T’challa is Dead: Long Live the King

Chadwick Boseman has passed on. My partner and I were just talking about him the other day, about he’s an actor that’s a cut above the rest. We agreed that he’s probably our Denzel Washington.

Black Panther meant a lot to so many people. To this African girl who grew up in Black America, it was the first time I saw Africans in an American production where they weren’t the butt of jokes or the usual biopics for historical figures. When he walked out in this outfit,

I literally started crying in the theater. I felt seen and respected as an African in American media in a way I had never felt before. Funny how an outfit with West African inspired embroidery can do that. But it wasn’t just the clothes. Boseman’s T’challa was perfect. Blackpanther captured the zeitgeist of the Black diaspora. It symbolized so much and proved so much.

When people finally tired of the #Wakandaforever symbols and references, I enjoyed him in 21 Bridges and the Da Five Bloods. Like everyone else, I had no idea about what he was going through. No, I never got to meet him. No I don’t know him or his family personally. But, yes this one hits particularly hard. May we all find comfort his memory, especially his friends and family. He’s gone but not forgotten.

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Kamala Harris: On the Reality of Being able to Walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time

It takes a while to get revved up. Covid is such a strange beast. America as a whole is like that I suppose. I’m blessed to be able to work from home, but like everyone else am wondering when all this will end. And like everyone else, I have zero idea.

The election of 2016 is in our rear view mirrors as we gear up for a new one. I am already tired, to be honest. I don’t own a tv anymore, but the online adds and articles on my Facebook news feed keep me up to date: I know what’s what. What has saddened me is how being interconnected online amplifies what I call one-dimensional voices. I used to watch a show called Alitija7 almuakis (the opposing view/perspective— side note in writing this, I looked it up and the show is still going! All right Aljazeera… ha ha… also my translation of the show title is better…. fight me… ha ha ). I watched it back when I was formally an advanced level student. They took topics and found two people who had opposing views and had them go at it with the host as referee.

This is what the host regularly looks like on the show, sometimes he would physically get between two people

The whole thing started to feel like intellectual Jerry Springer, because of how ridiculous arguments got. Gossip in my Arabic program was that the show stoked fires/arguments and told guests that they had to be 100% in defense of a particular position even if the issue was a nuanced one. That to me made sense. The more I learned Arabic the more I laughed (and some guests did too) at some of the absurd arguments they were making.

Fasts forward to least 5 years since I watched an episode and I see this show’s format play out in so many areas of my life. The most recently irritating one is in discussions of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s VP. It’s not often (well actually it is but that’s neither here nor there) that you get a perfect clusterfuck of racism, sexism, misogynoire all coming together for foolishness. I’m all for critiquing her candidacy (and for the record was fired up for Elizabeth Warren, but not really excited about anyone else this year). There’s much to be critiqued, questioned, and to hold her accountable for.

However, those things are not:

  1. Her mixed heritage/what her ancestors may or may not have done. I’m not glorifying garbage by linking to it, but discussion of how her mixed heritage, or immigrant background makes her not Black is gross and stupid. No one has the right to challenge someone else’s Blackness in a country where having one drop of Black blood made you legally Black. I too have issues with one-sided, seemingly quick fix policies like arresting parents as a means of curbing truancy. I think that it’s just another example in a long list of politicians looking for easy fixes to deeper systemic societal issues. Especially in a state like California where a la the film/tv industry and the tech industries the gap between mega, ultra rich and poor is Wowza. It’s important to see what I have just done. I have given a critique of Kamala Harris’ political stance without talking about how her mixed heritage or immigrant parents somehow make her less Black.
  2. Her marriage to a White man. This is particularly infuriating to use someone’s choice of spouse as an indicator of their loyalty to their Black identity. This is something it feels more readily hurled at Black women.
Remember when one of the most clearly Black and proud women who ever lived dared to marry a White man?

4. The fact that she is light skinned. I’m so confused at a public that picks and chooses when it cares about how colorism privileges lighter-skinned and/or mixed people of color over those of us with a darker hue. Yes, Harris is light skinned. So are are a lot of people’s faves: Beyonce, Barack Obama, Alicia Keyes, Malcolm X, Jada Picket Smith, Angela Davis, Corey Booker etc As a dark-skinned Black woman in America, I am keenly aware of the ways in which colorism has shaped the Black community, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. It just seems so odd and just to me, to put all this at the feet of Kamala Harris. At the end of the day, Kamala Harris has navigated the world as a light-skinned, mixed-race Black woman. But make no mistake about it, she is Black. That’s how she identifies, it’s written in her choice of an HBCU for a college and and membership in a Black sorority. She did not get to pick her skin color or the advantages that came with it. I want to dismantle colorism, not this particular person.

At the end of the day, my point is simply this. A lot of people are capable of seeing nuance. A lot of us are not one issue voters. A lot of us can walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time. I can celebrate the historic nature of a Harris pick while having my concerns about her record. I can vigorously defend or actually point out that it’s nobody’s effing business who she chooses to marry and highlight that it’s often Black women who are accused of being race traitors while Black men (who statistically do this more often) don’t seem to be met with this same level of vitriol. I can acknowledge that colorism has certainly played to her advantage and discuss the hypocrisy and absolute leaps in logic it takes to accuse Harris of being a traitor to Blackness for simply existing.

When the late great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said he dreamed of a day when his kids would be judged for the content of their character and not the color of their skin, I have always been under the impression that he meant people like Kamala Harris too.

Preach!

So yeah, I want to critique the ticket and what their plans for America will be, not the kink or lack thereof in someone’s hair, or bemoan the fact that they can pass the brown paper bag test and I can not. I feel this is especially crucial in this moment. Women are criticized in ways men simply are not and it’s infuriating and frustrating. This is why I end of up caping for a candidate I’m not even screaming for joy about under normal circumstances. But right is right. And wrong… is wrong. We can do better, I hope.

Yes, She’s Back. But Why?

Why did I resurrect this space? I’m not fully sure I quite know yet. The main reason, perhaps is that I wanted to write again and felt like I had thoughts I wanted to sort out.

It’s been interesting to see blog stats. Somehow this space got 600 views last year … I will take that as  win, that people are finding this space as they look up the experiences of Black people abroad.

Yes, like Homer I am happy about that.

I don’t know if that’s all there is to write bout these days though. It’s been three years, and I barely recognize myself in some of those posts. Full disclosure I was burnt out and didn’t realize it. But during my hiatus I had some time to get some much needed rest, and time for elucidated perspectives. Blogging, I still think is dead at least whatever void it filled back in 2008 when I started here. But perhaps for me at least, it deserves to be resurrected. Like many of us, I’m basically at home. But there’s still much to codify and think deeply about: Trips I have been on, books I’ve read, clarity I have reached…

Looking forward to being back in action.

#IrunwithMaud

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When I lived in the UAE, towards the end of my tenure there anyway, I talked whimsically about America. At the time, I was looking for a job in America broadly defined. I just wanted to be home and less than 14 hours away from family and (some) friends.

That was of course 2015- early 2016 when Obama was still president. Once I was talking about diversity as I understood it to be based on the places I lived, and said to a non-American that I miss not being in a supportive Black environment, or something to that effect. At the time, another American, a mixed woman from the mid-west remarked that my America was not the one she knew. And I thought (and still do) “Well duh, I’m speaking about what I’m looking forward to seeing and doing. That has nothing to do with you, not my problem.”

Fast forward 5 years later and I’m getting worn down. I knew in 2015 just as now that America does not treat or value all people equally. But the callousness, the vitriol, the almost quotidian manner in which people, mainly White ones assert authority over Black lives. The amount of uproar and backlash that’s needed to get justice, it’s bullshit.

I will admit, I saw social media posts about Ahmaud Arberry’s case weeks and weeks ago. My first thought then was that yet again, justice would not be served. Thankfully the tide changed somewhat on his case, but we still have to wait for how the dust all settles for his murders. I write a lot here about my experience as a Black person outside the US, but the experience of a Black person inside the US is at times so frustratingly stifling: It is murderous, treacherous, and untenable. Citizens arrest, blaming victims, and brutality.

I am not sure, however, where a Black person can go to lay their head in peace and comfort. Everything is a negotiation and gains in one area could mean losses in another. But American racism isn’t changing. This institutionalized brand of discrimination against people of African descent is baked into the foundational framework of the country. It’s the scary how this stuff is a mist that covers everything. In this context, it’s hard to blame any one more person; society as a whole is complicit. In this context, more often though, people take offense or feel helpless when the finger of blame is pointed in their direction.

 

She’s Baaaaack!

Hello World, sad, quarantined world…

 

I was gone for a minute, but now I’m back, with a reason to blog! I was burnt out when I rounded out things a few years back. But time on the fire has helped refine me a bit. I’m hoping to resurrect this space as one for reflection, rumination, and purposeful deliberation.

It could also be a space for my pithy, witty, millenial generation rooted jokes… or not… 😉 Looking forward to getting back in touch with public journaling.

On the Bechdel Test and One Last Hurrah

So here we come my friends. We have arrived at the end of this road. I thought my last post would be on Cuba, but that experience came and went back in May. tldr; I enjoyed my time there and would go back to visit if I could.

As I have said more often as the frequency of my posts slowed down, I have been busy. Too busy, it seems to write at all here. I have chronicled in a way some important life events on this blog, made and lost some friends on it too. I was a 22 year old wide eyed, I dunno what when I started. And I think my travel posts , well I know they helped some people along the way. People have contacted me, before heading off to x, y or z location, because they came across this space while googling “black in”… and that is great.

But tbh this blog, although I refashioned it as more of a way to document my experiences while black, it has also been a space to talk about or allude to my personal highs and lows. Let’s face it, blogging is dead. And this space as one I feel 100% comfortable in letting things out, just doesn’t fit the bill anymore. So I decided to end the blog in a similar way to how I started it.  This post, like a lot of my musing on my life will not pass the bechdel test. And that is OK by me. My readership of bots and the occasional straggler and the even rarer person who uses this space to keep tabs on me, will not mind.

Today I am 32 going on 33. As I enter my Jesus year, I again take stock of what I have done, what my life has become in a way. I had a really strange weekend… well week. And I figured why not type it out here.

Gazelle is no stranger to black girl pain. And I have posted about it, ad nauseum. I see it in the micro-aggressions of my coworkers, and in how people who I think are friends and sometimes even family over look or brush off my concerns or belittle my experiences.  In 2016, I knew that a lot of changes were afoot. I knew that I was coming back to the US, I knew that that I wanted to make a concerted effort to find someone for whom I would be enough.

For a lot of reasons, some I highlighted in this post I didn’t have time to explore, date, fall in love in my teens and sure as hell did not have time in my 20s.  I feel like I have been playing catchup in a lot of senses. But 2016 was supposed to be the year that changed that. Hurt and disillusioned by someone who I thought I could trust to not treat me like a trash heap, I tried my best to brush being kicked aside and focus on being the best me. And it was a bumpy ride indeed. I swiped right a lot and left a whole lot more. I checked messages on dating profiles. I gave people a chance that I knew I would not have to consider if I was well, lighter or whiter.  And I realized that at the end of the day, Gazelle has standards.  I am not booty call kind of girl. I also have no time for wishy washy behavior.  I deserve to be treated like a human. By December of 2016 I was all swiped out and ready to just be alone all by myself . At least for the first quarter of the year 2017.

Living in the States, and in a very white as state at that, has made me realize how invisible black women are. I am one of very few where I work, I can’t get black cosmetics or hair products where I live. But I trudge on. Many Americans say they are post-racial, but that has not been my experience.

But don’t envision the violins just yet. This post isn’t about be crying a river, well not at least for the reasons you might think.

I have been grappling with a lot. My sense of self. My sense of self worth. I think it’s hard to live in world where you know there is nothing wrong with you, but the entire society is garbage, or at least it’s set up to make you feel like garbage. One of my oft-repeated sayings to myself is something I saw on a poster: “Eres preciosa, es la sociedad que es una mierda” – You are precious, it’s society that is a piece of shit. But you know, if a tree is standing up straigh in a forest, but all the other trees are bent and tell that straight tree that it’s the one that’s crooked. Who is right?

But I have digressed, I think. By the end of 2016 I was ready to shake of some bad habits and useless friendships. I was also resigned to not swiping on anyone else and letting the chips fall where they may with the three remaining men I was talking to. In the end, one came out a champion— but depends on how you look at things, because only Gazelle’s affection was the prize (I guess I should have sweetened the pot). And things were good, I guess. But then there never really is a good and a bad in life. Things just kind of are what they are.

Last week Thursday I accidentally posted a picture of us on facebook. (damn that app!… ha ha). I was showing someone the photo and must have set it as the photo instead. I had two coffee dates, one with a white acquaintance who in the 11 months we have known each other, met and moved in with her boyfriend, the other an Arab acquaintance who muses about finding a mate. Neither convo passed the bechdel test. By the time I came back from lunch I had all these likes and loves and even some comments. Yikes! Not what I wanted at all.

What’s even funnier is that on Sunday, I woke up. I went out with my boyfriend and we did everything we planned to do that day. Then we came back to his apartment and ended up having a conversation that lead us to the realization that we are breaking up.

My silver lining is that I dated a human being. I have no regrets of dating him. Unlike anyone I have ever had a romantic encounter with previously, he treated me with respect he did not lie to me (or to himself and therefore by extension to me).  He did not lie by omission, he did not treat me so callously that I questioned my own sanity and sought counselling (yup LJ Cul de Sac, talking about you). I can honestly say that he is a genuinely good person and in my interactions with him, a stand up individual. I wish him all the best.

It is a relief to break up with someone and not want to punch them in the face or cringe about your connection.  It also is kind of sad, because when I think about other people, including one who knew me for over a decade and he is the only person I can say this about.

So yeah, I am crying a little bit. Not in front of anyone, just by myself in my home. It didn’t work out. The thing is though, I am not sure where the tears are coming from. Is it that I will miss him? Is it that I know I don’t have heart or the energy to make trying to date as a black woman in a brown and white world my second job? I am not sure. They are tears for myself in either case.

I mean, I don’t owe him my tears, right? That is one thing I can have for myself. Sometimes, the responsibilities that I have borne and continue to bear make me feel like I have to give to different people so many pieces of myself that there is nothing left for me. And here I am again, although under the best of circumstances, considering everything, and a piece of me has essentially been refused. That is what it feels like. A few years ago, I wrote a journal entry about something that happened one Christmas, sheesh it was probably like 7—hmm probably even earlier — years ago now,

 

It’s funny how some events we remember as clearly as they were yesterday or right here in this moment, while there remains people, things, places that float away, out of our consciousness.  Then there are those events where we only remember the feeling, the burn, the sting, the sweetness, the bitterness.

Dates, times all meld together, but the essence of it all remains.

Like that Christmas 20—- something or other.

As usual, I had no money, no gifts, but I hoped to make someone else’s life a bit brighter, and to this day I still shed tears for my unrequited gift. 

——————————————-

Aunty A. gave me twenty dollars.  Twenty Dollars, enough to go out with friends, enough to but necessities for school, you know. Shampoo, laundry detergent and the like… If it was indeed that long ago.  Perhaps I wasn’t in college then, perhaps I was still battling my high school wars. 

I just remember twenty dollars, and visiting Aunty A. and going on to visit uncle M. who lived nearby.  His wife had died a while back, but the families remained close-ish.  I felt so helpless, here it was Christmas, and I was at a family who had been pivotal in achieving the goals I wanted to achieve. 

I wanted to do it, and I didn’t want to do it. 

But I did it.  I knew it was the right thing.  I knew it wasn’t the most advantageous to me, but I thought, ” what else do I have to give these boys?”  

so I gave it.  the Twenty Dollar bill. My twenty Dollar bill.  and I felt good about it.   Like I was on my way to being the aunty—- the surrogate big sis I wanted to be.  Like despite my searing poverty, I brightened the life of several kids. 

Yes, it was not much.  It was twenty bucks divided between three not so little kids— 10 for the eldest and 5 for the other two. But it was all I had.  And I gave it freely, of my own volition. 

And then he said it.  The words, I have have forgotten their exact constitution, but the feeling, the same and helplessness that has enveloped every aspect of my life before and after that day, is still fresh. 

“Twenty dollars for the three of us?”  he asked.  When I replied with the affirmative, he scoffed and said something that let me know the gift was not on his level.   It was rejected for its infinitesimal impact, it’s puny size and its gigantic  lameness. 

It hurt.  It cut deep.    

To think something,  that I had prized so much, a gesture that I had embraced with a ravaging earnestness, and gratefulness— was rejected out of hand. 

That child, teenager really, never knew the extent of my sacrifice, perhaps if he had, he would not have been so forthright in expressing his disdain.  

But as it stands, he will never know how efficaciously he helped further destroy my sense of self-worth. 

That day, I learned that people don’t give a damn about  how much you give up for them.  

 

My newly minted ex was a lot kinder than the kid in my entry. But the sting is all the same. Maybe it’s cynical me talking here, but I think the lesson I learned then has yet to be proven wrong. Or maybe cynical me is me.

So there you have it. 10 years and no elucidating perspectives in sight. Life just kind of is what it is. Maybe I will look back on this and see it as turning point or breakthrough. Maybe it will be the beginning of some sort of horrible spiral. If the past 10 years have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t really know and can’t really anticipate anything in life or love.

Some of the greatest leaps of faith left  medown with sprained foot or bum knee. At other times, I walked right through windows of opportunity so big I thought they were doors.

All I can do is take care of me. It’s time, it looks like, to cross off some stuff from my meaning to-do list. Capstone post for blog: Check.

Goodbye virtual world, it’s been real. But nobody really blogs anymore anyway… Goodbye bots??? ha ha.

 

Countdown to the End: How I’m Doing

I wish I could say I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on life and such, but I have not. Work eats up my life, and my weekends are waiting. I can’t believe I haven’t written anything since My Europe trip… but I do have a nice-ish update…

I am going to have my last entries be about being a black woman in … wait for it… Oh my gosh, this is so exciting…. CUBA baby!

This negra is going to have tons of Tumbao!  and I will be going with some friend from my program in Qatar. The past ten years have been a bumpy ride…. but I feel like Cuba will bring this full circle. I started this blog as a bored Arabic student in Yemen, just a year into graduate school (and 20 pounds lighter :-/ )

But hey, I am nearing my Jesus year (33) and have seen, felt, heard and written a whole lot. Stay tuned for my prep for the Cuba adventure!

 

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This is about to be Me!!!!!!!!

(Still) In Europe– ON Finding Elucidation in a Jet-lagged dream

Well my week in Dublin came and went… Ireland was great, from what I could see, unfortunately everything closes early besides pubs, so my work schedule didn’t really allow for much of anything else.

My impressions of Ireland though is that it’s pretty meh weather, very friendly people (or at least less of a culture of otherizing than what I experienced previously… it was great to walk around in space where I was only 1 of a very few number of black people and it was not a big deal… the other black people didn’t make eye contact, didn’t try to connect since we were the only ones of our race in a hostile space… ha ha… but everyone else went around their business: I never felt otherized).

Food was ok, but from what I understand, traditional Irish food is a lot of stews and a lot potatoes.  I didn’t really eat much of that… it was more hotel/restaurant food. I think I should have stayed through today (Saturday) so that I could really get a feel for the town.

I did go to the city center my last evening there and thought it was really cute (too bad again, everything closes so early…. 7pm ! on a Friday night!)

But something else happened during my trip, that I wanted to codify, a little bit. Laying in my lovely hotel apartment (it had heated floors!… ha ha, and a pretty comfortable mattress,  but overall I think it was a little hyped up… not complaining though it was lovely). I have been thinking about a  few things… related to my “new  year” philosophy.  I have had a disquieted spirit for a few weeks. Well, not disquieted really but there was some stuff I was trying to make sense of, because I felt overwhelmed and preoccupied by a a lot of different thoughts. The anxiety has been building, tbh, I was looking forward to going to Dublin and the subsequent vacation. It wasn’t just one issue, really, it’s a bunch of separate ones, some interrelated, some not. But it all felt so daunting.  Anyway…

Jet-lag is weird… I lay there that first night in Dublin, desperately trying to sleep and focus on sleep. But my mind kept staying super active, and going everywhere but to counting sheep. And boom somewhere around three AM I realized two important things: The first, about an issue that has lasted the past couple years. I have been trying to resolve it within my heart and mind, and succeeded only to a certain extent. But there was sort of a final piece that I realized, acknowledged and came to terms with and I immediately felt a source of peace…. The only hitch is that I also shared what I had realized that morning… In a manner that I thought was tactful with the other person involved… And their reception of it is still TBD.:

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FWIW… LJC if you happen to be reading this, I meant what I shared, but hope it wasn’t taken as an insult of any kind. I thought sharing was what you wanted, but maybe not… Ironic though, when I finally feel like the issue is completely resolved that manages to have (potentially) cringeworthy repurcussions. I can see how it can feel dragged out and maybe even like some sort of attack. Am hedging my bets that this is not the case here, that this is not how you read things. But I know that everyone has to do what they have to do. Sigh.  With that said, I value you and your friendship greatly.

And it would be really sad if as everything was making sense to me, the craziness of it made you say, fuck this…

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Can’t put it back, honestly I wouldn’t want to… There is a freedom in pointing out certain things… At least, I hope all parties can see this.

 

The other issue, is a newer one, in a newer dynamic that I am still trying to figure out… but as I tossed and turned, I figured out what I need to do for now… Some rules that I needed to clarify for my own self.  Gazelle figured out what she’s doing!!! —- in a situation where I didn’t realize there was figuring to do.

So it’s  a little crazy that it took traveling almost 5,000 miles to help me realize some key things that have been weighing on my subconcious. Still a lot of other things to sort out, but checking off two things from the list still feels good.

 

And now I am taking it easy this weekend. Breathing in and out… hoping for the best.

It’s Official: Europe Bound

Yup I will be doing a short sprint in Europe in a couple of months! (not mainland Europe but whatever). Looking forward to seeing some family in the UK and being in another country that I have never visited before.

 

I didn’t expect to be kicking up my travel shoes again, but here we are. Thank God I have a new, very warm winter coat.