Aunt ‘Retha Died Today.

Aretha-Franklin

So, I’m sitting here, sniffing back tears and listening to “Mary, Don’t You Weep” and shoveling this tasteless trail mix into my face because I can no longer eat proper grieving food (stay tuned for THAT blog).

Cuz Aunt ‘Retha left us this morning, y’all. Left us down here with all these thin-voiceded autobots, singing about whatever, and not even meaning it.

I mean, isn’t that what we loved about ‘Retha? Whether she was singing about Mary and Martha or Dr. Feelgood, we believed her?

Didn’t she teach us that sometimes songs about love have to be raw and noisy and vulnerable? Truth is, ‘Retha is the only one we could turn to when that muthafucka would’t call, or when we realized we couldn’t live without him. I mean, sure – we have Sade and Mary J., but sometimes Sade is too sad and Mary is too angry. But Aretha was… she was all of that and something else. Don’t get it twisted – she was a little bit desperate (I Ain’t Never Loved A Man…) and a little bit bitter (I’m Drinkin’ Again), but her singing Wholy Holy? It changed you. You could smell almost smell the starch and peppermints from the Mothers’ Board.

Cuz Retha, as private and painfully shy as she was off stage, somehow animated our pain and heartbreak, our feelings of loss and joy, with every flat-footed note.

And we relied on her. We leaned on her for strength at funerals, at marches, at inaugurations. We looked to her to sing our anger and fear, to mark the occasions for us and make them memorable.

And she showed up, every time – wearing either an ill-fitting dress or Easter hat, and cared not what we thought. Even when she stood in for Luciano Pavarotti and almost turned Nessun Dorma into an altar call.

She was kind enough to share herself with us; even during times of incredible emotional and physical pain, she still loved us enough to sing us through.

Rest, Aretha. Today we will wear our furs.

And wave our hands dismissively at our enemies.

And listen to your music.

And think of each time one of your songs saved our lives.

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Blog 3: On Policing Black Joy

After taking like, forever, it finally came: Black Panther. A big,  beautiful, black ass spectacle that was everything we expected. If you were like me, you had been squealing and clenching  your butt cheeks since you saw that first picture that circulated around social media, listing the cast. When was that, like, two years ago?

And I didn’t believe it, at first. Because Jesus Christ, would you look at all that black excellence???  It was too good to be true. Surely, this was a set up, and we were gonna get to the theater and T’challa was gonna be that dude who played Chauncey in Menace to Society and like, every villain in every low-budget Black movie:

Clifton Powell

But as time went on, it was confirmed – Marvel was indeed making a movie about Wakanda. And the rumors about the cast were correct – an array of beautiful, sculpted, moisturized, highly accomplished actors.

Not just one, y’all. But a bunch of ’em. All in the same movie. On the same set. At the same damn time.

And Hollywood didn’t even blow up, or nothin’.

Listen. I was already a disciple of all things Marvel – a scholar of the Marvel Universe, if you will, investigating theories of possible motives and predicting future connections…

So like many other Marvel Heads, this was good news. And after what felt like forever, the movie finally opened.

(No spoilers here – but JESUS GUYS, IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT BY NOW…)

But you know what was the best part, for me? Watching all of the extra-ness of the fans. Honey, my people went in, you hear me? All over the Diaspora – D.C., Chicago, P.R., Lagos, London, Accra… folks showed up in traditional African regalia , djembe players lined up in the lobby, folks walked in on rose petals, and groups of young people danced choreographed routines.

It was awesome to see, really. Just the pure, unfettered joy that this movie caused. It even made me happy, and I hate everything, Fam.

Grouchy_Smurf_(SA)

And even though we knew that our euphoria was fleeting, we celebrated – just for a little while, at least, our beautiful blackness being pushed front and center on film.

And then…

The ashy comments began. They started slowly, at first – a trickle of dry-moutheded critiques of the hordes of people in their traditional African outfits. Mostly from that “elite” group of black people who consider themselves the gate keepers of all things African –  the Shea Butteratti, always there to point out what we don’t know, but rarely there for anything else.

This was quickly followed by another wave of chewed-up-cuticle-finger-wagging. This type we’ve seen before: the “if y’all had shown up to vote the way y’all ran to this movie, Trump wouldn’t have won.”

Which, oh my GOD is so freaking inaccurate and just flat out STUPID AS FK…

I gotta tell y’all, I wasn’t angry about this as much as I was disappointed. Mostly because of the unabashed misuse of logic in that statement. But also because of who was passing that shit off as fact.

And honestly, I couldn’t believe that people were mad about the traditional clothes-thing. Ironically, it was from the same folks who claim to be devoted to educating the Black community about its history and origin. Why wasn’t this obvious attempt at reclaiming some of that historical connection seen as that? Why was the celebration of seeing people who looked like us on film seen as a win for us, for Christ’s sake, instead of as evidence of our intellectual or moral deficiency?

And it hurts, Fam. Especially now, with all the Beckys and Megans out here, calling the police on us just for being black and alive, and all the increasingly brave MAGA hat-wearing thugs who continue to throw rocks and then run like playground bullies when they occasionally pick the wrong one on the subway

And the overall atmosphere of violence and potential violence teetering over us like a boulder (and we’re sitting here like Wile E Coyote with a tiny ass umbrella)…

And most of us who are still in our right minds are just out here trying to make it through our normal days without punching bare-fisted holes in the wall, and all we want is just a small break from the fuckery that floods our WiFi and our airwaves on the DAILY…

I mean, it would be nice to just be happy about some shit and not get heat from anyone. Without our behavior being seen as some kind of negative commentary on my character or a lack of decorum. Especially from those who look like me.

To be left alone, for the love of Christmas.

For once.

You know.

Like y’all do the white folks.

Blog #2: several truths about being Black and from Milwaukee.

Milwaukee night skyline

  1. When traveling to other cities, you will be asked, “there are Black people in Milwaukee?” It will happen often. Don’t waste time with exasperation, otherwise you’ll never get shit done. Just tell ’em “yes” and keep it moving to that famous chicken and waffle joint you were trying to get to in the first place.
  2. Fried fish and spaghetti is a THING.
  3. If you live there, you will have to defend your city to others on the DAILY.
  4. If you are from there, you will have to defend your city to others at least once a month.
  5. You will experience shame whenever your city makes national news for some raggedy shit.
  6. Your city will only be in the national news for some raggedy shit.
  7. You will be an expert at code-switching.
  8. You will celebrate Juneteenth Day. You may, or may not even know what the hell that is.
  9. If you graduated before ’91, you will ride or die for your high school. FOREVER.
  10. If you graduated before ’91, your school probably has a different name now, BUT IT MATTERS NOT BECAUSE GO PANTHERS OR WHATEVER.
  11. You avoid driving over the Hoan Bridge at all costs, cuz you know down in your SHANDO that raggedy shit is minutes from collapsing into Lake Michigan.
  12. You have eaten at Perkins Restaurant. You  have also complained about the service and questioned its cleanliness. But that fried chicken, though..
  13. You have fond memories of African Hut, Ritz, McCoy’s Bakery, and the old Speed Queen Barbecue.
  14. You have either taken a class with or danced on stage with Ko-Thi Dance Company. Or lied about either one.
  15. You have risked your life trying to pick up a take-out order from The Bungalo. But that smothered chicken, though…
  16. If you are over 40, you remember when all of the local bakeries were owned and operated by Germans.
  17. If you are over 60, you remember when going to the south side while Black was a dangerous undertaking.
  18. If you are over 40, you remember when it was almost impossible to get an apartment in Northridge Lakes.
  19. If you are over 40, you remember the “love” rock that was in Lake Michigan, and the day some company blew it up.
  20. You can talk bad about your city, but no one else can. That’s the rule, Fam. Govern yourselves accordingly, or receive these hands.

Day 1/Blog 1: This Isn’t What I Planned.

See, so what had happened was…

I had all of the best intentions, y’all. ALL OF THEM.

Get up, go to my doctor’s appointment, go to work.

Go home, eat, write a 0blog.

So, when 9 AM rolled around and I was sitting in my doctor’s office, I thought, “so far, so good. ”

And then she took my blood pressure.

It was high as a Whole Foods salad. I mean, like 210/100.

And there went all of my plans, including spending the majority of my evening crafting what would most definitely be a brilliant blog.

She sent me to the ER for a series of tests – and to make a long story short…

I’m in the hospital.

So, this is as good as it’s gonna get for Day One, my Darlings.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

Stay sweet, here?

A Letter to My 20 Year-Old Self

Tunde 20s

 

Dear Tunde,

Here are a few things you don’t know now, but will soon:

  1. Pay more attention to what people do than what people say. If they don’t match, those people can’t be trusted.
  2. You will soon meet the worst boss you will ever have. She will make you cry, doubt yourself and consider changing your entire career path. But you will learn a valuable lesson from her: how not to manage others. This will be valuable for you in a future job.
  3.  You will have to end some friendships. This will never be easy, because right now, you think that loyalty is the most important thing. You will find out otherwise, and it will be painful. But you will recover faster each time.
  4. You do not treasure your alone time yet, but one day you will.
  5. While on her death bed, your grandmother will share a deep fear with you, and it will haunt you for years. Don’t worry – one day,  you will meet a woman who will say three words to you that will change your life.
  6. Yoga isn’t stupid. It will help you in more ways than you can imagine.
  7. Some of the people you’re hanging around with are bad for your energy. They are draining you and making you sick. You’ll find that out one day and decide to leave them alone. You’ll feel so much better when you  do.
  8. One year, you will go to New York for a writers’ conference and find out that you’re actually a pretty decent writer. So give yourself some slack.
  9. For now, music is saving your life. Keep singing until that changes, then leave it alone and keep it moving. People will have a lot to say. Don’t give a shit.
  10. People will take your affable nature as gullibility. Every once in a while, show them your other nature, just so they know what the fuck they’re up against.
  11. You will have to learn to stop putting other people’s feelings before your own. Learn to tell the truth about what you want what you don’t.

I Just Wanna Sit Here For a While and Do Nothing, If Y’all Don’t Mind. Or: Rant #62.

I don’t want to write anymore. Right now.

Seriously.

This is where I’ve been for about a year.

I imagine it’s like a cold, gray place – made of painted cement blocks, where a 13″ Zenith TV plays a hair-sprayed televangelist in a continuous loop.

And the only food is chipped beef on toast.

Where I lie on a futon mattress in the corner, scrawling beginning sentences for blogs and short fiction, only to scratch them out again.

But seriously, brilliant ideas hit me all the time – interrupting my sleep and my drive home.

So, it’s not the lack of ideas that’s keeping me from writing.

It’s the will, y’all.

I’m tired.

And I’m worried all the time.

The Empire keeps winning, and the Jedi are all dying, and the Revolutionaries won’t stop fighting among themselves.

And I want to be there, right in the middle of it all, writing and stirring shit up…

But a cartoonist was fired today.

And writers are being attacked.

And 45 wants us to  goosestep.

I can no  longer watch the news without shouting.

I am angry all the time and I hate everything.

I am anxious about everything.

I am over-protective of my loved ones.

And I am too busy trying to hold myself together with both hands.

So no… nothing is being written right now.

I’ll be back soon, though.

I just… need a minute.

Or two.

 

 

 

 

A Love Letter to You, Fellow Lupus Warriors.

I wanted to write something profound here. Something poetic, something that musicians and actors would quote twenty years from now. Something that you would copy on a Post-It and stick on your fridge. A maxim – a life rule, packaged up neatly into a few brief sentences. But I didn’t.

And for that, I apologize.

Because when I actually got my head out of my own ass and thought about it, I realized that maxims (Maximums? Maximi? Maxae? Whatever…) frustrate me. They tend to simplify our experiences, all the beauty and pain and spiritual awakening, and disappointment… all that majesty and mediocrity, into played-out cuteness.

You all deserve more.

So instead of a neatly wrapped platitude, I just want all my fellow Lupus Warriors to know this: I love us. I love our fierceness and fight just as much as I love our quiet, injured retreats. I love how we gather as communities, from online groups that reach across geographical borders, to tiny, coffee house chats. How we find our strength in shared narratives, providing hope for ourselves and each other.

I love how we welcome the newly initiated into this ghastly circus act of body betrayal and prescription sleight of hand. Come one, come all, but please do not bother the circus animals – they’re resting.

The way some of us laugh our way through, while others travel inward.

We carry our burden in different ways – shouldering it with grace and unfathomable courage, sometimes surrounded by our cheering sections, but sometimes alone.

Shout out to all of you, you beautiful, exhausted butterflies. The way you push through crippling joint and muscle pain to work every day so that you can save your paid sick leave for those days when you’re really sick. To you, the parents, who remember your children’s schedules while also remembering your complex schedule of pills, shots and doctor’s visits. Your unapologetic use of the word “no.”

And shout out to the support systems – the parents, friends, siblings, co-workers, children and significant others who link arms around us when the pain, and loneliness, and anxiety, and depression get to be too much.

Cheers to you, Lupus Warriors, who watch former friends fade away and welcome new ones in their places. I lift my glass to those of us who share best practices, and gently encourage those who have begun to lose hope.

Keep sharing your stories. Keep talking to each other. Keep putting a face to this shape-shifting bastard of a disease until a cure is found. But most of all, keep taking care of yourselves.

We are strong, and our communities are growing. Keep asking your questions and demanding answers. Keep trusting yourselves and speaking with authority about your own bodies.

You’re beautiful.