Come and save us, Mindy Budgor!

Don’t you be worrying about all those haters, girl. They just mad, girl.

It’s not your fault that you drive a Beemer and that you could afford the round-trip fare to Kenya, that you could afford to not work for months on end, that you can afford to play work in the bush, disrupting and subverting patriarchy. I get it, Mindy. You’re just BLESSED, girl. Blessed and highly favored!

So, I didn’t go to B-school like you did, but I think I’ve come up with a way for you to put all of your culture-changing skills to use, actually. Yes, girl, yes. You think you’re the only one who knows how to give unsolicited advice? Girl, please. I BEEN ON…

The next time you have time and money to burn, Mindy, would you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take a few months in each of the police departments throughout the United States?

Yes, Mindy, your OWN country, honey. Yes, I know you won’t get as many miles, but… well, anyway, Mindy, Florida is far away from everything. Plus, you like rural experiences, don’t you? Hicks and sticks and backward values are your thing, amiright?

Yes, you heard me. Layzetahsyunee! MURIKA! You can help us here, too, Mindy! I read that Barnes and Noble review. “Mindy as a tribe member is ready to return to stand with her fellow warriors against whatever opposition they might face—be it lions, or elephants, or Western influence.” Wait, wh– Western Influ–okay, whatever… But how about racism, and racist cops, and vigilante justice?  Girl, we GOT YOUR OPPOSITION RIGHT HERE.

Yes, boo, you march your determined activist legs into every police department in the country–be sure to start in Florida, and North Carolina, though, and teach the police exactly WHY AND HOW to stop profiling Black and Latino/a Americans.  If you can handle lionsandtigersandbearsohmy, then surely you can march into someone’s central precinct with your spear and war paint and slap complacent cops complacency in the face.

And then when you’re done with THAT (and the book tour that is sure to follow), I want to you to start a campaign called “They’re not scary!” I know you love hanging out with black folks and learning black culture and history, and switching up our ish  to make it more EVOLVED, you know, so girl, you already know we’re friendly beneath our naturally angry-looking screwfaces and biologically intimidating demeanors. Sometimes, if we come knocking at white people’s doors in the middle of the night, it’s because we want to hang out, listen to Lianne LaHavas and share secrets. Or, we have an emergency and we need help. Girl, yes, sometimes even the Help need help. But you know that already!


Mindy, if you can achieve THAT, you might not get another spread in Glamour, but you will be in Ebony, Essence and Jet, and Nick Kristof will probably want to write a book about you (likely entitled The Whole Sky), and you’ll probably get a TED talk, the Nobel Peace Prize AND the Springarn Award. And black folk will stop rolling their eyes at you, and start inviting you to give special guest messages at their churches. You will be able to march in the front row at ALL of our marches–with the megaphone, Mindy! We don’t need no stinkin’ Jesse J–we need YOU, Mindy! No Justice, No Peace!

We might not be able to give you a ring made out of  a rhinoceros horn for your next editorial spread, but I bet someone will be able to scrounge up a vintage dashiki from the ’70s, and a slice of homemade pound cake and some sweet tea for after the shoot. Girl, we GOT you.

So go ‘head, Mindy Budgor. Don’t worry about that shade coming your way. You better stand your ground do your thing, girl.

We’ll be waiting.



Yalla nako yalla xare aldiana

When I saw those words posted onto Facebook this morning, I knew it had finally happened. The big tree, which had been leaning and creaking for years, had finally fallen.

Whether to call someone who is so far away, desperately trying to keep the tree up is a very serious judgment call. You don’t have the benefit of monitoring how they’re doing–how they’re really doing–and whether your call, sickeningly sweet with prayers and words of strength and encouragement, will be the thing that keeps them going that day or the trigger that pushes them over the edge.

I consulted the Mr. just a few days ago, after Yaye told me “Mais, Marissa, il est gravement malade…grav-eh-MENT, Marissa”. He sighed and replied “Je ne sais pas… moi, je ne sais pas.”

Neither did I, which was the point, and so I interpreted it as a “no”. In any case, it probably would not be long before a call would be obligatory. The Mr. realized that; his voice told all. He knew he would not be there to show strength when the inevitable took place, and that felt wrong. I decided to hope, as I always do, for a miracle–even one of the Nelson Mandela variety. Just hold on…

We cannot call God’s shots. Yalla rek mo hom. Yalla rek mo def.

The phone call is obligatory now, though I still don’t know how soon is too soon or not soon enough. My best friend in Senegal, my uncle-in-law who is really old enough to be a big cousin, has finally lost his father. The father has been sick for a long time, ever since I’ve known him, and because of that, I have only ever seen him a few times. When I received the nod to visit him in his house this spring, it somehow did not occur to me that I would not see him again, because even his sickness just became his state of being for me. He was not supposed to die.

His passing is not tragic in the most palpaple sense of that word. He was very, very old. But is that not what makes his death such a dull blow to those left behind? The longer one lives, the more memories, the more moments, that many more plates of thieb shared together. His passing is the death of more than just one individual. He is an old griot, and so decades of stories and traditions–as only he can uniquely possess them–pass along with him. Today, everyone will remember every lesson, every piece of advice, every smile. Even the punishments he must have meted out on his many children as they grew up will now most certainly be missed. By tomorrow, he will be buried, and all the most tangible evidence that he ever was feel as if it has gone or is trying to, very disrespectfully, sneak away.

No matter how old you are, even if you are married with your own children, losing your father and your grandfather is always brutal. The void is always deep. The house always empty, with its glue gone. The sun will not rise in your life for some time, even as it burns hot over the compound and everyone continues with the monotony of their own stability and fullness, cleaning the chickens, feeding the goats, going to and coming from work. You will smile and not mean it, tell yourself and everyone else “Yalla bakna” and not really mean that, either. You will think often to yourself “1 day ago, I had a dad. 2 weeks ago I had a dad. 5 years ago I had a dad.” And you will try to remember what that felt like. And when you remember, you will not know if you feel better or worse. And then you will be strong for the others, wishing that someone would be strong for you. And then you will remember that he, too, must have loved and lost, and he survived. His family reunion began today. You will hold it down for those united on the other side of this hot sand, patiently awaiting for the September rains and December winds to blow away the present grief, and you will do your best to believe that everything you have ever believed is true.

Yalla nako yalla yeureum.
Cey, Yalla.


It’s all in there. It just hasn’t been able to get out.

I wouldn’t quite describe it as writer’s block. There is so much I want to say, and I actually spent a lot of time saying it yesterday, in my first-ever radio interview. Articulation hasn’t really been a problem, either. Time is an issue. I’ve started my new job and I work all day and all night, it’s true, but still…

I think the honest-to-God truth is that I’ve just been afraid.

Last week, I celebrated (and by that, I mean I worked like a dog) my birthday, as now that I am firmly in my late-20s (and by THAT, I mean, hanging on them by a thread), I am forced to really take stock of who I am and who I want to be–and how those realities and ideals up with the realities where I am and what I’m doing.

I’ve been busy learning hard, hard lessons about what is expected of me as a lawyer, as a woman, as a young woman, as a young black woman, as a young black American woman, what I’m responsible for, and what I’m not supposed to achieve. I’m prone to some things and deserving of others. Marked and invisible. Anonymous and notorious.

The Marissa Alexander article jolted me out of my comfort zone in ways I did not quite expect. I never expected to write the article. It just came out, in a period of maybe four or five hours, apparently eloquent with rage and frustration and resignation at having returned to my country from someone else’s and realizing that I was still worth nothing–less than nothing–in the eyes of the law, and too many of my own so-called “Sistas” and “Brothas”. People sent the article to me, often saying “I think you’d really like this piece!” not having realized that there was another Marissa in the by-line. And suddenly, too many eyes were on me.

There is so much responsibility that comes with writing. I know that. I want that responsibility, but what I have been wondering for the last several weeks is “am I ready for it?” Can I stand hateful, anonymous commentary and thoughtless rebukes? And what if…what if I am ever wrong?

I am an active participant in the progressive community of outraged liberal slacktivists who use new media to spread information, to help it “go viral.” I don’t mind when a couple of people de-friend me on Facebook because of the frequency of my postings, because I do honestly try to give attention to stories and ideas that too many people find unimportant despite their very real value. Since mid-July, however, I’ve noticed that I am more inclined to post or forward something with little or no personal commentary because I realize that I have to answer for that commentary. Finally, I realize that I’m super judgmental and should probably be less judgey if I want anyone to ever show me mercy. Not that mercy is something one can much hope for on the internet.

Yeah, I rolled my eyes (and gagged) when I read about Mindy Budgor’s presumptuous and horrifying (self) appointment as a Maasai warrior–along with all of my “conscious” friends, but I also have been silently cringing at the vitriolic backlash she’s receiving. I don’t doubt that she deserves it, and I doubt that she’s fazed, much less ready to learn anything meaningful about the evils of cultural appropriation, but still… I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I shifted uncomfortably in my seat reading everyone’s disgust at her use of her Western privilege when I knew that I, too, am writing about my experiences as a feminist activist in Senegal.

Mindy Budgor can afford to have people think she’s racist and obnoxious and arrogant because Glamour magazine thinks she’s wonderful enough to profile and photograph (dressed in Ferragamo and a buffalo spear, no less). I know that if I’m not careful with my phrasing, if my biting humour ever comes off the wrong way, if I ever make too broad an assumption and if that error happens to stumble upon a post-happy eye, that I could be rendered uncredible, forever and ever. I don’t have a book agent who will tell me “all press is good press.” As a matter of fact, I’m a little too afraid to write a book. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written a chapter. If I ever finish it, if it ever sees the light of day, someone will hate me. That much is sure.

I don’t know if I can survive it. I don’t know if I should have to.

In the end, it all boils down to courage. Do I have the courage to speak up, or the courage to stay silent. More importantly, do I have the wisdom to discern between which courage I should employ from day to day, from post to post, chapter to chapter?  Because at a certain point, my skin can only become so tough before I become a rhinoceros…

An Open Letter To Pharrell Williams (Blurred Lines Vol. 3)

Originally posted on Nicholas Payton:



Well, it’s about time Pharrell Williams has decided to speak on the issue. He was eerily quiet about it all until just recently. And now that’s he’s opened his mouth, I can throw him some of the shade I was generously giving Robin Thicke.

“I’m a huge fan of Marvin Gaye. He is a genius. He is the patriarch.”

— Pharrell Williams

Really, Pharrell? Since when did it become okay to preemptively sue our patriarchal geniuses of Black music after you knowingly stole their songs?

… Oh, never mind. I remember: Hiphop.

“If you read music, all you have to do is read the sheet music. It’s completely different.”

— Pharrell Williams

I read music, do you? And what sheet music are you talking about? From some wack publishing company that did a transcription of Marvin Gaye’s work? Since when do people learn funk tunes from sheet music? Many…

View original 590 more words