Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
POEM: A CONVERSATION WITH MY FATHER!
Today, I am going to share a poem I wrote and published about my late father, the poem is titled: “A conversation with my Father”.
“Kum Apem A. Apem Beba”
That is the exact Asante proverb, I said while speaking to my papa
translated from our Asante Twi, those words mean “Kill a thousand and a thousand more will come.”
Those are the exact words that our ancestors spoke when they went to war with the British Empire and won in 1823
So what that means to me is when I was a child and witnessed you get shot, while closing our family’s shop
That was in one of Detroit’s roughest spots
Yet you still went to work the next day
The only thing left for me to say, was that Asante warrior blood, is not just something that was passed down in our family DNA
But a code you actually live by day to day
As my father started to beam and smile at his proud son
I asked him to stay sitting with me, I will be finished in a little while
He said: o.k. Nana
Which is a word given to kings, Queens and Elders
But he calls me Nana, because I am named after my mama’s papa
I said “ you know what papa?”
Mama reminds me of the Asante Warrior Queen mother Yaa Asantewaa, who led the Asante Kingdom In a War Against British colonialism
I mean they both are strong beautiful queens who would go to war to protect their family
My father looked at me and smiled, giggled and kissed me on the cheek and said: Yes son I agree.
So why in the hell papa do you verbally demean and sometimes physically abuse mama, if she is supposed to be your queen?
My father knew there was nothing he could say to justify his sometimes explosive acts of violence
So, he said nothing and just looked at me very sad and silent!
As a kid like a lot of kids who grew up with an alpha-male and charismatic father in the house, I worshipped my father. To me he was a black Superman, an African Hercules, I seriously believed there was no one or nothing on earth he could not defeat if he had to.
I remember being next to him when he got shot in his head closing our family’s store in an extremely dangerous area of Detroit. A city he came to as an immigrant from Ghana, West Africa, to look for a better life for his family.
His idea of the American Dream was to open several liquor stores, all over Detroit and beyond, that we locally call “Party Stores”, that my father intended for my brother and I to inherit.
At one of those stores, I remember my mom walking in one day, it was after school, so my brother and I were in the store stocking shelves, when my mother walked in after her work, looking beat up and bruised like she just went 9 rounds with Mike Tyson.
She claimed she had gotten robbed, I believed her immediately, I had no reason not to.
At that time as an adolescent, I had seen another one of our family stores get burnt down to the ground, I had seen my father get shot and our family’s home get shot up after being mistaken for our drug dealing neighbor’s home. And at this time, Detroit was one of the most dangerous cities in America, if not the murder capital.
It would be years before I discovered my mother was not robbed and that she was beaten by my father after a hostile argument about his many affairs and financial issues. I would find out even though my father was far more verbally abusive than physically, there would be a few times in my teen years I would have to pull him off my mom. A few times I almost came to bloody blows with the man whose blood coursed through my veins; if it was not for my mother’s interventions, there is a good chance that one of us would of killed the other one.
I would go on to hate my father for years until I discovered that he was suffering for years with depression and suicidal thoughts, dementia and he was also dealing with various other mental health issues.
The hate I had for him would soon turn into a deep sadness and for the rest of his life, until his death last year we shared an improved relationship.
Fast forward two decades, I get a call from a “loved one”, late in the night. Despite the fact he works in law enforcement, he calls me for advice. He tells me his wife just snapped and battered him and their daughter.
I tell him to call the cops. Even though he knows he should, it takes me a while to convince him, he does not want to breakup his family and he does not want it to cost his wife her job.
Finally after his 5 year old daughter also tells him to please call the cops on his wife and her mom; who had this point had stormed out of the house, he eventually calls the cops.
After she finally was arrested a couple dayd, it would be discovered that she had stopped taking her anti-depressants medications, which made her go crazier than a cat on catnip.
Since them his wife has been taking better care of her mental health and they are now a relatively stable family.
You should learn that domestic violence is a lot more complicated than we’ve been led to believe.
Like the old saying goes: Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Yes, people who commit domestic violence must be punished, but within that punishment, they must also be given the proper psychological treatment.
Too much do we as a society look to label people for life as evil and bad, without looking to see what they are going through to make them act that way.
We have to keep in mind that hurt people hurt people.
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
A small protest on front of the Valencia street police station in the Mission District of San Francisco.
The people peaceful gathered to demand justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, who was an 21 year-old immigrant from Guatemala.
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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
If some were to mention “Divas Night Club” to the average San Francisco resident in the Tenderloin neighborhood, the word “Haven” would not probably be the last word to come to mind. Words like dangerous, scary, drugs, homeless, hookers, police, vice, squad, are words more commonly used to describe the poverty-stricken (but quickly being gentrified) area that surrounds San Francisco’s #1 transgender nightclub.
Dictionary.com defines “Haven” as: “any place of shelter and safety; refuge; a asylum.’’
And a place of shelter and relative safety is exactly Divas has been to San Francisco’s transgender community, the most vulnerable community, within the LGBTQ community. Even in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the entire world, the transgender population is still heavily discriminated against, so much so that many of them are today, being forced in the illegal sex industry, just to survive and afford their daily needs.
The National Center for Transgender equality, states: The National Discrimination Survey showed that: “26% of trans people lost a job due to bias, 50% were harassed on the job, 20% were evicted or denied housing, and 78% of trans students were harassed or assaulted. And the transphobia that drives the discrimination is exacerbated when the trans person is a person of color and also faces compounding racism. Trans people of color face higher rates of discrimination.”
Long before Lavarne Cox from “Orange is the New Black” and Caitlyn Jenner brought the transgender movement to mainstream America, Divas was at the forefront of the transgender movement.
Despite that fact, many transgender Bills are sweeping across red-state America, attempting to disenfranchise even more, an already marginalized people, like a controversial transgender Bill that was proposed last year by South Carolina Senator Lee Bright, that aimed to block transgender people from using the bathroom for the gender they identify with. But you will not find people crying about that here, in this four-story club, with three open to the public, which has always sought to empower trans-people, by giving them jobs as bartenders, cocktail waitresses, DJ’s, dancers, promoters, etc.
And though far from perfect; if you were to walk pass Divas on 1081 Post street, which is next to a SFPD firehouse and a weed shop, during the night hours you will soon notice many scantily clad transgender women walking up and down the street, people buying weed at the pot dispensary next door and some shady characters in this “Not so Tender”, Tenderloin neighborhood.
All that being said, Divas is still the number #1 hangout spot for pre-op trans-people, crossdressers, post-op trans-people, drag queens, gender benders, female impersonators, and non-binary gender people within the SF Bay Area. It is also a place where men questioning their sexuality, bi-sexual men, straight men, and men interested in trans-women and trans-women interested in men can explore their sexuality without the harsh judgement of bigots.
Dance shows happen on Wednesday and Thursday
On Friday Night, a couple of weeks ago, I walked into Divas and met a trans-women, who goes by the name Shelley Wilde, she was behind the bar, tending to patrons, she kind of looked like a 40ish version of Adele.
When asked has Divas in her opinion been good for the transgender community? Wilde said: “It can be very good if you allow it. It has been good for men, but unfortunately a lot of trans-women you see are in the sex industry’’.
When asked if she is originally from San Francisco? Wilde said: “No. I am originally from Texas, I moved to San Francisco 13 years ago.”
When asked how long has Divas existed? Wilde said: “for over 30 years, it was first called the Motherlode, it was at another location. It has been at this location for over 15 years.”
After Wilde returns from serving several thirsty patrons at her bar, which is starting to get busy this evening, she is asked if she believes Divas has been good for the transgender community? Wilde said: I would say yes. Most of us are so busy with our own lives, but when we’re here together, it’s a little community.”
As it got later in the night and various demographics of people continued to arrive, drink and party, Wilde was asked one last question. Would you say Divas is friendly to non-trans and LGBTQ people? Wilde said: “Yes. All people are welcome. Most of our patrons are straight men.”