A woman tries to pronounce my last name.
“Ysrayl. Yis-ra-yell”, I tell her.
“Oh”, she looks confused. “Are you Jewish?”
I speak. “No ma’am.”
She tries to pronounce my first name. I speak.
“Yecheilyah is pronounced e-see-lee-yah.”
She smiles, “That’s cute.”
I speak. “Thank you. It means deliverance and life.”
“Is that your real hair?” a man asks me on the street. I used to be confused before I went back to Chicago and discovered loc extensions were a thing.
I speak. “Yes. This is my real hair.”
“I like your dreads,” says someone else.
I speak. “Thank you, but I like to call them locs, not dreads.”
She looks confused. I speak.
“The term Dread Locs came from the war between British Colonists and the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of blacks who fought and escaped from slavery and established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica. The Britain’s “dreaded” to see them coming down from the mountain because of their physical appearance. They wore their beards thick and their hair kinky. This hairstyle then became known as dread locs.”
“Oh”, she says, “I’m sorry.”
I speak. “Its OK. I’m not offended. This is just why I like to call them locs.”
“Are you Jamaican?” she says.
I speak. “I have been there but no, I am not Jamaican.”
My husband and I are at Denny’s. Sometimes we are just in the mood for breakfast we don’t have to cook ourselves. Its not a special occasion, its just our thing. And yes, we got tired of IHOP; we decided to switch it up. I order a delicious looking skillet meal. It comes back with melted cheese, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, egg, the works! It looks delicious but there’s bacon in it too. I call the waiter over.
“This has bacon in it but I don’t eat pork.”
“We can fix that,” he says taking my plate back. “We have chicken sausage,” he says.
I love meat but somehow pork always finds its way in the meal. I play it safe with a vegetarian version of the plate.
“OK,” he says and takes my plate.
I really hate sending plates back but I’m not in a mood to be sick today. I have not eaten pork in seven years.
I’m visiting Chicago and I’m at my cousin’s house. We are about to eat. I say a prayer. I always pray before I eat. It is something my mom taught me when I was little and I have always done it. My cousin looks at me funny. He’s a Jehovah Witness.
“Ain’t no Allah up in here.”
My hands are outspread, palms facing the ceiling. My head is bowed. I finish my prayer.
I speak. “That’s good because I’m not a Muslim and I do not pray to Allah.”
He is silent. I eat.
For today’s assignment I wanted to expose the quality of speaking. I talk a lot about the importance of being silent but if we are silent when we are to speak it can be just as damaging. In some cases, silence is not enough. We must speak.