he had tattoos all over his body, long grey hair and piercings, and spoke like someone who has seen it all. i squinted to read the words on his shirt correctly from the very last row because i’d walked in late. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” i simply couldn’t resist writing this quote down. it seemed to set the tone for what this class is going to be like. critical philosophical theory. should be interesting. i’ll be sure to keep you posted on the impending existential crisis.
this first week of classes has been something. from almost slipping from ice that had yet to melt from the random snow storm, to panicking because two important classes i need are both at 11am on tuesday and thursday. to an argument that ended up reshaping how i think about things. i learned my emotions are not unique to me, and that whatever i’m feeling towards someone, they’ve 99.9 percent experienced that emotion at some point too. i learned that no one actually means to hurt you with their words most of the time, no matter how hostile they come across. most importantly, it dawned on me that people just want to feel supported and to be told that they make sense. in fact, most conflict is born from feeling like we don’t make sense to the other person, rather than feeling they aren’t making sense.
a friend told me recently they feel like my life is perfect. i was shocked because it is far from it actually. i never really share my struggles mainly because i prefer to sweep them under the rug and pretend they’re not there or i rather talk about it with God. in a society that broadcasts only smiling faces on social media, it’s easy to assume the status of someone’s life. having the label of perfection projected onto me made me realize that i probably also place that label on others based on how their life looks from my perspective.
for some reason perfect has a negative connotation to me. i want to embrace my cracks and imperfections because they allow for the light to get in. in fact, without them the light cannot get in. i hope this resonates in your heart the next time you’re feeling like your cracks are overwhelmingly big. you are not broken. you’re simply making room for the light.
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.
“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 →
the plane was huge — about the width of my bedroom at home and as long as a highschool hallway. my heart leaped as the clouds swallowed us whole. the huge buildings below became ants, and the highways became drawings etched in sand. i’ve always been fascinated by how thousands of pounds can fly in the air so effortlessly without falling. in that moment, i thought to myself: is this real life? am i really going to be home once again?
i sat beside a middle aged woman whose smile eased my nervousness as a gentle hello rolled off my lips. i must’ve had first-time-traveller plastered on my forehead because she asked me whether i was going to Ghana for the first time. i told her no, and how i was born there but haven’t returned in about a decade. she’d also only been back once since she left and she was returning to bring back her children with her to the states now that she’s graduated nursing school. i was in awe at how a mother could have the strength to leave her children behind to go build a life for them elsewhere. “They don’t really know me that well since they’ve lived most of their lives away from me.” her eyes were time machines going back to the last time she held them. “i’m excited to finally have all of us together again.” i was silent. i learned recently that some emotions don’t have to be put into words because words will never do them justice so i chose to smile with her and share in her excitement with all of my spirit, confident that she felt the loving energy i was sending her way. (11 hours later) as the pilot announced our arrival, i beamed and leaned over my new friend who had the window seat. we both remarked at how Accra looks from above — like a painting of an artist who doesn’t believe in rules or uniformity. when we parted ways, it was as if i’d known her for a long time. stepping off the plane, the humid air hugged my skin like a blanket and the air felt thick and damp in my lungs. rainy season was upon us and she wanted to make herself known. after claiming my luggage, i kindly avoided the various “helpers” who wanted to help push my heavy cart. my parents’ voices echoed in my ear warning me to deny their offers because they wanted money i did not have. on the way out, i was stopped by a man who wanted to check my bags. “i’m only curious to know what you have in there,” he said in a mischevious manner. i didn’t see anyone else’s bags being checked so my paranoia mixed with anxiousness kicked in, which caused my hands to shake. “why are you nervous? now i’m really curious,” he laughed as my sweaty hands searched through my jungle of a purse to find the tiny keys to the lock on the bags. “open it” he repeated in a less than playful tone. a few moments after i’d finally opened up my bags, we both seemed to blush as the item he was checking for turned out to be my box of feminine products. “okay i’m satisfied, you can go now.” i forgot about the thickness of the air as i let out a deep relieved sigh. whew. travelling alone can be scary when you look 12 and lost in an unfamiliar place. i felt like the most important person ever as my cousins embraced me with kisses. they remarked at how much i’ve grown and how i look like a replica of my mom. i was overcome by their beautiful spirits and the conversation flowed like water; as if there hadn’t been oceans and tides and tides between us. i slept the day away to recover from jetlag and i ended the day with a treat: nothing says welcome home better than a bowl of banku and okro stew (with crab!! AND SNAIL TOO!!!)
i’ve been asked several times how it feels to be back. i learned recently that some emotions don’t have to be put into words because words will never do them justice. but “whole” comes the closest. i feel whole.
we all have it.
sitting in your stomach
that thing that if you sit quietly enough
you’d hear it whisper your name.
on certain days it almost feels like it’s going to explode
or crawl out of your throat
on others you find yourself frightened.
where did it go?
why can’t i feel it anymore?
did i dream it?
we all have it.
that thing that you feel like you should give a name
like we do all things we become accustomed to.
people always tell you how beautiful your thing is
how you should show it more often
all the while you thank them
all the while you are confused
you don’t see it
that thing that is all over you
out of your pores
and you look down
and you see your self
staring back at you
and it feels like
everything you’ve ever wanted to be