In my indigenous Agikuyu culture, the Rights of Passage is such an important mark in a young man’s life that it really has no equivalent in modern Western tradition. I am tempted to compare it to the Jewish Bar Mitzvah ceremony which is an initiation of boys who have attained the age of 13 and are considered ready to partake in religious worship. But that temptation is quickly thwarted by the religious nature of Bar Mitzvah and the fact that the young men in my culture who go through the Right of Passage are still decades away from being qualified to participate in religious worship in any significant role. But I am not one of those Gikuyu folks who seem to think that it is such an honor to be connected to the Middle East as a sign of validation. The story of the Bible is quite problematic to me as it has a lot of baggage that those who are inside the faith are comfortably willing to overlook. That baggage has to do with the assumption of cultural superiority that is so close to the colonization of many indigenous people and also to the building of the Western empire. 

My interest in the indigenous Rights of Passage is that it is a way of marking time. In other words,  I am giving credence to the concept of having multiple calendars as a sign of tolerance and sophistication. That would allow me to stretch the concept of time to the rim of quantum combined with flavors. I am finding out that as I grow older, I have more time to reflect and to digest information and experiences in very different ways from the past. 

I am saying this as one who went through my own rights of passage myself . I was so excited about leaving boyhood and qualifying as an initiate such as having the privilege of dating and simply being respected.  But then I quickly realized that that right I had been so anxious to  achieve had its own set of challenges. I therefore quickly learned that in this life, not everybody is going to like you, be your friend, appreciate your kindness and leave alone reciprocating acts of sacrifice. My conclusion was to seek out those who were genuinely interested in being in your team and having you in their team. As it turns out, one develops a greater ability to access those one can get along with and the power to suppress the all common demon in all of such that promises convince and pleasure for short term fun while tarnishing delayed gratification as a curse. I love aging, if for nothing else,  for its ability to wear out that primordial demon. In its place I have a deep sense of gratitude for those who have equally overcome their own demons and develop an inner beauty only visible by the heart and spirit of those who have also initiated themselves into the same state through practice and discipline.

All the cells of my being celebrate whenever I run into such an initiate. They really don’t need to come out and verbally pronounce their accolades. Just by their conduct and sometimes just by looks, I can pick them. I will be the first one to admit that such occurrences are few and far apart for comfort. Yet I stay hopeful that the next such person is a call away, a flight of stairs up or down away or just a virtual introduction away. Thanks to technology, I can now add a WhatsApp group to the list of possibilities of places where initiates can be found. I am so happy to have met Namatsi through Kwetu Tahmeri. She is like a kitchen poet in my kitchen cabinet of my life, no pun intended. Humans are truly a microcosm of a government that, like cells, make up the whole country and ultimately the whole of humanity. It is clear that we will collaborate on some good work. It might be one or it might be many. The number or amount is not all that important, what is important is that the work will be important. It is on that account I perceived our relationship in quantum terms. Quantum particles defy general principles of physics in interesting was such as being in two different places at the same time. Having a quantum calendar of poetic flavors is similar to being ideological twin of sorts even though physically and biologically, we are connected in any tangible way whatsoever.

Since we both have deep appreciation of our culture and for African American culture of resistance, Namatsi reminded me of the closing of a poem of of of my favorite African American poet, Sterling Brown who is sometimes referred to as the Dean of African American Poetry, In the poem Odyssey of Big Boy, the reference of big boy reminds me of the fact that we are always children or that our childhood is ubiquitous throughout our lives regardless of what Rights of Passage we go through.  On the other hand, the Odyssey part of the title reminds me that a journey can cover a lifetime. Looked from that angle, the Rights of Passage might actually be longer than we typically expect it to last. Yet more importantly, it is not a one man or woman journey. It would make sense that we all need very solid accomplices along that journey. In the poem Odyssey of a Big Boy, Sterling Brown ends the playful poem with the wish that should the Big boy’s life come to an end, his only wish was that would want to be with ole Jazbo. I find the poem to be quite appreciated as the protagonist had a lot of fun with work and being promiscuous, including one married woman, who desired to be with his friend the most. That kind of relationship between friends is what I call quantum. It is a wonderful feeling to know that someone feels what you feel even without a word of communication. It makes my own odyssey across this rugged terrain bearable, especially in my own internal journey from boyhood to manhood. 

Odyssey of Big Boy By Sterling Brown

Lemme be wid Casey Jones,
    Lemme be wid Stagolee,
Lemme be wid such like men
    When Death takes hol’ on me,
  When Death takes hol’ on me. . . .

Done skinned as a boy in Kentucky hills,
    Druv steel dere as a man,
Done stripped tobacco in Virginia fiel’s
    Alongst de River Dan,
  Alongst de River Dan;

Done mined de coal in West Virginia
    Liked dat job jes’ fine
Till a load o’ slate curved roun’ my head
    Won’t work in no mo’ mine,
  Won’t work in no mo’ mine;

Done shocked de corn in Marylan’,
    In Georgia done cut cane,
Done planted rice in South Caline,
    But won’t do dat again
  Do dat no mo’ again.

Been roustabout in Memphis,
    Dockhand in Baltimore,
Done smashed up freight on Norfolk wharves
    A fust class stevedore,
  A fust class stevedore. . . . 

Done slung hash yonder in de North
    On de ole Fall River Line
Done busted suds in li’l New Yawk
    Which ain’t no work o’ mine—
  Lawd, ain’t no work o’ mine.

Done worked and loafed on such like jobs
    Seen what dey is to see
Done had my time with a pint on my hip
    An’ a sweet gal on my knee
  Sweet mommer on my knee:

Had stovepipe blonde in Macon
    Yaller gal in Marylan’
In Richmond had a choklit brown
    Called me huh monkey man—
  Huh big fool monkey man.

Had two fair browns in Arkansaw
    And three in Tennessee
Had Creole gal in New Orleans
    Sho Gawd did two time me—
  Lawd two time, fo’ time me—

But best gal what I evah had
    Done put it over dem
A gal in Southwest Washington
    At Four’n half and M—
  Four’n half and M. . . .

Done took my livin’ as it came
    Done grabbed my joy, done risked my life
Train done caught me on de trestle
    Man done caught me wid his wife
  His doggone purty wife. . . .

I done had my women,
    I done had my fun
Cain’t do much complainin’
    When my jag is done,
  Lawd, Lawd, my jag is done.

An’ all dat Big Boy axes
    When time comes fo’ to go
Lemme be wid John Henry, steel drivin’ man
  Lemme be wid ole Jazzbo;
  Lemme be wid ole Jazzbo.

Living in exile, we all need our own Jazbo as we are far from family but also quite different from our family. Namatsi the poet sounds and feels like Ole Jazzbo. Those in activism will most likely know the value of such a soul in our life. I was so touched that I made a recipe to mark that connection.Since I can write poetry to mark the connection, I marked the connection in the quantum calendar of poetic flavors. It is a great feeling to be mature enough to know that my Odyssey involves having quantum rights of passage across gender and culture. Who knows when Ole Jazzbo will come knocking into our lives. I will keep making flavors and hope that many of them will mark time and encourage friendships that are quantum and meaningful enough like that of Ole Jazzbo. In the same light, I hope to have a similar relationship with food too. In other words, I have a mission to cultivate and consume food that treats me so well that I feel like I am with Ole Jazzbo. In doing so, I will be creating the best worlds both inside and outside of my body. What a jazzy life that would be. A life of friendship and food justice has to be a life of true spirituality, or another way of saying flavorful, poetic , quantum existence. With such a life, time is no longer marked by the revolution of the earth around the sun but by the heart beats and vibrations that beat in unison as a form of singularity.