A Singer In The Make Up
Fola’s introduction…Fola’s dream of empowerment
Fola quickly cleaned the table before her mother arrived. She knew that she could get angry with her for leaving crumbles of bread on the table. Since her father died, her mother had changed. She had become so harsh and bitter by life experience that Fola was afraid of her. She often hit Fola and her younger siblings. She loved both of her siblings dearly. They were all she had. Without them her life would be gloom.
Whilst she carried her sandwich to the living-room, Fola remembered how her mother delegated all her responsibilities to her. She was only 9 after all. Why did she feel that she was an adult rather than a child. Her best friend didn’t have to clean the house or look after her younger sister. She had the right to a childhood.
Fola’s heart rose when she heard a noise…Thank God it wasn’t her mother. If her mother saw her eating bread and butter at that time, she knew she would be in big trouble. She admitted to herself that since her father died she had put on weight. Her mother noticed it and insulted her of ‘fat’. She had enjoyed eating before but not to that point. She ate her three meals a day but also hid to have some extra. It was as if she needed to eat her pain away. She wasn’t fat so why did she feel that she was so huge?
She looked at her dark skin and envied those white people. She wanted to be white not because of the skin colour itself but because most of the people she was with at school were white and well cared for by their mothers. Maybe her mother didn’t like her because her skin and mannerism was too black.
She had arrived from Nigeria only a couple of years ago. She still had a lingering African accent. Often, mom had told her to stop talking in Yoruba. How could she stop? Yoruba was her first language. She couldn’t help loving Ibadan. It was her home. A home where she felt nobody judged her for being a different skin colour. She was free to be a child though her grand-mother and aunts didn’t pay so much attention to her only to beat her. What was it with black people? Why did they enjoy beating their kids? White people were not so nice to black people but at least they are loving to their children. . She had often seen mom using skin bleaching product. Fola wished her skin was lighter. Her hair never ever grew either. It always stayed at shoulder length. Even God loved white people more. Fola still remembered her father vividly. She loved him but she would prefer marrying a white man when she was older. She pictured her father as a kind but too tough man who put his hands on his children. Fola cried. She missed him dearly. She bit into her bread and butter and had a sip of her hot chocolate. She enjoyed dipping the bread into the drink but her mother had told her to grow up. It seemed that her mother wanted her to quickly grow up for some reason Fola didn’t understand. She kept saying to Fola, ‘Behave yourself! You are not a child anymore!’
Fola day-dreamt whenever she could as it was the only activity her mother couldn’t rob from her. In her dreams, Fola was strong. She wasn’t weak. She dreamt of conquering the world. In her reverie, she saw how powerful she was and how respected she could be. She
was suddenly, Fola the great. Even French people respected her. They no longer despised her because she was from an abusive and neglected home. She was somebody. People loved her. She was very popular. She was empowered. The colour of her skin no longer mattered. Things were great. In her dreams, she was either a singer or an actress. One day, she promised herself, she would become a singer though it would have to be in Nigeria since she never saw black singers on TV. She so missed Ibadan. She missed all her family too. One day, she promised to go back with much success. Mommy Ekaro would be much impressed.
Shola at University in London & Suicide attempt
Fola woke up to the sound of the alarm. It was time to go to university school. Life was dull in London. She quickly dressed. She had a boyfriend. Larry was handsome and gentle. He was everything she looked for in a man only if he didn’t hit her. Shola felt she deserved being beaten. Once, he strangled her. She was very unhappy. She wanted to leave the relationship but didn’t believe that she could get the courage to do so. If she told her mother of what was happening, the latter one would probably support Larry. She hated her mother sometimes. In the tube towards Ealing, Shola was much distressed about her studies. Her grades were low. She studied Business only to please her mother. The teacher at Thames Valley University didn’t seem to like Shola much. She had tried to confide about her problems to them but they seem so unresponsive to her that she isolated herself. Other students didn’t seem to like her either. She felt very much isolated. What had happened to her dreams of becoming a singer? She felt she couldn’t make it in the music industry as it was dominated by the likes of Beyonce and Lady Gaga.
When she arrived at school, the course leader wanted to have a chat with her. She knew it was bad news.
‘I need to speak to you. Are you available after class?’ asked Simon.
‘Yes, of course.’
After class, Shola waited for Simon to finish with one of the students. Simon was very concise with her. ‘Your level of attendance is too low. We have decided that it was best for you to find another university where you can study.’
‘OK,’ replied Shola.
Everything seemed to be OK lately. The fact that her boyfriend hit her was OK. Having a mother who was mentally abusive was OK. Losing her job then her place at University was OK. Living off benefits was OK though she had never dreamt of such a life. Having no friends to talk to was OK. Feeling isolated was OK. Would it be OK if she took her own life? Maybe there was no God for people like herself.
Shola left the University. She went straight home. The YMCA hostel couldn’t exactly be described as a home. It was a male dominated environment even though there were some females who happily slept around. Most of the occupants of the YMCA lived on benefit and waited for a council flat. Now she knew she was no different. What of her dream to make it and prove her mother wrong? Her mother must have been right then. She was a loser. A loser she would die.
When she got home, her boyfriend was chatting to another woman. She even saw him kissing her. She had no right to say anything. He was a man after all. Larry and she lived in the same hostel. Even if she said something he would deny it and then tell her off if she was
lucky or hit her depending on his mood. Later on, when she told him that she had lost her place at university, Larry raised his eyebrows ‘You didn’t think that you were smart for them to keep you. You are fucking stupid. I told you to drop out long ago but you didn’t listen to me. You thought you were better than everyone else. You are no better than me. You hear me? Fuck you!’
Then Larry started hitting Shola. She didn’t have much bruise as Larry was smart enough to know that her brown skin didn’t mark like those white people’s skin. Also he was careful not to hit her on the face where the marks would be more visible. He shouted at her, ‘ Take off your clothes.’ She knew what he was going to do. Her step fathers had done the same to her.
When Larry left, Shola nursed her invisible bruises. She took a cocktail of paracetamol and other medicines. She wanted to die. Life wasn’t worth living. As she waited for death, she switched on the TV. There was an image; the image of an African-American. That was what she wanted to become. The voice said, ‘Oprah is the most powerful woman on earth. She is a self-made billionaire. She was abused and raped but she rose above…’
Then Shola couldn’t focus on the TV anymore. She had a stomach pain. She didn’t no longer wanted to die. There was more to life than what she had seen so far. She rang 999.
Shola wants to become empowered like Oprah
Shola was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. She was put on cytalopram. She had forgotten about Oprah until she saw a cover of her magazine called O. The magazine was expensive, almost £5. If she bought it, she knew she would be broke and won’t be able to manage on her benefit. She read it in the WHSmith unaware of the security guard watching her. It was a good read. Indeed, she felt Oprah was empowering her though that difficult time. As Oprah was black herself, it made it easier for Fola to
have a role model. She felt addicted with the information given.
She went home dreaming of her lost dream, becoming a singer. How could she become a singer? She knew she had a terrific voice but one needed more these days to rise in the music industry. Becoming an artist felt like an impossible dream but one thing she should have done long ago was getting counselling. She needed someone professional to speak to. But first, she needed to get a job to afford the counselling sessions. She knew that the NHS only provided a 6 weeks therapy and she well knew that it wasn’t enough to deal with her lifelong problems.
Fola got herself a job as a cleaner. It wasn’t great but it gave her an opportunity to meet people and pay for things she badly needed. She would start her counselling sessions the following month. She wasn’t excited as it would unravel deep hidden pains. She wrote an autobiography putting all her feelings down. She didn’t trust therapists with her money. She was aware that she could take longer in therapy telling her life story, so she decided to type up her story. She cried much and that was hard and of course she was relieved when it was all finished. When Fola began the counselling sessions, she hoped that she would be able to sort some of deep problems. Her therapist was a kind woman named Isabella. She was understanding and didn’t judge her. Fola did most of the talking.
Fola got the courage to take singing lessons. After that she went back to school to study something she loved: music. She made friends. She wasn’t exactly happy but she was contented. Her teachers were encouraging that time and told her on many occasions that she was talented. Fola began writing songs. She formed a group and became the lead singer.
At home, in the YMCA things weren’t so great as her boyfriend still hit her. She was too scarred to leave. She no longer felt attached to him as she did before but she worried about leaving. She hid from her boyfriend everything she did. She knew that he was jealous of her. She lied to him wherever she went or whatever she did. She had to keep everything she a secret.
She planned to travel away with the group and leave her boyfriend for good. A manager had noticed them. There was a good chance that he would sign them but her boyfriend was problem. She had had enough of hiding from him. If he ever found out that she was entertaining crowds of people, he would make her pay dearly.
Fola leaves her boyfriend
Fola got the opportunity she was looking for when she and her group were signed by the manager. He wanted them to be big in America. Fola thought it a good thing. Maybe she would be on the Oprah Winfrey’s show. Who knows?
The day, Fola left her boyfriend, she took nothing with her but her O magazines. They were her source of life. Without them, she would have never gotten those counselling sessions which helped tremendously to get her confidence back. Whilst Larry slept, Fola packed a small bag with her magazines and toothbrush. She hurriedly left. It was only when she was in the plane with the band that she felt relieved and finally free. Free of domestic abuse.
Harmonie Loko (Sade Farotade) Copyright 2010