The Late Great Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013 and I cried. It seems that ever since this gentle goliath entered the world’s stage, I have been watching and crying at his struggles and victories and cheering him on from in front of my television.

I never met the man but I have followed his life since his 28-year imprisonment first became news to the world. I, along with my then husband and children watched the newscasts as he was released from prison. I cried tears of joy at the thought that with his release the world suddenly became a better, more equitable place.

I cried again when he was elected to the post of South Africa’s Prime Minister despite or should I say in spite of his skin colour and the caste under which he was born.

I read his biography with a new box of tissue close at hand knowing that again my tears would flow for all that he had faced and had overcome.

His divorce from his second wife Winnie Mandela was a sad occasion though one I could understand given his rising political and worldwide fame and the scandals in which she seemed embroiled. His third marriage to Graca Machel made me shed tears of joy that he had again found love and a suitable companion.

And then I watched and waited for the inevitable as I received reports of his declining health in his advancing age. I wanted him to live forever. I wanted him to remain a symbol of hope for not just the citizens of South Africa but for all of mankind. But as great as he was, even he had to bid the world good-bye and enter that final eternal sleep. And I wept for him and for us.

Fortunately there are people that will continue the work that Madiba started. His legacy of peace, unity and equality will not die with him. It seems that there may still be hope that we humans will stop fighting against each other over skin colour, religion and other things that we can’t change about ourselves. Maybe one day there really will be peace on earth if we follow in the footsteps of this great man. And maybe now I can stop crying over our great loss. One day maybe.

Silent Killer Runs Amok

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I always thought that living in the Caribbean means a healthier lifestyle due to fresher, unprocessed food, more hours outdoor in sunshine, and more activity. I was wrong. The silent killer that is high blood pressure is running amok in Nicaragua.

In my husband Jose’s family, his mother has it. His oldest sister has it. So do many others. Here is why.

Food is fresher and often goes from tree to mouth or pot. Fish and other seafood go straight from the water to the pot too. But the problem is that they cook with a lot of salt. When they do cook with processed products, they are loaded with salt. Products like Magi consommé are used to prepare almost every meal to add flavor but it has salt as one of the first ingredients. They even sprinkle salt on fruits like green mangoes and pineapples to make them tastier to eat.

To make matters worse, they don’t exercise, unless it is a requirement of school or if they play organized sports like basketball or softball. In fact, most of the women, once the housework is done, sit and talk until it is time to start working again. The hours outdoors are only as are necessary for washing clothes and completing other yard work, and then it is indoors to watch novellas (Spanish Soap Operas) or on the verandah for respite from the sun’s heat.

The men seem less prone to having high blood pressure but that may be because they are more active especially those that work in fishing or in the bush where they cut trees and brush and plant a variety of food items such as coconut, cassava, breadfruit, etc.

I always thought high blood pressure was a North American problem but it is definitely a problem here in coastal Nicaragua.

The Facebook Nation

It was my friend Klodyne who convinced me to join Facebook.  I had protested that I didn’t have time to figure it out and even that I just wasn’t really that sociable. She argued that it was also a good tool to build my business through making connections. It was that point that sold me and I hesitantly opened my personal Facebook account.

Fast forward a few years and I now have two accounts—a personal one and a business one—and a group page for all my cruise friends. I’m still not sure I’m using it to its full capacity and I haven’t earned a dime or made any significant business contact through Facebook but I’m now connected to friends and family around the world. This connection only became important to me when I left North America for Central America.

I’m living in a Spanish speaking country and I don’t speak Spanish. Most of the television programs are in Spanish and I was only able to turn on the closed captioning in English on one channel so I feel as if the world is speeding past me and I am missing all kinds of important events and news. And that’s where the Facebook Nation has become useful and significant to me. I read the status updates to get all caught up on the world’s news. I found out that Nelson Mandela died and was grief-stricken (funny that I never met him but feel as if he was my grandfather) but then additional updates corrected that he hadn’t actually died but was in critical condition in hospital. Whew!

I’m also able to keep up with the happenings of my adult children, who don’t contact their mother enough. I can see that my friend Nicole and her sister Nichelle have become marathon masters! I can pray in support of my friend Tania as her son battles cancer. I can applaud Angelina Jolie for her decision to remove both breasts in a preventive assault against breast cancer and I can peek into the activities of my family members in Toronto, Jamaica, New York and England.

I’ve also heard all the complaints about Facebook but I don’t really understand them because as I said, I’m not really that much of a user. Sure I can post photos and update my status but I don’t play Candy Land so can’t really understand that obsession!

Now that I’ve got an online business, I plan to get to know Facebook much better. I’ve been asked by some of the young people here in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua to teach a Social Media course featuring Facebook so I’ve got some incentive.

Klodyne it looks as if you were right about this Facebook phenomena. And if I haven’t already said it, “Thanks for connecting me to the Facebook Nation!

Am I Not My Brother’s Keeper?

To Those Who Would Be Silent — I wish you were in the bus with me today when I was verbally bashed and folks just stood around staring. For those who think racist bullshit doesn’t happen that often, or that vigilance is not required, or that all the screaming of the past few days is at an overkill point… To those who feel that silence is best, that it is not their fight, that it is a matter of interpretation, who worry about how they will be perceived … Know that my humanity will not allow me to disregard what is important to you or stand idly by when you say “help me.”—K. R.

The above is taken from one of my best friend’s Facebook page after she was racially abused on a bus in Vancouver. Unfortunately, the people on the bus stood silently by and no one came to her aid. This is 2013. The discussion still rages about the need for Black History Month. This incident makes me want to scream ‘Yes!” But the issue goes a bit further for me than racial violence and black history to the core of who we are as human beings on this planet. I find myself asking the questions. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” When did our responsibility to take care each other stop?

I think back to the days of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.  At its peak, strangers from all over America came together to march in demand for equality. When the police and dogs attacked, folks helped each other; no one stood silently by and watched. But sadly, times have changed.

When I was a child, if I did something wrong all the neighborhood mothers would smack me in the back of my head and ask me why I was giving my mother trouble. Today, you can’t even speak to a child that isn’t yours about their inappropriate behaviour. That child would probably cuss you worse than a sailor could. And heavens forbid if that child’s parent is in earshot. You would probably get threatened but you would definitely get a solid tongue-lashing. When did that all change? When did caring about another individual and offering assistance become something to be ashamed of? When did the fear of reprisal become the main reason people “mind their own business”? What will it take to swing the pendulum back to being our brother’s keeper?

I felt badly for my friend. I felt badly that I wasn’t there to speak up and break the silence that allowed this degrading act to occur.  But I felt worse that other didn’t say what needed to be said or even just a simple “Stop!” And as long as these incidents continue to happen, the world will need Black History Month and all the other cultural holidays that are being added to the calendar to create awareness and eventually, acceptance.

History Made: Obamas Part 2

“Yes we can!” that was the chant heard around the world during Barack Obama’s campaign to become the first African-American president in US history.

After that night in November, the chant became “Yes, we did!”  Fast forward to 2012 and that chant could be “Oops, we did it again!” with President Obama’s re-election to a second term.

I am not going to dissect his first term, his politics, or policies. Regardless of how other thinks he performed and who thinks he shouldn’t have been given a second term, I am eternally proud that he was a President that carried himself with grace and dignity even in the face of constant personal attacks questioning his birthright.  And I can’t speak about grace and dignity without mentioning the First Lady Michelle Obama.

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The Bathroom Bill

The Saturday edition of the Toronto Star recently ran an article in the Weekend Living section entitled “New Loo” all about the flourish of unisex bathrooms in Toronto as debate over gender rights rages. My first thought is “you’ve got to be kidding!”

From further reading of this article, it seems the “Bathroom Bill” as it is being called, has passed in the House of Commons by a narrow margin. The controversial legislation reinforces the rights of transgendered people to use whatever bathroom they see fit. Gendered bathrooms are being regarded as “old-school” and “traditional” but is this a tradition worth keeping? Continue reading

My Plan B

I have always been a proponent of having a Plan B–a backup plan just in case what you are doing now turns out to miss the mark for bringing health, wealth and happiness into your life or it somehow gets taken away from you, much as a job might.  Recently, I realized that I spend a great deal of time thinking, no, it is deeper than that, it is pining for my Plan B to become my Plan A.  And then something unpleasant happened at work.

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A Lesson Learned, Finally

From left to right: Dr. Dennis P. Kimbro, Curlie McCalla, C. Carol Brown (me), Dr. Vibe

 

Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Dennis P. Kimbro, author of Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice. What amazed me about him was his humility, his warmth, approachability and his total lack of ego. Let me paint you a picture of this amazing man. Continue reading

Our Changing Times

Something dramatic is happening to adolescents. Adolescent was a time of physical and psychological change, self-absorption, and preoccupation with peer approval and identity formation. It was a time to come to terms with sexuality, to define a sexual self, and to make sexual choices. It was a time when boys and girls focused inward on their own fascinating changes. But that has all changed. Continue reading

Dum Dum De Dum

Weddings are dangerous. Think about it. People making promises you know they are going to break, others falling under the spell of the magic that is the ceremony and pop a question they had no intention of asking before. And stuff–namely the garter and bridal bouquet–are thrown at people to encourage them to be the next one to take that trip down the aisle.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that people are still committed to the institution of marriage especially the younger generation. They seem to hold hope that they won’t join the 51 per cent of couples who get divorced. I’ll borrow some famous words from Jesse Jackson, “Keep hope alive!” Continue reading