I love dashikis. I love the big, billowy feeling of a clean cotton dashiki on a warm summer’s day. I love the bright colors and the busy patterns with a simple pair of jeans, or long, baggy khaki shorts and sandals. Don’t understand? Please go directly to my post called Bohemians.Basquiat.Brooklyn Museum. That’ll explain everything.
In any case, my last dashiki was getting fierce, and not in a good way! Rips and tears. I had it safety-pinned on the left-hand side cuz it had ripped clear up the side. So, I have been buying new ones. I have been passing Sambuya (I think that’s the name) on 125th around 5th Avenue and seeing this hot brown dashiki hangin up outside the shop. I have been circling like a goddam buzzard till tonight when I decided to swoop down on it before some other queen put her claws all up on it! So, I pumped across 125th, giving what my girlfriend Rykke calls my “Miss Clairol run” till I landed at the green awning covering the store.
I walked in and was greeted warmly by two West African women and one man, saying “Welcome my brother! What can I do for my brother?”
I was putty in their hands.
I smiled back, and told them I wanted to get the brown dashiki outside and asked how much it cost. One woman explained, “For you my brother, $15.”
Then they proceeded to show me more dashikis, and before I knew it, I had this little black number in my hand, and the same woman stating, “For my brother, I’ll give you both for $25.”
Now, I have some money in my checking account. But I’m at that point where I know I got a couple-a-checks floating, and don’t need to be adding some mo’ shit to my monthly expenses. I look in my wallet and cound 4 singles, and 1 twenty spot. For you english majors out there, $24. I dig deeper, and see two shiny quarters enveloped in an old foil gum wrapper poking out from the corners of my chocolate brown leather billfold.
I say to the woman, “I got $24.50!”
She replied, “That is fine.”
I handed her the cash, got my booty, turned on my heels and pumped. On my way out, I was saluted with, “Good night my brother!”
So I know I’ve been had. As much as I enjoyed being referred to as “My brother” by fellow Black people, I know they knew, as Africans born on the continent, that “my brother” was a means to tug at my heart, and dig in my wallet. But I don’t mind. It’s sad that Black people in America are so starved for a sense of belonging and identity that any kind of recognition by Africans from the continent (for whatever ends) as being a part of them, even if they are just trying to make a buck.
But maybe they mean it. Maybe they know it. I once hace had a friend from Kenya tell me that there is a sadness that she sees in all Black people born in America. Maybe this is their way of easing that burden. And given the way we normally get treated when we go shopping, being called “My brother” is about the best thing I’ve ever been called in a store.