Nineteen Seventy-Seven

I Didn't Choose the Rebel Life. The Rebel Life Chose Me.

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How NOT to teach a Black Girl to Swim

Photo Credit: National Library of Ireland

Photo Credit: National Library of Ireland


By Charing Ball

Dad had a girlfriend.

Actually, what he told me was that he has a “friend.” But I wasn’t stupid.

Dad and Mom were never officially a couple. He was from upstate Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, to be more exact. She was born and raised in Philly. They met in college in the seventies and one year later, they had me.

Mom was no stranger to dating. And before she got married, she had introduced me to plenty of her boyfriends. Some of them even lived with us.

Therefore I had no hangups about him having a girlfriend. I actually welcomed the company.

And she seemed nice enough. She was light brown skinned with a short haircut and a pleasant smile. Her style of dress was pristine. And her mannerisms indicated an air of sophistication not native to Harrisburg, or even Philadelphia. Yet she looked and acted like every single “friend” Dad had introduced me to over the years.

Dad steered the car while I sat in the backseat.

So Charing how is your summer vacation going? It must be great spending time with dear ol’ dad, huh,” she asked gleefully from the front seat. She made my summer sound more exciting than it actually had been.

Dad and I hadn’t talk to each other much during our summers together – or not to each other, at least. I spent most of my time in Harrisburg at my grandma and grandpa’s house. I talked a bunch over there: to my cousins, to my aunts and to my uncles too. We talked, we cussed, we bickered, we argued and laughed too. But that was at grandma and grandpa’s house.

At his house, things were pretty quiet. Most times, Dad was either locked away in his computer lab or watching the basketball game. In either case, he did not like to be bothered by me. Most times I felt like an unwanted guest. A burden, even.

I didn’t want to answer her; I didn’t know how to answer her without telling the truth. But I could see Dad’s eyes accusing me in the rear view mirror. I could tell that he wanted me to be on my best behavior. To help him make a good impression.

I obliged- sorta.

I didn’t want to be rude so I started rambling on about everything except my summer vacation. I told her about my brother, my cat and my dog. I told her about my neighborhood and my favorite rap album. I even told her about what I had for breakfast.

I could tell by how Dad grimace in the rear view mirror that I was talking too much. But his girlfriend seemed receptive to it all. She smiled and nodded at all of the right parts. And she even encourage my chatter more by asking questions.

Regardless of what Dad choose to label her, I really liked his new girlfriend.

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Winter Break at Privileged Beach


by Charing Ball


“Molo sis. How are you,” said the lady with a head wrap, oversized t-shirt and long paisley print broom skirt.

I had already peeped the tattered fabric, rolled up into a bundle and tied around her waist. And I already knew what was inside of it. That’s why I had every intention on just smiling politely and telling her, I’m good. But before I could curl my lips, she told me her name: It was Grace. And before I could tell her I was good, she copped a squat in the sands besides me.

I sighed. Now I was stuck with her.

I wasn’t trying to be rude to Grace. Honestly. I just wanted some time to myself. Some time alone to enjoy Mzansi Africa.

It was just supposed to be a quick walk around the beach. A break from worrying. A chance to stick my feet in the water before I got back to writing. And worrying. But the first person to disturb my peace was short dude in a green skully cap. He offered me nearly an ounce for $50 USD. I talked him down to $20. Although I would be dipping into the last bit of money I had for my travels, I felt it would be foolish to pass on such a good deal.

We found a secluded spot by the rocks and fired it up. As we pass back and forth, he told me all of his woos. I had heard similar sob stories from men who looked like him on the other side of the ocean: there is no work and he can barely make enough money to take care of himself.

But when he “makes it.” he was going to request some land from the chief, build a house and fill it with a wife and a bunch of children. As much as I wanted to appear interested, these conversations always had a way of blowing my high. I hate emotional labor. I never understood why men wanted to share their problems with me as if I don’t have enough woos of my own?

He ask me if I could live with him in his dream. I decline several times, before abruptly excusing myself. I let my high carry me across the warm sands and into the even warmer waters. It is clean. Way cleaner than the waters down The Shore in New Jersey. I cautiously stick my toes in. Before I knew it, I had submerged my legs in its depths as high as my dress could go without being obscene. I splashed around. I laughed. I jumped waves. I marvel at the sea shell I found, only to freak out when I discover there was an actual animal living inside the hull. I looked around and noticed people staring at me. I realized that I was the only Black face there. I felt nervous. And watched. I retreated to the beach, where I sat in the sands and did my best to tune them all out.

And then she arrived.

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Why I’m Not Saying “Happy Mother’s Day” Anymore.

By Charing Ball 

I feel like holidays are uncomfortable for a lot of people, but Mother’s Day is especially awkward.

And it’s not just because for one day (or two days) a year, we force folks to confront the deeply-buried and often traumatic issues they have with their parents and call it a holiday.

But because folks put all sorts of stipulations on who gets to celebrate it and

For instance…

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What Mom Taught Me

I’m going to be honest: I don’t have a good relationship with my mother right now.

It’s because of old stuff. It’s because of new stuff. It’s because we can’t talk to each other without trying to win.

I’m working through learning to accept her for who she is. And it ain’t always easy though.

Our life together was struggle. Mom never taught me how to tie my shoes, I learned on my own. She never taught me how to ride a bike neither. In fact, Mom didn’t really like to talk much to my brother and I at all. Most of what I learned from her was through watching her, and sometimes repeating her mistakes.

But there was that one time in high school…

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Rickey Smiley:”You Were Not Put On This Earth To Be Liked By Everyone. (Video)”

I am not much of Christian.

But I do believe everyone needs a strong foundation.

Personally, I tend to get my Word from shit like this (see below).

Also, I’m not much of a fan of “levels.” It’s too hierarchical. Instead, I believe in “paths.”