Opinion piece – The Next Great Migration.

This is a New York Times opinion piece making the case for more Black Americans to consider expatriation. As someone who has been there and done that, this wasn’t a surprising read to me and is mostly relatable.

No country is a utopia, let’s get that straight. But it’s easy for me, a former expatriate, to understand the reasoning behind this opinion piece. America is in a tie, in my opinion, with Australia for being the most racist/prejudiced country on the planet. Any deeper-thinking and feeling person (who happens to be Black American) would want to leave a country in which we were enslaved in the past and still fighting for equality in the present.

Enough of my jet-lagged rambling. Take a look at this, and feel free to comment.

New York Times opinion piece – The Next Great Migration http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/the-next-great-migration.html?smid=pl-share&_r=1

These never-before-seen portraits of former enslaved blacks will move you

Spinster:

February is Black History Month in the United States. Check out these photos of enslaved blacks freed by the 13th Amendment.

Originally posted on theGrio:

January 31st marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.

To commemorate the occasion new photos have been released showing some of the men and women who lived through that era – and were finally granted their freedom.

The portraits focused on a group of 500 people and were taken in the late 1930s, as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), 70 years after abolition.

The set was eventually published in 1941 and called Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slaveryin the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. All total, there were 17 volumes. While the pictures give an honest glimpse into an important part of our past – historians agree the stories in the collection are biased since they were conducted by white interviewers.

Slavery historian John Blassingame publicly said that the collection can present “a simplistic and distorted view of the plantation” that is too positive. But…

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Then and now.

Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side. –The Talmud

(NOTE: this is a long one, with a bit of cursing, disclosure, no punches pulled, and vulnerability. Don’t like any of that? Don’t bother reading any further.)

Picture it: October 2013.

Aside from a few pieces of luggage filled to the brim with whatever I could carry, I returned home with almost nothing. The life I was trying to build in the United Kingdom was snatched from me.

I’d been placed on unpaid leave on August 9, 2013 – in contemplation of dismissal – by a shady employer that misinformed me about my work visa, among other things. Because of the employer, I accidentally overstayed my work visa by about 2 months by the time I received notification from the Home Office on August 8, 2013. I then had to report to the local immigration office like a criminal – once per week initially, then once every 2 weeks. I was evicted from my beautiful apartment in October by what turned out to be a shady landlord (I’ll never forget, Gary Sheppard of southeast London). I’d been his tenant for over 3 years and even offered him my security deposit, but money over everything, right? For 3 weeks before leaving the United Kingdom, I stayed with someone who insisted that I stay with her after my eviction. (I won’t mention her name here, but can’t thank her enough.)

I asked the male DNA contributor to please help me get a ticket home; there was no real response. Things were so bad that an American colleague took the male DNA contributor’s number from my phone to call and explain how bad things were. (Even though I knew it was a waste of time, she insisted.) Male DNA contributor begrudgingly bought a ticket, didn’t accept my thank yous, and treated me like shit. After almost 3 months of no contact (didn’t even check to make sure of my safe arrival to the U.S.), the male DNA contributor e-mailed me – not to say “hello” or “how are you?”, but to tell me that “you owe me (insert U.S. dollar amount here)”. No exaggeration – that’s what the e-mail said. When I responded that I was living from couch to couch, the male DNA contributor stated that I was exaggerating and need to look for work to pay back the money, along with some other really fucked up things that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Male DNA contributor would’ve known that I was looking all day every day, including weekends, at employment opportunities, had there been any effort to check on me. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good.

Bye.

Bye.

The female DNA contributor isn’t much better. (Boy… if there’s a higher power, he or she sure knows how to pick the people whom they want to create new human beings. :-| ) Complete narcissistic waste of time & energy. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good a while ago. At least I don’t discriminate, right?

Another person from England, whom I’d known for 10 years, insisted that I pay her back $50.00 I owed her in spite of full knowledge of my situation. Yes… $50.00. I was so stunned that she had the nerve to ask me for money she knew I didn’t have, that I just responded with “not a problem”. I gave her the bit of money (and boy, was it just a bit) I got from the former employer about 5 weeks later and after that… *crickets* -  no “hello” or “how are you?” or even “f*** you” after that. I waited 1 year for her to say something to me on any form of social media or technology… still *crickets*. I was there for her during some really difficult times (including an abusive relationship), before and after my move to England, and she threw everything away for 50 U.S. dollars. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good.

Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)

Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)

At one point, I don’t think that even my aunt & uncle – who are like real parents to me – realized the gravity of my situation. And I’ll admit, I was angry at & frustrated with them for a bit before my return home. But once they realized how bad things were, that was it. I began staying with them before Xmas 2013.

I forgot to mention that since I accidentally overstayed my visa because of the former employer, along with reporting to the local immigration office, I was banned from returning to the United Kingdom for 1 year. Once I gave up all chances of returning after being shafted by recruitment agencies, I gave up trying to get back to the country and sat out my 1 year ban.

And so many other painful stories of betrayal and outright dismissal, from so-called colleagues, friends & relatives, that I could recount since I hit my rock bottom. (I’m not sure if those people deserve my energy, though.)

But then there are people such as:

  • my (ex-)stepfather who, in spite of us not speaking for 1 year because of an issue, picked me up at the airport upon my arrival home even though he lives in another state and carried my luggage – no questions asked – and gave me money for public transportation to get to interviews without me asking.
  • Joana, who insisted that I stay with her upon my return home, free of charge and refused any of my offers to help otherwise. I didn’t stay long due to other reasons, but for that and her I’m eternally grateful.
  • my aunt & uncle, who’ve housed me, which has helped me rebuild my life slowly but surely. Among countless other things, aunt bought me a coat and interview clothing also.
  • Dashima, who supported my fundraiser and sent me flowers when I finally got a job after almost 8 months of no luck.
  • Juma, who gave me his old coat until I got a new one, and provided other support.
  • those who gave me emotional and/or financial and/or other support and didn’t have to – Ellen & her husband storing my stuff in England, Sherri helping me pack, Sherri (again) & her husband cooking for me, Nadine helping me pack, Dacia, Gary, Johanna, Uzma, Twana, Sharon S., Natalie & Emmon, Ruth, Atiba, my 2 main Facebook group members, and so many others I wouldn’t expect.
  • the many people who sent me job postings.
  • the people who don’t know me in real life or online but believed me and believed in me more than enough to help, no questions asked.

I know I’ve forgotten some names, but I hope those people know my heart.

I think things are beginning to look up.

  • I’ve worked since March 2014, after almost 8 months of unemployment with no benefits of any kind.
  • I’ve paid down some debt.
  • I joined a gym to return to healthier living.
  • I’m studying for my next highest credential (or qualification, for those of you overseas).
  • My aunt, uncle and I get along very well overall, which is definitely a challenge for an introvert like me.
  • I have travels coming up within the next 2 months; my travel bug is finally back. (I’ll leave the travels as a surprise for now.)
  • And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been able to help others with no strings attached. It warms my heart to help those who can never pay it back (nor do they have to try). I’m just grateful to be able to do it. (I’m very selective, however.)
Finally (little by little).

Finally (little by little).

I sit here, typing this with tears in my eyes. (A few of ‘em even fell.) Some feel like sad tears, but more feel like grateful tears. For those who left me when I needed it most, farewell. For the rest of you, I’m eternally grateful. I thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

Little by little, step by step, day by day.

The world returning to my fingertips.

The world returning to my fingertips.

The end. (Or the beginning?)

Exactly 1 year ago today, I left the United Kingdom after living there for over 3 years. It’s hard to even type that.

One of my dreams as a kid was to live abroad, whether for a long time or for good. That dream came true when I was given the opportunity to work in the United Kingdom. That dream came to an end, and not in the way in which I wanted. I even planned to return, but to no avail.

Were it up to me, I’d still be there. I wanted to get extra professional experience, dual citizenship, extra chances to travel, and a new life. I wanted things to end on my terms; I wanted to leave when I was ready. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I lost almost everything; my dream went down the drain. I came back to the United States with only a few suitcases holding a bit of clothing, a few books, and a few treasured items. Meanwhile, those that fucked up my dream continue on as if nothing happened.

I was ashamed because even though it wasn’t my fault, I came home with nothing to show for my time there (or that’s how it seems). I came home to couchsurfing, no job in sight, and very little support – family included. I lost a lot (and gained nothing but pounds). Family turned on me. Friends – scarce. And retelling my story over again – not an option. I have to live it and that’s painful enough, so why the hell would I want to repeat it?

1 year ago today marked the end of an era, the end of my dream as I had it planned and hoped it’d turn out. It’s still a bit painful, still bittersweet. I miss traveling. I miss my Meetup groups and the experiences that came along with them. I missed living abroad. I experience nostalgia sometimes, and I miss the few dear friends I made, so much. I miss what could’ve and should’ve been.

But maybe… just maybe… the end was the beginning of a new part of my life journey. Only time will tell. And as far as that country, I’m not yet done with it. I still have unfinished business there to handle, and most importantly, I still have a few dear friends there.

I needed to get this out. Thanks for reading/listening. And please stay tuned; I still have a long road ahead.

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Life-changing day.

Exactly 1 year ago today, I received a letter in the mail that’d change my life for a long time, if not for good.

It was a Thursday evening, and I came home from a long day at work, with my team on duty for 3 days straight. I was glad to be home. It’d been my home for a little over 3 years, and I thought I’d be there for a long time to come.

There was mail in front of my door. I picked it up and saw that one piece was from the Home Office. I thought to myself

Oh, good. The Home Office will renew my visa. I’ll get to stay here a bit longer, save money, travel a bit, and even look into dual citizenship.

I put away my belongings, settled in to read my mail and maybe watch a little television – likely something I DVRed, no doubt. I opened the Home Office mail and read it. Then my heart sank deep into my stomach. The Home Office denied my visa application. I was a overstayer.

I re-read the letter a few times to make sure that it wasn’t a joke. But nothing in the letter changed. I was an accidental overstayer. I was speechless for a bit, and even fought back tears. (I can’t remember who won – me or the tears.) I called my aunt and let her know, and I told her I’d keep her posted.

Little did I know that this was the beginning of the end – the end of my expatriate life, the end of my independence, and the end of my life as I lived it for ___ years. And to this day, I’m still feeling the effects – they aren’t as strong as 1 year ago or even a few months ago, but they’re still there.

I hope my day is so busy that I don’t dwell on the anniversary. I hope that the bitterness goes away completely one day – some of it is gone, but some still remains. I hope that I can handle unfinished business over there. But in the meantime, for the way my expatriate life ended over there, that place can go straight to hell.

But Can I Get a Taxi?

Spinster:

Do you use any of these cab/taxi apps during your travels and/or daily life? If so, how would you rate ‘em and why? What do you think of the economic & travel points made by this blog post? And finally, if you don’t use any of these apps, would you consider doing so for your future travels and/or daily life?

Originally posted on The Uppity Negro:

black man taxi

This past Memorial Day weekend, I took a week vacation from work and took the Amtrak to Los Angeles (please believe I took a plane back to New Orleans), and per my normal habit when traveling, I had made plans to rent a car.  But since I wasn’t renting a car from an airport, that made returning the car a bit more cumbersome seeing as how I was flying out of LAX with an 8:55am morning flight.  There was no way I was going to be able to get from NoHo (North Hollywood) where I’d be able to drop the car off Tuesday morning (because they would be closed on both Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend), and beat it through LA traffic back to LAX.  So my friend was more or like, don’t worry I don’t mind driving, but you can use Lift.

Yes, I really thought it…

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Week (or 2) in review.

Today:

I’m feeling: physically better – allergies seem to have gone away for the most part.

I’m listening to: Ginuwine on my phone. The slight tapping of my fingers on this keyboard.

I’m thinking: June will be a busy month – a few birthdays, a graduation barbecue in Pennsylvania, other business to handle, work, etc. I need to look into filing paperwork for the next highest professional license and a new credential… I just need to make the time between work & commuting. I’m feeling a bit out of it.

I’m reading: nothing now. Hopefully by the end of this month, Kindle here I come.

I’m looking forward to: the free trial kickboxing class. If it’s good, I’ll take it once per week, which will help knock out a big chunk of the 180 minutes of exercise per week needed for weight loss & healthy lifestyle.

I’m learning: while I’m glad that people appreciate my overall work ethic, even I have limits on how much I can do, at work and otherwise. That I still have a long way to go in my personal & professional journeys. That lots of people are just winging it through life; in other words, most of us don’t know WTF we’re doing. That some people in power are doing a damn good job of winging it. :-| That either I’m winging it too, or I need to improve my self-confidence a bit.

I’m enjoying: the ability to help those who need it because now, I know exactly what it’s like to be in a seemingly bottomless pit. And I’ll never forget it.

I’m creating: what I hope is a healthier, more stable life overall. I’m paying down debts, and I’m trying to strengthen my boundaries even more than they already are.

I’m grateful for: losing 4 pounds since April 1st. SparkPeople – that website is a godsend for healthy living. Getting a pedicure. Having dinner with step-dad and giving him a present that he loved. Going with my intuition for step-dad’s present. Seeing my sister this past weekend for the first time since before moving overseas – while we’ve lived different lives, as we’ve gotten older, I think our relationship will strengthen. My sister’s weight loss – lost 50 pounds so far, looks even more amazing than she did before, and it inspired me even more to lose weight & live healthy as a result.

Yep... same hair.

Yep… same hair.

Around the house are: winter clothes that need putting away since we’ve clearly jumped from winter straight into summer. :-|

In the kitchen: not sure because for the first time since visiting my sister, I haven’t cooked for the house all week and plan to keep it that way until next week.

I’m planning this week to: attend a couple doctors’ appointments for the first time since returning to the U.S. (still have gripes about the U.S. healthcare system). Cook once or twice. Take kickboxing class again if I like it. Figure out what to get my uncle for his birthday. Figure out what to get my sister for her birthday (I think I already know). Attend the local NASW lecture/workshop. Visit my friend’s family and play with their 6-month-old baby & 3-month-old nephew.

My quote/verse for the upcoming week is:

Once in a while life simply takes a pause, stops to take a breath and re-consider its direction. Pause with it. Breathe into the new direction.

(I must try remembering this for the upcoming week and beyond.)

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Week in review 13-18 May.

Today:

I’m feeling: under the weather. Damn blasted allergies. :-|

I’m listening to: myself typing on this keyboard, along with silence. Aunt is taking a nap, uncle is outside doing who knows what, and I’m recovering from exercising and a night out.

I’m thinking: when aunt wakes up and we go run errands, I need to get some extra-strength allergy medicine. :-|

I’m reading: same as last week. Hoping to get a Kindle some time next month.

I’m looking forward to: the upcoming long weekend (Memorial Day). Dinner with (ex) stepfather this week (he had a family emergency last week, so we postponed). One of our staff members returning to work from knee surgery so that my load is lightened a bit. (I’m also glad, of course, that the staff member is recovering well.)

I’m learning: that I can’t make a person change; one must want change for oneself. It sucks feeling helpless about it, but I can’t do anything to change another. That I may have a few extra opportunities to advance my career, thanks to hearing things confirmed through the grapevine. That even though recruitment agencies from England keep contacting me, not a damn thing has changed with their social services system. (One borough wants to interview me when they come to New York City next month, but I’m extremely ambivalent about returning there for many reasons. Here’s one of the reasons why.)

I’m enjoying: being “in the know” just a little when it comes to some things at work. I appreciate being valued by a job and knowing a few inner workings of upper management. I don’t know what the future holds, but if nothing else, this job is definitely a learning experience.

Work bound.

Work bound.

I’m creating: dinner tonight, and they better eat every bite. :-|

I’m grateful for: getting to celebrate my good friend’s milestone birthday last night. Seeing a few people at the gathering who I’ve not seen in as little as a few years and as much as double-digit years. Lots of laughter. Being mindful of what I ate and not going overboard (healthy living can be hard – but not impossible – sometimes). Enjoying Reese’s peanut butter cups and still not going overboard. Allowing myself exercise breaks when needed, like today. My (ex) stepmother graduating with her Master’s of Social Work yesterday; I’m so happy for her, and I hope that I helped her even 1% with my advice. I couldn’t attend the graduation, but I’ll see her and my youngest sister at her celebration next month. :-)

Happy birthday, friend.

Happy birthday, friend.

Around the house are: weekly groceries to be put away. New laundry to be put away.

In the kitchen: dinner food in the refrigerator, waiting to be cooked later. Dishes in the sink that aunt is complaining about even though I told her I’ll wash ‘em after I finish cooking. :-| Food to be prepped for the rest of the week; always better to get it out of the way now when I have time. :-|

I’m planning this week to: schedule a doctor’s appointment for the first time since returning to the U.S.; I won’t bore anyone with my gripes about the healthcare system. Cook once or twice. Find out if anyone is having a Memorial Day weekend barbeque or gathering. Get a well-overdue manicure & pedicure for my upcoming trip to see my sister and a friend or two. Shampoo 9 years’ worth of dreads (D’NALI started ‘em for me 05.15.2005).

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My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: It wasn’t a waste of time if you learned something.

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Thin line between love & hate (Part 1).

I’ve meant to do this series for a while, but I’m glad that I waited until now. I’m not fully “there” yet, but I now feel comfortable enough to write.

As I’ve said countless times, living as an expatriate is a mix of the good, bad & ugly. I’ve been back in the U.S. for over 5 months now, and I’ve had many moments of clarity. A few of those moments entailed mental lists of things I love & hate about the United Kingdom from my experiences living there. Since the country (and its people) basically did a number on my life as I knew it, and it’ll take me a long time to recover, I’ll start with the things I hate about the country. As with any of my lists, they aren’t exhaustive; this is due to concerns about my privacy, possible future developments, and my hate can only last but so long. :-|

Please note: if you’re from there and easily offended, don’t bother reading further than this. The following points will be raw & bitter. These points are my truth, as well as the truth of a few others who’ve had a similar experience to mine. I’ll say what I have to say, and that’s it; if you don’t like it, walk away now. I don’t battle trolls or keyboard gangsters.

1. Dark parts of its history – currently, Britain has invaded all but 22 countries on this planet. All but 22. If you don’t understand how much that is, I’ll make it simple for you: that’s almost 90% of the planet… that means if there were only 10 countries on this planet, Britain would’ve invaded 9 of ‘em. That means Britain gave zero fucks about anyone or anything but itself & its interests. And because of my experience, I learned that Britain is still very much a shady, conniving, low-down country not only on a macro level, but also on a micro level toward people. Its populace inherited the country’s conquering & brutalizing spirit, as shown by the way that they treat people who don’t fit their agendas, whether the affected people know it or not.

2. Sweeping things under the rug – Britain (and some of the United Kingdom’s inhabitants) likes fancying itself as a diverse utopia. While the United States and the United Kingdom have somewhat different stories in terms of slavery & immigration, one thing that’s similar about both countries is their love of sweeping things under the rug – making believe that things did or didn’t happen or, when admitting fault, downplaying it as much as possible. It’s as if they say

There, there now. Fair enough, we conquered & destroyed & disemboweled & killed & pillaged & raped millions of people… but that’s all in the past! No need to bring it up again. Come on, let’s have a cup of tea (United Kingdom)/grab a beer (United States) and forget all about it.

Until Britain (and any other major conquering country) fully acknowledges its part in fucking up most of the planet in some way or another, it’ll not only continue affecting other countries in a negative way, it’ll also continue shattering the lives of people who live there. I mention the lives of people living there because the same characteristics that Britain used/uses to destroy countries got passed down to its populace and they, in turn, affect each life and later make believe that nothing ever happened. Whether they like it or not, some of us may forgive but never forget.

3. Rude people – I’m sure I’ve written about this before (here & here & here). The people are some of the rudest I’ve ever met in my lifetime. Do you have a question or need help with something? You’ll be lucky if anyone hears you and/or gives a straight answer. Are you used to saying “good morning/afternoon/evening” to people around you, no matter who they are? Don’t bother doing that because it’s as if courteous people are aliens from another planet. Do you need to sit down because of an injury, ailment, illness, pregnancy or being elderly? Don’t expect anyone, especially the men, to offer you a seat (or anything else to make things more comfortable for you). As a matter-of-fact, a female is more likely to help you than a male. I’ve traveled to 12 or 13 countries so far and, hands down, people in the United Kingdom are the rudest I’ve ever met.

4. Child welfare – I’ve worked in social services for many years, and I can say with confidence that while the United States can improve upon its services, the United States is more advanced than the United Kingdom in that regard. I prefer it here because one can work in various fields, learn different practice methods, and safeguard better. I also think that social work education is better in the United States. The United Kingdom has a long way to go to improved social services not just for child welfare, but all aspects of social services (including educating & training potential social workers).

5. Cost of living – If I remember correctly, London is more expensive than my city… and that’s saying a lot. And don’t get me started on the increase in wealthy people from all over the world buying properties in London for various reasons (if you’re smart, you’ll figure it out). It’s getting so bad that many native Londoners get forced out of their city, and I bet that’s by design (just like my city).

6. Narrow roads – I’ll admit that this one is silly, but come on. Why are the roads so narrow? Were they purposely designed to get people into accidents and road rage incidents? Even when America wasn’t filled with fat asses like me (and even when I wasn’t fat), damn near everything got built big. I’ll take the wide 3-7 lane streets & highways here over those narrow ass streets any day. The same goes for the sidewalks.

7. English breakfast – this is another silly one, but it’s one that many people over there take seriously. I’m sorry, but I can’t get with English breakfast. That link calls it “splendid”. I’m not fond of beans or fried tomato with eggs, but whatever… I can tolerate that if I had to. But anything containing mushrooms or black pudding… not one bit splendid. :-|

I think that’s it for now… I think. If you live in/lived in/visited the United Kingdom and there were things that bothered you, what were they? Is there anything I may have missed? I’m getting forgetful in my old age. :-|

My next post will list the things that I miss about the country. In the meantime, check out the video below and pay attention to the chorus. To be continued…