Wanda’s picks for January 2022: The body has seasons

Wilma-Chan-altar-by-Wanda-Sabir, Wanda’s picks for January 2022: The body has seasons, Culture Currents
The altar for Wilma Chan is at the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Grand Avenue. Drivers, please be careful and look out for your neighbors out on these streets. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

by Wanda Sabir, Arts and Culture Editor

I have been reflecting this past month on forgiveness and gratitude. I want to believe people do the best they can with what they know. Sometimes we are privileged to have people in our lives who offer guidance. However, all of us are not so lucky. I think it is luck, although it is easy to believe that some of us are on the wrong lists. 

When are my sweepstakes or lottery tickets going to cash in? Even if I gambled, there is still a chance I might lose, so why put one’s hope in such a shallow basket?

I don’t think people, especially close kinfolk – parents – intentionally harm their children. The parents doing a good job outnumber those who are not, but the bad parents get all the publicity. This is not to say parents who are doing well don’t make mistakes too. 

Harmed people harm others – not to mention how much easier it is to surrender than to resist, fight, oppose. It is also easy to harm those who are physically weaker and dependent, like children. 

Getting involved takes courage.

Agency is a choice many people are too weakened to step into. Often, we, the abused, find ourselves alone, which is also a choice. The crowded sidewalks hold the beautiful people fashionably gowned. 

When I think about children harmed, I am happy I am not the creator and don’t have any responsibility for other grown people’s actions. We learn as Muslims to stop wrong with our hands and if we cannot stop the harm from happening with our hands, bodies, then to speak against it. 

Lastly, we can walk away from it. This is the weakest defense. Getting involved takes courage, because you might be alone in this decision. The harmed person might not support the interference – Hadith 34, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi. 

So anyway, I am thinking about these big questions as the Gregorian calendar ends and another starts. I am the Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA). My father was my qualifier. I hadn’t known one of the casualties in such a household are the children who lose their childhoods, and, if we survive, grow up thinking dysfunction is normal. 

I learned about ACA a month ago. I’d been attending AlAnon, a 12-step program for friends and families of alcoholics more off than on since 2019. When I say alcoholics, I also include narcotics and related behaviors like incest and spousal abuse. I hadn’t known that there was a whole program just for the ACA. 

ACA folks grieve their lost childhoods and part of the recovery is to parent the “lost child” within.

I have been to two ACA meetings at this writing and, well, I am angry again with my father. I also learned that this forgiveness thing is expiration date stamped. Daddy’s been dead for 28 years and I forgave him formally when I was 59 years old. He died when he was 59. 

So anyway, when I read that ACA folks grieve their lost childhoods and part of the recovery is to parent the “lost child” within, I was like, “Whoa?! Hold up.” I took Daddy’s photo off the altar and have been reflecting with his spirit on forgiveness, atonement and grace. 

It is a process. However, I don’t want to carry this grief for my lost childhood into the New Year unaddressed. I am a person who believes ritual is a way to address spirit-related issues. In October and November 2021, I attended the second year of Nine Layers of the Soul, a virtual program.

It began on Oct. 31 and featured healers throughout the African Diaspora, many located in the SF Bay Area, like Iya Wanda Ravernell, Yeye Luisah Teish and Iya Nedra Williams. During the opening three-hour program, one of the presenters shared her ancestor elevation practice. I knew then I had to do this for my dad. I added repentance when I learned of ACA and got angry two weeks ago. 

I started Dec. 20 and plan to continue through Dec. 27. Daily I offer two rakats for Tawuf, or Repentance, followed by libations and readings from the Holy Qur’an about forgiveness, parents and children, wellness and gratitude. I close with music, mostly Abdullah Ibrahim, whom my father introduced to me and whom we both enjoy. 

I can only imagine the difference Alateen would have made to my life when I was 12-13-14-15-16, before I married my father over and over again starting at 19.

I’d compiled a soundtrack for my father’s birthday earlier. I dance to the songs and then greet my dad until the next day. The first day, I offered him a little food. 

I plan to end the ascension and repentance ritual with an offering in my father’s name to an organization that addresses a problem my father actively participated in. I looked into organizations that address spousal abuse in the Muslim Community. There are a couple here in California, one in the SF Bay and another in Sacramento. 

I was hoping to find an organization that sought out Black American Muslim women. I wonder what sisters are doing to keep themselves safe. It is even harder now given the pandemic. I got divorced 34 years ago. I had no safe house options then. No one talked about spousal abuse in the community. I was in Oakland and San Francisco Muslim communities. 

When my mother was hopping from one friend’s home to another when my father was threatening, more than 50 years ago, there were no safe houses for her with two small children. Why is there so much silence in the Black community, especially the Muslim community and American Muslim community, about this? 

After over 30 years in therapy, when do I get to be well? No one ever mentioned ACA or Alateen or AlAnon to me when I was a kid growing up in the Nation of Islam, a young adult, a grown woman. Officials knew my dad drank. They would send him home and eventually he stopped attending. My mother didn’t have anyone to talk to. I never heard anyone talk about spousal abuse to even feel safe talking about this as a teenager and later as a victim myself. 

Not one therapist in the past 30 years has recommended AlAnon or ACA! I can only imagine the difference Alateen would have made to my life when I was 12-13-14-15-16, before I married my father over and over again starting at 19. I am dating him now. 

American Muslim men, Black men, are marrying multiple wives, many from Africa or Indonesia, then, after 18 years – for example – adding another woman to the mix, these new wives 20-30-40 or more years younger than the American husband(s). This happens to Black American Muslim women too, who know, as the second, third etc. wife, she has no rights, because polygamy is not recognized in America. 

It’s a sickness that gets played out in the home, my home, your homes.

It’s the “rich American” syndrome. Everything is for sale. Women sell themselves to prospective husbands for a small price – sex, procreation. There should be a law against this, however “hislam” supports such acts. These are Hadith citing men who wear kufis, recite Arabic, make Hajj, pay zakat – who exploit female vulnerabilities.

Marriage vows also have expiration dates. Married at 25, divorced at 42. The old wife must welcome the sister-wife or perhaps leave her comfortable home penniless – often without her children. This part – parental rights – she can fight in America; however, the poverty is almost expected. The first wife submits. 

I wonder about the sins of the fathers on present generations and how no hands are clean when we think about the legacy of slavery and what our ancestors suffered, especially the women and girl children and often boy children too. What these ancestors witnessed, what they had to participate in and the unaddressed soul wounds their descendants carry from those ancestors forward. 

I am praying for my father’s soul. The expired forgiveness stamp needs renewal, so I can begin again with myself and the child inside who needs caring for. I am reading Honoree Fanonne Jeffers’ first novel, “The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois” (2021), great saga. 

I wonder as I read this book about the trauma and sexual violence of enslavement and its aftermath then to now and how secrets harm both the one who is silent and those who need to know. Add to this cocktail colorism and see how love doesn’t protect or erase the damage racism does to the psyche of the “dark child.” Why do people “pass” or pretend to be something they are not, even when the color of power is that of the perpetrator? 

The victims still aspire to be it – him, her, them. It’s a sickness that gets played out in the home, my home, your homes. It’s the children, especially the girls and women, who suffer. Are there any families untouched by incest and sexual violence either as victims or perpetrators? 

How do you know when no one wants to talk about it? Blaming does not fix the problem. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away. I hope this new year Black families, especially Black Muslim families, start addressing these hard topics and get help before another generation is harmed. 

We do what is done to us. Be careful. Don’t let your babies out of your sight. Stand outside the door after you check the shower – other stalls – when they go to the bathroom at a relative’s house or a public bathroom. 

Supervisor Wilma Chan, presente!

Death has such finality. I’d read on Nextdoor that Sup. Wilma Chan had died, but I hadn’t known the details until my daughter told me she’d been hit by a car in the crosswalk – the same crosswalk I’d crossed often when taking my daily sabbatical or bike ride.

Supervisor-Wilma-Chan-Alameda-County-District-3, Wanda’s picks for January 2022: The body has seasons, Culture Currents
The Bay Area community mourns beloved neighbor Wilma Chan, Alameda County District 3 supervisor, who was killed Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, by a driver in Alameda. She was a tireless advocate for the people of Oakland – with a focus on people of color and vulnerable communities. She was the first Asian American on the Oakland School Board and the county Board of Supervisors as well as the first woman and Asian American to serve as majority leader in the state Assembly, representing Oakland, Alameda and Piedmont. Asé. – Photo: Alameda County

Flowers, candles and cards are there, another roadside altar – calla lilies and marigolds, chrysanthemum, gladiolas, white horey stock, cockscomb. I took a photo today. Last night, the new moon and Venus mourned her loss as well. It’s so hard to believe she’s gone. 

I notice drivers see me in the crosswalk and invite me to cross. Funny. Just a month ago, I could stand at a corner for several minutes waiting for cars to stop.

The killer is impatient drivers who rev their engines and take off before I get through the crosswalk.

I never assert or test “pedestrians have the right of way” in Alameda or Oakland. I assume I am invisible, and I wait. It’s safer that way. Even when my grandson – now 5 – was in a stroller we had to wait and wait and wait. The killer is impatient drivers who rev their engines and take off before I get through the crosswalk to the other side. In front of me and behind me. Now that’s scary.

Sup. Chan didn’t stand a chance. I remember her talk at a College of Alameda graduation. I liked her. Later she nominated me for the Realignment Commission for Alameda County, which I served on for a couple years. 

This board advocated for resources for those people returning to Alameda County from imprisonment. I don’t like advisory boards where one has no policy-making clout. I will probably be resigning from another board this coming year. Time is precious, ya know.

Be careful. Stay on the curb until you make eye contact and the car has stopped completely. People are too busy multitasking – driving just one more thing on the list. Cars have backed up as I stood on the sidewalk watching, not moving. The drivers look up and apologize afterward.

I wave them on. Trust? No way. I am riding my bike this afternoon and cars block the bike lanes or people run in the bike lanes. 

Bay View Arts and Culture Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wanda@wandaspicks.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.