Straddling the Fence: Living a Life of Two Faces

I remember as a child playing outside, usually with the boys, I would struggle with climbing fences. Perhaps it was because I was what one might consider to be a bit plump (my aunt nicknamed me Chunky if that gives you any indication of my thickness at the time) and my legs could feel a bit like dead weights on occasion. More often than not my sneaker would get caught in one of the holes of the gate. This was usually the first foot, the one I used to get a good grip so that I could foist the second half of my body onto the other side. Eventually I would end up hovering on the fence trying not to let the sharp pieces of metal coils at the top of the gate stab me in places that were meant for bodily fluids to escape. My hands holding on painfully to the top pole, trembling from strain. I would stay in this precarious position for a while as I watched the other children. The few who had already made it over were running off in the distance; barely visible moving specks of dirt. There were more who swiftly and efficiently cleared the gate like hurdles in the Olympics. I was most amazed by them. They had the ability to use one hand and simply glide over like young gazelles, with effortless confidence. Still some of the children didn’t try at all and held back from even attempting to “jump” the barrier that separated them from moving forward. They were content with continuing to play in the dirt, kicking the ball, or whatever game we were playing before someone had the idea to move along. And there I was, stuck between the two, hunched back, shaking legs, stinging hands and all.

It seems that I have been in this state for a couple of  years; stuck between two places. One foot reaching for a promising unknown while the other firmly rooted in the near past. So that leaves my present moments often ambiguous, causing me to feel as if I am living inauthentically. Who is Latasha? Is she the woman who listens to the latest trap music or “old school” UGK in the car while riding to the nearest Goodwill? Or is she the stillness and calm of India Arie’s melodic voice reassuring her that she is light?

My closet is full of old clothes that I have not worn in years. Blouses and halter tops that are purely made to emphasize cleavage. Mini skirts and form fitting dresses. Jeans so tight that they might look like my skin if colored the same shade. In short, clothes that would not be considered modest. As a Muslim woman I truly believe that modesty is beautiful. So why do I still have these clothes? Why haven’t I converted my entire wardrobe to clothing that represents who I am as the demure woman that I thought I had become? The woman that I portray myself to be? As many times as I have frequented local thrift shops I have had plenty of opportunities to declutter and make space. Spring cleaning always provides the impetus to purge the old and bring in the new. I’ve had five years to do so. Five years. Yet I’ve managed to obtain new clothing while simultaneously failing to make a dent in getting rid of the old clothing that I once wore. In the beginning I rationalized that it took time. That there was no rush and that hey, no one changes overnight, right? Well, what about now? What is the justification five years in?

I know, I know. You can’t plan your life based on a theoretical timetable. I’m not. My self criticism originates from a place inside me. A deep, dark, intangible existence that knows more than I. A place that when I am unsure tells me to move along or remain still. Sometimes I listen and at other times I do not. Consequently when I don’t listen I usually tend to think that I end up in the same place I would have been had I heeded from the beginning. Lately I feel a need to move forward and live a life where I feel peace with who I am and the decisions I make but I have remained immobile. My foot is stuck in the gate.

Most of my life I’ve been too concerned with what others might think, how others might react, or who would say what about my decisions. Embracing my faith was no different. What will everybody say once they know I am Muslim? What will everyone think if I wear my headscarf around them to a certain event? How will they act if I ask for a Coke rather than a Long Island Iced Tea?

So I did not tell my family that I had accepted Islam as my religion until months later.

So I did not wear my hijab to the cookout because I didn’t want them to think that I had changed.

So I ordered the multi-layered alcoholic beverage and sipped on it all night as if I was okay.

But I wasn’t.
And I hurt, because I was being fake.
You know, living two-faced.
“There go ol’ Two-Faced Tasha.”
In a constant push-pull with myself it seems that I was rarely me.

I am reminded of this when I read the following hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) reported by Wabisa bin Mabad:

I went to the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) and he asked me, “Have you come to ask about righteousness?” I said: “Yes.” He said: “Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and moves back and forth in the breast (in your heart) even though people again and again have given you their opinion in it’s favour.”

~ Ahmad and Ad-Darimi

 

My problem was that I was too busy worrying about being in the favour of someone’s opinion. It’s laughable really, how often we allow others to dictate how we live our lives. Although I perceive I have conquered that aspect of my life I still find myself not fully embracing who I am now. Who I have become and continue  to strive to be. Not because I am worried about what others may think, say, or how they may perceive me to be. It’s not that at all.

My foot is stuck in the gate.

It’s hard to trust when you’ve been let down so many times. Family. Friends. Spouses. Jobs. Children. Expectations. Hopes. Dreams. Life. It can be especially hard to trust yourself when you’ve failed, made several mistakes or are always second guessing your decisions.  Even when you give it your all it may not work out as you had envisioned.

Recalling those moments of my childhood I can remember feeling inept, inadequate. Like, “what is wrong with me”? What was I doing wrong? I blamed it on my foot being stuck in the gate, but it wasn’t my foot. It was me. I was too afraid to let go. To just simply pull my foot out of that damn gate and hop over. I was afraid of the scrapes. I was afraid of the fall. I was afraid. Period. Kinda like now. So I unknowingly hold onto the clothes as a sort of metaphor. A way of implying that I’m still that girl who couldn’t climb the fence. Still afraid to let go. Afraid to trust.

Afraid to allow myself to trust God.

When I came to this realization I was stunned. Not trust in God? I mean the definition of a Muslim is a person who fully submits to God. I pray at least five times a day. I call on Him when I’m in need. I talk to Him. I know that He is the One and only Creator of all that exists. I have the outward appearance of modesty. I mean what else can I do?!

Let go.

Note to self: Stop going through the motions and live the life that God has planned for you. No I don’t know the plan and I won’t know the plan until I fully embrace the fact that I do not have control over my destiny. What I do have control over is making an effort to fully embody what it means to be a human being. I am not speaking about the physical shell but the metaphysical existence. My body is just the receptacle but my heart is what communicates with God. My heart is what speaks to me. My heart is how God speaks to me. I have to stop holding on to what I know, what I’m used to, what I’m comfortable with in order for God to show me the way. It sounds like a cliche’ I know, but it’s true.

I can’t be one person when I’m on the Eastside and another when I’m on the Westside. I would say that’s how people end up getting hurt; a pretender is usually easy to spot. Pseudo Spiritual.

Thinking back to my younger days when I couldn’t make it over the fence I would eventually get off, look around, and find another route. It was usually longer, dark and filled with protruding thorny bushes blocking it’s path. It was also a lonely path.

Once I had arrived on the other side though, I’d take one last look back at the ones who chose not to come before I ran like the wind to catch up.

 

 

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Series: 90 Days of Joy, Love & Gratitude (Day 2)

“We have surely granted you (unceasing) abundant good;
So pray to your Lord, and sacrifice (for Him in thankfulness).
Surely it is the one who offends you who is cut off (from unceasing good, including posterity).”

~The Holy Quran, 108: 1-3

 

According to commentary regarding the occasion for revelation pertaining to this verse, Allah sent it down in response to a man known as al-As ibn Wail al-Sahmi. Al-As ibn Wail al-Sahmi attempted to verbally debase Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), by stating that he was a man without posterity, or offspring to carry his name on in future generations. You see, the Prophet had three sons who had all died and during that time period it was looked down upon if a man did not have a male offspring to carry his name. Allah assured the Prophet (pbuh) in the 3rd verse that, on the contrary, it would be those person(s) who offended him (the Prophet) that would be cut off from His abundance and their future progeny.

One of the beautiful miracles with respect to the verses of the Quran, is that while there was a specific issue to address at the time it was revealed there is also a clear and personal understanding that the reader can receive for their own benefit today. When I read the first verse, it’s Allah advising that he has granted ME unceasing, abundant good; whether I am aware or unaware. When I do come to the realization of the many favors that have been bestowed upon me, the second verse is a reminder that I must show my gratitude by praying to Him and making sacrifices for His sake. I interpret that to mean that 1) I must pray, which may require sacrifices at times and 2) I must make regular sacrifices in my everyday life that do not pertain to the prayer. For instance, if I am working my 9 to 5 and it is time to pray I have to heed the call. That may require that I do so openly instead of in an area that is considered secluded. Therefore I had to sacrifice my privacy in order to show my gratitude to God. Think about it. If I didn’t pray because I was concerned about what others may think and feel, how is that showing thanks? How is that showing deference to God above all others? Instead I would be deferring to His creations rather than the one who Creates. That is what I would call backwards thinking. Just as silly as me thanking my brother for birthing me while my mother stands off to the side. For one, my brother did not birth me. Secondly, he has not the ability to even do so! Imagine how dumbfounded my mother would be. Of course Allah does not get confused or dumbfounded as He knows our every action before we even make it. He does not want for anything while we are the beggars in need. So me choosing not to pray does not take away from Him in the least; truly it would only hurt my own soul.

Of course making sacrifices for the sake of God is not limited to just prayer but to all matters of life. If you are striving to become closer to God you cannot do so without accepting that you are in servitude to Him. A relationship of Master and slave that benefits the slave as opposed to the master, as is the case within the secular world. You weren’t under the impression that slavery had ended, now were you? Yes it is alive and well all over the world. So why not be a servant for God instead?

For the third verse I must quote the Quranic commentary which reads: “… it (these verses) indicates the importance of loving the Prophet and the dire consequences of hating him as well as the idea that true posterity or legacy lies in belief and deeds, not children, for the Day of Judgment is the Day when neither wealth nor children avail, save for him who comes to God with a sound heart (16:88-89).” In addition to the explanation of the third verse previously provided, my interpretation today is that anyone who offends me, as long as I am a person who prays and gives thanks to God on a regular basis, will be cut off.

My insight could be wrong but that is simply how the Quran speaks to me at this time. Perhaps a few years from now I will have a vastly different perception of these three verses. For now I am content with the information I have expressed above. 

I am grateful to have the ability to give thanks to Allah for the abundant good that He has given me.

Yes. Yes I am.

#joylovegratitude

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Quiet Black Girl

Although it generally seems unintentional, often overlooked are the quiet black girls. You know, the one that never gives you trouble, sitting in the back of the classroom so you think that everything is okay. Well, everything is not okay and she just might be one step away from falling apart. She needs your time and attention just as much as anyone else. Trust me, I was one of them.

Quiet Black Girl
Sitting
Feigning syrupy sweet magic
Rolled eyes and soft lips
Make for intrigue
Against the backdrop of a 90’s flow
Born in the 80’s though
Maybe that’s why she loves Purple Rain
The movie
And the guitar riff at the end
Strumming at the chords in her heart
Slowly breaking down the innermost part
Of what she can never say
A small lament
From the misunderstood

Who’d listen anyway?

Mama
Daddy
Teacher
Said she good
No trouble at all
No need to ask about
Her loves
Her hates
Dreams or ambitions
Not to mention
The fact that she has not
Uttered a sentence
To you
For days
Four days
Yeah
That’s just her way

Quiet Black Girl
Got a chip on that shoulder
From all the times she’s been passed over
Looked and forgotten
Not enough to most
Yet too much to try and figure out
What’s inside
Hidden
Even from herself
Especially from herself
Because maybe,
Just maybe, she’d go crazy
From all the things that she felt
All the things that she kept
Locked in chains
Locked in pain
From yesterday
Wasting away
Waiting for the day
That someone
Anyone
Would want to
Listen

 

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1 in 5 (a poem)

For those who are unaware, Muslims attend what is referred to as Jumuah (congregational prayer) on Fridays and it typically consists of a khutbah (sermon) given by an imam (leader) followed by all those in attendance participating in prayer. I attended a recent Jumuah at Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam on April 22, 2016. The khutbah was given by Imam Mansoor Sabree who is currently the Regional Community Organizer at IMAN (Inner-City Muslim Action Network) located in Atlanta, Georgia, an organization which was created to increase awareness and participation in social justice. During the sermon Imam Sabree stated a statistic that struck a chord in me. He related “….one out of every five African-American men between the ages of 15 and 26 will see the jail cell…”   That one sentence is what inspired the poem below entitled 1 in 5.

 

 

They say
1 in 5 is black
1 in 5 is black
Tell my daddy to come back
Tell my brother to come back
Sound more fiction than fact
More like
if you alive and black
Cause what I see is
My daddy
and my brother
and my uncle
and my cousin
My man
and all his boys
and everybody on the bluff
and
The women steady crying
steady yelling
it’s enough
and
The reverend shouting
preaching
got me praying like that’s enough
and
Reaching in my pocket
pulling out them Harriet Tubman’s
Like that’s gon save the generations
who been laying down suffering
Need to be taking action
fighting for that
American Justice
American Justice
Cause it’s Just Us
Got us locked up
Got us washed up
Said it’s bad luck
Naw, it’s f**ed up
Got me f**ed up…

They say
1 in 5 is black
1 in 5 is black
Tell my brother to come back
Tell my daddy to come back
Before he hit that crack
Cause my sister on her back
Think salvation in that Ac
Validation through her acts
Complicated Facebook stat
Interchangeable like a doormat
Never change the format
Cause she say they loooove dat
So she say she loooove dat
Just to keep him in her lap
Just to keep him out that trap
Afraid he won’t come back
Using everything that she got
But what she know is not
Other than to be a man’s doorstop
Other than to be the man’s lust pot
On that 1000 foot drop
To the bedroom floor….
Pop!
Then it’s on to the next T.H.O.T
Or it’s on to the next spot
Just the backdrop to the main shot
Just the prelude to the jump shot

STOP!

They say
1 in 5 is black
1 in 5 is black
Feel like 4 in 5 is black
More like
if you alive and black
If you alive and black
Where yo daddy at?
Where yo brother at?
We want our family back
Take your family back

Take your family back.

 

 

If you would like to listen to the entire sermon entitled 1000 Mile Journey, please feel free to click below (begins at 3:30). Very thought provoking and insightful. Enjoy.

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How To Get Back Up When It All Falls Down

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Where is ‘there’? ‘There’ is the proverbial down and out, on the edge, at the end of your rope, barely holding on or simply holding on by a thread cliché we give to the struggles in our life when we’ve neared the breaking point.  When we’ve reached that period when we would just like to roll over and fall asleep; maybe not forever but long enough for this moment to pass. Just until the pain goes away. Just until the hardship that we’re dealing with ceases to exist.  There. A destination we know all too well although we’ve never planned to visit or quite figured out how we arrived in the first place. If you need a more concrete analogy, it’s comparable to finding yourself looking at the inside of a toilet bowl after a drunken stupor, when the last thing you remember is asking for one more shot while dancing to Beyonce’s Drunk In Love. Needless to say, not a good look.

Before we get to the scene in which we’re snuggling beneath a thick brown blanket ready to take a few tablets of Unisom for the long hibernation, let’s rewind a bit. Let’s go back to the day when we initially began to panic. It was an ordinary day. We woke up and began our normal routine, whatever that may be, and went about our typical pursuits. Everything was fine. Actually we were having an exceptionally good day. We smiled at our co-workers, didn’t yell at the guy who zipped in front of us during the throes of evening traffic, and I’m especially happy to say we didn’t even cock an eyebrow at Donald Trump’s latest verbal  assault on whichever unassuming group he’d chosen to target for the moment. Life was good. We were sure that nothing would dampen our stride, words of wisdom from grandma Rose in the back of our mind reminding us that no one was going to steal our joy. Uh uh! No way! But something or someone did, and we had no control over it. We never had control of it. To quote Kanye West, suddenly and ever so swiftly “It All Falls Down”.

The world as we knew it just moments before seemed like days ago; weeks even. Maybe we saw our spouse downtown with someone other than us, the ATM stated our checking account had insufficient funds after we bought the latest red bottoms as a personal birthday gift two weeks prior (cha-ching!), we received that call from our child’s school notifying us that their had been an “accident”, or we learned that the company we’ve been employed with for over a decade has decided to downsize and we are among the first to be cut down to size. It happens to everyone. The situation will not be the same because we all have our own individual struggles but it’s guaranteed to happen. Allah (swt) says:

Most certainly you will face tests in your wealth and in your persons . . .

~Quran 3:186

So who’s the first person we call? Perhaps it depends on the situation. Our mother? Father? Best friend? Maybe we know that they would not necessarily be of any benefit in this particular instance so we call the bank directly to ask for a refund on the overdraft and late fees because we’ve “never been overdrawn before”. Or we request to speak directly with our employer because after all we’re the person with the most longevity and have been loyal to the company since day one. We soon learn that the financial conglomerate has a strict policy that they do not give the customer back any money no matter what the circumstance. Never. As well, the owner of this multi-million dollar company does not care about the years of service we have given, we’re a liability now. In order to keep costs down they must let us go so that we won’t have the opportunity to collect on our retirement benefits in a few years. Life sucks. We’re not able to pay all of our bills, disconnection notices and OPEN IMMEDIATELY envelopes are flooding the mailbox daily. We finally give in and call our family but they are grappling with financial difficulties too. Our friends have gotten ghost and won’t return our phone calls, or even worse, reminded us that we haven’t paid them back from the last time they loaned us money three years prior. The walls we have constructed for ourselves are slowly closing in and we succumb to the gentle nudge of surrender. The white flag has been waved.

{Brown blanket enters stage right.}

We’ve reached out to all of our resources. No one has come through for us. Nothing we have tried has worked. It’s about that time for us to admit defeat. We’ve failed. Again. So we lay down for the night trying to stay warm because the gas has been temporarily disabled and surreptitiously begin worrying about what the next day will bring. How will we cope? What to do? The tears begin to flow in a slow repetitive fashion as we consider how we ever let ourselves get to this point: down and out, on the edge, at the end of our rope, barely holding on, simply holding on by a thread.

And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.

~Quran 2:155

When all else fails, as natural as a river flows into the ocean you begin to pray. Not only do you pray but you have a conversation with Allah (swt). You share with Him all of what is in your heart. All that He already knows. You’re exhausted from the work and effort that you exerted in order to seek succor from those in this world, while in the end He was simply waiting for you to come to Him. To ask Him. You relieve your heart of your burdens and finally feel at peace with allowing Allah (swt) to take over. You finally submit to the One who deserves your unabashed devotion.

A new morning dawns and it is the same as the one before. You still have no lights on in the house and the repo man could come at any moment to haul away your unnecessarily expensive four door SUV. The cold morning coffee unsettles your stomach a bit as you sit down and watch the sunrise between the trees in your back yard — smiling. Waiting.

And you’re good with that.

 

Say: “Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?” Say: “Allah.” Say (also): “Do you then take for guardians, apart from Him, such as have no power to bring benefit to or avert harm from even themselves?” Say: “Are the blind and the seeing equal, or are the depths of darkness and the light equal?” Or have they assigned to Allah partners who create the like of His creation, so that the creation (that they make and Allah’s creation) seem alike to them (that they cannot distinguish the true Creator?)” Say: “Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the All-Overwhelming.”

~Quran 13:16

My beloved, all that happens is within Allah’s plan for you. Know that if you were to seek assistance from Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg or any among those considered to be the wealthiest people in the world they would not aid you except by Allah’s permission. So seek Him first and foremost in all matters, before venturing to the creation, for He is the one who knows your heart. If He bestows a hardship upon you it is only to draw you nearer in order to close the chasm that has manifested from your own actions.

Strive with patience, aware that Allah has got your back.

 

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Something of Music, Flowers, & Bumblebees

I’m from the Outkast, Goodie Mob, TLC, LaFace Records Atlanta. The Usher Raymond,  Jermaine Dupree, Jagged Edge Atlanta. And of course I can’t forget the traffic jam, Bill Campbell, Freaknik Atlanta. So naturally I have a little bit of the southern colloquial slang, that if you have lived in Georgia for any extended period of time, you know is quite commonplace among native residents. Besides my speech their are some aspects of my life that are simply ingrained in me; such as the need to let people know what area I’m from or what high school I attended growing up. Perhaps I may become nostalgic when a Lil’ Jon song is played between the current rotation on the radio station and get a little “turnt up” (back in my day we called it “crunk”…but whatever) while on the way to work. It’s natural for me, and although not everyone is privileged to see that side, it does rear it’s big head from time to time without asking permission. I mentioned just a few of the idiosyncrasies that make me who I am. We all have them and it’s what makes us individuals. It’s what makes us unique.

Wouldn’t we lead such a bland existence if we were all the same?

Alternately, their is another side of me that I didn’t know existed until several years ago. It’s strange because this other side is still the me that I have always known but it’s on another level. A higher level. It’s similar to when you turn 30 and you think back to all of the stupid things you thought or the reckless actions you made in your teens or twenties and are amazed at how much you’ve matured…and that you’ve managed to stay alive. You’re still you but…better. That’s how I feel about embracing Islam. I’m still me but…better. “When you know better you do better”. I can’t say that anyone has ever stated that cliche to me directly but I’ve heard it more than once in some form or another. You could say that’s where I am right now with my faith. I know better, so in turn I must do better. It’s an expression that on the surface is inconsequential and stated simply for effect in most cases, but it’s a heavy statement. Forget about anyone else for a moment. Let’s focus on you. Don’t YOU owe it to YOU to hold yourself to a higher standard once knowledge of your Creator has been received? In a purely basic way, that is Islam to me.

 

….Say, “Are they ever equal, those who know and those who do not know? Only the people of discernment will reflect (on the distinction between knowledge and ignorance, and obedience to Allah and disobedience,) and be mindful.

~ Quran 39:9

 

So here is where the dilemma attempts to rear it’s ugly head. Connecting who you were before receiving knowledge to who you are after. How do you balance the two? Can you? Do you have to abandon the first in order to hold on to the second? To me it’s like asking do I have to cease being American in order to be Muslim. I cannot denounce that I am an American no more than I can nullify the fact that I am Black; the two must simply co-exist. Likewise, I won’t simply eradicate who I was before because I am Muslim now. After all, didn’t Allah choose me? Didn’t He know who I was before and bestowed His mercy upon me anyway? Allah knows your inner most being so I will assume that He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, an intangible that was there from the beginning.

 

Assuredly, it is We Who have created human, and We know what suggestions his soul makes to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.            

~ Quran 50:16

 

I’m no religious scholar. Not even close. I can only humbly provide you with my personal experience thus far. I’ve learned that the human being is continually growing; changing. That not only includes individuals but it also takes into account all of humanity. The knowledge one receives impacts each person differently. For instance, upon my first introduction to the Quran I began to ponder everything. I viewed my life through an unfiltered lens with a child-like youthfulness. Blue skies. Dazzling stars. Bumblebees. Butterflies. I may sound crazy to some but it’s beautiful to me. I had taken Allah’s creations for granted.

No words can truly describe the Quran’s impact on my life. Four years later this book of revelation is still influencing my thoughts and actions. I have progressively grown but I am still me. No, I don’t engage in all of the previous activities in which I would frequently participate, but refraining from doing so does not automatically cause a metamorphosis.  I don’t run into a telephone booth (do they even have those anymore?) and come out with a full burqa. Let’s be realistic, it simply doesn’t work like that. Even if it did, that may not be my particular truth. Growth blossoms like a flower and each petal, although similar, won’t look the same.

I’m still a lover of good music, just about any dessert with frosting, and the average asinine television show from time to time (okay I’m working on that last one). I can become upset or lose my sense of purpose on various occasions just like the average person. We’re all human which by our very nature makes us imperfect. Days merge into weeks into months into years; what you have left are memories that eventually fade. I don’t think about the “old” me as if I have to converge the past with the present. I simply think of now. Who I am today and who I am striving to become. At the end of the night that is all that matters. No one is going to want to know what you were like three years ago to determine if the person standing in front of them at this very moment is a good person. The CEO of an IT company won’t make a decision on whether he (or she) will hire you as a computer technician based on that one time you fixed your brother’s Nintendo back in 1987. It’s irrelevant! So the perceived dilemma results in a question. Not how do I hold on to remnants of my former self?

How can I be the best me…..today…..while also pleasing Allah?

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Man in The Mirror

http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/japat-46362

Michael Jackson. A legend. An icon. The year was 1987 and the album was titled BAD, and yes he was a bad man. Not in the literal sense of course, but in the Smooth Criminal, white suit, sideways lean, video gangster kind of definition. The Way You Make Me Feel, getting dirty with Diana type of bad. But their was another side. A reflective side. The Man in the Mirror side. Do you remember that song? If you’re like me you probably haven’t heard it in a while. I was young at the time, maybe 7 or 8, but I can recall listening and singing along to the lyrics. It was catchy. It had a good beat. Plus, it was MICHAEL JACKSON. Duh. I knew all the words; which could be attributed to the fact that my brother was a die hard fan. He frequently imitated many, (if not all), of the Michael Jackson videos that were on MTV or BET at the time. So I, as a loyal younger sister, watched him in wonderment or assisted with props as needed while he attempted to “reproduce” said videos. That is not to say that I wasn’t a fan of Michael, because I was. I am. But my brother? He had me beat.

However, I digress…..

At that age I did not understand the implications of the song. I just knew it was Michael and he was awesome. So whatever he said had to be right. Right?

 

“I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right”

 

The video displayed clips of Martin Luther King Jr., malnourished children and bombs; there was much more but that is what stood out to me as a child. When the video originally aired I don’t think anyone could help themselves from stopping whatever they were doing at the time, look at the television screen and watch as such heartbreaking depictions of the world flashed before their eyes. At least I couldn’t. Not sure as to what it was all about, I understood that it was important.

Michael Jackson was sending us a message.

Not too long ago I watched the video with mature eyes. Eyes that had seen far more and experienced much more than that 7 year old sitting on the floor giggling at her brother’s dance moves.  I cried. I cried for all the pain in that video, the pain that I had felt in my life, and the pain in this world. I felt it. Deeply. So yes I am “one of those”; an unabashed crybaby. It let’s me know that I’m alive, I’m human and that I’m still privileged to be able to feel. Unlike when I was a child, as an adult I recognized the scenes that were displayed; homelessness, starvation, racism, protests, police brutality, war. Twenty-nine years later and the same issues still pervade our society.

 

“I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?”

 

So how can we do this? By “this” I mean, how can we live our lives on a daily basis and not try to help others? No that does not mean quit your job, fly to an unknown country and feed the children. Of course, if you got it like that be my guest. What I am asking, not only you but myself, is how can we as a global community not do anything? Have you even seen a Feed The Children commercial lately? I haven’t. Back in the day I couldn’t enjoy a Saturday morning cartoon without Sally Struthers appearing between breaks to tell me how 70 cents a day could change a child’s life. I stopped crunching my Fruit Loops long enough to think about those children; if only for a moment. Nowadays the commercials tell me that for 19 cents a day I can save abused cats and dogs.

Do we not care about human life anymore?

Now don’t go writing a letter to PETA saying that Latasha hates animals because that is far from the truth. I just want to know what happened to our humanity? Where did it go? Why does no one sing of the atrocities that are plaguing this earth? The atrocities that are degenerating our souls? Yes, our souls. With each passing week we read of another young black male murdered unjustly, religious organizations/persons targeted and harassed or refugees fleeing oppressed countries and a piece of our inner selves simply fade away.

 

“If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

 

We all must face that proverbial man in the mirror sooner or later. Why not today?

 

Photo Credit: Darwin Guevarra (www.freeimages.com) http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/japat-46362

 

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Inspiration

“Sometimes I think to myself, it’s over, I became Muslim too late in the game. Then I remember Prophet Muhammad (saw) was 40 years old when he received revelation and he changed the world; but only by Allah’s will and mercy.”

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