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Saturday, December 28, 2013

S.O.S.

I'm not sure if I should be blogging while I'm in this state of mind, but I'm going to anyway.
I'm not usually one to pity myself; shit happens basically. I've had children looking up to me all my life. First my siblings; they depended on me to entertain them for the hours our parents weren't home, to figure out what to eat when I wasn't old enough to use the stove; to keep them focused when we had to do our homework and stop whichever baby from crying when our mother wasn't around to breastfeed. When I had my own children I had to do some of the same things, but on top of that be a better example of a mother than what my own was. And that included protecting my daughters from my father. 
  



My father favored my children which also created animosity amongst everyone else. There were so many  psychologically confusing dynamics in our family that it's made me somewhat of a pro at dealing with stress in my life today. In addition I feel like I have to project a certain level of togetherness and strength to those around me. I can count the times on one hand that my children have seen me cry. Eighty percent of the time that I'm sick, I still go to work and school. Depression is not an option and if I feel a rut coming on I get exercising, or writing. You may ask; what is your point Aziza? And my reply is: despite the fact that I am doing well considering what my life has been there are times that I need help. But I have a serious problem asking for it. 

                                                                           

When my father would come into my bedroom when I was nine, he'd tell me that telling my mother would make her go crazy and I'd never see her again. And this was only one of the many lies he used to confuse his daughter to maintain control. After beating me because I tried to fight back when I was twelve, he said that my compliance gave him the strength to take care of the family.  I became use to having a lot of responsibility with little assistance.  There were decisions I had to make as a child that effected my entire family. And I was led to believe that if I asked for help the result would end in someone else's peril or sacrifice. Today, I don't want to put anyone out of their way, or have them inconvenience themselves for me. It's natural for me to put the needs of others in front of my own, but I have to convince myself that I'm deserving of the same treatment. Which is work in itself. So If I have a problem or a challenge, I pull up my boot straps, buckle down and handle my own business. But just lately I've been feeling  overwhelmed. There aren't enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month or months in the year for me to get all I have to do done. At the same time if I have a day where there isn't as much to do or things can't get done because they are outside of my control, I feel useless and unproductive. 


                                                                         
What am I suppose to do with myself? And that question is not rhetorical either. If anyone reading this post has any suggestions, I implore you to let me know. And while I'm at it, if you know a literary agent, a publisher, an editor, how to write a grant proposal, a financial advisor, a lawyer and have suggestions on dealing with a fourteen year old boy who's father is his grandfather who happens to be in jail for molesting, beating and raping his mother; please tell me. Because I need some help. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Power of Knowledge

I have one more day in my fall semester at Essex County College. I'm anxious about my grade in my most challenging class; French.  I also took African American History II, Biology 101 and Cinema appreciation to go towards the fulfillment of my communications degree. I'm thinking about things like maintaining my grade point average, and what am I going to do after I graduate. There was a time I never thought I'd have concerns like making it to class in the morning, or getting an assignment submitted on time. And here I am a full fledge college student. 

I sit in class on some days, distracted by the young adults around me sighing out loud in complaint of the Professor's homework assignment. It was frustrating for the progression of my African American history class to be hindered by students that didn't appreciate the opportunity to get an education. There we were, watching a film on the sacrifices people made to improve the quality of the educational system, and the young people watching were uninterested! I just didn't get it. If they only knew what it was like to want to go to school, and not be allowed to.


My father homeschooled me until I was 11. Before he stopped teaching me, he promised that I would go to high-school. I looked forward to the day I'd walk through school doors and sit in a classroom with other students. Well, while under my father's rule, that day never came.  By the time I was 14, my dad banned education among me and my siblings all together. Any teaching I did of my brothers and sisters, I did in secret. I had to worry about my father finding worksheets I created for my sisters to practice their handwriting. I got nervous any time he walked in on them reading a book. So when I watched a film in class on Fredrick Douglass, showing him sneaking around to learn to read, I became overwhelmed with emotion. That film and any others like it themed in slavery, connects to my life growing up on so many levels. Therefore it pains me to see others take the opportunity they have to get an education for granted. 




Kermit sacrificed himself for science and education. 
Learning French gave me a better understanding of English. I've seen the inside of a frog up close and personal. I learned that the free school breakfast my kids eat in the morning, is thanks to a man named Heuy P. Newton; and instead of just watching a film, I can't help but analyze the editing, cinematography and Mise-en-Scene.


I didn't get the chance to walk through school doors and sit in a class room with other students until I was 35 years old. And most of the other students are my daughter's age. I may feel a little uncomfortable when one of these kids wants to give me attitude like I'm their peer, because I'm harshly reminded of my seniority over them. I've even had professors 8 years my junior which is a test in humility in itself. But I'm not embarrassed and I'm not ashamed because I'm using my opportunity to get an education for all it's worth. Better late than never, is what I say. 


Food for thought (this time it's literal):

In January, 1969, the Free Breakfast for School Children Program was initiated at St. Augustine's Church in Oakland by the Black Panther Party. The Panthers would cook and serve food to the poor inner city youth of the area. Initially run out of a St. Augustine's Church in Oakland, the Program became so popular that by the end of the year, the Panthers set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.[1

Monday, December 9, 2013

Giving Thanks

I look forward to the holiday season. I love to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and I revel in the smiles that come after someone opens a gift I gave them for Christmas. 
My father stopped us from celebrating holidays some time ago. I don't even remember exactly when, but I remember controversy between my dad and my mom's family surrounding Christmas,
My Apple Rosemary Turkey
Easter and Kwanzaa every year. When my aunts tried to give me and my siblings East
er baskets, he didn't allow us to except them because he said they purchased them after Easter, when the baskets went on sale. Sometimes I was allowed to keep the toys my extended family gave me for Christmas; that is until my father threw them away before spring the next year. 
Well, now that I have my own family, I make sure I make up for lost time. 
My first Christmas after I got my children back from foster care, was especially memorable. I couldn't afford a christmas tree so I bought a spiral "tree" made up of lights from the supermarket. I
My famous Macaroni and Cheese
spent most of December that year  checking the newspaper for community programs that were giving away presents to low income families. I made my way around to four different organization collecting wrapped boxes that said 'boy' or 'girl' so I could make the small space under our vertical light display overflow with boxes with items 
inside unknown to even me. I was determined to make my children's first christmas at home with their mother, just like the holiday episodes of popular sitcoms. And I did. The smiles on my children's faces, and the excitement in their voices, made me feel like the best mother

in the world. The effect that their response had on me the first Christmas I created for my family, motivates and will continue to motivate me every year. And yeah I know there was conflict on the first Thanksgiving day, and there's confusion about what day Christ was born on; but the tradition of cooking food, cleaning house, planning outfits, shopping for presents, and decorating a tree, all for the people that are most important to me; well.....just makes the logistics about dates and origin seem unimportant. I love to watch my children enjoy the fruits of my labor and I adore when my family wears or uses something that I gave them.  
I, pray for the Native American souls that were taken during the first Thanksgiving, just like I acknowledge the celebration of the day that Christ was born. But the most important thing to me is being able to appreciate and celebrate the holidays in my own home (and sometimes at grandmas house) surrounded by my children. And for that, I am truly grateful.