In July, 2008, I, Princess Rachella, Intrepid African American Girl International Journalism Consultant, pulled up stakes once again and headed to Nairobi, Kenya. Through my various adventures, I've concluded that if I get any MORE explosively fabulous in these prequel years to "THE BIG 5-0," I will have to register myself with the Pentagon as a thermonuclear incendiary device.
Monday, February 28, 2011
February's been quite a month. That is, if you prefer that your months SUCK ASS.
But hey, there's always tomorrow.
No...wait, March reminds me of my brother David, and his punk-ass exit from life. And March 21st is...WAS...Fred's birthday.
"Like sands through the hourglass, So are the days of our lives." And the months. And pretty soon, there won't be a single freakin' month left when I won't be reminded of some tragic circumstance involving my kith and kin.
And once again, I think the Universe needs to unclog its damn ears, 'cuz it didn't hear me right on New Year's Day. Remember when I declared I'd be "Grateful Times Seven in 2011"??
Now, I'm grateful FOR seven. And hoping none of the other Jones siblings takes "The Big Dirt Nap" this year.
But hey, I'm not trying to be morbid or anything. Just had to get that out of the old system.
"Moving right along...."
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Wait..it's already here. If you'd told me five years ago, hell, even LAST year, that millions of people would storm the streets of ANY capital city of ANY country on the African continent to demand that a corrupt, greedy, cruelly indifferent leader resign, I would have called you puredee batshit crazy.
I've just seen too much mind-twisting, gut-wrenching, soul-shattering poverty, neglect, and thievery over here. I've seen too many people accept it as the just the way life is. I've watched too many people stuff themselves into too many crowded matatus, headed to a job that pays less each month than I've paid for a pair of boots, working 8 hours or more every day just for the privilege of barely surviving, forget about educating their children or buying medicine.
I've seen children playing on fresh graves in IDP camps in Northern Uganda after decades of war, and I've seen them lying on the hard, drafty dirt floor of the Great Rift Valley in tattered tents in Kenya after election-related violence, and each time, I've lost a bit of my faith. I'll admit it. It is just so hard to keep believing in justice and heavenly intervention when you see children suffer. It's so hard to believe that one day, things will get better, and that mean people will get what's coming to them.
I'm not a fool. I realize that the proud elation in Egypt has already been replaced by harsh reality. I realize getting rid of Mubarak was not a panacea. I know there are even scarier, greedier, meaner demons than him walking the Earth, and they'd gladly take the reins if they got a chance.
I guess all I want to say is, I'm just so very glad I got to see what's happening Up North in my lifetime. May the rest of the continent get in on the gettin' while it's good.
I already know that half of you will dismiss this posting as long-distance Obama idolatry, from someone who's only spent about a month and a half living under his "rule." You'll mutter about my appalling lack of poli-sci expertise for arriving at the hypothesis I'm about to share with you. You'll just dismiss what I'm about to state as a girlish crush, or blind nationalism, or old-school "race pride," or some other such tomfoolery.
But I remember feeling the tectonic plates of the Earth move while watching President Barack Obama give his speech at Cairo University in June of 2009. I made a point of leaving my desk at Nation Centre and joining the guys in the Sports Department to watch it on one of the office TVs. I also mentioned that I had grown up in Cairo. They were quite impressed, until I added the "Illinois" part, and then I became invisible again.
I watched as much of it as I could before having to return to my desk, but remember thinking how extraordinary the image was. An American President, of African descent, addressing a predominantly Muslim crowd in an Arabic nation on the African continent. Again, if you had predicted that would happen in June of 2008, I'd have done my best to try and have you committed, for your own safety.
Now, here's that hypothesis I promised to share. I think the seeds for the uprising in Tahrir Square were planted in June of 2009. I believe that after 8 years of watching George W.'s addle-pated international diplomacy, people in the Middle East were more stunned than the rest of the world that America was able produce a Barack Obama. And before you even "go there," I realize that just because he has a Muslim sounding name, it doesn't mean he's universally accepted, or even liked in the Middle East. After all, he's still associated with "The Great Satan."
But look at the picture up top. Take your time, really LOOK at it. Like most biracial people, if you didn't know Obama is the product of an African man and a white American woman, you could conclude he was from Spain. Or Argentina. Or Greece....
Or Tunisia. Or Algeria.
Imagine what it must have felt like to be sitting in the auditorium of Cairo University in June of 2009, watching a youthful, vibrant man, the "Leader of the Free World," who looks kinda like your people, talking about freedom and democracy and respect for women a bunch of other "radical" ideas. When all you've experienced from your leaders for the past 3 decades is greed and brutality and utter contempt.
No need to give him another Nobel for it, but you'll never convince ME that President Barack Hussein Obama didn't light the spark that lit the match that eventually lit the path to Tahrir Square.
Oh, and one more thing: If loving him is wrong, I don't wanna be right.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
After all, this particular "least little innocuous thing" happened less than 12 hours after I learned that another of my older brothers, Fred Wesley Jones, had died. I was walking from my bedroom to the living room this past Tuesday morning when I noticed what was written on the front of the bag my friend Kelly had ferried from New York to Nairobi the week before. Kelly has been a real life-saver these past couple of years, generously agreeing to be the "mule" for all my online shopping. And she always meticulously packs everything, making sure to tape the tops of liquids and put them in gallon-sized Zip-loc bags, and carefully ordering all the packing receipts. She also puts everything in really cool bags, like from Henri Bendel or Barneys. I've kept quite a few of them, hooking them onto a doorknob or over a rack in the closet, so I can pretend I still have access to Upscale East Coast shopping.
Actually seeing the front of this bag felt like somebody thwacked me in the center of my forehead with a log. I had lain awake most of the night before, after talking to my brother-in-law Ron and my sister Marilyn, trying to sort through the shock and the details. I guess I'll be able to write about it one day, but right now, I just can't. It's too raw. But I know I didn't think of him as "Fred Wesley" as I tossed and turned in the tangled sheets. I thought about what we used to call him 40 years ago, when he was young and strong and healthy and a high school football star and had the whole world as his oyster, it seemed.
We called him Freddie.
So even though it's not spelled the same way, and even though there's a rip on one side, I think I'll keep this bag right where it is for a while. Maybe I'll even keep it forever. To me, it feels like somehow, I was with him when he passed.
Late Monday night, when my sister Marilyn and I finished clawing our way through the shock and profound sadness of accepting that our poor, tragic brother Fred was finally at peace, Marilyn sighed and recalled what the old school rappers used to do when one of their homeys got smoked. They poured a little booze on the ground, and then solemnly declared, "I'll meet ya' at 'The Crossroads,' dawg. "
With tears of pain stinging in the corners of my eyes, once again I found myself utterly unable to stop the sarcastic remark that spilled out.
"Yeah, but at our age, instead of pouring booze, we just pop a high blood pressure pill and say, "Meet ya' at the Blue Cross, Blue Shield clinic." Trust me, laughter can save your life, sometimes. Or at least your sanity.
"I'm just sayin', dawg...."
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Here's a perfect example. I've resorted to hanging out of car windows to buy DVD's of recent movie releases. I'm not proud of it, it's just a fact of life. But it really sunk in yesterday as I was poking through some guy's wares in gridlock traffic, and asked if he had one of this year's Best Film Oscar Nominees, "True Grit."
"Eh?" was his puzzled response, and I hear it at least two or three times a day from various sources. Every time, I get defensive, because it's like my ability to speak clearly and articulately is being challenged. I'M SPEAKING ENGLISH, DAMMIT! English is one of the official languages over here, right??? All I want a copy of the movie, "True Grit," not the Armenian language version of "Das Boot." I gave it one more shot.
"Eh?" The furrowed brow and look of utter incomprehension only poured gasoline on an already explosive situation. It was friggin' hot in the back seat of that car, and the traffic was crawling, and I just wanted to get home. WTF is the problem??
And then I remembered.
"Ahh," he replied. "It is here."
(Note to that handful of Kenyan readers who have once again concluded that I am a patronizing, American elitist jerk: "Get over yourselves, already!" All I'm really saying with this post is that if I stay here much longer, I need to commit to learning Kiswahili,or intonate in a way people can understand. It's not about imperialism. Don't be so tetchy.)
I looked busted. (And no, I ain't NEVER posting that picture, so don't even ask.) It was a side view shot, and I looked like I was slowly melting down into myself, arms hangling limply at my side, shoulders slouched as I leaned back into a chair, wearing a grim, flat-line expression. Seeing that image scared me because I looked so much like my mother. Not from Miss Eloise's halcyon, "Fierce Force of Nature" days when she was in her 30's and 40's, but just like she looked just before she died. Resigned. Worn out. Too through.
Like a sad old lady.
Even though I know why I looked so bad in that picture, it haunted me for a while. I was like, "Wow, if that's how I'm gonna look in 20 years, I better start saving for daily facials and a 24-hour, on-call personal trainer, because...DAY-um!!" So just imagine how startling the image above was for me. If I do say so myself, I think I look quite lovely in this picture taken last Friday night. But then, I was probably just reflecting the glow from the women surrounding me, who were celebrating the birthday of the diva named Tina Monique who's wearing the dazzling diadem.
Let me just say that there is nothing like the range of beauty contained among women of African descent. I've traveled enough of the continent to have finally counteracted the last vestiges of an internalized European blonde, blue-eyed gold standard for beauty. I'm sorry, but African beauty is not only physically alluring, it has rhythm. And passion. And flow. And diversity. It can be as black as ink or as fair as cafe latte, and it's just as stunning. Just like the smiling, shining happy faces above. One in particular stand out, of course: mine. For the first time in ages, I almost didn't recognize myself.
I look so thin in this picture!!! I'm flashing a respectable amount of leg, and it doesn't look like a haunch of beef hanging in a store window. I'm wearing a nice, sunny, controlled smile, not like I usually do when I'm happy and wind up baring my gums like Mr. Ed. I look poised. In fact, my face looks significantly younger than what the calendar says it is.
So, look, here's the thing. Every now and then, we're all gonna have our bad days when we look and feel like 12 miles of bad road. But always remember that somewhere inside that sad wreckage staring back out at you from the mirror is the REAL you. And when you get right down to it, she's a stunner.