Ngala-Najla

I Celebrate Myself…


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Good Read

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You know a book is really good when you reach the final chapters and you want to savor each page and
especially want to wait for the best opportunities to read the book –a setting has to be perfect. And yet, although so selective for perfect moments, you can’t wait for the next moment to pick up the book.


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Full Circle

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I have been working on being better to myself for about 2 weeks now. I found out recently from my doctor that in addition to having high blood pressure, I am pre-diabetic, have very low Vitamin D levels and anemic. I have since lost 7 pounds in the two weeks and have increased my veggie intake and stopped buying breakfast and lunch from the community I work in. East New York is a food dessert. Sodium is often high in the food and almost every other thing is fried… even if the end result is a stew.

Ironically, my current weight (after the 7lb loss) is the same as I was a
approximately 10 years ago when I begun the journey of losing 70 lbs. After losing that weight and then suffering from an injury and a broken heart, I went right back to food. The way in which I lost the weight was healthy but exercising became my obsession; it became my new vice in a lot of ways and I didn’t deal with the real stuff: the internal self hate and feelings of unworthiness that led to the overeating. I can say that more and more I feel and see the connection between how I treat my body and the love that I feel about myself and the way in which I allow others to treat me.

So, as I sit here in the Prospect Park looking upon the water, I pray for physical and spiritual healing and I am grateful for each moment, each opportunity to start anew.

Ashe!


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Americanah

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I am reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and I have found my rhythm… My reading rhythm that is. Here I am reading it after some semi okay Ethiopian Food (man I miss DC!) and reading the book by candlelight because the restaurant is dimly lit for all the romantics (couples). I am loving a book at the moment and it’s name is Americanah and I love the reading grove that I’ve found.

I connect so much to this book, as animmigrant, as a person of African descent who is trying to navigate this racial filled mine field called America and I just love Chimamanda’s lyrical voice in this book and the way she thinks. By the way, please check out her TED talks.


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My Concerns About the “Bring Back Our Girls” Campaign

So…I have been conflicted about this BringBackOur Girls Campaign. You might have heard about it by now. Close to 250 schoolgirls were taken by the Boko Haram group from a school in Nigeria. Even though I forwarded on Facebook, Malala Yousafzai holding a sign that reads #bringbackourgirls, I was conflicted. Truthfully, looking back, forwarding the picture was more about Malala being alive and looking powerful…with the message than it was about the message (if that makes any sense). I have been thinking, ” what is it about the campaign that doesn’t sit right with me?” And even though I am still not 100% clear, there is something about the campaign that teeters on First World privilege that I am not too comfortable about. Also, I have a problem with it only highlighting what happened in Nigeria…when the reality is woman and girls are not safe in other countries, as well. They are bought and sold, enslaved, raped, killed all the time all around the world every day. My intention is not to lessen the reality of this horrible situation that occurred in Nigeria, but my hope is if we’re going to rally around this one issue, it should used as an unfortunate example of what’s happening to women and girls everywhere. The questions that I am posing is, how we can use this issue and similar issues (like what happened and is still happening in India,  and other countries in the world…including the United States) to really hold our local governments and world leaders accountable in bringing back all our girls? Also, how we can not take the lead and be the “saviors” but stand behind our sisters (and brothers in the struggle… there are fathers who are being affected too by these acts), supporting them?


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Setting Boundaries

It’s been a hectic few weeks to say the least and with that comes a lot of chatter in my head, a constant changing “to-do” list. Along with trying to manage my team and juggling meetings, I also started teaching my yoga classes at my house on weekends to finally get my yoga certificate.

There are also additional demands from friends and family and so I am learning the art of saying… “no.”A big part of this art is realizing that I cannot do it all and that it’s ok to just leave some things for the other day or even another week… or just simply leave it.

With trying to juggle it all (did I also say that I am taking Spanish classes and doing Brenè Brown’s online we course?!), I have been receiving clear signals to simplify: from the weight gain, to learning during my last physical that my blood pressure is a little high and if it’s not fixed soon, I may need to take medication. No to that one as well.

This moment of reflection also provided me with the reality that there was something I was filling by needing to do everything and listen to everyone and being the connector. It was to fill the void that was created by this internal believe that being this involved meant that I mattered but slowly and surely, I am realizing that I matter because for other reason than just being here, in this space and time.

R.


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Between Race, Privilege and a Hard Place (Part I)

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This past Saturday, I stood in front of my friend Megan, in Prospect Park, with tears streaming down my face, feeling open and raw as I shared with her the pain and hurt that I have been feeling around my experiences with discrimination and racism. I am Jamaican, black and living in America. Although I have lived in this country more years than I have lived in Jamaica, I had the privilege to experience what it meant to be a majority in terms of race there.  I wasn’t judged or treated unfairly due to my skin color. People weren’t afraid of me before they got to know me. That was a privilege I took for granted.

I arrived in this country, to live here permanently, in my teens and was pretty sheltered all the way through college, I would say. With each possible experience with racism and discrimination in my twenties, I was a bit shaken but I think I bounced back quickly from all (but one of those experiences) because part of me believed that if I did the “right thing”, I would be spared the brunt of what happened to others who look like me (mainly my African-American brothers and sisters) have to go through. Somewhere, somehow, I was fed this lie that being a Caribbean black and educated would give me a pass. It was a subliminal belief. I have now come to realize that it was belief planted by people from my community, by the media and enforced by others who when they heard that I was Jamaican then placed me in the “model minority” category, reacting to me differently. “Oh, you’re from Jamaica, that’s why you have such a good command of the English language.” Yup, someone said that to me once.

So, what was the perceived  “right thing”? Well, it is being formally educated — attending college, it’s speaking “properly”, it’s being eclectic in musical and reading tastes and mostly importantly, it is playing small. And in the space that I am to play big, it is only to create laughter and joy…not bring the heavy stuff.

These “right ways” of being have not, however, stopped me from being followed in stores, being assumed to be the maid in my neighborhood, have a potential roommate turn away from me once she saw me or not be able to get cabs, etc. This is compounded by how other people of color (some who share my skin tone or who are darker) treat me with disrespect and make assumptions about me because of I’m black. It doesn’t matter that I have a Masters, or that I served as an Americorps member. The constant tale of what it means to be black in this country prevails me. The fact that I am now informed of the injustices that occur (like this one and this one, and this one and this one) is often not helpful but darkens, a little more, the side of me that is becoming jaded. And yes, there are blacks who are racists, xenophobic, homophobic but the truth is I am not. The experiences that happened, happened to me. I have been treated unfairly for no other reason but the color of my skin…and although I may share, more than likely, the same education and income level of my white neighbors and yes, some of my Asian neighbors (who yes, face racism too but that model minority category lends a hand), it doesn’t matter. That was a hard reality for me to face.

After my conversation with Megan, I asked myself, what changed? I mean I have experienced racism before, why is it affecting me so much? And my answer, I have removed rose-colored glasses from my eyes.

 


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To Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“Be calm. God awaits you at the door.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

“Love in the time of Cholera” was a book that was written so vividly that it made me feel as if I was living with the characters. I litterally saw each scene in my mind.  That’s one of the indicators that you’re experiencing a good book, you’ve been transported to another time and another place.

For the past three weeks I found myself searching for Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, aiming to find it in a bookstore and not just order it online. I wanted to experience the old feeling of searching high and low for a book in multiple bookstores, perusing shelves, eventually finding and then holding it my hands… that’s the book I chose for the adventure.

When the alert of Marquez’s death came across my iphone today and after the quiet shock subsided (I know he was 87 but for some reason I was still surprised) I thought how fitting that I chose that book, with that name, with that author who wrote of the illusion of time so eloquently. And just like Chinua Achebe‘s death, it felt like a distant uncle died…feeling strangely connected to him because of his work.

Thank you for your work Sir. Like so many around the word, who may not share the same language but were connected due to your amazing work, I honor your life.