Book of the Month: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

I apologize for book of the month coming this late. As you all know, this month has been a whole lot. So anyway, let's do something fun, shall we?

This book is what you call an original. Written by a Nigerian, Ayobami Adebayo, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and Akin, who met in the University, as they navigate their marriage and all the pressures that come with a childless Nigerian marriage.  We hear about the marriage from each of their points of view. At some point, Akin is forced to take a second wife, Funmi, who is introduced to him by his mother. His mother insists this new wife will give him a child. This ordeal and its effects on Yejide sets the pace for a very heartbreaking book. We see the secrets husband and wife have kept from each other and the consequences this bears on their marriage. And that's about how much I want to say about the plot so as not to ruin it.



At first, the book sort of starts slow or not slow as much as keeping you wondering, where is this going? But trust me, it gets there soon enough. I really like this book because it's a Nigerian book written by a Nigerian and about Nigerians. The book has two narrators—husband and wife, Yejide and Akin—and  each chapter alternates between both of them. The striking aspect of this book is how it's so gentle yet so profound and strongly emotional. After watching interviews of the author, it almost feels like it mirrors the temperament of the author. The author does a good job of inviting us into the hearts and minds of the narrators, though I would argue in some sense, she was partial to Yejide.  More than anything, it flawlessly weaves the story of the couple against a backdrop of the Nigerian political environment. I will say though, that sometimes you are left wondering if the infusion of politics was doing too much.

There is a particular lie Akin told Yejide that I find really hard to believe. I mean, can anyone be so naive? And almost everyone that has read the book agrees with this notion. It's insignificant enough to ignore but also so center to the marriage and core of the book that it makes me wince a little. Otherwise, great book!

Something else that  immediately draws your attention is how she gleans from the Nigerian culture without been ostentatious. It's why I call her an original. I love how the book does not pander. It is genuine. It is authentic. It is not trying hard to be made into a movie. And yes, the author is a master storyteller. She used the characters' voices to tell folklores, something we rarely see in contemporary Nigerian novels. The representation of Yoruba people, customs, and tradition was heartwarming in a way I did not expect. For these reasons,  I am willing to overlook the aforementioned gaffe. Her portrayal of Yoruba people of different leanings, different beliefs, and thinking is just beautiful.  Among Yoruba people, a childless woman is basically an aberration, an outcast. There is a pain, a heartache, and a desperation that comes with being childless in Nigeria in that era and Adebayo captures it quite well. And yet somehow, she manages to explore themes of religion, outdated but familiar traditions, love. The author's wisdom seeps through the pages in a way that isn't showy.

There is a lot in the book about Nigeria in early 90s/80s: a time when armed robbers wrote you before visiting. When mothers-in-law can arrive with a second wife for your husband. Depending on who you are or your age, it might make you nostalgic.

"If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.

This quote whew. It bothers me; the idea of love as tragic, painful, and endlessly so bothers me a lot. I genuinely believe love ends. And I also believe a love that destroys you is anything but.

Ultimately, this book is not really what you will expect at all. There are surprising plot twists along the way that make it all the more a dope book. And it is very poignant. And you would not want to put it down. And I know, for sure, you need a good distraction right about now Lol.

Love,

I

Getting Justice for Breonna Taylor and Your Role in the Fight Against Racial Injustice.

I just read the last post on the blog and whew, I was angry. And make no mistake, I still am. Black lives matter even when the hashtag isn't trending. So I am here to remind you. It's hard to talk about anything else right now, and that's simply the only excuse for my absence. But don't worry I will, eventually. Because black joy is protest. And we will represent that joy on this corner of the cyberspace. Speaking of, even when I'm not here, I'm most likely on Instagram makin' it rain.

Um, I'm almost certain that's the wrong use of that slang, but who cares.

So with all the rage of the past few weeks (rightfully so), it's very easy to feel helpless so the main goal of this post is to talk about how you can help. Because I know for sure you want to help advance racial justice. I know you want to help put an end to police brutality. Let's talk about that. And we will continue to talk about that on this blog.



But today, please consider doing something towards getting justice for Breonna Taylor. Yes, posting on social media is SOMETHING. Keep saying her name. Keep thinking of her. We must get justice for her because her killing was entirely senseless, but the fact that her killers have not been arrested is just adding insult to injury. It is preposterous that someone would take a person's life like so...so blatantly, and in the words of Dave Chappelle not think they would face the wrath of God. It is infuriating and just despicable at this point.  So what can you do? I’ve been writing to Kentucky’s Attorney General, Mayor, Governor demanding for justice and I’m not going to stop till her killers are arrested. Since I started writing this post, it was announced that one of the officers will be fired. That is not enough. Anyway, if you want to do more after posting (though I feel posting is powerful) here is a link with actionable things you can do right now to get justice for her.  Let us look out for her. We must keep demanding justice for her and demanding that her killers be arrested and charged. There is an ongoing conversation about how black women tend to be overlooked in the cry for justice against police brutality. This means we must remember her and say her name.

Ask yourself this, "if I were unjustly killed, how would I want people to react?" then you react that way.  Injustice should propel us to action, should anger us, and should induce our compassion. Because an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Christians, this was Jesus's command: that we love our neighbors as ourselves. That the pain of our neighbors should feel like our pain.

Recently, someone on TV was apparently furious about the protests. They said the protest is what’s causing the rise in COVID-19 and they were angry because the rise in COVID-19 means they can’t go get a crib for their child. They said they did not understand why it was okay for the “left” to protest but then the media criticizes the president for inviting people to a rally in the midst of a pandemic. Sigh. And that’s how you know people still don't get it. They see protesting injustice and fighting for black lives as a “left” issue. They see an ideological fight where black bodies are literally dropping like flies. Now, if you cannot tell the difference between protesting injustice and having a rally to secure votes. If you cannot tell the difference between protesting murder and protesting to go get haircuts or to go get brunch. If you cannot understand how important it is to protest racism and bigotry in comparison with going to shop for your baby’s crib. Then my heart sinks. My heart breaks because it means we have a long way to go.

Friend, how are you advancing racial justice today?

Remember, until we are all free, we are none of us free.

Happy Juneteenth, beautiful people!

Love,

I

We Can't Breathe: Because Racism is Built into the DNA of America

So far, I think I have curated this blog such that I don't immediately respond or react to every incident or news or event. It's an approach I am attempting to take towards my real life too: pause, think, reflect, then respond. Reasons for this are both practical (because it would be hard to keep up with everything) and wise (because patience is always a virtue). Yet, for the first time the silence is not necessarily born out of that idea. This time it is born out of fatigue. Out of exhaustion. Out of saying the same thing over and over and over with no change.

I suppose every generation has its moments of reckoning in history. And if the events of the past few days are an indication of anything, it is that perhaps this is ours. So fatigue or no, exhaustion or no, I have to wield the one weapon I have and believe in: words. One way or another, I have to speak, whether it reaches just one person or thousands. Because there comes a time in a person's life where you have to take a stand. You have to ask yourself if you  are a feckless wimp who cares more about order than justice and who is always "neutral", lukewarm, and lacking in opinion; Or if you have a spine to speak up of for justice, for equity, and for fairness in your little corner of your world. I'm the true daughter of my mother and father so I am the latter.  I choose to be the latter.



Let's recap, shall we? Breonna Taylor's brutal murder, Ahmaud Arbery's despicable murder, Amy Cooper aka Central Park Karen putting up an award winning performance whereby she weaponizes her whiteness, and of course, George Floyd's heartless murder.  They all happened in less than six months. Week after week after week, it was one hashtag after the other. To say Black people suffer the grossest injustice, the worst forms of prejudice, racism, systemic oppression, and just blatant disrespect would be the greatest understatement of the year. But none of this is new.

We are tired. We are exhausted. We are suffocating. 

There is something I always like to say. We often think that as a collective group of people, as human beings, we are inherently good; we think there is a lot of good in people.  Except that, kneeling and quite literally snuffing the life out of your fellow human being in the full glare of others should jolt you out of that naive thinking into reality.  The worst part  is that it took us all bringing the fire on social media for them to even arrest the guy. Arrest. People of God, Breonna Taylor's murderers are still roaming free. My people have a saying that loosely translates to if you keep pushing and pushing a dog till it gets to a wall, at some point, it would turn back to face you.  Ladies and gentlemen, Black folks HAVE turned back.

"I learned a long time ago that when change happens, it's either because people see the light or they feel the fire. We are lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light and if you don't, we will bring the fire." - Ayanna Pressley

For so long, Black people complained. We protested. We knelt down. We prayed. We sang. In more ways than one,  we were told it's all in our heads. But what the events of the last few weeks have shown so clearly is that there is a problem. The status quo has failed us in more ways than I can count. Something has to change. Let's take a look at the pandemic that has ravaged our midst since the beginning of this year. When COVID-19 struck, it was first purported to be the great equalizer. False. It has disproportionately ravaged Black people in the U.S. both in terms of our health and financial security. In fact, in a place like Kansas, Black folks were dying from COVID at seven times the rate of White residents. COVID-19 exposed the structural inequalities in our health system.

When signs showed that the curve was flattening a little, there was an outcry to be let out. People started to complain about wanting to go out. The people least likely to die from the virus were the ones itching to go out the most so that they could dine again, travel, get a haircut. Meanwhile, the poorer and more vulnerable are still left without adequate social safety nets, without health insurance. So White people went out, protested, they bore arms, they assaulted police, they provoked the police and there was no response. None of them was killed. The president called them "good people".  No one touched them during their ridiculousness called protests. They didn't care that people were dying. As long as they are fine. As long as they get to brunch. And do block parties. They did not care. They wanted to go back to normal. But normal was never good. Normal is where black people face police brutality. Normal is where a Black man can be hunted and gunned down like a wild animal for jogging. Normal is where a Black woman can be shot for being inside her house and literally minding her business. Normal is where the very people charged to protect us harass us. Normal is a disaster.

Normal is centuries of injustice. Normal is where in Twin Cities, Minnesota, decades of government policy continually benefitted White families and harmed Black ones. When they built an interstate highway in the 1950s in the region, White neighborhoods weren't touched but Black ones were tore up in ways that destroyed Black social centers, churches, and clubs. Normal is where rich men profit off the criminalization of Black men. Normal is where Black men and women get lynched on camera. Normal is not good.

"You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all others' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus, it is not just enough to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through these gates." - Lyndon Johnson

This is is not some abstract issue. It's not  some theoretical concept that can't be grasped. I'm an academic, who ironically doesn't enjoy theory as much. I love data. I love evidence. I love impact. It is how I know without a doubt that we can fix this. We can enact reforms and policies that benefit Black folks and treats us as EQUAL. We can create a society where Black people have health insurance. We can stop the school to prison pipeline. We can ensure that Black men and women get a fair trial.  We can agree that there is an imbalance in the world when Black folks are rotting away in prison for petty marijuana—the same marijuana that White people smoke when they get bored on a Friday night just to sound cool. We can enforce policies to protect Black people. We can make sure we train the police to be sensitive to the communities they seek to protect. We can make sure when police hears "I can't breathe", they take our word for it. And when they don't take our word for it, when they kill us, throw them into a hole so deep, the father of the correctional officer that will eventually let them out of their cell has not even been born. Most of all, we can design our society so that it reflects an EQUAL society. We are equal before God.

"Racism is built into the DNA of America" - Annalise Keating.

The research tells us, the evidence shows that the police departments that get more military grade weapons kill more people. Indeed, holding police directly accountable leads to less police brutality. Data on use of force, complaints, and lawsuits can predict officers more likely to shoot someone next. Investigate police departments more. Invest in alternatives to policing as crime prevention strategies. Change IS possible. Here is more research where that came from.  These are tangible, actionable things we can demand from our leaders.

This means we have work to do. You and I. You think peace is when there is no protest? Wrong. Peace is when there is justice. We cannot gloss over injustice for the sake of unity.  Everyone keeps yapping about MLK and pEaCeFuL pRoTeSt forgetting that they still KILLED him. Colin Kaepernick kneeled, just kneeled, he has been out of a job for a while. Sometimes we need anger. Some of the greatest revolutions were fueled by anger. I am not condoning or encouraging looting in any form; I am saying in the words of MLK, riots are the voice of the unheard. I'm saying something HAS to give. I will say though, that I know we must not destroy our own communities because those racist fascists don't care about us. We must preserve the sanctity of our community. However, as a society, we have refused at all cost to make our society work for ALL of us. And for as long as we allow this, there will always be a virus among us.

As for religious leaders, as for hypocritical so-called Evangelicals:

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you pharisees
Hypocrites! 
For you are careful to tithe event he tiniest income from your herb gardens
but you ignore the most important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith"
- Matthew 23: 23

Make no mistake, if you are quiet in the face of injustice, if you are neutral, you have chosen a side – the oppressor's. So choose that side with "your chest", you racist, feckless piece of trash.

We can agree that leaders that use segregationist terms about "looting and shooting" are despicable. So again, you and I have work to do. Not only are we voting at all levels, we are getting involved. I have presented some of the evidence for doing so right above. We will demand that our elected leaders do right by us. If this post reads like I am angry, it is because I am furious. I hope you are too. Because if you are not, then you are not paying attention.

Black lives matter

I will end with this. If I know you and see you get in the way of Joe Biden's win. I WILL come for you. I wholeheartedly mean this. I stanned so hard for Warren. And I will always be pissed she is  not going to be president. But I am also an adult and in times of trouble, adults don't whine. they get in line. Adults show up. So not only are we voting out "gangster fascists", we are actively getting Joe to the finish line. And I know, I know that a lot of the change we need in terms of racial inequalities stem from local level [elected] officials but I argue that we also need a respectable center. We need leaders that can empathize and unite us and champion the rights of Black folks. So, we will use our God-given skills and society-given privileges to get the change we need. Because you will think of Carlos Vasquez, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery. You will think of the more than 100,000 thousand lives we lost to the pandemic. Because you will be revolted by the disgusting corruption, the perversion of our institutions and that Office, and you will put your personal and selfish desires aside and decide that we cannot under any circumstances have four more years of this.

We will bring the fire.

Love, justice, anger, peace,

I