Horizontal Dreams … {testimonial prose}

So the girl with horizontal dreams sat on a cold kitchen stool, looking out of the window at the wide expanse of  lively flora and fauna that seemed to mock her with its vivacity. She sat there, one missed call away from depression, one chipped fragment of her soul away from death. Is it what contentment feels like? She looked down at the white gold band around her frail left finger and felt nothing. Not even nostalgia, not longing, not the teary-eyed happiness she felt on her wedding day looking up at the stoic cross hanging on the brick wall behind the altar as if still engaged in persuading her soul that she was still the owner of her fate. No regrets for discarding both families disapproval in an union deemed as “precocious” and unworthy of candid clerical accountability. Not a single sense of vulnerability regarding the signs and foreshadowings heaven weaved into her inside parts. The clock was ticking. From unwhole and numb, She consecutively became beautiful, confused, rebellious, married, ‘free’, and numb.

She sighed and rose wearily, studiously avoiding the taunting ticking of the clock as it betrayed her daily fear, 12:15am and he’s still not home.  This was a dangerous place to be in, this deep sense of failure and giving up for which apathy was too light of a descriptive word.  She ran her fingers over her dry messy braids, tendrils of hair sticking out in the back, and marveled in disbelief at the time when she dreamt to be his wife, two become one, until death do us part- and the church did say amen. She wandered through the comfortable desolation that was her family home, echoing with the many footfalls of a long-gone toddler. Her heart had ceased to bleed long ago. She had forced it to, for fear of her lover’s dismissals that only served to increase the pain rather than to alleviate it.

She had an endless inventory of things she could no longer say, what was the point? He would be back soon, take a quick cursory glance at her distressed face marked with valley-deep channels of her endless tears, and all he would do was shrug.  “If you don’t want to talk about it I’m not going to ask”.  She looked down at her dwindling frame and suddenly felt cold even in the perpetual 35-degree celsius heat. How does infatuation, and passion, and love and obsession, morph into flippant neglect, and uneasy comfort, and torturous nonchalance?

She had dreams, and although he never categorically forbade her from following them, she felt she had to stunt their trajectory, what was the point if she had neither his disapproval nor his praise? She used to yearn for everything that was him; a discarded handkerchief, a late night phone call, a smile; and so it didn’t matter that she let her God-given ambitions cool on the countertop like a stale apple pie. Thinking back, she couldn’t even remember why she turned down that opportunity at the International Institute of Arts to wander in thoughts. He wouldn’t have said no, he didn’t even have the right to, but she thought he was worthy and so she gave him a full ownership to her intimacy with her creator, her heart, her mind, her free will, her future, her purpose, her dreams.

And so her astronomical and horizontal dreams were put to rest. Her life stretched out in front of her in an endless sea of family functions, and traditional weddings and lonely nights in the cold tundra of their four- poster luxury bed. Her dreams for their life together died a thousand deaths at the first shrug of his shoulders. She slid into the icy bed sheets. 3:15am; he’s still not home.

If she was still His horizontal dreams…

[Remember to wisely live your life with purpose, on purpose]

Dear all,

Forgive me; it has been so long since I last wrote you. It has been almost 26 years, and I am nowhere near as close as I should be to knowing you. How arrogant of me to expect boubous hitched up to the shoulders, all the better to embrace me, emotional strains from the kora announcing my arrival. The warmth of your reception fell short only in my wild imagination, because you often mistake me for one of your own and treat me as such anyway. We are still the same people; At least I was convinced. We left the Nile valley together, fertile black soil crushed beneath our feet. We debated philosophy and politics in grand libraries in Timbuktu, fought vicious raiders on horseback to death. We were separated at birth by greed and racism. Civilization was the downfall of our nobility. In fact, the frontiers that divide us are artificial, they run only has deep as contracts drawn around a table in a distant cold city.

Forgive the unnecessary romance, but the closeness I feel to you is inexplicable, inevitable, and for that reason I feel that I must write you with my thoughts. It is disturbing the amount of distress I feel when I see you living a life less than worthy of your rich history. Of course we are all royalties, but every goldsmith and griot and servant had a specific purpose to serve. Only now, this thing called economics, or corruption, (depending on the way you interpret the graphs) has made it so that some of you are relegated to abject poverty and international ad campaigns pleading on your behalf. I want to scream, to rip my hair out in mourning every time I hear someone pity you, each time someone laments the fate of “these less fortunate people”.

I am concerned by the violence of my reaction; forgive me for losing my composure. I only mean to share with you the pain and confusion I feel, not to add salt to the wounds of injustice you face. I want to collect every guidebook, every blog and travel advisory, and burn them a hundred times over for every time they use the word “authentic” or “untouched tribe” or “quaint” to describe you. How dare they, reduce an age-old lifestyle in which every element is a symbol for something greater, to a caricature; a picture-perfect primitive landscape for the back of a postcard, or a stamp, or a museum full of stolen artifacts. How disrespectful, to believe that donating some spare change on the plane ride here is going to solve your problems. Is giving you some candy or a piece of gum and taking a few photos for the road really going to make your day?

I am sobbing hysterically, my tears carve out valleys and channels on my cheeks and I want to scream at you to stop! Stop running, stop waving, stop tugging at water bottles and shirt hems and arms. It’s not your fault; your childish exuberance and past is totally innocent. You were naive and curious. It is not often that strangers come your way. I couldn’t explain why it upset me so, until I heard the patronizing comments, saw the pictures posted online, a virtual condescension that is a world away from you, humiliation you will never be aware of.

Oh Motherland, my heart sinks to new depths when your beautiful form is reduced to something base, vulgar, bestial. They don’t understand, the length of your neck soars above human pettiness and the top of your head and soles of your feet have borne every kind of weight, emotional, financial, the firm bottom of a clay pot. Your hair effortlessly pierces the depth of the Nile and seduces the Congo river. Your Gold, Diamond, Coltan, Cocoa and safari reserves rot in your nailed hands, until the smell fuels the endeavors of your favorite scavengers. I do not glorify what is quotidian, nor do I sing unwarranted praises just to prove a point. I merely state the truth, that your infinite strength, your resilience against the constant battering of time and development cannot be fathomed by a fleeting visit by a tourist group and the purchase of some trinkets. You are not a souvenir with a polished finish, carved with wood and hollowed at the top to hold candles or car keys. Your breasts are not the figment of colonial fantasies. You are NOT for sale.

To you, my heart skips a beat every time I see you approaching. I do not refer to the characteristic quickening of the pulse felt by love struck teenagers. Rather, I mean the irregular beat that precedes my heart plunging to the depths of my stomach. It hurts to see you degrade yourself, to see you earn the label of money-hungry, visa-chasing glutton; interested in any stranger that can help you escape debt, overdue rent, apathy, stagnant job prospects. By no means do I condemn you for falling in love with whoever you desire, but when the desperation seeps through your pores and you are met with contempt in the markets, on the beach, in rundown bars, it hurts me. It hurts me to see you shed your kingly stature, laying down your tattered robes for who-ever has the most favorable passport to walk over. Remember that God has made us all kings, but you regress by stepping down the ladder every time you think this is your only way out. You know better, your ancestors ingrained in you the principles of respect and dignity. Get up, stretch those broad shoulders and puff out your ample chest. There is work to be done, more on your side than on the other side of the immigration checkpoint.

I am sorry if I speak out of turn, you have raised me to be stronger than this, more stable. Still, I can’t help the fact that your beautiful chaos moves me to emotions in battle with each other even during the most divine of walks down any wonder-lust street. It is my hope that you will take me back, though I may have become a truth-telling dangerous stranger. I remain yours, always.

Signed,

A bold tourist.

What is Pan-Africanism? It has been a movement against imperialism in all its forms and for the liberation of Black Africans from the evils of Black enslavement, colonialism, and from the racism these produced.

Pan Africanism Today

Rising Continent

What is Pan-Africanism? It has been a movement against imperialism in all its forms and for the liberation of Black Africans from the evils of Black enslavement, colonialism, and from the racism these produced. What is Pan-Africanism? It has been a movement against imperialism in all its forms and for the liberation of Black Africans from the evils of Black enslavement, colonialism, and from the racism these produced.

The following are talking points of a presentation I did on Wednesday 6/2/13 at Manchester University for student members of the Pan African Society and their interested friends.

A definition – Pan-Africanism is a dynamic concept of seeing Africa [and its populations] as one entity in its different components: people, cultures, history, and issues without ignoring the underlying diversity of these varied aspects, and considering Africans as one race wherever they are in time and space.

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“Academese” and Exclusivism

Les Reveries de Rowena

I’ve read a lot of inaccessible academic writing in my time, enough to make me cringe. I’ve also witnessed people not being taken seriously in intellectual circles as a result of their supposed “lack” of knowledge. All this has made me wonder what the use of writing something so academic, convoluted and pedantic that it’s practically esoteric is. Indeed, what is the role of the intellectual or scholar in society? And what do people get from alienating others from dialogue?

I don’t believe education or discussions about important issues should be exclusive or elitist. Anyone who desires education should be able to attain it. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible. Those of us who are fortunate enough, or motivated enough to do so should never believe we are better than everyone else. Nor should an individual’s opinion cease to matter just because they don’t have the “right” education, use the “correct”…

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Love trials.

I didn’t know that I could love someone as much as I love you. I didn’t realize my heart had the capacity to feel this much but, as I sat there watching your face grimace, I hated that I couldn’t take your pain away. I looked at your face, finding pieces of myself but pieces weren’t enough, I wanted to move inside of your skin, take on your every burden. Tears pooled in my eyes as I watched, helpless, praying for the right words to ease just a bit of your pain. I felt like Superman, stuck in a jammed phone booth, while watching the world fall apart…If only I could save you. If only love was enough.

 No longer able to hold back the water in my eyes a steady stream flowed down my face. Each tear pleading with God, please just let it be me. I wish I could love the pain away, I wish I could hug you so warmly it steals the chill out of this moment. I wish you didn’t have to go through this but, sometimes the only way to heal fully is to first hurt deeply. Life-saving surgeries requires cuts in our most delicate places. Even with all of those things said in the stillness of the room I still whisper a prayer, “God let it be over. No more weeping, let it be morning..”

 Have you ever loved someone so much that you wanted to bear the weight of their world? I want to keep you in the safety of my heart so that harm will never find you, pain will never know you, and grief never whispers its name in your ear. I wish I could shield you from the dangers of this world, wish you never had to learn anything the hard way. I wanted to protect the light in you that had guided you this far. The storms of life come with violent winds and unbearable rain but our faith is the candle that illuminates our path. We keep pressing, and pushing, and thriving. I found myself determined to shield the flame inside of you, decreeing and declaring that it will never flicker nor fade.

 If you’ve ever wanted to leap out of your skin and into the pain-filled shoes of the one you love then you understand my heart when I say those who have to witness your struggle experience their own too. At some particular points, life gives us a opportunity to be on both sides, both a star and an extra on the stage of pain…

When you are bearing the pain you have very little time to think about the effect it has on another, all you can focus on is survival.  I scanned the eyes in the room and realized there wasn’t one person in the room whom I wouldn’t bear agony for…Love is the essence in you that would rather endure pain than watch someone you love bear it on their own.

I ponder if this is how God feels watching us make decisions that pain Him…. I think about my own struggles, the times in my life when God had to cut things away, and I know that regardless of how I was hurt (self inflicted or world afflicted) I may have to be cut even deeper if I ever wanted to be healed.

 I found God in the midst of my trials, found Him while I witnessed your pain, and His sentiments were the same…. “Trust me…”. Incapable of fixing the pain that surrounded me or the trouble that existed inside of me, I handcuffed myself to my faith. Sometimes you have to cup your hand around your flicker of faith, so life’s storms don’t blow it out. Job 5:18 said it best “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.”

This is for anyone who is watching someone you love in pain. Whether they are hurting themselves or God has cut them open so He could heal them, trust that He does nothing in vain. Even in grief there is a lesson. I will cry these silent tears but I will not wipe them from my face, I will witness every setback and every victory, I will stand by you in life’s hardest times.

 I know that there will be a day where you lose your way and get lost in all that you still have to accomplish and I will be your eyewitness, reminding you of how far you’ve come, how strong you are, how much courage lives inside of you and how I watched you evict fear from your heart time after time. They say the first cut is the deepest because there are some things you go through in life, that, once healed you’ll never have to face again. But in all and through all, I trust Him to carry you through.

Dear God help us to see that instead of whispering sometimes we need to just observe. We need to see Your light shine in the darkest times of other people’s lives. Help us to learn from their lessons, so that we may rest in the fact that if they made it, we can too. Help us be strong enough to recognize our limitations and know that we cannot help someone until You have prepared their heart for us to come in. Give us wisdom so we use a person’s history to remind them where they came from and who they can be, not to curse their tomorrow. Help those in pain remember that the first cut is the deepest; and the rest, will be celebratory history.

Women empowerment (My response to feminism)

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Cs Lewis once beautifully wrote,

“But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.”

Within this statement  lies a powerful treasure. Locked within these words, is the key to empowerment and a real path to liberation. You see, the moment you allow anything, other than your Creator,  to define your success, your failure, your happiness, or your worth, you enter into a silent, but destructive form of slavery. That thing which defines your self worth, your success and your failure is what controls you and becomes your master.

The master which has defined a woman’s worth, has taken many forms throughout time. One of the most prevalent standards made for woman, has been the standard of men. But what we so often forget is that God has honored the woman by giving her value in relation to Himself—not in relation to men. Yet, as some ideologies erased God from the scene, there was no standard left—but men. As a result the woman was forced to find her value in relation to a man; and in so doing, she had accepted a faulty assumption. She had accepted that God is no longer her standard, and thus a woman can never be an exceptional being until she slowly becomes a man: the new standard.

Throughout feminism anthropological history, we observe that when a man cut his hair short, she wanted to cut her hair short. When a man joined the army, she wanted to join the army. When a man smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol, she wanted to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Often, she wanted these things for no other reason than because the “standard” had them. What she didn’t recognize was that God dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness–not in their sameness. When we as women no longer accept men as God assigned heads of protection and leadership above us but our standards, suddenly anything uniquely feminine becomes by definition inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a full-time mother—a degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and selfless compassion (considered feminine), irrationality supremely reigns.

As soon as we accepted the lie that anything we were pre-ordained to create was inferior, all that followed was just a knee jerk reaction of gender confusion. Somewhere along the line, unconsciously, we’d even accept the notion that being in the shoes of a man could somewhat be the indicator of a higher position with God.

A Godly woman does not lose herself in this way but builds her confidence in knowing that she has the creator of the heavens and the earth as her standard. She has God to give her value. She has God to define and re-calibrate her identity, an identity that is deeply rooted in Him. Given our privilege as women, we only degrade ourselves by trying to be something we’re not– and we were never designed to be. As women, we will never reach true liberation until we stop trying to mimic men, compare our strengths to their strengths, instead of adding our strengths to their strengths and value the beauty in our own God-given distinctiveness. Your value as a woman is not measured by the size of your waist nor the number of men in authority who fear, applaud or revere you. Your body, your soul, your spirit, were created for something immense. Something much higher.

“But for this very purpose have I let you live, that I might show you My power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.” Exodus 9: 16

Your worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness, piety and purpose enshrined in salvation. And your purpose in life–despite what the fashion magazines and television shows subliminally seem to portray– is something more sublime than a mere “ Think like a man” rending “Think like a Godly woman” obsolete. Our completion comes from God and our relationship with Him; And yet, from the time we were little, we, as women, have sometimes been taught by society that we will never reach completion until a man comes to complete us. Like Cinderella we were taught that we are helpless unless marriage and a prince comes to save us. Like Sleeping Beauty, we were told that our life doesn’t fully begin, until the glorious day Prince Charming kisses us. But here’s the thing: only the Prince of peace can make you whole.

Your vitality is in God. Your air is in God. Your salvation and completion are in His nearness—not the nearness to any mentally fabricated idol. Not the nearness to an earthly prince, not the nearness to a degrading womanhood defined by this pernicious society.

And so I ask you to unlearn. I ask you to stand up and tell the world that you are a slave to nothing—not to society, not to men. You are a slave to your Creator and your Creator alone. But see, he has even beautifully set you free and no longer call you a servant. Daughter of the most high, I ask you to tell the world that you’re not here to resent men and at the same time please the same men with your body in a starving quest for ‘equality’ carved in a destructive promiscuity; You’re here to please God. So to those who mean well and wish to ‘liberate’ you, just smile and say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Tell the Femen that you’re not here to be on display and your body is not for public eye consumption. Tell them that they, ironically are the ones bound to slavery. As they unconsciously give their virtue away, make sure the world knows that YOU will never be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs and naked breasts to defend your power. You are unapologetically powerful, you are a chosen soul, an rare substance, a formidable vessel, a light, a breathtaking mind, a servant of God; And your worth is enhanced by the authenticity of that soul, that love, that beauty, that heart, that moral character.       Therefore, in answering the question of where and how a woman can find empowerment, I find myself led back to Christ. I find myself led back to the statement of Cs Lewis. I find myself led back to the realization that true liberation and empowerment lies only in freeing oneself from all other masters, all other definitions. All other standards.

As Godly women, we have been liberated from this silent captivity and in symphony, we will shamelessly celebrate and cherish our womanhood in Christ. We don’t need to trade our womanhood for manhood. We don’t need to dishonor the marvelous God-given gift of Christlike manhood. We also don’t need to wait for marriage or companionship to save us. We don’t need society’s standard of beauty, freedom and liberty to define our worth. We don’t need to tarnish our power by employing it as a weapon of mass male emasculation. We don’t need to reinvent ourselves as carbon copies of embodied testosterone to feel honored and accepted. We don’t need our marriages, titles, degrees, and statuses to define us.

Our worth, our honor, our salvation, and our completion lies not in the slave. But, in the Lord of the slave; who has now beautifully redeemed the slave.

African child (poem)

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Amid the mirrored globe

Appears a sumptuous figure of an African Child

Who believes in

The most embracing perception of Ubuntu

Inspiration is his face, eyes and stature

Enlightenment is his gaze, rhythm, shadow and breath

Standing up dancing before the globe

Passing consciousness to the undergrowth

Metamorphosis alert

To the western culture

Poor but so rich African Child

Rich in Standing a symbol of liberation, unity and freedom

Amongst us Africa and Africans and Africa and all race

We will win our battle to the sound of a tam-tam

Despite being children that have no future

While toiling up the dark valley

United African States shall one day reign

Though much later than soon

Yet the road has been laid

For many in this generation to follow

Thus,

Africa discards unconsciousness

Grows the spirit of brotherhood

Embraces the legacy ordained by God to mankind

For Africa lost child secretly longs and struggles for his mother

We believe in predestination

That destiny and prosperity shall take part

In Africa’s future

Africa shall shed tears of joy for her earnest heroes

And forever honor the achievements

Of her robust and flourishing warriors

Forever in her womb

Shall mother Africa bear her estimable African child

As returning sons and fathers and daughters and mothers

And their vanquishing crowns shall remain Her glory

A lover. A mentor. A carrier of light.

I watched for the last time as these beautiful spirits loaded onto their big green bus. They waved out the window and screamed out “Bye Ms. Molhiaaa!!! we will miss you! We love you!” Even though they all screamed it at once, I could pick out every single voice… every single soul. With the heaviest heart, I waved back. The lump in my throat prevented me from uttering any syllable. I stood there and watched the bus as it drove off. I had just embarked on a new journey in my life with these students almost two months ago, and now the end had come. I’ve always admired teachers; but other than being psychology majored/medical studies inclined, teaching was never something I had in mind for myself.

In June 2013, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at an event at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that focused on the lives and experiences of refugees of African origins. Unbeknownst to me, somewhere in the audience was the coordinator of New York/ New England’s Refugee Youth Project. After my speech, we eagerly conversed, exchanged contacts and fervently kept in touch. The next month, I conceded to spending a part of my summer teaching public speaking to high school refugee students; notwithstanding my current position and overwhelming endeavors. Despite all the credentials and honors, I knew little about the technicalities of teaching… in English. As a multilingual immigrant, a fish out of water, precocious globe trotter sadly raised European and native of the Ivory Coast (West Africa), I had mostly taught French in various language institutions for children in America and candidly knew few about ‘professional public speaking’ besides my own personal experiences.

The night before my first day, I anxiously laid out my clothes and packed my lunch. I looked over my lesson plan a million times thinking to myself, “Is this too corny?” “What if they hate this?”.   All I could think about was meeting these new faces. How would I have them call me? Just Molhia? Or “Momo”…to be cool? Or the way my grandmother affectionately calls me.. “Moya”? or maybe “Nancy” for all those who unconsciously torture the authentic Akan “ NaaEsi”? As I thought about all the possible names, I finally drifted to sleep, putting my anxiousness to temporary rest. The next morning I walked into the classroom nervously awaiting my new students. I wrote my name on the board, erased it and rewrote it about three times. I needed it to be perfect. As they arrived in the classroom after lunch, I plastered a huge smile across my face to disguise my nervousness. “Hello everyone, I am Ms. Molhia.” That was the beginning of me being Ms. Molhia. That was the beginning of me becoming a mentor, and friend to thirty beautiful souls.

I wasn’t just teaching any students, these were refugee students. These were students who were forced to leave their countries because of conflicts. These were students who yearned to speak the language of Americans… to walk like Americans, to be Americans. I was teaching students who didn’t live with their parents, who didn’t have parents, who were their own parents. I was teaching students who lived in refugee camps for years, who had seen more things than people twice their age. I was teaching students who carried the burdens of their entire family, students who carried the scars of their nations.

Nevertheless, I was teaching the brightest students. The students who would struggle to pronounce “cacophony” but knew more about the world than I did. Students who didn’t know who Snow White was or Little Red Riding Hood but could tell the most captivating stories in their languages. After the first week, I had already connected with these souls. They loved the way I spoke and wanted to speak just like me. What they didn’t know was I yearned to speak like them; to know their languages. I too wanted to struggle to pronounce “cacophony.” I wanted my tongue to be too heavy for English or French but light enough to roll out every African tribal language.

Today, as I felt nostalgic (well, nothing new if you know me lol) I read over the card they presented me on my last day.

“I’m gonna miss you. You’re the best teacher. Luv you.” -Selam

“You’re my favorite teacher. Love you!” -Adjo

“You are a kind teacher.”-Mohamed

“I love you Ms. Molhia.” -Thuam

“Thank you so much.” –Sui

“Thank you. We will miss you so much! God bless you .”- Anette & Soraya

One ultimate question made me ponder – “What have I done with my light to deserve all these attributes and blessings?“

– “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” [Matthew 5:14 NIV]

What have I done with my light?

With my light, I have taught thirty beautiful souls to have confidence in themselves. To speak with their heads up and with their voice high because what they have to say is important. With my light, I taught them that even if their English is not ”perfect”, their words will always carry power. With their lights, they confirmed my purpose. They served as a reminder from God, telling me “to speak life and spread My light unto the nations, for this is the path I have set for you.” With their footsteps, they taught me patience. They taught me tolerance. They taught me gratefulness. They taught me the essence of selflessness and love. They showed me my strengths and weaknesses. They helped me to set a series of groundbreaking goals. I now aspire to absorb as many languages as my cerebral faculty could contain.

With the light of our footsteps, we have made permanent imprints in each other’s lives. I am not the same Molhia I was before I walked into that specific classroom. I went in as Everybody’s ‘Momo’ and had  left as a substantial unfamiliar ‘Ms. Molhia’. I look forward to watching these teenagers blossom into marvelous salt and light. I look forward to bumping into them at the most unexpected places of the world. I look forward to the day when I can ask them, “What have you done with your lights?” and the same voices that timidly attempted to pronounce “cacophony” can give me confident replies sharing the fulfillment of their purpose and destiny.