Ineye: Her Afro is a Crown of Knowledge and Unity

Ineye Komonibo & Friends

There she is, Ineye Komonibo (pronounces in-NAY-yay), a gorgeous carefree woman. She is standing on the far right in this image with two of her college roommates. All three women wear their hair out in huge afros, are dressed beautifully, and wear accomplishment on their shoulders with the same strength that they carry their black skin.

This image is floating in the virtual Twitter world with over 11 thousand likes and eight thousand retweets. Under it, the caption “the carefree black longhorn grads who ‘stole’ your admission #StayMadAbby.”

Thieves. How could these three women be thieves.

“I posted the picture [with that caption] because it was amazing to hear someone say that black students—not Latino, Asian, White—but that black students are not capable”

That someone, Abigail Fisher, the young woman who does not want race to be considered in college admissions, because her sub-par academics didn’t get her into the University of Texas over black students.

“It’s a form of psychological terrorism to tell black students that they are not enough.”

Terrorism. That’s a big word. Ineye is not shy to use it, because the way she sees it, the American education system is “fundamentally anti-black and black people constantly have to prove themselves.” Every single day when a person of color wakes up, they walk the streets in a society that “does damage to their psychy.”

Abigail Fisher is not an anomoly, she is a small part of a larger system that Ineye believes in anti-black.

Unfortunately, Ineye isn’t dreaming up an anti-black world, even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia partakes in psychological terrorism. Justice Scalia speaks the same language as Abigail Fisher. In his eyes, black students are not ready for university education at a place like the University of Texas, which is where Ineye received her undergraduate degree in Public Relations with a minor in African American Studies, they belong in “lesser universities.” You’d think this U.S. Supreme Court Justice has enough knowledge to know that America has a pretty bitter history of giving black people lesser treatment, but here he is quoted in The Guardian backsliding.

Ineye doesn’t just have a say about the serious stuff going on in American news, like Affirmative Action, she also dabbles in social media sensations. Before we get into that, I’d like y’all to get to know Ms. Ineye Komonibo some more!

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The recent University of Texas at Austin graduate is 23 years old and from Houston. Ineye describes Houston as an international community with a strong Nigerian population. She herself is Nigerian, but in the last couple of years has adopted a black radical identity.

“I’m at a very interesting place in my life where my perspective about a lot of things turned out to be wrong. Anyone familiar with Nigerian culture knows that it is patriarchal. We are socialized from a young age to see the world in a specific way,” she goes to describe her upbringing as very conservative. However, a couple of years ago, Ineye experienced a shift.

“I realized that I was black. That as a woman, my gender is something that can hinder me in society. I realized that a lot of people are oppressed.”

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Ineye describes herself as the kind of person people get tired of, not because she’s always hyped up on sugar, but because she’s very conscious of oppression and her mind is constantly at work—she’s the kind of person who is “super aware.”

“I’m Nigerian, but I am a black feminist. I’m a Christian, but I believe everyone deserves rights. My parents, sometimes, I think they get tired of hearing me talk about race and sexism.”

Earlier, I mentioned that Ineye partakes in what some would call social media hype.

About two weeks ago, Ayesha Curry sent out this tweet:

Ayesha Curry Tweet

Since then, the social media world has been afire. Some women support her modesty, while others feel that she is shaming other women for choosing to show more skin. Men, for the most part, have praised Ayesha though their reason for uplifting her may indicate more implicit thoughts about a woman’s body, sexuality, and the male gaze than we think.

What does Ineye think. Well, here’s what she shared on Twitter.

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“I’m cool with Ayesha Curry. I think she’s awesome,” she goes on to discuss that Tia Mowry is among the list of woman who have shared sentiments about modesty being sexy. What struck a chord about Mrs. Curry’s popular tweet is how she phrased it. “There was a tone like ‘I like to do this for MY man and y’all other HOES could do whatever,’ That’s fine, you have a husband. But, as a woman, it is your job to support all women.”

Those comparing Ayesha Curry and the Kardashians aren’t on the same team as Ineye, because she’s about supporting all women in the skin and life that makes them happy. Really, Ineye feels that we all should be able to live freely.

“When I think of an ideal world, I think of a place where people are allowed to be different. A world where people are encouraged to exist in the way that they are. A situation where people can exist happily. Imagine a world where everybody acknowledges that we are all different, but decides to worry about other stuff, we would become a giant machine ready to change the world.”

Keep up with Ineye on Twitter as she works for change @eyekomology.

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Why are you sleeping on our doorstep?

Florida Housing Coalition President Jaimie Ross recently published an article in The Miami Herald where she cited shocking evidence from Enterprise Community Partners.

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Image from The Miami Herald

According to Ross, “36 percent of renters” in South Florida “spend more than half their income on rent” (Miami Herald). In my work with PACT (People Acting for Community Together), I have found that there are families paying up to 70 percent of their income just on rent. That is tragic.

When families pay 50-70 percent of their income just on housing, what do they have left for medical expenses, childcare, car payments, and groceries. Is it moral that we live in a world where “hundreds of senior [citizens have to sleep] in their cars just to get on a waiting list for a chance to apply for an affordable place to live” (Miami Herald). How can we expect our students to succeed when thousands are left homeless in South Florida. It is unacceptable and immoral that anyone is homeless, especially because we live in a country of abundance.

Back in September of this year, Pope Francis visited the United States of North America. It was a miraculous trip! He was actually able to unite Republicans and Democrats, though momentarily. To say the least, Pope Francis had everyone drinking right out of his water cup–that statement is more literal for some.

Pope Francis left a lasting impact for many reasons, but his treatment of the homeless was most striking. According to Religious News, the Pope dined with America’s forgotten, and he called for serious policy change, because:

“We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing… we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side. He does not abandon us.”

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Image from Religious News

There is no moral justification for homelessness, and I’d like to add that there is no justifiable reason why anyone should be paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, which is the percentage the Federal Government recommends.

This last Saturday, the weekend of Art Basel, when Miami-Dade was buzzing with people and capitalism, I spent 20 minutes discussing homelessness with Benjamin Bethea.

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Benjamin Bethea waving from his home, my office doorstep.

I heard about the 57-year old before I ever met him. [There’s a homeless man who sometimes sleeps in our yard if we leave the gate open], I was told when I started my job in January. In my early months, I never saw a homeless man in our yard, but around March I started to notice a man on the front steps of the office downstairs. We share our office with DART (Direct Action and Research Training), the network that PACT is a member of. He never bothered me, and I felt no reason to fear him. In truth, on nights when I left the office passed 9:00PM, I was thankful for Benjamin–I felt safer knowing he was there.

It was not until May that I began to have small talk with Benjamin, often asking if he needs anything, and getting a polite no. When we first spoke, I noticed that his voice is strained. Questions about his health, how he became homeless, where his family is, and whether or not he is mentally stable continued to present themselves.

How did Benjamin end up homeless 

“Some troubles, some things—I got involved with some people and some things happened. I was doing very good. I always kept a job, but I got tied up in some things and I lost a job. I use to work for Miami-Dade water department.”

Some troubles, some things. Was he addicted to drugs? Did he go to Jail? Benjamin worked for Miami-Dade for two years, had good benefits–what sort of troubles messed that up?

What sort of troubles  

Benjamin spent the first 18 years of his life living with his mother in Brownsville, an area somewhere between Liberty City and Hialeah, both located in Miami-Dade, Florida. Upon becoming an adult, he found his own apartment where he lived with a girlfriend, but troubles soon came.

“Doing stuff, drugs—you know. Not only that, but I was dealing and it messed up my job.” 

Around 21, Benjamin started smoking and dealing Marijuana. He dealt drugs for 10 years before everything came crashing down. A decade is quite the career for a drug dealer, but Benjamin managed because he knew a lot of people and had connections with people who trusted him.

“I went to Camp Belle Glade in Palm Beach. They close it down now. They use to shoot movies and everything in the prison, but it’s over now. Thank God I learned my lesson. 

Thank God I learned my lesson 

Throughout our conversation, Benjamin thanked God for the life he now has. He will turn 58 on December 27th and shows no signs of illness. Earlier, I mentioned that Benjamin has a strained voice. A few years back, he had surgery to remove a tumor that formed because of the many years he spent smoking cigarettes.

I want to go back to something Benjamin said about prison, “thank God I learned my lesson.” Prison is meant to be a corrective experience. Benjamin even talked about receiving a “life skill” class before he returned to society after his two-year sentence. However, upon release he found it difficult to re-adjust.

“When you got a record, it knocks your ability–the opportunity for a job.”

Let me remind you, Benjamin went to prison for selling Marijuana, an experience many black men have had because of unfair policy. He luckily only served two years, but he grew up in a time when black men men got 10, 20, or even 25 years for charges affiliated with Marijuana. Nonetheless, he was in the wrong, he did something illegal and served his time. He came out of Belle Glade a changed man.

Despite having paid his debt to society, Benjamin hasn’t lived in stable housing for 30 years. Our doorstep has been the place he calls home for many years now. He spoke with excitement when he described having known the neighborhood.

“Another guy–we use to hang out, before they open the paint store there that was a lawyer office. I knew the lawyer office before they remodeled it. They use to have a porch. Before they made it a paint store, it was a lawyer’s office—I use to clean up. I been in this area for over 20 something years. Everybody know me, I’m cool with everybody. 

What is next for Benjamin 

I worry about what is next for Benjamin. I worry because the PACT and DART offices are moving. Our neighborhood is on Biscayne, an area of the county that is going up in value as Miami-Dade continues to face gentrification. PACT is a small non-for-profit and as South Florida continues to mark the charts as one of the most unaffordable areas in the states, my organization can no longer afford to operate in such a hot-shot location. So, I worry about what will happen to Benjamin if our building is knocked down and replaced with a multi-million dollar condo. He assured me that he will be fine, he always is, and God is on his side.

Benjamin just got a new job and estimates that he will be able to afford a residence for $400.00 per month.

“Like the people that do landscaping and garden fancy houses. They got all types of pearl stones. My job is—it’s 40 pounds—the people order by the pound—but it’s a 40 pound bag. I make the 40-pound bag and I seal it, I seal it with the machine.”

Final words from Benjamin

Our interview was cut a couple minutes short as Benjamin began to experience a coughing fit, something I imagine happened from straining his voice talking. However, before we ended, I asked him what he would say to his younger self and whether or not he is happy.

If Benjamin were a time traveler, he would tell his younger self to:

“Be a real man, stay strong, and use your head. A real man is standing up to your responsibility. Being strong is to carry on–to keep going–don’t let what is no good for you come next to you.”

I wondered if I would come off rude asking a homeless man if he were happy, but I asked anyway:

“No, but I am happy I am still alive, you know and I can breathe. Some people didn’t make it. Some people—I am sick—but I say thank God it’s not a pain. Some people are sick and they are suffering from pain. I praise him for all that.

Benjamin is not happy, but he is grateful. In his solemn thankfulness, he left me with some words that are all too ironic for a man who has already served his time for sins committed in his youth, wrongs he has served over three decades paying the consequences for.

“It’s the end. My day has come. The judgement. Justice is coming to serve me.” 

Justice is coming… I can only pray that righteousness looks like Pope Francis’ treatment of the homeless.

Choose the God of love

I’ve only been on this Earth, in my present form, for 23 years. There’s a lot that I am figuring out. Today, I attended mass at one of the churches I work with and the Deacon there preached on why our young people are moving away from the church. He touched on the usual things, sex, homosexuality, weed, alcohol… He did so in a manner that I found polarizing, so while he preached, I pulled out my pen and paper and allowed my mind to respond, to reflect.

In truth, if we have sex we won’t automatically get AIDS and die. It’s also likely that we won’t get pregnant. Our churches are preaching an irrational message. Youth know there are 75 different ways to prevent an STI and/or pregnancy. Our churches need to preach with a foot rooted in reality. Meet our youth where they are. There are many dangers to unsafe/irresponsible sex, including STI’s, but openly discuss the emotional consequences, speak honestly about how sex can be an intimately beautiful experience. To draw young people to God, to assist them in their spiritual growth, we must meet them where they are and we must debrief the messages that they are receiving from the world while introducing them to a God of love.

In our world of “knowledge,” “rhetoric,” and “theory,” we may get caught up in proving a point using the messages of the “market god” while neglecting the messages that our “God of love” has placed in all of us. Our growth with God and our spiritually can only be fed if we remain open and willing. Willing to neglect our desires of the flesh. Willing to look passed polarizations that turn God into an angry-cheek-slapping-hypocritical-bastard while the world is an ever-forgiving place.

Whether we recognize it or not, we are feeding our soul. Every single day advertisers sit in board rooms and compete for human attention, for human purchasing power–they compete to feed our souls. Many times they win.

God uses one avenue, he uses his love.

I believe that it is without a doubt there are many containers, religious paths, that we can use to get to God. Choose one. It doesn’t matter whether your path is meditation on the Word through the Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist texts… choose a path that leads you to God through his love. Choose to grow spiritually, in God.

Choose the God of love, and when you do his message will glow through you and attract all those around you.