My Mother Does Not Drink…

My mother doesn’t drink. Yes. We call this Ironic.

I used to see her drink, there is photographic evidence, but one day in her 40’s, she decided to stop her weekly glass of white when she found out her thyroid was out of whack. That’s my mother’s way, if something isn’t right, in her life, she’ll just change it. She’s pretty good at change.

My mother left her home in her Barbados and the only life she knew to live in Canada in 1960. She was fortunate that her two older sisters had already come up here, but she was significantly younger than them – and just a wee bit rebellious.

My mother in the 60s… drank. There was a time she was out at every West Indian social club in the city (and the Scotian one for good measure). I’m still trying to find out more about the time she went to a club in Detroit and got stranded there when her ride – her friend’s boyfriend – got into a fight and he said “find your own way home!” To Toronto.

In the late 60s my mother drank Martinis at the Four Seasons Bar each Friday with the girls from the office. New dress every week. Standing in line at Azan’s to get her hair pressed and curled to perfection.

When her roommate introduced her to my father, she wasn’t impressed. She had a good life; what could HE offer? In fact, when my father rang my mother up to ask her out on a date, she declined saying she didn’t have anything to wear…

While looking at three dresses in her closet with the tags still on them.

My mother in the 70s spent her life living between Toronto and Jamaica for months at a time. The jet setter life was one my older sister experienced, but by the time I showed up, those days were done, and so was my parents’ marriage.

(Thank goodness)

Ask my mother about the time she “forgot” she was married, and instead of going home to cook dinner for my father, she went for cocktails with the girls. Came home to find my father struggling to make scrambled eggs on the stove at 11:30 pm.

My mother in the 80s saw her world crash right along with the economy. That’s when she started making changes and fighting back. She regrouped at her older sister’s house with her two kids. Got a couple of jobs. An apartment. A rhythm.

A survival system.

One day, my mother looked in the cupboards. She was between paycheques, and the cupboards showed how bad the situation was. She doesn’t know that I remember, but I watched my mother swallow her pride and call a friend for a loan. He was an old friend of my father’s who would check in on us. I remember him handing her the $50 and taking her to the Knob Hill Farms to buy food. My mother swore through gritted teeth and tears that the cupboards would never be empty again.

She’s kept that promise.

I don’t know how much my mother went without because I never knew we were lacking. I never missed a birthday. Or a Christmas. We had vacations. She sent my sister and I out to get our hair done (we had a lot of hair, and she didn’t have that much patience).

I never went without food, clothing, or knowledge. When I started asking questions she couldn’t answer, she bought the encyclopedia set in installments. Don’t ask me about stuff after F though.

My mother in the 80s saw that technology was going to make her job obsolete, she got a loan, went back to school, and learned what was next. When the layoffs hit, she was ready.

When I was in grade 4, I caught a vicious cold, the kind that lingers in your chest for weeks. Finally the cold was gone, along with my voice. About a week after the worst of it, my mom woke me up to get ready for school. I got out of bed and hit the floor.

“Stop playing. It’s time to get up.”

“I can’t. I can’t feel my legs.”

It was March. There was a lot of snow on the ground. My mom didn’t know how to drive. She called my doctor, called her job to tell them the situation, picked me up and carried me.

She carried my 9 year old paralyzed from the waist down body on public transit from Jane n’ Finch to Bathurst and Lawrence. For non-Toronto residents, that’s about an hour of travel. In the middle of winter. At the doctor, who couldn’t figure out what was wrong, she kept her cool while they put me in a cab to go to SickKids. She kept her composure while they poked and prodded. By four o’clock I could walk again, so we got back on transit and headed home. She made me my favourite foods and let me stay up late.

When teachers told her that her little Black girls would be better off in remedial classes or taking up trades, she took time off work to cuss them in person. You have not lived until you see a 5’2 Bajan woman cuss out a 6’2 school principal in the school’s atrium, waving proof of his lack of a high school diploma in his face calling him a hypocrite.

There’s flight and there is fight. My mother will choose fight every single time. So will I. So we’re gonna skip over the 90s because well…lots of fights.

In fact, there is only one time I saw my mother choose flight. When the doctor looked at the clock in the ER and called the time of death for my sister one New Year’s Day. She ran from the room screaming. It was the second time she lost a child and it was too much to bear.

She fought back from the lowest depths of depression for one reason: me. I overheard her say to a friend that she had to stay strong for me. I went into my room and cried silently. The irony was that I had been trying to stay strong for her, following her example that you must always fight.

So I do. In her honour.

Yes. #mymothermakesmedrink…

Each time I do, I raise a glass in her honour.

xoxo

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#NOJULZ

 

No Julz.

No Kylie. No Kendall. No Khloe. No Iggy. No Kim. No Miley. No Rachel.

No.

No to all y’all.

This past week has seen Miley Cyrus “give up” hip hop, and Julz whatever her name is cancelled in my city for using the word “nigga” one too many times. Once again, Black women stared in collective confusion wondering (rhetorically) how these women achieved this notoriety in the first place.

WE know. So lemme try to explain it to those who don’t get it, or who are woefully obtuse.

BEFORE you grab a cape and tell Black women – or any other woman of colour, or hell, women period – that this is about race, it’s NOT about race.

This is about being rewarded for plagiarism. Remember that time you let a kid copy your homework and they got the better grade? Yeah. Exactly. Julz and her aforementioned cohorts are regularly criticized for their performance of Blackness. Let me be really clear: these women were NEVER “down”, they were NEVER “cool with us”, and they were NEVER given an invite to the cookout. We get mad with those of you who elevate their mediocrity because we know you only do so because it seems like a novelty.

Meanwhile, those who ARE, those who CAN, and those who will ALWAYS be, are told that they’re just “regular”, or worse, lesser than.

Julz and her ilk are not new. I knew girls like Julz in high school. They dated Black guys to upset their fathers. They even had “likkle brownin’s” that looked like me to further solidify their hood passes. Keyword: pass. Just like Black people have done throughout the years, these women were simply “passing” as a means to an end. They capitalize on the novelty, earning money, fame, and more money from it.

The money YOU give them. The money you won’t give us because we’re not enough of a juxtaposition to make it seem cool. Rather than recognizing the magic, you get excited by three card monte.

They co-opt our shades with buckets of self-tanner stopping just short of blackface. They braid their hair in intricate styles and post up on the Pinterest instead of the ‘Gram. They squat, inject, and twerk their asses to Hottentot proportions and you buy it every single time. But if we object, we’re jealous. We’re haters.

Shut up.

For every NO we say to Julz, there are yes’s to our White girlfriends who sing along to Beyonce with us at the club. For every NO we say to Kylie and her Khornrows, there are dozens of yes’s to our White girlfriends who have Black boyfriends and husbands and we HAPPILY stand as bridesmaids at their weddings. For every NO we have for Rachel, there are hundreds of yes’s for our White friends who stand beside us and shout, “BLACK LIVES MATTER”.

Sure, they sometimes have to get jokes and song lyrics explained to them. They know we can lose a whole day to getting our hair braided (properly). They love plantain even if they pronounce it “plan-TANE”. They body roll to Chaka Khan, think we are beautiful in all shades, and ask for cocoa butter beauty secrets. They watch Scandal and ooh over Olivia’s outfits with the same passion we do. We aren’t mad at them.

BECAUSE:

They don’t try to Columbus our lived experiences for their personal gain, because they are confident in who THEY are and what their relationship to us is in the world. Because they also know how OUR relationship to the world differs from their own. When they call to see how we’re feeling about the latest #INSERTDEADNEGROHERE hashtag, they don’t open the convo with “hey girl heyyyyy” or perform Blackness to engage in a conversation with us– they are our friends and they want to know how we feel.

But you don’t see those women, because they’re not injected and deep-fried for your misguided consumption. So instead, you accuse Black women of being mad that “White women are taking over”, and assume means every White woman.

WE are mad at the White women who are TAKING FROM US because they’re the ones YOU KEEP GIVING YOUR MONEY TO. Because once they’ve exhausted this revenue stream, they will cut their hair into a pixie, put on a long flowing white dress, and pose on the cover of Marie Claire with a doe-eyed expression announcing their return to virtue or if they’re not famous, they’ll submit a personal essay to Jezebel or Buzzfeed. They will talk about lost years spent with all the “wrong people” and detail that one morning they woke up and thought, “what am I doing with my life?” They’ll talk about how misogynistic the music was, and how they’ve realized that bodies shouldn’t be objectified. They will find peace and “real love” through a guy named Will. The main picture will be them sitting on their porch with their cocker spaniel named Daisy. You won’t recognize her at first because her name will be Julieanna, or Chloe, or Sam, her skin will be it’s natural shade of milky white (“SPF 50 is, like, so mandatory”), and her “thug life” tattoo will have been lasered off.

They’ll sit back and reminisce about “those days” with “those people” and they will chuckle softly to themselves while they count all that money you gave them.

As for us? We will go back to living our lives and comfort each other with reminders that these chicks never had the range. We’ll dance in a circle and celebrate our magic. We’ll braid our hair and revel in our melanin. We will say YES to all that is real and wonderful and ours. We will give each other OUR money and be enriched through our mutual support. But YOU will be denied entry from her world…and ours.

So you tell me: why do you keep saying “yes” when at the end of it all, you’re only going to be told, “no”?

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