic verbiage. And my Grandparents' love wasn't that rhetorical, I-love-you kind of love; words lightly strung together to be routinely regurgitated on some exam day: subject, verb, object; sometimes dangling pacifiers, sometimes carefully placed manipulators, sometimes careless whispers. My Grandparents' love was none of those.

My grandparents' love lasted a lifetime- I witnessed this myself. They really and truly were best friends for life. Ever heard  about that love-you-til-we-old-and-gray love? They had that in real life.

Sure, they sucked teeth and threw words at each other from time to time, but they were forever doting on one another. He suffered from diabetes and she was riddled with arthritis. And so, every night they had this love ritual:

Since she could see the cc marks on the syringe better than he, she'd draw his dosage of insulin for him then pass him the needle. Then, she'd drip eye drops to treat his glaucoma and gently dab the excess that leaked out his eyes. Next, he'd break out the rubbing alcohol and ICY HOT and massage all her joints - knuckles, elbows, knees, ankles - for bout a whole hour while they watched TV. Every night they loved each other up this way. I saw it with my own eyes.

Granny's love is a living, being, doing thing, natural like breathing. Like, minding* a baby grandson so his mom could properly educate herself. And like, showing him how to use a rolling pin when making roti; how to grind real scorching scotch-bonnet and blazing bird peppers to make a loving batch of fire-pepper sauce. And how to dry pepper seeds by putting them out to sun; then once dried, she told me where and how to plant them (oh sorry, "sow" them) in soil.

Granny's love never wavered. Over decades, across borders, from Berbice to NY, raising children and grandchildren, through good and tough times, it never waned.
Even when mischief was tickling her bones.
"Grandma, I'm dapper like my grandfather, right?"
"Nah Boy. When that man used to walk down The Strand, every girl and they mother stop and stare." Smiling, eyes closed, face beaming at the recaptured image. "You handsome though, close."

Growing up, I loathed bringing strain to Granny's eyes. Couldn't begin to account the amount of wrinkles I etched in her face.

- "Ow Boy. How you could do something like THAT?"
- "You hard ears or what?"
- "You don't have no shame? You mustn't treat woman like that. You wouldn't want nobody treating your sister, or mother, or daughter so."
"But Granny, you don't see how she-"
"Go and tell her you sorry! You just like your father."
- "I was washing your pants and, here, what is THIS?!" As if she didn't already know the answer. "How much for this?"
"Ten dollars, Granny."
"For this lil bit a thing? You schupid or what?" Shaking her head.
I felt smaller than that bag of weed.

My grandfather transitioned twenty-three years ago and all them years my Grandmother laughed, and cried, and chastised, and ached, and cussed Donald Trump (long before he began popping up daily on CNN); and tantalized, and cooked, and gardened; and loved me, and love us all, our whole tribe, until she was ninety-four, going on ninety-five. And in all them years, she lived her life with fullness. But I always got the feeling she was waiting to see my Grandfather again.
On July 4th, she told my aunt she was tired.
"You hear that band playing?"
"What band, Mommy??" My aunt asked.
"You don't hear it?"
Then my Granny ascended to the ancestors. Left me in a total lunar eclipse - that's when your moon gone and you're left with a black and empty night.

But I know my Grandfather's grinning now. I hope he stocked up plenty of rubbing alcohol and ICY HOT.
They're never really Gone!
Never Forgotten!
Jah Bless.

* taking care of; raising

Monday, July 11, 2016

The African Diaspora: Scenes from Cuba (Vol. I)

The African Diaspora: Cubans of African Descent

The Caribbean island Republic of Cuba is culturally both Latin American and Spanish Caribbean. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade brought Africans whose massive contributions in culture have shaped Cuban culture as a whole.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

CARIBBEAN POETRY: If We Must Die by Claude McKay (Jamaican Poet and Novelist of The Harlem Renaissance)

If We Must Die
by Claude McKay

Strange Fruit

If we must die - let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die - oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

More about Claude McKay

Jamaican Claude McKay: Writer of the Harlem Renaissance

Caribbean Writer Claude McKay: Poet Laureate of the Harlem Renaissance
by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

Writer Claude McKay was a pre-eminent poet and novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. His experiences coming up in Colonial Jamaica in the late 1800's to the early 1900's heavily influenced McKay's writing; and his encounters with racism in America affected him deeply, just check out his defiance in "If We Must Die", one of my all-time favorite poems.

Claude McKay was born to farmers in the Jamaican countryside in 1889. In 1912 he published two books: Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads; both are volumes of poetry written in patois (Jamaican dialect patwa) and reflected McKay's belief in the resilience, self-sufficiency and strong community values shared by people of his rural Jamaica.

Claude McKay Comes to Harlem
Although migrated from Jamaica to the United States in 1912 to study agriculture at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, by 1914, he had move north to Harlem, like tens of thousands of African-Americans from the South, and immediately began writing poetry again. In 1919, he wrote the sonnet "If We Must Die"- a call to arms for African Americans to stand up to the violence being unleashed on blacks in that post World War I era. In that same year, Claude McKay became contributor and editor at The Liberator magazine.

McKay in Europe (Turns to Communism)
McKay grew angry , rebellious and increasingly more radical in his views against the oppression of blacks.  He attended the  Fourth Congress of The Third Communist International in Moscow in  1922 and by 1923 was living in Western Europe and Tangiers. But soon, he grew disillusioned by, and then became critical of, American, British and Soviet communists. By the 1930's, he abandoned communism altogether. In his vocal criticism of international communism, he never wavered in his championing of the cause of working-class blacks and never stopped bigging up the need for community development. By 1934 McKay was back in Harlem, USA, where he continued to write and publish.
The Claude McKay died in Chicago in 1948.

On June 2, 2016, in a proclamation that June had been declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, President Barack Obama stated "...the legacy of Caribbean Americans is one of tenacity and drive... and by carrying out Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay's call to 'strive on to gain the height/ although it may not be in sight', we can enable more young people, at home and in the Caribbean, to reach for the change that is within their grasp."*

* The Weekly Star (June 9-15, 2016 North American Ed., p.19): June Declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month

Cooper, Wayne F.. Claude McKay: Rebel Sojourner in the Harlem Renaissance: A Biography. Baton Rouge, LA, 1987

Claude McKay's Works

Songs of Jamaica (1912)
Constab Ballads (1912)
Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems (1920)
Harlem Shadows (1922)

Home to Harlem (1928)
Banjo (1929)
Banana Bottom (1933)

Collections of Short Stories
Gingertown (1932)

A Long Way from Home (1937)

Collection of Essays
Harlem, Negro Metropolis (1940)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Perceptions in The African Diaspora: Black History

African Diaspora 101: Black History
by K. Omodele .@TheAbeng

"It's not all that glitters is gold/and half the story has never been told..." 
~ Bob Marley; Peter Tosh

They gave the whole, entire month of February in recognition of Black History? Wow; Imagine! One problem with the whole dolly house, though; feels like somebody hand-picked history and white-washed the story with a set of sanitized plots. Now it's like viewing a cropped, air-brushed photo through a borrowed, out-of-focus lens. Our story needs narratives from our perspectives. Since, history hasn't delivered our Truth, we must demand our writers and djeles do so. (Calling all Diops, Fanons, Jan Carews and Rodneys)

You see, people's perceptions are based on our experiences and affect how we relate with each other and the world in general. As independent thinkers, our views shouldn't be founded on the mainstream; status quo views should not define our experiences for us. We must examine and discern from our experiences then propagate our own perspectives. And we don't need nobody else to validate our views.

Photo-cropped Heroes and Sanitized Plots: Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro

Take Nelson Mandela's visit with Fidel Castro, for instance. Soon after he was freed from prison in 1990, Mandela went to Cuba to meet the Cuban leader. Tata Madiba's face was beaming with reverence as he shook Castro's hand and asked why the Comrade  had not come to Africa as yet. Right then, BRADAP, a whole slew of politicians, media and Cuban exiles started ranting and railing, bawling 'bout how Mandela friending-up this "evil dictator" so. Some of us who didn't know the fullness of our story, black history, might have scratched our heads wondering the same thing.

But see! Look how history done blurred up the lens and fogged up we views. In reality, Fidel Castro supported the African fight for liberation from colonialism way back in the 1960's when Che Guevara set up camp in the then, so-called Belgian Congo; then, Mr. Castro supported Africans again in the Seventies and Eighties by sending tens of thousands of Cuban troops to Angola to fight  alongside the MPLA* against the Portuguese and an invading South African army.

Now for those of us who can't remember, in them days, Britain and the U.S. backed the racist, apartheid South African government and opposed Mandela and the A.N.C.**, branding them terrorists, subversive elements, etc. Back then, Madiba was vilified by many in the West, let's not forget. To many, he was on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, the left side of the Cold War. It didn't matter to them that he was fighting for black people's human rights, fighting against racist oppression and colonialism. And so was the MPLA.

In its December 20, 2013 edition, THE WEEK magazine reported Peter Beinert stating on that "America isn't always a force for freedom," and pointed out how Reagan and other conservatives viewed the plight of Black South Africans "through a Cold War lens," when they politically supported the murderous apartheid regime.

So see? People need to learn what's going on for ourselves and stop relying on the mainstream media to shape our views. I am not necessarily endorsing Castro nor condemning Reagan; I'm just making the point that the status quo and popular opinion are subject to change. Mandela, like Muhammad Ali, was reviled by many in the mainstream at one time. Slavery was legal in most countries at one time. Black history is our story and we must not rely on someone else to relay our stories. If we do, then expect that our perspectives might be distorted. To paraphrase The Right and Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, we need to  see the world through our own spectacles. In other words, through our own lens, in our own voice. "None but ourselves can free our minds."

*Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola
**African National Congress

Sunday, June 19, 2016


by K. Omodele .@TheAbeng

I got three bredren who have a total of eleven different baby mothers - that's three point six, six... baby mothers a piece. And each one of these bredren have drama with at least one of their baby mothers, and personal conflict with at least one of their youth. Because, when a man chooses to settle down with one out of multiple baby mothers, then somebody down the line will feel left behind, left out, left alone, which is only natural.

See what happened is, these bredren were just in their teens when they began making babies. And none of us at that age was really prepared for parenthood-not the bredren nor the young baby mothers. And none of us were yet mature enough to commit weself to a relationship; after all, flinging and planting seed is how we validated our manhood. So we bouncing over here, bouncing over there, we bouncing all over the place, not committing to no one-somebody. Which turned out detrimental to the social development of some of these children.

I don't have any youth of my own, but I got enough nephews and nieces and god children to see clearly that children need social stability and structure. Most children I know who are well-nurtured in family units with two loving, mature and committed parents, generally turn out more comfortable with their space in the world. They tend to get along better in social groups. When a child grows up seeing his or her parents respecting one another, that child stands a better chance navigating his or her own relationships. They have better examples from which to draw.

But on the next hand, the children whose parents, one, aren't together; and, two, stay quarrelling and fussing and fighting, some of these children grow angry and distrusting and disconnected. To me, the greatest gift a father can give his child is love the child's mother. Simple. Love the woman who brought your child into the world.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


                                          Letter To The Indomitable, Muhammad Ali
                                                    by K. Omodele .@TheAbeng

As Salaam Alaikum, Ahkee Muhammad,

Been taking in hours of documentaries, interviews, sound bytes and clips of your remarkable life, Champ. Nothing much new, seen most of them before. Seems like your spirit has been with me since I was a child. My Grandfather (Jah Bless) lionized you, my father idolized you; Mommy, Aunties, Uncles, they chanted your name, relayed your stories, with reverence like djeles. Sometimes people chatter gleefully about your rapid-fire hands and gazelle-like feet; but it's your unconquerable, indomitable spirit that my tribe exalts most.

Which is why I was baffled when, in your 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley, you retreated off camera stating that you didn't want people feeling sorry for you, that no one should pity you.

Brother, Dada, Baba, Bredren, don't you know...?

One has to have been defeated or shorted in some form or fashion in order to be pitied. Ali, you showed us how to beat back formidable foes like you pummeled Parkinson; you stood toe to toe with Sonny, blow for blow with Smokin' Joe; you rumbled in that jungle and small axed that giant mahogany George. Though you were strapped to the post and whipped like Kunta Kinte by Uncle Sam, you held firm in defiance. "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger." Your head held high, back cocked straight, standing square on principle.

You held your ground knowing your stance was unpopular, unorthodox, many hated you for jabbing from your hip at the war, throwing left hooks weighed with jarring truths and straight rights loaded with human rights.
Haters spat. "How dare he bite the hand that feeds!"
But we, the poor and oppressed of the world, saw David (Dawoud) cock his sling at Goliath; we heard you, we felt you, we cheered as you floated above all rings, like Mandela and Mohandas transcended all courtrooms, like Malcolm and Martin transcended pulpits, like Marley transcended  sound stages and booths, until the whole world thawed in that light that is Muhammad Ali, The Indomitable.

Peace and love be unto you, Honorable.
Never Gone! Never Forgotten!

Monday, May 23, 2016


                                      Abeng Prison Short Story: Letting Go
                                              copyright 2016 K. Omodele

He drags himself into the visitation booth and the girls are already standing there droopy-eyed, like a mother and her two puppies crunched up in a kennel-sized space.
Chassidy's the younger girl, the one with the puzzle-locked brows, eyes climbing them pus-colored, cinderblock walls. Realizing I'm on the other side of the Plexiglas, she slaps it. Her voice comes through the speak hole.
"Why you did'unt pick us up from school yesterday?"
He says nothing, just sits and locks his eyes tight for a second, willing himself onto their side of the glass.
Opens them and Chassidy catches his vibe.
"You was in there?"
She frowns, turns and gazes up at Stacy who bends and hugs his Goddaughter.
Stacy parts the two girls and takes a seat on the single stool.
When Chassidy spins back around to find him, a million and one pink-white-red barrettes dance like Tinkerbelles around her shoulders.
Stacy's daughter, Cam, pushes herself up to the glass. She's a few months older than Chass, but looks a full-year bigger, and they're sporting matching barrettes like the Williams sisters. Cam balls her mouth up in a pout.
"Miss Hunter was mad at you. She made us wait in her office for-" she looks at her fingers, counting."-hundred hours after school."
Stacy rolls her eyes. "She called me about 3:30. Had to up and leave work to go get them. You know the school don't like baby sitting."
Embarrassment swells and leaps into his throat and he can see them waiting, buses cleared out, teachers and other kids gone. Just the two of them, the last ones after school. Waiting for him.

Had been late a few times before; but ain't never been this late, though, not stuck-in-jail-outta-town-can't-get-back-to-Charlotte late. And after the third or fourth time, the principal Ms. Hunter kidnapped him in her office.
"You can't be late picking the girls up! If you can't pick them up by 3:00, enroll them in an afterschool program!"
He can see her now, pacing the sidewalk in the parking lot, checking her watch and straining her neck to see if he was pulling up. Then, she'd march the girls to the office then try my cell phone. After that, she'd call Stacy as last resort.

His whole face is blood-hot. Took a year for Chassidy to settle in, make friends at school, get use to living with Stacy and Cam. Her Daddy been locked up two years now, with over twelve more to go. Now, her Mama and Godfather behind bars, too, and they're 'bout to pull some time. The girl can't catch a break.
He sighs. I'm going through this bullshit, again??!
"Pupa-" Stacy pauses like she deciding what part of his head she can drop more problems. "They didn't want release the car so I got the lawyer to threaten them. He said the car wasn't part of nothing; they ain't find nothing in it, so they ain't had no right to confiscate it. So, they released it, but now it's in the pound and I gotta wait 'til tomorrow to get it. Five hundred dollars. For one night in the pound? AND, I gotta get Mommy to take off work to drive it back..."
He sits his head in his hands. Usually loves them soup-coolers she got; but right now, they keep yap-yap-yapping and all he can hear is the judge:
"Remand, without bail!"
Going through THIS bullshit, AGAIN??!

"Your Grandma called. I can't keep saying you outta town. Feel like I'm lying to the lady, Pupa."
She calls him Pupa, even though he's not her daughter's father. Hell, he ain't nobody's father; just been playing daddy, responsible for other people's children. Won't have a chance to have one of his own no time soon, either, the way shit looks now.
Stacy's eyes are bloodshot; lashes wet and pasty, like broken-down Tammy Baker. He touches the glass, wishing he could stroke the weariness from her face. Together, out there, they been  like Menelik and Taytu warring against the Italians. But this isn't his first ride and he knows how this will end.
The girls jockey for space between Stacy's legs and it turns into a rumble.
Stacy hisses. "Girls, fucking settle down! NOW!!"
The two freeze like that red-light, green-light game. Stacy hauls each one onto a knee.
Chassidy whines. "When you coming home?"
Now Cam goes. "You gonna pick us up tomorrow?"
"Pupa, what the fuck? I gotta put them in afterschool, at least 'til you get bail."
He looks her straight, through and through.
"Probably ain't getting no bail," he says.
The corners of her eyes turn down and the light on their side of the glass dims. Now he know it for sure- she ain't gonna make it on her own.
He clears his throat. "Look here! We ain't from around here, so they say I'm a flight risk. I got another bond hearing in two days but they gonna want a secured bond like a house deed."
"So, give them the house, then."
"Ain't enough equity in it. If they do gimme a bond, probably gonna be sky-high. You just gotta be strong for the girls now. Reign in all that spending."
Together, the girls chant. "You gonna pick us up tomorrow?"

He leans forward on his stool, touches the glass and remembers a movie scene where someone in jail did the exact same thing. Three hands shoot to the spot where his hand rests. His eyes get a little more moist than a man in jail should let his eyes get, so he struggles and strains but feels like the little boy with his finger in the dyke.
Then, a single, silent drop leaks out. But before it can stream down his face, he wipes it quick. And smiles.
Too late! Now they're on the other side of the glass, shedding tears.
Enough of this shit. He commands. "Ey, hold up! Don't cry!"
But none of them stop.
He lets them go on for a few minutes. Then asks:
"Cam, you behave yourself in school today? You gotta behave now; Stacy can't be taking off work to meet with your teachers 'cause you ain't got no behavior, you hear me? You can't get into trouble, now, I ain't there to run down to school."
Cam sniffles and fights to compose herself. Nods yes, lips trembling.
"Good! Don't let me hear you messing up, now. You gotta help me." He turns to Chass. "And, You; you gotta feed Merciless and Castro for me, every day."
Chass releases, softly. "OK," with a fraudulent shyness, because he knows she's giddy inside. She loves feeding and bathing them Rottweiler pups. She sinks back into Stacy's buxom.
"When you gonna come home." Sticks her thumb in her mouth.
"I don't know yet."
Cam, wet-eyed, stares his jump suit up and down. "They not gunna let you come home?"
Chassidy removes her thumb with a smack. "No Cam. He's in jail. Like my Daddy." She sounds like Ms Hunter, the principal. Turns to me, thinks, then says, "You hafta tell them dat you gotta pick us up from school. Den they gunna hafta let you come home."
"Yeeeaaah." Cam co-signs like it's the best idea since mac and cheese for breakfast.
Stacy rolls her eyes and grins. For the first time today, there's a radiance lining the room.
But he knows this is the beginning of the end. He hears change rolling up rapidly like a prison-bound bus. He knows from experience that chances are slim, even if Stacy doesn't realize it herself. Things won't be the same as yesterday.
He's torn whether to tell her now or later. Was it too soon? Should he wait?
"Listen!" He feels a knife slicing through him, deeply and repeatedly. "Next time you come, don't bring the girls."
The girls whine. "Whyyyy??"
His heart drops but it's inevitable, the way this familiar dance ends. It's just a matter of time before he's left clutching a bag of memories.
"Stacy, I need to talk to you alone. Don't bring them next time!"
She looks confused.
He'll let them go, then.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cultural Branding: The Maasai And The Marley Estate

                                The Branding of The Maasai and Bob Marley
                                          by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

Before I read Johnna Rizzo's Culture Stock (National Geographic .@NatGeo - the Dec., 2013 issue) a couple days ago, I didn't even know that there are over 80 products labeled "Maasai" without this people's
consent. Oh, and many of these products are luxury items, by the way- cars, jewelry, etc. The whole thing (branding without the Maasai's permission) got so bad that the people started the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative (MIPI) to corral the exploitation and blatant disrespect.
Isaac ole Tialolo of the MIPI says, "As the cultural owners, we want respect. We want to protect our heritage."
The MIPI's plan of action was to screen any future product branding requests and examine the market for current products bearing the Maasai brand name.

So now, all this had me meditating on the whole commercialization of people's culture, again. My mind hopped back to the Snapchat filter, the Bob Marley-dreadlocks fiasco. Then, remember back in the day when the Marley estate did copyright protect his name and image? Nuff people saw this as some "babylon business," that somehow this was incorporating Rasta, fetching it to market, moving it to commerce. (Maybe I was even one of them, I was younger and more idealistic then)

But if you really stop and give the idea a firm meditation, somebody, somewhere, would've been capitalizing off of Bob by now, riding donkey dollars, piling up mounds of English pounds, or stacking mountains of Yen. That is for certain. So, it was a sound and practical decision by the Marley estate, one that prevented exploitation of that man's legacy before the fuckery even started. And we all know the saying, "Prevention better than cure."

Bless up yourself, don't bother stress up yuhself.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Was Marlon James' Review of "The Blacker The Berry" on Point?

                        The Marlon James Article Dissecting Kendrick Lamar's Lyrics
                                                     in "The Blacker The Berry"
                                                by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

At first glance, Marlon James' article "The Blacker The Berry" in The New York Times Magazine had me squinting my eyes, wondering how he could be so out of tune. In this issue, 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going, Marlon was reviewing hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar's The Blacker The Berry (from the album To Pimp A Butterfly); but in my opinion, the writer wasn't getting the fullness of the lyrics. Not that I didn't understand Marlon's views and conclusions, I just couldn't believe how off-key he was in interpreting Kendrick's art.

Take for instance Kendrick's lyrics in the third verse:
"It's funny how Zulu and Xhosa might go to war.../ Remind me of these Compton Crip gangs that live next door."

Marlon James response was that "...those are two nations going to war. And, fine war is hell, but if Britain and France aren't called thugs for Waterloo, if Lancaster and York aren't called bangers despite literally being family killing family, then why do Zulu vs. Xhosa get compared to warfare?"
But wait, Marlon, firing logic based on presumptions implying that Kendrick doesn't or wouldn't label those European combatants as thugs or bangers, indicates you have missed the whole target in the comparison. He's not reducing Zulu and Xhosa nations' war and comparing it to gang warfare; he's implying that it's black-on-black violence either way. Whether it be gangbanging, PNP vs. Laborite*, Hutus vs. Tutsis, despite the different ideological causes of these conflicts, they're all the same kind of tribalism/tribal war. It's black people killing black people, that's the point. You're making it about something else, even though your point is generally valid.

Then, Kendrick spits:
"So don't matter how much I say I like to preach like Panthers/ or tell Georgia State 'Marcus Garvey got all the answers'/...So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street/ When gangbanging make me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hypocrite!"

Marlon's take on these lyrics amazed me.
"...a black man invoking the detestable slogan of black-on-black crime to prevent himself from mourning the unjustifiable homicide of a black boy."
What!? the author was off base, again. Marlon's disconnect to Kendrick's lyrics had me shaking my head. ( prevent himself from mourning...?!!)

But finally, near the end of the review, Marlon had one of them ah-ha moments and gained clarity that Kendrick's narrative is a work of fiction that reveals truth; that Kendrick isn't speaking to or for the community, that Kendrick is speaking AS the community- those of us who may have cried over Trayvon and yet been contributors to black-on-black crime.
Still, I questioned if Marlon REALLY gets it when he further states that Kendrick's point of view "was just a man wondering how someone gets to be part of the Black Lives Matter conversation when black lives don't matter to him."

That's not what I get from Kendrick's words. For me, the lyrics highlight the duality in humanity- the good and bad in us all. How we can cry for injustices whipped across our backs, yet crack the same whip against others, just the same. Who feels it, knows it!
A man's perspective is based on his own experiences.

*political party conflicts in Jamaica

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Snapchat, Don't Take Rastafari For Joke Business

                                                   by Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng Snapchat released a Bob Marley filter on/4/20 (April 20)  and people began striking out against it almost immediately. Now, some people mightn't understand the whole controversy, so here it is in a nutshell. You (Snapchat) letting users make their selfie images look like Bob Marley, complete with dreadlocks, skin tone and tam, is like you're taking the culture and turning it into one, big poppy show. NOT a good look! "...Bob Marley's music has done more to popularize the real issues of the African liberation movement than several decades of backbreaking work of Pan-Africanists and international revolutionaries." ~ Eusi Kwayana in Rasta And Resistance. You see, Bob Marley is our messenger, like a prophet, a social and cultural conscience. And, Rastafari is not a play-play thing, even though it might seem like dreadlocks is just a hairstyle nowadays. But know this: natty dreadlocks are sacred to Rastafari; they are an expression, a symbol, of a Rastaman's (or Rastawoman's) covenant to Jah Almighty. Dreadlocks are as important a symbol to Rastafari as a cross is to a Christian, as a beard is to an Orthodox Jew or a Muslim. Snapchat, you wouldn't provide a filter featuring that pointed, papal hat, would you? Or, a kufi, a hijab? Or Cheyenne chief Two Moon's headdress? (But maybe you see nothing wrong with "redskin" images either) The point is, Rastafari elders were persecuted back in the day- locked up, dreadlocks forcibly shorn. At  Coral Gardens in Jamaica some were killed. In Dominica, the John government gave the green light to shoot to kill any dreadlocks found trespassing on private property. So, please, don't bother with all these faux-dread tams, the dreadlock filters, and all the other Sambo-like caricaturizing of Rasta. Don't take Rasta for no joke business!
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