Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Marriage”, by Khalil Gibran

You may not have heard of this brother. But he is one of the greats, for real. Not really a love poet, but when he writes of love–it’s the real stuff, not the roses-are-red type of stuff. I was reading his book, The Prophet, over tea this morning, and these lines spoke to me.

If you are a student of happiness and relationships, like I am, you’re sure to appreciate this piece.

 

 

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

 

 

Exerpt from The Prophet, 1923.

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The Selfish Giver

I’m in a poetry mood.

So, I have this friend, who has been dogged out by all the women he’s been with. When I say he’s been “dogged out”–he has been DOGGED the hell out. And each of these girls were attractive (except #3, I always thought she looked like a mud duck), and they were the kind of couple that you would think, “how the hell did he get that?”  It’s just that my boy is a good man, he is a good Dad and just as much a good step dad. He is hard-working and very unselfish with his belongings, resources and himself. The only thing is, he is not what many of you would call a really attractive brother, he’s sort of overweight, and he didn’t grow up with a real man who taught him how to take care of himself. So he does the best he can with what he’s got, and the women he gets with do their best to destroy him internally in order to control him. It’s disgusting, but I think he’s gotten the picture.

The main problem now is that his self-esteem is so beaten up, he doesn’t think he’s worth much and he doesn’t really try anymore. What can a friend do? One thing about men is that much of our power and strength does come from our women. This is why having a good wife can make a meek man become powerful, yet having a bad wife can destroy great men and kings. Having your homeboy reassure you that you’re a good catch is not the same as having a woman you treasure tell you she’s a lucky woman to have you. Much of our happiness does come from within; but as humans–with feelings and imperfections we are aware of–a good deal of it can be destroyed by the ones we love. Lopsided relationships are like cancers: the longer you keep it, the more it consumes you until there is nothing of “you” left.

For my friend RSH:

he reaches for the broken ones

the toys on the bottom shelf

the ones no one seems to want

though they all play with them

and discard them

broken

tired of sharing, he’d

rather fix springs and sand edges and ignore chips

than compete to play alone

because the last time he took one home

she hurled stones that stung and singe

one of those fancy ones

with the lights and the new bright colors

the ones that everybody likes

but they make him dislike himself

and he just wants to play alone

giving all he has

without reservations

or looking over his shoulder–

so he reaches for the bottom shelf,

the treasure so painfully gotten,

that make him

feel

new.

2011

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Grown-ups In Training

My dad often says that his generation fucked up my generation. There’s a lot of truth in that.

My father’s generation of Black folks grew up with nothing. They grew up watching their strong fathers give up their seats to weaker white men. They saw their strong mothers being called “girls” by younger white women and treated as inferiors. They literally had to fight to be accepted and any show of indominance could lead to losing your life. They grew up poor. They went to college and often had to take low paying jobs because of racism. They have countless uncles who were killed by white men for sport, aunts who were raped, even some of my father’s generation were the products of such rapes. And, if you can try to imagine this–you couldn’t call the police if you were raped by a white man. Do that and find one of your brothers come up missing…

This was the horror–the very real horror–my father was raised on just a little over 40 years ago. When he went to college in Hampton University, Virginia, it was a scary experience. Virginia to this day is a racist place. 50 years ago it was worse. White men didn’t go to jail for killing black people in those days, and if someone lost a personal item–they could just blame it on a black man or woman and you were going to jail. (still happens today, people are just in denial about it now and it doesn’t happen that often)  Many of you think shit like this only happens in history books and movies. But my friends, talk to your parents and grandparents. Talk to your black friends–this ordeal is only one generation away.

I will spare you another Black history lesson today; but be warned! We will return to this subject again soon. I will need for you to understand the source of all this crazy shit Black folks have been through. It was traumatic and can drive a nigger crazy. So the next time you shake your head at these young fools in the street acting up, understand that there is a reason for this craziness. You try living through a 7-generation Holocaust and then raise normal children…

Anyway, my father’s generation was the first generation of many Black families to be able to work a job that paid above minimum wage. They were the first generation to step out of the slums and into the middle class. The 70s marked the first time a Black man could tell his White neighbor to kiss his ass and shut up–and not get killed for it. It was the first time a Black man could walk through the front door of a store with his wallet in hand, and tell his kids, “pick out what you want.”

And pick, we did. Black families put themselves in debt trying to give their children the “good life” and offer what they themselves could never have as children. I had heard quite a few say that “no child of mine will work with dirty hands”. We thought we were being “as good as white folks” by allowing our children to be lazy and spoiled, while we slaved away at work–providing for them. The better dressed our children were, the better colleges they went to, the bigger cars we drove–all spelled success.

So we succeeded. We succeeded in giving our kids “stuff”. We taught them to acquire, and acquiring was how we rated our sense of self-worth. We taught them to use the system, to apply for student loans, to get the public assitance system to finance our kids if we didn’t have jobs, to use EEO when someone on the job pissed us off, to file for Unemployment Insurance and Fair Employment when we got fired, to use the legal system and plea bargaining when we fucked up. And when anyone said our children did something wrong, we covered for them. We mortgaged the house to get the big-shot lawyer to keep them out of college. We told our boys they were good men when they were really deadbeat dads. We took care of our grandchildren when our daughters had (another) baby/babies out of wedlock.

What happened?

We stopped raising our children, that’s what happened. Some of us forget that raising children requires more than feeding, clothing and loving them. We must also teach them to become responsible, independant adults who hold themselves accountable for their own actions. It seems that we were trying to undo all of the poverty our families experienced, that became the focus of our families and not raising and teaching them.

There were other mistakes made by the previous generation:

  • We divorced like crazy. How can you keep a family together when it’s torn apart?  Not only did it tear the children apart emotionally and psychologically, but financially it destroyed our potential.
  • Alcohol and drugs. There is no such thing as “harmless” use of alcohol and drugs; or “use in moderation”. Okay, I use cocaine, but only sometimes. It is bad for your health, and it made it easy for the children to dabble. Hey, since mom and dad did it, how can they correct me?
  • Kids never learned to struggle. One of the most irritating things about Jews is that they are constantly keeping everyone around them hostage with guilt about the Holocaust. But that’s also the strongest thing about them too. They never forgot where they came from, and why they must excel. Today’s black children (even many of the adults) are both ignorant and apathetic about the Black struggle. There is no sense of responsibility or duty to “their people”. It’s easy for young black men to fuck up, because they don’t have a good reason for getting it right. Those who know, only use our struggle as a crutch for failure, instead of using it as a stepping stone. We must educated our kids and give them a sense of purpose.
  • We seem to think that the struggle is over. I don’t need to expound on this; use your imagination why this notion is foolish.

Young people have to learn how to cook, clean, take care of their hygiene. They need a sense of fiscal responsiblity. They must have a strong spiritual base. They must learn to value education and vocational skills. We must teach them to raise families and foster marital unions. We have to treat it as more than just full-time babysitting; we are raising young grown ups, and we only have 18 years to get them to pass the test.

If your sons and daughters are still moving back home at 25, and they can’t wipe their own asses, if they push off the responsibility of raising their children to you… you probably fucked up in raising them.

But don’t get mad at Mustafa Akamo, just do something about it. Complete their training.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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BIG Shoes: The Impossible-to-Follow-Father

Although this article appears in the “Message to the Black Man” category, I am not writing about a Black man at all–I’m writing about a Mexican man with Black children.

His name is “Seif” (for short), and he a member of my local Muslim community–and a very well-known member at that. He converted to Islam in the 80s, married an African American woman and has been a pillar in the community since. Seif does not drink, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him curse, and he is a true hustler. He is not a wealthy man, but he has certainly been blessed by God. Whenever you see him, he is surrounded by the children and grandchildren in his family or friends; everyone around him adores him. He has been self-employed the entire 12 years I’ve known him, and although we all have our struggles he far from being a pauper and he has held his family together very well. His family is very close-knit and everyone knows them. Now that I think of it, I recall that both his brothers are married to African American women. His brothers, by the way, share the same infallible reputation he has. I would guess that his father was the same way–to raise sons who turn out to become admirable men.

What inspired this article is not Seif, but a conversation I had where a brother briefly mention him.

I know a young man, who is in his early to mid-20s. Like Seif, he is a good man, married with a baby girl, hard working. A rare sight in the Black community these days–at least in my town. He came by my business to inquire about exercise classes, and I asked about his parents and the married life as I attended his wedding several years ago after watching him grow up as a teenager. In the course of the conversation, he was telling me how he met his wife on Myspace. They courted for six months, with chaperoned dates (her father was extremely protective and strict) and plenty of text-conversations. They met and chatted at skating rinks, even went to movies with his mother sitting between them. I’m actually sitting her laughing as I write this, as I would like my children to have this experience with their future spouses. And you know Mustafa Akamo would be right between them!

So in the course of telling me about his courtship, he mentions that before his wife, he had expressed interest in a young lady at the Annur Masjid (a mosque near my home) who was beautiful and smart and well mannered. At the time, the brother was between jobs and young; he was 19 and at the time giving his parents a hard time. He was staying out late, listening to gangsta rap music, not keep up his prayers and just being a rebellious young man. His father was encouraging him to go to college in order to find a good job and get married. He said he was torn between immature friends and his father’s advice, as well as his desire to please his father.

Well, breaking the rules of traditional Islam, the young man approached the young lady and inquired if she would like to exchange numbers and talk and she said something that completely amazes me:

“You will have to speak to my father. You’re cute but you will have to talk to him first.”

What father wouldn’t want a daughter who shuts down boys like that? Wow.

So, the young man proceeds to tell me he discovered that the young lady’s father was Seif, and what he told me next was just as amazing:

“And you know, any brother who wants to approach a daughter of Seif had better have his stuff together! I knew this sister was gonna need a dude who was like her Dad, and I was messing up AND not working. Man I didn’t bother wasting my time. If I had been listening to my father I would have been in a good spot to step, but I realized to them I was a loser.”

Seif set the standard. His sons are intelligent, hard-working family men. His daughters are intelligent, pious women. What more could a father ask for? This young man, who was far from being a loser, felt like he was unworthy of approaching Seif’s daughter because he knew he was not utilizing his potential. He was also under a strong father, but for whatever reason he backslid for a short period of time. Fortunately, he grew up, went to school, got a good job and found a wife he loves and started a family. We spent most of the time talking about himself and his desire to get physically fit. Yet in the back of my mind, I was impressed with a man who was so young and mature enough to self-criticize and rebuild himself–ending up with a good job and a family when many his age still live with parents and are irresponsible. It was a combination of his return to his own upbringing under his strong father and being intimidated by the presence of another strong father AND finding another woman who had a strong father (his wife) that taught him how to be a good man.

When a man wears big shoes, his children perform at a higher level as well as demand more from themselves and their mates. Men, we set the standard of what our boys turn out to be and what kind of men our girls want. Never forget that. If you are a strong, admirable figure, your kids don’t want to disappoint you. You are the yardstick they measure themselves and their mates by. When you have flaws and shortcomings, it is easy for them to accept less-than-acceptable standards. Never forget that.

As for my friend Seif, whom I have long admired, he reminds me of what my father has been teaching me all my life. And I hope that when my children are grown, I have given them the same impossible-to-follow-father that he has given his children. Amen.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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10 Ways to Know He/She Really Loves You

One thing I’ve learned in six failed marriages is how to recognize when a woman really doesn’t love me. Especially by me being a “nice guy”–the kind of man who puts my woman and her needs before my own–I would get used and taken for granted, mistreated and disrespected. And even when the love is gone, I will treat her with respect and take care of her as if I did love her. Most of the time, I knew this woman didn’t love anyone but herself. Some of the times, I knew when they loved another man. But what do we do when we are in love? We ignore the bad signs, we happily misconstrue what appears to be “good” signs, we magnify the good signs, and we go on with the marriage as if it was a good one (even pretending to friends and family that everything is going A-okay) until our spouse actually leaves.

Notice, I did not say “until our spouse says he/she doesn’t want us”. Because you and me both know that she can say “I don’t want to be here/I don’t love you” and we will still fight for that marriage. I get it. I just didn’t get it then.

So to save you from heartache and heartbreak, I want to share with you some of the major signs that your spouse loves you, without a doubt, and you tell ME if I’m on the money:

  1. He puts you before himself. Your spouse is more concerned with your happiness than his own. When a man loves a woman, he doesn’t want to eat out if you’re on peanut butter sandwiches. He will put you in the nice ride, and he’ll drive the hoopty (or catch the bus/walk to work… boy have I done this many times!). He will wear clothes from Walmart in order to see you in the Nordstrom threads. He may be selfish, but when a man loves a woman, he is only selfish on her behalf. On the contrary, he is never selfish with his woman. He will put his boys on hold for you, or try to take you with him when he’s with his boys. A man in love takes his woman to fight parties. When he’s not “as” in love, he leaves her at home and gets mad when she tries to go. Here’s the thing:  If he tells you he needs “space” away from you, his actions say that other commitments and people are more than you, that you are asking for too much of his time–believe him, at least he’s telling you the truth. There are brothers out here who don’t need space. There are guys who will put you on a pedestal and put you first. And those men are not on the same level as the one who’s letting you down. You only need to decide which one you want to be with.
  2. He thinks you’re more beautiful than Beyoncè. Now, I have married a woman I didn’t think was the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, but that was rare. Other than that, each time I married a woman, I was madly in love (or so I thought) and no one could tell me that my girl wasn’t the finest of the fine mamma jammas. I can’t imagine a guy in love thinking some other chick is better looking than his girl, as immature and sophomorish as it sounds. But I am telling you the truth:  Even if he thought it were true, a man in love with a woman would NEVER admit another woman is more attractive or desirable than his wife. Have you ever seen good-looking brothers with so-so looking women and wondered “how the hell did he get with her?” How about sexy women with big, fat men and wondering if he was rich? They were in love. When you love a woman, her beauty is magnified like you wouldn’t believe, and only he understands why that is. A man who loves his woman will tell her she is gorgeous on the regular, and will do it so much that she either believes it too–or she think’s he’s blind. And she’s right, he is; he is love-blind. Leave it alone, and let him do this thing. You wanted a man who adores you, and you got it. (Edit:  He will never make you jealous or do anything that might make you jealous. He will broadcast that he is with the cream of the crop while he’s with you to avoid confusion, because he is conscientious of how you feel and how things appear.)
  3. He will bust his behind to keep his word.  I don’t want to play the brothers to the left by saying that a man in love will “always” keep his word. I know things come up. But you ever see a guy who will not take a day off of work for anything? He will go to work sick as a dog and they have to send him home to recover? Yeah, it’s like that. A man who loves his woman will bust his ass to keep his promises, and even when he is forgetful, he will do his best to make it up to you when he falls on the job. I am talking about the kind of guy who doesn’t make plans on Saturday because his wife owns that day. The kind of man who races home straight from work, and skips hanging with the homies. Letting down your woman is almost as bad as letting down your kids. Real men don’t fail in this department.
  4. He will travel 50 miles to change your tire.  Or something like that. The point is that a man who loves his woman will cross burning sands for her, and distance and time means nothing to him. It’s 11 at night, and he’s in the bed about to drift off to sleep. You have a craving for vanilla ice cream and all you have is butter pecan. Your man, if he really loves you, will throw on some sweats and cruise the 7-11 stores until he finds one that has vanilla. And not just vanilla–the brand you like.
  5. He likes puplo ceviche because you like pulpo ceviche.  For those who don’t know, pulpo ceviche is a salad made with octopus. And for you hard-core ceviche fans, it’s raw. A man who loves his wife to no end will enjoy things just because she likes them. He develops a taste for things that his woman likes because he loves her that much–so much, he wants to enjoy the things she enjoys. Now, I’m not saying that you both can’t have differing palates. However, a man that loves a woman will try to have a different outlook on things because of her and he will try to see the world through her eyes. Maybe he won’t try the octopus. But he will try the Italian dish with the tentacles. Or start listening to country music. Or start wearing ties or watching chick flicks. You get it. It’s like having a wife who can referee a boxing match–she didn’t even like boxing before she met him. But hey, she’s in love.
  6. He knows what pulpo ceviche is!  When a man loves a woman, he will try to learn everything about her. He will develop an attachment to her family–her siblings, he parents, her cousins. He learns all he can about her upbringing, her ethnicity, her family life, her religion. He might even begin going to her church, or learning to speak her language. His friends will laugh at him and accuse him of “changing”. And you know what? He is! He is turning into her man. When a man has no interest in who she is and who she was, and where she came from–he doesn’t really love her. Hate to be negative, but you came to AskAkamo to get the truth, right? Edit:  He also wants your family’s approval–your mom (who may not like him), your children, your friends. And he will do anything to get on their good side. The idea is, if they are a part of you, he wants them to be a part of him too.
  7. He is always kind, and never mad.  Okay, don’t beat me up. Maybe we do get mad. But when a man loves a woman like crazy, it takes a lot for his woman to make him mad. Men who love their wives will actually avoid getting mad by apologizing, giving in during debates, keeping his mouth shut rather than speak his mind. He is actually afraid of making her mad, and he will bend over backward to prevent his woman from being displeased with him. But even when he is mad–a man will be kind and respectful to his wife. He will never yell at her or call her names, or ever purposely give her a reason to cry. He may have an iron hand, with all others, but with his woman he slips on a velvet glove to avoid cracking her accidentally.
  8. All his friends know you.  I have seen brothers hide his woman from his friends. Actually, with #5 and #6, I was one of them. It’s because those women embarassed me. They would say stuff my friends will cut glances at each other over and wonder, “what the hell was that all about?”  On the contrary, he will show you off to his friends, he wants his family to know and like you, he talks about you constantly to them. Men who are hiding their women have a motive for doing so. Perhaps they don’t want to be seen with you. Or they are hiding what they are doing from you. Who knows? But a man who loves his woman will make sure everyone loves her too.
  9. He hides your faults.  He doesn’t want other people thinking ill of you, so he will cover your faults. He will do his best to paint a perfect picture of who you are. Notice I said, “paint a picture”, and not “change”. He wants people to see only your best qualities, but he still loves you as is. A man who tries to change a woman does not really love her as-is. He may love what he thinks she can be, but he doesn’t really love who she is. When he loves her, he loves her the way she is–overweight, chipped tooth, bad hair days, working the low-paying job, uneducated, broken English–you name it. He loves you just how you are. He doesn’t need the highlights to hide the gray. He doesn’t think you need to drop 40 pounds. He thinks you’re perfect. Love is a funny thing. You can be imperfect, but still be “perfect”. All you need to be is perfect for him, and he believes that you are.
  10. He jumps out the bushes at you.  LOL LOL Okay! I just mean he is always thinking of you and wants to surprise you. He pops up at your job, not to catch you with the guy from the mail room–but to see you. When you go to email him, there is already an email in your inbox. When you reach for the phone to text him, his message to you comes in while you’re typing. You both seem to be on the same wavelength. You have a craving for shrimp, he calls and says he’s thinking of cooking shrimp. He is thoughtful, considerate, and always has you on his mind. Not only does he tell you, but he shows it.  You don’t need to ask what’s going on in his mind, because you already know it.

And let me say this:  if you’ve ever had this, you must reciprocate in order to keep it. I am sure you have experienced one or some or all of these signs. If not, I hope you do one day. It’s a great experience, and I think we are all deserving of it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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