Friday, August 9, 2019

Fall for Anything

In the spirit of Toni Morrison, I just gotta write, y'all.

So. My oldest daughter started (public school) kindergarten the other day.

Now, anyone who knows my deepest, most personal feelings--and of course that would be no one, since I'm a scorpio, or...whatever--knows how heavily just stating the above weighs on my heart.

Even before I ever had children I was adamant that they would be home schooled or educated in some other capacity that does not involve the foolery that often comes with the US public school system.  I've been through it, I've worked in it, so I feel pretty justified in acknowledging it as foolery.  Generally speaking.

Not subjecting my children to a lot of the miseducation, lies, suppression, and programming that comes along with it was a primary goal.  Yet, when the father of the children--yo husband who also knows about the foolery--has a differing idea around it all, you sometimes find yourself in a position of concession, particularly when you've moved to a "good neighborhood" and a "good school district" that your husband feels will benefit the children greatly.  Fine.  She can go.  Plus, this is Hawai'i. Surely it won't be as worsem (<<< southern talk)  as in other places.  Although I fought it internally for all the months leading up to this point and my heart still isn't settled, she went.  I know it won't kill her, and given her analytical and inquisitive capacity that I will not allow to be subdued, she'll wade through the b.s. with my assistance.   Plus, homeschooling always has been and will continue to be a part of her experience.

That being said.  We arrived at the school for the first half-day. I entered the room with my baby and looked around to get an idea of what all this is going to be about, as I have read much about what 5-year-olds must go through now days in order to meet certain educational criteria set forth by a bunch of people who are maybe trying to keep up with what more educationally advanced countries have going on in terms of public education, yet who really aren't paying attention and are still pretty off base. 

Nonetheless, she's there for it.

Now, I had previously attended a parent orientation for new kindergartners, during which time a lot of my anxiety was abated. I mean, no, it wasn't going to really be anything like the awesome, awesome, AWESOME play and nature-based children's program that she has attended for the past year, but I was assured that 1.) they wouldn't kill her and 2.) they had a range of enriching elective courses that many other local schools lack  that even the kindergartner's would participate in such as foreign language (which turns out not to be too foreign given that the language is Japanese, and we live in a predominately Japanese community where the language seems to be spoken regularly by adults and children alike!), Hawaiiana, music, technology, and STEM.  Plus possible after school activities include everything from mindfulness and mediation to hula to chemistry/zoology/STEM/Robotics & coding.  We're here for it all.  In fact, can she just show up after school ends for those programs??
 

Happiness! On her birthday at the awesome play center in her handmade unicorn dress.


After the orientation, I had one question for the counselors who were in attendance: Do these teachers have the students saying the Pledge of Allegiance as part of their morning routine?  "Not necessarily," I was told.  Apparently each teacher chooses what will constitute the morning-time process in their classroom. It sounded nothing like what my peers and I were subjected to day in and day out as part of my public school education growing up in Louisiana, as a morning "helper" would stand in front of the intercom system down in the office and lead us all in a slow and dragging recitation of, "I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America............" before going on to read what was on the lunch menu for the day.

The programming is complete, as I and likely others reading this post can recite those word backwards, forward, up to down and sideways.  But that's not programming I want for my children.  My mother didn't know any better than to have me go along with the program, but thankfully the sacrifices she and others made for me have allowed me to know better.  And, as folk like to say, when you know better, you do better. 

The counselor's words made me feel assured that this mindless and blind recitation was not part of the programming that their school was doling out in general.  Well, my assurance was premature.  On the first day, I learned from the teacher that, yep, the Pledge of Allegiance would be how they would start their morning.  Immediately in my mind, I'm like...

Skeeeeeeeeeer!! Pump the brakes!

and

Hol' up, now!

and

STOP! STOP! STOP!

and

NO! NO! NO!

and

WHY! WHY! WHY!

and
 
Just whyyyyyyy! It is SO very unneccessary and just holds too much historical and cultural weight for certain groups of people.   These are babies.  Why must y'all start already with this indoctrination?  At 8:05 in the morning? Come on, now.  Give them a chance to grow, see, and learn and decide how they want to relate to it all.  

and

And, y'all still wanna act like Hawai'i isn't a stolen kingdom???  Why y'all way out here in the Pacific carrying on in this way?

and 

Puh-leeeeaaase miss me with the shallow and basic arguments sprinkled with key words and content like "patriotism" and "if you don't like it go somewhere else" and "you trying to say you hate America?" and whatever other kool-aid and honey bun meaningless, repetitive nonsense y'all like to throw out there when any opposition to the brainwashing comes up.  We're too far along in the game for any and all of that to still be the square folk choosing to stand on rather than having some real dialogue. 

These are all things I thought. But really, I don't even think the latter was relevant, considering the cultural background of her teacher, but I still thought it in the spirit of the regular ol' b.s. that comes up when people take a stand against oppression.

Not so happy.  Same dress. Kindergarten, Day 1.  *Siiiiggggh*...


I just can not have my baby doing that.  I just can't.  So, I explained to the teacher and my child that she (my child) is to remain seated when it's taking place.  Still, my spirit wasn't settled knowing she'd be in the classroom hearing those words out of context everyday with no in-depth understanding of what they even mean, as I'm not even ready to take the conversation there with her yet.  So, I then emailed the principal with a letter that explained my concerns, talked about history/culture, and said some other stuff about true education. My request was to stand outside of the classroom each morning with my child--or something--until that ritual was done.   His reply was as
follows:

Thank you for your thoughtful email. While I do believe that there's a place for this morning ritual  in our schools, I do want to be mindful of other viewpoints and positions when it comes to participating in the pledge of allegiance. If you feel Wangari would not be comfortable sitting down during the pledge, I'm confident we can find an appropriate accommodation. As for your other suggestion, I'm not so sure having her stay outside with you until it's done is sending her the right message. If you don't mind, let me work with Mrs. --- and see what we can come up with.

Once again, I truly appreciate your message and will get back to you shortly. Looking forward to working with you and your family.
 
Ok. I can get with that. Cause goodness knows when I left that school after having cried with my baby who didn't want to stay, I was bout to go tell her daddy, "I'm homeschooling her whether you like it or not and whether this is one of the "best schools" or not, dammit!"  Either that or try to sell an organ in order to send my baby to the nature-based Montessori school in the other direction down the street just to avoid this type of nonsense.  Yes, I can be passionate, intense, and relentless but I told y'all earlier I'm a scorpio.  Or whatever.

Y'all. This is all on the first day of school, which was only a few short hours.  But I recall someone I really admire always saying, "Get in early, get in deep." I had to let it be known up front how I feel about this and--if only for my own child-- break up the monotony and thoughtless, repetitive actions that have potential to lead to docility.

I will write a letter with the quickness.  In fact, the director from my girls' play/nature based children's center that I spoke highly of earlier informed me in an email today that she'd managed to have a particular high-health risk meat product removed from their lunch menu.  Back in May when I learned that they had switched providers for their food program and that the new company would serve said meat product, I had to let them know that I'd be sending my babies with food from home on the days that it was served and that they should highly reconsider giving that to the children in general.  A few weeks later, she wrote me to say that she'd had the number of days it was served reduced. I was pleased with that, as it went from maybe twice a week to about three times a month.  Fewer days that I had to scramble to put together lunch on the days they attended, as I was fine with them eating there on the days the product wasn't served.  Today in an email to me she said:

Also, I was able to get the ---- removed from the menu, hopefully starting in beginning of Fall.
 
Then after I responded, she replied:
 
And their prep of it was yucky too 😯

I'm just really sharing all of this to say that it is imperative that we speak out against the things that we know in our spirits are not right. It can certainly be frightening being out there on a limb alone--as this is what so often comes with the territory when others are complacent or uncomfortable saying what they might feel in their hearts.  But we really just have to do it. 

When things like this come up, I always, always think of what Nas said:

We know too much now, and we've seen too much now.  So, ain't nothing gon stop us now.  
 
"Just trying to fight for what's real."




 

Friday, July 12, 2019

More Bounce


The other day as my girls jumped in a bouncy house at their friend's going away party, I stared at the imagery of Ariel of The Little Mermaid, and said silently to myself, "Dang."  In my mind I thought of this whole notion of "representation matters" and how even though I had grown up watching Ariel and the gang without a second, third, or fourth thought about her looks and how non-representative they were of my own or the possible--not necessarily inevitable, but possible--effects such imagery could play into my self conscious, seeing my girls and the other children whose essences also contrasted greatly from Ariel's made me cringe a little.


Screenshot from a video I made that day


See, although it wasn't done for me (and I guess I still turned out ok), I'm highly selective of the imagery my girls consume. At least I am to the best of my ability.  They know I'll say with the quickness, "Hmmmm...I'm not seeing any people of color," when we're watching a video or other imagery with a large group of children or people in general who are overwhelmingly Eurocentric in nature (since that's been THE most dominating, mainstream-in-the-US-at-least depiction of characters and people in cartoons and such, right?) .  It's important to me that they understand that, it's cool; everybody is not going to look like you or you like everybody, but be discerning.  Know when it's gone too far or when you're constantly internalizing imagery where you're not represented.  That's important.  Implications of these things upon the subconscious and self-identity are relevant.  As a result of my interjections, they now point out when there are "brown people" or people with hair that looks like theirs with much glee and satisfaction.  I just need them to be aware.   I'm thankful that they're able to grow up in a place as diverse as Hawai'i but also recognize that they still don't see a whole lot of people who look like them.  One day they will recognize it and verbalize it, and I'm hopeful to know just what to say to them to engender understanding, insight, and reflection.  

^^^^

Despite it all, they bounced in the Ariel-decorated inflated structured without a care in the world.  They couldn't care less about Ariel and the baggage of historical underrepresentation that has plagued society for so long.  The thing that mattered to them was that the thing was there, and they could get in it and jump.  So, I kept my thoughts to myself and let the chirren be!


                                     Artwork by https://www.instagram.com/p/BzhagU0lmjN/?utm_source=ig_embed. 

I mean, not that Ariel and The Little Mermaid are something my girls will watch anytime soon no matter in whose image she's depicted, cause she's got way too much going on for them to be trying to mentally sort through anyway.  However, I will say that I can appreciate the imagery above.  It'll be fun for them to see some of the artwork and perhaps film imagery that all of this has inspired and will inspire.  

And I found this open letter to the mad people--cause somebody's always mad--entertaining. 



  AND, to get to the most relevant part of this post, here's the video of my youngest daughter in the bouncy house.  She does not like these things and has always refused to step foot in one.  On this day we are at the part for 5 hours.  During the fourth hour, after responding with an emphatic NO! earlier in the day when asked whether she wanted to go inside, she decided to make her way over there and give it a go.  




Yeah, she held down that one spot the entire time, but she had the most fun she had had all day!




Funny girl! 


Edited to add this.



I'm not too up on mermaid mythology from any culture, but it's interesting. 



Sunday, May 26, 2019

Politics at the Playground

Recently, as my girls played on a slide at our neighborhood playground, a very arrogant man approached me and rudely said in such an inappropriate way these exact words:

"Your kid is blocking the slide.  Do you want me to tell her to move, or are you going to do it?'

*Time stopped for me*
"Breathe, Mama, breathe," I told myself.



"I'll do it," I said with a sharp glare in my eyes and a sarcastic tight smirk on my face. He had to feel me looking straight through him.  

For about 10 seconds I sat there on my sarong under a shady tree and thought of 5 different ways I could question this man in a not so pleasant  manner about his audacity to even open his mouth to me in such a way. Everyone of the ways started with m*thaf*cker and included m*thaf*ckin.  But...the innocent babies played nearby. 

"Well go ahead then," he said as he made a sweeping motion with his hand prompting me to proceed with the order he'd just issued.


  "Breeeeaaaathe," I coached myself.

History flashed before me.  Every word that I have read on paper, every story I have heard , and every memory that I have pertaining to the assault on and mistreatment of black people--particularly women--by white men of authority or not became present in a second.  Mainly, I pictured the sister Mona from the film Sankofa taking a machete to an inhumane imbecile who thought he had dominion over her body and control of her actions.


Still, I kept my composure.  

But he didn't understand or take seriously enough the implications of the moment, the situational context.  He didn't realize that the healing, the repair, is not completeand has not really even been initiated.

*** 
A bit of backstory:  My 4-year-old has this thing of sitting at the top of the slide under its dome covering, pretending as though it were her castle.  Typically when we're at the playground I have to remind her to not do this, because other children may want to get in that spot in order to slide.  I had reminded her of this twice already that day, even when no other kids were attempting to slide.  It's something I always work to make her cognizant of, because she can be obsessive about her desires.  At this particular moment that it was occurring again, my head was partly in a book, so I wasn't privy to what was going on.

I went over and corrected her once more, and said not an unkind word to the man. Although in my speech, I did make it known to her--and him--that no person without the decency or know how of appropriately addressing a concern pertaining to children playing on a playground needs to even consider opening his mouth to her or any other child who is not their own offspring to say a-ny-thing

Now, this--what always feels like an attack on my humanity--has happened three times during the nearly six years that I have been in Hawai'i.  Each time the constant source of the initiating remark of disrespect came from the tongue of 50+ European-American male.  They've come here from some place in the states and--as they have done historically--asserted themselves as the dominant force in the area despite the native inhabitants and mores of the land. It's almost as though they lack the capacity to  implant themselves in a humble way in a place where the underlying theme is Aloha, literally meaning "the presence of breath" (ha) or "the breath of life." Interestingly, such people here are referred to as "haole" literally meaning "no breath."

Of course, all of this is relative.  My former next door neighbor and father of my one of my girls' playmates also falls into the 50+ European-American male category, and he is one of the most kind, respectful, giving, and relatable people I know.  So, this isn't to paint the picture with a broad brush, since there are obviously exceptions to the fools.
(Hopefully the above doesn't sound too much like a reversed version of, "I got black friends.")

In my experience out here, only a very few of them will still try the predictable mess that they so comfortably pull with people--namely people of color--in the states. Most have learned out of necessity and a will to stay alive to come humbly in these islands. 

I saw this on Instagram recently, and OH! how it speaks directly to my soul in moments like this.  I laughed out loud at it for a good three minutes.  




But I typically try to keep the Khalid and Malcolm part of me in check while letting an updated version of Martin play the main role. It is not always easy when it comes to my babies, but I do put forth effort--as long as things don't get out of hand. I see myself as mellow, but that revengeful scorpio thing is real in my experience.

(Although, it didn't end too well for one of these characters who verbally assaulted me a couple of years ago as I--with sleeping child in arms--approached the door of the building in which we lived. You can't always just get away with telling people to "go back to where you came from."   We pretty much ignored the man going off on us up to that point.   I can not say with certainty that this man would not have shot me and my family if he'd had a gun, all because my husband had stopped  the car in front of the door in the rain to allow me and my child to run in and avoid getting too soaked in the downpour. Read here for the kind of madness that people like this are capable of.)

There's usually a right way and a wrong way to address situations with which you disagree. Some people lack understanding of the former. 


Although I mostly bit my tongue and held back words with the foolish man at the playground, there were countless mean things I could have said, wanted to say, and maybe should have said to set him straight at least in that moment.  I just hope, though, that for the sake of his cute little girls who will navigate this world as part him and part their Japanese mother, that his undeniable illness and lack of respect he clearly holds for people with whom he does not or can not identify does not become an overarching force in their lives.   

Lil Miss "Troublemaker" striking poses with her new ball shortly after the incident, unfazed.


I admit that I stared this man down for the remainder of the time he was out there and in my view, smiling intermittently.  His voice was shaky and nervous as they passed me by leaving the park.  He said, "Bye, now."  I replied --with that tight smirk on my face, "Have a great day!" One of his daughter's waved at me, to which I replied, "By, Sweetie," giving her no indication of the 257 ways I had cussed out her daddy in my mind.  

*****

When I saw this man approach the playground with his family, I envisioned exactly what would ultimately go down, and it did exactly as I saw it--everything from my daughter seating herself at the top of that slide to that man coming at me wrong because of it.  His energy was just off.  As such, I actually moved myself and the girls away from the playground for a while, and we went and sat down under the tree to drink water and eat fruit.  Eventually, though, lured by the excitement of more children having fun in the sun, she made her way back over there.    The increase in instinct that I have experienced since becoming a mother is amazing, and I need to tap into it more consistently!




Sunday, March 17, 2019

While I Wait...

These thoughts are formulating for new posts.  I'm writing and thinking about writing.

In the meantime, I've just been taken aaaalll the way back to like...2004 or 5 when I was first turned on to Lizz Wright. I was surely in love with this woman's voice and music, so much so that I had to drive from my home three hours to Houston, TX to witness her live.

*Chills*

That's one thing I miss now living out here in the Pacific Ocean: musical concerts and driving a state over if need be to witness those artists I love.  Nobody (I really wanna see) comes way out here!  😩

Here are two of my favorite Lizz Wright songs.







Saturday, January 5, 2019

New Years Be Like

"It's very rare, and it's from your culture, " the sweet little man in an eclectic shop of treasures down in Chinatown told us. A shop, where upon entry, you're enveloped by Buddhist vibes and the smell of incense.  We'd been there before, during which time I'd purchased a few pairs of really nice earrings--one pair made by the man's wife. This time we were back celebrating the life of our newly-turned-two-years-old daughter. A gift for baby and also one for Mama for being Mama and giving birth to baby. During both of our visits, the shop owner was adamant about us leaving with a string of his collection of very rare African glass beads.  It's what we'd returned to consider.


We were greeted at the door with a smile.  He saw us coming, and he saw us.  He tuned into my exhaustion, offering a place to sit and some water--room temperature  or cold. Then, "Don't let the child make you nervous," he instructed my husband who is usually on edge regarding the shenanigans of our 4-year-old.  Of course, being in the presence of an abundance of breakable invaluables and antiques had her wanting to assess it all with her busy little hands. Every other word out of her father's mouth was instruction to "stop" or "don't touch." Anxiety was at a heightened level, for sure. 



The African presence in Honolulu, though a rarity, is notable.  Still, we knew when we were in the shop a month prior that all of the same bead necklaces would be there on our next visit. Although the owner has been in business for over 40 years, it didn't seem that patrons were just knocking down the doors to get at the various African treasures contained within it, no matter how attractive and rare.   Despite its scarcity, the cost of the string of beads didn't break our budget, for which I was grateful.  

Although we might wear them on rare occasions, the beads are a future gift for the little one.  She appreciates the vibrant colors and the bumpy feel when she runs her fingers over the row of beads.  Someday she will understand their history.    

Then there's the antique coral on a silver chain for me.  It was nearly not apparent, but then its presence and essence were undeniable.  Typically I'd say, "It's really not my style," yet it was actually quite perfect for me in that moment. We see it as representing  our recent loss: A conception unknown and lost in the course of hours on the first day of the year.  A single red drop, only minimally representative of the reality of what occurred, yet sufficient all the same.  We four were almost five.



We're only a few days in, and 2019 has already been a roller coaster ride--at least what I imagine one must be like.  I'm thankful for those around me and this beautiful and diverse place in which we live. My baby is TWO! The inevitability of this truth doesn't change my disbelief at all. :-)



She woke up happy on her birthday, January 2.





Funny faces and dim sum at a favorite restaurant, Ginger & Garlic in Honolulu.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

When I Grow Up

Recently my baby said to me:

"Mama, I hope you want to be a singer when you grow up, cause you can really SING!"

Now, I really do enjoy singing, and music has always been a passion of mine. Yet, I don't sing for or in front of anyone except my girls and only sometimes my husband.  With the girls it takes place in the car and usually most of the day in the house, since there's likely always some music playing.  So, they always get to hear me sing, most often to myself.  I don't recall what song had just concluded on the car radio when she offered her kind, humorously motivational remarks, but they caused me to reflect on myself, my life, my loves, and my manifestations to date.

I do come from a musical family and have always been surrounded by music and song. Given that she has mostly lived her short life way out here in the Pacific, baby girl doesn't really know that aspect of her Louisiana family.  My mother is a singer, as is my brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and play cousins as well.  One cousin of mine recently produced a gospel single. My best friend in junior high had/has a beautiful singing voice that makes you want to--in my memory of it--just lie down and forget the world around you (she also recently finished her PhD studies!).  One of my best friends in high school would always bless others with her talent and is now lead vocalist for a jazz band.  Most of those mentioned above typically sang in the context of the church, and while I was also a church choir member once upon a time, I surely wasn't bold enough to be a lead singer like the others, and my singing is more of the R&B/soul/neo soul (do people still say that?) variety.  

In junior high I did co-lead a song with aforementioned best friend (a song we wrote) at a 4-H event, and somewhere there may be a video of me singing a Lauryn Hill song as my senior project in an auditorium for a high school art class. (We had options to produce a physical piece, perform a dance, or sing a song for the teacher and class. Somehow I was bold enough that time to do the latter with one of the most difficult-to-sing Lauryn songs! But I had sang that song so, so many times in my room that I just had to do it out in the open.)

All that's fine and well, and it really has been neither here nor there.  But my daughter's recognition of that aspect of me, and the fact that she likes my singing is touching and brings up all sorts of thoughts of how she'll remember her mother.  If nothing else I hope somehow it encourages her to indulge herself in all the beautiful gifts that constitute her being, even if only for self-satisfaction. 


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Whew, Chile!

I've got blog posts started and not finished, ideas for essays ruminating in my mind, and hilarious stories involving my two littlest loves. 



 Yet, things in my world have gotten hectic and busy and oftentimes absolutely chaotic!  There isn't always the time to write, and I've yet to find the time to "make the time."  It's forthcoming, though.

Buuuuuuut, I wanted to share this video somewhere and here is the only viable online space that I'm currently (very minimally) accessing to share anything these days.

Despite how immersed I've become in Life here lately, I'm not sure HOW I have missed this for the past three months!

Erykah Badu has done a Tiny Desk concert where she performed--of ALL the songs she could have performed from just about any one of her albums that would have had me in such a serious fallin' out, nostalgic, deeply passionate mood--"Green Eyes."

Y'all. 

And here we are 18 years after Mama's Gun dropped with this gem of a song--with her sounding just as she did singing it back then, richer even--and I still get chiiiiiills at how deep, real, and sincere, not just the lyrics are, but at what she emotes in this song.

It's so deep to me. People in the comments who feel just as strongly say they've been listening to it constantly.  I've personally only been able to watch/listen to it once, and I've probably only listened to the actual song on the album a hand full of times over the past several years.  It just touched me in such a deep way the first time that constant, repeated listening wasn't even necessary.  Every single word/sentence/concept/idea/notion/note/sound/transition is imprinted in me forever. I've accessed various of these lines (only mentally) in different situations over the course of making my way into womanhood, not because someone has "done me so wrong."  But because there has been a time or two where I've literally wanted to sing to a person, "If you cain't be what I need you to, then I don't know why I **** witchu."  Or because the heart and mind will have you caught up thinking, "I can't leave; it's too late," and so you know exactly what she means.

Anyway, Anyway, AnyWAY.

Here she is.  I'll be writing again soon. :)




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