Kalief Browder: Lessons on Patriarchy

When TIME’s mini-series about Kalief Browder and how he was unjustly jailed for nearly three years for a crime he didn’t commit.

That docu-series was very emotional, especially getting to see Kalief Browder commit suicide. For people who didn’t know about the Browder story prior, the episode where he committed suicide was heart-breaking.

Personally, I was captivated by the whole story. I’d read about the Browder case, and got intrigued when then President Obama mentioned his name in an op-ed to reform the American Prison System. However, the TIME docu-series helped me see another side of the Browder story that otherwise would have been hidden – the role his family played through all of this.

There were so many things I connected with on a personal level throughout this story. I was reminded of the love inherent in mothers, when I saw how Mrs. Browder never missed a day in court for her son. That woman loved her son and went through lengths. You can imagine the agony she must have gone through when she lost her son. No one should ever go through that sort of pain. Mrs Browder died during the course of the docu-series. That was another ebbing point for me. The fact that two people lost their lives on a crime that was probably non-existent. Terrible!

Another part of the story that struck me, and which probably inspired this piece was how Mr. Browder resurfaced at the end of the series claiming rights to a son he abandoned. I was livid. Here’s the thing; Mr. Browder abandoned Mrs Browder and her 5 kids for over two decades. Mrs Browder had to raise those kids alone with Mr Browder practically being non-existent. Mr. Browder played no role in Kalief’s life, didn’t even deserve a mention. So imagine the agony when Mr. Browder showed up in court demanding a share of the compensation Mrs. Browder had been in court for.

Like how do you show up from nowhere and start mourning a child you did not care for all because of money. That was the most screwed up thing ever. This man had no shame, was standing in front of cameras talking about how his son is dead and the state deserves to pay and bla bla bla. Like no one even knew this man existed all through the 6 episodes until the last one where he showed up. His only reason for showing up was money. Nothing else. He wasn’t even talking to Mrs. Browder.

Mrs Browder eventually lost her house, lost everything in this fight, gave her all, was in court all day, and here was a man coming up from nowhere to reap where he did not sow. Stories like this make me livid, maybe it’s time to reconsider patriarchy.

This part of the story really struck a chord within me because I could relate on a deep and personal level. I know what it means to have a non-existent father in your life, I can’t begin to imagine what my reaction would be if he were to show up uninvited trying to use me as his claim to fame. Like that isn’t right on so many levels. Why is it so difficult for men to take responsibility for their actions? Women are made to do all the hard work and reap very little off their sweat. It’ bs time to review patriarchy in today’s society and how it is wired against the women who work their socks off to achieve something in life. Why is it so easy for the men and hard for the women at the same basic stuff? This can’t be a good precedent for the generations unborn.

Even the Bible doesn’t go easy on men who fail to live up to their responsibilities, branding them infidels! Why have we then decided to go easy on the men and find a way of blaming women for everything that goes wrong. I don’t get it.

I really hope we soon get to a society where men live up to their name and responsibilities both in words and actions.

Stay True!

Miracle Roch.

Fathers’ Day: Where is the Noun?

Few months to my Junior WAEC exams, I lost my phone in a public bus. I remember vividly the drama and scene I caused that day in the middle of the road as I made sure the whole bus was searched, I didn’t find my phone. I laid in the middle of the road begging for cars to crush me, no one paid attention, no one even came to drag me away from the road, even the motorists I had delayed did not honk their horn. I was chaotic and dramatic for four reasons;

The first being that having a phone then was a big deal. This was a period when GSM phones were still getting into Nigeria and were expensive, that I had one was a big deal. I had gotten used to the phone and the status it gave me, coupled with the fact that my phone number was special; it contained just three digits, was easy to memorise and recite. 

The second reason was that I had lost my only mean of communication with my mother. Then I used to live alone as my mother was faraway, she was in a place where there was no network so daily she made a short trip to a place where she could make calls and always called in the evening. It had become a ritual to always expect her call every evening. With my phone gone, there was no way to reach her and vice versa. I imagine the trauma she would have gone through when she didn’t get across to her baby boy that day.

The third reason was because I was also terrified of the punishment I was going to get from my mother. She regularly warned me not to take the phone out unless I needed to, she had threatened fire and brimstone on one particular day when I went out with the phone and narrated how it almost got lost. At that juncture, I wasn’t really thinking about my lost phone, I was more concerned with what my mother was going to do to me.

The fourth reason was that I had become so immersed in Nollywood that I was adrift of reality. I had felt that amidst all my drama, a good Samaritan was going to console me and buy me a new phone. I didn’t think anyone would see a barely twelve years old boy in such disarray and turn a blind eye. Guys, I was disappointed that day, in fact, I had sighted a man in a Mercedes and went to his door to cry, he quickly wound up his glass.

When my mom finally heard that I had lost my phone, to my surprise, she was not mad at me. She was more concerned with how her baby boy was going to cope because she knew how attached I had gotten to my phone (and all the wonders I did with it). Later on, she said she contemplated sending her own phone down for me to use since there was barely network where she was for her to use hers. You know, she actually bought a phone for me when she was coming back.

But this article is not about my phone or my mom. This article is about the aftermath of my phone story. I want to talk about the man who really became a pillar for me during my transition into adolescence. The day I lost my phone, I went to his office after all the shenanigans and cried. I told him about my phone and he told me not to worry. He told me to go home and relax, told me to concentrate on my upcoming exams instead. He was the one who broke the news to my mom. The next day, he was knocking on my door with a brand-new phone and a new sim card. No kidding! Like the very next day.

You see, I had little interaction or experience with my own biological father. He left when I was six or thereabout so I didn’t really know what fathers were supposed to do for sons other than what my mother did for me. But this man made sure I never had to worry too much about it. He bought me books regularly. When he saw my prowess with a computer, he quickly bought me computer books to read and hone my skills. Whenever he saw something beaming in me, he quickly bought me books. I owe my affinity for books to him and my mother. What did he not do for me? I always looked forward to seeing him or going to his office because there was always a gift waiting for me. He’d take me round his office then and tell everyone I was his son, you needed to see the confidence on my face.

The phone incident was one of numerous instances when he was there at my aid. Oh, and there was also a period when I hadn’t paid my school fees and I was sent home, I just went to his office from school, that same day he gave me the money and told me to go pay my school fees. I can’t even start, or was it the time when someone was harassing me and he called his Police friend and they brought their Police vans to make a statement. With him I always felt secured, I did whatever I wanted to do because I knew people had my back. 

I didn’t understand it then but I now know what that face on my mom’s face meant. I know she must have been relieved to see her son happy and have a father figure to always run to. I was too young to even understand it, like this man had a family compete with three children. But he introduced me to everyone in his family. They all knew my name. he always called me “my friend”, till today he calls me friend.

Today is Father’s Day and I want to say thank you. Thank you for filling that void, you are a grandfather now so you’re not lacking adulations and I know your children and grandchildren are the luckiest set of people in this world. Thank you for all those years when you stood by my side and held my hand. You make the word Father more than just a mere noun to me.

Your Friend,

Miracle Roch.