Untitled Document

Brown Bean Boys

  • Mamadee Dux Dukely and… Why

    IMG_1230Having no children of my own has often, too often, made me the source of pity from others, especially women.  “Oh, you poor thing”, “I am so sorry for you,” “That must be so hard for you.”  Those are only a few of the stream of comments that I have received through the years. First, the inevitable question, “How many children do you have?”  When I say, “None” Then I get those deep pity-looks.  My own flesh and blood sister told me this last year, “I am so happy that you never had any children, think of the mess we would be in now.”

    One of my memories from early grade school was when I made an announcement to Mama.  I said, “Mom I am not going to have my own baby’s. I have enough love to love people who have no love. I am going to adopt. There are many people in the world who have no love. They need it too.”  I came a little over her waist in height, and I had to look up at her when I said that.  She said, “Don’t ever let me hear you talk like that again.  You will have your own children someday.”  I thought to myself, “Ok, she doesn’t need to hear it again.”  But I never changed my mind.

    When I was twenty-six years old, I found myself totally alone and had not one friend on earth. Long story I won’t get into now. But I had a spiritual awakening of sorts. I prayed.  I prayed in the one-room efficiency that I was renting. I prayed in my misery, as people do.  Some turn to God when there is no one.  That is what I did.  I asked God for help. What I asked is that as I age I wanted a life that was filled with people to love, and people to love me back. All I wanted was people in my life.  I was so deadly lonely.  (I still did not want my own children. There are so many children that need love, why should I require my own?  That has always seemed a selfish desire to me.)

    After my prayer, the decades ahead were filled with more than bumps.  For whatever reason, my life has been extreme. Some of you know bits and parts, only bits and parts. Through it all, the one thing I continue to seek is love.  Love to give and love to receive.  That has been constant.  I want to experience everything and learn all the lessons that are on my plate to learn.  I want to soar and grow and thrive on earth and know that I have lived every moment to the fullest.  That desire has made a very interesting and filled life from homelessness to some amount of riches and success.

    What I wish to say is that over the past year, I have been given the love of a son.  Mamadee Dux Dukely from Liberia, and then from Nigeria, West Africa.   He and his wife Masiame have embraced me as Mom and I have been given the title of “mama Africa” which I say I never take lightly.

    These events have happened over a course of fifty years.  I follow my heart on this topic.  Not having your own children is not the end of the world that some seem to think it is.  I feel blessed in a multitude of ways by not having my own children.

    I eagerly await to see what my future will be like.  Since that fateful day of such deep agony, and my prayer, I opened up to what fate will bring.  Look where I have gone and come.

    My message is to open yourself to love and growth.  Loneliness can lead to the biggest adventure ever if you continue to open yourself and grow.

    I cannot tell you how often people tell me that they should write a book, like I did, about their life.  It is not in the writing, or the stories.  It is about what you have learned in your life that matters.  What is your lesson you pass on to others?

    Mine is to continue to open your heart to love and grow.

     



  • African Experience; Beauty

    IMG_1026My days in Africa flew by.  I lacked time and space to just “soak-in” happenings, as is my manner and custom.  I love to sit and watch things as they unfold, and that could not happen while I was there.  So, now is my time to reflect.  Now is when I can magnify a memory and cause it to linger as I examine it.

    One such memory is a scene from a street. I glimpsed a young woman as she sauntered under the hot African sun. She was beautiful and had natural dignity and grace. She carried herself with an inner strength, and a quiet pride. Her bearing was as regal as a queen’s as she strolled through a crowd carrying yams on her head in a large bowl.  One arm was bent to help balance her load as she walked with this effortless ease.  She was not carrying a few yams on the top of her head, but huge heavy ones that were stacked high!

    It was her face struck that me the most, because she was at peace with this enormous weight on her head. She appeared calm and serene. To my eyes, her body and face would vie with any major movie star we admire in our American magazines today.  She was beautiful.

    Yet, as surly as she stood so proud and beautiful, I could not help but see that she was standing amid major squalor and rubble.  She was standing on a street made of dirt, in a town that lacks any government help to make it a town. The neglect or absence of any government help is so fierce that the beauty of a woman such as this is easy to miss amid the filth and despair.

    In my mind’s eye, this woman still has youth on her side. She walks amid the dirt, pot-holes, garbage and filth as though it does not exist and has no impact in her world. Yet, we know it does.  For, there is no sanitary hospital for her to go if she cuts her foot, or if she gets hit by a car.  There is no safe place for her unborn child to play or to get an education and learn to read or write.  Her world has little time for these dreams, or even hope.

    The hope she has lies in her ability to buy a little rice or beans to take to her family for an evening meal.  Her hope manifests in being able to live another harsh day on the streets, and to stay in a place where there is little electricity at night.  There will be no warm water for her to wash herself after a hard day.  Her night will be difficult when the blackness that falls arrives amid these people.  It is not easy to tell the difference between a friend or an enemy in darkness.

    There is great and vast poverty in the streets of Africa.  It is still “slave labor”.  It comes at a huge cost to the people, and it is all around. People there will do anything for little money, or even a scratch at security.

    Back to the beauty of this one woman that caught my eye during one fleeting second of time.  She is beautiful. She remains beautiful amid the rubble. She is radiant in her cheery cherry colored dress, and adorned with a head-dress of the same material.  Her delicacy complements her appearance and looks.  The memory is feast for my mind.

    But I cannot look much deeper!  She is still young.  Her future will be filled with sorrows.

    Nigeria lacks leadership.  She lacks anyone who can help her towns, and streets. She lacks a leader who sees her beauty and who will protect her from violence.  So far, Nigeria and surrounding countries have leaders who only see her for personal profit and pillaging.  Corruption and greed is the only name of the game for her leaders.

    Nigeria needs a leader who will look at her earth, her natural resources, beauty, and people with compassion.  Who will care about the future and create justice for them.

    Africa needs good leaders.  When will this happen, and how to find them.



  • African Experience (4)

    IMG_0421 IMG_0443I am a person who follows my heart. I have done this all my life.  I have no idea how my heart makes up my mind, but it does.  Then I follow along to see what will happen. My heart always knows long before I know, what my next move in life will be.

     

    That is why I went to Africa, and that is why I am still involved with Africa. I had absolutely no idea as to what to expect, where I would be staying, what I would be eating, where I would sleep, or if I was to go to the bathroom in the bush, or there would be flush toilets. All I knew for certain is my heart said I must go.  And so I did.

     

    Minna, Nigeria, West Africa, I was so far from home! Once I arrived, would I be able to connect emotionally with the people?  I did.  I have a keen heart.  When I place my heart next to another person’s heart, I can feel things.  Can’t you?  Love, acceptance, home, or just plain rejection is all known in that one moment of contact.

     

    When I stepped out of the car at New Horizons College, I met Maryam Lemu. When our hearts met, I knew I had found home.  She is a woman whose heart and emotions are similar to my own.  We hugged repeatedly.  We looked into each other’s eyes, and laughed.  I trusted her right away like I would a beloved sister.  It was wonderful.

     

    I found it was on her suggestion that I did not eat until I came into New Horizon’s. She knows Americans, and knows we are not used to African foods, and she was trying to protect me from illness. I loved her on sight.  Who could not? She had a meal waiting for me that she herself had prepared.

     

    She even had a little reception committee waiting for me by my apartment. Oh My Gosh!  I never expected to have my own little apartment or quarters during my stay. This was too much. I was so overwhelmed and over-joyed that the little girl from Nutterville, who my heart identifies with the most, was lost. I became someone greater than myself.  I had gone to Africa, and was given my own lodging!  Too much, I thought to my heart.  This is too much joy and happiness.

     

    Soon Maryam’s mother, Aisha was there and hugging me too. These women are beautiful, both inside and out.  I could tell they were also educated and had been around.  This was not like anything I had expected.

     

    No one stayed long that first morning. They wanted me to eat and rest.

     

    After all my company left, I was too excited to rest. I did eat breakfast and I drank some coffee, and I took my luggage back into my bedroom.  I checked out my bathroom and found it to be much more than what I thought I would have during my stay.  I was comfortable indeed.  I sat on my bed, and opened my luggage.  Then I longed to be out in the African sunshine, and explore.  I did not think there would be any harm in exploring alone.

     

    I left my apartment and began to walk around. Soon I heard the laughter and voices of many children and wondered about it. I walked up a flight of stairs to a building that was near my apartment.  I was alone.  I entered a room and there were dozens of children.  Many tiny children, around the age of three or four. There was one adult.  The adult came to me with a smile and asked who I was.  I was explaining that I was a guest of Dux when I heard footsteps of someone running up the steps.

     

    Dux had found me. He had a look of sheer panic on his face, and he was sweating. When he saw me, he looked relieved but said, “Mom you must wait to be introduced to people, and to be shown around.”

     

    I again had a shock because I was not in America any more. I really did not know the customs and ways of where I was, and I must rely on Dux more than I thought.

     

    He had gone to my apartment to check on me, and did not find me. He was very worried.  I decided that I would have to stay under his care and not be my usual bold self.  He was there to take care of me. I did not want to spoil that, or make him look bad, or give myself a reputation of mis-conduct.

     

     



  • African Experience 3

    IMG_0345Waking up the first morning in Africa was again surreal for me. I found that I had slept in my clothes, something I had not done that for decades. Men’s voices were muffled and infiltrated my dreams, and when I woke, the voices were still there, talking low and I could not make out any of the words. I slowly opened my eyes and looked around me, not knowing what to expect. Immediately people were smiling at me and welcoming me.  They were eating breakfast and drinking coffee. I was offered bottled water, but no coffee.  I did not say anything because I did not want to be rude or ungrateful.

    Soon we were all piled in the car and they finished their breakfast as fast as they could without offering me a bite. Actually, they were so cheerful, smiling, and happy that I could not even feel it in my heart to tell them that I was hungry, or that I too would like some coffee.  They had bought me some Danish cookies the night before, and I had them in my hand.  The cookies came in a sealed tin-package and were from a different land. I looked at Dux sandwich which was eggs and bread and he immediately offered me a bite, which I took and ate.

    As we drove I became totally immersed in the different culture and all the people around us. From our car window I could see street scenes that I describe as a sea of humanity, busy, loud, and disorganized in an orderly and predictable fashion. People were trying to get our attention in the middle of the street to sell us merchandise that they were carrying on top of their heads, in their arms, or in big bins with a leather strap around their neck.  Arms were waving at us and voices shouting that were loud and unfamiliar.

    At one point I rolled my car-window down so I could get a picture of the vendors. Immediately I felt absolutely terrified and assaulted by the many arms and many body’s that came through the open window. Loud voices were yelling to give them my camera. I was caught off guard.  One of the hands that came in scraped my chin and took off a few layers of skin.  I felt paralyzed and breathless in my adrenalin rush of fear.

    Dux immediately put his body between me and the boy-vendors that surrounded the car. He shoved their hands back out of the window.  Masiami took my camera and hid it in her dress. I was numb, and scared out of my wits. I was not in Wisconsin any more. I was in a foreign land and I realized anything can really happen. I was quiet, and retreated into a quiet zone in my mind.

    Weeks after I got back to the states, Dux wrote and said that he found the boys that did this, and told them how I felt and asked them what they were doing. They claimed to be trying to make a sale and did not mean me harm.

    Dux continues to amaze me in many ways. Going back and talking to these same young men never occurred to me.  Telling them how much they frightened me and helping them see what their actions caused is the way Dux thinks and operates.

    It was after we arrived in Minna, a three hour journey, that I found out that Dux, Abdul, Masiami all had strict orders that I was to not eat anything but what was tightly sealed, or drink anything but bottled water. I began to know the ways and rules of what would become part of my journey.



  • African Experience (2)

    IMG_0308African Experience

    For me, communication in Nigeria West Africa was a different experience than in Wisconsin, USA. Being there, among people I never met, I did not know exactly what to expect. From the beginning of my journey, I decided that I would place my trust 100% in Dux, (Mamadee Dux Dukuly) and go with the flow. But the heavy accents made it difficult at times. Dux is very hard for me to understand because of his accent.  We communicate best by typing, to this day. Meeting him in Abuja was a shock to my ears. I soon realized that I would have to just relax and trust.  So that is exactly what I did.

    When I met him, his hug was warm and genuine and his wife’s touch was the same. I knew instinctively that they were my family from now on. Looking into his eyes is what I had imagined it would be like for a year before I met him. There was trust, joy, sorrow and depth of character all mirrored there, plus respect for me.  That is what I saw.

    Once we got into a car, we drove through the streets of Abuja. I could not help myself, as we drove I kept exclaiming excitedly, “Wow!” “Look at that!” “Oh!”  Each time I saw a bill board, or a person who was carrying stacked items on their head or the like.  I found everything foreign and fascinating. 

    During one of my loud outbursts I happened to catch the eye of the man in our car who Dux introduced me to earlier at the airport. I was so overwhelmed at the time, that I could not remember much about him.  But, at the moment our eyes met in that car, is the moment that Bella Abdul entered my life and heart.  His eyes were twinkling, and oh-so kind.

    “Whoa!” I said to myself. “These are the eyes of a very intelligent, and compassionate young man.” Out loud, I laughed and said, “What is your name again?” He laughed too. He would hear that question from me often for a while, due to my poor memory.  He never seemed to mind.  I became his fan right away, and I remain that way. As I type, I see his eyes, Dux’s eyes, and Masimae’s eyes… all in front of me. 

    After a short drive, we arrived at a neat, clean-looking building. I learned we would spend the night there. I no longer had to worry about carrying my luggage or even my purse or camera. All was taken care of.  My new son and daughter-in-law would take care of all things from then on. We were all to stay at this hostel and drive to Minna in the morning.

    As I got out of the car, I tried hard to take in the African experience. I felt the hot air on my skin, and it felt as a caress.  The aroma was exotic and a bit spicy with plant life, and hot. I felt as a woman in love. Happy.  I looked up and saw large, clumsy objects flying low overhead, flapping their wings with some effort.

    “Look!” I exclaimed loudly and I pointed at them, “What are they?” My companions glanced upward as they were working with the luggage, but they failed to be impressed by what they saw, and went about their business.

    So there I was experiencing, all alone, the magnificent flight of the African Fruit Bats as they soared in the air, right above my head! Making their nightly sojourn, in search for the most fragrant and the most ripe of all the fruit trees to dine on. They soared, flapped and flew in great numbers, but not in a tight bunch.  They were spread out as they lumbered along.  The flight of the fruit bats would become my favorite of rituals during my stay.

    Dux, Masiame, Abdul, the car driver and myself sat on the edge of the two beds in my room and talked for a time. I began to snap some pictures.  Abdul quickly asked about my camera and began to take photographs with it as well. 

    Soon, the men left to go to their room. Masiame and I were left in the women’s quarters.   I laid my head on the bed and was soon fast asleep.  It had already been quite the experience to come from frigid Wisconsin in mid-January to the equator of West Africa in one trip.  I had not yet had time to reflect or think about it at all.  The day passed in one great rush, and became history way too fast.  I was in a state of deep sleep before I could comprehend the changes, or catch up to where I was.  Africa!

     



  • My African Family

    IMG_0327How I felt becoming a “Mom” at age sixty-two. I felt a mother-son bond with Dux (Mamadee Dux Dukely), shortly after meeting him “on-line”. I loved him and called him my son even though he is a black-skinned African and I am a pasty old white lady. Dux, along with his wife, Massiame, have become my family. 

    He frequently calls me, sends pictures, and emails me, always assuring me of his love and support. He openly shares his heart and soul with me, and that makes us family.

    West Africa, where he lives, has become a part of my life and heart. I no longer feel roots in only Wisconsin, but also in Africa.  I had no idea that traveling there this last January by myself would bring such deep feelings of family and belonging. 

    Before I made the twenty-one hour flight, Dux assured me that he would wait at the airport gate for as many hours as it took for me to land safe and meet him. He told me he would not leave his vigil. It is a good thing he said that.  Because landing in Abuja, Nigeria is not at all like landing in an airport in America.  For one thing, the electricity goes out repeatedly and the room becomes dark, and you can’t move in your line.  One stands in a long line and waits to have the officials look at your VISA. I was the only and sole white person there.  Me and me.  The sole white-skin.  I stood in this line a long time to have them look at my VISA so I could get my luggage.  I was the last one in line, because I had to fill out paper work on the plane.  I had to declare what was in my suit-cases.

    Then it took hours standing in that line. I refused to feel flustered.  I kept telling myself that I did not need to use the bathroom and I was fine.  After my VISA was checked, the officials made some jokes that they felt were funny. I was afraid to laugh because I did not know if I should. Only then I was allowed to enter the baggage pick-up area.

    I picked up my two pieces of heavy luggage. I had my X-large purse which was very heavy, a carry-on, plus these two giant pieces of baggage filled with exactly forty-nine pounds each. After I acquired these, there was plenty of airport staff telling me they were “thirsty” and holding out their hand.  I had no money to give them, because I did not have African currency.  I knew “thirsty” meant “give me money”.  So, I ignored them and just smiled. 

    After that, I entered a third area. Finally I saw some chairs.  But, what I did not see were people.  There were no people!  At all, anywhere.  No Dux, No Massiame, no one else! As I looked around I did not know who to ask, or what to do next. I felt very alone and began to make a plan how I would get back home. Then one last person exited the door where the luggage was, and he spoke English.  He said, “You must go through that door there, no one is allowed in this room.” He pointed at a door as he kept walking. 

    So … I took my one-hundred-and-forty pounds of luggage, and tried to drag them all to that door, swearing to myself that the next time I fly, I will have cases that have excellent rollers. Once I opened the door, I was aware of 2 new things immediately.  One was the sun.  It shone so fierce that it hurt. Of course! I was at the equator.   Second, there was a circle of people behind a line, but I could see no faces due to the brightness of the sun, and the distance of the circle. 

    I struggled with the weight of what I was pulling when I saw 2 people running toward me. This is how I knew that my son would come through for me, whatever it took. He never gave up waiting or watching for me.  

    Soon our arms were around each other, and my hands were holding his face for the first time. Soon my arms encircled Massiame and I thought she was the loveliest person my eyes ever saw.  Soon I was meeting new life-long friends and family.

    And this was only the beginning.

     



  • “Brown Bean Boys”

     

    IMG_1208

    Who are the “Brown Bean boys,” and why are they called that?    They are the children who have been abandoned, and left on the streets in Minna, Nigeria, on the other side of the world.  I have been told that starvation is the #1 cause of death there.  There is much poverty.  Abortion is of course not legal, therefore it is not an option.  Family planning or education on this topic is also, not done.

    So babies are born, and parents are too poor to raise them.  I am told that they tell their sons that they will visit uncle “Abu” in Minna.  They are given a one-way ticket on the train.  When the young boy arrives in Minna, there is no uncle “Abu”. There is no one.  They are simply abandoned.  I was not told what happens to the girls.  Only the boys are sent away like this.

    I want you to consider how this would feel if you were five years old, and you got off a train in a city you have never been and you stand there, waiting in confusion for someone to take notice of you.  Perhaps you would revert to sucking your thumb for comfort.  Perhaps you would wet your pants because you were so scared and did not know where to find a bathroom.  Then what?  What would happen next?

    When did we become this world that abandons our kids?   I suppose it might be as old as time.  We see it in the United States as well.  We have a fierce homeless population made up of kids in Big Cities across our nation.  We have documentaries on this topic, on TV.

    Abandoned children come in all ages, races, genders, and from all religions.  It is a growing problem that hides well, because no one wants to acknowledge it, and we don’t know what to do about it.  I assure you it exists.  I do not know what to do about it, either.

    However, I met a young man from Africa, Mamadee Dux Dukely who grew up in a refugee camp and started the Brown Beans program to feed starving youth when he was a youth himself.  He and I became family from opposite sides of the world.

    Then, I became involved with the Brown Bean Program to feed these starving boys.  This is what this blog-site will be about.  I hope I have your piqued your interest.  This topic depends upon people who will care.  It depends upon finding resources and hope for these boys, and many like them.   IMG_1208