Monday, January 20, 2014

The Thing About Grace

Now that the Nelson Mandela hype is over, your young brain cells most likely forgot all about the significance of both his transition (we don't die, we change form) and his legacy. Your school teacher or college prof might have added him to their lesson plan, what with all the media attention on the 90yrld global icon. The same media who once considered him a terrorist for speaking against the mistreatment of Black South Africans; as in I invade your home, call it mine and implement a system where you need a pass to get to one room to another and back just to keep the house that's no longer yours expendable, and then have you locked up or murdered if you got a problem with that. If you're fortunate enough to be in a classroom that pushes education/inspiration rather than indoctrination/subjugation, a productive discussion on what Apartheid was about and what Mandela's legacy means to people of African descent, to the world at large and to you specifically then you know what it means to be informed/empowered. Because the more you know about your collective and individual self, the closer you are to your purpose.  But with social consciousness comes social responsibility. And what made Baba (father) Mandela so special to all of us is the fact that after being unjustly imprisoned for so many years then released due to tremendous global pressure and consequently the end of Apartheid, the man made the decision to not retaliate; to not signal a go for a major racial war against those who understandably deserved to be punished for their role in the terrorizing of Back people in their own land. While this form of ultimate courage is admirable or simply strategic since the objective was to advance South Africa, in the first place and not drown the country into racial armageddon, die hard superBlacks wanted to see blood if not the total removal of European control as in This is our nation. It was always ours until you stole it from us and therefore all of our resources ought to be controlled by us, not you.
The thing about grace is that it doesn't get the kind of attention a low down reality show/tweet all your friends cos episode 3 is on tonight does. Humility is quiet that way and yet loud if you stop to notice it. Somewhere in the Mandela hype was his ex-wife/assumed 'terrorist 2' Winnie Mandela. Some of us think she went too far with her bull horn. Some of us think Nelson was soft for coming out of prison pushing Can't we all get along? But pushing a racial riot and getting nothing out of it in the end but more bloodshed isn't being hard.  More of the throwing of stones onto burning bullets from children's hands might be an amazing story to re-tell but, at this point of the book, no longer effective. And Winnie staying by her ex-husband's new wife to help her stand as the current sitting wife wasn't being soft nor was it a photo opp to help change the minds of her doubters. Takes a certain amount of class to show grace in the face of your haters; takes spiritual enlightenment to turn a dis into an honor. I know this from watching my own haters become the pedestals to my victory. This is why Winnie can smile today after years of terrorism pushed on her and her children during the earlier days when the shackles of Apartheid showed no signs of letting go. 
Fast forward to today as we take a min to honor the legacy of MLK not only for what he's done for Black folk in America, but for all oppressed peoples. To consider the Civl Rights Movement only a Black thing is to ignore all the good folk from other skin hues and other nationalities who helped make the Movement move, so when we take offense at the latest groups looking to get their movement moving by adding MLK to their feet we forget that the child being neglected by his mother is part of civil rights; the vet who needs a job is civil rights, the homosexual athlete who got pushed off his team is civil rights, the Rasta wanting to be left alone so he can do his thing is civil rights, the elderly man who's being evicted from his home and needs back up he don't have is civil rights, the transgender woman getting harassed on the subway and not being able to find an apartment is civil rights, and our sons who have to tolerate po-po terrorism on a daily basis and waiting to see how the new NYC police commissioner defines professionalism, courtesy and respect is civil rights. 

Bro. Malcolm would say human rights cos each person has the right to basic and decent civility. The new generation might place more attention on cash n flash than on social consciousness, but my generation helped create that by dropping the ball. We got comfortable and caught up with shows like Dynasty and Dallas, and put away our dashikis and fros. Nothing wrong with teaching our children how to make that legal money, but we forgot to tell them to hold on to their culture. We forgot to tell them to hold on to their natural hair. Civil/Human rights can't fix that, but googling the past can.

Not living in the past, but learning from it/honoring those who paved   the way for us to simply be and take it to the next level, not lose the level altogether.

Tomorrow, your teachers won't mention Dr King. Your parents won't continue discussing his role in the on-going holocaust of African peoples. That's if they even brought him up. And your favorite stores will move on to the next hype-- Valentine's Day and like the soda bottle on a factory belt, you'll wait to be told what flavor you should be be/what label to put on while the movement waits for you to move. These are complicated times and having grace is necessary for the conscious to navigate murky waters. Otherwise, there's nothing to teach, nothing to leave behind but she said/he said and stay tuned 
for more nothing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Wind is My Mother

Been off the grid for a long min. Parenting your parent is a curious process.

Part of you resents having to stop

your everyday preoccupations in order to play the responsible adult child. Part of you gladly/affectionately welcomes the new normal. Most caregivers find their position somewhere in the middle of that process, in between the old photographs and cherished memories now lost in a vacuum called dementia. We first noticed it when mom stopped tending to her vegetable garden. Her energy wasn't the same. She lacked the pull it takes to grow beautiful/plentiful tomatoes, egg plants, peppers, mint and basil in her own backyard. Her body became frail. She wasn't eating as much and her thoughts were somewhat irrational which in turn made her actions suspect. She was still mom, or auntie, or grandma, or good neighbor but the smile was fading, the face was changing; not just aging but changing. We could see it in recent photos; that look an Alzheimer's patient has when they're smiling about nothing, their eyes wondering off somewhere past the here and now.

I've bee re-reading The Wind Is My Mother by Bear Heart. Books are great like that, in the sense that you can read them several times and each time discover something new about the message/about yourself. In the beginning chapters, Bear Heart says you don't ask to be a medicine man
; it's just part of your calling/who you are and what you came here to do. It got me thinking about playing the caregiver role. How it first calls you to action with a thousand responsibilities poking at you until it finally becomes part of your everyday life. You don't ask to be Power of Attorney. It's inevitable. The armor simply waits for you to put it on. It doesn't care how exhausted or in control you are or think you are of the situation. This was part of the journey all along, and you either pass the role to another and miss your chance or Represent.

Sometimes the wind isn't my mother but my ancestors, recent and past, guiding me/directing me. They tell me what my mother no longer can say for herself and make ways out of nothings. And sometimes I think the dis-ease is more about having one foot in the next life and the other right here where it all doesn't make sense anymore, and the people no longer recognizable except the songs remembered and the feel of a strong but loving voice you call your son. To be the one person who's able to help mom keep her emotional balance while navigating both realities used to be a burden but now an honor. It takes time, depending on the seeds planted earlier on. Because it's true what folk say-- What you give is what you get back. I never resented my mother; just her disappearing acts. And she never resented me; just my poor choices. We're more alike than not. Something I discovered recently in my handwriting and in the way I enter a room, with poise and purpose. I may have my father's free spirit, but I'm learning that I'm mother's son. And it's an honor.