Monthly Archives: January 2010

Nokosi the ‘little bear’



Nokosi the little bear, originally uploaded by stephenchukumba.

My son, Nokosi Dike Fuji Chukumba was born Tuesday, January 26th, at 7:25 p.m. at Morristown Memorial Hospital.

He came in to the world at 8 pounds, 5 ounces, and 20 and 1/2 inches long, and a head full of hair.

Nokosi, means ‘little bear,’ in Seminole. Chanel and I came up with this name six years ago, when we had our first son, and I tricked her into thinking I’d name my first son other than ‘Stephen’ (silly girl). So we’d had the name on stash for a minute.

Dike, means ‘one who is strong,’ or ‘one with strength’ in Igbo (Nigerian dialect). But it can also be translated as ‘a gentlemen.’ In the Nigerian tradition, a child is named by the eldest member of the family (in this case, my father). So as soon as the baby was born, I dialed pop-dukes and asked the name of the newest addition to the Chukumba clan.

Fuji means ‘wealthy intentions’ as is most commonly associated with Mount Fuji, the mountain in Honshu, Japan. Fuji was the name given by Duran, our 3 year old, and what the kids have been calling the baby the last two months of the pregnancy. We liked it so much it stuck.

Chukumba, means ‘people of God’ in Igbo. ‘Chukwu’ = god, ‘mba’ = people or community.

So my son’s name is Little Bear Who is Strong with Wealthy Intentions from the People of God.

Nice name huh?

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Attack! Attack! Attack! Lessons of a Futsal Coach.

I coach my son’s 1st grade Futsal team with the Montclair United Soccer league.

An artistic rendering of the author playing Futsal.

Futsal is a five-on-five game, played indoors with a size 3 soccer ball on a basketball court. The ball is a little heavier than a standard soccer ball, so it bounces less and moves quicker.

The goal of Futsal is to improve a young player’s skill set, and reinforces dribbling, passing, accuracy and overall footwork.

I’m the coach of Team G (or Big Green as I like to call them), with Coach Anthony, a parent of one of the players. Our team has eleven players, six boys and five girls, and they come ready to play each week.

We lost our first game, 5-2, and I chalked it up to first-game jitters. The girls stood in place. Several of the boys used their hands. My son was slide-tackling every other player on the opposite team. We were, in a word, horrible.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids had a ball. Everyone got a chance to play, we scored a few goals, but from a coach’s perspective, our game play left much to be desired.

Last Saturday, in our second game against Team E, I wasn’t trying to swallow the bitter pill of defeat – again.

So I came up with a simple strategy to focus my players on the task at hand.

My strategy? Attack.

If the ball comes near you – ATTACK!

If a player on the other team has the ball – ATTACK!

You see a loose ball near the goal – ATTACK!

Don’t stand around and watch the player on the other team kick the ball – ATTACK!

All game long, I was running up and down the sidelines yelling “ATTACK THE BALL!”

The parents (and kids) laughed hysterically at this wild-eyed dread in the Polo tracksuit yelling like a nut at their children and siblings.

But you know what? It worked.

We won that game, 7 to 4.

The girls, who just stood around in Game 1, stood around less. (Hey, it takes time for my coaching to kick in).

The boys, were all over the ball. Sometimes they got a shin (guard), but most of the time, they struck leather.

Loose balls shuddered whenever Team G was around.

We’ve got a game tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. You know what I’m going to tell my players? ATTACK!

If they learn nothing from playing Futsal this season, they’ll learn that their coach is a total loon AND the importance of ‘ATTACK!’

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The Princess and the Frog is not (entirely) racist.

Kiss this little slimy (it's really mucous) bugger at your own risk.

When I learned that the Princess and the Frog was being done by Disney, I had misgivings.

I mean, c’mon. Walt Disney was an out-and-out racist (for all of you who are appalled at this statement, Disney biographers chronicle how he wouldn’t hire African Americans to work at his theme parks because ‘they would spoil the illusion’).

And I was legitimately concerned that the first movie by Disney featuring an African American Princess would be a less-than-flattering portrayal.

My misgivings were not without ammunition. What did we know?

1. The princess gets turned into a frog. Which previous Disney princess movie had the princess meet so ignominious a fate?

2. The princess falls for a non-African American prince. Why can’t we see Black-on-Black love on the big animated screen?

3. The main characters in the promo were characteristically shuckin n’ jivin’. What’s up with the unintelligible firefly and the feeble alligator?

Anyway, I was not going to let my misgivings deprive my daughters of seeing a Black animated heroine and the attendant vicarious experience glory that accompanied it.

So with gentle prodding from wifey, (critical eye) and three kids in tow, I went to critique Disney’s offering enjoy a movie with the children.

And you know what? I loved it!

I came home gushing to the wife about this movie, as if I were a member of the adolescent audience for whom the movie was intended (and from whom this response was anticipated).

No. The princess does not get with a Black prince (he’s brown, and in this instance, that’s good enough). But aside from that, the movie was executed extremely well.

The Princess is not the trifling, neck swinging, tongue-clucking, cliche-slinging characiture of Black women we typically see in animated tales.

She was not hateful towards men and never sought to emasculate the prince.

She was strong, but compassionate. She comes from a good family, with hardworking parents, who instilled in her, character and work ethic.

Aside from the bad guy, Dr. Faciler, the balance of the characters in the movie were wholesome and endearing. The mush-mouthed firefly from the previews was a character of incredible depth (especially for a children’s movie) and not at all off-putting.

In the final analysis, while I still think they should have had the princess marry a BLACK man proper, that is the movie’s singular (and forgivable) fault.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

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Culture, cops and cockroaches.

Last week, I travelled into New York for what was supposed to be a day of culture, fun and family. You see the wife was browsing Barrista.net and came across Family Day at the New Museum.

Each first Saturday of every month, the New Museum hosts Family Day, complete with activities for the whole family. This particular Saturday featured an exhibit of an artist who was renowned for his landscapes, and the children were given paper, charcoal, and a view of the city to sketch.

After an hour, we had three masterpieces and three hungry children to boot. We decided we’d head to a NYC staple, BBQs, for lunch.

In my youth, BBQs was the spot for late night grubbation on a budget. With three kids in tow, my pockets were looking for a safe haven. BBQs was just such a haven.

We’d driven up 8th Street to where we thought BBQs was, but it wasn’t there. The wife remarked that she had seen a ‘BBQ’ sign, but it was further down the block (in the opposite direction) much closer to Gray’s Papaya.

So we looped around the block, and arrived at what was apparently the new location of BBQs. We parked and were led into a dining room with a view of 8th Street. We promptly ordered and waited for our food to arrive.

The kids ordered 1/4 barbeque chickens with macaroni and cheese. I ordered the half chicken and french fries, while the wife got the barbeque chicken wrap and coleslaw. Pineapple juice, a hot tea and virgin pina colada’s rounded out our order.

When the food finally arrived, we dug in hungrily. The food wasn’t quite as tasty as I recalled. The chicken was dry and totally devoid of barbeque sauce (umm, what gives?) But the kids were content and didn’t seem to mind.

That is until I looked out the window to see one of NYC’s finest issuing me a ticket.

Apparently my meter receipt was not turned face up, and despite my rushing out to flip it over (thereby demonstrating I had a valid parking receipt on my dash) the meter reader had already begun tapping out my ticket on his digital ticket-issuer-that-can’t-retract-tickets-once-he-begins-a-tapping and was duty bound to proceed.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I returned to the restaurant two roaches arrived (as if on queue) unannounced next to our table. I immediately ordered everyone to stop eating and demanded to see the manager.

And where was the manager? Stuck in traffic on his way to the restaurant. The best the waiter could do was take 50% off my ticket. Thoroughly defeated, and not prepared to fight for a completely free meal, I paid the 50% (the value of the drinks we had ordered that were presumably cockroach free), and bounced – disgusted.

And then got stuck in traffic heading out of the city…

And so what was supposed to be a wonderful day filled with culture, fun and family, ended up being a day of culture, cops and cockroaches.

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