Posts

M is for mother.

IMG_2275

For you, mom, on Mother’s Day

🌹✨

What qualities makeup a mother?
The glue that holds ones family together.
Her children’s biggest fan.
And though her beauty blends so gracefully when in her presence, I guess you could call her a natural.
Good at what she does, that is…

Matilda.
Mom of 4, yet mother to many.

As any other would do, she would wipe away my tears,
Brush my hair til it was nice and Sleek, provide for me, housed me and fed me food that’d bless my pallet.
But where most would stop, she continued to teach me.
She taught me to be bold, and not only to stand out but to be outstanding.
Telling me, “Aim to be the best at what you do, MAC
Allowed me to Chanel my best qualities and show the world what I have to offer whilst still in my prime.
And hearing positive affirmations from you would make me blush.
When I took the wrong tone, you wouldn’t hesitate to be my corrector.
Training up her child in the way she should go, that when she grew old she would not depart from it.

And go I went.

But even though I’m away from home, we couldn’t be any closer. Speaking to you is the highlight of my day. And if not for the way you raised me, my time away from home wouldn’t lash so long.
You said from your lips, what I do at home would stick with me when away… setting the foundation of any strong young woman.
Powdered me with love, never concealed me from facing the world on my own accord. With your eyes, you’d shadow me. Never fully leaving me but from a distance, watching me glow into a independent young lady. And if I were to fall, you’d be there so I Maybelline on you. There’s nothing more that I, as your daughter, could ask of you. Much like the gloss I’m wearing, you’ve allowed me to shine, and for that, I thank you.

Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to mirror what great a mother you have been to me, to a child of my own.

MUA“, I love you xxx

 

– if you haven’t quite caught on by now, the theme of this piece was MAKEUP

“My Hair Is Nappy”

‬‪Written by Makhala Kirwan.‬
Inspired by Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker The Berry.

‪You hate me don’t you?‬
‪And I think I know why:

‪My hair is nappy.‬
‪My nose is rounded wide.‬
‪My lips are full and I speak my mind.‬
‪You believe we are not of the same kind.‬

‪My body moves so effortlessly ‬
‪Energy flows through me to the beat.‬
‪It amazes you how my people don’t have two left feet.‬

‪I scream and I holler when things don’t go my way.‬
‪It shocks you that I’d have so much to say.‬

‪Brown – not black – is the colour of my skin.‬
‪And the magic in my pigmentation is bursting out from in.‬

‪My food is well seasoned.‬
‪My music is cultured,‬
‪Yet they blame rap and hip hop for reasons why men turn to vultures.‬

‪On occasion, if any, your people would call ours “Pretty…”‬
‪”…For a Black Girl”, you’d add‬,
‪As though I’d need such pity.‬

‪After 400 [plus] years of whips and chains,‬
‪We were given back our freedom, yet things have not changed.‬

‪No more “massa”, “picanini” or things of that kind.‬
‪But it’s clear amongst our lifestyle that we’re still slaves of the mind.‬

‪We too are educated and can articulate,‬
‪Yet you still insist that you cannot relate.‬
‪The air we breathe is the same in our lungs.‬
‪Two eyes, ten toes, one liver, one tongue.‬

‪The God I serve has said we are the same.‬
‪And I hate to repeat myself, but I must ask again….‬

‪Why do you hate me?‬
‪Please… I would like to know why.‬
‪Is it because my hair is nappy,‬
‪And my nose is round and wide?‬

‪Maybe one day I’ll wake up, and we’ll all be free.‬
‪Maybe one day I’ll wake up and every nation will see.‬
‪Maybe one day I’ll wake up and death will no longer be.
‪Maybe one day you’ll realise, that we’re the same, you and me.

Better Late Than Never: Happy New Year, People!

I know, I know… It’s been exactly 225 days since my last post.

Some write’s block, huh?

i-dont-know-tamar

I could provide you with a million and one excuses as to why that is, but instead, I’ll fill you in on a little something I’ve been experiencing these past few months, in my next post.

I’d just like to thank you all for sticking with me on my not so smooth journey, and wish you a Happy New Year, though we are already 21 days deep. Forgive me. But as we so often hear, “it’s better late than never”, right?

2017

Wow, I really didn’t see this coming! Well, of course I saw it coming, but the speed at which this new year hit me was quite astonishing, really. It’s as if I was enjoying my summer getaway, lounging on the quite beaches of Antigua one minute, and all of a sudden, distant relatives were crawling out of the woodworks to eat all the Christmas turkey and hand out embarrassing photos around the dinner table once again.

 

tamar

Time surely does fly.

This year has already proven an interesting one for me thus far, and I’m excited to see where the rest of it will take me (kicking and screaming, I’m sure).

With so much death, poverty and disaster, I’m just grateful to enter into a new year with health, strength and optimism… So hang in there, people – the stories ahead will be something you’ll surely not wish to miss!

Once again, happy new year! I wish you nothing but joy, peace and prosperity!

 

tamar-happy

Yours truly,

Makhala  (oh so very late) Kirwan xoxo

Home: The Dominica I Know

Like most mornings, I started off my day listening to some Shakka. I hit shuffle, and after two or three songs, my favourite began to play: “Sooner Or Later”. Incredible, phenomenal, exceptional – these words don’t quite describe Shakka’s work. Check it out:

Anyway, enough doting. The track had me thinking of my “motherland” (not so much Africa,but literally, my mother’s place of birth) – Dominica. After further research I discovered that this very song was actually written with Dominica in mind. As it turns out, this same singer, song writer and producer – like me, is Dominican. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it led me to writing this piece, dedicated to you, Dominica: my home away from home.

Now just to clarify, when I say Dominica, I speak of the Commonwealth of Dominica and not the Dominican Republic. They are two completely different countries and aren’t at all related to each other other than the fact that they’re both located within the same region (the West Indies):

DA DR

Before any friends or relatives reading decide to jump the gun and correctly point out that I was not born in Dominica, here, let me…. I, Makhala Kirwan, was born to parents Matilda and Peter Kirwan [see attachment below] – sister of Kadiff Kirwan, Earlan Kirwan, Vallis Weeks and Royden Lewis…. in New York, USA. To add further confusion, I was raised here in England. With that being true, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve always considered myself Dominican and think of Dominica as my homeland.

*Cue the cliche*

They say home is where the heart is. I agree. Though I am ‘only’ first generation Dominican, not once have I thought of myself as less-than any other ‘real’ Dominican. It’s true. Say what you want but both indirectly and directly, the country has made me who I am today. It’s in how I speak and speak to others, it’s in the culture and sound, my friendships and bonds. I was blessed to have been raised in a Dominican household with the nation’s culture and values instilled in me from a young age.I take pride in that.

I have come across so many people who know little to nothing about the country. From what I’ve gathered, unless you, your family or friends are from Dominica, you know nothing of Dominica. I guess I can see why; it’s not as commercialised as the other islands (Jamaica being one of the long standing examples) and I think it’s safe to say Dominica is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean.

Though there is an element of truth to that, Dominica is still a place I will always love. I mean, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea – I’ll grant you that. If you’re looking for a country full of entertainment with a busy Parisian/ New York/ London nightlife – Dominica is not the place for you. If you’re looking for an island which is easily accessible with plenty of convenient modes of transport – Dominica is not the place for you. If you’re looking for a place with mass tourism and overcrowded beaches – again – Dominica is not the place for you. But what you will find, is something much more.

DA

There certainly is a level of peace and quietness to the island, but “boring” is not a word I would personally use to describe it, it’s just at a different pace. Where I live (here in England), there is always something to do and some event to find yourself at. The bars are always open, the malls close late and there’s a cinema positioned every few miles from your local city center. Each time I visit Dominica, on the other hand, I find myself enjoying the little things which the Commonwealth has to offer:

  • The ripe Julie Mangos falling gracefully through the trees
  • The smell of roasted breadfruit
  • The unclouded skies
  • The warm, fresh air
  • The clear river water
  • The sandy beaches
  • The aesthetically pleasing nature
  • The tourist attractions (boat trips, whale watching, snorkeling)
  • The sound of dominoes being slammed against the table
  • The energy and rhythm in the Dominican accent
  • The bouyon music playing at a disturbingly loud volume from across the street
  • The awkward encounters with free roaming chickens and goats
  • The humor of jokes spoken in creole
  • The wisdom in my grandmother’s voice

I’ve never felt more comfortable and at peace with myself than when in Dominica. But don’t get me wrong – there is a social scene on the island – you just need to know where to look. There are festivals and parties aplenty. Carnivals and fetes galore. Take a hike and admire God’s creation – you’ll soon see why they call Dominica the Nature Island of the Caribbean.

Dominica may not be the place for you. But it’s the place for me. It’s home. Where’s yours?

 

Makhala Kirwan

Edmay’s Story

DEDICATED TO YOU, GRANDMA🌸

This is my grandmother,
Edmay is her name.
Some call her Babay,
Her “claim to fame”.

I thought I’d share a story,
With a little rhyme.
We start in 1924,
With a Once Upon A Time.

She came into the world,
Wide-eyed and rosy-cheeked.
Never did we know
That one day she would meet….

The man who would give me
Uncle’s Mark and Sento,
After many hours in labour
She bravely spent though.

Somewhere along the way,
Grandad Harold she married.
And shortly after that,
10 more children she carried.

Felina, Isaline, Titus too.
Sarah, Philemon and Hyacinth, who knew?
Vincent, Matilda and Adam the ‘beast’,
And little old Abel….
The last (but not least).

Never could we have known
We would have such a huge clan.
But that was a part of
My God’s special plan.

12 children, 28 grandkids
And 30 [plus] greats.
Through Him alone she managed
So many things on her plate.

Here ends the story,
And what I wanted to say,
Was “I love you dear Grandma,
And Happy Mother’s Day.”

❤️

Alternate Names For Black Boys

By Danez Smith

1.   smoke above the burning bush
2.   archnemesis of summer night
3.   first son of soil
4.   coal awaiting spark & wind
5.   guilty until proven dead
6.   oil heavy starlight
7.   monster until proven ghost
8.   gone
9.   phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
15. (I thought to leave this blank
       but who am I to name us nothing?)
16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath

‘Black Enough’: Part Three

The Physics of my Magical Black Hair

black enough cover photo

“So that’s technically not your real hair?” The day I no longer have to hear those words will be the day I rejoice in gladness – that much is true. And I must say, it takes real strength to exercise patience when I’m told how “gross” I am for not washing my hair every day or that I’m “weird” for intentionally adding oil to my hair for a greasier consistency. I can’t get mad when non-blacks spew such dense remarks my way. Well, I suppose I can… But I really shouldn’t. And I guess I should get used to it since I recently decided to ‘go natural’. That phrase may not translate to some but what that means is, I came to the conclusion that chemically butchering my hair was probably not the best routine to preserve.

For most of my life, my frustration over my hair (unlike my hair itself) just grew and grew. I didn’t really understand it. Being adopted into a white family, my mother struggled to properly care for my hair and so chemical relaxers became her go-to… It was like having the answers to a test you were about to take, or the cheat codes to Mortal Kombat – it made your life a whole lot easier. Goodbye coarse and kinky, hello soft and silky. Just For Me relaxer was the holy grail in the Stephens household. My mother no longer had to replace the combs with missing teeth which broke off in my head, trying (and failing) to untangle my feral afro. She didn’t have to stare at my scalp confused as to why my tight curls were drinking copious amounts L’Oreal – huffing and puffing at the idea of reapplying yet another palm full. She no longer had to carry the weight of unspoken criticism from strangers, nor the expressed disapproval of  how “nappy” my hair was.

Yes. The chemical straightener lightened her load, both physically and emotionally. Because of this, I knew as much about my own hair as she did until attending University at the not so tender age of 19. This had become one of the reasons why I had never felt ‘black enough’ to call myself black. After all, which black person can’t take care of their own hair? (In years to come, I would learn the answer to that rhetorical was, in fact, plenty.) By the time I was 17, my hair was damaged and my edges had joyously ridden into the sunset with my self-esteem. And instead of repairing the breakage, I just hid the devastation under costly weaves and hair pieces. For many black women, this is seen as the acceptable thing to do – sabotage your locks until it no longer bends, but breaks at your whim. Sit and scald you scalp until it damn near falls off your head before seeking refuge under the shower head. All in the name of Western beauty ideals. Sadly, many black women believe this Aryan-adjacent image is the sole vision of attractiveness and so do whatever necessary to attain it… Even if that means ruining themselves in the process. For years, I guess you could say I was conditioned to think this way also.

Last month, I sat myself in the waiting area of BeBe’s Lounge: a hair salon in East London, awaiting my bi-monthly hair appointment. It was there where I met a woman who, for the first time in my life, educated me on black hair. She went on to tell me how “hair is not rocket science,” but in that moment, it was more like quantum physics. After working up the courage to ask her for advice on how to best care for my hair, she said, “contrary to popular belief, no one else will know your hair like you. No hairdresser, no YouTuber, no Instagramer… not your GP, the old lady down the road and most of all, I won’t know your hair like you do.” That made sense. I listened attentively to this woman as she went on to describe what it is I had been carrying around on my head for twenty-two years. Magic. It was the equivalent to pixie dust growing from my scalp. Who else’s hair defies gravity, or grows with patterned spirals which mirror that of electricity, tornadoes and DNA? Who else can say their hair both grows towards and provides shade from the sun? Afro hair has to be some form of sorcery. I mean, have you seen it? It can contort and hold locks, twists, braids and shapes like no other! Though, truth be told – it’s not just a ‘black thing’, I’m aware that many people of different races and cultures wear their afros with pride. So why shouldn’t I? After hours of research, I eventually came across a blog run by a group of African- American women called FroGlo. This website had all kinds of tips and tricks on how to maintain afro hair and plenty of FAQ’s to read up on. In the spirit of genuine curiosity, I ended up emailing them a ton of questions I’d pondered since childhood and sat in awe at their awaited response.

Last weekend, I did it – that “C” word most black girls tremble at the sound of: The Big Chop. I cut my hair and began my journey back to happier, healthier hair. Ever since, I’ve received the most discouraging looks from people in my heavily Caucasian populated neighbourhood and others in the workplace. Fair enough, it was a drastic change from Becky with the ‘good hair’ to Bon Qui Qui with the big mouth, but damn! Although at times, I was not directly facing anyone, I could still feel them gazing my way for far too long. I was beginning to think that I had something ridiculously offensive written on my forehead or perhaps a “kick me” sign taped to the back of my polar neck. Yet still, I can, with good grace, say that this transition was one of the best decisions I have made in a while. It does have its benefits; for example, my fro provides great cushion for those unbearably boring days in the office when I need to take a power nap on my desk in the middle of the work day (weave 0-1 natural hair).

Yesterday, I was called into my superior’s office and was told that I should “consider putting my extensions back in” because my GOD GIVEN hair is apparently “unprofessional in a work environment”. Because it’s not at all unsavory for people assume that the hair upon any and every black woman’s head which doesn’t resemble a sponge microphone cover, must be store bought, right? How hilarious…. The hair that GROWS OUT OF MY OWN HEAD, is “unprofessional.” The notion that black hair, minus the European-style appearance, is improper is not only ridiculous but discriminatory. Why did he stop there? He may as well have asked me to bleach my skin so I can assimilate around the office. “You seem different lately… Troubled. Is everything alright at home? Financially?” Amazing. Those words came straight from the horse’s mouth. Because by his logic, an afro is a symbol of distress it appears… It’s the equivalent of throwing up the Bat Signal to locate all other radical black feminists – a cry for help. Right? Wrong. I don’t grasp why he fails to understand that wearing my hair in it’s natural form is not a rebellious statement or a sign of me joining some sort of counterculture. It’s just me. Hannah Stephens.

In all my time at HappyHour, I had never felt so offended…. And I’ve taken my fair share of offense. I can understand that going natural would seem a bold move. And I knew it would draw attention to me, forcing me out of my wallflower customs. Though, what I didn’t expect, was for my employer to order me to straighten my hair or “try and pull it back into a ponytail or bun,” because it was “distracting” and a “violation” of what is expected from employees. What a damn shame.

As you’ve probably guessed, I quit my job. And as sad as that is, at least my hair has grown 1.5inches. I suppose that’s something… Right?