Cancer Saved My Life


I don’t remember what age I was when I lost my virginity. When it was taken. Without permission. I know it was during the time that my mind stayed on double dutch, skelly and hop skotch. We would play Red light, green light one two three in our carless driveway on East 54th in the heart of East Flatbush. There was dodge ball in the park at PS 268 and spin the bottle wherever we could find a place where the grown ups were not. I was about 9 or 10. Could have been younger but it is taking me forever just to write this so trying to figure out the exact age that he took something that belonged to me might drag these few words out even more. And all I want to do right now is get them out. The words that is. Words that I have never spoken or even told anyone. Ever. Cancer provided an opening. I had to lose the weight that I created. I had to shed the layers of who I was and was not. Cancer saved my life.

Everything seemed normal. Mom worked everyday and sometimes on Saturday. My brother and I were provided for. Mom bought her first piece of real estate in East Flatbush 3 bedroom/2 bath brick house with small front and large backyard. Aunties all lived in a close radius and monthly parties at Aunt Babs or Aunt Daisy’s house where rocksteady and reggae ruled the turntable and curry goat, manish water, cow foot was our norm. I found my own version of happiness in the little world I created. Recently my Mom told me that as a immigrant she had heard stories of things that happen to children in America and that authorities would take children from homes if they found them alone…so her friends who happen to be male would help out and keep an eye on my brother and I. But they mostly had their eyes on me. I was 4 or 5 when it started. It became as regular as going to school everyday. It was a part of my life growing up. One that I never talked about.

I imagined that all little girls had “Uncles” who liked to sit them on their laps, play touchy feely games with them and put their lips on and in places that had not yet matured. Then said uncle would give you/me some change and a few dollars so I could go out and play with my friends and buy candy. I imagined that all my friends had money and change because they got them the same way I did. Only we never spoke about it. It would be our little secret but I imagined that all little girls were going through this and were told not to tell anyone else the secret . That’s why none of us ever talked about it. Cause it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.

Touch Yourself

“So for a good little while I stopped touching my breast. My bredren would come over 3 to 4 times a week (faithfully) and massage them but I wouldn’t touch the one with the tumor. I avoided it as much as I could. It was hard as a rock.I felt like I was carrying a bowling ball on my chest. It hurt in multiple ways.

A burden. I considered it (my breast) NOT part of me but something that was attached to me. I did not want to interact with it. It scared me. Reminded me how sick I was everyday.

I didn’t realize that THIS was one of the greatest forms of NOT LOVING YOURSELF.”

In Da Club

 “So I’m on the way to the club with my daughter. Well kinda. She is suppose to meet her friends there but they’re not coming until later so she asks me to come and make sure she gets in okay and then (presumably) leave. (She is home from college for the holidays and her friends were raving about the “Broke and Boujee” parties at the Five Spot).I mean what daughter wants their mother in the club with them. Right? So there’s is a long line at the door. The doorman says “I’m checking IDs only, 18 to get in and 21 to drink”. “Okay” I say,awkwardly looking for my ID and glancing around to see if anyone notices my grown ass self bout to go into this teenage club with a bunch of 18 to 21 year olds. LOL. Of course I can’t find my ID for a second. I’m holding up the line and feeling a little paro. I’m thinking to myself…”I bet they all wondering who holding up the line”. I imagine one of the many teenagers who are in line saying to themselves, “somebody’s mama” and laughing to themselves like they the only ones that know what they saying.

So now we are literally one step from being in the club. And my daughter, after spotting a number of good looking eye candy says to me “oh u don’t need to come inside”. I laugh to myself and just imagine for as brief a moment as possible how horrified I would be if my Mama came up in the club with me. But at this point I am too damn curious. We right at the door and it looks like it’s on and popping up inside. I look at her with eyes that communicate, “too late baby…I ain’t going no where but inside this club.”

So we get inside. I am thinking its 10 dollars. And the girl at the door says 1 dolla. I say “what” titling closer to her ears making it oh so obvious that I don’t know the routine and she yells “one dollar”. Okay. So I must be really out of the loop. 1 dollar. OMG.

So I walk in. Feeling good that my daughter hasn’t abandoned me (at least not yet). You know how we would do back in the day…and act like….”Oh I’m not with them”. You know… standing a comfortable distance from Mama. Well maybe that was just me. But not my daughter Kenya. She trooping by my side. Got me feeling good that my baby girl, on the threshold of twenty is still trooping with Mama.

So we walk through the club headed for the right spot to claim as our own. And me desperate to make some contact with a few heads my age. I see a few. “Whew” I lament to myself. I knew it was some OGs up in this place. LOL We grab a seat near the stage. With full view of everything. The placed is packed with wall to wall of our future. I’m still a little paranoid. I see heads nodding at me; waving periodically; smiling. Got me wondering if they thinking…”that’s somebody mama, I better say hi.” I imagine it’s like seeing your teacher at the club. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Wondering why. Afterall, I am somebody’s Mama. Proud of it too!

As a marketer. I’m thinking. Damn. Who is promoting this event tonight. The club is packed wall to wall with the prime trendsetters and tastemakers of this generation. The latest clothes, baseball caps galore, fly sneakers all on display. Basically crunk. I’m thinking about these two new female rockers that I signed to my management company. What a perfect audience for them.

When we first came in the music was basically that retro sounding stuff that is suddenly popular. Go figure. Common, MJB, Kanye all at more beats per minute than I am use to.

Anyway, talk about young Black and Fabulous. Fly brothers and sisters galore. When I tell u the place is crunk. I’m feeling good. Flying beneath the radar. Then “Uh oh.” Here comes the roving photographer. I’m not sure if I’m more concerned about him taking a photo of me and someone seeing it and thinking that I hang out with teenagers at the club on weekends or if I was worried that he would pass me by embarrassed about taking a photo of someone who looked like his 11th grade language arts teacher. He stopped right in front of me. “Damn”, i utter underneath my breath. I quickly ask my daughter Kenya to come in the photo with me. At least folks will say, “she was there with her daughter.”

Then the music changes from retro pop to atlanta crunk.Most of the songs playing, I’ve worked on the videos in my other incarnation as one of top location scouts in Atlanta. Everyone from Dem Franchize Boyz, To Luda to Young Jeezy, to Lil Wayne (I know he not from Atlanta) to T.I.

It all kinda sounds the same… with a nice beat.

Just when I am thinking the worst of the artistic offering of this generation in the south specifically I remember a lecture the great historian Dr. Asa Hilliard did where he referred to a dissertation by a young writer and PHD candidate in which she compared crunk to spirituals both musically (the syncopation, the call and response) and spiritually (the chants, the praises, the letting go) So I sit up and take better notice; watching the crowd, listening more attentively, feeling the spirit. Its damn near holy ghost temperature in here. Wall to wall. A spiritual movement. One that us adults will completely miss with our judgemental- non-listening- pre occupied with life selves.

I’m getting lost in the service.

So my daughter is standing on the chair next to me. Observing. Bobbing her head, dancing. I’m feeling good that she feeling good and ain’t shy about completely expressing herself amongst her peers while I’m at the club WITH her. I’m spending my time typing these thoughts on the blackberry hoping to go unnoticed as someones mama trying to get crunk with the teenagers. So I decide to stand on the chair next to my daughter Kenya. I start bobbing and busting a little move and I am immediately stopped by her. “Mama” she says sounding and looking visibly annoyed, “U can’t do that”. “ Huh” I say. I mean we done made it this far. I’m in the club. She dancing and cutting up doing the booty dance right next to me. We dun crossed all the barriers. “So what is it now” my eyes respond minus the words. “you can stand on the chair but you can’t dance mama.”…”Please” she adds at the end of a momentary pause. I’m okay with that. Again all I gotta do to put things in perspective is to imagine how horrified I would be if my mom were in the club with me MUCH LESS shaking her groove thing to the music that moved my generation. OMG. Just the thought. So I respect her wishes, conserve my bounce and just bob ever so slightly hoping that that will be okay.

Ok. So I’m on the chair. Typing away. The spirit is moving the crowd and that same spirit is moving my fingers to type this blog note to you’all. I type a few words and the next thing I know I look around and my daughter is gone. Poof. Like magic gone. So I’m like damn. “That must of been her plan all along”, “to get ghost”, “ Lose her mama in the club”. That’s my rich paranoia at play again. My head is practically doing a 360 looking for her. But all I can see is the heads of literally hundreds of teens. Damn. Rather than go looking like a mad woman. I stand there on the chair trying to adjust my eyes to survey headtops for any that might match my little Kenya’s. When I turn to look around again I sight her on stage getting the digits of one of the promoters. She probably thinking about throwing a party like this in DC at Howard University where she is a sophmore. And here I was thinking she ducking me. Our eyes meet and she looks at me with a knowing stare that says, “I’m taking care of some business mama…waving her I PHONE for further confirmation.

Imagine me being worried that she was trying to dip. I feel a little silly. Afterall she ain’t me at that age. I forget that some times.

When she returns she says “Mama, I’m going outside for a minute its hot in here.” “I’ll come with you” I say without skipping one beat. “That’s okay Mama, I’ll be right back” I hear her utter faintly as I look at the back of her head. I wonder to myself how I’ve managed since she been off at college…With my paro self.

 A few minutes later she returns. What a relief. I know she tired of me asking her. “Who’s that playing.” “what song is this”, “what song was that”. I just feel the need to know who these artists are that are making this wall to wall crowd of energy move uncontrollably in complete cooperation and obedience to the spirit. I know she getting tired of me asking. Before she went to college. I prided myself in at least being familiar with everything she listened to. I didn’t let anything slip by. I needed to know what she was thinking, what she listened to, what moved her and why. I must admit since she went off the school. I kinda fell off little bit in terms of keeping up with all the music. 

My “My President is Black” comes on. The whole room is one high school chorus. Couple fists in the air.

I continue to obey the rules. No dancing. I get away with slight head bobbing. I can’t help it. DJ in touch with the crowd and visa versa. They feeling each other. I’m feeling the whole experience…in da club.


By ttsadm