Friday, June 20, 2014

Color: Dark Skinned or Light Skinned is Always With Us

The issue of skin color is an issue in America and while we may not realize it, there is a similar controversy in parts of Africa, India, Asia.  I try really hard not to generalize but when you look around color is a real definer that human beings use against one another.

In the 1980's I remember being at an Indian fashion Show in Liberia and there were clearly differences between the light skinned East Indian women and dark skinned East Indians. The history tells that the darker skinned Indians are akin to Africans.

There are dark and light skinned Italians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and I could go on and on.

I was checking on You Tube for Liberian Music for my Face Book Page because I love Liberian Music and I came across this music video by Jessica Singh. I would guess that she is the mixed race girl of Liberian and East Indian heritage. The tune is catchy but the imagery is the same.  The comments were interesting.

Anyway, here is the video and comment if you dare. I am not judging, just offering this as a discussion piece for rational persons.

My question is why does color still matter? We now know scientifically that DNA, not color defines our ethnicity, and yet we still cling to color. Don't we?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

All Heal Sweet Liberia Heal!

EACH TIME I think of Liberia, the country that hosted my spiritual growth for 11 years, I FEEL. There is feeling and then there is FEELING. There is so much about my experiences in Liberia that could not be shared in my memoir, Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot and yet it is here, buried beneath my life in America. Because my sojourn in Liberia was as much spiritual as it was physical, in many ways I am still there. It is akin to the feeling that one has when a person you love has died.  And by no means do I intend to say that Liberia is dead, only that she is buried so deeply in my soul that I am forever connected, even though I am not physically IN Liberia. 

This video, of reconstruction efforts, depicts the rebuilding of the physical infrastructure of Liberia. I know the bond between my soul and Liberia is still strong because when I heard the chorus of voices in the video, I wept. I can't explain why, but when you see the video, if you weep or feel 'it', you will understand.  If you experience the video and don't feel anything, there are no words I can give you that will cause you to understand. 

Earlier this week I posted a video on my Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot page on Facebook that depicts the rampant use of little girls as sexual objects, as rape victims and prostitutes who sell their bodies to support their families. This is a paradox. On the one hand there must be the rebuilding of infrastructure. Buildings, lights, water, services, roads, a business economy, and more are needed if Liberia is to rise from the dust. However, the Liberia my family fled in 1990 is hardly the Liberia that exists today. 

To be sure, there are feverish efforts in Liberia to reconstruct the spirits of the Liberian people, but it is so much easier to rebuild physical infrastructure than it is to reconstruct a society wrecked by 14 years of Civil War. How long does it take to reconstruct the souls of the broken and contorted spirits of a people. To revitalize the characteristic kindness, congeniality, and optimism of the Liberian people. How Long?

My mind's eye still treasures the pictures of my Liberia, the Liberia I was spiritually awakened in, as a vision of what CAN be healed and restored. Healing IS possible.
All Heal Sweet Liberia Heal!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa Empower

December 26, 2013

Looking forward…


As we begin another year of life physical form, it’s good to center on some principles that are non-denominational and can apply to spirits of any belief system.

Unity-Umoja (oo-MOH-jah): This is the first principle of Kwanzaa and rather than restate information that is more fully covered at this Kwanzaa website -, I offer a “quick and dirty” definition that Kwanzaa is an African American tradition founded on an east African concept of Harvesting of the First Fruits.

Simply, Unity for me means intending to come together always rather than giving energy to any kind of separation. Practicing a principle means that we work on it when it’s comfortable and we try even when Unity is challenging. For instance, in our good clean clothes, strive to see that we are in unison with the homeless, drug addicted, the gun-shooters, because they, like us, were created in the image and likeness of the Creator.

 Kujichagulia-is the 2nd principle of Kwanzaa - Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah): Self-Determination. I have always taken that to mean independence. Personal responsibility for my actions and their accompanying reactions.  Setting goals for myself outside of the expectations of others and being consistent in propelling myself toward the finish line. It’s persisting through the long haul.

Ujima-the 3rd principle of Kwanzaa - Ujima (oo-JEE-mah): Collective work and responsibility.
I love it when a group of people can work together around a plan, each taking responsibility for holding up their “end” and catching any balls that seem to be dropping, whether they are yours or not. This is commitment to a collective agenda!  Ujima is team play, whether it’s in a family committed to helping on another achieve their goals, or a productive work team, hardI-working faith team or an effective block club. If one reflects on the meaning of, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” you can probably find examples of Ujima in your life. Let’s work more collectively in 2014!

Ujamaa-This represents the 4th principle of Kwanzaa - Ujamaa (oo-jah-MAH): Collective economics.
This principal that speaks to as a community of consumers, supporting with our dollars, institutions that value and support and appreciate us! According to Nielsen Research African Americans spend annually, and yet, corporations that we support don’t recognize that power by spending with our African American owned agencies and businesses. Money can bring power when used with the intention of the empowerment of our community. Once we have knowledge we also have responsibility to ACT.

Nia- 5th principle of Kwanzaa - Nia (NEE-ah) is Purpose. Whoami and Whyamihere? This principal speaks to having a greater reason for your life than existence and the production of off-spring. When we reflect on the lives of people that we revere; our spiritual leaders, and heroes, we can see that we value, and in some instances worship them for who they were and what they did. I submit that some of us are purposed by our Creator to be way-showers and others are purposed to follow the way they are being shown. Personally, I don’t believe any soul was given existence to be worshiped, but I do believe some souls were sent to lead by pointing us in a direction that we should follow.  Purpose is about finding out who you are and why you were given life and then searching for what are purposed to DO to earn our space on the planet, “pressing toward the higher call.”

Kuumba- This represents the 6th principle of Kwanzaa - Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah): Creativity. Thinking about how to use each and every situation, adversity, and blessing and encounter to make your life and the lives of others better. Creating beauty with our words, as we speak possibility over situations that appear less than ideal.

Faith - This represents the 7th principle of Kwanzaa - Imani (ee-MAH-nee): Faith. Such a magnificent and personal principle. Faith to me means that despite the “appearance” of a situation on the News, on a health test, in a community, in a relationship, faith demands that we see everything as the Creator sees it, perfect, whole and complete, always affirming the best outcome for situations. We have to exercise and “flex” our faith muscles so that we weaken fear. We acknowledge that whatever we give our attention to multiplies. So if we feel weakened in a situation we AFFIRM our power because in affirming power and dominion we are calling forth from the Universe that which we want to give value to!
This does not mean we ignore a physician's health prescription or the guidance toward financial prudence, but that we use FAITH while DOING all we can to move ourselves to a better place.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Clever Disguises

I was speaking with an old friend today; a friend that I have known since I was an idealistic twenty-something. We had been through the end of the 60’s, the hopeful 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and onto a new millennium. This morning, while a downpour kept me from weeding my garden, we reflected upon the fact that nothing has changed…not really and that sometimes the labels we give things change but we need to look more deeply into the TRUTH of what they are.

For instance, I lived in Liberia, West Africa for 11 years and escaped during the early months of the tragic Liberian Civil War. People call that heroic, I certainly didn’t feel hero-ish. What I felt like was a person responding in the best way possible to protect my family. And while that experience, at least on the surface, seemed unique at the time; I don’t see what happens in West Africa and South Africa worlds apart from the happenings on the West Side and the South Side of Chicago.

Is there really a difference between the disregard for the development of “ethnic” human capital in Liberia and colonial South Africa to what is happening to youth in Chicago, particularly on the South and West Sides? HOW can the crime rate be at its lowest in 14 years according the superintendent of police, while residents of the South and West Sides of the city live in constant fear? That not only points to, it screams, at something deep and systemic that needs addressing. More police can’t fix this.

By systemic I mean, the school system, the social services system, the system of state, county, city government and the criminal 'just us' system need fixing. I would submit that what is happening on the West and South Sides of Chicago (and elsewhere among people of darker hues and lower class) are really cups of “the same soup being poured deceptively into different bowls.”


What I have decided to DO is:
1. to snitch on anyone hurting my community that I’m aware of
2. to continue to inspire and educate my older children and to support them in raising my grands
3. to work with others that want to reclaim the south side community that I call home
4. to help the young men that live nearest to me to find a better path forward

Perhaps crime will continue to rise (on the South and West Sides of the City), and perhaps our children will continue to be fed into the system of slavery that is cleverly disguised as the criminal “justice” system. But at least I will be able to rest my head on my pillow at night knowing that I DID what I felt capable of DOING.

For every person that reads this post, I would challenge you to look into your life and decide not what you can say, but what you are willing to DO.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Leap Forward...Alone!

The idea for this blog entry stems from a text I got from one of my daughters last night asking simply, “Can you skate?” Wise sage that I am, I saw beyond the simplicity of the inquiry to my daughter’s wish to find a fun activity and someone with which to share this activity. I responded, “yes I do skate a bit, do any of your friends skate?” The answer was “no.” Now I hear the real issue which is “Mom, there is something I think I want to try, but I’m nervous about doing it alone. Bingo! My sons each have their own hobbies. One is an inventor, and car refurbisher, the other is an accomplished body builder. But, alas, my three daughters inherited my shyness DNA. This blog is for them. Even as I approach the mid-point of my sixth decade, I totally understand the desire to have a companion, a road-dog, a sister friend, a partner, as you uncover life’s delights. Women, at least some of us, like to do things together and tend to avoid doing activities alone. Haven’t you noticed that we often go to the bathroom to tinkle, hair-comb and reapply our makeup together! However, I have learned to follow where my inner voice leads, even when I have to do it alone. The funny thing is I’ve always found friends along the way. In the 70’s as an aspiring young poet, I wanted to take writing /acting lessons and there was no peer support. I moved ahead and landed in the inaugural class of Ebony Talent Theater(renamed eTA), and in that artistic incubator, found mentors in Harold Okoro Washington, Walter Bradford, and friendship in artist/thespian and eta creative director Runako Jahai, and fellow writer Dexter Johnson. Relationships that shaped my creative life. The lynchpin for my book, Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, came from reaching out in 1980 in Liberia, to work for the Liberian National Red Cross, outside of the safety and comfort of the African Hebrew Israelite Foundation, the group through which I came to Liberia. It meant embracing the challenge of working alone in the Liberian community for over 10 years. Again, my inner voice as my north star, provided me a life enriching opportunity. Around 2004, when I wanted to take riding lessons, my friends were not interested. So off I went alone on an enchanting six lesson journey to feeling very comfortable around horses. That was not an area of mastery for me but I know that if I choose to focus on riding, I’d enjoy it. There have been many instances when no one else was interested in things I wanted to do. Somehow, even though I was reluctant, often fearful,I ventured forward alone. I’ve tried tennis, became a runner, learned to step, and even most recently, developed a passion for swimming. When I think of how uneventful and frustrating my life would have been without each one of those side trips I cringe. So to my daughter(s) and to anyone who hesitates to take a journey that their inner voice has placed in their heart, for fear of taking the journey alone, I say take a chance! Journal about that journey, savor your bravery, and finally, reflect upon the power being willing to walk a path alone brings to your life. Leap forward, even if you have to do it alone! visit my website at or purchase my book on

Sunday, November 25, 2012


SOMETIMES you need the luxury of time to realize just how far you have come. November 24, Black Friday, as others were shopping for deals I realized I finally had sufficient time to comb through my junky basement and organize the tools, paint cans, assorted hardware and boxes of books, ceramic dishware, personal writings and photographs that form the substance and clutter of my life. I made three piles: •Items for the trash •Items for donation to the Salvation Army •Items precious enough to keep. I found myself reliving some wonderful poetry that I had written several years before and found that years later it still touched my hears and reminded me of a delightful experience that I had lived or lived through. KEEP. I found the old water pump for my boiler and college term papers. TOSS. I came across books that I had purchased and would never read and books that I had used extensively with marked up and folded pages. DONATE. And in the midst of the boxes I had packed up and removed from my kitchen years ago I found five boxes of beautiful white ceramic formal dinnerware of assorted sizes that had been given to me from the Salvation Army. August 1990 we had been repatriaated to America after eleven years in Liberia. April 1st, 1991 we moved into our own home with donated cots, a few items of clothing from the resale store and the joy of being together. The dinnerware set about a chain of memories that helped me to remember what having nothing really means, or does not. AFTER months of living in fear in Liberia, we had finally escaped to the American Embassy, been taken to Sierra Leone and then repatriated to New York (read my book “Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot,” if you want to know how and why we got out of Liberia in the first place). When we got to New York I had $10.00 U.S. That was all the money we had in the world. As we waited at JFK Airport for a connecting flight to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, the three bedraggled children that repatriated with me from war torn Liberia saw an ice cream vendor and their brown eyes looked at me without asking. The logical response for a woman with only a $10 dollar hole card would have been “NO.” However, my babies had survived a war, they had lived with the sound of gunfire as their lullaby, toted water on their heads while hearing gunfire in the distance. They had shared their food with a friend starving from malaria. They had left behind everything they knew in the world, except me. In that moment I knew that my children deserved security, safety, love, and they damn sure deserved ice cream. I took not only our last money, but our ONLY money and bought us Ice cream! TWENTY-TWO years later, we are all in such a different place. My five children, the three that repatriated with me and the two that had come ahead of us, are wonderful productive adults with beautiful, smart children of their own. My family is blessed in measurable and immeasurable ways. Black Friday, as I combed through my basement, it brought sheer joy to my heart to label those five boxes of cherished white ceramic plates; plates upon which I had served my family and friends, DONATE. I AM THANKFUL to be able to return the dishes and many other items to the Salvation Army to provide to others who will need them. To God Be the Glory. visit my website at

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Liberian Independance Day-A Perspective

Saturday, August 4, 2012
As the woman who has lived in Liberia, West Africa for eleven years and the author of "Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot", a 318 page memoir about that life, I have a close and fairly unique vantage point of Liberia. As a matter of fact, I was born on the south side of Chicago at a Catholic Hospital that no longer exists and if it did, they would be chasing my daddy to pay for my birth because, as my mother tells it, my dad sneaked us out without ever paying the bill! He was a wonderful, adventurous man, but, well, bill paying wasn't his thing. But I digress, the point of this post is that I'm going to claim the right to speak a bit about Liberia because after living and working and bearing three of my children there, I have put something good into that pot. Some of my Liberian friends may be annoyed by what I'm going to say next, but friends speak the truth to friends, or else they are not really friends. I see the civil turmoil, ignorance, poverty and lack of economic development that the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is struggling to overcome and it seems so simple to me that Liberians, in the interest of progress need to find a way to overcome the bitter divisions that led to a war that began in December of 1989 with a 'rebel incursion' and spun into a horrific civil war, from which Liberia is struggling to recover. There is much work that needs to be done to help Liberia and I know many Liberians and Americans who feel that way. But, but the plain truth is that the greatest barrier to Liberia's rise is Liberians! With a Liberian community in Chicago of thousands, the Community would not, come together to host a unified Liberian Independence Day celebration. There was a celebration hosted by the Liberian Community Association of Illinois (LCAI) in one part of town and another hosted by the Organization of the Liberian Community in Illinois (OICI) in another part of town. Last year when I learned there were two celebrations, I was a good soldier and hauled my daughter and her Liberian partner to both celebrations. I'm not saying that there can't be two celebrations, but I don't get a sense of Unity and cooperation between the two groups. Whenever I ask my Liberian friends about the division I get a polite answer that shifts the discord to the other group and the responsibility to bring unity elsewhere. This year as I was preparing myself to attend both Liberian Independence Day Celebrations I stopped in my tracks and just could not do it! If we can't create a vision of UNITY here in Chicago, how can we ever expect to see that out pictured in Liberia? I have great respect for the leadership of both groups. They have lovingly embraced me as their sister, validated my experiences in Liberia and helped me feel a part of a beloved community. I care for them very much and so I say to my friends in both groups, "having different goals and a different focus is sometimes necessary, but not working collaboratively to create an event that lifts the celebration of your countries Independence Day to a higher more dignified level, not setting the example of UNITY is, in my opinion, just plain wrong. I'd be happy to have Liberians push back on me here, I actually invite it because I'm not judging, I'm seeking information. Last Saturday, as the Republic of Liberia celebrated its 165th day of Independence in two separate gatherings in Chicago, I lamented the fact that with the thousands of talented Liberians in Chicago a really unified effort around this important day, could make a splash in this city! A multi-day event that could command television news coverage, perhaps featuring a cultural extravaganza, showcase West African Cuisine, offer a day or two of seminars on investment in Liberia, showcase the reports of various successful development efforts in Liberia, draw Liberians from other parts of the country, and reenergize the Liberian community spiritually. But an event like that would take UNITY. On behalf of myself and my family I will say that I will not attend another separate Liberian Independence Day event in Chicago.