Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans

We are wired deeply in wondrous ways, we fail to appreciate this. The extent we have moved to understand ourselves is mostly what has been passed down to us in form of culture, tradition and norms. Deep down in our visceral is a moving target!

Normally as a woman the identity takes this path; girl, feminine, role-affirmation, partnering, child-bearing, acting the spouse, acting the wife, knowing one’s husband, knowing one’s own body, knowing one’s children. This is a model female normativity

Normally as a man the identity takes this path; boy, masculine, role-affirmation, virility, partnering, child-bearing, acting the spouse, acting the husband, knowing one’s wife, knowing one’s own body, knowing one’s children. This is a typical male normativity.

The above is raised on a backdrop of community, society or a larger family that they need to fit in. Presently issues of identity, families, political systems, social systems and health systems are also influencing the earlier model of normativity. The contraceptive is empowering women to decide the number of children they shall bear. This was a male decision in many cultures! Science is making our understanding into sexuality, orientation, gender and identity more specific. Today we can talk of trans-persons, transsexuals, gay and lesbians. These are the Gender-benders and without appearing biased, they are negotiating a life in a heavily heterosexual-normativity system! They have faced a lot of persecution, misunderstanding and disenfranchisement! Efforts to work with this community are called for on various fronts. The gay-straight alliances are efforts towards promoting tolerance and understanding sexuality, orientation, gender and identity of humans. There is need to empower those who have been disenfranchised for a long time. Such efforts like: remedial trainings to improve skills for those who stopped half way in their education; providing health-care for many who have had a long history of self-medication and; establishing survival systems addressing their needs.

Thanks to + WGBH (Saturday, January 19th 2013); Idi Amin is still as alive in the text of American wit as in their sense of humour. A recent one is: “....there is this cross between a dictator’s pop-star daughter and Lady Gaga and she is called Gugusha. Who is the dictator?” goes the question. “Idi Amin,” comes a loud answer. Hilarious laughter!!!

The National Day of Service (USA) has fallen during a very unique happening in USA. It is before Obama is inaugurated as President and on Martin Luther King Memorial day. Volunteers are called to engage in community service. I did with League of Conservation Volunteers (LCV)! I did get two tasks: to move wood to a wood-shed and food to a food pantry at a senior citizens (elderly people) assisted living apartments a couple of miles away from my home! It required 4 hours of my time and a smiling countenance! Which reminded me of one point and I want to share it with you.  Why don’t organised groups formulate community service action plans? It is high time all that energy is diverted to such causes! Other causes can be done hand in hand with this! There is so much society can benefit from an organised group with focused volunteers.


The stretch of time,
Marked from all Saints’ to Martin Luther King Day,
The weather like clock-work,
The days previously longer now shortened rations,
A wind that blew,
So cold as if announcing something,
Then flakes as light as downs,
Covered the brown ground as far up and down.

The sun’s rays,
Cut-lasses slicing through trees,
The white piles of snow,
A massive layer of white,
The winds booming,
Loud mumbles in the canopies,
Gnarled twigs and undergrowths,
Held firmly down by rigid roots.

The dark coloured water,
Moves slowly through gullies,
To the brooks and ponds,
Spread around this forested countryside,
Brown fluttering swans,
Beating their wings about,
The sun a flaming globe,
Undecided and lingering over horizons,

The sounds and the purrs,
Of rushing vehicles on the asphalt,
The loud whistle of the traffic lamp,
A white generic human flashes okay,
A sign here and there,
Massa-cue-sets, Worcester seems to whisper,
Life in the City,
Urbane and urban regulated in a pattern.

The shoes make a crunch,
The heavy in-steps leave treads,
Two by two,
A long trail of foot-marks,
Bald hard surfaces,
With white shiny snow pastes,
The cold winds,
An ever poking persistence.

(C) Muyunga 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Barriers and divides to individual potential

The right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness can become a reality through one’s aspirations. The aspirations to lead a life that is productive, inspirational, networked and reliable run through all humans. With existing structures such as governments, intact social services, a vibrant productive society, judicial services and civil society it has been possible to involve many people. The people are the beneficiaries and active participants in taking responsibility to their lives. Promise of existing enjoyment in the present and now has been a hall-mark of belief in systems by many people all over the world. However, wars, bad-governments, poor skills, displacements, human trafficking, isolationistic acts, dependence, poverty, economic imbalances, brutality, intolerance and exploitation have ruined this promise. The internet has been used to compound situations of desolation! There is an internet based soliciting ranging from: supporting rich elderly females (why females?); to helping the rich bedridden who can no longer access their large sums of money to; joining multi-level marketing that promises quick money from work-at-home schemes! These work at home schemes and credit extension facilities via internet seem to be the same cartel. Other traffickers pose as ‘do-good’ philanthropists. There is what is called ‘the Nigerian scams’ or solicitors who claim to have very rich cousins, uncles, aunties, mothers or fathers with accounts in Swiss Banks. These, they claim, also happen to have been tortured or killed by despotic governments (always on the other side that is killed and therefore needs mercy-acts). The solicitors present a remedial plan that if the solicited can ‘allow to stand in as signatories, provide their own bank account details and also just come up with $ 500-1500,’ the solicitor will then be able to process everything in about two days. Many have sent money over internet or remittance facilities to support a process that would open up these funds locked up in Swiss banks vaults! This same number has faced disappointment on discovering previously functioning phones suddenly go off, websites or e-mails are no longer active and the money sent can no longer be retrieved. The solicitors disappear in thin air. The persistent ones, call back to say they never received the funds! ‘Could you send more? But this time be very careful. Also send as fast as possible the deadline to retrieve the money is due!’ These schemes started around 2001; they are still used to lure many more unsuspecting internet users. The victimization that follows could involve many more people who may have pooled funds to send via remittance companies. The Nigerian scam industry based on anonymity, adept technological skills and use of good English are able to send junk unsolicited mail in one’s inbox.  This starts the process. Illegal profits are raked in through this business! For the unsuspecting this promise is the stuff of the American dream. The other businesses that need mentioning are: drug trafficking and; human trafficking. They are the first and second in raking in illegal profits respectively. Human trafficking feeds; forced labour, sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude. 27 million people are trafficked worldwide annually and this brings in about $ 32 billion illegal profits.
Having said all that, there are forms of divides or barriers we tend to neglect yet impact on our lives profoundly. The inability to relate through literacy or numeracy in this day and age can be a big barrier and divide for immigrants. Immigrants from low developed countries who are new in the cities of the developed countries may be forced into isolation from fear. The fear to surmount the complexity of the processes from starting a computer to finding one’s way around a city may be daunting. These may in turn lead to lack of zeal and desire to find out life in a new country. Many settle back in a lifestyle that revolves around dependence and comfort of familiar grounds. This may lead them to think small and avoid anything that makes them rediscover their potential. A counsellor and social worker should look into this background as they try to guide an immigrant counsellee as they steer a development course for themselves.
Be careful as you pursue your American dream! Fools’ gold comes in many disguises!  

Monday, 14 January 2013

Not homosexual, but a bisexual. So What?

I have three friends who are permanent residents in USA but originally from Africa (they always say, who isn’t from Africa when this issue arises. It will be subject for another day!). One is from Nigeria (Ibo) and the two are from Kenya (Luo). They tease me with words having letters ‘L’ and ‘R’ and I tease the Ibo with words having ‘S’ following ‘K’ immediately.  I also tease the Luo with words having letters ‘WH’, ‘CH’ and ‘SH’. The white chested Finch is sitting on a branch by the white fence. I am ordering fish as I take my seat.  Ask whether he had a mask on.  Then they would have the last laugh as I go through: Labrador dogs run faster and leap further as they do the laps.
“The what cested fins is shitting on a brans by the what fench,” says the Luo
“ I am ordering feace as I take my shit,” says the second Luo.
“Axe whether he had a max on,” says the Ibo.
“ Rabrador dogs learn faster and reap further as they do the raps,” says me.
Laughter, laughter and more raucous laughter!

But we have long since improved on our English through enhanced vocal exercises. We laughed about two topics that were hot on our list of conversation. A male neighbour, who having been found with a man in bed by the wife, decided to tell her he was a bisexual. The other topic was about immunization against the threatening influenza (New York and Boston Cities have put out public health emergencies’ alert).

In the first case, the wife was complaining to anyone who would hear, that the husband was a homosexual.  The husband, on his part, was saying, ‘not a homosexual, but bisexual.’ It reminded me of a film called ‘clear and present danger’ starring Harrison Ford where he acted as Jack Ryan. Jack Ryan, as the CIA Deputy Director, advised the President to not distance himself from his friend who was murdered under, rather confounding circumstances. The president’s close friend was murdered over ties to a Colombian drug cartel. Now, that is not what a USA President would be advised to relate to. The Press was linking the President to drug cartels and the polls saw him losing to his Presidential election rivals. The President needed to say he was not a friend of the deceased when asked before TV cameras.  Jack Ryan instead tells the president to face the media and say, ‘No! Not a friend, but a close friend of mine!’ The media were amok, as if possessed, with that headline. That immediately endeared the President to the people and being an election year won him many votes!

The flu shot I got this morning reminds me of this lesson; sincerity and facing the truth in the face helps a lot.  The injection, the poke, the needle or sting should not scare one. Death should! Especially a death that is easily preventable! This is something akin to; ‘health-adjusted life expectancy’ (HALE). There are healthy years one enjoys in USA than in Africa! That is my admission! I always encourage many of my friends to grab the opportunity. Definitely with cash in one hand (if one is not insured). The flu-shot and trouble to find a nearest CVS center could cost $ 45!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Grip-greet-get-the-hell-out-fast and symbols of piety!

There is a tribal lore.  A famine struck the village where the elephant and the hare lived.  They decided to go out hunting. The hare told the elephant to wait at the designated escape hole down the hill. Two kinds of stones were to be thrown from the hill-top: a big stone and a small stone. When the small stone was thrown, the elephant had to remove its head from its path. When the big stone comes rolling down the hill, the elephant was supposed to put its head in the big stone’s path. The small stone was rolled down and the elephant dutifully put away its head. When the big one was rolled down, the elephant stood in its way. Eventually, the elephant was killed and became the hare’s meal! The elephant played wrongly and ended up as the meal of the hare.
A long time ago many tribes were awed by the magnificence of nature in form of: water, lakes, hills, mountain ranges, craters, volcanoes, animals, fire, vegetation and fellow-humans. This symbolism became structured.  Special people who were thought to know better than others were tasked to spearhead walking others in understanding these creatures they held in awe. This became an organised way of being religious. Traditions, norms and cultures sprung up around the religions. This instituted the elephant and hare relation. The mind became the elephant and the institutions were the hare.
In the present day, many religions preach love and have moments when all celebrants do shake-hands or atleast wink to each other in an expression of love. Do not mind whether deep down one’s mind one genuinely likes to shake the hands or wink at the person next to you! After a service, the prelate is waiting all of you and a very fast procession of grip-greet-get-hell-out-fast. ‘The long line behind you should not be held by you chatting up the prelate!’ In this process, one feels like a player taking and performing all the wrong roles in a play. This leaves one with revulsion and an emptiness resulting from not fulfilling something. The elephant in us is dazed by not knowing which stone to dodge or allow to be hit with.
+Steven Davy  at WHGBH radio has an interactive talk-show which ends with ‘good-old-classic-blues-music’. This end of show gesture is so mellow, uplifts a spirit and enables one feel as a participant in a love-shared-around experience. Next time I shall ignore certain aspects (dodge certain stones) of a Sunday service (sent in by the hare)! The hare will not have me for a meal!