Wedding Bells

I went to a beautiful wedding this weekend. A classmate of mine married her boyfriend of six years. They are an amazing couple, perfect fit. It was a dream wedding, the kind you see in movies. Everything was well done, with the kind of class and attention to minute details that only the affluent could buy. My friend has told me about some of the snide comments other grad students made about her background. Sure, her father is a wealthy lawyer who’s worked some high profile cases. And sure her new husband comes from a wealthy shipping family. But they are not the Onassis family, dammit!. A lot of graduate students take on this air of poverty, as if they become the long suffering proletariat. Though this was not a proletariat wedding, I have an admiration for my friend’s realness. She also has a sharp mind and a great sense of humor. She’s also not full of the pretensions that mark a lot of academics. Though they envy the world of my friend’s parents and in-laws, almost all of them come from privileged backgrounds. Their parents are lawyers, doctors, professors, and business men. They all exist in a world that seems to operate parrallel my own. When you see the mating habit and partnering customs of your peers, nothing hits home more than the trials and tribulations of being a single (and trying hard not to be bitter) black woman.

As I was cleaning up my hard drive, I came across some scraps of articles I pasted into a word document:

“African-American men are much more likely than white or Hispanic men to engage in polygamous relationships, the scholars found. About 21 percent of the African-American men had at least two partners at the time of the survey, compared with 6 percent of men overall in Cook County.”
“Furthermore, the researchers found that polygamy is more common among better educated black men, who presumably have more income. As a result, the number of men available for stable marriages in the African-American community is reduced, leading to the large differences in marriage rates between African-Americans and whites, the researchers pointed out. About 57 percent of black men have been married, compared with about 72 percent of white men, according to census figures.

from article: “Urban areas organized in well developed partnering markets,” University of Chicago research shows

“African Americans marry at a significantly lower rate than other racial groups in the United States. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that by the age of 30, 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanics and Asians will marry, but only 52 percent of black women will do so.”
from: “Marriage rate low in black community”

The numbers of “Blacks who marry whites is still small, just 6 pecent of b lack men and 2 percent of b lack women. “source unknown

This data are like bombs leaving lots of food for thought. There was a movie that came out in January that sent a message to black women which basically told us that our problem is that we aren’t open to dating outside our race. I know a number of black women who don’t, but then again I know a number of black women that have never had a man who isn’t black approach them romantically. Maybe they missed the signals. I also know from experience that black women dating outside their race is looked upon disapprovingly (even at times by black men who themselves are in interracial relationships).

Last year, there was a discussion about serial polygamy organized by the Black Graduate students. I bounced out of that meeting because for some polygamy was a theoretical issue, but I had dealt with that on a real level. I don’t know that stats for how many black Muslim do it, but it is a rather common phenomena, much like our high divorce rates. (These viewpoints are mainly on sunni Muslims, as I don’t know much about the marriage and divorce rates in the Nation of Islam) A number of my second generation immigrant Muslim friends commented on the instability of marriages in the African American Muslim community. They also have noted the tendency for out in the open polygamous relationships among African American Muslim men. Brothers are real quick to be like, “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!! Three strikes you’re OOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUTTTTTT!!” My friend’s husband divorced her three times, and then she had to get married to someone else and then they got back together. He married someone else on the side, then divorced her, but then somehow after their third child they got back together again and are living abroad. Last thing I heard was that they were happy.

Well black women, maybe you found a group who has worse stats than you. Black Muslim women, yeah. We’re like 2 percent the population. Muslims do heavy recruiting in the prisons, meaning that brothas who are unable to secure stable jobs are over represented. And if you’re married to one who is doing well for himself and is attractive, chances are that there will be sistas out there willing to fill in three of the empty slots (he is allowed four under Shariah after all). Also, Muslims do not recognize a marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man. But a Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish woman. Not fair? Who said life is fair, the issue is how you navigate the constraints, disparities, and inequalities. Sigh, I guess I shouldn’t complain about the statistics. I am one of the lucky 52 percent thirty year olds. I got married. Sure, I am divorced but the cup is half full, right?

(Disclaimer: This is not to say that all African American Muslim men are naturally inclined towards polygamy. There are some really great families out there and really great husbands. The only problem is that suitable mates for an educated sista are in low supply. )

Thirty One Years

Dang, one minute ago I turned 31. Now I am officially in my thirties. Yesterday, I was at Rose Market and bought some tobacco for my hookah. I got carded, the cashier looked at my ID and said, “You’re my age, I thought you were seventeen.” Thank You mr. cashier man at the bomb persian market!! You made a thirty-something year old woman smile.

31 seemed like forever when I was 21. I just wonder how a decade past by so fast. I definitely could not forsee that I’d be where I’m out. I was married, and thought I’d have four babies by now and be teaching in some Islamic school and writing. Now I’m single renegade African American muslimah in a PhD program. Watch out now!!

Thirty one? What can I say about that and what I’ve seen and what I’ve done. I’m in the process of pruning so that I can grow. Things have been coming crazy full circle for me. I’ve found that I’ve grown a lot, but I still have many of the same faults and shortcomings. Still a push over, still got a crazy temper, still moody and introspective at times, and ridiculously silly on other occasions. Sometimes I’m all world weary and feel way beaten down beyond my years. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t worked hard enough and done enough.

I have times of regret and look back at all the stupidity I got myself into. I remember when my mind used to be razor sharp, but feel as if my head is full of useless garbage. I dunno, maybe it was those occassional and not so occasional smoke sessions in the past or maybe it is grad school. I can look back and locate times when I was so far from my true self. I can look back and have memories of being in some trouble I didn’t need to be in. Regret is a useless emotion, but as one gets older you begin to realize fully the consequences of your decisions. I can tell the shorties why a lot of choices are wack, yeah I know from experience. Before I went to school, I felt like my life was on pause. Now as I look back it seems like it all went fast forward. Right now, I wonder if I can press pause or slow-mo and catch up with time as it slips by…

31 years not quite wiser but sharper, rawer, and snazzier.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But You Can Get it On DVD

A number of people heard about it but they couldn’t get their paws on it. I finally saw the film version of one of my favorite books, Sam Greenlee’s “Spook Who Sat by the Door.” I think I read the book when I was around 18 or 19. My mentor, friend, boss, and lonely visionary who helped guide and shape my career recommended the book. For years this brotha tried to reach out to the youth and guide them. Yeah, in his own way he was a spook who sat by the door, but people weren’t trying to feel him though. I recommend the book, if you can find a copy, cop it. There’s three left on Amazon. Greenlee wrote his book in 1966, but black community is still rife with the same problems 40 years later. 30 years after the release of the movie, the issues are still real. Too bad a number of us have abandoned the movement towards true liberation and freedom. Greenlee calls out the Bling Blingers, the black bourgeoisie, and the failed black leadership. He calls for grass roots activism of the working class and reflects on the grass roots movement of the sixties that was led by educated elites who did not subscribe to elitism.

Months ago, I had a dream that my friends made a film. That dream was full of powerful symbols that indicating to me that such a project would be uplifting to world weary audiences. Greenlee wrote that two professors from the University of Toledo raised $800,000 to make the movie out of the black community. This sends a positive message about what can be done, he says with the technology now people can make purposeful films. Although Greenlee’s screenplay highlights the violence of black rage against an oppressive society, the message is not about violent action. But, clearly it is a call to action. I feel called. Rent the movie, better yet buy the movie, or track somebody down so you can borrow it.

Here’s a link to a review (warning for those who haven’t read the book: Spoiler!!)


As much as I loved the movie, as a woman I had some problems with the way women were depicted in the film. This is why “Battle of Algiers” is so fresh. Women played a critical role in the resistance movement. In fact, women played an important part in every successful revolution and independence movement. Who do you think ran supplies, hid insurgents, and suffered threats of violence and rape at the hands of enemies? Some of our most visionary activists who have written blue prints on revolution tend to ignore women’s active role in social movements, resistance, and revolution. A number of black women academics have spoken on Fanon and his macho revolution. One of my main criticisms of Fanon’s writings is that he focuses only on men’s roles in revolution. His own personal choices reflect his own inconsistencies. The colonized are not only men of color, but women of color. It appears that black men like Fanon to liberate themselves, while leaving black women in passive roles. To me, Fanon isn’t so revolutionary. He doesn’t acknowledge black women’s constributions, instead he sought as he elaborates in “Black Faces, White Masks,” the white man’s prize, his women. (I know I may be slammed by the brothers, we can enter in to dicourse in the comments and you can correct me if I’m wrong.) So, as I read “Wretched of the Earth,” I couldn’t find a place for me in his vision of world revolution. He dropped some seeds for his students, but even the student must criticize their teachers. This is how we push forward in intellectual development.

I propose a sequel, “The Revolution Pt. 2: the Sister’s Struggle.” Yeah, that plot line is going to be crazy complicated as sistas gotta fight double oppression. She is going to be fighting beside her man, not behind her man. She is going to hold it down in his absence, even when he’s chasing fool’s gold. She’s going to liberate him from those mental shackles. Togther, they are going to be on the vangard of a movement to end imperialism and worlwide oppression. Black women aren’t waiting to be liberated, we just want to be respected partners in the struggle for liberation. I haven’t forgotten my Muslim sistas and all oppressed people world-wide. Each one of us wants to to live lives of dignity and security, but some of us work to ensure that for others.
Peace to all the activists and righteous teachers out there!!

Like Water for Chocolate

I am not normally a big fan of holidays, but I was sad to hear that my mother wasn’t cooking anything for fourth of July. I love my mother’s cooking. Her recipe for potato salad is simple but so scrumptious. Her chicken and beef ribs are crazy delicious, marinated slow cooked. She makes homemade barbecue sauce, I can almost smell it simmering over the stove. She’s been stressed out lately and cooking a lot less and the meals have been less extravagant.

Everybody loves their momma’s cooking. But I’m telling you my momma and grandma cook some screaming food. I, myself, have spun off into my own realm of ethnic food. While my grandma has that good ole Georgia style of cooking, my mother adopted some influences from her loved ones and neighbors. There are still some smells, tastes and textures that bring me joy. I grew up eating a mixture of soul food and West Indian flavors. Greens, salt fish and shredded cucumbers, plantains, slow cooked pot roasts, black eyed peas, fresh fish, fried chicken, curried goat, red beans and rice, pallau, macaroni and cheese, rich sauces, spicy crab boils, candied yams, sweet potato pie, barbecues and chicken dumpling soup. Each dish has a special memory of home.

Some things I learned to master, with my own flair. When I lived at home, each one of us became my mother’s apprentice in the kitchen. She would tell me her cooking secrets, add this, brown that, thicken this, stir that in. As a kid, I would experiment in the kitchen, but it wasn’t until I was about 12 that I really started to put an effort into learning how to cook.

Before my sister was born, my mother had just me and my brother. But she would cook up a feast on holidays. I think she cooked to remind herself of her mother, sisters, and brother who were still in New Jersey. Certain things we craved from New Jersey, things I remembered by smell and taste decades before. Like Hoagies and cheesesteak sandwiches. But mom’s cooking was always around in abundance during Thanksgiving and Christmas. No one cared about the holiday itself. My brother always begrudgingly left his room and ate. We always had leftovers for days. But every year I learned more about my mother’s techniques. She spent hours in that kitchen sauteeing, simmering, basting, mixing, braising, and baking. When I became Muslim, I had to alter the family secrets. I couldn’t cook with the pork, I found smoked turkey, turkey sausage, beef bacon. I learned to make the soul food that reminded me of holidays when our small family came together.

When I went over friends’ houses, they introduced me to new dishes and types of food. I fell in love with mid-eastern food and experimented nearly daily on the family that I worked for as a nanny. At the same time, I fell in love with Creole food and the flavors of New Orleans. I cooked for friends and family, gatherings, and all of those smells and tastes are part of my memories.

I read “Like Water for Chocolate” and the passion that went into each prepared dish in that novel. I think of the sweet passion and love that went into some of my best culinary creations. I haven’t been able to replicate those same tastes and textures because I haven’t been able to put my whole soul into preparing a dish. I remember in my early twenties, after preparing a dish with love, he looked over the table and said, “This reminds me of my grandma.” Single and living by myself, I stopped cooking like that. Food was a communal thing. Loved ones had to be there when I cooked. I had to see the enjoyment on their face as they enjoyed the textures and complexity that went into each dish I prepared.

This year, I had been bragging about my culinary skills, but began worrying that my skills were slipping. I remember practicing one day, in preparation that I would be called on it. In a poorly equipped kitchen, I attempted to reclaim my glory. Not my best work, but not bad either. Like my momma’s, he said. But, I’m going to go visit mine this summer and work on making some dishes like my momma’s.