American culture shock.

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Photo: PINS Daddy

It has officially been 1 week since I’ve been back in the U.S., so it’s only right that I get back to writing my confusions, my exploits and my experiences. Thanks for loving me through the hiatus. It’s only right that – 8 days fresh off the wings of a United flight – I come back  to writing with a few questions for you’se guys who call this place home. Help me understand how this place works. There are so many things I just don’t get anymore.

 

1 – Why do I have to fill out the Customs forms if I have global entry? I feel like DHS & CBP just have a lot of paper lying around and they want to get rid of it by dumping it on those of us who don’t need it, but don’t yet know we don’t need it. Keep yo’ paper, bruh! I have enough luggage to worry about.

1a. Why doesn’t every American with a passport have global entry tho’?

1b. Who has life minutes to waste in long lines in airports tho’?

2 – Why is everything in the super market in a box or a plastic bag? Forgive my amnesia on this subject, but I’m going to repeat Chimamanda Adichie, who only recently joined our sacred Barnard sistahood (we’ll keep her tho’) and is also eloquent with a writer’s pen, “EAT REAL FOOD.” I was so sad walking through Trader Joe’s this week and Whole Foods last week when I felt like I walked out with more packaging than actual food. 5adayCSA here I come!

 

3 – Why are White people moving into every neighborhood in the country at this very moment in time? I mean, literally, I could trace the eastern seaboard with a litany of Brown people tears over gentrification. I’ve been in 3 states in the last 8 days and in each town I visited I’ve heard lamentations of the erasure of people of color, the displacement of low and middle-income families, and reverse White flight. I just can’t figure out why now? I could get into the race issues here, but I’ll just settle on simply asking “why are all the White folks moving?”

4 – What are cops for anymore? People (of color, predominantly) are more afraid than ever to cross paths with police officers, so I’m kinda wondering how exactly can they be useful. In theory, yea, public safety, blah, blah I get it (ish), but really I can’t be the only one wondering… 4a. when is it safe to call them exactly? 4b. Could I live with myself if something bad happened either way? or 4c. Would I be alive after they left?

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Pinterest – saved by Rebecca Mendez

5- Last, but not least, how many housewife shows are actually on the air right now? There are Real Housewives of like 12 towns & 49 states; 1st and 2nd wives clubs in satellite cities; Celebrity, Jail and Sister wives. I mean, we get it, shows about nuclear, dysfunctional families will keep women with disposable income glued to the TV looking at commercials and buying stuff we don’t need to mimic people we don’t like. But, c’mon, let’s do better. I’d trade you 20 of these wife shows full of fiancees & divorcees for just 10 HGTV channels, preferably in metropolitan cities where one can purchase a 3 bedroom house for less than $400,000 USD. A real wife can dream…

Riddle me that.

#saytheirnames

“Deceased individuals do not have Privacy Act rights,” says Cornell Law.

And so it is, fellow American, that when you are shot down in the street or bullets are pumped into you while seated in your car or you are put in a chokehold, that is forever your legacy. You, deceased individual, are a hashtag, a cause, a martyr and hologram, because not only do you not have privacy act rights, you no longer have the right to live. Your entire life gets boiled down to one moment, beyond your control, for which you are forever a victim. Your family members’ names get published by CNN and the NYTimes. If your story is amplified by anyone except someone who loves you beyond a headline, you become a caricature – maybe good, maybe bad. But, it’s highly likely that if you’re Black, it will be bad. But, let’s not make this a race issue…

According to some sources, there are now 700 of you that got killed this year alone at the hands of police officers. But that number is still rising, so let’s not jump to conclusions.

Let’s take last year, 2015. Remember that year?  I do. It looked a lil something like this…

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http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/

And these officers, the ones that killed you, what are their names again? I’m sorry, I think I may have missed that detail. Let me re-read the article. Let me try the BBC. Since, you know, they’re not like our U.S. outlets and they are prone to being loose lipped.  Oh dear, you have to scroll alllll the way down… I mean waayyyyy down.

 

Let me be clear: They, the ones shielded by a blue code of silence with gunpowder residue on their hands, get to be relatively anonymous. We are never to know the names of their children or the address of their spouse’s job? Their families don’t give tear filled press conferences at City Hall offering more context about the loved one of theirs who was involved in these acts and whose lives will never be the same? Their entire lives are not boiled down to that one hot-head moment where – oh, I don’t know – they killed a person? They get to be anonymous and start over after the dust has settled on a grave across town?

Something is very wrong here. Wronger than we thought.

This kind of questioning is not radical. It is not incendiary.
It is educated. It is exactly what a person with common sense, a thread of humanity, and a moral compass pointing in the right direction should ask.

Be careful what you call terrorism. Be careful what you call a security concern. Despite many deaths (in churches, in kindergartens, in nightclubs), it is still legal to carry a gun. The ole’ “he’s got a gun” routine is up guys. Unless it is pointed at you (you know, put yourself in the place of the now deceased and relive that ‘gun pointed at you’ imagery), you’re supposed to use that cop training to know how to stay calm under said pressure. After all, you are a professional.

If I hadn’t seen these events with my own eyes, I would have vowed that there would never be another 1992 in LADec 1981 in Philadelphia , 1967 in Newark, 1965 in Watts, in my lifetime.

Because WE, all of us – you, me, the proverbial we – were beyond this. We were polite, un-intrusive about our racism and our “hidden” biases. See, we even call them hidden, when everyone around us knows that we are bigots in our own way, narrow minded in our own right. But, alas, racism has been here all the time. Moving on up from the mean streets of urban centers, to lay in wait in institutions of higher education and just below glass ceilings in elite professions.

That, my friends, is terrorism.

But the privileged among us feign plausible deniability.

One more thing left unsaid. But, we (the people) can do better than this.

We can say their names.

One by one, every time we find out. Every time it’s discovered. When you kill someone you relinquish the right to remain unquestioned by the people who pay you to protect them. Your accountability isn’t to a police station or your colleagues on high. It is to us. Why should we defend your right to privacy, when you deny our right to life?

…Better yet, the right to feel safe in our homes, our own neighborhoods, our own country.

You owe us an explanation, in both a court of law and of public opinion.

May you be reduced to nothing more than a trending hashtag. A faceless, lifeless, soulless entity who is a caricature of all our stereotypes, unable to function in this world as you once did before that fateful day. May your professional oaths force you to face up to the public you vow(ed) to serve. May your family have to suffer with reading the gory details of your past sins plastered on blogs and news outlets so long as they shall live. May their cries in your defense be meaningless and give no redemption. May you never have a sleepless night for remembrance of a moment in time when you were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person, on the wrong side of a powerful pointer finger.

May you never rest in peace.

#Michael Slager

#Jason Van Dyke

#Darren Wilson

#Kizzy Adonis *chokehold*

#Blane Salamoni

#Howie Lake II

#Timothy Loehmann

#Johannes Mehserle

And the names go on…

Lest we fail to exercise our right to free speech, while we still breathe free air.

 

 

 

The life and times… since my last post.

I have to apologize for having been away so long. Let me explain. My computer has been in a state of chronic disrepair and most weekends it decides to revolt whenever I even consider using it for longer than 30 minutes. I think it reads my mind like the kids in Village of the Damned, a horrible film that I watched on crappy cable television one day when my computer didn’t work. Anywho, there’s also this pesky recurring problem of work eating my real life, which makes late night blogging nearly impossible. At this point, my maid spends more hours in my house than I do and it’s sad. Last, I’ve been preparing to come back to the U.S. in full force. This means, I’ve etched out a travel itinerary and started telling friends to prepare for my imminent arrival. And, I’ve been working on my new pet project – clothing design – in full force. The hope is that when I come back to ‘Murica, I can shop it around, get some feedback, and be inspired for new wears. Aside from the former, I can say… all good things… but that’s no excuse not to write.

I had a friend and colleague in town from India for about 2 weeks. As the hubs and I say, “we fell in love in a hopeless place,” and she reminded us of every little detail. More so than anything else, she brought some much-needed familiarity and Indian cultural references back into our lives. So, we took her out to eat king prawns and she taught us how to make chole bhature at home – it took all of 30 minutes to make!  It went a little something like this:

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Shortly thereafter, I considered writing to you all about how awesome our Indo-African meal turned out, but then my computer revolted and I slipped into a food coma.

Over the weekend, I went to the Zouk festival in Maputo where I saw Kassav live and made it a point to dance like a fool to “zouk la se sel medikaman nou ni ,” because I didn’t know any of the other songs. Then I embarked on a series of South African travels, which landed me in Durban during the xenophobic riots (which I didn’t see at all) and Nelspruit just after the Mozambique – South Africa border re-opened. Let’s say, I was freaked out more by the reports than by anything else. I honestly didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in South Africa while I was there. Most of the violence took place in what seem to be townships and the protests against xenophobia seemed to be in the city center. I saw some of the latter, but it seemed peaceful and heavily policed. There certainly were lots of South Africans apologizing for the actions of the few. They kept asking if I was ok and saying things like “we’re not all like this” and “this gives South Africa a bad name.” I can imagine it’s how my fellow Black Americans feel now with the cop killings and the protests & riots thereafter. It’s a combo of ashamed and fed up, and not always at the people the media would make out to be ‘the bad guy.’ The parallels are abundant and the acts equally as senseless.

Back to South Africa – the people in Nelspruit depend on Mozambican clients to make their living, so they were all too happy to accommodate our needs. In fact, they wanted to show us that their town was safe and welcoming, so we could encourage more of our friends and family to return to the South African side (to spend some hard-earned Meticais). My primary need when traveling is food. So, this happened at Zest:

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I eventually came back to Maputo with work pressures at an all time high and nothing but thoughts of vacation on the brain. But, you know, it sucks to always consider that you’re not fully happy where you are. I felt that I’d been running away from Maputo every single weekend just to make it to vacation in the U.S. in July. That’s no way to live. So, when the hubs decided he’d have friends over for a lunch, I went all in. When a Mozambican says they’re inviting people for “lunch,” and those people are under the age of 40 years old, assume that those people will arrive at your house around American supper time. If they happen to arrive earlier, they will likely start drinking beer and liming, but they will not consume food. So, by midnight this is what my house looked like:

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Do  you see that? That’s what fun looks like! There was even a selfie extender stick involved, which spells success as far as I am concerned. Shortly after this picture was taken, I walked my exhausted self up the stairs to my bedroom and went to sleep. Yes, I left these lovely young people in my house to play their drinking games and fill the space with laughter and good cheer. Their vibes, followed by my disappearing act, took some of the edge off of the week ahead.

This very week was filled with plans for seeing my mom and my niece in ‘Murica, as well as the possibility to help out family friends – one who recently divorced and another who recently graduated from college. So many changes, so many opportunities. Oh, and while cleaning out my closet, I found these:

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If you don’t know what these are, you better ask somebody!

No, really, you should, because a simple google search won’t help very much. First, Frank T is a classic spanish rap artist. By classic, I mean horrendous. The title of this album was so bad that we had to buy it for fear that we’d miss out on this train wreck (“Los pajaros no pueden vivir en el agua porque no son peces” – seriously?!). My friend Kelly and I bought it in FNAC when we lived in Spain 15 years ago and every few years we send it back to one another to remind each other of our crazy times. I miss my girl from Oklahoma and as a sign of our never-ending friendship, she will get this crappy cd in the mail once again! Oh and to the left, what’s that? Again, I have no idea, but it was something free that I got at Guerlain 2 years ago when I bought a horribly overpriced lipstick that I’ve only worn once. Anyways, this golden flecked situation is called L’Or and I plan to use it sometime in the next month. I have no place classy to wear it and I don’t know how to use it properly. So, be prepared for a story as I make up my own excuse to wear expensive, probably useless, make-up that I haven’t used in 2 years. It’ll be fun!

Anyways, my work week ended with a networking lunch at Zambi’s that concluded with 3 spoons and this dessert:

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In case you’re wondering that’s raspberry swirl, amarula ice cream, chocolate biscotti and a dark chocolate cake. Yup… pretty much a foodgasm on a plate and you should be jealous.

I ended the week with a sunset at a Maputo mainstay that I had not yet visited: the Naval Club.

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Who knows what the next weeks will bring, aside from the Azgo festival and Bushfire in Swazi? Hope to write more soon and to have new adventures to share!