Category Archives: General

Looking for….

One of the cool things about the internet:  When you’re bored, and run out of productive stuff to do–the mind wanders. So you start thinking of things, places, people, events…. Like many people, I will Google old friends and family members. Not in a weird, stalky, rapist kinda way. Just a “I wonder what so-n-so is up to” type of way.

The great thing about Facebook is that you can find damn near anyone, but you also find a whole bunch of people whom you don’t know but they share your old friend’s name. No one wants to come across as creepy, so I tend not to add folks or message them to ask “Hey is this Jeffery Tsai, the kid who use to attend Taipei Elementary in the 70s in Taiwan?” And stuff.

So occasionally I find them. Old classmates, second girlfriend, one of my favorite school teachers (right before he died). And then I have sort of “found” them, but can’t break through some website, or comment buried under 900 comments that my old buddy wrote in 2003.  People have found me this way. I once reunited with an old flame from HIGH school when she ran into a good friend of mine in DC and got the correct spelling of my name and then searched me and found my business’s website. That shit was hot.

That’s one of the cool things about having a strong web presence; old friends will pop up, and I am easy to find. However, when I am trying to find someone, it’s not always easy. See I lived in other countries, some of these friends don’t speak English, are not on the American web (yes, search engines pick up sites by country, region and language) so that makes it difficult. I once sat in the infirmary in Texas next to my old next door neighbor (we were around 8 or 9 years old when we did) when I lived in Taiwan and that quickly we lost contact. I’ve looked for her a few times without success…

Well I decided to dedicate an article to my old friends. Within a few days, this article will come up on the search engines and just in case my friends or someone close to them does a web search of their names–this article will come up. If I am right, I should be getting in touch with some old childhood and college friends before we know it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  • Gwynn Barrigher (Clinton, MD)
  • David McGowan (Taiwan)
  • Hans and Eddie (Taiwan)
  • Melissa and Tammy/Tammie Gibson (Taiwan)
  • Richard Kozicki/Kazicki (Taiwan/Australia)
  • “Cabbage Patch”/Elizabeth Yao/Liz Yao (Baltimore, MD)
  • Philip Knight (Buffalo, New York)
  • Calvin with the one eye (lol) member of Phi Beta Sigma
  • Stephanie and David Dea (Washington DC)
  • Michael and Leah (Taiwan)
  • Jeffery Tsai (Taiwan)
  • Jep Tucker (Taiwan/Thailand)

 

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My Mom: Drama Queen… With the Concrete Memory

I know probably half the people reading this post have a Drama Queen in their family. And half of those “Queens” are you own mothers. We love them dearly, but they get on our nerves, and for those whose mothers travel across the globe once a year to pester us and invade our new lives… We oftentimes can’t wait to put them back on a plane. Our kids hate to see them go, but they just don’t understand, do they? Don’t know them like we know them, huh?

Girl if you only knew. Those kids perhaps know your mothers better than you do, and I surely hope you don’t poison your children’s minds by talking about how nosey and needy Grandma is, or how dramatic she is, or how demanding she can be. Thing is, children appreciate our mothers, sometimes more than we do. My kids? They absolutely *adore* my mother. They start counting down the months before her visits and they terribly lament her departure once she’s gone.

But not as badly as you will; once she’s really gone.

Kids appreciate your mother more than you do because they don’t know the drama. And it’s a good thing. Mothers go through so much, and sometimes they don’t tell us how much they’d endured for you–while other times they browbeat you with it so that you never forget (or is it, so you’ll understand?) We are the Kings and Queens of our households–the bosses, the Dictators, even–for so long, we forget what it’s like to have a mother around, giving us a piece of her mind, telling us what to do, and chastising us the way we chastise our own children. She’s there to remind you of all the things you’d wish she’d forget, to tell you about things you don’t want to hear about for the millionth time. It’s in this Western culture that once we are grown, we almost forget the past, and start new lives. Our forefathers did it when coming here for the first generation. You left “home” behind and became an American. You forget that old Italian culture you left behind, you allow your children to call each other by name instead of titles like “Kuya/Ate”, you cook pot roast and steam your vegetables instead of making those Keftedakia and Greek salads your grandmother taught you. You wear your shoes in the house. You stop buying Kosher food. Your children carry your husband’s bland, American last name. You pronounce your English perfectly. Your kids speak only one language. You waste your food when you’re no longer hungry, instead of using last night’s leftovers to make Ulam or Fried Noodles. Yeah, you forgot–but Mom didn’t, and it drives you nuts.

Something unique about life in the West:  Each generation generally lives better than the last. Especially for those of us born elsewhere on the planet. Our parents sacrifice heavily for us to have a “better” life. They barely got us to adulthood having the essentials, unlike many others who inherit what was left behind by a previous generation. When we had problems doing homework–we turned to another kid because some of our mothers barely spoke English. Mom doesn’t understand this culture and she surely doesn’t understand profession–why is she trying to give me advice? Mom, marriage isn’t like it was when you were younger. I know what I’m doing…

There will come a day that you will sound like your mother. You won’t understand the next generation. But you will know life a little more than your then-grown children will. Like you, they won’t listen either. I hope you won’t ever have this experience:  You stop, you reflect, and you realize that Mom was right. This is what she meant. But unlike right now, you will not be able to pick up the phone and call her to say, “Mom, you’re right. I love you.”

Instead, you will have to wait until the kids are sleep, then close your eyes, and visit her in your dreams to say it.

I have some advice for you. ALL of our mothers are Drama Queens. They ALL went through some great sacrifice to get us where we are today. They were not guaranteed to have done the best job, they may have made a shitload of mistakes. They still might be making mistakes. But she is your mother, and she has cross Hell and highwater to provide for you, to teach you, and everything she has ever done–from missing meals so the kids have enough to eat, to working extra shifts to afford to buy you presents, to marrying another man while she still loved your father just so you’d have a complete, nuclear home to return to from school, to badgering you about why you aren’t married or why she doesn’t think you’re treating your husband or wife well enough–it was ALL done because she wanted the best for you.

Don’t piss that away, just because you are too damned stubborn to shut the hell up and take a little advice and listen to wisdom. If you really appreciated the woman she’s become–like your kids do–you’d honor and hang on to every word she spoke. There will be a day, when she won’t be able to say anything else to you, and all you will have are memories, and regret.

Today’s religious lesson, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other:  God tells us to honor our mother and father. He did not put conditions on which mother and father to honor. He didn’t say “honor parents if they were good parents”. Your parents could have been deadbeats, drug addicts, ex-cons, depressed, poor, too busy working to notice, whatever–But we are to honor them the way you’d honor a celebrity who came to your home. Imagine if Oprah came to your house, how would you prepare for that visit? What if a U.S. President gave you advice you didn’t think you needed? Or your favorite actor or singer? Would you argue with them? Some of us would treat a celebrity we have never met with more fanfare than we treat our own parents. That isn’t “honor” at all.

I would name names, because the loved ones I wrote this for read this blog and they probably recommend this to their friends. But you know who you are. Don’t do anything you will one day regret. Don’t wait till your mother is gone before you cherish her.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Follow This Blog! (The MA-Crystal Ball)

Um, yeah, I am a huge procrastinator. So I am into a bunch of stuff, always trying to change the world and chasing new endeavors and business ideas… and sometimes this blog doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

I get occasional emails asking when the new article will be out–or what the next article will entail (which is a sorta-way of asking me to hurry up and post a new article). I get it. But it still doesn’t change the fact that while I am terribly stricken with Adult ADHD, I occasionally get inspired to put something new up and I never know when it will strike. Now if you want to know when new content is uploaded right away, I implore you to go back to the main page and then look right —–> for the “Follow” button. Give us your email address and as soon as new content goes up, you’ll know right away. Simple, huh?

And one more thing. If you enjoy this or anything on this blog, please, please, please, share our address with friends and family. The more the merrier! Unless you plan to read my articles and then present my words if they were your very own. In that case don’t tell anyone; they’ll soon figure it out. LOL

I occasionally text myself some ideas while I’m out and about, or sitting on the toilet reflecting, or laying in bed thinking… with the intention of writing an article later. Doesn’t always happen. However, would you like to take a peek into what’s coming?

Sssshhhh….

  • you can tell a lot about a boy who has no father, or a grown man who had no Dad. I forgot where I was, but I noticed a guy on his cell phone telling some female that his baby’s momma didn’t know what she had, that he was a “good man” and she’d never find another one like him… and somewhere in that conversation he mentions that she called Child Support on him. Uh, yeah.
  • absolute truth can be obtained mainly from two people:  a man who is seriously angry at you, and a friend who truly loves you. Self explanatory
  • greatest weakness? “honesty”. I recently ran into a young man I had interviewed for a job a while back (we didn’t hire him). He claimed to admire me and asked for my information and asked me to coach him into finding a good job with benefits. Such a flattering request! So, as a damage-control effort, he asked me why I had not hired him. He did nothing wrong, a pretty good kid–but there were candidates with more qualifications. He said that he had been asked by several interviewers the clichèd question, “What’s your greatest weakness?”–a question I never ask, as I find this a a degrading way to ask a candidate (who is supposed to be trying to impress me) to put himself down. My advice on how to answer? Tell him something positive, and how it backfired. My weakness is honesty. People ask for it, and they really don’t want it. So bosses ask for a true assessment, and then the get upset at the bad news. If you always want the brutal reality, Mr. Bossman–I’ll give it to you. If you want to be lied to, hire someone else…
  • Pauline Black. girl meeting her father’s second wife for the first time. A singer from Ireland, who happened to be 1/2 Black, who was adopted and finally met her father’s widow. She paints a picture of a loving, strong Black man who is beat up by everyone around him, including the woman he loved, and kept from his daughter and died never knowing her. So many things to talk about with this.
  • I’m not ready for your daughter.  I recently ran into a Pakistani gentleman I knew 11 years ago. When I had broken up with my 4th wife, during Ramadan 2002, several members of my mosque and neighboring mosques–all male–had approached me offering to matchmake me with their daughters. Everyone knew my wife had left me with three small children, and I was in court fighting for the right to take the children to my mother in the Philippines because I was due to deploy to Iraq soon. Muslims are a crazy bunch, men try to find a good husband for their daughters, and when a “good” brother is available, the Dads swoop on him (often at the urging of Muslim mothers). Every Muslim man’s fear is that her daughter will marry a jerk, so they are very aggressive in convincing you to take their daughter. Anyway, this brother’s daughter was in Atlanta, and although I looked like a decent man, at the time I was fornicating, was very angry, and had low self esteem. I turned down this brother’s offer, although I did meet the daughter–who was beautiful. But I knew I was a crappy man at the time, and wouldn’t go any further. His daughter (who now reads this blog) would send me letters and music CDs and gifts for the children. I kept her at a distance for a good reason, and eventually deployed. By the time I returned, she had married a brother in Atlanta and according to her father, is miserable. Anyway, he asked me why I did not like his daughter, and I was forced to admit that I was spiritually not right and would have made a horrible son-in-law. I just wasn’t ready, and help with my children, a new house, or a beautiful woman was not going to get me right. Often brothers are in such a rush to have sex with these women they ignore the “No” signs from God and move forward with relationships they have no business entering.
  • our OWN reparations. Why are we still begging the white man for stuff? I’m in a coffee shop reading a book, and this quasi-Black power negro approaches me with this “it’s all the white man’s fault” crap. I am a revolutionary, but there is a difference between fighting oppression and racism–from blaming the white man for our woes. Many of us are enslaved to the notion that we cannot succeed unless America bails us out. They’re not. We have all the tools we need to build our own reparations, and we should use them. Uncle Sam won’t do no more for us than Uncle Tom. It’s time to change our program, my brother.
  • I’d write a shorter letter if I had the time. There is this thing about me, that my marriage are fine until my women try to take the lead. Sorry, but I am a mannish man–blame James Westray for that. Not saying that I’m a chauvinist, but I have to lead my relationships and if I am pushed in any direction against the plan (noticed I said “the” plan, not “my” plan), it’s not going to work. Did I mention that I have never proposed to a woman before? Wait, I have, but she said no. None of my marriages involved a proposal, my arm was twisted and I married under duress due to the threat of a break up. Anyway, I get women telling me I’m a hypocrit if I don’t make the decisions they want, I never did anything for you, I’m not as good as the last man, blah blah blah. But they spend the next 20 years trying to get back with me. Yeah I was that damned bad, huh? Well, one ex, who I recently had to knock off my Facebook, was pushing me for “closure”. I really hate giving it because it’s irrelevant two decades later, but I obliged. From what I remembered, I sent a really long email giving as much detail as I could remember about just facts, but not my perceptions. That’s crucial. Perception is what moves relationships, not facts. We had money, we took trips, the sex was good–but the feelings I had was that I was being used. In her mind, all was good. In my mind, it wasn’t. In that email I wrote the words, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time” to gather my thoughts and recall what was underneath all those facts. Often we don’t take the time to really dissect and digest what’s going on in our marriages. The ones who do, who think what they feel before they say it, keep their marriages longer. When they don’t think, the wrong thing gets said and words stain hearts more permanently than bruises stain skin. You can’t take them back, not even 20 years later.

Alright, I have 189 emails saved in my phone and I am NOT fin to share all of them. So here is a glimpse of what’s to come, in no particular order. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Thoughts on Father’s Day 6/15/2012

Just some random thoughts about Father’s Day I jotted down. Some of us really look forward to this day with our children, some of us used to look forward to this day with our children, and then it is melancholy for many more…

You would be hard-pressed to find something more awesome than seeing a kid who is adored by his Daddy (including Stepdads). Because you know without a doubt that kid: 1. Will never go hungry, 2. Will most likely never see the inside of a police car (unless he’s on duty), 3. Will one day grow up to maintain, love and cherish his own wife and children. And contrary to popular belief there are MANY Black men who are this way, don’t believe the propoganda! Kids who are loved will grow up to be normal, responsible adults. Kids who are neglected will often have issues as adults.

And it has nothing to do with education or income level. A man who is doing his job can work for minimum wage at the car wash and get and give all the love and respect from his family. Many great men and women were raised by fathers who had less. If he takes his role seriously and with sincerity, their world is all good…

Shot out to all the brothers who will spend Father’s Day without their children because their exes won’t let them see their kids. Brother’s keep your head up, keep working to contact your children, keep a DIARY, and send them correspondence and gifts regularly. Childhoods are over very quickly and your children will remember that you did all you could to see them when they were little.  Happy Father’s Day.

Shot out to all the sisters who use the courts, strategic relocations, new boyfriends and husbands, LIES, police reports and CPS to keep your baby daddies out of your children’s lives… And then run around calling them “deadbeat Dads”.  Same for you women who collect child support and still keep the fathers away. Or deny access when Dad can’t afford to pay… Shame on you.

Shot out to the women who work with the Dads who want to see their kids. We know you turn down job offers to relocate so that the kids can see their father. Or you put your new man in check when he tries to disrepect your kids’ father. Or you drop them off AND pick them up when his car isn’t running (although the court order says he has to drop them off). Or you refuse to bad-mouth him and hide hi…s faults out of respect for being your kids Father. Or you tell the kids “We grew apart” when actually “He cheated”–cause kids don’t need that information. Or you let him keep his dignity when he works a blue collar job while your new man has a well-paying job. Or you let him hit you in payments when his funds are tight… All good deeds are rewarded, and you are appreciated.
As a people we are so damaged that it seems some of us, too many, almost HAVE to have conflict. We are the kind of people who called “hood” movies “real”, and reject Cosby Show for being too perfect. It’s better for our children to grow up without the stress of adult conflict and having to choose sides–or to even listen to sides. Even when I am hot and pissed at my exes, my children never have to hear about it. Your children will love you more for keeping their lives drama-free, and your ex will honor you as well. Because he knows!
Shot out to my frat brother, Rick Jennings, of the San Francisco 49ers and Center for Fathers and Families for helping me find my awesome attorney Frances An, and helping brothers fight the system to see our children… Teaching brothers stuff like how to create a resume as well as cook and change diapers, how to deal with our kids stepdads, even how to BE a stepdad. Shot out to Terry Moore for reaching out to single dads and getting us together and showing us how it’s done–even by remarrying your child’s mother and making your little girl’s dream come true (cause you know every kid from a divorced family secretly wants to see Mom and Dad back together). You brothers are awesome and a great asset to the community!

I don’t really have a lot to say today. Mustafa Akamo had been a single Dad for the most of the last 12 years, but now that the kids live with their mothers (long story), days like today are not fun… I have to celebrate Father’s Day with the children when I can see them, and often separately, since both Mothers have to agree to the same day (and for the third year in a row, they don’t). So I will celebrate with my 5 year old tomorrow, and with the 11 and 12 year olds next week. Sad story, but c’est la vie.

Women must understand how valuable their children’s fathers are. A father is a little girl’s first crush EVER. A father is also a boy’s first Superhero. When you deny a father–regardless of the reason barring abuse and safety–you are turning your sons and daughters into dysfunctional, insecure, out-of-balance adults. Even a Father who has allowed himself to get fat deserves time with his kids. Even a cheater deserves time with his kid (after all, he betrayed YOU, not your child). Even a father who is not working, or can’t manage his money well, deserves time with his kid. And most of all, your children deserve time with their fathers. Stand in the way of this relationship, and you tell the world that something is also out of balance with you.

Other than that, there are so many good fathers out there enjoying time with their kids, married or not. I salute you, I salute the mothers who support this relationship. I salute the fellow Dads who don’t get to see their children and fight with every breath in their bodies to make it happen.

And yes, there are many brothers out here ignoring their children. But we talk about them enough on this blog today, so on this day we will not give those insignificant mother fuckers any attention.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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Reblog: An Apology

I just read this very real and hard-hitting subject for Muslims:  Racism in Islam. Azhar Usman is an Indian comic who attended the funeral of the late Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, who restructured his father’s Nation of Islam to follow Orthodox Islam. Perhaps at another time I can explain this subject further for those who may be lost when it comes to modern Islamic matters. For now, we will just re-blog the orignal letter, found here:

 

An Apology by Azhar Usman (Muslim Comedian)

I attended the funeral of Imam Warith Deen Mohammad last week and was truly moved to see the number of people who showed up. Some estimates were up to 8000 people! wow.. Imagine a man with such a character that could draw that many people to his funeral.  Well, Imam W.D. Mohammad did, and for a good reason.  He brought light to so many African Americans living in the neverending cycle of societal oppression here in the US.  He brought true guidance and a true sense of self-worth to the community.  After I read this email by Azhar Usman, it honestly brought tears to my eyes.. I do not know if I am getting more soft with my old age or if the presence of injustice and irrational thinking is just really getting to me.  Please read the email below and tell me what it means to you!!!

An Apology by Azhar Usman (Muslim Comedian)

I attended the funeral of Imam Warith Deen Mohammad last week and was truly moved to see the number of people who showed up. Some estimates were up to 8000 people! wow.. Imagine a man with such a character that could draw that many people to his funeral. Well, Imam W.D. Mohammad did, and for a good reason. He brought light to so many African Americans living in the neverending cycle of societal oppression here in the US. He brought true guidance and a true sense of self-worth to the community. After I read this email by Azhar Usman, it honestly brought tears to my eyes.. I do not know if I am getting more soft with my old age or if the presence of injustice and irrational thinking is just really getting to me. Please read the email below and tell me what it means to you!!!

An Apology Heartfelt reflections on the passing of a legendary Blackamerican Muslim leader On September 11th, 2008, while countless American flags whipped in the wind and the television and radio waves were dominated by remembrances, recordings, and stories about the terror attacks of seven years ago, I attended the funeral of Imam W.D. Mohammed (may God be pleased with him). For me, it was a somber day, but I found myself mostly lost in thought: about African-American Muslim communities, about the challenges ahead in American Muslim institution-building, and about the future of Islam in America. If you don’t know who Imam WDM was, you should look him up. The Sufis say: “The true sage belongs to his era.” And of the many gifts given to Imam WDM by God,20perhaps the most obvious and beneficial one was the Imam’s profound understanding of the principles of religion, and his adeptness at intelligently applying those Islamic principles in a socially and culturally appropriate manner befitting the everyday lives of his North American followers. While carefully respecting sound, traditional jurisprudential methodologies of the Islamic religion, and the collective religious history and time-honored scholarship of classical Islam, he promulgated creative ideas and dynamic teachings across many domains of human endeavor, including theology, law, spirituality and even ethics and aesthetics, that together articulated a vision for a quintessentially “American Muslim” cultural identity. And he did all of this before anyone else, with quiet strength and unending humility—a true sage indeed. So I stood before his final resting place, brokenhearted. And I suddenly began to feel the weight of the moment, realizing that when God takes back one of his dearly beloved friends, those who are left behind should cry not for the deceased, but rather for themselves. For the fact that they are now without one of God’s friends in their midst, and, in a sense, they are orphaned. And the tears began to well up, for I became acutely aware that I was standing in front of the grave of my spiritual grandfather, who was himself a spiritual descendant of Bilal al-Habashi (may God be pleased with him), the mighty and beloved companion of the Prophet himself. Bilal was the first Black African to convert to al-Islam at the hands of the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and keep him) in the sands of Arabia nearly a thousand and a half years ago. Undoubtedly, some measure of that love, mercy, compassion, and spiritual stature that inhabited the heart of Bilal has found its way down through the ages, and I found myself begging God to transfer to my own heart some glimpse of these realities now laying before me. Almost five years ago, my business partner, Preacher Moss (who is a member of the WDM community) founded the standup comedy tour “Allah Made Me Funny,” and he invited me to be his co-founder. Needless to say, it has been nothing less than an honor to work with him on the project. But to many, it was an unusual pairing: a Black comic and an Indian comic? Both Muslims? Working together? And before we ever even announced our partnership publicly, we met privately and swore an allegiance to one another—a blood oath of sorts—which was this: No matter what happens, in good times and in bad, we have to be the brothers no one expects us to be. And bui lt on this promise (and premise), we brought on our first collaborator, Brother Azeem (who is a member of Minister Farrakhan’s NOI), with whom we toured for over two years (2004-2006) before parting ways amicably. Then we brought Mohammed Amer onto the team in the fall of 2006 (a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian refugee who grew up in a Sunni Muslim family in Houston, Texas). Mo, Preach, and I are still going strong together, and we are grateful for the unqualified support, love, and blessings that Imam WDM and the entire community have always given us. But today, as I observed the funeral proceedings, I felt sad and heavy-hearted. Something wasn’t sitting right. Something was physically paining my heart, and it felt like remorse, shame perhaps, maybe even guilt. I began to realize that the tears flowing from my eyes were as much a function of these feelings as they were any lofty spiritual aspirations of mine. You see, I attended an interfaith event a couple of years ago on 9/11. A group had assembled to commemorate the tragic event, to honor those who perished that day, and to pledge ongoing in ter-community support and bridge-building to fight ignorance, hate, and intolerance. At that event, there was this short, middle-aged, sweet, extremely kindhearted, White Christian woman. When she took the microphone to speak, she was already teary-eyed, and I assumed that she was going to make some comments about the victims of 9/11, as so many others already had that night. But she didn’t do that. Instead, she explained that she had become utterly grief-stricken by the constant barrage of news stories she witnessed about Muslims and Arabs being harassed, profiled, and mistreated after 9/11. She explained that she felt powerless to do anything about it, and that it made her sick to her stomach to hear of hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs, and especially to hear of Christian preachers denigrating Islam and its Prophet. She started to cry, and so did many others in the room, humbled by the magnanimity of this simple woman. And then she did what I thought was a strange thing: she apologized. She prefaced her apology with all the logical disclaimers, such as “I know this may mean nothing to20you,” and “I know that I am not the one who did these horrible things,” and “I know that you may dismiss this as empty rhetoric until you see some follow-up action on my part, but anyway,” she continued, “I want to apologize on behalf of all the Christians and all non-Muslims and non-Arabs who have been attacking your communities, harassing your people, and accusing your religion of all these horrible things. I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry.” I was stunned. Speechless, in fact. Though all of her disclaimers were true, and my skeptical mind knew it, her apology melted our hearts. Here was this powerless servant of God sharing some of her most deeply felt emotional vulnerabilities, and she was apologizing to Muslims for something she didn’t even do? Jesus (may God bless him and keep him) once famously remarked: “Make the world your teacher,” and so I immediately took this woman as a lesson in humility. Admitting her powerlessness made her incredibly powerful. And this brings me to the point (and title) of this essay. I would like to unburden myself of something that has been sitting like a ton of bricks on my heart for my entire life. I want to apologize to my Blackamerican brothers and sisters in Islam. I know that this apology may not mean very much; and I know that our American Musli m communities have a LONG way to go before we can have truly healthy political conciliation and de-racialized religious cooperation; and I know that I am not the one who is responsible for so much of the historical wrongdoing of so-called “immigrant Muslims”—wrongdoings that have been so hurtful, and insulting, and degrading, and disrespectful, and dismissive, and marginalizing, and often downright dehumanizing. But anyway, for every “Tablighi” brother who may have had “good intentions” in his own subjective mind, but behaved in an utterly insensitive and outrageous manner toward you when he suggested that you need to learn how to urinate correctly, I’m sorry. And for every Pakistani doctor who can find money in his budget to drive a Lexus and live in a million-dollar house in suburbia, and who has the audacity to give Friday sermons about the virtues of “Brotherhood in Islam,” while the “Black mosque” can’t pay the heating bills or provide enough money to feed starving Muslim families just twenty miles away, I’m sorry. And for every Arab speaker in America who makes it his business to raise millions and millions of dollars to provide “relief” for Muslim refugees around the world, but turns a blind eye to the plight of our very own Muslim sisters and brothers right here in our American inner cities just because, in his mind, the color black might as well be considered invisible, I’m sorry. And for every liquor store in the “hood” with a plaque that says Maashaa’ Allah hanging on the wall behind the counter, I’m sorry. And for every news media item or Hollywood portrayal that constantly reinforces the notion that “Muslim=foreigner” so that the consciousness of Blackamerican Muslims begins even to doubt itself (asking “Can I ever be Muslim enough?”), I’m sorry. And for every Salafi Muslim brother (even the ones who used to be Black themselves before converting to Arab) who has rattled off a hadith or a verse from Koran in Arabic as his “daleel” to Kafirize you and make you feel defensive about even claiming this deenas your own, I’m sorry. And for every time you’ve been asked “So when did you convert to Islam?” even though that question should more properly have been put to your grandparents, since they became Muslims by the grace of God Almighty back in the 1950s, and raised your parents as believers, and Islam is now as much your own inheritance as it is the one’s posing that presumptuous, condescending question, I’m sorry. And for every time some Muslim has self-righteously told you that your hijab is not quite “Shariah” enough, or your beard is not quite “Sunnah” enough, or your outfit is not quite “Islamic” enough, or your Koranic recitation is not quite “Arabic” enough, or your family customs are not quite “traditional” enough, or your worldview is not quite “classical” enough, or your ideas are not “authentic” enough, or your manner of making wuduis not quite “Hanafi,” “Shafi,” “Maliki,” or “Hanbali” enough, or your religious services are not quite “Masjid” enough, or your chicken is not quite “Halal” enough, I’m sorry. And for every Labor Day weekend when you’ve felt divided in your heart, wondering “When will we everdo this thing right and figure out how we can pool our collective resources to have ONE, big convention?,” I’m sorry. And for every time a Muslim has tried to bait you with a question about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, trying to force you to condemn him—turning it into some sort of binary litmus test of true iman—with reckless and irresponsible disregard for the historical fact that he was among the first Black men in America to ever do anythingmeaningful for the upliftment and betterment of Black people, I’m sorry. And for every20time you’ve heard of an African-American brother who tried to bring home a South Asian or Arab sister to meet his parents, only to learn that her parents would rather commit suicide than let their daughter marry a “Black Muslim” (a/k/a “Bilalian brother”), even as they cheer hypocritically at stadium style speeches by Imams Siraj Wahhaj, Zaid Shakir, Johari Abdul Malik, or others—or get in line to bring one of them to speak at their multi-million dollar fundraiser for yet another superfluous suburban mosque, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m very, very sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I want every African-American Muslim brother and sister to know that I am ashamed of this treatment that you have received and, in many cases, continue to receive, over the decades. I want you to know that I am aware of it. I am conscious of the problem. (Indeed, I am even conscious that I myself am part of the problem since curing hypocrisy begins by looking in the mirror.) I am not alone in this apology. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of young American Muslims just like me, born to immigrant parents who originate from all over the Muslim world. We get it, and we too are sick of the putrid stench of racism within our own Muslim communities. Let us pledge to w ork on this problem together, honestly validating our own and one another’s insecurities, emotions, and feelings regarding these realities. Forgiveness is needed to right past wrongs, yet forgiveness is predicated on acknowledging wrongdoing and sincerely apologizing. Let us make a blood oath of sorts. When the bulldozer came to place the final mounds of dirt over the tomb of Imam WDM, I was standing under a nearby tree, under the light drizzle that had just begun (perhaps as a sign of mercy dropping from the heavens as the final moments of the burial were drawing to a close), and I was talking to a dear friend and sister in faith, whose family has been closely aligned with Imam WDM for decades. She shared with me a story that her father had just related to her about the passing of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1975 (the same year I was born, incidentally). She told me that her father described the scene in the immediate aftermath of Elijah’s demise: utter confusion and chaos within the NOI and the communities surrounding it. There was much debate and discord about what direction the NOI would take, and many were still in shock and denial that the founder had actually died. Out of the midst of that confusion arose Imam WDM, and along with his strong leadership came an even more, perhaps20surprisingly courageous direction: the path away from the Black nationalism, pan-Africanism, and proto-religious beliefs of his father, and instead the unequivocal charge toward mainstream Islam, the same universal and cosmopolitan faith held and practiced by over a billion adherents worldwide. In this manner, her father explained, the death of Elijah Muhammad became a definitive end to a chapter in our collective history, and the resulting re-direction by Imam WDM marked the beginning of the next, far better, chapter in that unfolding history. Maybe I am just an idealistic fool, or maybe Pharaoh Sanders was right about the Creator’s Master Plan, but I sincerely believe that all we have to do—all of us together: Black folks, South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis), Arabs from every part of the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asians (Indonesians and Malaysians), Persians, Turks, Latinos, assorted Muslims of all stripes, colors, and backgrounds, and yes, even our White Muslim brothers and sisters—is live up to a simple promise to one another: No matter what happens, in good times and in bad, we have to be the brothers and sisters no one expects us to be. It is hoped that the passing of Imam WDM will also mark the end of a chapter in our collective American Muslim history, and perhaps now, in earnest, we can all look together toward The Third Resurrection. May God mend our broken hearts, lift our spirits, purify our souls, heal the rifts between our communities, unify our aims, remove our obstacles, defeat our enemies, and bless and accept our humble offerings and service. ——————————————- © 2008 Azhar Usman | 10 Ramadan 1429 | 11 September 2008 About the Author Azhar Usman is a Chicago-based, full-time standup comedian. He is co-founder of “Allah Made Me Funny—The Official Muslim Comedy Tour,” which has toured extensively all over the world. He is frequently interviewed, profiled, and quoted in the press, and he is an advisor to the Inner-city Muslim Action Network’s Arts and Culture programs. Mr. Usman is also a co-founding board member of The Nawawi Foundation, a non-profit American Muslim research institution. He considers himself a citizen of the world and holds degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Minnesota Law School. Born and raised in Chicago, his parents originally hail from Bihar, India. DISCLAIMER: The views and emotions expressed in this essay are those of the author and are not necessarily held, advocated, or even endorsed by any of the institutions with which he may be affiliated.

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Sincerity

And I’m back.

I’ve run into a mental road block, and with life comes strife so I hadn’t been much of a writing mood lately. Over the last few months I have had ideas–the most recent being a humorous one inspired my James Westray–but I decided to go with a subject as rare as a three-legged man. Joke intentional.

Relationships fail when they lack sincerity. Endeavors fail when the one who strives lacks sincerity. Intentions may accomplish simple goals, but the best of intent fails when it lacks sincerity.

Let us define sincerity first.

Sincerity:  Freedom of deceit, hypocrisy, or duplicity. Synonyms–truth, condor, frankness. See honor

Simple enough? I would like to take the definition a step further:  “Having intent completely in line with a stated purpose.” (This one is mine)

I know some folks who are very good at appearances. They love to pray publicly, speak of religion constantly, question the faith and sincerity of others, quick to call others a hypocrit–but cannot be counted on to keep their word for anything. Sadly, everyone seems to know where they stand except those they manipulate and themselves. I would say that such people lack sincerity.

  • Doing a good deed for praise
  • Achieving excellence for admiration of others
  • Pursuing a goal for any reason other than simply acheiving that goal
  • Being selfish

Let me relay a story.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) walked in as his wife had washed some clothes, and was folding the clothes and applying perfume. As she packaged the clothes up to take from the house Prophet Muhammad asked her where she was going. His wife answered, to give these clothes to the homeless.

No one could see what she was doing in the house but her husband. She was giving her clothes to the poor, and treated those clothes as if she were giving them to a queen. No doubt, the blessings she would receive for the deed were increased because of the sincerity she must have had in doing so. I would like to suggest that we all have various reasons for the things we do. Sometimes we do those things for money. Sometimes we do things for love. Sometimes we do them for pride and ego. But the greatest reason for doing anything is for the pleasure of God–we do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because God would want us to.

I have seen God-fearing men open liquor stores and night clubs. Celebrities and organizations publish press releases when they hold benefits for the poor. Gifted athletes create million dollar organizations in order to give 50 kids a single summer of football camp. No person knows our intentions when we do a good deed, but God always knows. When our intention is pure, and contains no selfish motive–no deceit–the outcome is concentrated and pure. When it is laced with ego, greed, and hypocrisy–it becomes watered down and diluted.

Today I heard a beautiful sermon that confirms something I have been doing for years. The Imam spoke of men dropping on their knees to ask Allah to get them out of a financial bind. But when we get up, do we just wait for blessings to drop out of the sky? Or do we get to work and hope that our prayer had given our efforts a shot of energy from our Creator? One thing we can do is purify what little wealth God has given us regularly–whether we want something or not. We purify this wealth by sharing the little we have with someone who has less. It cures us of selfishness, and makes us grateful for what we do have. God says that  He blesses us so that we can bless others. How arrogant are we to think that we deserve all that we have just because WE deserve it! He gives us an abundance for the benefit of others. And remember this:  God tells us that when we give Sadaqa (charity) it reaches HIS hands before it reaches the poor. If you were giving expired food from your cupboard to the poor–and you think that is a “good deed”–would you give that same unhealthy food if the one who was to eat it was God Himself? Remember, all of our good efforts will be rewarded, but they are rewarded extra when they are sincere.

Another thing we can do is to be sincere in our work. If we work with the knowledge that God has our back, would we be pessimistic or optimistic? If you work while knowing that your effort is going to be successful, the outcome would certainly be different if you thought you were working alone.   <—- This is some advice I could use right now.

So today’s post isn’t old know-it-all Mustafa Akamo lecturing you all on some shit I’m trying to teach. I’m just having some thoughts about what I need to remember, and I’m letting you in on the conversation.

The soapbox will be back tomorrow, and I’ll be back to my old cocky, smart assed self. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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How to Deal with an Ex that Likes to Fight

I don’t know if you can tell, but this is a subject that I hold dear to my heart (yuck!) and have a lot of experience with. Lord knows what it is about me, that although I meet all kinds of women with all types of temperaments, I only seem to marry the ones with the hot temper. AND, they are the kind of women who don’t let me see that temper until we’re married.

Or is it that I get married too soon? 😉

Well, once the inevitable happens–cause you know us brothers don’t put up with SHIT these days–you break up, and now that you don’t have to listen to the bullshit, she (or he) feels like they are going to give you a piece of their mind every time you get together. So what do you do? I mean, whether or not you have children, property, or unresolved issues–you are no longer attached. So that means, you have the option of hanging up the phone, going home, ignoring the emails and texts. Why, my brother–why, my sister–are you listening to the yapping?

Let me tell you a story. Recently, I was getting wore out by both of my children’s mothers. One was texting me to death, the other was emailing me hate letters. While whining to my sister about it, she made a point that she often makes–which I normally deny–that they just want some attention and even negative attention in the form of an argument makes their day. So this day, I committed myself to ignoring the both of them, and letting them know that I was planning to end all communication when they got this way… and guess what. After a few attempts to reach me, both of them stopped. I actually told my baby’s mother that I was sick of her, and was planning to move out of state–even out the country–and she could have the baby all to herself, since she was constantly denying me access to him, and that I would form my relationship with him when he was grown. I told the both of them that I no longer wished to speak to either of them ever again. They treat me as a deadbeat Dad, so I’m going to show them what a deadbeat Dad is.

I love it. Both got apologetic. Both calmed the fuck down and got respectful. And both have lain the hell off of me. I see my baby boy whenever I want now. What the hell.

I’ve concluded that my sister was right. When I’m done with a broad, I loathe speaking to her. But when I still love a woman, I call her all the time. The difference is that I treat all my women–team members as well as exes–well all the damned time. So I rarely get resistance when I do call them. But my exes don’t know how to treat a brother (which is why their asses are exes) and so, when they contact me, it’s an unpleasant experience. They realize it, and the only way they know how to communicate with me is by being a fucking bitch about it. When I say that I’m fed up and will not be controlled through my children, and do not want to ever hear their voices again, they panic and drop the crazy-bitch thing. I don’t fucking get it, but I get it.

Don’t give them the time of day and either they will get to stepping, or they will give you want you want to get what they want:  attention.

My big kids’ mom, I hate to fucking death. I don’t even hate George Bush that damned bad. She will never get an audience with me unless one of the kids needs something. But at least by saying that I am going to the Carribean (because I will pick up and move in a minute and she knows it), she realizes she won’t have me around, so she knows when to shut the fuck up. I can almost guarantee the same will be for you.

But one of the rules of power is that you never make a concession or a threat that you have no intention of keeping. If you say, Bitch I will never speak to you again, but you come over and fuck when she calls you… she will never believe you. You have to say what you mean (or threat it) and mean what you say. I would never leave my kids, but I will take them and leave town if I have to; I’d rather die or go to jail than ruin my health over some broad I’d rather never see again. When you tell them “don’t call me again”, don’t take their calls. They’ll know you mean business.

Good luck, and thanks for visiting my blog.

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