Tell me, Lover

AM I easy to love when I drop,

stoop-

into the whispers?

AM I easy to love when i close the blackness and roll

between the shapes of was and is?

AM I easy to love when i choose the easier reflections against the

loud chants of “as The Man”?

AM I easy to love when its more about the open, the opening

and the blindness within?

Tell me, lover.

Kehinde

kennmackay-pair-of-yoruba-ibeji-figures-side

 

born of the illustrious ibeji, 

You have fallen between the two worlds.

Constructing a certain void that cushions reality-

taking the real from the unreal and creating

a melange of uncertainty,

of which you rest your mind

that once carried gourds of milk

to the ifa. 

Beautiful one, lagging behind the one-

Taiye –

who eagerly jets into the world.

Only to wish to return to the

womb and to re-begin the starting place

and to pause the finishing-

perhaps in order to erase

the chaos of being-

lifeless, life-filled, but yet

unformed, still.

But the metamorphosis,

is parallel in your eyes-

as you seek to delve deeper into the

thrusting waters of blank parchment, that sing:

bwerani, bwerani, bwerani kuno 

but yet, with one foot in

with the other unsure…unperturbed.

Kehinde, the lampost-

dimming with reflections of those forgotten

in the rebirth of timelessness.

 

pc: https://tfeanda.com/2015/09/02/tribal-art-fair/comment-page-1/

Letters to Ayoola (3)

Ayoola, ore mi,

A thousand oceans and broken telephone wires could not separate us. As I usually do, I have mused and mused over your last careful and cursive letter. Perhaps, I should have celebrated the coming of a new life by going through the traditional fanfare. Tears of joy. A congratulatory call. More tears. Anticipation. Rather, your impending birth has had me contemplating our beloved Orisha. I’ve thought about it often enough to say it: this new life must be floating somewhere between orun ati aye. Are you impatient? I cannot bear the anguish of waiting or more still, my absence.

Between soothing tears and building broken bridges, I have been praying for light. When the darkness engulfed my blindness I found it easier to shield my body. I enjoyed the invisibility and I would sometimes gracefully dance between the uneven shadows I found. My own was lost but there were many I found along the way. But I still prayed for the light. I prayed fervently and fearfully, knowing that my body- naked, shapeless and contorted would be seen- be unveiled-
to whom?
These questions, as do thoughts of how many tears paradise can carry, elude me daily. Where do we find the strength to build when stones so quickly turn to sand? Supposing I lost my footing, which I constantly do–which of the two worlds would accept my heavy, sinful bounty of a body? Ore mi, I am still falling: 

Ore mi, I am still falling: 

I don start again, abi? I know. All my love to Baba, at long last, some sense in the title. And to my beloved, yes, mine: whisper not only the beauty but also the pure evils and maladroits of our Great Care-Taker. If you won’t, I shall, and you know that is a promise

To more days of Sangria sweetness.

Yours,

 

Metamorphosis

Chances fall down as we circle the forgotten
days that once existed as long held breaths.
Holding on to bruised visions and
solemn prayers.
Hope has been shining in the glimmering prophesies
that promised refuge.
Refuge for the past we did not tred,
for the future that the waves brought
ashore much too soon.
For our memories that lingered between sheets
but did not think to bring honey
to stick on to the parchment of our hearts.
Now our fragility sits upon the moutain of the aged youth,
mounted and subdued.
Here we are,
Arriving to yesterday’s blues
but forgetting the tune,
once again.

Letters to Ayoola

Ayoola,

I was filled with so much joy when I saw your handwriting (that cursive script I could never master) on the envelope that was left on the doorstep of my apartment. As I read each word –I felt the peace, the joy and the love fill my soul. You’re happy and my heart could not rejoice with you more. Baba sounds like a wonderful man: everything that you waited and prayed so dutifully for. In short, your letter has brought sunshine and smiles to my spirit. Ose, Ore Mi Atata

I’ve been praying more and working harder. I know you’ll smile at this and say “Less work and more prayer!” I am trying to strike the balance but there is the common saying “God helps those who help themselves”? So I suppose I am testing the hypothesis.  

It seems, however, the more I have tried to organize and categorize all the various facets, the more out of control everything has gotten. I was thinking the other day what a beautiful feeling free-fall must be–letting go completely. But more truthfully Ayoola, the more in-control I have set out to be, the more out of touch I have become accustomed to feeling.  So, I’ve been building barricades that will ward off any unexpected pitfalls in April.

So, I’ve been building barricades. You first saw them and tore them down but I have rebuilt them to be much more solid and encompassing than before. It was an unconscious decision. Unpacking insecurities is so cliche and I have never been very good at articulating  my emotions. So these barricades have worked to ward off those who want to see beyond the smile and laughter. The barricades have made me an island but I realize this may only last for a fleeting moment. When love leaves and resentment comes to nestle in the corners. 

I am just somewhere between floating and dodging peace. Yet it is all I long for these days: Serenity knocking as opposed to the jostling bodies and loud sirens. So I’ve been thinking maybe the barricades must come down? but how?

Ore mi, I know you’ll probably read this saying or thinking, “you don start again oo” and you are probably right…But I long to see your cursive again so please fill me in on all the details of passionate Baba and the unrelenting pot-bellied Oga-CEO.

Stay well,

 

 

 

Politics of Black Hair (part 2): Social Regulation of Black Hair Texture

This piece, on the social regulation of black hair is the second part of my Politics of Black Hair series that was featured in the Earlham College student-run newspaper.

Historically, Black hair has frequently earned a reputation of being “unruly” and “unmanageable” with specific focus on it’s oftentimes kinky texture. It is such labels that aided the development and dependency of many black women upon hair chemicals (a multi-million dollar industry1 ) that promised the popular and socially accepted Eurocentric ideal of “good hair”, albeit temporarily. Perpetuation of ideas on what “good hair” must look like and how far black hair is from this idea, has worked to produce much of the social bias that many black people face within the workplace, school and in daily interactions.

Although the natural hair movement, has helped to sensitize and draw awareness about the beauty of black hair, there are still inherent problems with the way black hair texture is viewed. Because acceptable hair texture has often leaned towards the Eurocentric ideal, hair that could at least somehow “pass” as mirroring or attempting to mirror this Eurocentric ideal has usually been accepted within societies, both black and white. In Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary, Good Hair, we are taken into the complex and oftentimes expensive world of Black hair care and the lengths at which black people must be prepared to go, in order to achieve a socially acceptable image of themselves and more specifically, of their hair. Although the natural hair movement, has helped to sensitize and draw awareness about the beauty of black hair, there are still inherent problems with the way black hair texture is viewed. Because acceptable hair texture has often leaned towards the Eurocentric ideal, hair that could at least somehow “pass” as mirroring or attempting to mirror this Eurocentric ideal has usually been accepted within societies, both black and white.

Regulation of Black hair in the workplace is one of the most blatant forms of discrimination against people of color but also against the natural state of Black hair. In their opinion editorial entitled, “When Black Hair Is Against the Rules2 ” (2014), Ayana Byrd and Lori L.Tharps, authors of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” (2001) demonstrate how the US Army’s decision to revise its appearance and grooming policy, disproportionately affected Black women and their hair. The 2014 policy was said to “refer to hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists and dreadlocks” while “severely limiting or banning them outright.” Specific language within the policy also referred to these styles as “matted” and “unkempt.”3 Although the policy has since been revised, such action conveys a clear message to black people: The US Army will not accept your natural as it is, alter it or prepare to face the consequences. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that social regulations on Black hair are perpetuated by Black and White people alike, who staunchly believe in the inherent inferiority of black hair. However, the best-kept secret still remains: Black hair should not need reform, rather it is the unhealthy ideals of Eurocentric beauty, unequal racial structures and power dynamics that need to be abolished.

 

Paradox Unraveled

I know she often thinks of the beauty of death.

As she lays down her weary body

That once swayed gracefully from side to side

That once paid homage to the goddess of vitality.

But she is now weary and withdrawn-

Withdrawn from the world and withdrawn from herself

Unable to recognize the reflection of the ghost before her

She weeps quietly,

Inwardly

It is the inward pain that has devoured her

It came silently but knowingly

Knowing the destruction it would cause and the

Disarray that would be the final result

And as she lays down her weary body

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

Close to something

Living-

Because life is what she has lost

Because life is what she has used to barter

Because life is what she deserves to have.

But she is weary now

Weary of living.

The art of unliving

Of always giving of herself

Is one she has perfected

Thus, she no longer knows

What it means to live whole

And not,

as a sacrifice.

As she lays down her weary body

Her eyes grow distant and wide

Searching for her home above the heavens,

her place among the stars.

Perhaps, this is really living

She has found peace in this paradox

Of being dead to find life

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

But there is futility embroidered around this effort

She has found something-

Something much more potent than life itself

The mourning Women

I hear them in quiet moments.

These women with their mourning songs-

So hauntingly beautiful,

So hollow and wide

but always reaching my spirit in it’s darkest depths.

I sometimes call out to them to stop.

Knowing however, that I want nothing of the sort.

These women whose wails have created more life

and pleasure than can be comprehended.

They carry their mourning songs sewn and wrapped across their hearts.

These women with calloused hands that have cultivated and uprooted their hopes

and have faithfully watered the ego’s of pot-bellied husbands.

These mourning Women with their distant looks

and forgotten stories.

I have seen them many times before

in mirrors of the past and echos of the future

I shut my eyes and try to paint a lighter reflection-

one that demands less of my being.

She appears again, silent at first

And then her mourning song begins.

Mother, A wonderful Headache you gave me

And Mother,

You only ever taught me to love and to be true,

Assuring me that this was enough armor to meet the world with.

And Mother,

You prepared me to hope in the stars and pray to the winds.

And Mother,

You promised that faith could conquer all battles.

And Mother,

You made me understand the pain of others before my own.

And Mother,

You taught me to sooth the wounds on the backs of my foes.

And Mother,

You showed me that wisdom would always dwell in the rows of cornrows that lay upon my head.

And Mother,

You sang the hymns on the misery of wars un-fought.

And Mother,

You decorated my childhood with stories of the evils of men.

But Mother,

You taught me to be silent too soon and

too often.

An excerpt from a husband bargain

Good day, how much for a husband?
I don’t mean those you only have for a decade or two
I’m looking for the kind that’ll be mine to keep.
So, how much for a husband? I ask again.

I won’t pay for one who cringes at the thought of female emancipation and equal rights.
And between you and I, he can be Black, White or even Both.
I don’t care too much for Religion either.
If I can order one today, that really would be best.

How much for a husband?
Who can cook and clean all right.
Who isn’t intimidated by my desire for power or dominance in bed.
So, how much for a husband? I ask again.

It is true; I am only shopping now since society has pinned me to the wall of appropriate gender roles.
The calls from not so distant ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ and the faint ring of a biological clock,
Have been enough to bring me shopping.
Good looks would be a bonus and only an extra charge though.

Simply hand me one who knows my rights and respects my thoughts.
Love is expensive on the market these days, I understand.
I will settle for one with good hygiene and some adequate knowledge of History please.
So, how much for a husband?