A couple of months ago, I wrote an article about the CDC’s statement that 48% of Black women have herpes. I received several comments here on the Alumni Roundup, and also on facebook. One particular comment disturbed me. The commenter stated that Black women needed to “keep their legs closed.” He wrote that too many Black women had several children with different fathers.
In a way, it seemed he was insinuating that herpes-the disease, was some sort of punishment to those particular Black women for being allegedly promiscuous. Even though, according to the statistics from the study itself, it stated that Black women were likely to have fewer sexual partners than their White, counterparts. In addition, the Black women had their first sexual encounters at a later age than the White women.
The study said that, more than likely, the reason that more of the Black women who were studied had herpes was because they had sex in a much smaller pool-with fewer sexual partners in that pool. In other words, Black women were for the most part just having sex with Black men and, incidentally, not that many of them.
The incendiary making the comments on facebook was a Black man. As a result of his comments, I sat up straight in my seat to type, as I prepared to offer him a linguistic sentencing, from me, on behalf of the unnamed Black women in the study. I artfully ethered him.
Then I deleted my comments.
Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. ~Author unknown, attributed to Mark Twain
That’s kind of, sort of, how I “arrived” at this story. The facebook-comment-guy had condemned these women to the life-long sentence of a STD because they wouldn’t just “keep their legs closed.” As if, Black men,or any men for that matter, didn’t have at least a leg or two that they could keep closed also. If sex were to be perceived as a “crime” that was punishable by “law,” weren’t there at least two offenders?
You can’t have Bonnie without Clyde, right?
President Bush, “Fool me once…”
Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.
Even when Sadika began to feel a little sick, she didn’t do anything about it. She says, “I was sick for some months, before even going to the doctor.” Her decision to go to the doctor wasn’t even her own. One of Big Dog’s friends had a girlfriend. She was a baby-momma also. She cared about Sadika. Which is probably why she was the one person that told her that Big Dog had given her a sexually transmitted disease. He had gotten treatment for himself, but never told Sadika to do the same.
By this time, Sadika had run-away from home. In her naivete’ she says, “I didn’t even know what being burnt was. I just knew that I was sick. But a disease from sex was the furthest thing from my mind.” Up until this time, the extent of Sadika’s street “happenings” were only observed from the constraints of her parents’ front-yard. After she realized that she may have a disease, she went to the clinic and was treated for the STD. She came back home and confronted Big Dog. They argued about it. They broke-up.
They must have made up too, because shortly thereafter, Sadika got pregnant with her first child. This would be the first of Sadika’s five children.
The plane was being boarded. Sadika says she was in her seat thinking: “I can still sneak off this plane.” Before getting on the plane, she had made a call to have her ride meet her at the airport. And while seated on the airplane headed to Florida, she had finally made up her mind; she wasn’t going again.
This trip wouldn’t be hidden under the guise of a basketball camp like the first time when her parents tricked her into going. Months prior to her reuniting with Big Dog, her parents convinced Sadika to get on a plane to Florida. She thought she was going to the basketball camp, yet had no idea that she was going to a behavioral school to obtain her GED.
The second time, she was quite aware of what was happening. She was going back down to Florida for a 30-day bid. She had agreed to it. She was a teenage girl, pregnant with her first child, and didn’t really know what was next.
Even though all of this was the case, Sadika decided that she was going to sneak off the plane. When she stepped off of the boarding ramp there, waiting, were the arms that she was familiar with: The arms of her parents.
They loved their daughter, yet, they knew her. They knew there was a possibility that Sadika would not leave on that plane that day. As Sadika said, “I tried to sneak off the plane, and my parents were standing right there, waiting like, ‘What’s happ’nin.’”
So, Sadika turned around, and got back on the plane.
Tether (rhymes with feather)
Webster’s dictionary states that a tether is a noun or a verb.
When used as a noun, tether is:
1) something (as a rope or chain) by which an animal is fastened so that it can range only within a set radius.
2) the limit of one’s strength or resources
When used as a transitive verb, tether is: to fasten or restrain by or as if by a tether (felt tethered to her desk until the work was done)
Besides, Sadika couldn’t run back to the arms of Big Dog, because he wasn’t available.
You’ve been tarred and…tethered.
The small mid-western city that Sadika was from, hosted a World Cup match between the U.S. and Switzerland. The match was the first to be played indoors in World Cup History.
Also, in that same history-making town, people wore tethers, and most of the time, they had to stay indoors with them.
A tether is commonly known as an ankle monitor used for individuals who are on house arrest. The individual’s monitor sends off signals to the monitoring agency, and alerts them when the previously arrested individual moves outside of their allotted range.
When used as a noun, Webster Dictionary defines tether as a rope or chain used for animals as a restraint.
Big Dog had a tether. Big Dog was on house arrest. Big Dog cut his tether off, too.
After the tether was cut, Big Dog and Sadika went on the run. As she says, “We were the black Bonnie and Clyde.”
Sadika’s initial decision, or rather, non-decision, that 1st day on The Ave. proved to be the beginning of her own tethering (used as a transitive verb here.) From that day, the decisions that she consciously and subconsciously made for herself, had begun. Sadika would begin her own sentencing. She began to tether herself to self-destructive behaviors. Sadika would start down a path of being controlled by a number of vices. She was officially a “baby-momma” and as society has it, you get tarred and feathered for being a serial baby-momma. Society decides who the guilty ones are, and they judge and sentence you.
Tar and Feathering
Tar and feathering is a physical punishment, used to enforce unofficial justice. It was used in feudal Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, as well as the early American Frontier, mostly as a type of mob vengeance. Today the act is considered a barbaric form of punishment.
In a typical tar and feathers attack, the subject of a crowd’s anger would be stripped to his waist. The aim was to inflict enough pain and humiliation on a person to cause him to either reform his(her) behavior or leave town.
Sadika was in a relationship with a man, who was in her words, “a habitual criminal.” Big Dog was on the run. Sadika can’t even remember where she was the day when the helicopters appeared and the car-chase began; all of which resulted in an incarceration in the county jail for Big Dog. He wouldn’t even be out to see the birth of Sadika’s first child.
The destruction of the graceful gazelle
After Sadika’s first child, Shannon, was born she went to the county jail to visit Big Dog. After the baby, she had lost a lot of weight. As soon as she sat down, Big Dog said, “Look at your body. You’ all skinny. Comin’ up here lookin’ like a White girl.”
Her second visit to see Big Dog, Sadika had cut her hair into a new style. Quite daring at the time, she had faded her hair on the sides, and the top was in a permed style, kind of sticking straight-up. When Big Dog saw her that time he said, “You coming up here looking just like Grace Jones.”
Sadika doesn’t recall some details about her time on the run with Big Dog. Perhaps by choice. But the words that he chose to cut her with, have yet to escape her memory.
Since I began speaking with Sadika’s about her story, every time we get to this part she repeats his hurtful words over and over. I wonder if she realizes that.
I wish that I could have told Sadika years ago that Gazelle’s are thin too, and they are graceful. Gazelles are beautiful. I wish that I could have told her all of that and more, before Sadika allowed the Big Dogs of the world to hunt her down.
Gracefulness is to the body what understanding is to the mind. -Francois De La Rochefoucauld
Big Dog eventually went to prison for life. He is serving a life sentence for murder. Her first child Shannon does not visit her father in jail.
Her next 2 boyfriends spent time in prison also. Over the course of about 13 years, Sadika had 4 more children.
Time has elapsed. Sadika has seen a lot.
Her 8-year-old child now has a question. She wants to know, who her father is. Sadika often looks into the eyes of the 3rd of her five children, wishing that she could give her an answer–a straight answer to her child’s straight-forward question.
(The final part of Sadika’s true story will have some answers and still will leave some questions. If you have any questions for Sadika, please post them in the comments section. She is reading. Part 3 will be posted next week. If you haven’t read Part 1 of Sadika’s story, you can read it here.)
[Richelle R. Ransom is a Journalism graduate of Florida A & M University.]