Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Madonna, the Super Bowl, and Perspective

By Queen Mother Imakhu

Super Bowl Sunday 2012 found me in Macy's of Midtown. I'd just come back from conducting my weekly Kemetic family fellowship in Brooklyn, emerged from the subway, and hopped into the indulgently peaceful aisles of classic chiqueness. As I perused the designer dresses for edgy inspiration I overheard someone say, "Nice treat, shopping with it this quiet. Everyone's watching the Superbowl."

"Oh yeah!" I'd almost completely forgotten. "Who's doing halftime?"

"Madonna," a few fellow Sistas of a Certain Age simultaneously called out.

We speculated what current superstar she was going to get to boost her set. "You know she still gon' kick it out though. Like, 'I'm STILL Madonna, dammit.' "

I got home and found the clip on my internet. Kick it out she did. See, it's all a matter of perspective.

Super Bowl weekends were holding pretty bleak memories for me. Super Bowl Weekend 2006 I'd buried my father. He died of pancreatic cancer. Just when we were getting our relationship really right. Just when the doctor said he had another five or six months. Two weeks later, the only parent who I could really talk to was gone.

Super Bowl 2008 saw the end of my marriage to the man I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with. For eight glorious months, romance bloomed as this hubby encouraged me to be completely myself. Then my his sister died. He fell off the wagon. Other life events he couldn't handle kicked in. His heart was distant. That Super Bowl Sunday, watching the game without conversation, was the first time I knew in my heart it was over. The following Valentine's weekend I was gone.

Four years have passed with another Super Bowl in the foreground. Walking aimlessly around Macy's, trying to bury my memories before boarding my train home to Newark, I'd made up my mind to liberate myself. I hadn't been wallowing, but I wasn't fully living out all of my goals. Yeah, I've accomplished a number of things. But I'd lost a bit of my edge because of the unexpected turn of events - and there have been many over the past few years since Dad died. The Renegade Wise Woman in me was sitting on a stool in a closet, waiting for me to yank the door open.

I arrived home, pulled up the laptop, found the Madonna Half-Time Show. Renegade Madonna. She's STILL here, dammit, after a Pop Queen career of what - thirty years? Yeah, she mixed pantheons, including my Kemetic religion, in cultural appropriation horror. I'm not gonna even mess with that. Yeah, she lip synced. I'm not gonna talk about that either. Nor about the fact that she has never been the best singer or dancer out there. I am gonna talk about how Madonna, at fifty-freakin-three years of age, was droppin' it, pumpin' it, kickin' it, ridin' it... Madonna IS still here. And why? Because the savvy, shapeshifting, culturally relevant, confidently controversial Madonna has always known how to put on a show. That is what has made her who she is. She was celebrating being a Living Legend. As an artist and theater professional I loved it (that Cee-Lo section was just too good). And as a fifty-two year old woman overcoming the pain of two Super Bowl weekends that just plain sucked, I celebrated edgy living with her. I rescued my Renegade Wise Woman out of that closet.

Dad used to always remind me, "You've got to take the time to smell the roses, Baby! Life is too short."

Yeah, Dad. You're right. So to all you Madonna Haters, go find a rose patch and change your
perspective. It ain't always about the daggone thorns. The Renegade Wise Woman rides again, living life full tilt. The roses smell mighty good to me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Take Your Ride, King Don Cornelius!

By Queen Mother Imakhu

Saturday mornings in the Seventies held the comfort of our Black Hipness after a week of being the ongoing experimental children of Segregation. With the flip of a dial, suddenly, the appearance of ultra cool Uncle Don Cornelius announcing that we had once again boarded the "hippest trip in America" made the madness of living in a force fitted white world a mockery. Our cultural grooves were glorified. Our sass. Our struts. Our rhythms and rules. Our fashion and funk. Affirming all was right with OUR world.

Don Cornelius entered this life on September 27, 1936. Sadly, it was reported on Feb. 1, 2012, the first day of Black History Month, that Don Cornelius was found dead from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. 

This news rocked our Black community. Why? Don Cornelius and Soul Train stood for and gave us confidence in our culture. Was it with assurance that Uncle Don pulled the trigger to check out? Considering that he, according to rumors, suffered severe health problems, it would seem that he left here consistent with his image - deciding how his own ride would end, and how his new journey would begin.

My only hope is that he left here fully aware of the enormous impact he had on our people. He, in his boldness to create a TV program that showcased the hip side of popular Black culture that "we" knew about - the side that showed up the kids on American Bandstand - rekindled the pride in Black teen youth during times when we were reaching for affirmation. Practicing our dance steps in our own Soul Train Dance Lines. Running out to buy the latest LPs from the showcased artists. And knowing that the sophisticated, soulful bops, swoops, curves, and lilts in our majestic movements were natural and correct - we had weekly proof! In spite of whatever the white gym teachers said, or the cruel white kids who ganged up on us and because of our differences. Or the occasional comments from white parents, or other educators...  As the experimental children of integration of the Sixties and Seventies, we valiantly put up with slights, suffering indignities, often without a voice. But on Saturday mornings, we spoke, we laughed, we danced, we listened, we watched. And we walked taller.

Thank you, Uncle Don, for your unapologetic Blackness. We crowned you King long ago. Ride on. You can bet yo' last money, it all was a stone gas, Honey.

(Youtube video by The Bacmaster)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Upcycling Relationships and Romance

I'll be fifty-one on March 16, 2011. After a lifetime of being someone's mate and mommy (the latter term not always applying to my children), I found myself back on the singles scene at age forty-two. My frank assessment of dating in today's world? It sucks.

As a Christian teen during the 70's, I was conflicted about the societal messages regarding womanhood. Here we were at the dawning of the Women's Lib movement. I was a young, free-spirited hippie at heart. But I was also a goody-two-shoes church girl. The Baptist church reinforced the family values of the 1950's. I opted to please my church community. I married at nineteen, immediately had two children, got divorced at twenty-five. Immediately remarried, stuck it out for thirteen years to give my kids stability. I was evolving and reclaiming the free-spirited person of my youth. But another long-term relationship came. At forty-two I finally faced life alone.

I've discovered men are very different than the safe, friendly, protective boys I hung out with in high school. Did I know that these pals were Gay? Heck no! I didn't even know what the heck that meant - frankly, neither did most of them back in the 70's. As adults they came out of the closet. I didn't get it. My amused second husband had to explain the concept to me. Point is, my frame of reference for the opposite sex was of memories with my choir, theater, and band buddies, whose arms around my waist or heads on my shoulder were pure and harmless.

I've learned the hard way that most men are not really interested in being buddies. Nope. And a date is a prelude to sex for many. Though a hippie at heart, a proud prude rules my sense and sensibilities. I ain't a-puttin' out, so you'd best be a-gettin' out. I am hard wired for a mate, but not desperate.

A few years ago, I entered into a domestic legal partnership with a Brotha. Partly because we were relieved to find each other, partly because we both love romance. And to tell you the truth, it was the first time I had been so pampered. I wasn't doing all the work. We were spoiling each other, loving each other, loving life. Then his sister died, along with some other life stuff that temporarily drove us emotionally away from each other. Back and forth, on again, off switch, on switch...
In a conversation during our off period, as he sipped Remy Martin, he said he had no regrets about being with me. "I love everything about you. You're an EXCELLENT wife. I have no complaints about you. I can talk to you, you look after me, you care, we like the same things, we have intellecual conversation, you're African-centered, we have fun... you're sexy as HELL, I ain't gonna lie... I LOVE US!"

Well, they say a drunk man speaks a sober mind. While his revelations offered some comfort, it also reinforced something new for me: During this temporary separation, alone, I'm good. At least for the moment. Which way is the wind blowing?

Men have benefitted from my skills of being the patient, doting, adoring wife. They've also appreciated my mind and independent talents.  I'm Old School with a new twist; the perfect wife prototype for the contemporary man. I totally love being with my man, yet can make my own money. I love the simple life, yet appreciate niceties. I'll turn on the sex pot, but only for My Man. And I like to cook. And clean. And sew. Decorate too. I'm Shuquetta Homemaker with an African print apron. What I've had to learn over the last near decade is how to turn transfer my motivation for doing it all for my family into doing it for me. Know what? I'm lovin' it!

I have no guilt or family conflicts in being on tour performing and lecturing. It's great to come home and see everything is decorated the way I want it to be. It's lovely to date and not feel as though I have to cook. I create gourmet cuisine at my leisure and pleasure.  I can be sexy and sensual simply because I have discovered it's part of who I am, and not there for the delight of My Man. Instead of getting dolled up to be My Man's trophy toy, I get dressed up for me. When I decide to let a man in my door, you'd best believe it's on terms that work for me. Don't misunderstand: being the wife to cheapskates and spendthrifts honed me into the bargain master and budget lifestyle expert I am today. And my age has granted me wisdom that could have only come through my variegated life experiences.

I'm living my life with class, sass, and the right bit of brass. I am the Renegade Wise Woman.

Here's are my bargain and crafting tips for the day.

End of season is the best time to shop for bargains. Super slashed prices galore! I found this poly cotton, padded & boned bustier at DOTS for $1.99.  I decided I'd add African accents by sewing on cowrie shells.

Cowrie shells are inexpensive. Most urban beauty supply stores carry them for 99 cents.

Based on the pattern I decided to create, I only needed one pack of cowrie shells. By handstitching each shell, slipping the needle and thread through each one several times and knotting it through the back, I came up with this. Fun for a night out (or in), the bustier can be worn with a skirt, pants, shorts, jacket, or wrap. Dressed up or down, this bustier is now a fun, sexy essential for strutting your stuff with African adornments. Don't hurt nobody, now!

                                         -- Mama Imakhu (Your Renegade Wise Woman)