if you asked me what love is about 5 years ago i’d have told you something along the lines of it’s that feeling you get in your stomach when you lock eyes with that person who you’ve been getting to know. i’d have told you testimonies of a warm flood in my veins and a fluttering heart beat. i’d have told you it’s a mutual feeling.
if you asked me what love is about 2 years ago when i was in my first year of college, i may have answered with a laugh, giggled at your obsession over something that may or may not exist because we live in socially constructed realities, i may have pulled out my philosophy text book and flipped to the index to find the word love.
if you asked me what love is a year ago, i’d have asked you to be more specific. which kind of love? capital L or lower case? i would have asked you its root word, its origin, asked you to use it in a sentence because love is not one thing but everything. i’d have told you love is contextual.
if you ask me what love is right now, i’ll tell you it is seeing with your heart. it’s replacing your eyes with mirrors and seeing your self in them. it is a verb. synonymous with choice. it is an adjective. synonymous with unconditional. it is a noun. God.
let it be known that on september thirtieth of the year twenty sixteen, Solange Knowles dropped an album that resurrected my faith in the healing powers of music. in the last couple of weeks i almost reached my breaking point of balancing being a student and being in pain about what’s going on not only around the world but in my own backyard in Charlotte with police brutality and the ignorance of those who refuse to wake up and acknowledge a broken system that perpetuates the cycle of white supremacy and hate. let it be known that my weary heart was hugged by the soft tunes of her voice which sung lullabies of peace and self love and revolution. each song sounded like the manuscript of my thoughts and feelings. she evoked how we try to absolve our pain in Cranes in the Sky and affirmed my crown in Don’t Touch My Hair. she talked about gentrification in black neighborhoods in Where Do We Go and reclaimed ownership of our narratives and creative voice with For Us By Us. each interlude featured voices of people spreading black positivity and truth and straight up bars on the current issues of today through their lens. the overall album theme of reclaiming our selves and protecting our spaces and spirits in a world which tries to leech our joy is one that i don’t feel is present enough in art and i am grateful. thank you Solange for welcoming me so gracefully to have a seat at the table and for serving me pure conscious lyricism on a platter of beautiful instrumentals and breathtaking vocals.
the language of war
sounds like silence
sounds like i can see your pain
but i am too comfortable to care
sounds like hearts shattering
sounds like riots breaking out of the cocoon of
sounds like hyperventilation because
i don’t believe in coincidences so i’m going to write them down for those aha moments that will surely surface for why these things repeated themselves.
so i was browsing the web and i saw an image of a mother who was breasfeeding her child who has a full set of teeth. As I read the comments section, there was a whole debate on the mother having agency to do what she pleases and feels best, and the other side was worried for the effect it would have on the child’s development and future because the child was too grown to be breastfeeding. one guy brought up that the child has reached the age where memories become concrete and that a boatload of problems will arise with that remembering when the child is older. the mother had a caption detailing the benefits of breastfeeding for the child. some of the facts were that it gives the best nutrients and the physical touch regulates bodily temperature and blood pressure and reduces stress and depression in mothers post-birth.
that same day as i was reading my favorite blog, i found an interesting blog under ‘similar blogs’. so i started reading some of her posts, which were mostly about motherhood. to my surprise, she wrote about how she was having challenges when it came to the weaning of her child. she’d tried different methods and nothing seemed to work to get the child to stop being needy.
but that’s not all.
later that evening i decided to stop procrastinating to do my research project on black women in 18th century England colonies for my Blacks in British North America course. i remember getting frustrated as i used every advanced search option possible to find a woman that had enough information about her to use as my subject (a task that has proven to be much more difficult to achieve since black women in those times were mostly slaves and didn’t have the privilege of writing their own narratives so a lot of their stories were what we can gather from the writing of white males.) and that was when i stumbled across an article that discussed the practice of extended breast-feeding among black women slaves as a form of resistance to field labor because the rule was that they were permitted breaks to tend to their young. so these women would often breastfeed for as long as they could, sometimes even past 19 months. they also used this as a fertility suppressant form of birth control since they were perpetually subject to rape by their white masters. as i kept reading, i learned that extended breastfeeding wasn’t merely for resistance, and that it was first drawn from cultural norms in African countries.
it’s wild to me that this theme repeated itself to me so many times in the same day. in the first scenario, the mother was embracing the extended breastfeeding. in the second, the mother was trying to make the child stop breastfeeding. in the third, the mother was using breastfeeding as protection. i can’t help but think of this from a spiritual lens. perhaps there’s a message in there somewhere. perhaps we can figure out this coded message together.
dear lord it’s 3:46 am and i miss you. i know i haven’t talked to you in a while and i feel like that fake friend that only waves at you sometimes but is quick to ask for something when i need it. earlier this week in class i know you were watching when my professor asked the class to make a list of 10 descriptions of our identity all beginning with “i am” and i wonder if you were as astonished as i was that i did not mention that i am your child. i wonder if you sighed a little that that wasn’t the first thing on my list and that that wasn’t the first thing on any of the people around me’s lists. the topic of the day was whether who we are is mostly shaped by our culture or whether we are simply who we are even if we were taken out of the context of this culture. my response was that i am naturally made up of the culture in which i am a part of. in hindsight i realize that my response is equivalent to saying that i am of the world. dear lord i know that you did not call on me to be of this world and that as your chilld i am not suppose to be living by the standards of this world but by your standard of love and fellowship. i don’t know where to start in getting to know you again. i wasn’t even aware that i had allowed my surroundings and busy environment to drown out your voice. teach me to hear your voice again and to know the difference between your voice and my voice. teach me to trust in you. immerse me in your presence and anchor me to your word even when everything around me tells me you’re a concept rather than an ever present force. dear lord it’s 3:46 am and i miss you but i know you’ve been here the whole time.
“you know that isn’t going to do anything here, right?”
i stared down at the white letters on my black shirt that read “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE.” it was the day following the murder of Alston Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge. when i heard the news the night before, i retreated into a state of silence. the usual question “again?” didn’t touch my lips. i was simply quiet. and i slept in hopes of escaping. i slept not because i was tired but because i felt the weight of a thousand pounds on my heart.
it was different this time. it felt different this time around that i wasn’t in the midst of the turmoil. Continue reading →
note 1. Ghanaians have a unique culture when it comes to communicating with each other. it is not uncommon for your uncle or your grandma or your friend you just met yesterday to call you every day just to check on you and say hi. so it took me by surprise when i would receive calls hourly that weren’t exactly for any reason other than to hear my voice. i quickly learned that my asking why the person called was kind of rude and embraced the love.
note 2. they say majority of human communication is nonverbal. i’d say Ghanaians are experts on that. during conversation, you’ll most likely hear a series of dramatic oh’s and ah’s and eh heh’s and other sound effects that make up the soundtrack of our expressive dialogue. these sounds may sound random and meaningless to the outside ear but a Ghanaian knows the difference between a long drawn out oh and a short staccato oh. The sing song of our voices are reminiscent of musical chords. like music, we communicate moods with tones.
note 3. “broken english” aka pidgin is the preferred language with millennials. i consider it a legitimate language because of its complexity and nuances that encompasses words from different languages mixed with english. it’s poetic to me how there is no regard to different tenses. past is present. future is present. it reflects the general relaxed carefree nature of the people. the way we don’t take things personally. the way we talk carefully like we’re tasting every word. the way we walk slowly like our destination is just around the corner.
note 4. language is linked to societal perception, class, and status. some international schools continue to ban the use of local languages and promote the use of english primarily within the classroom. students can even be punished for speaking local Ghanaian dialects. although it isn’t as common today, this rule isn’t surprising for a country previously colonized by the British. the mentality that “proper” english is the most respectable form of speaking still persists because liberation is still relatively new. a people can be decolonized but the decolonization of the mind and societal systems is its own tedious process.
dumsor is a different kind of silence. a hear your neighbor’s chickens’ crow and morning birds sing songs kind of silence. your thoughts become an audiobook that you feel is being broadcasted for everyone can hear. lights out in Ghana is quite the unexpectedly expected surprise. you know it’s coming yet you can’t help but grunt when you’re in the shower and all of a sudden everything goes dark and you’re worried about where that wall gecko you’ve been keeping an eye on might be currently.
when i was younger, the frequent power outages meant fishing for the flashlight and sitting with grandma and grandpa as they told us stories. everything stops yet it’s the start of a new world.
this time around, though it doesn’t happen as often, it holds a different meaning to me as i look at it from squinting eyes that haven’t yet adjusted from the sudden switch from light to dark. Continue reading →