Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Autumn Flashbacks

Fall 2014 - Harlem

It's so interesting how autumn has a smell to me.  It smells and feels different from other seasons.  It smells fresh and oddly feels hopeful and new.  Every. Single. Fall.

I feel like I'm reborn in October every year... Though those that know me well also know that I lost something five years ago in October.

When I was in Nigeria, I remember seeing my mom furiously packing up all our belongings.  For months she seemed to have been scurrying around, scheming, trying desperately to get us to America.
I didn't even know what "America" really meant.  I just knew that it was where my (always sleeping) sister had moved to earlier in the year.  It was the place where my brother disappeared to the year before.  And the place where my dad was living for longer than I could remember...

America seemed like a vacuum.  Like the place where you went to get away and start a new life.  The place where you traveled and never needed to return.


Where was America anyway? The location didn't matter to me much.  Knowing I could reset my 13 years of living in Nigeria meant the world to me.  Maybe I would no longer be the tiniest or youngest person in my class? Maybe I could finally have friends that didn't know me as "so-and-so's sister"? Maybe I could stop keeping so many family secrets... I wouldn't have to tell my neighbors that my dad was still in America because my dad would be right there with me. I can just be.

I forgot that we would need to leave mama and Aunty Oye behind... And my pet cat. How did I forget?  I remember seeing them peel away in the danfo loaded with memories.  The childhood pictures I enjoyed poring over on rainy days when I couldn't play outside went with them. Memories of making my aunt reenact stories from my naming ceremony for hours.  Memories of eavesdropping on arguments between my mom and her sister; I wasn't supposed to listen but I did anyway.  My mom always seemed so tough and Aunty Oye always caved. She was so sweet -- I was never going to be that sweet to my big sister! Hmph!!

When they left, it never occurred to me that I would never see them again...

We weren't allowed to tell a lot of people that we were emigrating to the U.S. But I remember being allowed to tell a few friends that I was leaving. I remember that a few of my friends wrote me letters; when I had difficult days adjusting to high school in America, I would read those letters and remember that there were people who loved me and thought I was normal.

When I left my friends, it never occurred to me that I would never see them again.

You know what else Autumn smells like? Loss.

Fall 2014 - Harlem

But maybe it is good to lose certain things to make room for other things.

Can it stop being so cold though? It's Autumn for crying out loud, New York!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm scared.

I'm scared.

Every time I see someone in a police uniform, my stomach is in knots. I tell myself: don't make eye contact. Maybe if you just keep walking and don't make eye contact they'll know you're not a threat.  I saw an officer on the subway platform after work tonight and I felt like I was going to vomit when he did a double take on me.

Is that normal?

Does the first shot come after a warning or do you just feel the bullet tear into your flesh?

What will they say about me if I'm assaulted by a police officer? Will they say I provoked the officer? What will they say that I did wrong?

It can't be normal to be afraid. Can it? I wasn't always afraid but why am I scared now?

Have I changed?

Last I checked I'm still pint sized. You know me.  But will you believe that I did nothing to justify being killed by a police officer? You should. Nothing about me has changed.  I'm still the person you know. Those who have been killed deserve the same benefit of the doubt.

My mind has changed.

I'm afraid because it is no longer realistic for me to expect that I'll be given the benefit of the doubt and spared long enough to explain myself.

I'm scared that I'll be ended before I am begun.

Initially I was frustrated and upset when I heard about Eric Garner. Then I heard about Mike Brown and today, the lack of justice for John Crawford and a new shooting of a 12-year-old boy DeAntae Farrow.  I'm reminded also of Kendrec McDade, Rekia Boyd, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell.  

Now I'm confused and scared.

I saw pictures of some officers in full gear wearing wrist bands with the words: "I am Darren Wilson." Does that mean those officers too will shoot me if I raise my hands in surrender? Who will speak for me when I am gone?

As I write this my heart feels like it is being squeezed tight by fear.

Will they know who I am if they stop me, frisk me or shoot me? Who will speak for me? Who will tell my story?

I envy you if you don't live with this fear...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yoruba Consultant? Rediscovering My Roots!

So it turns out, I may have a new career in my future: consultant on Yoruba affairs (to my friends who are dating/marrying men or women of Yoruba descent).

It's a hidden blessing that certain Yoruba actions that are expected of a young person are second nature to me.  I take for granted that being raised in Nigeria by Yoruba parents, I automatically kneel down to greet Yoruba parents, I happily run errands for Yoruba elders, and generally demonstrate to Yoruba elders that I willingly accede to their exercise of a certain level of authority over me.  It would feel unnatural not to do these things.

I've never considered that my upbringing and my familiarity with Yoruba culture could actually be beneficial to anyone.

For a while, I actually intentionally distanced myself from my Yoruba heritage because I was ashamed of it.

In high school, when my new classmates learned that I recently emigrated from Nigeria, they asked how I was adjusting to walking to school and sitting in a class.  I thought they were just being friendly, but they weren't. When I responded that I've always gone to school, they pretended to be shocked and asked if it was just as fast to swing on trees as it was to walk to school.  I couldn't even respond.

I was teased even further when my classmates asked me to stop acting like an "Oreo".  I remember thinking: "How does one act like a cookie?" I felt so confused.  I had no clue what that meant and it must have showed on my face because my classmate then explained to me that because I spoke with a "fake British accent", it made people think that I was ashamed of being black on the outside since I was really white on the inside.

I remember going home crying. I had never had anyone challenge my blackness before.

And then there was my weird, long name, Adejumoke. (It is pronounced phonetically: Ah-deh-jew-mow-keh!) Anyone who knew me in Nigeria, knows how much I love my name. My name has such significance in my family.  As the last of five children, it is easy to feel (or be) overlooked, but I never felt that way.  I felt very loved and I think it is in part because of my name. Everyone back home is familiar with the structure of my name "Ade" (Ah-deh) is a prefix that each of my siblings has and literally means "crown".  It signifies royalty and it connects me with everyone on my father's side of the family. "Jumoke" (Jew-mow-keh) means that everyone came together to love and care for me. Apparently, there was some disagreement in my family before my birth, but my naming ceremony brought everyone back together and restored the family.

There are many nicknames that go with my given name such as Jummy, Jum-Jum, Keh-Keh, and especially for me Jay Jay since my family name starts with a "J". Family and friends in Nigeria often called me by these nicknames, but they knew the source of the nicknames.  They knew my real name, so it didn't feel as though I was ignoring a part of my history or culture by using a nickname.

I wish someone had sent my teachers a memo about my name before I came to the U.S. I think they never quite knew what to make of me or my name.  Aside from being 14 in the second semester of 11th grade and graduating at 15, I was often sitting in the back of the class at a table by myself because I was either the only student or one of two students in whatever was the honors version of my classes.  Technically, I should have been in the Magnet program but because I was transferring from Nigeria, I was never quite looped into the system.

Roll call was the worst of times.  Every time a teacher got to my name during roll call, he would take a long pause.  Invariably after the long pause he would spell my name out loud.  If I could have turned red from embarrassment, I would have. After a few days, when my teachers would pause, I would pipe up and say "That's me.  It's Adejumoke or Jumoke.  But I go by 'Jay Jay'."  Eventually, this evolved to Jay since my classmates decided that I reminded them of JJ from Good Times and they added "Dynamite" every time they said my name. *Ugh*

It just felt easier to not be Nigerian or Yoruba.

To add insult to injury, in my 20s my then-partner who was also Yoruba seemed to turn his disdain for Yoruba culture on me and was eager to Americanize me. (Self-hate is real.) I was not allowed to speak my language because it made me sound poor and no Americans would want to be friends with me.  I was told that I spoke English with an accent and that I would be judged for it. I was chastised often for not being American enough.

At a certain point, I felt willing to lose every part of me that was Yoruba.

But in releasing myself from that partnership, I rediscovered my roots. I feel happy to reconnect with my Yoruba heritage.

I've spent the past three years learning about my culture again, and it is as though I never really fully left it. I spend time asking my mom about natural remedies and there is such a wealth of information that I had never considered.

And this weekend my Yoruba upbringing came in handy at my close friend's wedding.  The wedding was beautiful and I had a blast.  My mom would have been so proud if she was there.  I was kneeling down, getting drinks for my new brother's mom, joking around with my new brother's mom in full on Yoruba and we even ended up dancing to King Sunny Ade's Ja Funmi (Fight for me) and Wizkid's Pakurumo (It is a slang for dance and have a good time).  It felt amazing and I feel blessed by it.  It felt natural.

So... if there's anyone out there in my network who needs advice regarding any Yoruba matters, let's talk! I found such joy in this experience that I'm opening myself up to it.

kinky chic

Monday, May 26, 2014

Are We Friends?

I read an article recently that made me reflect on my relationship with some of my friends.

I'm the last of five children and many people assume that because I come from a large family, I have a large group of friends, but I actually don't.  I've always felt a bit out of place. To an extent, I consider my family to be my closest friends, and outside my family, I have very few people that I trust and that I get close to.

Growing up, I was always the youngest kid in my classes since I was enrolled in Kindergarten at 3 and skipped a few grades.  When I would bring friends home to meet my siblings, those friends would suddenly no longer be my close friends anymore.  They would get along with my siblings a lot more than with me (likely because of the age difference?), and even though we were friends first, they would no longer be close friends with me. This happened so often that I got used to losing friends or at least sharing them to my exclusion.  Initially, it hurt a lot to lose so many friends, but I accepted that maybe we just weren't as close as I assumed.

Also, I confided in no one outside of my family so I never really felt comfortable venting with my friends or calling them to share my problems because I was raised to keep my struggles hidden.  I actually don't think I know how to call my friends and shoot the shit (so to speak). It feels so strange because I'm so used to solving all my problems on my own.

For the past few weeks, I've been feeling a bit odd about a number of my friendships because I started to notice that even though I may think I'm close to someone, my definition of close may not be the same as theirs.  I feel like the forgotten friend.  I'm not so distant as to be excluded from attending your wedding altogether, but I'm certainly not bridesmaid material.  I've never even been asked to be a bridesmaid (and I have three siblings).  And to be fair, I'm not sure if I've ever expected to be asked even though I've wanted it.

I'm the forgotten friend.

I'm usually the one you forget to tell your good news, and I'm convinced that there's something about what I'm projecting to others about the type of friendship that I want that makes this so.

The truth is I'm quick to cut off friendships that feel one sided instead of actually speaking with my friend about my concerns.  I have this naive belief that friendship should be very easy, and any tiny bump in the road feels like a wall.  I want to save myself from future heartache by ending the friendship, but maybe herein lies my problem.  The energy I'm projecting is a lack of willingness to fight for my friendship.

I'm so busy projecting this self-sufficient image that I forget that I can lean on my friends.  Maybe my close friendships aren't that close at all...

I have been struggling with one friendship in particular for the past few weeks, and one thing I can say about this friendship is that I don't ever have to be afraid that she'll leave me alone.  We may not always agree.  We may fight like siblings, but she has a very special place in my heart.  She knows we owe each other a heart-to-heart soon to catch up, but I know she's going through some serious shit right now and she needs a shoulder to lean on.  I'll be that.

I may not see myself as a great friend all the time, but I'm going to fight for this one and see where it goes.

Monday, May 5, 2014


There are varying reports on how this happened exactly, but this much is indisputable: On April 15, 2014, in Northern Nigeria, a large number* of girls were kidnapped from their boarding school.  They were supposed to be taking proctored exams that day, but instead members of the terrorist group Boko Haram put them into trucks, buses and vans, and burned down their school.  Days later, some or all were sold across the border as child brides.

*Something as simple as the actual number of kidnapped girls is yet to be confirmed and it has been three weeks since they were kidnapped. I've been reports that say there were only 100+ kidnapped, and others that say almost 300 were taken. News outlets, do better.

For at least two weeks, no major news outlet said anything about the kidnapping.  It seemed like no one cared. In the eyes of the world, these girls are nameless, voiceless things, not real people. No one seems to care about their promise. No one seems to care that in Northern Nigeria where most girls are simply expected to learn how to be good wives, these girls were building their minds.  The very act of going to school was their rebellion against patriarchy.

When I lived in Nigeria, I remember going to after-school programs on my own (what Nigerians call "lesson").  I would walk long distances in new places to get to lesson and head back home on my own without incident. I was only 9 or 10 years old when I began going to lesson on my own--I was already in middle school by then. I would confidently leave my school with my friends and walk to lesson.  We did this on purpose because it would mean we could use the money we had been given to take public transportation on yummy street food. Street food was forbidden in my home but it was my secret guilty pleasure.  We would eat suya (usually the really fatty cheap kind) and dundun wrapped in newspapers.

I could have been one of these girls. Taken away simply because I was young and vulnerable. I don't even know if I would have had the courage to fight.  But children should not be expected to fight on their own.  Adults are supposed to fight to protect children.  

We failed these girls for so long. No one cared; no one looked.  Even the First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Jonathan, seems to shed crocodile tears as she does nothing to hasten the search.  Does she honestly believe that having a few more proctors would have stopped this kidnapping? I felt like I was watching a really bad actress try to cry, and I'm offended.

I feel powerless to do anything to find these girls, but at least I can talk about these girls often and make sure we don't forget.

Today I saw list of the names of some of the kidnapped girls.  This list has not been verified but it is something.  Read their names aloud.
1. Deborah Abge
2. Awa Abge ”
3. Hauwa Yirma ”
4. Asabe Manu ”
5. Mwa Malam pogu ”
6. Patiant Dzakwa ”
7. Saraya Mal. Stover ”
8. Mary Dauda ”
9. Gloria Mainta ”
10.Hanatu Ishaku ”
11. Gloria Dama ”
12. Tabitha Pogu ”
13. Maifa Dama ”
14. Ruth kollo ”
15. Esther Usman ”
16 Awa James
17 Anthonia Yahonna
18 Kume Mutah
19 Aisha Ezekial ”
20 Nguba Buba ”
21 Kwanta Simon.
22 Kummai Aboku.
23 Esther Markus
24 Hana Stephen.
25. Rifkatu Amos
26 Rebecca Mallum
27.Blessing Abana.
28. Ladi Wadai
29. Tabitha Hyelampa.
30 Ruth Ngladar .
31 Safiya Abdu .
32 Na’omi Yahonna.
33 Solomi Titus .
34Rhoda John
35 Rebecca Kabu
36. Christy Yahi.
37. Rebecca Luka.
38. Laraba John
39 Saratu Markus.
40. Mary Usman.
41 Debora Yahonna.
42.Naomi Zakaria
43 Hanatu Musa
44. Hauwa Tella
45.Juliana Yakubu.
46. Suzana Yakubu
47.Saraya Paul.
48. Jummai Paul
49. Mary Sule
50. Jummai John.
51.Yanke Shittima.
52. Muli Waligam .
53. Fatima Tabji.
54. Eli Joseph.
55.Saratu Emmanuel.
56. Deborah Peter.
57.Rahila Bitrus.
58. Luggwa Sanda.
59. Kauna Lalai.
60. Lydia Emmar.
61.Laraba Maman.
62.Hauwa Isuwa.
63. Confort Habila.
64. Hauwa Abdu.
65. Hauwa Balti.
66.Yana Joshua.
67.Laraba Paul.
68.Saraya Amos.
69. Glory Yaga.
70. Na’omi Bitrus.
71. Godiya Bitrus.
72. Awa Bitrus.
73. Na’omi Luka.
74. Maryamu Lawan.
75. Tabitha Silas.
76. Mary Yahona.
77. Ladi Joel.
78. Rejoice Sanki.
79. Luggwa Samuel.
80.Comfort Amos.
81. Saraya Samuel.
82. Sicker Abdul.
83.Talata Daniel.
84. Rejoice Musa.
85Deborah Abari.
86. Salomi Pogu.
87.Mary Amor.
88. Ruth Joshua.
89Esther John.
90. Esther Ayuba.
91. Maryamu Yakubu.
91. Zara Ishaku.
93. Maryamu Wavi
94. Lydia Habila.
95. Laraba Yahonna.
96. Na’omi Bitrus.
97.Rahila Yahanna.
98. Ruth Lawan.
99. Ladi Paul.
100 Mary Paul.
101. Esther Joshua.
102. Helen Musa.
103. Margret Watsai.
104. Deborah Jafaru.
105. Filo Dauda.
106. Febi Haruna.
107.Ruth Ishaku.
108.Racheal Nkeki.
109. Rifkatu Soloman.
110.Mairama yahaya.
111.Saratu Dauda.
112.Jinkai Yama.
113.Margret Shettima.
114.Yana yidau.
115. Grace Paul.
116. Amina Ali.
117. Palmata Musa
118. Awagana Musa
119. Pindar Nuhu
120.Yana Pogu.
121. Saraya Musa
122. Hauwa Joseph.
123. Hauwa kwakwi.
125. Hauwa Musa.
126. Maryamu Musa.
127. Maimuna Usman.
128. Rebeca Joseph.
129.Liyatu Habitu.
130. Rifkatu Yakubu.
131. Naomi Philimon.
132.Deborah Abbas.
133. Ladi Ibrahim.
134. Asabe Ali
135. Maryamu Bulama.
136.Ruth Amos.
137.Mary Ali
138. Abigail Bukar
139 Deborah Amos
140. Saraya Yanga
141. Kauna Luka
142. Christiana Bitrus
143.Yana Bukar
144. Hauwa peter
145.Hadiza Yakubu.
146.Lydia Simon
147. Ruth Bitrus .
148.Mary Yakubu
149.Lugwa Mutah.
150 Muwa Daniel.
151 Hanatu Nuhu
152. Monica Enoch.
153. Margret Yama.
154.Docas yakubu.
155. Rhoda peter
156. Rifkatu Galang
157. Saratu Ayuba.
158. Naomi Adamu.
159. Hauwa Ishaya
160. Rahap Ibrahim
162. Deborah Soloman.
163. Hauwa Mutah
164. Hauwa Takai.
165. Serah Samuel.
166. Aishatu Musa.
167. Aishatu Grema.
168. Hauwa Nkeki
169. Hamsatu Abubakar
170.Mairama Abubakar.
171 Hauwa Wule
172. Ihyi Abdu
173. Hasana Adamu.
174. Rakiya Kwamtah
175 Halima Gamba.
176. Aisha Lawan .
177. Kabu Malla
178. Yayi Abana.
179. Falta Lawan.
180. Kwadugu Manu

Sunday, April 6, 2014


I'm seriously loving this kinky chic life!

I had the privilege of sharing a monologue at a Project Curly event this afternoon at SubCulture, The Curly Monologues

Here's a video from last year's event:

And here is what I shared:
Have you ever fallen in love with one of your curls? I remember staring in the mirror at my loose curly hair and touching the back of my head to pull a few strands out -- just saying hello to my curls. The moment they popped back into place I knew I was in love.  My curls are a part of me and I love them.
He didn't love my curls.  We were on our way to an event one night and he asked if I would put relaxer on my edges so they wouldn't look so unrefined. Unsophisticated. Dirty. Poor.  My response should have been "So what?" I was too weak and I wanted a place to belong. The look in his eyes said, I'll accept you once you do this.  He said it would be weird if people saw my curly hair in pictures since my weave was so well styled.  After I put the chemicals in my hair, he asked me to leave it on for a long time since my hair was too curly to straighten quickly.  I thought my scalp was burning, but he told me that in order to be beautiful, I had to pay a price. When he called my hair unrefined, unsophisticated, dirty and poor, he was also referring to me as a whole. I needed to be tamed in order to be classy and accepted.
I tamed my curls and my spirit.  But my spirit could not be permanently contained.
He had to go.
I left.
In leaving, I regained my spirit. 
In leaving, I realize that being unrefined, unsophisticated, dirty and poor is part of my humanity.  My reality.  It is part of who I am, and it is not all of me. In being unrefined, I appreciate the little things.  I'm not above it all.  In being unsophisticated, I appreciate everyone that surrounds me without regard for status.  In being dirty, I have fun.  I'm as kinky as I want to be.  In being poor, I remain simple, want for nothing, and I see God. 
I fall in love with myself and my curls again.  I discovered there are five different textures of curls on my head alone. I'm amazed by these coils and blessed that they live on this head--and I've made sure they'll never leave since I've loc'd them permanently on my head.  I reach back into my history and the history of the women who had similar curls.  I'm learning that I come from a line of leaders and victors. We don't want to be tame.
He loves my curls. He calls them beautiful.  Rich. And he says they smell like home.  He touches my curls and wants to wash my hair.  He shows off my curls.  We hosted our first dinner and I was worried about my shrunken 'fro.  I told him my 'fro needed to be stretched out just a little before our party so my hair wouldn't look so short.  He smiled and said "When I look at your head, I see the sun. Your curls are rays of light." I did nothing to my hair that night, and I was perfectly happy.
He affirms what I already believe, my curls are me and we can never be tame.
Those who know me well know this story well already (or at least parts of it). I was so blessed to share and I feel so empowered by sharing.

Special thanks to Adria, Amber, Ben, Kelly, Kyle, Lauren and Paul who came to support me in person -- I love all of you more than I'd ever say in person, but I hope you know.  To those who supported this journey in spirit all the way from Arizona, Andrew, Aaron, Tim and Finnie, I can't wait to see you this week!

Oh by the way, I colored my locs :)

Kinky Chic

P.S. One thing I love about my family is that I never felt any pressure to do anything to my hair (or myself) other than let it be, and now, there's nothing but love for my locs (and me).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Should I Dye My Locs?

Yes, I know, my locs are already sporting an ombre with three different colors, but I need something new again :P  Look at the blonde streak (or section?) in the picture above.  Wouldn't I look great with a nice huge blonde streak?!?!?!?

Look at that color! I love the blonde with red for the summer. It looks so vibrant (like me).

Right now my locs are dark brown, light brown and blonde (at the tips), but I think red would add some warmth! I love the idea of introducing red to my locs. "Red. The blood of angry men..." (I watched Les Miserables on Broadway a few weeks ago and all the songs are still stuck in my head!)

I love the color work above and how the color is more concentrated and bright at the front of her head and darker at the back of her head.

Yep, I'm just itching to try something new again.  Don't judge me ;)

Kinky Chic

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oil Pulling

Those of you who know me relatively well, know that when I say I'm going to start a new lifestyle (kinky chic lifestyle for instance), I tend to dive in head first and border on obsessive when it comes to practicing and learning about my new lifestyle.  And this focus on purifying and cleansing my life has led me to many things including burning sage, using organic candles, shea butter soap, loc'ing my hair, and most recently: oil pulling!

For some background, according to The Chalk Board:
Oil pulling, or oil swishing is an ancient Ayurvedic [meaning: related to the knowledge of life; 5,000 years old] technique, touted by yogis as a natural way to strengthen the immune system by killing toxic yeast that makes its way from your stomach to mouth while you sleep. The science seems to stand sound: our mouths can determine non-oral health issues and unsurprisingly, dentists can diagnose acid reflux, diabetes and heart disease just by symptoms seen during normal check-ups. I was convinced and headed straight for my local specialty grocery store to invest in a jar of virgin unrefined coconut oil. You don’t have to use coconut, but I prefer it in lieu of sunflower and sesame because of its natural antifungal properties (and honestly, it tastes like a candy bar). Be warned: coconut oil comes semi-hardened so you must melt it in your mouth.
I felt results in a matter of days. My sinuses drained as I swished, I felt energetic and alert, and my gums and teeth felt much cleaner than with my normal brushing routine. (I should also mention here that you must scrape your tongue after you spit out the oil, or else you’re just swallowing oil residue with toxins in it). I’ve been doing this for a year and I’m ecstatic to say that I haven’t had one canker sore, nor gotten the flu or cold, even with the scare this season. The skin around my temples cleared up which, according to face mapping is a sure sign that there is something amiss in your stomach. Plus, I swear by it as a hangover cure: It’s a much healthier option than my usual greasy breakfast burrito. By all means, do your own research before you start oil pulling, but I can fully attest to how amazing the benefits have been for my annoyingly delicate constitution. Anyone out there willing to give this a try?
I'm sold.  I'm not a nutritionist, dietitian, doctor or dentist, but I am trying the oil pulling method because I like the purported benefits, and I like that it is in line with my goal to be more healthy in a natural way.

This. Is. Going. To. Be. Good!

Process: When I woke up this morning, I put a heaped tablespoon of congealed coconut oil in my mouth and chewed it until it liquefied and then swished it around my mouth (after brushing my teeth). The consistency of oil mixing with saliva is weird, and I felt a little weird as I was getting ready and continually playing with coconut oil in my mouth. 

After roughly 20 minutes, (gross alert) I noticed a huge glob of mucus seemed to fall from the roof of my mouth.  I figured it was time to stop. I gargled with the coconut oil that was already in my mouth and spit it out into a sink.  I had prepared a warm water and sea salt mix, and I gargled with that solution until my mouth felt clean.  I did not rinse my mouth out with plain water afterwards and my mouth felt squeaky clean!

I'm not sure if you're supposed to brush your teeth before you oil swish, but I did because I couldn't figure out how coconut oil got rid of morning breath lol.

Outcome/Results: I'm typically very hungry when I wake up because I stop eating at about 8:30 p.m. each night (reflux issues).  But I was surprisingly not hungry, even though it was almost time for lunch...  I figured this means if I want to fast for spiritual reasons, I should probably oil pull right before I start my fast and maybe a couple of times while fasting. At lunch time I wasn't hungry or thirsty, but when I drank a little bit of water, I couldn't stop drinking until I almost finished 1 Liter (33.8 fl oz).

While my friends think I'm silly for trying oil pulling because in their words: "Nobody is going to sit with oil in their mouth for 20 minutes in the morning," "You know what's great for removing toxins from your mouth in the morning: Listerine," and my favorite: "Ewwww."  I like this idea a lot.  Maybe it's not the cure-all some folks are claiming it to be, but I don't mind (see also this Snopes.com article).  It's not harmful and the process was fine for me.  Some have a less pleasant (albeit hilarious) experience when oil pulling, including this puller:
I'm sitting here trying not to gag on a mouth completely full of coconut oil diluted with saliva.
Apparently this is good for me.
Ayurvedic practitioners calls this oil pulling. It's the big, new, ancient thing -- thousands of years old, and suddenly super popular again, thanks to digital trend-setters like Pinterest and Facebook.
Hold on. Deep breath. Not. Going. To. Heave. I can do this.
Oil pulling has been all over my Facebook wall for weeks now: promises of everything from whiter teeth to help with allergies to relief of chronic pain. I read somewhere it could treat cancer and AIDS. I was in open-minded awe -- until I read claims that it could improve digestive issues.
Because it's currently causing me new ones.
In fact, if you have a sensitive stomach, now is where I tell you to run. Run far away from the rest of this harrowing tale. Chances are, you'd never try oil pulling to begin with, anyway.
Maybe I need to last the full length of time, rise mind over nausea, and gargle this oil for the recommended 20 minutes. 
When my husband said he'd be working late tonight, I realized I had my window; if he ever caught me doing something like this, I'd never be kissed again. Even more, I'd never stand a chance of succeeding in his presence.
You see, my husband and I both have overactive gag reflexes, to the degree that it's a contributing factor why we never plan on having more children. You try changing a molten diaper while simultaneously trapped in an uncontrollable duet of dry-heaving "huuuu-hhhs," each one setting of the next like diaphragm Dominoes. Just the memory is pushing me closer to sharing my coconut spit with the keyboard.
Speaking of, the longer you keep this oil in your mouth, the more liquid your mouth produces, and the harder it is to keep it in. My cheeks are inflated like a squirrel. Every minute is worse than the last.
Must. Distract. Self.
I'm committed. I've made it this long: 11 minutes. Eleven long, slobbery minutes. I'm not giving up now.
Side note: I think she's prone to rhetorical flourishes, but that's what makes this so funny...

Try it! What's the worst that could happen? Well, nothing actually (unless you count the cost of coconut oil). If oil pulling doesn't work for you, use the coconut oil as a massage oil, or use it on your hair, nails or skin!

Kinky Chic

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spoil Yourself...

Have you spoiled yourself lately? Have you bought yourself something or done something for yourself (and only for yourself)? I enjoy serving other people, but I don't think I ever quite learned how to treat myself to the same service or how to let others serve me.

There's a certain sense of guilt that accompanies enjoying the service of others, and it stems from this idea that I don't deserve such service. Even accepting compliments is difficult for me! When someone compliments my hair, clothes, idea, I feel the need to deflect the compliment.  As I learn more about myself, through this kinky chic lifestyle, I'm discovering reasons to serve myself. But there's this ongoing conversation in my head that makes it difficult to enjoy that service most of the time.

I know it is lent and it may seem weird to think that serving myself is in the spirit of lent, but it really is.  For lent, I gave up negative speech because I seemed to derive some sick pleasure from complaining about my circumstances.  As I give up negative speech (internally and externally), I feel like I am permitting myself to enjoy being served.  The self-defeating voice in my head that would normally stop me from planning a vacation, buying an expensive item, and generally doing something that only benefits me seems quiet lately.  As I starve the negative voice, it has less of an impact on my decisions.  It's amazing that preventing myself from saying negative things and hurting others, also stops me from hurting myself with negative thoughts.

I purchased my dream bag recently because I silenced the negative voice that would normally discourage me from making this type of purchase. The bag represented something I always wanted but I never thought I could have or should have.  A few days after I gave up negative speech and started to monitor what I said and why I was saying it, I started to recognize that the restriction that came from the negative voice was loosening and I felt comfortable making decisions that would have normally made me feel selfish... When you come from nothing and spend a good chunk of your life denying yourself, it is hard to let go and enjoy the benefits of success without guilt.

I was lucky enough to see my bag for the first time with my mom, and she was so happy to see me spoil myself. I think she understood that I was pushing out the feelings of guilt that came with the purchase, and she affirmed me by saying: "You deserve this.  You have to start carrying it right away.  Don't take any of the packaging with you so you're not tempted to return it.  Carry it around and enjoy it." My mom always knows just the right thing to say :)

While retail therapy isn't exactly a permanent solution, I love that when I mentally free myself from negative thoughts, I can serve myself without guilt.  Besides, I think this bag takes my kinky chic life to the next level.  Here's a sneak peak at Cerfia. (Yes I named my bag.):

So, have you spoiled yourself lately? What's stopping you? Spoiling yourself can be as small and as basic as allowing yourself a few minutes early in the morning to pray and meditate; spoil yourself by believing in those dreams that you've been denying yourself for years.  Spoil yourself... "Your only limitation is the one which you set up in your own mind." Napoleon Hill

Listening to Hill's book Outwitting the Devil has helped me find hope and courage to live above negative thinking and speech.  I hope a copy of the audiobook below is as empowering for you as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Loc'd (30 days and counting)

I'm beyond happy about being loc'd! 

About the Loc Process
My crown was blessed with locs by my loctician Kim at Nubian Kinks, and the process took a little over 18 hours! At a certain point, I couldn't feel my rear end and I had to keep shifting around in my seat.

We started at 9 a.m. in the morning on Super Bowl Sunday, and honestly, I was surprised that anyone wanted to do hair on that day, but thankfully, Kim is my type of person. (I don't watch or really care about the Super Bowl...)

The installation of the loc extensions was painless (thankfully), and I didn't leave the salon looking like I just had a face lift (lol).  Those of you who get braids done know exactly what I mean!

I washed my hair the night before with my Look and Feel Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo and conditioned with the conditioner from the same line.  I followed with Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner and I don't think I sealed with any oils because I wanted clean oil-free hair.  I put my hair into four braids and went to sleep, and by the next morning my hair was dry enough that I was able to undo the braids and rock a big puff as I went to my appointment in Brooklyn.

The install was as simple as this:
  1. Start on clean hair.
  2. Put the hair into sections.
  3. Take a small section enough for one braid.  If the braid you make isn't long enough for the loc length you desire, add extension hair to the braid to make it longer.
  4. Create a loose and small braid in that section.  This braid shouldn't hurt at all.
  5. Wrap the braided section with loose afro-textured hair.  The hair must retain a matte finish even when wrapped not just when it is curly.
  6. Depending on your preference, wrap with different colors of hair to create an ombre effect, but be sure the colors are complimentary.
  7. Once the hair is completely wrapped, palm roll with gel on your hands to seal the loc.
  8. After wrapping each braid, carefully twist the bottom of each loc around the perimeter to give the install a freshly tightened appearance.
  9. Sit under the dryer for about 15 minutes to set the locs.

Pros and Cons

The benefits of having locs far outweigh the setbacks. With that said, here are my thoughts:

  • A few weeks after getting my locs installed, I went on a trip to Arizona, and literally the only items I needed to pack for my hair were: shea butter (for my roots), satin scarf (to wear to bed), hair band (to put my hair up/out of my face).
  • I have brushes and hair products that I no longer need to use.  As a result, I'm giving a bunch of products away to my family (and tossing anything that they don't want).
  • I no longer have to set aside an entire day to wash/style my hair! This is incredibly liberating.  While I still take care of my hair daily by using moisturizer (coconut milk + water + aloe mix) and seal with oil, I no longer need to commit an entire day to turning my coils into a "style" and I love that freedom.
  • I feel like I've joined a community of loc'd people.  It's funny to say but people with locs seem to great each other (well we do!) and I love it.
  • To my surprise, even at this length, my locs are not heavy.

Cons (for lent I gave up negative speak because I seem to get pleasure from complaining, so this was a little bit of a challenge to write)
  • I love my locs, but it seems there are still many negative perceptions about people with locs, including the view that locs are dirty because they don't get washed and locs are religious.  Neither of these assumptions are true for me.  Those who are Rastafari usually have locs, but that doesn't mean that everyone who is loc'd is part of the movement.  Locs are part of an emotional experience for me, but not based on religion.  I have locs because I feel I'm meant to have them, and I'm freely meeting my soul in the process.  I'm helping myself grow out of worrying about how I'm perceived through having my locs, and just enjoying my own spirit.
  • I noticed the other day that one loc in the front area may need to be cut in half or made smaller somehow so it doesn't feel so heavy on my sensitive edges.  This is an easy fix and I plan to do so at my next appointment.
  • The installation process was much longer than I expected, but this meant that from midnight to 6am, I had the undivided attention of my loctician, Kim.  I could tell that she was exhausted, but she just kept moving along and I love seeing someone so committed to their work!
  • I am learning the spirit of patience because my locs aren't completely formed yet, and I need to keep up with my appointments with my loctician every few weeks for the first three months (to keep my one year guarantee of the workmanship and to make sure my locs form well). I was hoping to be washing/caring for/styling my locs on my own much earlier, but I'm enjoying patience too!

In all, loc'ing my hair has so far been transformative for me and I feel liberated from spending an entire day caring for my hair. I also love having this piece of art on my head every day.

Something I'm looking forward to doing to my locs very soon is switching up the ombre.  Suggestions welcomed :)  These two are no help...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Should You Do Things For People You Love?

My friend, Dean Leysen, posted a video a few weeks ago and it was focused on whether it is appropriate to change something about yourself because of someone you love. 

I surmised from this video and other conversations over the last few weeks, that I'd be comfortable changing certain things about myself for the people I love, to a certain extent.  If at any point, I feel as though a certain change will negatively affect my self-image, or alter my identity in ways that make me feel uncomfortable, I cannot make such a change--no matter how much I love the person asking for the change. 

As someone who tries very hard to please everyone else, it is natural for me to change myself in order to suit my family, friends and especially my partner, even if it means I'm a bit unhappy.

In the past pleasing others meant wearing a lot of makeup, weaves, relaxing my hair, trying to change my skin color, losing a lot of weight very quickly through crazy diets and workout routines, etc. At one point, I had changed so much physically that I didn't recognize myself when I caught a glimpse of face in the mirror at a store. I actually thought: "That girl is trying so hard." When I looked closer, I realized I was seeing my own reflection!

Lately, as I attempt to live authentically (kinky chic lifestyle woot!), I can see how pleasing everyone is unwise and painful. 

For example, most of my siblings believe that the Bible (KJV) is God-breathed and they live according to the Bible. I love that about them and I cherish learning from them this discipline, commitment and faith.  This doesn't mean that I agree with them completely; I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, but I don't believe God stopped there.  There are other books, people, prophets, etc. that are inspired by God that are not included in the current, popular version of the Bible.

Recently, I tried to explain to my sister that my faith is more than just the literal translation of the Bible but also in discerning for myself and through my spirit, books that are written and people that are living today that enlighten--who lead, direct, inspire.  But I felt misunderstood.  I think my sister was worried that because I no longer attend a church regularly, I no longer had faith in God.  But I am actually closer to God now that I don't have to pretend in front of other people at church that I'm faithful and that I worship God.  This doesn't mean that I refuse to attend church ever, but I like that my new faith doesn't require a regular church to work.

Now, I feel like I no longer treat God as a vending machine... My prayers are not about simply receiving but about listening and connecting with my God.  This makes me feel more like myself! I want to commune with my God, not just demand.  I feel like I'm living like Jacob now--like I've always wanted.

As I live authentically, I know my decisions will bother some and I'm secretly happy that it will, because maybe it will encourage those that are bothered to examine their hearts and their lives more deeply.  Maybe it'll cause them to wonder if they are truly living as their best selves, or at least trying to live as their best selves.

At the end of my time here, I want to know that I lived as best as I could.  Not for anyone else, but between me and my God.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pako (Chewing Stick)

I miss Mama.  "Mama" is my maternal grandmother and I spent a lot of time with her growing up because she lived with us on and off.  I would pretend to (un)braid her hair and we could talk about nothing for hours. She passed away in April of 2010.  Every so often, I think of something that reminds me of her and I miss her.

Mama was a huge proponent of traditional remedies, from agbo (tastes like death) to using efirin in everything (smells and tastes great).  But the one thing she used on a daily basis was her pako a.k.a. a chewing stick.  I don't think I ever saw her use a toothbrush, and she had a full set of pearly whites her whole life!

They usually start out like this:

In about a day, they look like this (because people chew on the sticks all day):

Lately as I try to reconnect to traditions that I grew up with, I think of small ways that I can honor those traditions again.  Pako is such a simple way... Especially since I use a toothbrush multiple times a day.  (I'm lying by the way--I hate brushing my teeth so I tend to brush only once a day.  Sue me.)

According to Afro Style Mag:
Once used by the Babylonians (3500 B.C.), Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, the chewing stick of old was simply a small wood "toothbrush" used in our predecessors' daily oral hygiene. Although Europeans once took advantage of this simple method, the chewing stick fell out of favor with them over three hundred years ago. Although the most common source of the chewing stick is the saltbush (also called toothbrush tree) in the Middle East, in West Africa, orange and lime trees are used, while the neem tree (neems) is the main source for chewing sticks in the Indian subcontinent. Astonishingly, nearly three hundred different species of trees and shrubs in East Africa are used in making chewing sticks! Chew sticks are usually nothing fancy--they are simply made out of frayed twigs.

Through Africa or Asia, you may come across people casually chewing on a stick much like people may have a toothpick in their mouth. The twigs are generally cut to a thickness of a pencil; and are chewed until the end of the stick frays. The frayed end works like dental floss cleaning in between teeth keeping teeth and gums healthy. Once the end of a chew stick is frayed it can be rubbed on teeth, much like using a toothbrush, scrubbing food and plaque off teeth. Chew sticks are much less expensive than traditional western toothbrushes making them much more accessible.
More than just a brush, it was discovered that the twigs and roots of certain plant species used in making the chewing stick, contain chemical compounds that slow the formation of plaque. In addition, extracts of other sticks have proven to possess antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. For instance, the twigs of the aforementioned toothbrush tree have been found to help prevent ulcers. And in Namibia, chewing sticks made from a plant known as muthala, inhibit the growth of pathogens that cause gum disease, tooth decay, and sore throats. Chewing sticks possess the ability to prevent cavities, as well as strengthen the users' roots and gums. 

And Wikipedia states:
Teeth cleaning twigs can be obtained from a variety of tree species. Although many trees are used in the production of teeth cleaning twigs, some trees are better suited to clean and protect the teeth, due to the chemical composition of the plant parts. The tree species are:
  • Salvadora persica
  • Sassafras
  • Gumtree
  • Tea Tree
  • Neem
  • Gouania lupuloides
  • Cinnamon
  • Dogwood
  • Olive, Walnut, and other trees with bitter roots.
Curious to try it out? Africa Imports has a selection of chew sticks with a range of colors and flavors.
She's wondering why you aren't chewing on a chewing stick.
Side note: My locs are in! I'll make a post about the experience after having them in for a few more weeks.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ileke Idi (Waist Beads)

So I recently thought about Ileke Idi... When I was younger, I noticed a number of young ladies in Lagos would wear many beads around their waists and those beads would move up and down as they walk.  They are called Ileke Idi or waist beads.

I asked my mom about Ileke Idi* or waist beads the other day, and she claims that they are an Igbo tradition that have nothing to do with Yoruba culture.  In her words "Bi won she ma lo okurin na ma wa!" Basically she thinks that the only purpose of wearing a waist bead is to attract a mate.

*Literally translated, Ileke Idi means butt beads (lol).

I don't think my mom is right though on her claim that waist beads are an Igbo tradition or that the purpose of wearing waist beads is to attract a mate...When I was a kid, I remember hearing people talk about Ileke Idi and I always understood it to be a Yoruba accessory.

Divine Moon on tumblr writes the following about Ileke Idi:
Ileke Idi/waist bead is an ornament that comprises some small round sometimes spherical or flat shaped piece of glass, rubber, metal, nut or wood, pierced in the middle for stringing and aligned on a thin rope or thread to make a beautiful long piece of ornament which can be connected at both ends to form a circular Ileke hanging around the waist and hips. It comes in varying designs and radiant colours. It is normally worn around the waist beneath clothes mostly by Yoruba women. It is worn across West African countries too.

It is worn often for adornment but there are however other reasons Yoruba women wear it, sometimes for religious rites, to increase dancing prowess, spiritual healing, status or more commonly, for erotic appeal to their husbands or to attract new suitors and in this case, the Ileke Idi would be made visible to the targeted persons. During the past generations, Ileke Idi was the vogue and one of the most cherished gifts a woman could receive, parents were known to adorn their daughters with colourful and expensive ones.
The Misconception
Ileke Idi now slowly becoming obsolete as contemporary Yoruba women, supposedly the educated ones consider it as uncivilized, uneducated and uncouth. Some Yoruba men have insisted they cannot be with a woman that wears Ileke Idi as they purport it reveals spirituality that does not tally with theirs.
I recently purchased coral and gold waist beads from Waist Beads by Sewra.  I bought them because I've been going through this kinky chic transition, and I wanted something that would be a private symbol of my connection to the sensual traditions of the Yoruba. I've been wearing them under my clothes, and they are such a good fit for my purpose.  The waist beads sit very low on my waist and are very comfortable.  I ordered a size that was about 4-5 inches wider than my waist so it would sit right above my hip bone, and I love the way it fits and sits.  It's a private symbol of femininity.

No filter. The sun was just rising when I took this picture.
I also understand that they are a good way to monitor weight gain around the belly, but I didn't buy them for this purpose!  With joy I heed the words of my sister during a recent conversation, "Make peace with your curves and lumps."  I'm no longer concerned with being physically perfect.  Rather, my emotional cleanse will manifest itself in the most beautiful way.

Do you have anything that you wear that reminds you of your traditions or culture?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kinky Chic Skin: Shea Butter Soap

For the most part, I have good skin.  Even color, small pores and a natural glow, but I find that my skin reacts badly to any new product that I try and tends to be a bit dry.  I've tried so many different brands of soap and moisturizer for my face and body, but I usually get breakouts or my skin feels so dry.  As a result, my dermatologist suggested that I stick with Cetaphil.  But since I've decided to live a kinky chic lifestyle, I want to find an organic, possibly vegan, (yes--I'm a hippie) moisturizer for my skin. 

One of my brothers-in-law is from Ghana and he introduced my sister to raw shea butter.  They use it on their children, and their children have flawless skin.  Truth be told, children always have flawless skin, but seeing them use raw shea butter put the idea in my head that I needed to add more shea butter to my routine.  I still couldn't get myself to tolerate, much less like, the smell of raw shea butter!

Here's what shea butter is:

And here are its various natural forms:

And raw shea butter looks like this when extracted from the shea nut and consolidated:

It's as close to the earth as possible, so I had to try to get over the smell.  I figured I could start with using shea butter in my hair.  For the past two months, I've had great success with using whipped shea butter on my hair, and since I was running out of it, I went online to see if I could find some more.

A random Google search took me to Etsy, and I found a number of shops that carry whipped shea butter as a moisturizer!  After the positive experience with my hair, I just had to try it on my skin.  

I settled on a few merchants based on price, shipping speed and selection.  The first package arrived from Dian Jane, and in the package, she included a sample of her shea butter soap.  I had never even considered shea butter soap! I used it the next day and I was hooked.

Here's some information about Dian Jane from Etsy:
Semi-retired Graphic Designer... sharing the healthy goodness of organic, natural and handmade bath and beauty products with others.
Over the last several years, I have developed and perfected my soap recipes, which are all mixed, cut and hand made by me. I don't use harsh chemicals and only vegetable oils in my soaps. The whipped body butters are organic a vegan with no animal products....not even beeswax.
My products are made from high quality, food grade oils and butters. Essential oils are added for their aromatherapy and healing benefits to the skin. When you use these products over time, moisture and elasticity of the skin will improve. So be thoughtful of your skin as a means to health.
My favorite so far is the Citrus Silk Herbal Infused Natural Soap.  It has a gritty feel to it, and my skin feels like butter after my shower. The ingredients are: olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, soybean oil, palm oil, palm kernal oil, calendula, lemongrass, sweet orange, essential oils, herbs, chamomile. I love that I can pronounce every single ingredient!  She's also having a sale, and all her organic items are 20% off with the coupon: PAMPER20.

I can't wait to try all her soaps, and I've already purchased 7 to start! (What can I say? I'm a pig--Chinese zodiac--and I love excess.)

Dian also mentioned that she's been using her soaps to shampoo her dreads for 10 years! I'm sold. Have you ever tried shea butter soap?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I've been secretly admiring dreadlocs for years now, and it finally hit me last year, when I returned to wearing my hair in its natural state, that I want to loc my hair.

A few years ago, I spoke with a few locticians in the area, but I was just toying with the idea of locs.  I still felt locs would be limiting in some way, so I was not ready. 

Now I see locs can actually provide a lot of freedom and flexibility.  Locs can be styled, colored, and even combed out (patiently) if at any point I decide that I'm done.

I decided my locs will be this size: 

(But my loctician, Kim says that this is more like Sisterlocs, and I'd rather not get into it in this post, but let's just say I don't think I'd fit in to the Sisterloc community.  We decided then to go with small dreads, like this:)

this color:

and this length:

This loc experience is my journey, and I'm choosing to start with loc extensions (and potentially skip the awkward baby loc stage).

I've made an early February appointment for loc extensions with Kim at Nubian Kinks in Brooklyn.  Yes, I will go to BK for my hair.... I'll also go to BK for:
  1. Nigerian food at Buka
  2. Volunteer dog walking at BARC Shelter
  3. Close friends who are crazy enough to live in BK...
I plan to keep my loc extensions permanently, but I need to learn how to care for locs.  Honestly, I don't think my regimen of daily moisturizing and weekly wash and condition will change. 

I would also love to learn from some loc gurus.  I think the only loc gurus I know of are: Chesca.  Isn't she gorgeous?

And more recently, Jasmine Rose.  She seems so genuine and I love her locs.

I've been obsessing a bit, so I've sent my loctician, Kim, tons of texts and called her twice already... I'm not really good at letting go and enjoying any experience unless I know the outcome. I'm working on that!

So there you have it, locs are the next step in this Kinky Chic Experience.  Do you know any other loc'd folks who can inspire and inform? Let me know ;)