9 Reasons I Hate My Natural Hair

Okay the headline is misleading–I don’t hate my natural hair, I just hate the assumptions that come with it.  Yes, I have natural hair and I love it!  I returned to being natural 8 years ago (with a brief stint in between).  What does it mean to have natural hair?  It seems to mean something different when you speak to various black women.  As for me, natural hair means that my hair is not chemically treated–meaning I don’t have a relaxer/perm.  The texture of my hair is the one that I was born with.  My hair may be natural, but please don’t take that as a reason to assume other things about my personality.  Here are 9 things I hate that people assume that I do or don’t do because I have natural tresses:

9 Crazy Assumptions of Naturals

1.  I don’t eat processed foods: I try to be a healthy eater, but I don’t read the labels before I stuff something into my mouth.  Therefore, don’t assume that because my hair is natural then everything that goes into my mouth is also all-natural.

 

2.  I don’t burn incense: When I’m walking  down the street in New York I’m often approached by street merchants trying to sell me incense.  Now, that’s pretty commonplace in NY.  But when a merchant gets on the metro in Washington, DC and targets me for a sale, I can’t but help to think it’s because I’m the only one in the train car rockin’ a natural.

3. I’m not a revolutionist/militant: Afros have made a comeback since the ’70s when they were sported by many men and women including Angela Davis and members of the Black Panther Party.  Like many afro-wearing people of the 70’s, my afro doesn’t mean I’m a revolutionist fighting for a cause.  I will stand up for a cause but being militant has nothing to do with the width of one’s hair.

4. I don’t judge women who worship getting their hair permed: The creamy crack epidemic is real.  To my chemically-treated hair sistas, I ain’t mad atcha.  Do whatever makes you happy.

5. Yes, I wear deodorant and it’s not Tom’s: They say that natural deodorant is good for you and safer than the others.  But in this case, I sacrifice safety for not being funky.  Sorry Tom’s and other natural deodorants, but you just don’t keep me fresh and clean.

6. I don’t make all my own hair products: My hair may smell like berries, but that doesn’t mean I picked it from a tree.  In addition to making my own products, I am also a product junkie.  My bathroom cupboards are filled with them.

7. I don’t always recycle: Yes I admit it.  My carbon footprint is pretty big.  Despite having these natural tresses, I will still throw plastic and paper into the regular garbage can.  I’m not proud–I’m going to start to do better.

8. I’m not ashamed to rock a weave: Protective styles are a naturalista’s best friend.  In the winter, my hair can’t retain enough moisture and in the summer, it looks like a frizz ball.  But for the fact that I’d probably want to take it out within a day, I would not be afraid to rock a weave to give my hair a break from time to time–the weave would have to be natural of course.

9. I don’t spend my time watching Youtube how-to hair videos: I wish I was more creative and could do more with my natural hair but I’m not, so I don’t bother watching Youtube.

Do Black Lives Matter in America?

America is racist. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. Voting for a Black president has not transcended us to a post-racial society. We continually observe (and believe) that the value of a Black life is inferior to that of a white person’s.

I was not born in the United States. The majority of the people who live in the island in which I hail from are Black. One’s race is rarely a factor. Beauty is measured by the lightness of one’s complexion; lack of such beauty and the benefits accompanying it can be overcome by wealth. In other words, classism supersedes racism where I come from. So when I arrived in the United States over 27 years ago, I didn’t know the first thing about racism.  What I have learned since then is that Black lives don’t matter.

Racism throughout history has shaped our thoughts

Over time, I’ve experienced the subtle and not so subtle illustrations of racist America. I have come to understand that the inequities perpetrated by whites against blacks for centuries is now engrained into the subconscious of all of us. The pervasiveness of inequality stems from Black people’s fight to survive, coupled with a sense of powerlessness, acceptance of our place in society and complacency based on an illusory belief that Blacks are better off than we were 200 years ago. It is this reality that causes us to accept slave masters raping women, or to overlook the subtleties of depicting a Black man as barbaric. It has been engrained in us that if you come from a two-parent household, don’t sag your pants and you are articulate, then you will be accepted in society and won’t face the same obstacles as other Blacks. Or, because America was courageous enough to place a Black man at the helm of leading our country, then all of us should believe that we are now living in a post-racial society. It is also the subtle manner in which whites have caused Blacks to turn on each other by berating one another and becoming a divisive group.

Subtlety of racism in our laws

What makes Michael Dunn pull a gun on four unarmed young teens? Because our society has proven he can get away with murder. History has devalued the lives of Black males. As Thomas Jefferson once stated in 1820,”I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm.  What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption.”  In 1955 Mississippi, Emmett Till’s alleged whistling at a white lady was grounds for beating him to death and being acquitted for his murder. In 2013 Florida, Trayvon Martin was gunned down because he appeared suspicious while walking through a neighborhood holding candy and a drink with a hood on his head. His perpetrator was also acquitted.

This isn’t a sensationalization of these events.  Just as we had laws endorsing slavery, we now have laws that circumvent the value of a Black person’s life.  Raising the defense that you had to protect yourself from the Black aggressor who you believe to want to harm you is sufficient to acquit a non-Black person for killing a Black man. Although George Zimmerman did not invoke the “Stand Your Ground” defense, this law is currently on the books in 16 states while 19 other states across the U.S. have some variation of the law. This means that white people like Michael Dunn no longer have to cross the street in fear of the unarmed Black man walking toward them, nor ignore the loud “thug” music coming from a Black person’s car. Rather, a white person can simply stand his ground and use deadly force if he believes a Black person is threatening his life.  It appears that Dunn’s only mistake on that day at the gas station was leaving three of the four boys alive.

This isn’t a southern problem. Racism and the lack of value placed on the lives of Black men is America’s problem.  We want to believe that justice is applied equally when in reality our crime prevention and enforcement laws and policies disproportionately target people of color.  Statistically, most murders are intra-racial. In other words, most white homicides are perpetrated by white offenders. Yet, the media only emphasizes that “black on black” crime is the primary cause of the deaths of Black men.  In a 2012 Urban Institute study, killings of Black people by whites were far more likely to be considered justified than killings of white people by Blacks.  When PBS Frontline asked the analyst of the study to make a comparison between states with and without Stand Your Ground laws, he observed that in most states, whites who kill Blacks were 250 percent more likely to be found justified than whites who kill other whites. In states with Stand Your Ground laws however, that statistic jumps to 354 percent.  With these types of data, one should understand the righteous indignation by many Blacks at the fact that a jury could not determine whether Michael Dunn was guilty of murdering Jordan Davis.  As is often said, justice is never applied equally–especially when the victim is black.

How to combat the problem?

I read many articles on these topics and often share in the anger and frustration exhibited by the authors. However, rarely do those articles provide a means or ways that its readers can effect change.  Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of solutions, here are a few: (1) we need to start educating ourselves on our rights as citizens and ensure that we are reaching young black boys and girls; (2) read and stay abreast of laws that are created in your state as well as federal laws; (3) understand the implications that the laws have on your daily life. Perform your civic duties: (4) Vote for every elected official that will have an influence on creating and enforcing the laws of your country, state, city, county, etc.–these laws aren’t magically appearing on the books; and (5) show up for jury duty. Emmett Till’s assailants had an all-white jury. George Zimmerman had no black members on his jury.

I hope there will come a time in the future when our great great grandchildren can look back on today and genuinely recognize that there has been a drastic change in the manner in which Blacks are treated in the U.S., and racism and injustices against Blacks will become less prevalent. I hope there will come a time when Blacks can say America was racist. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Dating in your Thirties: Valentine’s Day Edition

It’s Valentine’s Day—a day that most men wish would permanently go away and also a day in which women tap their feet waiting to side eye their significant others when they’ve sent no flowers or chocolate, or made no dinner reservations. As illustrated below, Valentine’s Day can be equally frustrating for those of us dating in our thirties: 

What Do You Get Your Friend With Benefits?

I pick her up after her bartending job.  She smiles as she hops into my car and starts to make small talk.  I return a half-hearted smile and hope she doesn’t talk me to death—it’s late and I’ve had a long day at work.  We get to my place and I grab something to eat while she showers. I shower after catching up on the news and we both head to bed.  She leaves before morning.  This is our routine about two to three times a week.  We rarely speak other than when she comes over for what she calls “love making”.  She recently mentioned wanting me to hang out with her friends.  We all know what type of relationship this is—friends with benefits and nothing else (for me at least).  Now today is Valentine’s Day and I’m wondering whether I should get her something.  She is not my girlfriend nor will she ever be.  But she’s probably expecting something since we’re sleeping together, right? If I take her out will I be sending her the wrong message?  I don’t want her to feel bad, but I don’t want to mislead her either.  I don’t want to end this friends with benefits thing we have going and I’m worried that if I don’t acknowledge her on Valentine’s Day, then this might be it.

I Took You Out For Valentine’s Day–Now What?

coffee shopWe met in a coffee shop. Our encounter was brief but sweet.  We talked about the book I was reading and he recommended a book for me to purchase.  After a few phone calls he asked to meet me for a drink.  I was hesitant at first but decided to go anyway.  We shared a few laughs but I knew immediately that we could never be more than friends (I’m picky intuitive).  After a few flattering remarks about my beauty and enjoying our conversation, he asks when we can meet again?  I begin to stall, hoping he can’t see the anguish on my face.  “How about next Friday,” he proposes before I can think of a response.  I check my calendar to stall for some more time, and realize that Friday is Valentine’s Day.  “That’s Valentine’s Day,” I declare while trying to think of a quick response.  “So, it can be our first official date.  Wouldn’t that be romantic?” he replies.  I give him a blank stare until he uncomfortably changes the subject.  Am I wrong for not wanting to go out on Valentine’s Day with a man I don’t like nor want to be romantically involved with?  I don’t need a romantic dinner that badly.

She Trying to Pick Up A Valentine in the Club

The music is glaring and I spot her across the room.  She is making her body move like a contortionist and I can’t help but two step my way over to her so that we can rock to this “Drunk in Love” remix.  We dance to three more songs and I’m lost in her rhythm.  It’s almost like we’re the only ones in this club.  I ask to buy her a drink and with sweat causing her face to glisten slightly, she smiles and walks with me to the bar.  We try to have a conversation over the blaring music in the background.  I want to see her again, if only to move my body to the rhythm of hers one more time.  Before she walks back over to the sea of men on the dance floor, I ask to take her out.  “I would love to!  How about this Friday?”  As the words rolled out of her mouth, it was like the DJ brought the music to a frightening halt.  Did she say Friday? Valentine’s Day?  This chick wants me to take her out on Valentine’s Day.  As the dollar signs start rolling through my head like a slot machine, I tell her I’ll give her a call later in the week to confirm.  With my drink in hand, I walk over to where I was standing hoping to find another beauty who isn’t interested in a Valentine’s Day date.  Should you expect to be taken out for Valentine’s Day on a first date?

I sympathize with the pressures that this one day seems to carry for both men and women.  Valentine’s Day has always been a special day for me because it is my Ace’s birthday.  I am not fussy about presents, so I have never placed a lot of pressure on my significant other to go above and beyond on that day–I’ve always preferred that he demonstrate his love in simple ways throughout the year.  Whether you are bemoaning the day, or posting posting your gifts on Facebook and Instagram, take the time to remind those you care about how much you love them.

TAP TAKES C.A.S.H. ON THE ROAD

I am always amazed by the manner in which young people are at the helm of shaping the next generation.  Some, like Mark Zuckerberg have had a world impact.  Others, like the young man I refer to as my “little brother”, are changing the lives of kids, one person at a time.  Chris, founder of Together Assisting People (TAP), has an amazing story of struggle and transcendence (which I will save for another post).  And through his experiences, he is educating youths primarily in urban areas.  I am posting this article to highlight one of his most well-received educational series:

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TAP brought its Financial Literacy series to the City of Atlanta last Sunday, where Morehouse College played host to a number of top high school athletes seeking to hear more about the financial pitfalls of professional athletes and how students could avoid those pitfalls.

photo (5)TAP partnered with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.’s Pi Chapter of Morehouse College to present the C.A.S.H. (Changing Athletes’ Spending Habits) Symposium—which focused on financial literacy and career planning. The forum featured a number of participants including TAP Founder and former University of Alabama National Champion, Chris Rogers; premier high school athlete trainer and founder of I-DareU, Glenn Ford; and keynote speaker and CEO of Champion Automotive Group, Knowledge DeRamus.

When asked what was the most important message to relay to the students, Ford said, “I thought it was important to stress to these guys that hard work and discipline are important to both success on the field and long lasting financial success off of the field.”

DeRamus, who has over 10 years of experience in automobile sales, broke down the process of automobile purchasing, including how to evaluate affordability and a prospective buyer’s buying power.

“Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you can afford it.” DeRamus told the crowd, stressing the importance of spending wisely.

photo (2)Rogers spoke about the importance of balancing academics and athletics. Rogers, who graduated with his Masters and a 3.9 GPA, while playing for Alabama and pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, gave personal examples of balancing academic life with athletic and Greek life. Rogers attended Alabama on an athletic scholarship. He explained to the young men how he utilized all available academic resources afforded to him as a college student.

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Rogers supplied the student athletes with information about planning for life without or after athletics. He planted the seed of setting long term career goals that reach far beyond the confines of their chosen sport. TAP concluded the symposium by supplying each student athlete with a tie that could be worn to a job interview or to receive an award. “I want these young athletes to strive for academic scholarships because of the uncertainty associated with playing sports.” Rogers said. “In addition to a degree, I can definitely testify to the importance of having and maintaining good credit, as well as how attaining high quality careers will often require having credit in good standing.”

We have to ensure that we support young people like Chris and others who are working to shape the lives of our youths. Some may never realize how to creatively make a small difference in the life of someone else.  Chris has not only figured it out, but he is leading the charge in grooming young athletes to become better adults.  For a recap of the symposium given in December, watch the video below:

Feminism: My Paradoxical Struggle

I had a recent conversation with a friend, which turned into me being forced into self-identifying as a walking contradiction. Let me first say that I was born during the end of the second-wave of feminism, and was raised during its third waive.  I bopped my head and twisted my neck as I sang U-N-I-T-Y along with Queen Latifah.  I constantly struggle to seamlessly adhere to society’s characteristics of me as a woman, and my feminist beliefs.  I’m not sure when being a feminist carried with it a negative connotation, but it only takes me saying a few female-empowering statements before I am given looks of fear and disappointment.  This is primarily because feminism has been redefined by extremists.

My definition of feminism is similar to Webster’s version—the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  However, in some aspects of my life, I adhere to a less literal meaning of the term “equal”.  I guess this paradox makes me a quasi-feminist? My conversation with my friend left me with three puzzling questions: (1) what does it meant to be a quasi-feminist; (2) are my contradictions a bad thing; and (3) when it comes to classifying someone as a feminist, does it have to be all or nothing?

For the purpose of this piece, I  define quasi-feminist as someone who believes men and women should be treated equally in most, but not all, aspects of their lives.  As a quasi-feminist, I find it difficult at times to reconcile my feminist views with my desire to fit into society’s social norms of what my role should be as a woman and a future wife and mother.

Are my contradictions a bad thing as it relates to my role as a woman?  As feminism has evolved over decades, so have my sentiments as to what it is to be defined as a woman. I oftentimes say that chivalry is dead, and receive the response that feminism killed it.  But why can’t chivalry and feminism co-exist?  There are many things that are distinct about a man and a woman that should not be lost on feminism.  Yes, I know how to open a door for myself (and for a man), but it is the sweetest gesture when a gentleman does it for me.  Yes, I could learn to change a flat tire, but if a man offers to do it, even better!  I’m not the only person struggling with this notion.  There have been many recent discussions on whether Beyoncé should classify herself as a feminist as she prances around on stage and in videos in her underwear.

My inconsistencies become more prominent when the conversation changes to the role of men and women in the household.  I become a complete feminist with the expectation that my partner will equally share almost all of the household and child rearing duties.  Like feminism, the roles of men and women in relationships are evolving and the manner in which my partner and I redefine these roles should not cause the feminism gatekeepers to shun or exalt me.  For example, I prefer that my partner take out the garbage, mow the lawn and do more of the backbreaking chores around our home.  But in return, that does not mean he should expect me to cook and clean daily without any assistance.  I am on the fence about whether I would be comfortable with him being a stay-at-home-father even if it made economic sense for our household. Something about me being the sole breadwinner makes me uncomfortable.  And when he wakes up with our child at night he will not be awarded an extra badge of honor for doing so. I can see the jaws dropping as you read those seemingly selfish words.  Will I cook him dinner and wash his clothes?  Yes.  But not because society says it’s my duty as a woman, but because that week, I happen to have more free time than he did.  Would I take out the garbage or mow the lawn? If necessary.  The point is, in my household, no expectation will fall on either my partner or me as it relates to societal mores.  If our primary goal is to keep each other happy, then we will have to nix then it will take a team effort.

Finally, is it all or nothing when it comes to being a part of the feminist movement? Is it possible for a feminist to co-exist in a world where a man’s use of the term b*tch insults her, yet use it loosely amongst her girlfriends? Can she ask for chivalry to stay alive while being unwilling to define her role as a woman in a relationship? Can she ask for equality in her household yet prefer for her partner to take the garbage out and mow the lawn?  Yes she can.  The key to making any relationship work is communication and compromise.  Will I struggle at times in feeling like it is my duty as a mother to rock my child to sleep instead of her father while I’m still in the office? Will it pain me to conclude that my husband knows our children’s favorite foods better than I do?  Yes, because my innate nature and societal influences whisper to me that as a wife and a mother, it is my job and not his to know and do these things.  But despite those feelings, I will not concede to societal beliefs that I have fallen short as a wife and a mother if my partner takes the lead.

Does this make a walking contradiction?  Perhaps.  I am simply a woman with the paradoxical struggle of finding her place in the new wave of feminism—simultaneously trying to sing along to Beyonce’s “Cater 2 U” and “Run the World (Girls)”.

South Africa Adventures–The Art of Negotiating and Robben Island

After a long and relaxing day on the beach, we realized we only had a few more days left in Cape Town and hadn’t done much shopping.  Therefore, we woke up early and headed over to Green Market Square to haggle with vendors.  I didn’t bring my camera to take any pictures because we could not appear to be tourists.  But it didn’t matter because mom was a walking “I have money” target.  I tried to give her a few phrases that she could use so that she did not have to be a dead giveaway that she was American.  I told her should could say sawubona (hello) and unjani (how are you) which is the isiZulu greeting.  After that, nothing else should be said until negotiating the price of an item.  Mom refused to cooperate with me on this.  As we approached the first vendor he greeted us with a deep African accent, “hello mama, hello sista.”  Mom responded with a smile, saying “hello”.  His next question was “where are you from?” Before I could reply, mom quickly interjected “the United States.”  There goes my plan.  I bowed my head an walked away, afraid of what was going to happen next.  A few minutes later I saw him showing mom some artwork.  I hurried over before she pulled out any money and made a greater mistake.  “How much?” I asked. “For you and mama, I give special price,” he replied.  Yeah right, special American price.  Then he quoted her ZAR450. Wait, come again! Did he….huh….yes…I did just say 450 Rand.  “What?!” I responded.  “You want her to pay ZAR450?! Eish man! Cha!”  Cha is “no” in isiZulu.  As we walked away we could hear him saying “come back sistah; what price you want to pay?”  In that moment, mom realized that every price for goods in Green Market Square was negotiable and if she wanted something it was important for them to think we were non-American.  A few minutes later, I walked over to another vendor and was able to negotiate a “local” price of ZAR125 for a similar artwork (this is still overpriced, but not price gouging like the other vendor).

imageAfter haggling and purchasing up a few souvenirs in Green Market Square, we headed back to the waterfront to have lunch and embark on the ferry journey over to Robben Island.  The current was strong so at times the trip felt like a roller coaster ride at sea.  Mom was fascinated to learn about where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his imprisonment.  Kjotso, a former political prisoner led a portion of our tour.  He described what life was like for many of those who were imprisoned on Robben Island.  The very first time I visited Robben Island, it was a very somber place.  However, this tour seemed like more of a tourist attraction.  There were portions of the prison that visitors could no longer get close to based on orders of the South Africa Minister of Arts and Culture (according to our tour guide).  Due to the holiday season, our tour was three times as large as my previous tour.  Mom and I took pictures and explored the grounds for a while, causing us to miss our ferry back to the waterfront.  As a result, we had to wait for the next ferry.  The driver of the this ferry must have been a speed boat racer because he was speeding through the water causing mom to become fearful.  Mom was practically squeezing the life out of the four-year-old little girl who sat next to her.  Her parents were very friendly and understanding.  We chatted with them briefly–they were from Pretoria (near Johannesburg) and came to Cape Town for holiday.  The mother asked us how our stay in the country had been thus far.  I explained that we were having a great time.  She remarked that she was sure South Africans didn’t know what to make of us.  This was the first person to understand what our experience has been like when interacting with locals.  Most often, mom and I are two of a handful of black people dining in the restaurant (the majority of the wait staff are usually black).  When we frequent areas where there are black locals, we also stand out.  Oftentimes, they  stare at us in bewilderment.  Maybe it’s because we smile and say hello to everyone we see.  Most people we encountered were friendly so standing out didn’t affect us.

On our drive back to the flat after leaving Robben Island, mom asked whether Table Mountain was on our itinerary.  Table Mountain is a prominent Cape Town landmark and a beautiful backdrop to the city.  It is approximately 3,558 feet and as I mentioned in a previous post, mom is deathly afraid of heights.  So I immediately responded by telling her that Table Mountain was not a planned stop.  She insisted that she wanted to overcome her fear of heights so we too a detour and I drove to the mountain.  As we ascended to the base of the mountain from the city (approximately 15 minute drive), mom repeated in a heavier than usual Jamaican accent, “LIST tek yuh time!”  I was barely driving 20 mph on a 60 mph road! there was no way we would make it to the top of the mountain at this rate. Mom’s palms were sweating and the mood in the car became very somber. As we turned into the entry for Table Mountain she started to let out large sighing sounds. We arrived in the parking area. Mom was frozen and did not want to exit the car. “Mom we have to get a ticket for the cable car,” I repeated twice before mom responded. “I can’t do it,” she said. Sigh.. I wasn’t going to force her because if it were up to me, we would not have gone because I know the depth of her fear of heights. I tried to convince her to at least come out of the car and take a picture at the base of the mountain which still provided a great view of the city. Once she refused, I came out to take a picture of the view for her then we slowly made our way down the base of the mountain and back to the flat.

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We had dinner at Baia and that was probably the best dinner I had during our stay.  I tried to keep up with Ace by clearing my plate.  By the time the meal was over I was so stuffed I didn’t feel well for the remainder of the night as I walked around with a belly that appeared to look 5 months pregnant.  We tried to walk it off to no avail.  Looking back, I don’t regret it. 🙂

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New Year’s South African Style

imageWe have been here for almost 5 days and it is evident to me that Ace (mom) has her own agenda–to find me a husband here. She must be out of her mind!  I noticed her smile and stare whenever she noticed an African couple walking together; she smiled and stared even more whenever she saw them with kids. I’ve never heard of a biological grandma clock, but if one exists, them my mom’s is ticking.

After returning from our trip to the township, we returned to the waterfront for dinner and ate at Belthazar.  Mom was very friendly to the waiters and asked all of them the same questions: (1) how old are you? (2) do you have any kids? (3) where is the rest of your family?  I’m not sure of the significance of these three specific questions, but I sat in my seat embarrassingly staring down at my food.  One of the waiters was from Ghana and the other was from Zambia.  A third was South African who was studying law at University of Cape Town. We were the last customers to leave the restaurant and by the end of the night mom and I were taking pictures with her new friends.

The next morning, we relocated to an oceanfront flat and returned to the waterfront to purchase our New Year’s Eve tickets for later that night.  I had been researching and asking what most people do on NYE.  The consensus was that most of Cape Town would celebrate at the waterfront.  For those with money, they could celebrate while having a 5-course dinner at one of the amazing waterfront restaurants.  However, many others would converge on the waterfront and walking around listening to the music blaring and preparing for the fireworks show.  People walked around, some with their families, others with their friends.  Mothers carried their children around on their backs secured by towels used as makeshift baby slings.

imageMom and I had dinner at Tasca.  We dined on a prix fixe dinner of some of the best seafood, wine and champagne I’ve ever had.  At close to midnight, we joined the others outside of the restaurant and watched the fireworks show as we extended a “Happy New Year” to those standing around us.  It took a moment, but I had to remind mom that we were blessed enough to ring in the new year on another continent.  In one of the most amazing places on earth–a place where some of our family and friends would never have the opportunity to visit.  In that moment, in the beginning of the new year, we were thankful.  It was an enjoyable experience to celebrate with so many different people.

After leaving the waterfront, we were determined to stay awake to celebrate the new year with those in the U.S.  Thus, we had seven more hours to go!  We navigated through the bumper to bumper traffic and headed to Long Street.  As we walked up the street, we joined a group of people who were marching behind a band.  The band sounded similar to a New Orleans band.  Spectators on the sidewalk watched as we walked by.  Then I realized—we had jumped into the middle of the parade!  Mom had no desire to find the nearest exit so we followed the band up the parade route as people stared.  We eventually exited and were stopped by a group of men sitting on a stoop.  They shouted, “you must not be from around here!”  Mom stopped and asked, “why do you say that?” imageAnd one of the men responded, “because this parade is usually for Coloureds; we never see Africans here.”  “Oh you’re American!” another man shouted after deciphering our accents.  We stopped and spoke to the men for a few minutes who informed us they were Muslim, but as South Africans, they respect and celebrate everyone’s religions.  After leaving the men, we headed farther down Long Street, where the crowd changed.  No longer were were marching up the parade route, we were now standing in the middle of the street with young South Africans of various ages.  They yelled and screamed as many drunkenly stammered down the streets in search of a taxi.  We walked around until close to 5am and headed back to the flat in time to see the sun rise and to wish our family and friends in the States a Happy New Year!

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New Years Day in Cape Town is unofficially known as Beach Day.  On this day, hundreds of thousands of people converge on the beaches around the country.  Mom and I geared up to head to Camps Bay to hang with the natives.  The traffic was bumper to bumper and it was hot.  To get to Camps Bay we must drive along and up a cliff.  As I soaked in the magnificent view of the city and the ocean, mom clenched the handle of the door fearful to look over at the ocean. Sigh.  Mom has a MAJOR phobia of heights (although she has no issue with flying).  We could not descend from the hill fast enough for her.  When we finally arrived at the beach it was crowded with residents (and tourists—most of whom were black).  Some were located on the hill right above the beach.  They were not in bathing suits (beachwear appeared to be optional), but had arrived at the beach to have a picnic with their friends and family.  Sprinkled among the thousands of people were a few whites who were sunbathing on lawn cheers underneath umbrellas.

imageWhen mom and I arrived on the beach, I looked around at how we could obtain lawn chairs.  I noticed that the only beach goers who were utilizing them were all white, but I know mom was not prepared to lay on this sand and burn underneath this hot African sun.  So I found a gentleman who was carrying around an umbrella and bargained with him to obtain two chairs and an umbrella.  As he set up our chairs, he asked mom where she was from (a question we got often and one that mom insisted on answering honestly).  As she told him that we were American, all I could think was that the price of these chairs and umbrella just quadrupled!  After telling me the chairs would cost ZAR 220, I was able to bargain him down to ZAR100 ($10).  Paying the “local” cost for items was becoming a challenge with mom who was unwilling to understand that we looked African.  But, the moment we opened our mouths and people realized we were not “African” they would automatically charge us more for items (she would eventually understand this lesson).  As we laid on the chairs and soaked in the ocean air, I could feel the stares coming from those around us as people walked by.  As Americans in South Africa, we were an anomaly–stuck in two worlds.  If we were Africans, why were we sitting on these lawn chairs pretending to be white?  I’m sure the impression was we must have been Africans with money.  It is a similar struggle that some African-Americans face in the U.S.–not feeling black enough for black people, yet we were not white.  Mom and I took turns going into the water.  I barely got off the sand because the water was ice cold.  Yet, many people (especially kids) enjoyed jumping around in the water.  The vibe was awesome.  You could not help but to feel as happy as they are as they jumped and cheered in the water and celebrated the beginning of the new year.  We stayed at the beach for hours soaking up the great energy.  Mom continued to have mini panic attacks as I drove  up the cliff toward our flat.  When we arrived, she was exhausted so we decided to forgo dinner.

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