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True Reflections

January 7, 2011
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I’m coming to the end of another eventful two weeks in my darling Nigeria. I have such a love hate relationship with this place. Kinda the same way I feel about England I guess.

As well as the usual stream of visits to family galore (every time I come, there is a new aunty or uncle I’m supposed to have known since like forever!), there has been a long line of pastors come to pray for health, wealth, husbands, children, more husbands, even more children…etc etc.

This is a seriously over religious country! But, to my surprise I met one pastor this time who gets my attitude to spirituality, and was cool with it. Anyone say progress?

I’ve also spent a week in Lagos, damn that town is nuts. It just never fails to surprise me.

We went out one night and paid what I consider to be a ludicrous amount of money to go clubbing (spent £200 in one night as opposed to about £60-100 in the UK).

Then to top it off, what I thought was a simple Hennessy hangover turned into a full blown mad fever that carried me into the New Year. So much for party hard.

And then there is the bane of everyone who lives in Lagos’ life….traffic.

One crazy minded day (I blame my mother), we set out to go from home in Lekki to the other side of town into the suburbs and a place called Ota. (Like going from Edmonton in North London to Redhill in Surrey via central London…its already far!)

We spent 6 hours in traffic, and were still about an hour away when we decided to turn around and go home. Turning around then proved to be an hour long episode at a roundabout where people were going round in the wrong direction to avoid traffic only to create more…..even I was crying out for salvation from Jesus Christ. Sheesh.

So, one thing I’ve been thinking about while here is that I maybe need to think about doing my National Youth Service. If I don’t do it, it would be unlikely I could ever get a job in Nigeria. Not sure I wanna keep that door closed.

I’ve heard that as a ‘foreign graduate’ I’d only have to chose between doing it in Abuja or Lagos (which means in both cases I can live in the family home). That removes my fear of far off distant towns where I’d be the pepperless oyinbo girl in town.

What to do? Can I live for a year in Nigeria? With the ups and downs of this place I have a bunch of equal advantages and disadvantages.

Decisions decisions……

Maybe when I’m sitting back on my couch in London with the heating on full, a blanket around my shoulders and a ceramic heater at my feet it won’t be such a complicated choice eh!

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Real-Life: My Mum and Dad tried to pimp me out

December 20, 2010
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Yes-o!! Just like on one of those 60p women’s magazines I have a story to tell. A torrid, awful story of parental betrayal, a daughters virtue and the trauma that took place on one fateful night.

Picture the scene, its a very chilly November night. A Sunday. A Nigerian traditional wedding is taking place somewhere in south-east London. There were easily about 1000 people crowding the halls, trying desperately to avoid standing by the draft of the door, taking refuge from the biting winter cold. [sidebar: I fundamentally disagree with winter weddings. Messes with my outfit mehn]

For this special occassion, my mother had flown in from overseas and it felt like the entire state of Oyo was in attendance. Gele and Fila were everywhere, accompanied by some serious agbada and the uniform outfits.

So, we had been there only an hour. We had nowhere to sit. My mother had been asked to perform the duty of introducing the cake cutting and saying a word or two for the couple. My Dad had managed to secure himself a seat amongs his crew of increasingly old and mildly camfour smelling men (I’m guessing many an old trunk was popped that night) and me and my little sister were hugging the hallways planning when we could drag our parents away to go home.

Cut to the next scene, its post eating (which we had to do standing up), I’ve gone to get my Dad and tell him I’m ready to go if he wants a lift home. I see him nursing a can of Becks….hmmm. Go back to find my mother who now happens to have been given a seat and is about to take the final swig of brandy from her lil airplane bottle which she sneaked into the very nice clutch bag I lent her (no longer in my possession or even the country I might add!). She calls over my cousin and asks him to re-fill the bottle for her, so I go to help him out. It’s all for the cold you see…hmm.

It is during this unfortunate time that my mother spots a group of boys and decided to attempt to pimp her daughters out. Now my parents are far from alcoholic, if anything they’re  straight up lightweights so I have to believe alcohol played a part in this atrocious incident.

So Mum sees 5 young-ish looking dudes standing in the same area as us, she spots a particular one and starts to flirt. Her window of opportunity on this occassion was one of those photographer people who had been sniffing around taking various shots of the family. She asks this guy to take a photo with her, tells him he is cute and bold as brass just says “I have two daughters over there, they are both single you know.” I literally wanted to die.

What ensued was probably the worst 15-minutes of my life where despite my protests (and I went ‘brat euro-kid’ on my parents, stopped short of swearing but there was a lot of “What are you doing?!?!?!?!”), my Mum AND Dad, questioned this dude about his background and inspected his wedding finger to make sure there was no ghost band.

Did you read that? They actually picked up this dude’s hand and inspected his finger?! What kind of behaviour is this!!!

As a final act, my mother then sends over another dude to go hang around my little sister and made us take one of the most unbelievable photos of my life. From left to right there is me, grimace/laughter refusing to look at the camera. Then this guy with his arm around my mama’s waist and her arm very nicely hooked around his. In her left hand she is holding this other dude’s hand, while my little sister, bless her, actually leans as far away from this dude as she can without falling out of shot.

What traumatises me to this day is that even my father took part. Where is the crazy Nigerian father stereotype when you need it!!

Now, before you ask, my mother knows I have a boyfriend. Yes she does. The guy she took a shine to for me, was told that I have a boyfriend, and his immediate response…”I bet he’s not Nigerian”. CULTURE FAIL! I pulled my mother up on this when we finally managed to drag her away and this was her reponse:

“I don’t care if your man is Chinese, if somebody is there he needs to present himself otherwise we don’t know he exists.”

I love the woman, but deym. It’s been a month since this incident and I’m still getting over it. I might need some Dr Phil for this one.

Revealing our history and present

December 15, 2010

You would have to have been living under a very large sound proof rock to have missed the debacle around Wikileaks of late. Personally I think the situation developing around Julian Assange is equivalent to a modern day witch hunt but I’ll get to that later.

I first heard about Wikileaks when they released information on Trafigura (sorry the original Wikileaks entry no longer available). This was a case where the law firm Carter-Ruck (oh ye ethical men) had obtained a super-injunction from the British courts to prevent any information about the activities of Trafigura and in particular a question presented during a Commons session at the Houses of Parliament (imagine, enforcing silence in a democratic arena) being reported on by the media. A super injunction means the press cannot report a story, and neither can they report on the fact that the injunction exists i.e. report no evil becomes see no evil. Enter Wikileaks.

The backstory was that a British firm called Trafigura were transporting toxic waste and dumping it on the coasts of West Africa, nearest to Côte d’Ivoire. Was it legal? Well what do you think? It was a huge story in the UK, not least because this new vehicle of super injunction was being used more and more to help cover up cover ups and keep joe public totally in the dark. Even more alarming was that the super injunction was granted regarding commentary within the seat of government and the home of so called democratic activity in the UK.

That was last year. Fast forward to now, we see continued evidence of things people don’t want us to know about. I don’t believe the leaks are putting lives in danger, the people who orchestrate the war mongering, corruption and culture of secrecy do. Their exposure should tell us only that vampires continue to hide from daylight. The only place they can suck your blood is in the shadows ya heard?

They say knowledge is power, well go read Solomon Sydelle’s views on the cables relating to Nigeria and the activities of the late Yar’Adua, his wife and our beloved Shell (never one to miss out on a bad PR party). Latest releases today look to Ghana and the drug smuggling within the seat of government. Quite ironic this information comes up on the day the oil wells started pumping. Oh Ghana, I hope you look east and learn some serious lessons.

Lets just say these cables show us that there is no grey in the realms of those in positions of power and government. There is nasty nasty muck. Pure unadulterated shit and it does not have mine nor any of your best interests at heart. Simples. Remember that next time you go to vote.

Now onto the case against the founder. This is a very dangerous situation. Sweden has gone from having probably the most flexible process for supporting victims of sexual assault and exploitation, to being the scene of potentially the most vindictive piece of revenge by women or a US backed honey trap like no other.

To my knowledge, there is no report of violence. The two women involved “sought advice” (a Swedish mechanism allowing victims to avoid filing a formal report) after they found out about each others encounters with Julian. Also, the question here is about the Swedish legal system’s assertion that sex without a condom is essentially rape. Now that’s one allowance too far for me. You can read up on the full murkiness of it all on from The Guardian.

His arrest in the UK is interesting, as an internationally connected man, one wonders what it is about British law that makes him feel this is the best place to hand himself in? His expectations may have been a bit high. In the same week a man accused of arranging his wife’s brutal murder gets bail, Julian Assange doesn’t for a case which has been filed in another country, by victims who have not formally filed a complaint, on a charge that has not been formally placed. Erm….yeah….this doesn’t sound dodgy at all.

Wish I could be alive in 75 years time when either the CIA or MI5 documents with extreme redactions come out to explain just why it is that this man can in modern times be so hated after the deed is done.

Like a very astute person said on Twitter, if Assange was Chinese and releasing information solely about China, he would be hailed a dissident, be up for a Nobel Peace Prize and be invited to dine with Sam-Cam at a Con-Dem-nation sponsored event. Go figure.

Go here to access Wikileaks and a list of all the mirror sites. Keep them alive.

 

Give Thanks….Selah!

November 26, 2010

I’ve felt like blogging about a million times in the last two weeks and I haven’t. The good part is that I’ve actually felt like blogging!

I’ve mentioned previously that I rely heavily on the catharsis that is outpouring both on this blog and in my private journal (here and here). But when I picked up said journal yesterday, I realised I hadn’t touched it in months! Months! There was dust on it, and the pen I leave within had dried out. Kai!

Am I ok? Actually yes. But also no. You see it’s complex, I’m complex. I totally embrace my complexity in all its forms and I understand that to be at my best I cannot normalise. My blog, my journal and my ex-bff were all my channels and conduits for embracing me. Talk about anything, feel anything, be anything and it’s cool. The best ideas come from that place where nothing is boxed and everything is possible.

I realised the other day there was a strong correlation between the period where I lost my bff and when I started to lose the ability to use my blog and my journal. One channel closed and I became unsure about what to share and do with the others. It’s a no brainer, when you feel exposed and vulnerable, you start to cover everything up. Unfortunately for me, the consequences of this cover up period just weren’t that destructive. And yet everything was different. Did I say I was complex?

My life has continued, my progress has not been hindered and I continue to have amazing experiences everyday. But I have not been embracing as I should. So many things I have done and been through this past year could have been sweeter, richer, more painful, more depressing. Instead of going with it, I normalised and just continued forward. That isn’t the person I want to be.

I’ve been thinking on this for a while, not least because I continue to have people come into my life who hold up a mirror and allow me to see things about myself (thank God for His messengers), but because I am worried that I’m moving to a stage where feeling ok is acceptable, whilst being exceptional is unavailable because my fear of pain and inadequacy has shut down my most creative instincts.

Two things from the interweb (oh ye bringer of light) this week, have helped make this more solid in my head (enough for a blog post anyway).

Yesterday, poet extra-ordinaire Innua Ellams’ twitter stream was given a shout out by Phiona of Afripop. In the 24-hours that made up Thanksgiving (I will not mention genocide…ahem)…he created Thanks Tweeting Day. A day where every 15 minutes he tweeted something he was thankful for. And as his twitter stream came through, I laughed, laughed and then cried (yes, I cried) and came out the other end utterly inspired. I wrote in my journal for the first time in 4 months yesterday, proper catharsis.

Today, I passed through my Feedly subscriptions and saw a recent post, “A weakness is a weakness” from Ms Afropolitan. Thank you Minna. It was this line that did it:

“Because I think that feeling groundless is what comes before feeling weak.”

Embracing my complexity means being ok with being weak. Those who know me in the real world know that I come across as a bit of an alpha female (but soft on the inside), so allowing myself to be weak is hard to do, especially when I’m buying into the normalised version of me.

I’m thankful I am who I am. I’m thankful I can see and read the world, that I can feel every emotion that passes through me. I’m thankful that all the good, bad, crappy and awe inspiring things that happen in my life exist, for without them…..nothing would be the same and I wouldn’t be me.

I even give thanks for the small ego moments that I get when I see my blog stats despite quite haphazard posting habits. You, my readers, rock!

Selah!

Struck

November 3, 2010
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So, I’m….a bit overwhelmed. You could say floored. It’s .. exciting. Thrilling. Scary. New ..

Never before has it been like this.

Not usually short of what to say, but I am. I’m Awestruck. Dumbstruck. Struck.

Hello Negro!!

October 31, 2010

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love travelling. Whether for work or pleasure, I make my passport work hard. My latest escapade on holiday took me to Malaysia. And what a beautiful place it is as well. In 3 weeks, I attended my friends wedding and managed a lot of indulgence. It was the much needed r&r that will always be worth the money and the 13-hour flight that took me there.

No matter how much I travel or how far out I seem to go, one thing I will never get used to however is being a ‘rare event’. Certain places I have been to have helped to remind me that seeing a black person is just not common everywhere.

On the island of Borneo there is a small-ish city called Kota Kinabalu (KK) which was my base for the majority of the trip. From day one, people would call out “Hello Negro!”, “Hey Negro!”, “eeeyy Waca Waca”….erm…waca waca? This was new to me, I didn’t really pay much attention to Shakira’s world cup contribution, so not only did I not have a clue what they were going on about, but since when was it ok to just turn that into some kind of ethnic identifier? Its just odd!

Now don’t get me wrong, I found Malaysians to be some of the most warm, inviting and sociable people ever. Much of the calling out was jolly and basically was just pointing out our novelty more than anything. Only on a couple of occasions did the actual ni***r word come out and even then it was completely ignorable. In some ways we really courted the attention, it was one thing that my mate spends time in the city with her now husband, but for her wedding, there was an influx of 10 more black people all hanging out together including mother of the bride resplendent in a 2ft high weave!

I can tell you I will be back there, no amount of name calling is going to keep me from coming back I can tell you that much. One of the most amazing things about the trip was being able to experience about 6 holidays in one! I had a full on city break, a paradise 5* resort, a jungle trip (erm…) and finally a budget desert island with no running electricity but the number one highlight of my trip. Ok, so that’s only 5, but still GO TO MALAYSIA!

So, about that jungle trip….in short, it lasted 6-hours, saw me complaining every step of the way and ended with me experiencing dehydration and having to charter a boat back to civilisation as I just couldn’t walk any further. Nuff said. I ain’t no jungle baby that’s for sure!

Pic below is of my spot on paradise. I got through many a book in that position. Loved it!

Dating in the Dark

August 11, 2010

Dear Black Women,

You are not wanted.

Sincerely,

All men.

****************************

I recently read and commented on this post by a dear friend Why I married a Black Woman, go read it. It’s a beautiful expression of love from a man who is pointing out “why I married a black woman, and why it matters to me” because he doesn’t think it’s talked about enough. Thing is, it looks like black women are pulling a short straw regularly.

It’s been a long developing trend that successful black men tend to gravitate towards lighter complexions and most definitely fairer races (I’m not going to go into the big ole historical discourse thing in this post). It’s gotten a bit extreme in the UK of late with people touting statistics like 50% of black british men are dating outside their race. Now I can’t find the source of this statistic (and I have looked), but annecdotally, I can tell you a thing or two.

One thing I will never understand, is how a man can say he will “never” date within his race. There are black men in the UK who will blatantly say this like it’s the epitome of progress and the future of race relations.  It’s one thing to be open to date other races, that is a valid position and one I’m quite happy with. Its quite another to explicitly never date your own race, many will disagree, but to me, it feels like avoiding something you don’t like about yourself and the women in your family and basing that judgment on their skin colour.

Recently, I went to Manchester for a weekend with girlfriends. One night we ended up in a club called Bijou. In Bijou, we were the only black women, but there were an abundance of black men and an even greater number of super-preened Jordan-esque white women. One woman was so happy to see us, she actually called us “The Ebony Crew” telling us just how amazing we were….I’m guessing the rarity of the event got to her. Would have been a great compliment if she hadn’t proceeded to plonk herself on our table and offer us all a line of coke…I digress…

Then this guy told my very light skinned mixed race friend that she is darker than what he would normally go for and she was the lightest in the whole group! We spent the whole night observing guys giving us the “what are you doing here” side-eye. Now before anyone thinks this is about the ego of me and my friends, the issue here was not being ignored, the issue was the opposite. We were treated like intruders. In a packed club with hundreds of people in the middle of Manchester (a pretty racially mixed city), we ended up in the one R’n’B club where no other black woman ever bothered to go.

What’s the answer? Who in the bloody hell knows. I certainly haven’t got a clue.

Interestingly, I came across this article by the US online dating service called OKCupid. They publish a blog where they share data mined from the people who use their websites. Their stats are hilarous and scary all at the same time. I was looking through some old posts and found this one, How your race affects the messages you get. In it, they prove that racial bias is alive in online dating.

Their bottom line is that black women are bottom of the pile when it comes to responses from other races. That’s right, nobody seems to want a black woman. A few of their headlines:

Black women write back the most
White men get more responses (from everybody irrespective of race)
White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else
Men don’t write black women back
White guys are shitty, but fairly even handed about it (everyone gets the same treatment)

Go read, tis quite interesting.

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