My late love affair with Africa

If you follow my blogs, you know that I had my first trip to the African continent during the Christmas/ New Year holiday season of 2020/2021. The experience was all I expected it to be. It was wonderful, to say the least. Accompanying me were my wife, my oldest child, a cousin, and his wife. For most of my life I hadn’t given much thought to visiting the land of my ancestors. Undoubtedly, I had unconsciously bought into the untruths that the media and others had weaved about Africa. You know, all Africans are starving, living in trees, that kind of stuff that work to convince African Americans that Africa isn’t the place to be.

Our trip, or should I say our pilgrimage, to Ghana, West Africa was an eye-opening experience. I can say for myself that it was a spiritual experience. We arrived in Accra, the capital city, at night so I couldn’t get a good view of places along the route to our hotel. However, the next morning, with the daylight came a view that was culturally foreign to me. There were people all about, walking in the streets, minding their tiny business ventures on the side of the road. People were everywhere attempting, to their very best, to make a living. As the ten-day tour unfolded, it became apparent that there was a high amount of energy being expended everywhere. Of course, Ghana, as with most African countries, has no government-sponsored safety net. People must work. And work they do.

This ever-present mass of humanity out and about selling their wears was present along the highways that traversed small towns, as we drove from Accra to the second largest city, Kumasi. Kumasi was a different type of large metropolitan area from Accra. It is where the Ashanti Empire existed from 1701 to 1901 when it was annexed by the British. The British colonization of this area didn’t happen without strong military resistance from the people of this region. Touring the Ashanti palace and viewing the exhibits there, gave me a sense of appreciation of how proud and regal the people of this region were and still are. There were exhibits of the kings who had once ruled over this region.

Chris, my oldest daughter, and I have another trip planned for Africa during the latter part of this year. We’re going to South Africa. From all that I’ve read, seen in videos, and heard from others who’ve been there, South Africa will present less cultural shock than any other country an African American might experience on the continent. It has infrastructure and business models that are much like what westerners are accustomed to. We plan to visit Johannesburg and Cape Town. There will also be time set aside for what I call a bloodless safari. I must admit, I’m praying that my health will continue to do well. I’ve lived well, for the most part, over the last twenty-two years with the horrible disease called Multiple Myeloma. Since I’ve written about it before, I’ll simply say it’s an incurable blood cancer. Thus far, it has not prevented me from living my best life.

This love affair I have with the continent of my ancestors is calling me to make at least four trips to its soil. I’ve been to the west. I’m scheduled to visit the south. My bucket list will not be full until I’ve visited some country in the east and north. Four countries out of fifty-four would be minimally sufficient.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                    It’s the people…

Recently, I was watching a YouTube channel with content produced by a young Iranian woman named Anaieta. She’s been living in Ghana for a couple of years. She fell in love with young Ghanaian man. They’re married now, and they are happy in their relationship. Of course, I draw this conclusion from a video on which they express some warm emotions about how long they’ve known each other, the quality of their life in Ghana, and things they do to make a living and so on.

Interestingly, as I watched Anaieta’s video, the obvious differences in her and her husband faded into the universality of humankind. Of course, the differences that commanded my immediate attention were the same ones that we humans always notice right away: skin color, hair texture, language accents, those externals that don’t tell the whole story about the quality of one’s character. Beyond that are the invaluable elements that connect them as two human beings who had a social encounter at some point that began their journey in life together. They both have thick accents, as they communicate in the king’s English. Not being a linguist, all I hear are two accents that sound similar; however, I’m confident the differences are strident.

I watched several of Anaieta’s videos, including the one where she introduced her channel. Here, she mentions the similarities in Ghanaian culture and Iranian culture. I found that fascinating, since I too have been noticing similarities in cultures that have old roots. I like watching YouTube videos where someone walks through the streets or a marketplace of a city. I’ve noticed how similar things look in comparing people moving about in Ghana and India. People are often dressed in traditional attire (similar in appearance), balancing things on their heads, riding motorbikes, doing what they must do to sustain life.

Anaieta did a series of videos where she took her husband home to Tehran. I was surprised by this because I, for some reason, thought leisurely travel to Iran was out of the question. I was even more surprised when I saw footage, she shot of them strolling through the Iran Shopping Mall in Tehran. The architecture of the structure was beautiful. The people meandering about inside the mall reminded me of the many malls I’ve been in the United States, the two malls I’ve been in the Ghana, West Africa, malls I’ve been in Canada, as well as other places on God’s green earth. People are just people wherever I go.

As I consider the commonality of us all, I can’t help but venture into what’s occurring in the Ukraine. The people of Ukraine, the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers weren’t the least bit concerned about geopolitical affairs. They simply wanted to live their lives and live them abundantly by enjoying familial relationships, working daily to provide for themselves, worshipping their God, resting when the need arrived, and doing what was natural for them to live out the rest of their days.

It’s the people of the world who bring the good, common offerings to the table; offerings that can often allow us to reach across borders with open hands of friendship. It’s the governments that make an absolute mess of things, enlisting the wills of our young to wage war about things of which they have no knowledge.

Remember the people. They’re the unwilling sacrifices.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

            Will slaps Chris

There are certain entertainment options available on television that I don’t watch, the Academy Awards is one of them. The awards were televised last Sunday night. Of course, since I don’t watch them, I missed the world-shattering event that took place. The media was hot with reports of what did happen. Will Smith casually strolled unto the stage and proceeded to slap the host, Chis Rock, across the face. He did this because he felt Chris had shown disrespect for his wife Jada Pinkett by telling a joke about her close-cropped hair do. Jada wears the low cut because of a health condition called alopecia, which has resulted in hair loss.

One must wonder what was going through Will Smith’s mind when he did what he did. However, I suppose emotions got the better of him, and he gave no thought that this would be the slap seen and analyzed around the world. It was a metaphor for so many things. And shortly thereafter, examples of its metaphorical representation would start to surface from the mouths of one talking head after the other.

Will Smith didn’t exercise the best that wisdom could offer when he did what he did. And now the fallout has begun. He resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I suppose this was a step to get ahead of being removed. I’m sure there will be other repercussions since the Academy is still looking into the matter.

I suppose the big question is whether this display was a true example of a man standing up for his beloved or conducting an embarrassing act that Smith wish he could pull back. Well, I think there’s another question: Should we be spending so much time on this issue when there are numerous other examples of human short fallings currently taking place around the world that are taking the lives of thousands. It seems these days that pop culture garners far more attention from all of us than it in anyway deserves.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                  Dogwoods in Arkansas

You can tell that spring has sprung in Arkansas when the White Dogwood trees have stepped onto the stage to show their beauty. I’ve always enjoyed these trees willingness to make the move early as soon as warm days begin their annual stroll around the clock.

The Dogwood’ s blossoms, though beautiful, they don’t linger exceptionally long. They display their glory quickly. If you wish to photograph them, don’t think about doing it, because you’re thinking may prevent you from capturing their beauty.

The ones on display here are located on the grounds of the Heritage Baptist Temple church, Little Rock, Arkansas, which is on the route I sometimes take going home. I’ve taken pictures of these trees, infrequently, during spring and fall. They continue to cause me to stop on my ride home.

 I hope you find them as captivating as I.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

 March 16, 2022: Life from the back deck

This is what March 16, 2022, looks, feels and smell like from our back deck when spring is playfully poking its head around the corner. On this glorious day, I’m reminded of what the Psalmist said in Psalms 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad in it.”

Blue skies and my apple tree

It’s 3:00 in the afternoon. The temperature is seventy-three degrees (twenty-two Celsius for some of you), the wind is calm, and Ari and I soaking it all in.

Ari catching rays

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Adding a little romance to the past helps it go down easier

We’ve all heard it before, and it makes sense. We can’t live in the past or the future. Life is given to us to live in the now. The now is where our heart is beating, our brain is functioning; where we are experiencing in real time all the universe has to offer.

At my age, no one must convince me that this minute is all I’m guaranteed. I know this on more than one level: intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally; however, that doesn’t prevent me from traveling back in time to enjoy all the good stuff that used to happen.

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on us. For me, and the same may hold true for you also. This trickster does its best work during difficult times, or when it’s at maximum rest. It’s impossible for my mind to not draw comparisons. I find myself comparing tastes and smells of the food I’m eating now to this same type of food served up by my grandmother, may her soul rest in peace. I’m continually making comparisons to the music of old, the fashions of today with yesterday, as well as the overall condition of things in the world. And, as I do this, without failure, I add sprinkles of spice to my past experiences that weren’t there at the time.

Life was so much more simple back in the day. Simple doesn’t mean it was better, but somehow the simplicity of it translates into a more peaceful, more soothing, more pleasing visit in my mental time machine. The reality though is that if you’ve lived three score and eleven, you’ve been a witness to an abundance of the bad, the good and the ugly. There was lots of joy, lots of pain, lots of confusion and other life encounters that left scares which are still here today.

I can recall countless discussions I’ve had with my children about how they live their lives. It has taken me more than half a century to stop comparing their lives to mine, during my earlier years: how they make decisions, how they manage their finances, how they choose friends, and a host of other quality of life issues. (Well, in all honesty, I do this less now than I used to; however, I do want to stop.) Truth be known, it wasn’t any easier for me as it is for them. Dumb decisions, regretful mistakes, embarrassment galore were my lot just as it is for them. To give a truthful rendering of my past that provides life lessons, I must often ensure that all the salt is left in the mix.

I think when it’s all said and done, most of us can’t help but add ample amounts of spice to our yester years. It makes for better stories, and it’s a bitter pill, in some cases, that goes down a lot easier.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                        I’ve seen it all

I sometimes joke about how getting old isn’t for sissies. I know that’s probably not a politically correct term to use. I guess I could say for the weak, but that wouldn’t have the same effect. Getting old is perceived as a burden by some, and a blessing by others. As you know, I choose the later characterization as my preferred way to look at this event.

When I was a much younger person, I didn’t understand older people saying that they wouldn’t live life again as their younger selves. As I looked at an older person back then declaring such a statement, while looking a bit frayed around the edges, I thought there was something wrong with them. They would also make comments like youth is wasted on the young; youth is something wonderful, it’s a shame that it’s wasted on children; and other light pejoratives. I would look at them with a little frustration and think you’re just jealous. I wouldn’t dare make a comment that might generate an argument. Back then, young folks didn’t argue with their elders. We had been trained to show respect even if old folks had no idea what they were talking about.

Now, I understand well what the old people used to say. As I look around to see the old people, I see myself and those of my generation. There is some discomfort that comes with growing old; however, who in their right mind would want to go through some the growing pains we experienced to reach my age of seventy-one? My experiences have taught me that Nirvana (never to be achieved in this life) is a fairy tale concept of existence. It also has taught me that much of the stuff I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m now at a point where wisdom is my gift, and I’m yet in possession of a good amount of mental and physical health to use as I navigate through my latter years.

There’s a Biblical verse from Ecclesiastes 1:9. “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Now, that I’ve reached my age, I’ve witnessed several repeat occurrences in life. Their flavor, smell, and sound, indeed their essence remains constant. Maybe the title of this piece isn’t accurate, bit it’s pretty darn close. (I could swear I’ve seen what’s going on in Ukraine before, and maybe more than once.)

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

It’s hard to put a positive spin on this:

As with you, I’ve been watching the events taking place in Ukraine. I’ve dubbed this the World’s War. Contrary to World War I and II, when much of the globe had participants involved (officially) in the conflict, this relative disruption in world peace doesn’t rise to that occasion. It does, however, have impact of worldwide proportions, thus it’s the World’s War. (It’s a hairline fracture of a difference, but a difference anyway.) After only ten days, this perfect example of man’s inhumanity to other humans is affecting people around the world. Here I sit in Little Rock, Arkansas, United states of America, where some would have difficulty locating on a map, already observing the cost of many things beginning to rise. Inflation had already started to take its toll on living, now the wanton act of a deranged, paranoid leader, thousands of miles away from my front yard is affecting my family and me. Of course, my paying more for gas to fuel my car, food to fill my stomach and other staples of daily living, in no way rise to the level of experiences the Ukrainian fathers, mothers, brothers, sister and others are suffering.

One of the things, I often think of as good is the ability of the media to bring the world, the good, the bad and the ugly into my living room. I sit in the comfort of my home, and I get a reasonable facsimile of the images, in the streets, on the ground being created in Ukraine. I recall this ability played a key role in turning the tide of public opinion in the 1960s, when images of Black young people being abused by police with dogs and water hoses, while publicly protesting for their rights, as American citizens were broadcasted for the world to see.

Crazed leaders aren’t as rare as we might think. I can think of a number who’ve graced the headlines during my lifetime: Idi Amin, Hafez al-Assad, Osama bin-Laden, Al Muammar Gadhafi, just to name a few. Please don’t read anything into the fact that I only listed some from Africa and the Middle East. Let’s not forget Hitler and Stalin. Paranoia, thirst for power, or some other warped motivation leads folks like this to actions that are downright criminal, depleting the planet of innocent lives as cavalierly as dropping a hat.

Everything I’ve talked about to this point is certainly negative and it’s hard to put a positive spin on any of it. However, I want to draw your attention to a few things that are just as negative. The reports coming out of Ukraine about African students being turned away from trains and other means of transport, as they make attempts to escape the advances of the Russian military is shameful, to say the least. There were quotes in my newspaper this morning attributed to some Ukrainians that indicated comments are being made about why Black folks are being allowed exodus. There are, similar reactions from Ukrainians about Indian expats, too. Shouldn’t there be an open and equal opportunity for all who are stuck in this God-forsaken predicament to escape without regard to color or ethnicity?

I have earnestly prayed for the Ukrainian people. Aren’t wars started by government leaders, not our neighbors down the street or around the corner? However, those neighbors and friend are left with no choice but to sacrifice their comfort, and even their lives to protect life, limb, and country. This is the case in all conflicts of this sort. I may be way off target here; however, I don’t think I am when I say that the press can’t but show its bias. We’ve been bombarded with images of Ukrainians carrying their gathered goods, families with children sleeping in abandoned subway tunnels, and other heart wrenching images of people transitioning into refugee status. All our hearts are pricked at such sights. I ask that we all think on this for a minute: estimates (according to the UN Refugee Agency) for 2021 were eighty-four million refugees worldwide; there is civil war taking place in the Northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, which has thrown over two million people into refugee status; West Africa has seen several attempts at coups in recent months. We have seen reports of these tragedies, but have the reports been as in-your-face as what we have seen and continue to see from Ukraine? All human suffering is tragic and it all warrants reporting to the world. We all should be either made conscience of what’s occurring everywhere or be left to as ignorant as possible without regards to the sufferers longitudinal/latitudinal location.

World peace is something I would love to see before my exit from this life. No matter my comparative evaluation, I continue to send up prayers for all in God’s creation, who are suffering by the hands of the darkest on individuals.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Gene Roddenberry’s dream is good medicine for today

Lately, I’ve been blogging some of the posts I’ve made to Facebook. Here’s one I did back on February 28, 2015, the day after Leonard Nimoy died.   Some of you may know that I’m Star Trek fan from the day it was first shown on television.  Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the original Star Trek, came up with something that has held my attention for fifty-six years.   

I can clearly recall in 1966, when I developed a strong affinity for Star Trek, many of my hormone-raging friends saw no value in the show. The term nerd wasn’t popular back then, but I’m sure many would have applied it to me. The death of Leonard Nimoy yesterday, got me thinking about how Star Trek dealt with many of the prevailing social issues of the times: war, prejudice, cultural diversity, and just about every cultural conflict that was contemporary. I think the reason I liked the show so much was that it dealt with an imaginary time in the future when many of the social ills we were facing in the sixties had been successfully tackled. Many, but not all. The reality was that if sentient beings dealt with each other relationally, there would still be conflict.

Spock was particularly fascinating because he was different in so many ways, yet his differences didn’t prevent him from doing his best. The problems others had with him was just that, their problems.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                Lemon aide philosophy

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to the posts I’ve made to Facebook through the years. Each morning when I boot up my laptop, Facebook displays something I’ve posted from years ago. Hear is a post from February 26, 2014. I know, it reeks of some sort of dime-store philosophy; however, in my humblest of opinion, I think it has some redeeming value. 😉

Since I’ve been retired, I’ve been noticing a lot more things, just things. One thing is obvious, many of us are caught in a loop, like the movie “Ground Hog Day”. If you find yourself wondering why each day is just like the one before, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: Why don’t I change it? If each day presents you with the same old basket of lemons, a bucket of water and a few cups of sugar, don’t just look at them as normal, mix them up and make some lemon aide. While you’re at it, look around, God might have even blessed you with a few cherries, allowing you to make some cherry lemon aide. (Sorry for the five and dime philosophical gibberish), but Facebook keeps asking what’s on my mind.) 🙂

God bless you all…

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.