T.G.I.F (Thinking GOAL Is Fulfilling))

Half-way into the year, I have achieved the biggest goals that I set at the beginning of this year. Now, I am embarking on other major goals as the year folds up.

They say, the first step to recovery is confessing that you have a problem…..and I am experiencing that straight in my face….watching this TV Show…don’t know what it is…my first time….on drug addicts on the road to recovery. The addicts are saying it all…Names of drugs I have repeatedly heard of, or never at all.  Scary as it is, the judge has to listen to all this…and viewers like me have to suck it in. If I were into drugs, I would quit right now..or join a recovery center…Well, at least they are setting themselves goals…right?

I am thankful for setting goals; getting into jogging and running marathons are one of those outstanding examples.

I started jogging back in Atlanta, GA, as therapy. I was going through financial uncertainty – between jobs. I went on to participate in my first social run – the 2003 Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA – an annual even on July 4. Oh! I also did the Atlanta’s Finest (Police Department) 5K Road Race, and won Best Female Category, and received an engraved mug in the mail. 

Thereon, jogging has become great resource for my mental health, physical fitness and enjoyment. Setting myself the challenge of waking up to jog every morning in grad school in Boston, MA helped me stay sane- with little sleep but I could wake up and make it to my morning classes – that holy grail called International Legal Order. I even tried signing up for the Boston Marathon 2005, but the cold winters chased me from training. At least I inspired classmates, who had never jogged or been to the gym to get out and exercise.

I kept going when I moved to work NYC, using jogging to wake me up into a better mood. spent the first four months of my pregnancy jogging on the roads in Uganda, every morning from my family house and around the hills of Rubaga to Makerere.

Plus, keeping myself goal oriented to jog, helped me achieve my goal of having my baby all natural, no medication, and no epidural after 12 hours of labor! Post-partum, I resumed my jogging as soon as Dr. said, “you are good to go”. But I did not beat myself to lose weight; my goal was to breastfeed my son, and make sure he was growing health. I knew the weight was gonna come off. 

Once we got to Uganda, I resumed my morning road runs; forty-five minutes every Mon-Fri and 21-23k on Saturday, until that car accident in January 2011. Good for me, I did not break or fracture any bones so, once recovered I made another goal of continuing with my jogging from track and field at the place I worked. Then, l I ran the annual MTN Marathon 10K in 2007 and 2010, and graduated to 21K in 2011 and 2012. With my running group – The Hash and Kisementi, I did my first full marathon in the 2012 Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, October.

I became a running bunny – set and accomplished all running goals, ran every monday with The Hash, Tuesday to Friday by myself, and Saturday and Sunday with hashers.

I am thankful that I am setting myself another goal of doing the Boston Marathon 2014 with the Tufts Marathon Team [again]. My other goal is to raise $5,000 toward Tufts Medical, Nutritional and Sports program. I hope I can stick it out training consistently when the winter comes full fronto, here Pocono mountains and woods of Pennsylvania, where I live now. 

I do not under-estimate the resourcefulness of social networks, family, will power, stamina, fall [yes] and hard-times in helping me fulfill my dreams. I also believe in mantras in aiding me achieve my goals. Here are my top three:

     “Everything happens for a reason; even the hard times.”
     “Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.”
     “Life always gives us what we ask for, but with a few twists and turns.” [according to G-Monnie]

So, T.G.I.F. – Thinking GOAL Is Fulfilling! Image

IT is [NOT] “Know Thy Neigbor[hood]!

ImageYeah! I know this is a loaded title. I bet you are wondering whether I mean “Know Thy Neighbor” or “Know Thy Neighborhood”. Sounds strange, huh! 

Strangely that occurred to me on my run last Sunday, and again this Friday morning, in two different neighborhoods. And it took me back to the Trayvon Martin murder trial, where Zimmerman got acquitted for murder and manslaughter. I am sure it aint politically incorrect to bring up the Zimmerman case again. Everybody has and still is expressing their views loudly on this one. And we are lucky enough to know that in the 21st century -2013, America is still NOT beyond the color line. So, we are gonna suck it up and keep finding a piece of this place we call home….beyond or before the color-line. 

Ok, back to my central topic on “My Neighborhood and me”. Last Sunday, I went out jogging from Camp Creek in West Atlanta to Union City in South Fulton. It was not an easy run, with steep climbs under the scorching sun, with a few areas of concrete, but mostly no footpaths or running trails. I had to brave it, and compete with incoming traffic. Luckily in America, at least for the most past, most motorists will respect a runner or pedestrian and share space, unlike in Kampala where you would most likely get run over by stray drivers as happened to me back in 2011. Story for another day. So, it was very daring and rewarding. I ended up doing 13 miles, touch down! Been a while since I was able to go that far due to change of geographical location. 

Same story this past Friday, while running in Norcross, GA, North of Metro-Atlanta. I got into places without footpaths or running trails.  At some point I lost track of where I was, made a u-turn in some places, while in others I needed human help with directions. I could have done better, like in the first case on Sunday, with running off-roads through the woods, but that was not feasible.

It struck me that, while in most of America we do not “Know Thy Neighbor”, we better be smart enough to “Know Thy Neighborhood”! See, Trayvon got accosted, shot at and killed because he did not “Know Thy Neighborhood”, by a stranger -Zimmerman who did not care to “Know Thy Neighbor”. See, for a teenage black male living in America, society puts a VERY high responsibility on them to “Know Thy Neighborhood”. I guess I will have to tell this to my Black African American son (recently turned 5-years), when he becomes a teenager. I hate to think that I might have to do this too early, for instance, which one of his K-class friends he can go to play with, living in a pre-dominantly white neighborhood uhm!

In my case, I am a Uganda American [yes I claim that] and mother of a child with an African American man. The many years of living in America have allowed me to learn and appreciate the history and historical struggles of African Americans to belong to this space: “currency of race”, the writings, the education and miseducation of African Americans”, and their journey to self-liberation. In many ways, this experience have provided me a deeper insight and understanding of the “Miseducation of the Negro Race” worldwide, including those who escaped, survived or were unfortunate to miss the slaveship (trust me, some continental Africa confess to that feel), and remained back in Africa. And I use the “Negro Race” in honor and respect of those who came before me, and conquered the word “Negro”, in the pre-1960s, and appropriated it to build intellectual histographies about us in art, music, poetry, civil rights struggles, spiritual healing, sports, education and economic empowerment. Notably I acknowledge Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Bob Marley, and many more. It is also true that the word “Negro” is still used in contemporary America in reference to the United Negro College Fund and the Negro league in sports, which have their historical significance. As well, while its usage is falling out of favor around the world, it is still a neutral word in the Scandinavians, for instance, and in Russia. I should CATEGORICALLY state that I neither endorse nor condone its usage NOR in any way suggest or find any semblance with the use of the word “NIGGER”, which I detest.

In many ways the use of the word “Negro” is as fluid as “Know Thy Neighborhood”. In my experience, it depends both on who you are, and where you are. As a black person jogging around a seemingly predominantly black neighborhood of Camp Creek and Union City in Atlanta, I still could not dare jog out in the woods in the backyards. I feared that I could be shot at for “trespassing”, including by a black person. Yes! it is the nature of America, the “fear of thy neighbor” is colorless in many places. Black can negatively profile black as much as white profiles black. Although, black may not profile white the same. 

The ABC video of a white male, black teenage male and white female, all trying to “steal a bike” seems to qualify this statement. When the white male got asked by passerby if the bike was his, and said, no, but it would become his when he took the chain off, nobody offered him a hand but nor did they confront him harshly or call the police. When the black male teen tried the same thing, several white folks were seen confronting him harshly, and some went ahead to call the police on him. For the white female, same story, confessed theft –but one male went ahead to offer her a hand to break the bike free so she could take it. Interesting, two female black women, when asked why they went past the white male breaking a bike chain, the responded that they did not think he would take property that was not his. 

What does this tell us? That either black people have a high level of trust in white people, and would not consider them thieves. Or it is far-fetched to assume that black women would confront a white male in a predominantly white neighborhood – his comfort zone. I say, it is both. Yet, again, as a black woman, I cannot assume that a black person living in America would not shoot me if I went running in the woods in their backyard. And I bet a white person would either immediately call the police, confront me or try to shoot at me.

ImageInterestingly, when I did the Hash [my international running group] with one of the metro Altanta Hashes, I went through backyards, front-yards and woods in a pre-dominantly white neighborhood with ease. Perhaps because I was with a predominantly white group, and the only black person running, in addition to the Grenadian couple [one looking more Hispanic] who walked it. But I could not replicate that comfort zone, when I ran all by myself this past Friday, in a predominantly white neighborhood, to follow off-road trails and into the woods. For once, all the other runners I saw were white, yet only one said hello. The other did not care, although runners, like smokers tend to pride themselves in acknowledging each other with a “hi”. When I lost track of how to get back home and had no one on the road to ask for directions, I could have branched off and knocked at one of the doors in the neighborhood or asked a motorist. But I could not dare, afraid they would consider me a threat and call the PoPo. 

So, either way, black like me cannot win in a white or black neighborhood. It is different in most of the Africa I have lived, I can run anywhere with no fear of the neighborhood, unless of course the State House. I know that many folks who have never lived the “American Experience” within geographical America wonder why, “we are SOO obsessed with race and racism”. I say, until you get that opportunity and allow yourself to internalize “the American Experience with Black America”, you better be sure you, “Know Thy Neighborhood”. Image