On grief

We all react differently to death.

Shock. I went to the funeral…not many people were there.

Grief. I knew him when he was young…he was the nicest guy I knew.

Sadness. I hadn’t spoken to him in a few years…I don’t know why we drifted apart.

Denial. I don’t believe it…it can’t be true.

 

We mourn in our own ways. But as a community.

We heal past wounds.

Forgive those we had not. Humble ourselves.

Death reminds us how to be human. To need one another.

 

There are some things you just don’t do.

Never tell someone without making sure they are safe. Never at night.

If there’s a memorial, you go. It doesn’t matter how well you knew them. When you last spoke.

We show up for each other.

We don’t have life insurance, we have each other.

 

We mourn as a community.

 

As a community. One less.

We mourn.

 

RIP my friend

on community loss #RIP

My community is what drives everything that I do, and what gives me purpose and guides my academic work. I define and redefine community continuously, as life requires it.

Those we have lost as a community, are the ones that I remember. The ones I carry with me each day, the ones that I think of when I feel like giving up and giving in. There are days when I mourn their loss. But more often there are days when I remember their lives, their smiles, their joy, their beauty, and their unfulfilled dreams. No one is brought to this earth without purpose. And no one leaves without fulfilling it.

So I get through the struggle and keep on keeping on, because I know that their lives meant more than their deaths. I remember them. I honour their memories the only way I am able. I write for them and I know that they are watching over us guiding our community.

Rest in Power. Peace be with you all.

**Please be warned some of these stories are graphic, may be triggering and all of them contain details about their deaths.

Melake Worku and Ahmed Mohamed

Alex “Rambo” Isaac

Nahom Tsehaie Berhane

Tsige

 

Russom Yordanos and child

Amleset Haile

On raising race-conscious kids

There are some things that are just hard to put into words sometimes. This is one of those times. Story here; synopsis: a viral story about a little white boy who is getting a haircut so he can look like his “black buddy” and trick their teacher.

This story does not sit right with me for so many reasons. The more I learn the details the worse I feel. Because I know it’s supposed to be a feel-good story about two little boys who don’t see race, and isn’t the world such a beautiful place, if only we could all be so innocent…

But…….really? Are we all going to sit here and watch a story go globally viral because it “proves that a colour-blind world is possible”? It’s just too much. I see the reasons why so many people find this adorable. But, it’s also really not. The little black boy in this video is in for a rude awakening. In fact, I find it difficult to believe that he hasn’t already been introduced to or noticed that he is black. Especially given that his parents are not (he’s adopted…from Congo…as the video mentions). Not to mention that clearly the only reason this story is getting so much attention, or why it was even shared to begin with is because everyone else sees this boy’s race. So if he hasn’t noticed it yet, he’ll be sure to start asking questions now. This story is basically outing him.

But I honestly find it hard to believe this child has not noticed that his skin is darker than that of both his friend and his parents. My three year-old is aware of race. Sometimes the language fails them, but they notice skin colour just like they notice hair colour and all the other colours around them. Sometimes we talk about race. And my partner and I of course talk about it a lot. And although I might wish I didn’t need to think about these things it comes up in simple decisions like choosing which school to register at for kindergarten.

Being able to ignore race, or even celebrate a child who is “innocent” to race and racism, is a privilege that not all parents have. So for the media to take this story and just keep repeating it without any critical thought or discussion…well. It’s tiring. And I’m not here for it. Racism is a real thing, whether or not some people choose not to “see it”. So let’s teach our children what it is, and work with them to change the system so that they can live in a world where all children are able to hang on to their innocence. Anything else is not good enough.

On being black in Canada

This week in Canadian news to incidents occurred. Two separate completely unrelated events with nothing to do with each other. Or so some people seem to be arguing. Despite the similarities and obvious racism in both incidents (in my experience) some seem to think there is no proof that either was “motivated by racism”.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care about motivation. It doesn’t matter that it’s possible (although unlikely) that neither woman had any realization that they were addressing a person of colour. I don’t care. Because I am not here to centralize the feelings of the offenders. Both of these women were in the wrong. And there is a deep and long history behind the racial stereotypes which they imposed on these young people.

Let’s focus on the what these two must have felt. Fact is, racism exists. All around. All the time. And if you’re not white you experience this racism. All around. All the time. And since I personally have experienced both of these and worse, in Canada, I can tell you that being in a situation where you KNOW you are being racially profiled but the person is being polite, is THE WORST FEELING. Both of these young people were more collected and calm than the offender deserved. Because they have both been here before, and they are exhausted.

I’m exhausted too. It is exhausting to read these stories. It is even more exhausting to read racism deniers try and explain why it’s never racism. I’m not here for it. So please, don’t even bother.

Here are the two incidents:

A black man was physically assaulted by a white woman. And the internet came to her defense. Video and story here.

A black man was racially profiled (by a white woman) and found guilty of “being black while shopping”:

Happy Family Day!

Making time to be completely present with our family, however you define that, is one of the most important things in life. Such a simple, intuitive thing, but it has taken me many years to realize this. I continue to learn, continue to make mistakes and grow from them, continue to define (and redefine) who my family is. Being a mother has helped me rediscover the power and resilience of the feminine. My maternal consciousness has awoken, and with it my understanding of sisterhood, black womanhood and divine energy. As I continue to grow and learn I invite you to follow my journey.

Balance

One of the most common questions I see on parenting forums is ‘how do you balance it all?’. Between parenting, school, extracurricular (volunteer) work and life’s everyday necessities I often find myself struggling to answer the question. Because while it’s true that somehow or another my partner and I have managed to make it through the last 3 years of parenting, if I actually stop to think about it I can’t explain how we balance it all.

Our current situation is a perfect example of how precariously our lives are set up. My partner works 3 1/2 days a week, while I’m home with the kids and then he stays home for 1 1/2 days while I’m in class. Technically we’re both “off” on the weekend, but that’s also the only time I have set aside to study. Since I’m currently taking 3 courses and a teaching assistant for another course, I’m supposed to find 27 hours a week to study and another 5-10 hours a week to grade assignments or plan lessons. Our youngest is still breastfeeding on demand, including throughout the night, and our toddler also needs help falling asleep. This means we both spend 5pm-8pm(ish) every evening doing our usual bedtime routine (dinner, bath, reading and/or nursing). So in reality, the only time left for studying is on the weekends, also the only time left for housework, groceries, laundry, meal prep, cooking etc. So I sneak my school studies in between all of these other things, and work around my infant’s nap schedule (ideally 2 naps a day).

And all of this was working for the first 5 weeks of the semester…until my infant and I both came down with some as-of-yet undetermined illness with symptoms including ear infections (both of us), a fever (baby, not me) and general fatigue. The fact that the baby is also getting molars and in constant pain from that has also meant very little sleep. In fact the baby that has been sleeping 6 hours a night since 4 months old, has been unable to sleep without being propped up on me and one of my nipples in their mouth. Did I mention the high fever? So I’ve felt like I’m in bed with a hot water bottle that bites!

Well, thankfully the worst has passed and we are now recovering. Which means I can turn my attention back to the dozens of emails waiting in my inbox, as well as the THREE assignments that are now due in the next 10 days (one of which is overdue and another which I have to redo because I wrote it while fighting this illness and obviously was not completely coherent at the time). So as I sit here looking at a calendar with not enough hours in the day, completely overwhelmed and a bit bitter (why, oh why, did I CHOOSE to be in school again?!?!) I keep coming back to that question. How do you balance it? How do you balance a full-time job (parenting) with a full-time job (school for me, work for my partner), while also finding time to care for yourself?

The answer seems to be that you don’t. You find a way to set short-term goals and get through one day at a time. You ask for help (in my case from my partner, my family, my classmates even). You forget anything unessential, and redefine the word essential. You focus on the big picture and remind yourself that this is a short-term situation (school will be finished soon, little ones will be independent and won’t need us so much). You try to be grateful for what you have (again, my partner, my family, my classmates). You learn to do without (money, time, energy). And you hope, pray, beg, manifest, envision it all to work out, knowing that there are many, many others going through the same, or more. You remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And most of all you keep going. One day at a time. Because sooner or later, something’s got to give.

 

 

 

 

 

On breastfeeding

I have been breastfeeding for 3 years now and tandem nursing (feeding more than one child) for 9 months. For something that people have been doing since our genesis it has been way more complex than I expected. Growing up around Ethiopian families I must have seen babies nursing at some point, but I really don’t have any memories of seeing breastfeeding. It’s always been normalized in my home – my mom would tell me the story of the first time I bit her and she must have fed my siblings in front of me but again I have no recollection of it. So when my first was born I assumes breastfeeding would take some work at the start but I was not prepared for what it actually entailed.

First of all, no matter how many books you read which explain how often a newborn eats, you can’t really understand it until you live it. There were days I couldn’t get out of the house because I spent the day feeding the baby and myself. That’s another thing no one told me: breastfeeding parents need to eat A LOT! My partner was shocked when I started out-eating him.

Well I got through the first year with my eldest and thought I was a breastfeeding expert. Especially since my academic work also includes work on breastfeeding best practices. But then I ended up breastfeeding through my second pregnancy and began tandem nursing. I never thought I would be nursing a preschooler but it came about so organically that it feels very natural to our family. And things have been challenging. Between sibling rivalry, repeat thrush infections, tongue and lip ties and feeling touched-out, the year has been full of breastfeeding challenges and triumphs. I am hoping to allow my children to self-wean, but if there is one thing I have learned from the past few years it’s that anything could change at any minute.

 

Musings on a cloudy day

I have two young children. This week a study was released by the Yale Child Study Center describing how racism manifests itself in preschools; black boys in particular are being suspended disproportionately. It worries me that my children are being profiled, basically from birth. I wonder how this will impact them…their experiences, their self-esteem, their lives.

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Meanwhile, in local news…a report is being released on child protective services in Ontario. Among its findings: systemic anti-black racism embedded in every possible way and black families suffering. Furthermore, similar anti-black racism in the justice, education and medical systems. It seems we’re not safe anywhere.

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