This line is the first opening line of the French play En Attendant Godot, Waiting for Godot, whose basic premise is the endless wait for a character that never arrives. The title which is highlighted in gerund form further supports the idea of an endless and indefinite wait. In many ways, the play mirrors the current pandemic, a wait with no definite expected end in sight.
I went recently to close my classroom for the school year. When a teacher closes their room, they take down posters and learning aides on the walls, declutter surfaces, unplug units, everything to leave the room spotless for maintenance purposes over the summer. This is good, except in this case, the end of our school year came earlier than usual. My chalk board which had still not been wiped off, still had the date Friday the 13th. March. Roughly seven weeks earlier, I was here in this classroom assuring kids that the virus wouldn’t be bad enough to send them home for the year. This was no longer March but May. There were no students and no activity in the building outside the main office where the principal and staff were, waiting on faculty to be done cleaning up their classrooms.
The recurrent idea of having to wait while having nothing to do, rien à faire, in the Play, plays out in reality having been in quarantine for a total of eight weeks. What options are there for staying home when all the stores or spaces of leisure have been closed down as well? Quarantine was like a bubble bath of bad news, anxiety and suppressed sighs. A few days ago, news of residents of Michigan carrying assault style rifles to their state house to demand the end of lock down shook me. I personally think that there is a secret fantasy attached to the wearing of masks for villians and superheros that we see on TV; and so to be able to turn things over their heads while maintaining some anonymity with a mask is a secret fantasy that I believe some people would love to act out in reality. The drama and acuteness of the images of a dozen men in masks carrying guns just to protest lockdown was striking and cinematic. Like if anyone wanted an end to lock down, what happened to dialogues and petitions? Also were they the only ones whose lives had come to a halt in this situation? Who were they going to shoot and what would shooting anyone do in the grand scheme of things? Do bullets deliver vaccines? The idiocy of the situation heightened what the real problem with America is for me. Today May 5, I read another story of a Family Dollar worker in the same State Michigan who got shot in the head for doing his job of asking another person to wear her face mask. The White House’s treatment and minimization of the pandemic is not the rot that is at the center of America’s problems. The pandemic only further garnishes the worm eaten apple that America already is. A place where guns replace communication, cries for help and temperance. And in all of this, is it meaningful to ask where is God(ot) is? In the play, the character of God (ot ) never appears, though the characters await this entity. The characters never really find a solution or resolution to whatever or whoever they await. They are given no answers, no remedies, no alternatives. They stay in their incomprehensible and meaningless states until the play ends.
Returning to reality, I feel like the fact that the gravity of a pandemic has not yet succeeded in separating humans who are capable to complex thinking from turning to their guns for solutions shows that nothing ever under this universe could curb shootings in America if laws are not activated.
As a high school teacher, I must admit that like many Americans, the imminent fear of getting shot is baggage I move and basically wear with me every. Single. day. The day I received training on how to handle the situation in case a gun man entered the school I work at was the day my paranoia overflew the brim of the small container that I held it in. As a normal part of my life, I live with paranoia. I look over my shoulder in empty parking lots, I carefully avoid confronting the kids in my class I consider emotionally unstable against my better judgement and values, and I ensure every single night if the latch in my front door is actually in place before I go to bed. This is a place where after all, you can still get shot in your own home. I also always think out ways I would escape public spaces if ever I was caught in a shoot out. Though I have nothing doing in my quarantined situation, rien à faire, I feel better staying home than continually being on the exposed battle grounds that we wrongfully call public spaces in America.
I’d moved to a new city for work. I had Pennsylvania on my lips and mind months to graduation and so when I finally found work in the state after uncertain months in the Washington DC area, I knew manifesting and saying positive things into existence worked. I loved my new job. It came as an affirmative sign that I needed to remain in academia regardless of the appeal and heavy attraction I found in international development.
My new city was perfect. I was three hours away from everything. When you have tons of un listened to podcasts and talkative friends, a three hour drive isn’t that bad. I could be in New York city, Philadelphia and back in the DC area if I added an extra hour to the drive. It wasn’t that bad. The new area was serene and beautiful. It was a valley surrounded by endless mountains. I could pursue my interest in photography and actually make something out of it here, – the whole place looked like a post card and reminded me so much of Aburi mountains in Ghana. And so though perfect, I had no friends in the area because of course, I was new in here.
Stay Home I was quite isolated ; coming in Friday night and going back out Monday morning for work was how unsocial my life was. I really had no work friends, no neighborhood friends, no just stopping by unexpectedly type of friends, no when are you coming over friends, no happy hour friends, no gym friends, no let’s hang out and do nothing friends. I came home and stared at the wall or slept off through a show. I joined a yoga community that was very warm, discovered that I was in the same class with the parents of some of my students and slowly came to realize how tiny my new city was. Everyone knew everyone. Small city problems. Back home sleep or work filled a good amount of my time and so though unsocial, I really had no down time to worry about how slightly lonely my life was. Friday March 13, which generally superstitious people consider a bad luck day was the day my employers told faculty that the Pennsylvania governor had directed a two-week closure as an initial measure to curb the spread of the COVID 19 virus. Cool, I could do with some time off, it shouldn’t be that bad. I’d be home. I really don’t go out anyways.
Do Not Touch Your Face
The average person touches their face ninety times. I didn’t know that! I resented the person that had forwarded me the text. My ex. It sounds very cliché to resent an ex I know, – however this feeling came from our cordiality. I appreciate his concern on good days and I hate it on days the hormone monster takes me over because why would you care and be interested in how I am doing in the midst of a pandemic when you live only four hours away and could physically check in if you really CARED that much? I think concern and interest are things that should not be half assed and that’s how I feel. You either totally care or do not and so save me forwarded texts about COVID 19. The internet is free and I can locate that information myself. I read every word of the message though, it was an advisory piece from his cousin who is a medical doctor. I did not reply but was grateful for the information. The average person touches their face ninety times a day? This Corona was from hell then because tell me who does not touch their face? This is either the Bird Box movie or literally testing our capacity to avoid reflexes that are sadly and irrevocably human! And so our newest and latest challenging development in human existence was keeping face touching to the minimum. Infection happens when the eyes, nose or mouth are exposed to droplets containing the virus. It made sense to keep hands clean and avoid touching the face. This really felt like Bird Box. Do not open your eyes and you’ll be okay. But how does a person live without performing essential reflexes like opening their eyes or touching their faces? Might as well tell people to stop swallowing their own spit. My anxiety was building up, but then I knew how to suppress it quite well with anything and everything. I had things to think about like what my life would look like if employers decided they could no longer pay for non attendance or where to start with alternative plans for if I needed to move instruction online. How about travel? I certainly could not remain in this city away from friends and family if a lockdown happened. I suddenly had a newer appreciation for levels of grief. I was worrried about my own life and empathetic to the unimaginable struggles of other people with deeper worries than mine.
Avoid Non- Essential Travel
I woke up on day one of my Stay Home directive feeling anxious. Truly, knowing one has a day off versus knowing one has a day off as a result of a pandemic are not the same things. On a day off, I could stroll into a mall, go do my hair or honor that waxing appointment because I could. Today though, I was not up for rethinking and or replaying all of the ways I think I may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus while I was out. I do not remember a time where the sneeze of my hair stylist became a sudden problem or a time where a door knob looked more intimidating than ever. I’d also started this weird routine of linking any unfamiliar feeling in my body to a possibility of being infected. I had a temperature last night, I wondered if I had the virus and was exhibiting mild symptoms. Idris Elba had mentioned he had no symptoms at all. What if I had no symptoms as well just like him? I wanted to go to Staples for some supplies. I woke up pumped, did some work outs, decided on an outfit, looked at the empty street beneath me, and remembered the dreadful line; avoid non essential travel. Did I really need to be at Staples today? I guess not. I slumped into the chair feeling more trapped than ever.
A Shift in Values
I came by my friend’s in Philadelphia. She’d been working from home with a thoughtful home office space set up. She’d spread out all her resources and needs all around her. On the one hand, this set up incited very positive feelings in me. I loved structure and purpose. She even had a book she said she was reading. The home office made me feel grown and purposeful and proud to be acquainted with such a focussed person. She was waking up at 7am, going through a morning routine and settling down for work at 8am. This was a complete 8hr schedule from home. She had a career she was building, goals and things to check off a progressive to do list. This was great! We spoke a little of why a real home office complete with plants and comfortable furniture and dim lights and music and a tiny shelf for snacks and drinks was an absolute necessity in a our near future super adult lives. I was in high spirits. Yet, the actual reason we were home and working from home lingered in the back of my mind. That part brought a little or actually many questions to mind. Happens I wasn’t the only one with that many questions. My go to blog which I love because it mostly features research backed information on diverse topics had published a short article on what the pandemic had reduced our lives to. It listed three things our lives had become in the aftermath of COVID-19. The second one stuck with me. The pandemic had in one way or the other changed our needs as a people and that was the undeniable truth.
‘When their need for closure rises, people become “group-centric,” which means they yearn for cohesion and unity.’
The coronavirus pandemic is scary. Everyone can be infected. No one is exempt. No matter what your station in life, your status, power or popularity, the virus still can get you.
This possibility evokes an overriding sense of fragility and vulnerability. Ample research attests that with one’s feelings of control and personal agency at an ebb – such as in infancy, in sickness or old age – one’s dependence on others rises.
This prompts putting social relations at a premium, strengthening one’s attachment to others, boosting the appreciation of one’s loved ones, family and friends.
One consequence of our helplessness in face of the pandemic is our greater sociability, a yearning for warmth and succor, the realization that we need others, that we cannot hack it alone.
The sense of needing to check on people or the other sense of a we-are-in-this together is seen especially on social media. Two of such cohesive events that drew my attention were John Legend’s live IG mini concert and just last night, March 21, Bloom Bar Gh’s IG live of their in house DJ. We are in quarantine and ingenious online meetings are not only a demonstration of our need for social company as people, but also the immensity and positive impacts of social cohesion especially in times like this
Tenacity in a Time of I Want It Now
My 2020 has been full of road blocks. Mainly professional. Some of the resolutions to these hoops come soon enough and others only resolve themselves much later. I’ve lost count of how many days it is since non essential workers were asked to stay home. On the news yesterday March 24 and today March 25, President Trump has been alluding to a lifting of the stay at home guidelines because to paraphrase his words, America is not a country that was made to be closed.
Last night I took a walk outside with my friend. The walk was meant to let us get some air, talk and maybe find food though we weren’t that hungry. The height of our walk was when we got to a pizza place and nearly entered but saw a sign that said that we couldn’t go in to order. They were only open for deliveries. The workers in the pizzeria were as invested as possible in being safe and so they were taking phone orders only. We weren’t upset, I mean, we weren’t even that hungry to start with. But then, something about the previous ease and mindless effort in ordering food and how it now was suddenly so hard put many things in perspective for me. We accepted their directive with grace and turned around. No arguments, no calling your manager. We just simply understood.
Personal Road Blocks and Juxtaposing with COVID-19
I’ve been in my own back and forth with an editor over an article I want published somewhere I believe I’d gain more traction as a writer invested in the arts, literature and culture. I’ve been grateful for the editor’s willingness and patience in explaining to me that they do not fact check and so they’d rather receive submissions from PhD candidates or PhD’s researching in the areas they want to submit in. The back and forth started with a recommendation to search for a PhD or candidate to co author my article. Two emails to faculty I have a good relationship with returned no response from the first one ( who I have an excellent relationship with ) and an indirect negative response from the second one ( who I also have a good relationship with ). I asked a friend whose research isn’t in my interest areas because I thought she could work since the editor asked for the co author to be in the categories of candidate or actual PhD ( they did not say her research had to be in the area I wanted to submit in ). Anyway, an email back said we are sorry your coauthor can’t be listed because her research isn’t in literature. Bummer. And so I ask another friend whose research and area of interest is literature and who is no longer a candidate but an actual PhD. I honestly do not even know why I didn’t think of him at the very beginning! We send an email, and after some silence, more bad news. They are sorry I can’t be listed as a coauthor ( though I wrote the article ) because their editorial rules only allow them to receive submissions from PhDs or candidates. They don’t work with writers who have only received Masters degrees aka me. I have a routine of checking my emails first
thing in the morning. I mean. They appear right among the notifications on my phone. There’s no missing them. I took a whole day to reply this email.
The editor concluded by saying ‘Let me know how you feel’…
How I Feel –
I won’t be credited for an article I wrote, however my friend, the PhD, could as much as I have, written the article with even more depth and meat.
I will be listed beneath the article as a contributing author, which is fine because this won’t be the first or last time I decide to write. It is something I like to do.
The next time I submit to this blog, I’d be better acquainted with their procedure and requirements; hopefully be in a place that saves me this many loop holes.
Who knows what opportunities or engagements I could gain from this one article going out?
I replied with these thoughts in mind, they could go ahead and publish listing my friend as the author and I as a contributing author. It works. Did I sell my birth rights? Mirroring my personal story with what is going on now, I’d say tenacity, patiently going through the process, pursuing perspective and not rushing results or an outcome is the attitude that I personally think would help everyone keep sane in this trying time.
China was in lockdown for nine weeks. That equals two months and a week. We just started. Trump needs to calm down.
A Note to the First Adult Apartment
I should’ve time travelled to the month of March to tell the first adult apartment that there would come a time in 2020, when we’d sit staring at each other for an indefinite amount of time. An indefinite amount of time that would make the dog no longer wag his tail when he saw me because his attitude had now shifted from enthusiastic to indifferent. And quite expected because whoever expressed happiness when boredom had chocked, overwhelmed and drowned us? I should’ve mentioned that my actual Fear of Having Missed Out during the 2019 Year Of Return would probably happen again in 2020 because no matter how much man proposes God still disposes regardless of how we feel. I should’ve seen into the future and told the renter that her needless urge to lay out the overemphasized fact that the neighbors are very chill was a lie and that the neighbors were in fact slightly hard to live with. The wife spoke way too much and the kids I guess like many other children in the world were hyperactive. Or maybe plain crazy. Nearly wild. I didn’t mind the adults running up and down like crazy bunnies in the stair well. I just hope presently that they would stop frying whatever it is they fry at no other time than 11pm. The smell of hot oil or food is hard to sleep through. Or maybe this was a daily routine I was only just noticing because we were all home just staying home away from Corona.
I am committing my time to a biweekly art workshop delivered by Kenneth Cobb . This post will document my progress and impressions over the weeks I will be attending the class.
We spoke about types of pencils and what lighter/bolder pencils to use, when and how. Generally H pencils are lighter and B are bolder. I built confidence quickly when I found out the ways to use the pencils.
Free Sketching, Imperfection vs. Perfection
One striking thing was our instructor’s refusal to give us erasers. He asked to get comfortable with messy lines and lose our need for perfection. Other things we discussed were pencil to paper techniques, using thicker bolder lines for areas we want to embolden and lighter pencil strokes for areas we want less dominant.
Gesture Drawing / Composition
Composing a sketch we were told is simply creating the frame or outline that would eventually be what you are looking at. We also looked at a few pictures of gesture drawings which I found very interesting.
Reflections after the Lesson
I heard a lady say she knows she will never be an artist but then it feels good to be a part of the class. I thought this comment was somehow self deprecating. It made me think about my general attitude to the class. Was I driving two hours every other Saturday and spending six hours of my time every month ( ten hours a month in total ) just to do something or was I actually going to make the time worth my while?
Day Two – Tonal Value
I found out that shading and giving an image a shadow adds some reality or depth to the image. I started out shading mindlessly but then later developed some confidence and begun shading with a more purposeful approach. I shaded in the same direction outside the image for some reason but then my instructor told me to be careful not to mirror the shading in the drawing with the shading outside the image but be conscious of the direction of shaded areas; that made so much sense ( I wonder how I did not realize that in the first place ) because then there would be no difference between the background and the image.
Reflections after the Workshop
The second day went by so fast. The first day I stood on my feet for three hours drawing was such a pain mainly because time did not move at all. I honestly feel like I am not as tense as I was or as clueless as I was. I am more purposeful in my strokes to the paper and have a good idea of what I want to achieve. To me drawing is a knowledge of techniques that influence the outcome of work.
When I picked up Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, a striking narrative of the Transatlantic Slave trade and its generational effects on one Gold Coast family and its journey from West Africa to America, I mulled over the title and wondered above all things why its title was placed in gerund form. After considering it for a bit, I arrived at these conclusions – that the gerund form indicates an active, continual and ongoing action. The use of any other tense and maybe the past tense for example, would’ve indicated a completion of an action. This completion would’ve been quite imprecise simply because the action of Homegoing, in this context is a harrowing process whose physical and spiritual significance and transformation begins from the past, revives the present and stretches into the future. The weight of going home to relive, connect or discover the origin of the Slave trade is too vast and unending an event to be captured with any other tense outside the gerund form.
Gyasi’s novel ends with a return home to Ghana by the descendant of the long family line that was taken to the New World. The book ends on a beach. This year, the government of Ghana issued a public invitation to Black people living outside the continent of Africa to return home to discover their roots and heritage. A lot of the returnees, some of whom are pop stars such as Beyonce, Ludacris and Rick Ross, are in Ghana this December. Most of the time, returners visit the castles that dot the coast of southern Ghana. Social media accounts have buzzed with many photos of Black returnees who have mostly posed for photos in the castles, while verbalizing strong captions that embody the pain and also hope that the Transatlantic slave trade has left on their hearts. The castles have been visited by many prominent people including Barack Obama and were holding places of captured slaves while they waited to be shipped over the seas to the New World.
The Complicity of the Ocean
In Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon, the ocean and its role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade is highlighted. Hurston’s main character is held in a Barracoon on a beach on the shore of what is now Benin, while waiting to be transported over the seas to Alabama. Hurston’s character unlike Gyasi’s characters is not fictive. This character is a real life person who is asserted to have been the last survivor of the Slave Trade in America before it was abolished. He was originally from Nigeria and never fully recovered from the trauma and nostalgia of separation from his Nigerian village. Before Hurston’s protagonist boarded the ship that would bring him to the new world; he was stripped naked, carried in the womb of the ship just like all the other naked or barely clothed slaves transported from West Africa and rebirthed into a different culture where their complete insertion, even up until today is worth discussing.
Chinua Achebe has spoken of the Supremeness of the Mother ; – his own Okwonko returns to his mother’s village because there is nowhere else for him to be when he is exiled and escaping from a place he thought was home; – this year in West Africa, Ghana and Africa, the wheels of history are grinding louder in reversal and completion of a circle. The mother whose children were brutishly taken away, is receiving its returned children. The children who have nowhere else to go are seeking out the mother. Returning to Africa where so many Black people were lifted has begun a process of healing. The return home creates a new identity, a spiritual awakening and force that binds from the past, present and into the future.
I enjoy lifestyle stories as much as I enjoy trending and unfolding news and so when I came across the Marriage Story on the Atlantic Blog, I quit scrolling.
Just as simply as the title suggests, this story is about a marriage whose beautiful story has been captured by moving cinematography. The lead characters are seeking out a divorce which in itself is not ugly, but whose involved players, the lawyers, make it unfeeling and uncomfortable to watch maybe because it becomes a stark reminder of the mortality of all our adult relationships and marriages and how they could potentially be reduced by many factors including the law.
The Inhumane Side of the Law
Charlie’s, ( the husband ) first choice of a lawyer is quick to remind Charlie that he charges $950 per hour and then also adds as a reminder that the firm’s assistant attorney charges $450 by the hour and would probably be the best person to direct less significant questions to, which means quite obviously that this lawyer is not quite about the client’s needs but the monetary potential of the client. The lawyer is aggressive and combative in his suggestions and recommendations to Charlie and on many occasions forgets or uses an entirely different name in place of the real name of the would be ex wife. Clearly the entire atmosphere in this lawyer’s office is more business like over compassionate or empathetic. He even calls Charlie’s would be ex a bitch which Charlie quickly addresses and corrects. To accentuate the scene, the camera catches a brief image of a pouf in one of the lawyer’s accent chairs which reads Eat, Drink and Remarry. He zones in on the use of exaggerated details to try to incriminate Charlie’s would be ex wife with the view of winning the case. He says to Charlie that they aren’t going to win if Nicole, the wife of Charlie is portrayed as the perfect mother. Quite ironically, Nicole’s lawyer, a female, also on her part encourages Nicole to tone down and eliminate her flaws entirely because society will definitely support the stereotype of the flawless mother and the neglectful father.
The evaluator is another character whose physical and symbolic presence reminds me of the irony of allowing an external entity to judge and make conclusions on a life a person has lived a lifetime under the lens of whatever internal biases, botched perspectives and wavering objectivity. The evaluator represents the law which without a true knowledge of a person can alter their life in a minute.
Charlie and Nicole’s marriage is generally rooted in love as seen in their civility, hesitation to hurt each other ( they openly discuss their frustrations and desires on how to make the divorce process painless ) and little acts of kindness including her tying his shoe laces and her cutting his hair in one of the scenes. Their divorce is happening because of a change in direction of professional interests and with it, changed preferences of a home address. The therapist in this article is right in his assertion that they still do love each other. The film starts out on several running scenes of the couple’s life together with Nicole’s voice over narrating the strengths of the couple and how they help each other through other areas that are out of their core strengths. The film’s ending scenes show a moving scene in which their son discovers and asks Charlie to help him read the very journal Nicole’s voice over narrated from in the opening scenes about the couple’s life together. At this point, the divorce is already concluded yet Charlie’s discovery of his wife’s journal moves him to tears. The last line he reads before the scene closes is ‘ and I’ll never stop loving him‘.
My resume so far is heavily dominated with research and instruction. It is going to be hard at this point to explain my interest or commitment to any employer offering me a chance in a field that did not necessarily relate closely or loosely with the areas I just mentioned.
I’ve been through some personal indecisive moments where I wondered if I my interest in international affairs, a masters degree, and a foreign language were enough reason for me to go into international civil service or if I am indeed cut out for academia. For the most part, I would say I have made some progress trusting my life’s path, genuine interests and process, and so currently, I remain on academia’s path. Who knows? *Shrugs*
My training sessions recently have been on relationship management with young people. They have left such a strong impression on me and I would like to share some of the information I received in this post.
I am not a parent yet, however, observing young people and working with them makes me see how comparable and nearly the same adults are to young people.
Relationship Management With Adults and Kids, The How Tos –
Never Try to Negotiate through Tantrums/Arguments
Have you ever been in a conversation that is far from friendly and civil? An argument is what that is! Raised voices, overly assertive stances, egos at play and a stubborn view that the parties hold because they both think they are right. As a rule of thumb, disengage when tempers soar. Discontinue the conversation, walk away or wait until the person calms down. Same with young people, do not argue, reason with, coerce or bribe an upset young person. Let them know, ( both adults and kids ) that you will only engage in conversations once there is calm. I’ve seen young people and adults grow fiercer, nastier and act out more only because the other person tried to calm them down, I mean, fires get bigger if you try to put them out in the wrong way. To disarm, only continue when they calm down.
The Go Lower, Go Slower Rule
As a segue to the first rule, the go lower , go slower rule is where you would slow down, quieten your own emotions and speak slower to an agitated person. Remember at this point to eliminate hostile words, postures or gestures. Assume the position of the logical one because quite obviously, the upset person is moving mad.When we meet upset people with the same amount of energy, fireworks will happen. The go lower, go slower rule is how you calm down and quieten or tone down the scale of the argument. If this does not work, we move to the first recommendation which is to disengage.
Don’t Expect Behaviors You Don’t Teach
A lot of us women get upset at other women and men because they do not treat us the way we want them to or better yet, expect them to. We think they should already know what to do. Does this make any sense at all? How does a person expect a thing they do not ask for? For young people as well, you need to be explicit and teach or say what you expect, and then when the expectation is not met, you hold them accountable.
I am very interested in language, wording and positive reinforcement and so there is no way I would ever forget my elementary teacher’s comments on my report card. The comment was always along the lines of ‘Talks too much in class’ or ‘Can do better’. We can’t go through sugar coated moments all throughout life; but then we can always say constructive things to people. In retrospect my teacher could’ve said, the student has a good potential for leadership etc etc and should be offered resources and opportunities to channel that interest in self expression etc etc. because really, what does ‘talks too much in class mean? And what should anyone do with that information? I do agree that not everyone has time or the brain power to reword or constantly remember to be sensitive and offer constructive feedback, however, the key thing is to try. Coming to the word punishment, our trainer offered that we exchange the word punishment for consequence. That made sense to me. That also reminded me equally to remember to make consequences meaningful. To make consequences constructive, explain the relevance of your action ( the consequence ) and then allow the person you’re mad at a chance to rethink what they did and then discuss next steps. Sometimes kids and adults go through consequences and they have no idea the relevance of what they went through or why they need to do things differently. We miss good teaching moments when we do not offer explanations for the consequences we place on others.
Attack the Behavior and Not the Person
Often in arguments, we get distracted and go on unprofitable tangents. Whenever you need to address an issue, try as hard as possible to focus on the action and not the person. Instead of saying you always do this and I’m tired of you; ( Sounds accusatory ) – say this is what you do ( state the thing ) and this is how it makes me feel ( focus on the action ).
I live on African news. On a certain evening in late October, I was having dinner and listening absent mindedly to the London based Nigerian reporter who hosts the BBC Africa podcast. I liked her pace, voice and near casual delivery. I threw down whatever crumbs of food I was eating and walked away from the speaker that filled the apartment with the news. I was going to pace the entire square foot of the living space with no real aim in mind until I gave up and went to bed. Then the story of Dr. Ismail Ahmed, the founder of World Remit came on. There was mention of his having been let go of while he worked with one of the UN agencies; the UNDP, to be specific. He was working in the remissions department and had noticed a gross whirlwind of corruption and intended to blow the whistle. I rolled my eyes. This was truly a whistle blowing age we lived in. He was so concerned he wanted his superiors to support him while he changed the world and straightened things up in the specific UN office yet that was sadly not going to happen. He was told he could lose his job if he went ahead with the probe and outing. He eventually lost his job, doubled his fiery determination to make a difference and started World remit. Dr. Ahmed was recently named first on the 2019 UK power list in recognition of his success so far with World Remit.
My UN Experience
I worked in one of the UN offices in Accra for a year. While I think I didn’t work long enough to notice any activity worth whistle blowing over, I did encounter an image that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Naturally, any young graduate who cared enough about change would have stirrings in their spirit over the pace of work and things to be done. This was me in 2013; I had graduated with a bachelors in liberal arts and a foreign language under my belt. These diplomats had better make room and watch me change the world! My equally ambitious friend and I often spoke about books, travel, places to eat after work and the lady in the HR department who we asked the same question each morning. Did she need a hand with projects? Did she need help with pending work, help with future work, anything? Did she want us to clean her office even? We probably would have, but each time, the answer was a curt NO. The lady was a whole topic of discussion because unlike our boss boss, who practiced an open door policy with us, this one was very different. She was hostile, passive aggressive and never willing to assign or offload work to us. We were after all interns and there to work! Anyway, outside this, we quickly noticed the bureaucracy of the UN. To back the frustrating realization of this clogged up system, there was an image in our office of a dog. The dog appeared in many versions; imagine mugshots that continued for the span of about 14 boxes. Essentially the dog was captured looking excited in the very first shot and not so excited in the last. The images were a gradual and dismal transition of emotions and energy, from total motivation to eventual frustration. The dog was a representation of the effect work in the UN could have on you; – you would come in excited, eager to change the world; and eventually withdraw your excitement in exchange for a trite acceptance of the reality that changing the world might actually take a lot more longer than you’d expected….And this image was in our office! The presence of the image in our office was a bold and saddening admission that we all knew, and somehow accepted all we saw.
Francis Ngannou’s Story
Francis Ngannou is a successful mixed martial artist from Cameroon. He lived in poverty growing up; the crippling type of poverty that stifles any chance or effort to be resourceful. He migrated to France, met nearly the same amount of suffering if not more and then walked randomly one day into a training studio where he met a man that would train him, cultivate his skills and hone him into the world star he is today.
Shoe Dog is an intimate memoir by the creator of Nike, Phil Knight. Throughout the thirteen hour audio book, I have been unable to shake off the tremendous contribution of his coach, in the shaping of knight’s character, intellect and spirit. Phil Knight tells of his coach’s resilience, industriousness, strength, force. Bill Bowerman’s conviction that the type of shoe an athlete wore had a direct relationship with performance. He is Nike’s cofounder and the brain behind some of the brand’s very first creations.
The three individuals from these three encounters definitely worked hard. However, I am still mulling over the contribution and convenience of the relationships and steps and events that came their way that led to their success. Their stories enforce for me that….
In an earnest attempt to get to know my students; I asked one of them how their weekend was. This student is a shy individual who would avoid an instructor at all costs and speak only when spoken to. Knowing this, I went ahead to probe and get him talking about how his weekend went.
Fort nite is an online survival game whose essential goal is entertainment derived from the satisfaction of self defense delivered by guns. This student I was speaking with had had a relaxing fun filled weekend and it was grace a cette jeu ( because of this game ). This game whose sole purpose revolved around shooting for self defense and ultimately fun derived from killing opposing forces. I walked away feeling unsettled. What subliminal messages were these games pushing?
The conversation blog which I follow ardently published a post based on the logic behind fear. In this post, the main idea presented revolved around the illogical nature of fear. It maintained that fear, specifically xenophobic and fear of the other, rested not on the logic of otherness equaling humanity but rather an us against them mentality which encouraged an attack on different groups if the one group wanted to survive. I see the same idea in this game.
A quick online search showed that variations of the Fortnite game features zombies who must get shot at if the player wants to stay alive. Many games that even I have played innocently feature this idea of self defense against the being that is new, foreign, terrifying and out to get regular people or take what they have. Zombies are feared and need to be quelled before they multiply. Read related post also featured on the conversation blog. Around the world, and especially in South Africa, immigrants who even have the same skin tone have been targeted because of their otherness; with the idea being that though African, they aren’t technically South African. They are different, Nigerian for example, and dangerous. Just like in South Africa, zombies are everywhere in their indecent numbers and must be stopped. America’s zombies are as usual its foreign immigrants whose skin tones are different, – little heed paid to other immigrants who have the same skin tone as the man. This society is a place where entertainment in the form of online games, marketed and meant for younger members of society equals shooting at other BEINGS WHO ARE DIFFERENT in order to survive. This is the society where a lone armed shooter walks into a grocery store just because he knows that that part of town will certainly have DIFFERENT people aka zombies. In this space, I continually remain eager to understand what entertainment there is, for example in a game that rests on shooting others.
Mental health pulls the trigger not the gun. Where does this statement fit where young people are getting unconsciously wired to derive fun from shooting at the other with aims no matter how benign.
Out of a plethora of shows available on creative platforms, I choose Black shows because I seek to clearly understand the many complex issues plaguing the Black community and especially the Black woman.
I came upon this show on Instagram. It was advertised as a coming soon on HBO and looked like it held so much value because of a HILARIOUS preview and later scenes that serve/d as fluid vehicles to push social commentary about women’s lives in post modern society. In summary, I would say the show is an honest parody of societal issues with a limelight on feminine life. The topics projected in the show span impossible beauty standards, a comparison of marriage and it’s gradually changing or totally changed standards and expectations from our parents’ generation as compared to the millennial generation and a lot more!
This post will explore the Bad Bitch Support group scene from one of the episodes and hopefully spark your interest in jumping on this show as a way to understand, reinforce or refute certain ideas you may already have.
The Bad Bitch Support Scene –
Impossible Beauty Standards Enforced by Who?
Words at Play – Bad Bitch, Basic Bitch, Okay Bitch, Pressure, Men, Lace front, Waist Trainer , Fucksicodone ( Spelt as heard on show ).
This scene is set in what seems to be a lab. The women are seated in a group and are observed through a glass window by two scientists. The scientists have a representative ( Angela Basset) who chairs the group. The Bad Bitches are in deep conversation about their lives and some of them speak of the pressures and stresses of maintaining a life that is eternally linked to heels and make up. Some of the members of the group seem perfectly fine with their state and are horrified at the thought of ever allowing their partner ( Men in this case ) see them without make up. They all agree to some extent about the need to remain in their current state all except one of them who is distraught and ready to give up. The rest of the ladies and the scientists are shocked at her questions and non conformity. The scientists resolve to increase the dosage of Fucksicodone ( a coined term from the word ‘Fuck’ and the suffix of a family of drugs that are meant to numb pain and in this case common sense or a desire to rebel against imposed beauty standards.)
From The Top
Third/Forth wave feminism circles around agency and choice. Particularly for Black women who have witnessed struggles shaped in the form of sexism and racism, the state of being a Bad Bitch has become a doubled layered protective tool that could help navigate the aforementioned terrains. A Bad Bitch is defined as a woman who embraces her body while simultaneously using it as a commodity (Lavoulle and Ellison, 2017).
In the scene above, the implied truths portrayed are that these women must be confident, tall and unflinching because as one of the characters say; ‘they didn’t choose this life, this life chose them‘. This statement though is indicative of a certain kind of lack of a choice, of a lot that has been cast on them through the workings of the male gaze, objectification of the Black female body and capitalism, link to the second factor. The location of the scene, – a lab, – is a weighty portrayal of the fact that indeed, there is a working behind the scene when it comes to beauty standards. Through the scene we further understand how a woman can be objectified with no gain and with shame only and unnecessary vulnerability as side effects. For this reason and in tandem with the specific definition of a Bad Bitch as offered by (Lavoulle and Ellison, 2017), Bad Bitchery can enamor and position women to gain over the forces that suppress them. One of the characters explains that she goes great lengths to fix her make up an hour before her man is up. It is unclear if this work (of rising early to make up), is meant to elicit some form of gain from the man; – however, if it is, then the choice of the character to use the tool of make up ( which equally functions as a tool of objectification ) to her personal gain guarantees some kind of a win for her.
The final scene where the scientists question why the outlier lady does not want to play into the idea of what a woman should be ( made up, waist trainer clad and in heels ) sums up the play of capitalism and the male gaze in objectifying women. However these females have a choice in how they can turn the powers to their advantage via Bad Bitchery.
This article is authored by Naomi Schalit and first appeared on the Conversation Blog. I reposted here because thematically, misrepresentation touches the African ( my area of interest ) as much as other minorities in their treatment under the Western lens as is portrayed by the author in this article. To read click here.