Isla

As I sat in the dark with only the flicker of the TV, I heard her footfalls. A little person had violated bedtime rules. To make matters worst, she was roaming the halls of her parental citadel. From behind the veil of darkness, the brown cherub appeared.‘Isla, why aren’t you asleep’? I inquired as every responsible adult should do. 

‘I can’t sleep’! She replied haughtily.

Her voice always makes me chuckle. It is raspy. Her mom has a deep voice, but Islas voice is gravelly…and beautiful, coming from her heart and lacking in pretense. 

‘Ok come sit down’.

Her face brightened into a toothless grin. ‘The last airbender’ was on TV.  I had planned to change the channel but decided against it, as this was a movie we could both watch.  Instead, I  went to the kitchen and got 2 pomegranate ice bars. 

‘Thank you’ she said. She was happy. Her sisters and her mom were asleep. She knew that even if her mom woke up,  and saw her watching movies, Uncle Kangsen would take the blame. All she had to do was relax, watch movies, and she would have gotten ‘one up on the man’. Okay, Isla is a good girl. She was probably just happy to hang out with me. When  I was a kid,  I would have been thinking of the fall guy. Then the fall guys fall guy. I was mischievous. My sisters kids are human, compared to me in my juvenescence. 

‘Why can’t I sleep Uncle Kangsen?’ my niece frustratingly asked.

‘ I don’t know. Happens to me all the time’,  I said. 

She stared unconvincingly at me. I started laughing.

‘What’s so funny?’ she asked mildly annoyed.

‘You are’, I said mimicking her voice. 

She sighed in frustration and returned her attention to the little bald white boy controlling the four elements. 

She had changed so much. She was more articulate. She was taller. And she was still a fiery ball of passion and independence.  

‘Why don’t you try counting backwards from 100’, I suggested nonchalantly.  I had to sell it. Isla and her sister are becoming regular victims to my pranks. As a consequence, she is weary of any suggestions, and tries with the utmost vehemence to disprove my tales. 

‘Ok.’

Wait. No arguing. No debates. Ok. 

Isla started counting. I was laughing on the inside. My plan was to make her restart if she made any mistakes. I figured her frustration would be the highlight of my day. Her mom was a victim of my japes too. Her descendants shall be pranked by my children for all eternity. 

Ok. So Isla kept counting… and she started falling asleep, and on her face I saw God. It remains one of the most hauntingly beautiful things I’ve ever seen. She was laying on the couch holding a teddy bear. What I found most amazing was the fact that she’d start to drift off, but then wake up so as not to loose count. In that moment, I saw all the wonderful things my niece was, is, and the great things she could be. A doctor? A futurist? A lawyer? A protector of life? A leader of Mankind? Whatever destiny reveals, I knew she’d always kind and protective. She’d always be an isle of hope in the darkest of circumstances.

She never got to one. Into the realm between heaven and earth, were babies to be born fly, she went. 

Sweet dreams, daughter of my mothers’ daughter.

Blood of my blood.

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The nature of light

Light. “Let there be light”, are the first words God used to speak mankind into existence. It is therefore the initial tool that was needed in creation. As a consequence,  we are dependent upon the light for our sustenance. The fiery sun powers the numerous cycles that nurture life, with mankind being the primary beneficiary. We owe the light, for it is the beginning of our promethean tendency; to dream of the impossible. We are all light, and we fear not the darkness, for it can never consume us. Even in our darkest moments, and our most trying times, our light has  radiance to vanquish the dark. Such is our lot as divine inheritors, sons of the man born of God. To fully exist, one must self illuminate; i.e to constantly seek the divine origin by learning and loving. Our intellect is tied to our spiritual growth, for through the lens of science and philosophy, one can see divine fingerprints. And, to truly love someone is to imitate God. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery”, they say, but imitating the divine brings wisdom. Wisdom is light.  Knowledge is an important, but not a necessary, prerequisite to wisdom. There are many with knowledge who lack wisdom, and some of the wisest men have never read a book. Nevertheless, what we ingest matters. 

The body, mind, and heart form a trifecta through which our reality is experienced. As information passes through this trifecta, it experiences refraction. It is this refractive ray of knowledge that lodges into our minds creating an indelible mark. The angle of refraction is different for each and everyone of us, and it forms our perception. Absolute truths only belong to the forces that influence all actions, including inaction. Absolute truth is Light. 

When you open your heart to love, it is flooded with light. This light is ephemeral and shows infinite possibilities. Dedication and commitment yield permanence. When you add the will to love another, to the possibility that new love brings, you write an eternal love story. Love is light. 

While the light of your being has no limits, the human shell it inhabits greatly reduces its ability. Oh, what a glorious shell it is. It is a constant reflection of who you are, morphing and adapting to grant you success. Your body always has an written story of greatness. It is an organ that allows us to experience the world in a primal way. Touch, see, hear, taste, and smell. It allows us to make love till we take flight into the light. When we move, we cause hurricanes in other galaxies. Our bodies too, are beautiful. We are poetry in motion. Gods masterpiece. We are light. 

Our greatest light is our mind. An illuminated mind is like Gods’ right after he said, “let there be light”; Forever excited at the many possibilities brought forth by light. Chase the possibilities. Follow the light.

“Stupid Little Brother”

         I was looking good. Not as good as the bride, but good enough to be a talking point throughout the night. I had a clean shave, had showered, and smelt like African flowers and manliness. I was certain it was going to be a great night. The confidence I had in my outfit came from it’s origin; My big brothers wardrobe. He shopped at malls, personal tailors, and on websites that offered the finest accessories in men’s clothing. I shopped at his closet. Sometimes, he’d give me stuff he didn’t like. Sometimes, I’d bargain for other stuff. However, my favorite form of shopping in by brothers closet was when I went on a raid. You see, Sean, as we fondly call him, had so many clothes that it usually took a while for him to realize I’d robbed him. The thrill of stealing from him brought out a kleptomania I’ll probably never rid myself of. So, yeah, I was looking good. Sean was looking good too. While I was a rather imposing figure due to my musculature, my brother was a fashion designers dream. At 6’2″, and under 190lbs, my brother was a dashing figure in a suit. I mean, I look good in a suit but no one can wear a suit like my brother. My muscular body always makes me look like a spruced up villain beneath the threads of Saville Row. My brother, on the other hand, looks like an elegant dandy, and a charismatic swain. I guess our appearances were reflective of our personalities. Some would call me a barbaric. I’m loud. I’m direct. I lift heavy weights, and I box. I’m an Alpha male in a raging bovine kind of way. My brother is more reserved. He is too dignified to get loud, and rarely allows the opportunity to present itself. He’s very tactful. He does tai chi. He’s Alpha male in a serpentine kind of way. Despite our obvious differences, we’ve always been close. Our differences have always complimented each other. It is for this reason that most have described us as, “one coin with 2 sides”. 

     That night, the crew was complete. Our friends, Joe Hollywood and Steve “the rogue lawyer”, were with us. Joe was giant jolly fellow with dreams of becoming a philosopher. He was constantly postulating over his theories of relationships. One of his famous axioms was, “Once, Always”. He firmly believed that if a bloke had any relations with girl in the past, he could have relations with her in the future. In other words, “Once fucked, always fucked”. While none of us ever believed the things he said, it was a riot to have him around. Steve was a different kind of crazy. My brother and I had been friends with Steve and his brothers since we were in high school. As a matter of fact, wherever you’d find my brother and I, you were likely to find Steve. Despite his diminutive stature, Steve had the personality of a gesticulating blue whale in heat, and on steroids, intoxicated with life….., and wine. He was Dionysus personified. He was Liberace in his infinite flamboyance. He was perfectly imperfect, and we loved him and the madness that trailed him. 

      I drove with Steve in his antique convertible Jaguar, while my brother followed in his Mercedes ML 450 with Joe Hollywood . That evening, we were princes of the city, and lords of the night. The sun had gone down, and the light of dusk revealed our proclivities. The festivities were beckoning, and we had answered the call of the night. We were about to get “Lit”. We parked our rides next to the party hall. Sean and Joe walked over to Steve and I. The excitement was palpable. Joe was planning on wooing one girl so as to make another girl jealous. Steve, also affectionately known as “Bobby Brown” wanted to party like the man he was named for. I’ve always been a bit of a rake, so I wanted to enjoy the scene, find the most beautiful lady at the party, and make her mine. As usual, Sean’s motives were not apparent. I knew he was happy for unhappiness flees when we are together. I knew they were some ladies at the party he’d probably like to talk to, but attempting to decipher my brothers thoughts is like divining the depth of a mirage. He was happy. I was happy. We were good. 

    The night was going well. African women never disappoint so the food at this party was delicious. A literal feast for the gods, because my boys and I were Gods on that day. Furthermore, alcohol has a tendency to make one feel like a deity. The DJ was playing great Makossa, and I was dancing like the Douala boy that is me. The bass rifts accompanied with the passionate singing of traditional Douala adages gave me a sense of nostalgia I’d never had, and as fate would have it my thoughts became personified when I saw the most beautiful lady of that night. She was standing alone in a black sleeveless short form fitting dress. She was like a guitar. One could not look upon her without hearing music, for she had a sirenic quality. I introduced myself, and was excited when I learned she was from an island off the coast of Douala known for its mermaid sightings. I’m not a superstitious, but she made me a believer. I got her a drink, and we continued to talk. Her name was Nathalie. She was witty, smart, and was always looking for the next laugh. She was also affectionate. Not in a sexual way, but in a manner that showed the warmth of her heart. I was enamored by her. 

     The night was coming to an end. I had lost track of time and my friends, but I didn’t care . I was good. The night was great. I’d met a beautiful lady. I was going to make her breakfast. I was excited. Then, I heard my name. It was my brother, Sean. I love my brother, and I’m always proud to introduce people to him. He looked regal in his suit, and before I could tell Nathalie who he was, he’d reached out to shake her hand.

“I’m Sean. I’m his brother”.

Till this day, I do not know if those words were a euphemism for something else. All I can say is that the dynamic between Nathalie and I changed immediately. For one, she stared into my brothers eyes for too long. My brother automatically knew he had seduced her. His mega watt smile was on full display. The evening light conspired to make his dark African skin glow in the dark. His sparkling obsidian eyes teased her with the secrets of his loins. Nathalie blushed as she bit her lip. I had become an exile. They chatted continuously for a few minutes as if I fixture in the hall. He then took her to the dance floor, and basically did a mating dance with her. I was stunned. This didn’t happen to me. For the rest of the night, Nathalie and Sean were the “it” couple of the soirée. The talked, and laughed, and touched each other affectionately, while I seethed by the bar smoking cigarettes. When it was time to go, my brother threw the keys to me indicating that I should drive. Nathalie was coming with us. I was torn between being upset that I was rejected, and being happy that my brother got the girl. I resigned myself to dismiss this dilemma from my head, and enjoy the rest of the night. That day, as much as I hated my brother, I loved him even more. He’s my hero. 

    

Edisto Island

The drive to Edisto Island, SC, was probably one the best drives of my life. The Carolina scenery was transfixing, with its weeping willow trees, and the rich salty smell of the sea. Added to this was the orange color of the sky on a summer evening. It is at these moments when the miracles of life are so apparent, that I feel I could drive forever, leaving my past and driving into a future of infinite possibilities. The possibilities I speak of are not of riches and glory. No. On that summer evening, my heart was rich, and glorified, experiencing a bloom that is caused by the possibility of love. I was smitten; I was captive to another; I was on a lovers quest. 

The many churches I drove by seemed to point me in the right direction. While the GPS in my car was functional, it seemed useless due to the palpable cosmic navigation within me. I was a star moving  across the sky, seeking its binary equal. It was the only way to be. 

A dozen miles before my destination, I became nervous. Logic and reason, enemies to Cupids plans, hovered over me like rain clouds vainly attempting to discourage a beach trip. 

“Is she as excited?”

“Does she feel the same way?”

“What if her heart is too broken, and she can’t love again?”

“What are you willing to sacrifice?”

Alas, I’ve always been a stubborn man who dances to the beat of his heart, and not to the clarity of his mind. As a matter of fact, my mind has never been clear because I drink from the deepest wells of my passions. I will be perpetually drunk from the things that make me smile; Family, the quest for knowledge, and love.  

I pulled up to a beautiful beach house. I could hear the chorus of the waves as they crashed on the shore. The gentle sea breeze caressed my skin, but my thumping heart did not let me enjoy the soothing effects of the moment. My hands were sweaty, and I felt like an animal thinking about crossing a busy highway. The moment of truth had arrived. Was I worthy of her affections? Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? Would she kiss me like she kissed me in her red truck? She was home because the red truck was there. There was no turning back. 

The door opened before I had a chance to knock. The woman was in the doorway. She was beautiful without even trying. She was looking at me, not only with her eyes but with her entire being. The crescent shape of a smile formed on her coral pillowy lips, and we ran into each others arms. The magic of that moment has never left me. 

Dinner was amazing. The local restaurant had an assortment of the oceans finest, and we feasted on most of it. The shots of liquor rang true, and the atmosphere was merry. The womans mother was effusive in her hospitality, constantly pointing at my dimples. With every smile, this formidable matriarch issued threats that detailed the pain she’d inflict upon me if I broke her daughters already broken heart. I wasn’t to do any breaking. I was to be broken. 

After dinner, the woman and I walked on a moonlit beach. The ocean was quieter, as if it was conspiring to make sure we heard each other. It wasn’t necessary. All we heard was each other. We heard each other’s laughter, tears, and everything in between, whether said or unsaid. On that night, we were binary stars. We were one, and the seas were beckoning, so we assumed an Eden like state, and dove into the inky waves. We kissed, and hugged, and it was beautiful, because of the woman, and the fact that my heart was more open than it had ever been before. I was glowing with love from within, and the scintillating waves caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton were a reflection of this glow. 

If I could relive any moment in my life, that weekend on Edisto Island would be in a continuous loop. But, I cannot sleep for ever, so my dreams can not be continuous. Every night before I sleep, I pray for the same dream, and every morning I wake up disappointed because my mind wanders too much, taking me back to Iraq and Afghanistan, or to funerals of my father, or to wastelands  inhabited for zombie cats. I just wish that it’ll take me to my favorite dream; that of a woman and I in a sparkling ocean tasting the salt off of each others skin. 

I’m going to bed. Goodnight.

“Finding My Sister”

I remember when my mom went into labor. I’m not sure if I was afraid but I’m certain my siblings were. Makuba, the eldest was visibly upset. My brother Ndumbe, was upset because he was a paragon of empathy as a kid. It’s funny how life can harden the gentlest of souls. I’m pretty certain I was not afraid because being afraid is my only fear, and quite frankly I don’t remember. However, I think if I was afraid I would’ve remembered. So, I remember certain parts about that day pretty vividly. For one, I know was standing next to my siblings. I know my mom had on a sweater. I know my gentlest aunt, Aunty Tete, was there too, and she did her best to calm everyone  down. I know it was winter. I remember one of the paramedics had a mole on his face. For some reason, that day seems to be a black and white film. Only my mother’s sweater, which was either pinkish Or reddish, seems to be in color. I also remember  thinking, “I’m going to have a little brother”. 

   The next day my father took us to the hospital. That day too, seems to be in black and white except for my  fathers blue shirt. I remember us running into my mothers hospital room. She seemed exhausted. My father kissed her gently, and before their lips could part, the questions started.

“Is it a boy, or a girl”

“What’s the baby’s name”

“Where is baby”

My father kissed my mother again and took us to the nursery. We were excited. When we got there, my father pointed to what seemed to me at the time, a chubby faced angry cherub who didn’t seem to stop crying.

“Her name is Epolle”, he said with the pride of a Bakossi  man certain his daughter will be the most beautiful girl between the Kupe and Muanenguba mountains. My father was happy on that day.

“It’s a girl”, Makuba screamed with glee. She knew she’d no longer be alone. My birth had upset the balance, making Makuba the only girl. Things were easy for her before I came along because my brother Ndumbe, was quiet and mysterious, never giving her any trouble. I was havoc, and my birth made my gentle brother rougher, creating a dynamic not conducive for my eldest sister. She was happy on that day.

My brother Ndumbe has always been zen. On that day, he was no different. He looked adoringly at the baby, and I guess he was in love. He too was happy on that day. 

I was not happy on that day. I wanted a baby brother. My big brother had a little brother, so I wanted a little brother. I didn’t think I had any use for any more girls around the house. Mom, Makuba, and Aunty Tete were enough. I felt that my sisters birth was a wrench in my plans, for I had planned to have a little brother to teach the dark arts of mischief. This really messed up my schemes. I was not happy on that day.  

So, when this living reminder of plans never to materialize came home, I was indifferent. I think I was. I’m not sure. I remember being worried about her when she cried, to being annoyed by her screams. Sometimes, I loved her fiercely but then I’ll just want her to be a dude and shut up. I really thought my parents had failed me by giving me a sister. 

She eventually stopped crying. She did become a little tomboy. She was the most athletic in her class, and she always had the best grades. She was brilliant and emotional, and very strong. She was unbreakable. I used to tell her she was adopted, and she hated that. I also used to cheat her out of whatever pastries we had to share because that’s what big brothers do. I did teach her some of the dark arts of mischief. I once convinced her to put a needle in a chair, and had my cousin sit on it. She would tattle tell on me whenever pressure was mounted. But, she was good, and pure, and all that a human being should be. Growing up, we had a love/ HATE relationship. I never hit her. She was simply a test subject of mine. Sometimes she was my assistant, but rest assured my projects always got us in trouble, and she probably resented me for that. Nevertheless, she always tagged along when I went off seeking the answers to the Universe. 

One day on one adventure, my sister came with me. We were adults now but we still bickered at each other from time to time. She had never been to the beach, and so we decided to go to Dewey beach, DE. I was so excited because I was planning to laugh at her. She was excited because she was going to the beach with her big brother. She got in her bathing suit and walked towards the waves. Mischief left me, and in its place was   a fierce love, and the willingness to encourage my sister as she went into the ocean for the first time. 

“Kangsen, are you sure”

“Yes, Sis. It’ll be ok. Just go in”

I sprinted into the foaming waves, yelling as I always did, and dove beneath the green crescents. When I resurfaced, she was waist deep in the water, wiping the ocean spray from her face. She eyes were squinted, some water had gotten into her nose, and she was hated the taste of the ocean. It was a funny sight to see but I saw something else; she looked like a Chubby faced angry cherub who wouldn’t stop crying, only she was laughing. In that moment, I saw every moment I’d ever had with my sister. She was everything I thought she was; beautiful, strong, kind, goofy, funny but above all, pure, because till this day Michal Epolle remains the best person I know. After that, we ate lots of funnel cake, and drove back to Baltimore. We talked about everything, and nothing, and it was a good day. I was very happy on that day. 

  We call her, “Mimi”, but her full name is Michal Epolle Masango. Her last name is Takem now because she married some lucky guy. Some men are so lucky, but I’m blessed because the best person I know used to be an angry faced crying cherub, and she’s always been my sister. Did I tell you she’s also the best person I know? 

“Trumping Trump”

The path to the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination will probably be remembered as  one of the ugliest chapters in American Politics. This is because since Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Reagans’ War on Drugs, no candidate has exploited  our fractured society like Donald Trump. Prior to the start of his  contemptible campaign, Trump was dismissed as a charlatan, but with the declaration of his presidential run, he proved he is more than a bloviating heap of genetic garbage; he is a bloviating heap of genetic garbage with a Machiavellian intellect who’s sole goal is to win. Ambition is one of the most American of virtues, so one cannot fault Trump for wanting the presidency. However,  honor is an American virtue too, and there is nothing honorable about a campaign that invests in hate. Mr Trump is a bete noire, and his political ideology is Unamerican to the point of being treasonous. He does not  disguise his speech with veiled political terms like, “welfare queen”, or “Law and Order”. No!  Eloquence and tact are not tools of “the Donald’s “, trade especially because he lacks these oratory skills. He is bombastic, crude, and disgusting everytime he opens his mouth. It doesn’t take a genius to see this if we consider his attack on Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorna. Yet, his opponents are afraid to castigate him, and his supporters love him. So why is such a tasteless hateful cartoon dominating the political discourse of a country like ours? The answer is fairly simple; Some of us are not who we say we are. The scars of racism are not fully healed, and maggots like Trump feed on the pus of these wounds. His opponents are of the same ilk, because they believe the same Republican dogma that says America is for only a particular type of American, hence their  failure to castigate him, while trying to appeal to his imbecilic supporters. These supporters are most disappointing to the America they claim to love. It is one thing to have one person who thinks like Trump, but his rise in the polls means there are many who share his views, and is an indicator of the latent racism that is still part of the American dynamic. That is why it is not surprising that there always seems to be a miscarriage of justice at the expense of minorities. It is not surprising that there is a single narrative that paints all Muslims as terrorists and White terrorists as mentally unstable. The same narrative that paints all Black males as thugs and Mexicans as rapists; But, Donald can not win because America is stronger  than the cancer in her veins. She is defiant in the face of adversity. She is the last bastion of Liberty …and Donald Trump in a pimple on her rear end. He’ll eventually pop and be inconsequential, but he’ll always be remembered as the fool who tried to wrestle with the righteous conscience of a free people.

“The Flag of a Nation”

On June 14th, two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Act of 1777. This act stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” The thirteen stripes and stars represented the first thirteen colonies of our great nation, and the colors were also of great significance. White symbolizes innocence and purity, red symbolizes hardiness and valor, while blue symbolizes vigilance, perseverance and justice. Perhaps, the most telling color on our flag is the blue field upon which our stars shine, because it represents the spirit of our flag: a new constellation where “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a universal truth, and while the unfortunate irony of our nations birth is that its’ founders proclaimed freedom with their mouths, and profited from slavery, the flag remains inculpable as it represents a truth, and an ideal we must constantly strive to live up to, in order to create a more perfect union. In 1814, the flag of the United States became known as the Star Spangled Banner thanks to the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” by Francis Scott Keys. In this famous poem, Keys recounts the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, MD, by the Royal British Navy. This poem was later to become our official national anthem in 1931, but the type of nationalistic pride Americans have today was evoked the moment Keys saw his young nations flag waving in spite of English oppression.                                                                    Today, the American flag is arguably the most recognized flag in the world, and perhaps in our Solar system as it waves on our moon. Because of our global impact since the birth of our nation, the Star Spangled Banner has different meanings to different people. Some nations like France and England have thought of our flag as a symbol of liberation, due to the heroic exploits of our military on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Russia, though was an ally during World War II, has always perceived the flag as the symbol of a force they will never be able to contend with, while to China, our flag symbolizes the last battle to be fought for global economic dominance. Within the United States, this iconic symbol has even more meanings due to the contradictory nature of our national history. Some Native Americans believe the flag is a symbol of unpunished oppression, one that stole their land, and systematically reduced their population by the introduction of lethal pathogens, and the murderous tentacles of Manifest Destiny. Yet, many Native Americans served in the military as Code Talkers during WWII, and played a pivotal role in the victory of the Allied Forces, because the flag symbolized something worth fighting for. To most Latino Americans, especially those from Mexico, the American flag symbolizes hope, even when the nation rejects them. It is this belief in the flag that prompts many undocumented aliens to willingly earn their citizenship through military service, or endure the harshest of working conditions as migrant workers, sacrificing their bodies to be under the greatest banner of freedom the world has ever seen. To many African-Americans, the flag of the United States of America evokes conflicting emotions. Many believe in the spirit of the flag, even though they may have lost faith in their nation, for this was the flag that flew in town squares while their ancestors were being auctioned. While this flag waved, slaves were prohibited from reading and writing. While this flag waved black backs were split open at the crack of a whip. While this flag waved, black women were raped by slave masters. And, it is this same flag that ushered in the Jim Crow era. It is this same flag that flew when Greenwood, OK, was burned to the ground by a race riot. It is this same flag that flew over government buildings whose occupants would not allow African-Americans to vote. It is the same flag that flew over segregated schools. It is this same flag that waved when four girls in Alabama were killed in 1963. The same flag that flies over court houses with racially biased verdicts. But the flag remains inculpable, because like religion, many men have corrupted its true meaning. And this is why to many African-Americans, the flag of United States represents the best a nation can be, hence, their contributions in her many wars.  And throughout Americas’ constant metamorphosis, African-Americans, and Americans of all races and creeds, have contributed to the transformation our society for the better. And the American flag was flying high throughout all these changes. The flag flew when Truman desegregated the military in 1948. The flag flew when the Supreme Court wrote the Brown vs Board of Education decision in 1954. The flag flew when the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed.  The flag flew when millions marched on Washington, and she was excited about Dr. Kings’ dream. The flag flew when President Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country.” The American flag still flies today, and the torrent of emotions that the flag arouses is evident to most Americans, because we all bear the weight of our nations original sin, and are exalted by her glory. Due to the aftershocks of racism and bigotry, we have many a time failed to live up to the truest meaning of the American flag. It is therefore important that we recommit ourselves to our national truths, while  waving the American flag with vim and vigor, holding hands and singing, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing..”                                                                                                                                 So Don’t step on our Flag, because its’ truth is constant. Don’t step on the flag because many have lived for this truth. The truth that an egalitarian society is possible with the guaranteed protection of individual  freedoms. But lastly, do not step on the American Soldiers flag, because it is a constant symbol of victory he wears on his right shoulder, and a victory many of his comrades have given their lives for, so that you may have the right to desecrate the sacred banner of freedom that drapes their caskets.

“Red”

“Red” has always been passionate. Her anger has always been volcanic. Her pain has always been raw and palpable but, her love is truly the most preeminent of her emotions. It has been like a hurricane and a gentle breeze to the men she’s loved, sometimes overwhelming in its embrace of  lesser souls, yet, it empowers the man who stands with her today. To her family, her love has always been a fortress; a nurturing bastion in which hope is restored, faith is instilled, stomachs are filled, and tears are wiped away. Because Red is my big sister, she has always been a surrogate mother to me. I love her dearly. 

We call her Red because her face turns red when she is angry. When I was growing up, I was fairly certain that if she lived on the Serengeti, lions would fear her. Her clenched jaw, glaring eyes and balled up fists reminded me of a devil in African fables. Her anger made her look like a snake about strike. Not like a recoiled rattlesnake but, like a cobra spreading its hood.  The shrill in her voice was far from human, leading me to believe she had moments of demonic possession. I am thankful that her rage was never directed at me, except for once, and, that remains a day I have chosen to forget.

We also call her Red because her face turns red when she laughs. Watching her laugh is always surprising  because, it’s like seeing seeing the beauty beneath her Spartan helmet. Her laughter is wild, springing from a place where she keeps her hearts treasures. It is unfiltered and probably carthatic, for she always bends over in cachinnation.

When she cries, her face has a claret hue. I’ve always thought that because she is so passionate, her heart shatters more than others, causing the pain to course through her entire body, only to return to a splintered organ that is eternally defiant. Her body curls up as she weeps, and sometimes she would cry for days.

I must say witnessing Red love is the most beautiful experience. She has always defied logic, reason, and the world for the people she loves. I’ve seen her travel hell and high water for fools who knew not how to love her back but, most importantly, I have been loved by her from the time she noticed me growing in my mothers womb. The love she has for her children, husband, siblings, and parents is a testament to the vastness of her heart, and the generosity  of the her spirit. She loves even though she is scarred with pain and burnt by betrayal. She is the angel who would trade paradise for a ghoulish eternity for the sake of her loved ones. Red has always been passionate. Red has always been love. Red is my sister Makuba. I love her dearly.

 

“Sweet Mother”

In my brothers room hangs a picture of a beautiful woman. This picture is a mental mural for me because it evokes beauty, love, acceptance, and strength. The woman in the picture seems to be a daughter of Mama Africa’s  setting sun, for her skin is like Bantu copper, and her pain is palpable. Even though she hails from the nobility of the savannah in Cameroon, her regalness in this picture comes from something within her. She is not smiling. She is not frowning either. Her lips are frozen in between laughter and a bitter curse. And so are her eyes which seem transfixed on something she was either going to praise or criticize. She is my Mona Lisa, and every time I look at this picture, I try to conjure up the thoughts behind her puzzling expression. 

I was in trouble again. The headmistress was a fat lady with two chins. I surely did not want to deal with her inquiries, but that was inevitable since I had been summoned to her office. I made a mental note of everything I had done wrong since the last time the ruler met my knuckles. My prepubescent mind lost count. I had to stay out of trouble in the future. The thrill of mischief always seemed to eclipse the dread of being held accountable…. except during moments like this. So here I was, standing outside the fat lady’s office anticipating my punishment. My father had once threatened to send me to a reformatory. Maybe this visit to the principles office would be the last straw. If he did send me, my plan was to run away and join a gang like Oliver Twist, especially because I knew I would not be able to handle the shortened rations at any center for delinquents. But I had to meet with the Headmistress first. 

“Hello Kangsen”, said the fat lady is a rather cheerful tone. 

It must be some sort of trickery. My sister Kuba always warmed me up with pleasantries so I could tattletale on my brother Ndumbe. It always worked too. All I needed was a chocolate croissant, and I’d be singing like a canary, while Ndumbe  would be seething in the corner with my baby sister Michal trying to comfort him. I wouldn’t fall for that trick at my own demise.

“Good Afternoon Mrs Barrow”, I replied mustering the charm of a cherub. 

“I am sending you home because you owe school fees”, said the headmistress. Now that I think about it, she seemed very happy to send me home. She probably thought my buddy Tem Tiagha and I were the most headstrong pupils she’d ever come across. Either way, no headmistress should be that happy to send a child home. Especially a good lad like me. All I had was a penchant for mischief. What little boy didn’t sneak in the girls bathroom? What little boy didn’t try to run and pee and the same time? What little bro didn’t try to create furnace in a kitchen cupboard? What little boy didn’t cut people’s hair while they slept? What little boy didn’t place needles in chairs so that unsuspecting people could get their butts pierced? What little boy didn’t give his grandfathers whiskey to a billy goat? What little boy didn’t drink his grandfathers whiskey? Ok, maybe little boys shouldn’t drink whiskey , but they’ve probably thought about it, so why didn’t the world understand little boys? 

I didn’t care about being misunderstood at that moment. All I cared about was  going home without being charged, prosecuted, and found guilty by Mrs Barrow. I really hated that woman. I ran to my classroom, picked up my bag, and gave my teacher the finger. No more knuckle-rapping asshole. And just like that, I vanished into the African sun. 

It was more like walking in the African sun. Our driver was supposed to pick me up at one o clock. Because I was dismissed 3 hours earlier, I had to walk. So under the sun I walked, and it was hot. With each step, the excitement of going home early dissipated. In its place arrived hunger. I was always hungry as a kid. I would eat my meals, and eat with my father. No one could figure out where the food went, for I had a diminutive stature. So as I walked, I consoled myself with the fact that lunch would be ready when I got home. Home sweet home. How many more footsteps. Maybe a million. I wished I could fly like a Kupe Bush shrike. Alas, God made man with two legs so he could walk upright. So I walked. I normally hated taxis. I really did, because you usually had to sit with unfamiliar people. Today, those yellow taxis looked like golden chariots ridden by the heroes in my childhood stories. I wished I had money, but as I had not yet graduated to the stealing phase of my adolescence, my pockets were filled with only marbles and lint. I became sad. I wished for food. I wished I was in a taxi. I wished the sun wasn’t so hot. I wished I was in school. I wondered what class activity my friends were doing. Where they playing football? What were the girls doing? I wished I was at the play ground chasing them around. At this moment, I would have gladly welcomed their rejection for the comforts of an air conditioned class room, and chocolate sandwiches with milk. I must’ve been very desperate, because I hated milk as a kid. Tears began to form in my eyes. This added insult to injury, for while I was physically weak as a child, my heart was strong, and I prided myself in my inability to cry no matter the predicament. But on this day, I had reached the depths of my childhood dejection. The lump in my throat was thorny, and my tears were waiting to inundate me, but then I heard someone call my name. 

“Kangsen, Kangsen”.

The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen was calling my name. She seemed to have been born from an African setting sun. Her skin was the color of Bantu copper, and on her dress were prints of hibiscus flowers. Her eyes were transfixed on me, and though her pain was palpable, the windows of her soul   emanated only love; a mothers love.

I was so happy to see my mother that day. I ran into her arms with the knowledge of my salvation. No more walking under the hot sun, but most importantly, no more uncertainties in my life. I even forgot how hungry I was, but a mothers love nurtures, so my mom got me Soya (delicious chunks of roasted meat) with the biggest bottle of Fanta. We sat next to the street vendors as my sweet mom encouraged me to eat before telling her of  my ordeal. Even the street vendors were surprised at how much I ate. My mom simply smiled, staring at me those loving eyes. 

After my feast, my mom and I continued our walk home. I held her hand and asked her every question that comes to a little boys mind. All of her replies were punctuated with her soft laughter. And she would look at me a lot. Sometimes I would see worry in her stare. Other times I’d see the hopes she has for her children. Very rarely did I see the pain she tried to hide from us, but everytime those eyes beheld mine, they said ” I love you little prince”.

I love you too mother.



Too Much “Suh”

Gladiators, though slaves were the epitome of strength at the height of the Roman Empire . These men lived for the purpose of dominating lesser individuals with their physical and mental prowess . The domination was complete; Lesser men met their end at the tips of blades and spears wielded by victorious gladiators. This was followed by the orgasmic applause of the spectators, ever hungry for more not because they were blood thirsty, but because they were in awe. They were seduced by the strength of these warrior slaves, for in them they saw everything they were not; strong, bold, cunning, and fearless.Today, gladiatorial games continue to captivate us. It is for this reason that Mike Tyson at his peak was both menacing and fascinating. The UFC owes its relevancy to our collective need to witness organized chaos. We want battle signed, sealed and delivered to us, and there is no better delivery man than the National Football League. Football is an American way of life. It is a game that depends on the basic tenets of successful living. Preparation and Perseverance, Dedication and Diligence, Tenacity and Teamwork are at the core of a successful football team, but there is also Molotov cocktail of uber competitiveness, pride, and rage in each player that drives him to be his best. This combustible mix in an average person would create a very driven individual, but in a body that is 6’3″ tall and weighs 305lbs, the anathema that Ndamukong Suh would be born.
His name means “House of spears”,but on the football field Suh is more of a wrecking ball with spears. Arguably one of the best defensive ends in Football, Suh plays for the Detroit Lions. Since winning the defensive player of the year award in 2010, this modern day Tetraites has continued to play with an unrivaled ferocity. It is this ferocity that makes him the nightmare within a quarterbacks nightmare, predicting and delivering only pain to those who stand in his way. It is also this ferocity makes Suh an antagonist in a league that wants to clean up its image.
We’ve have seen Suh kick to the groin. We’ve seen him stomp an opponent. But we’ve also witnessed a 300 lb man run like a sprinter and wreak havoc in his wake. Suh doesn’t quit on plays. Suh doesn’t turn off, and in a sport that has its share of prima donnas, Suh is refreshing because Suh will be Suh with a little bit of Suh on it. He is talented,unpretentious, and mean, but he is also volatile which can be costly . Is it possible to be more Suh while being less Suh? This is a question only he can answer, and quickly he must, because his actions are to his team. With the Detroit Lions making a playoff run, and Suh facing a suspension, Tony Romo and Demarcus Murray of the Dallas Cowboys are silently rejoicing. The former will have more time in the pocket, and the latter will have wider running lanes. The Lions must attack the stable that is Jerrys’ World or be crushed beneath the boots of the Dallas Cowboys. And Ndamukong Suh must ask himself, “How much Suh is too much?”

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