Monday, 31 October 2011

Dear Black Men (A Letter From A Black Woman)

I am writing this to explain to you why black women have become frustrated. I am writing this to tell you that you need to “shuckle up”, get your act together and, not for us, but for your own damn selves. Understand (for we have shown you) that we may feel that we don’t NEED you but we STILL WANT you. Let that be enough for you to look in the mirror and deal with your issues.

I want to first apologize for emasculating you over the past few decades or so. Please know that it was out of frustration and a lack of maturity in terms of coping on our part. Absentee fathers and a lack of male role models for our sons are heart-breaking. It has left GENERATIONS with daddy issues and no solutions to those issues. It is so much so now that our young men and women are making claims to success saying they did it “despite” their fathers being gone rather than “because” their fathers were around. I know this is not the case for all but it is the case for too many. A lack of great options for partners among our own is disappointing, to say the least. Checking out the other side should be because we want to, not because we feel we have to. We (women) have tried our best to deal and we think we have done a great job given what we had to work with but we can do so much more if we worked as a team, as a community. There is far much more left to do.

I want to secondly ask you to look at the part you have played in perpetuating the cycle by not showing up. Where are you, black men? Your women and children need you. Yes, I said it- we need you. I’m sure it has been great to frolic with the other sides who appreciate you for your inherent black assets and this is by no means a call to segregate but in your preoccupation with being objectified glorified for simply being born with a high dose of melanin or with being presumed to be well-endowed, you have proceeded to neglect those born of you- you have proceeded to segregate yourself from your family. Is it any wonder why you have a hard time feeling welcome at home?

I want to thirdly plead that you stop disrespecting your own and I am speaking specifically to your attitude toward black women. If our own brothers, fathers and lovers do not love and respect us, how can we do that for ourselves? Don’t get me wrong, some of us have figured it out but it has, by no means, been an easy task. Anyone who says it was is not appreciative of the wide scale pathology of the black woman. It would be much too cliché and unnecessary to get into the images displayed so flagrantly in the media of black women. We all see it; we all know what it is. You (black men), of all people, know what it is like to try and lift yourself up in a world where everyone else is set on tearing you down. Please stop. You are hurting yourself as well as us when you treat us in such derogatory ways. We cannot love you like how you profess to need to be loved if we do not love ourselves. You are us. The only separation is genitalia. You cannot get anywhere when you are stepping on your own toes.

Lastly, I want to say that this is not a cry to be rescued. But to be honest, black men AND black women need some saving. This is asking for a partnership. This is asking for understanding, compassion, humility, love and respect amongst our people. If you do your part, I can promise that we will do ours. Take back your crown… we can don ours alongside you.

To all my black kings who were raised by and set out to raise black queens and kings, I salute you
To all my black kings who show their queen their love every possible moment, I salute you
To all my black princes working hard to be a black king, you are halfway there. Continue
To all my black men who have not yet come into their own and are denying themselves of their own royalty, I await the day you take your rightful, majestic place

Friday, 21 October 2011

Nice Guys Finish Last? Oh, really?

This post is typed out of sheer frustration. I am tired of hearing men complain or try to use this as an excuse to be an ass. Get away from me with that. And, in truth, I can’t blame them alone- there are women out there who are hurt, bitter or just plain messed up who feel that bad boys *coughs* jerks are “so HOT!”. Well, so is an iron- play around with that, why don’t ya?

Anyway, my retort to “Nice Guys Finish Last” is always “Because they are running in the wrong race”. Looking at this analogy on the most literal level, it is clear that if you are nice, it means you play fair and if you run in a race with not-so-nice guys, they won’t play fair- they’ll trip you and do whatever it takes to sabotage your race. Run a race with guys who are on your level. A class two track athlete wouldn’t run in a race with Bolt and then get mad when he gets left in the dust. It goes without saying that if it is a race with only nice guys, then a nice guy also finishes first. Now, when we take it to a more figurative level, it means that if you are a nice guy and you are pursuing a girl who is into bad boys or, more specifically, who is NOT into nice guys (there are girls who like both. Go figure), you are bound to lose.

My question then is: why would you even try to get that girl? It’s not that serious. Find another one. Stop setting yourself up for failure and then taking it out on the next nice girl or batch of nice girls that you will no doubt come across. The whole “I’ve been hurt so I can’t open my heart again” schtick is so old, it was never new. We’ve all been hurt. Ask Mary J., ask Adele, ask Drake. J I kid. Grow a vagina and toughen up. It’s not a good look.

And, for the girls who lead these nice men on and take out their hurt or damage on them, please stop. You make it really hard for these men and for your fellow woman. It perpetuates a cycle that will never end really and, in the end, you all end up miserable whether you settle down or not. If you like bad boys, jerks, assholes, that’s cool but just make that clear from the get-go. I respect people who are honest about theirs. When you tell it straight from the start, no one can cast blame on u fairly. The way I see it, nice people rarely seem to want nice people. Apparently nice is boring. That right there tells me how wrong your thinking is. Well, if being played and hurt and embarrassed is what’s exciting, continue to count me out. Bad boys are lame. They are lazy and sloppy and the only thing they spend time on is deciding how to play games and get more punani apparently. *yawn* Dogs do more with their brains. And if you’re worried about being alone, truth is, you probably need to be. And if sex is your concern, porn is free online….or so I hear. Get a puppy and a dildo and you’ll be happier. You’re welcome.

And good girls, stop going bad…unless you’re role-playing. No man is worth changing yourself for the worse. No person is. There are good men out there, great even. Just be patient and be smart. And figure out how to love yourself in the time being. It really pays off in the end.

Stop thinking that drama is necessary in your relationships. Stop thinking that it has to hurt to be real. Stop pursuing people who aren’t interested. The thrill of the chase can’t be that vital. And if it is, I see you’re a lost cause and this post did nothing for you.

Nice is not a bad word. Check the meaning. Stop treating it like that. Run the race that is meant for you and you'll get the gold. Cheesy, I know

Remember, Happiness is the point of it all J

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Conversation with a Bajan woman

In the faculty lunch room last week, I met a fascinating Bajan woman and we discussed a few topics that I found interesting which I’ll share with you.

  • The first topic is Relationships and Security
On this topic, she made it a point to tell a colleague that we can’t have the full Bajan experience unless we get a Bajan man while we’re here. Mark you, her partner is not Bajan.
“Bajan men are great partners- they’ll give you their money easily and if u cheat, they’ll just drink.” This last part was significant because other men from different cultures would react much differently apparently. Which brings me to her next  point:
“Never date a Vincentian, a married man or a police. A Vinci (Vincentian) man will chop u up; they can’t take a hurt.” These three categories of men to be wary of were given to her by her mother, she said, and “If it comes out o my modda mout’, it mus be true”
As it relates to the other two categories
“Police men are always broke. From the day they join the force to their last day. They spend the money on flashy cars and all these expensive things so nothing’s left for you”
A male friend of hers who was present also made a point to say that Guyanese police are also on the poorer end of the spectrum but that this is due to how low they get paid. He said they protect you in the day and commit crimes against you in the night. “That’s why our police are so well taken care of- our government knows better” This male friend is also Bajan.
“If you dealing with a married man, know your place. Don’t call that man after 5- the man is eating with his family. Never disrespect the main woman. He’s been stringing you along for 2-3 years for a reason! He’s not gonna leave his wife for you. After 4 years, he’s gonna drop u ‘cause he doesn’t want u to bring he (him) to court and sue, 5 years are coming up.”
 For those who don’t realize the significance of 5 years in a relationship, it means you are now common law relationship in the eyes of the law. But this only applies if you have been living together the entire 5 years.

  • Then we tackled the issue of security in relationships
My friend was present and she has been with her partner for over 6.5 years. I was teasing (with 50% seriousness) her to get married and get her benefits.
“You don’t need to get married. Just make sure your name is on the bank account. Two years in, my name has to be on that bank account. Every night I’m there doing my womanly duties and nothing? *laughs*”

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." Thank you, Steve Jobs. Rest In Peace

You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Culture Shock: Politics at Cave Hill

Let me preface by saying that I didn’t experience much in regards to the political atmosphere at UWI, Mona where I did my first degree. Suffice it to say that the fact that I’ve had to pack up my life and move to another country has made it so that I kind of have to be more involved in certain things as it regards extra-curricular activities and such.

Now, at Mona, I would vote when it came time to do Guild Elections and the most I would know about candidates is if they were close to a circle I was in or not. More often than not, they would be outside of my circle of friends or close associates and so I would know so little of them that I could not tell their names different on the ballot. At Cave Hill, given that the campus is smaller, even though the candidates are not in my circle, I’ve already (in my month here) come to know more about these people than the ones back home.
The specific election I will address is that of the “lower positions” (the words of an executive member of the board, not mine) in the Law Society- 1st and 2nd year Law Representative, Education and Mooting Chairperson and Cross-Faculty Representative.

I first noticed tension when one of the nominees (people volunteer themselves to run) who was Belizean announced himself for candidacy. He was clearly a favourite with those who had been in the Cave Hill Law Program since year one. Those of us who had just come aboard in our second year had little to no clue who he was but he was met with cheers from those who knew him. The next class, one of my colleagues from Mona announced his name to be in the running for the same position. Those of us from Mona cheered, much to the annoyance of others I came to realize. The third candidate did not announce herself during that class but she offered herself for help with getting handouts and such for those who had been experiencing problems- good tactic.

After that class, a big hoorah happened when a couple supporters of the Belizean decided to provoke some of my Mona colleagues. They jeered their support for their candidate over the assumed candidate for all Mona people. The manner in which this was done was joking by a couple of them but the incident went on so long that it really started to push buttons. Comments like “They’re the minority so they don’t matter” were aimed at the Jamaicans and this set off a firestorm that even 15 minutes later had not really cooled. I must admit, it is hard for me to come to terms with the fact that an individual can invade your personal space to a level that only a Siamese would, point in your face, shout and laugh at you then turn around and flash you off and YET end up telling you “Don’t take it personal”. And here I was thinking Jamaicans were abrasive.
It seems to me that a major difference here is that getting physical is not always about something aggressive but, as I said, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. I’ve seen it happen with Bajans as well as Belizeans. Someone bounces you quite hard and does not even look back at you. At home, an apology better be offered up quickly or “It a go be war!”