Monday, 3 August 2020

The Art Verzuz The Artist

Hello, happy new month.
How are you doing?
I've been in an 'I wish a nigga would' mood otherwise known as 'four-five seconds from wilin' almost all July. Let's see how August goes. 

Anyway today I'm here with some confessions.No justifications, just admitting my transgressions and willing to take my punishment. 
This is how it began. I was watching - okay objectifying - Freedom Williams as I ate my supper, really enjoying the fact that for all their videos, C+C Music Factory had Freedom shirtless but the girlies were fully dressed. Such a refreshing change. Also, the nineties had much less of a problem with colourism in their music videos. Really Freedom was the only light-skin in Gonna Make You Sweat.
It was beautiful. 
I love his voice and his way of moving and just well...everything.

Of course, once I was done, YouTube suggested other videos to watch and the King of Pop was right there. It's been a while since I listened to Dirty Diana so I hit the play button. 
Now the way that video is set up, it just really makes you realize that Michael Jackson was a rock star. I was sitting there wondering if I might have fallen on the ground and cried and fainted the way that people used to do for him. And I cannot say that I would not have. His charisma is quite compelling. The thing with Rock Stars though, is that they had a lifestyle which did not include going home to the wife and kids after the curtain fell. No, it involved sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Everyone had their own tastes but nobody was a boy scout. There were no innocents in the rock star culture.
Michael Jackson just happened to be caught. 
Now I am not saying I don't believe his victims. If there was a way I personally could help them come to terms with what happened to them, of course I would. But I cannot so I ask myself, what does it help anybody if I cut myself off from this music? His music isn't just an earworm, it's part of my formative years. It's evocative of times and places that I hold dear in my heart. Am I to throw it all away because the artist was not well-behaved?
There's a thread going around twitter comparing Ludacris to 18th-century German composers like Bach nem. And it's clear that even those guys had their major flaws. But nobody 'cancels' their art because the artist was problematic.
So yeah, Dirty Diana is one of my all-time favourite songs. It stays on my playlist.

Now MJ is the King of Pop and people might excuse me for still listening to his music because well, y'all get it right? But this next guy...I have no excuse, except to say that he made some great music and he was always the problematic fave. You got used to thinking of him as a troubled man who alternately sang about his sexual perversions and his mother. Kind of like a crooning Tupac but without the social justice messages.
In my defence, that was until I saw the documentary. Then I stopped cold turkey. Still do miss singing 'So Hot We On Fire' though.

As an honourable mention, Black is King just came out and one thing to be said about Beyonce, she's an excellent mimic when it comes to dancing. When she performs African dances, she gets it exactly right. Of course, you can see that it's very precisely done, very choreographed, which is not at all how Africans dance. The smoothness is missing. Nevertheless, it's the closest I've ever seen an African American come to doing it right. There is nothing that truly separates Africans and African Americans like how they move their bodies. Still, Beyonce comes very close almost. She's a savant when it comes to dancing.
Speaking of Dancing Savants, I also very very occasionally watch Chris Brown videos - not Chris Breezy let's be very clear - Chris Brown. Mostly from his album Fortune (had to look up the name because my brain doesn't hold space for CB trivia anymore) because it reminds me of the days when twitter and tumblr were wild for entirely different and more interesting reasons. The glory days are behind us indeed. We've all grown up now.

All of this to say that perhaps we should stop putting artists on a pedestal because their art is exceptional. We're all human. J.K Rowling is brilliant but apparently, she believes Trans Women shouldn't exist. Not even in a live and let live kind of way. I mean considering the subliminal messages in the Harry Potter series about oppression, it's really quite surprising. But we all have our blind spots. For some it's trans women, for others it's sexual deviance. 
For some, it's just being mean, while preaching kindness like Ellen. When we don't let people be who they are, they're forced to build personas and then we feel betrayed when 2020 exposes the real person. Having decided that everyone's problematic, me included, I'm going to enjoy what I enjoy without imposing moral imperatives on the artist.
Kanye excluded that is. Such selfish jerkery is apparently where I draw the line.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Book Marketing - We Hate It, But It Has To Be Done

Hi guys. 
As you know, I started this blog to share my experiences in writing, the good, the bad and the ugly. 
I was thinking the other day, that in light of the pandemic, that while I've had a really good season of paid work, my own books have suffered from lack of attention. So today, instead of finishing my allotted word count, I hopped over to Canva and made some videos.
Here is one, reintroducing my books and my writing to you. 


Also, feel free to visit my author page and browse.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Haba Na Haba

Annemarie, what does your title mean? 

Well, dear reader, what it means is 'little by little'. It's taken from a Kiswahili saying, "Haba na Haba hujaza Kibaba." which means Little by Little and the Gourd is Filled or something like that. Basically every little helps guys.

This is the little that I, Annemarie am adding to the pot of global uprising and the search for equality. You see I was watching the zoom call between Harry, Meghan and some QCT members (video below for your edification) and it inspired me because it opened my mind a little more. 

Meghan asked a pertinent question: 'within all the contexts of all the related uprisings taking place in the world, what can I do on an individual basis to move the needle?'

The main answer - though I urge you to watch your yourself - is to listen to those with the lived experience and find out what they need.

To bring that right to my own neighbourhood, and my very small tight community, I think that we are doing well in supporting each other in every way we can. But the world is not made out of my small tight community. 
So a little outward, what can I do?
Well, I have been listening, I have been following various protests from various parts of the world, at home, and abroad. And the truth is that it's the same system of oppression that has us all under it's thumb and if we are to build a better, more sustainable worlds, then we must tear down these systems.
A few months ago, a close relative told us that his firm was building a COVID hospital in an exclusive neighbourhood, for a very specific group of people. 
The Elite.
Because they always build their bunkers don't they? Don't ever think that we are all in the same boat. The system is always and forever skewered. So here's a list of things that I am hearing come up again and again in all the uprisings.

1. Dismantle the oppressive systems and their enforcers - the police.
2. Access to Healthcare for all - preferably Free.
3. Social safety nets especially for the most vulnerable. I've seen Kenyans come together, again and again, to help the less fortunate because you can't rely on the government to do it. That very same generosity that exists for each other, needs to be embedded in policy and spread wide and long, to include everyone.
4. Value Black Lives because in every system, including our own, we are the least valued.
5. Value the lives of the other "others" that exist: the disabled, transgender people, native peoples of various lands, the LGBTQIA community as a whole. Their lives matter too.
6. We want to not just survive anymore. We want to thrive.
The thing is that it's never the what, that's the problem, it's the how. 
How will we bring this apart? Once we are done throwing our hands up in salute, how will we open them, to receive the grace we long for? What about opposing forces from all sides, those who are satisfied with the status quo, who will do anything to maintain it?
A look at history shows that these murky forces always penetrate, distract and dismantle any efforts that look like it might succeed. They're willing to kill, to do absolutely anything to hang onto this system that has served them for so long. And then there are those (Terry Crews, I'm looking at you) who are afraid of the revolution. 
The Unknown looms too large for them. They'd rather hide in the familiar and say, "I'm doing fine. I don't need change."
They don't see that it doesn't matter because even if you're doing fine, now, it might take one major disaster, one misstep and you're out in the streets relying on the kindness of strangers like that Alan Love guy. 
So instead of thinking of just what's right in front of you, you have to think about generations to come. If we go on the way we are, there will be no generations, because there will be no planet. 
Let us be solution-oriented and unafraid. We could start by acknowledging that these systems were built to oppress, and not to be of service to the majority of us. Once we acknowledge that, it naturally follows that we will replace these systems with others that work for us.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Being Human

The other day, the power had gone off and we were left in darkness with only one candle.
My son and I were in a fight over some insensitivity but we were like, on the road to recovery. We don't like to be in a fight for too long. Advantages/disadvantages of being a two-person family.
Well anyway, we were in the same room because we were sharing the candle otherwise I guess we'd still have retreated to our respective corners. He was reading a book and I was reading fanfiction on my dying phone. The J in my story had an alter ego; a cold sumbitch, clinical, ruthless. He was trying to shut it down and tuck it away into a forgotten corner of his mind.
And it got me thinking about our fight and coldness and how everyone has that part of them that is clinical, and emotionless. 
It's a hard part.
Cruel even.
Like the Soulless Sam from season six of supernatural and how he behaved like a droid.

The crazy thing is, when my son taps into that part of him that is cold, I always think he got it from his father. Even though, if you ask me, I will tell you that I have ice in my veins. Something happened that really brought that home to me that night.
I almost burned the house down.
See I was looking for some other candles and I found one tiny stub that was almost done. So I lit it and put it on top of a tray which was sitting on top of the fridge. Long story short, the candle burned down to its root and then set the tray on fire. 
I was in the loo at the time and my son was in the sitting room. I don't know how he noticed that the kitchen was halfway to being on fire, but he shouted my name and said something's burning and I just ran. 
But I didn't run in a panic or in fear. No, I just hurried.
Threw everything outside that was still burning and swept up the debris even as my kid stood frozen. He was clearly terrified. So I made a point to ask him if he was injured. He said no and continued to stand outside in the dark. I knew then that he was shocked and scared and whatever we'd been fighting about just ceased to matter.
Long story short, the house could have burned down but I stopped it. My kid did help me by pouring water on the flames. My heartbeat didn't accelerate, my breath didn't come short, my hands didn't shake, I wasn't moved. It was just a thing that happened.
I wouldn't even have noticed my lack of being shaken if my son wasn't. I was surprised that he was because he's not usually the kind of person who is emotional about things. 
Naturally, all this navel-gazing about the cold parts of us had me thinking about recent events and the question I keep asking myself - why did it take George Floyd for people to start caring about police brutality.
And what it comes down to, I think, is what you nurture. You see, unlike J, I strongly feel that this ice-cold part of us has a part to play in our lives. It enabled me to walk into that kitchen and handle things before they went too far out of control - also thank fuck we don't live in a wooden house.
And of course, that took me back to this whole thing we're living through and what makes some people less "human" than others. And I think it comes down to which part you nurture, and which parts you don't. If your life is one of hate and fear, you're living in survival mode, that cold part is supreme. It's in the ascendancy. So you have less humanity, less empathy, you're living on the edge.
And that was an interesting explanation to me of why racism. Instead of being a balanced person with all the various parts, you have this being who lives in fear and so all they do is react. Isn't that interesting? What do you think?

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Africasplaining Is A Thing That Happens

The other day, I made some chapati, pilau and stew for dinner and posted it on my Instagram because I don't usually cook that lavishly on a daily basis with no reason. While composing the caption, I got the idea for this blog post because really it was this or have a really long caption on Instagram.
Nobody wants to read a blog post on Instagram, they're there for the pictures, right? So here we are.
Anyway, when I was writing Cinderella By Any Other Name, I had a beta reader tell me that I had gotten the food wrong.
That the protagonist's wedding was full of Indian food. That's because the guests were eating chapati, samosas, mahamri, among other things. Now when I saw that, my first instinct was to burst out laughing because what? You're literally telling me what people in my own country eat?
But then I asked myself, "Hey Annemarie, did you tell her that you were a Kenyan?"
And the answer to that was "No." 
I just assumed she knew since I found her on Instagram.
I guess we all know what they say about assumptions.
Food connects us. Indians and Arabs have been trading with the East African coast since medieval times. So a lot of what is known as Swahili Dishes by us here may be known as Indian food elsewhere. It's like the mystery of Mexican Beans and Rice which is very similar to African Beans and Rice. Where's the connection? My guess would be slavery.
This food thing, had me thinking about other instances where I was told by people from 'away' what was 'normal' for my region in my story. For example, another beta reader, for In Search of Paradise, told me that it was unrealistic for one of my heroes, Ben, to be a rugby player and also intellectually advantaged. Because he was a "jock" he couldn't also be a "nerd".
I don't think I need to tell you where that beta reader was from.
And so I had to explain that, "No, where I come from, the people who excel in sports - especially rugby - are also the brightest students. I know one actual rugby player who is also an actuary. And then I was thinking about why that is. Why are the brightest students also the sportsmen here, while in America, you cannot be both?
And what it comes down to is opportunity. 
In Kenya, the best sports-equipped schools with the best coaches and whatnot, are also the same schools which do well academically. However good you are at sports, you cannot rely on it to make a living. The backup is always a good education - so both things are valued. In the States, as long as you're good at sports, you're given a pass academically. Also for many of the economically disadvantaged, playing a sport is perceived as the only way out of poverty. So those people might not have the best schools in their districts but they can play football, or basketball or baseball use that as a ticket to a better school/university/life.
And so the myth grows that you can be either/or but you certainly can't be both.
The other major incident I remember of being corrected about my own fucking culture was when I saw one of the writers I was following was writing a book and they posted a snippet on Twitter. One of the creatures was named after a Kiswahili word but the way that he'd used it was wrong within that context. So I told him the correct way to do it.
He asked me for my sources.
So I say, "Me. I'm the source since I speak that language."
But, he says, "according to my research, this is how to write it. Do you have any conflicting resources?" So I sent him all the links still quite shocked that I don't qualify as a credible source for a language that I speak.
I tried not to take it personally but it still shocks me. I don't have to tell you what race or what country he was from, do I?
What all this comes down to is that there is one more type of 'splaining that is severely underestimated. That is telling Africans what actually happens in their own continent. The saddest part is that other Africans will also tend to accept that foreigners are better sources of information about themselves than they are. The other day, when Obama's brother sent that quickly debunked tweet about Obama's birth certificate, I replied that the man trying to retweet it as proof of something (I'm not sure what) should have just first read the replies to save himself some embarrassment.
So some other #MAGAT replied to my tweet with baseless justifications about why the tweet could be true. I laughed and congratulated him for Kenyasplaining my own country's history to me. And what do you know? Some Kenyan man came to the MAGAT's defence in my mentions. 
This lends credence to my theory that men are natural idiots, but that's a blog post for another day.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Opportunity Seems to Come Out of Nowhere but Nah...

Wow, guys.
The world is changing before our eyes, is it not? When George Floyd's daughter said, "My daddy changed the world" she had NO idea.
We're seeing the domino effect of Black Lives Matter because hey let's face it, not all of us value even our own lives as much as we do white lives or white adjacent lives. Hell, I hear the police in Kenya are harassing black protestors in front of the US embassy and leaving the white protestors alone. 
But let's go back to the genesis of this - Colonialism and the myth of White Supremacy.
Our history has been erased. Who we were, what we are capable of...even now it continues to be erased. The lack of COVID in New Zealand celebrated. But what about Mauritius? Also have eliminated COVID. Nobody is celebrating it. No, the press is waiting for African bodies to start dropping in the streets to train their cameras and say "You see! Africans are dying of COVID in droves."
But here we are, continuing to defy expectations. 
Nobody is talking about it. Yesterday I was thinking about how in other ways, everybody is erased from history except for white men. According to history books, they did everything. But think about it. Marilyn Monroe offered to sit in the front row of a club so that they would let Ella Fitzgerald perform. That's the only evidence of activism I have of the people around JFK. What if, as his sidechick, Marilyn did some whispering in his ear about civil rights? But she's never mentioned in his history aside from anecdotally so we'll never know. The women are never mentioned. But who is leading Black Lives Matter protests on the streets right now?
Living through 'interesting times' as they say really brings home so many revelations to me. Do you think K-Pop stans will be mentioned in the official history books? How they drowned out the voices of racists with fan cam videos? How they flooded Dallas police snitch sites with fan cam videos? How they matched BTS one million dollar donation to Black Lives Matter with a million dollars of their own?
No, I expect that will be buried in favour of whatever speech Al Sharpton will eventually make.
But what has brought us here? I blame food.
You see I write a lot of historical romance for a living and in my research on what a regency household served for dinner or what Scots ate in the 1500s, what jumps out at me is the sheer blandness of the food. So they travelled around the world and found that not everyone was living with boiled apples and roasted venison. They discovered places which had tea, tobacco, and spices. They discovered silk. They discovered precious stones. They coveted.
But they had nothing to trade. Nothing these people would want anyway, so they decided to take. And the way to take would be to use the one skill that they have honed better than anyone else. Manipulation and lying. They turned Christianity into a weapon. They used guns as a tool of power and fear. They decided to use the colour of their skin as a status symbol. They wrote the history books and so they turned myth into fact.
 Centuries of conditioning later, and most people didn't even question it. Not white people, not black people, not Asian people. 
Very many people still don't.
Every day though, those people grow less blind. Thank you, Cheeto Satan, for showing everyone white supremacy's ass.
So here's where opportunity comes in.
A man named George Floyd was killed by four policemen. His funeral, in fact, was yesterday. In the face of the protests, it was easy to forget that at the centre of this latest uprising is a dead man. Yesterday's funeral brought it home to me with a bang. Man, I hate funerals.
Anyway, so.
A man was killed, the four policemen who killed him were fired. And then it looked like that would be the end of that. Except...a video of a man being chased by two white men and subsequently killed had just been doing the rounds. Ahmaud Abery's killers were yet to be tried and convicted. Breonna Taylor was shot in her bed by police, as she slept when they raided the wrong house. George Floyd's death, captured in HD and lasting eight minutes and forty-six seconds was just that last straw. 
It was too much really.
So 1+1+1 made infinity. First locally, then regionally, then countrywide, then international; the cry for justice spread like wildfire. Now it wasn't just justice for George Floyd although that remains the kindling. No, it's justice for everyone who has ever been unjustly killed or hurt by police brutality. It's a cry for an end to that particular scourge.
People are finally seeing the biggest gang in the world for what it is. A racket. A tool of imperialism designed to oppress and suppress rather than to serve and protect. Or rather, they serve and protect the authors of imperialism. They make sure you and I, stay in line. 
And now people are saying NO.
It seems to have come out of nowhere, this opportunity to change the world but it's actually the result of slow attrition. Starting with Trayvon Martin and that jury which set George Zimmerman free and birthed the Black Lives Matter movement. George Zimmerman showing his ass so that anyone with half a brain cell KNOWS that the jury made the wrong decision. Watching Philando Castile die on Facebook live, knowing that Tamir Rice's killers were still working like they did not kill a twelve-year-old boy. Then When They See Us came out and showed how police obtain convictions. And every day, the tide turned a little more. Let's not forget eight years of an Obama white house meant that the generation that is responsible for a lot of change, the K-Pop stans, the Parkland students, the little girl in Flint, the white girls challenging their parents, grew up knowing that a black president is just a thing that happens. And it all came to a head with this one death. Opportunity looks like it just sprang up and yet, every little thing contributed to it. 
Speaking of which, I saw this account on twitter complaining about how libraries always claim they don't have books by black authors in their roster and she knows they lying. So I replied that my books are available on Scribd, Overdrive. 
An hour later she got back to me about one of my books. Like fastest sale, read and book review I've ever had. So because she was looking for black authors, I had my books in online libraries, and I'm black, but had I not answered her post, the opportunity would not have come to the good end it did. 
So in order to take advantage of fate, there must be action. Positive, deliberate action that is met with appropriate REaction.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The Truth Shall Set You Free: Rest In Peace George Floyd

I wanted to wait until I was less er...upset about stuff, to write this post but then every time I turn around, something else has happened to pile on my upset. I came to the reluctant conclusion that I'm gonna be upset for a while. So while I wallow in it, I might as well share the pain.
I was reading about Native Americans Before Colonization in preparation for this post because I wanted to start at the beginning. What I read was further upsetting to me not so much for the wilful destruction of a whole continent of people - that is old knowledge which I am used to - but its description in the telling. 
There is a soft turning away from all the truly awful things colonizers did to wrest the land from its owners. No mention of blankets infected with smallpox given as gifts. Oh no, just that the Natives got diseases from the settlers which killed them in large numbers.
And that is a common theme when Colonizers are describing their actions. The fact that Derek Chauvin had his foot in George Floyd's neck and kept it there for nine minutes, killing him, has authorities performing acrobatics not to call it what it is. 
Meanwhile, white Americans continue to be shocked and saddened that such a thing can happen in the utopia they live in. It's 'unprecedented' they say. We don't understand how this can happen. As if they didn't execute a 14-year-old boy for allegedly murdering two white girls in 1944 to name just one example.
Anyway, let us go back to the beginning, to how this America started. First, by clearing the land of its native inhabitants using disease, war and alcohol. To this day the descendants of those inhabitants live in reservations. It's their land, the whole of it, but they're still herded together and told, yeah, you can have that little bit for yourselves but that's it. Right now, they have the highest rate of infection of COVID-19 and no resources. 
But wait, that's not all. 
So after clearing the land of its original inhabitants, what did the colonizer do? He kidnapped Africans from their homes, put them in chains and brought them to America to work the land. They stole land, and couldn't even be bothered to work it themselves. No. They stole other people from their homelands, to come and work it for them.
On July 4th, 1776, the colonizers declared independence from their mother country. They said to England, "Nah, we don't want you supervising us as we oppress these other peoples. We want the freedom to do it ourselves."
And they still celebrate this day as if it was truly Independence of a country, making a fair bit of hullabaloo about it, calling themselves the greatest nation on earth and other utter bullshit pronouncements. All to cover up the fact that all they did was transfer the title from one colonizer to another. Or rather, the mother colonizer transferred title to their migrants. "America" is not independent. It's still colonized. That's why y'all have a "special relationship" with the UK.
The wabeberu are still very much in charge.
Unlike other places that were given political independence even though economically, the colonizers still hold tight to the purse strings, for America, it's different. Maybe the closest example of what America is, is what South Africa used to be under apartheid. The difference is that the South Africans were official about their policies and the Boers were not in the majority, while Americans kept changing the name of the game from Slavery to Jim Crow to MAGA. Whatever it's called, what it is, involves keeping minorities as lesser than.  Perpetuating the narrative that white is truly some sort of might.
Let's talk about how it's all coming down.
Do you believe in Karma? The ancestors? Curses? I truly believe that with their actions, continuously and without remorse, the colonizers of America have brought curses upon themselves. Not just because both Native Americans and West Africans have a long history of magic/voodoo and the ancestors are very active in their lives. But the land itself was bound to rebel sometime. It's taken a long time. Nearly five hundred years. But the chickens, they are coming home to roost.
The supreme irony is that the colonizers are the architects of their own destruction in the person of Donald Trump. You see, because of their actions, little white children go to sleep every night and have nightmares about uprising. About the people, they have oppressed for generations rising up and killing them all. 
That fear is what rules their days. 
It informs all of their actions. 
And that fear led them to elect that madman Donald, just because America had elected before him, it's first 'Black' president.
Now they did that because they thought Donald Trump was going to cement the destruction of minorities and for sure, he's made some half-assed attempts. There are still children in cages. ICE continues to deport anyone of brown or black skin. 
But the people who are most hurt by his policies, are the very people who voted for him. America has on its hands a dictator similar to Idi Amin who is controlled by the Russians. They are aiding Russia to destroy them, just to continue to perpetuate white supremacy. 
It's poetic I tell you. 
Only the universe could come up with this shit.
And the universe is in on it, for sure. It has come in and swept the land. In the same way that colonizers brought illness to the natives, the earth has brought illness to America. The two countries with the highest death rates for this virus; the US and then the UK. And it is because of years of inbreeding, racists breeding racists, teaching each other that they are some sort of superior species who will always have other people to take the blows for them. The Africans, the Asians, the minorities...
Well, and it's true that American minorities are hard hit because they are poor, they are the essential workers and they are the most neglected by health care. But that is bringing another thing to the fore and that is the sheer third world nature of American society. 
Everything has been exposed. All the flaws. There's nowhere to hide anymore. There's no one that can believe the lies when the truth is right there for everyone to see. 
Blue Lives don't Matter, they Murder. 
No, that Black Man did not Do Something to cause his death. 
It's not about Following the Law.
There are Two Americas.
And so now, even the white people who would have feigned ignorance and acted obtusely are forced to deal with everything. 
The dumbing down of America. 
The fact that America has never been great. 
They are forced to face the truth at last.
And once the truth is faced, it sets you free.
If George Floyd had to die on that tarmac, calling his mama, let it not be for nothing. It's time to break the curse.