Sang W Mendy a.k.a DJ William: How I became a hardcore feminist

Written by Sang W Mendy

My eyes searched the room but only found a sheet of black that cloaked me under obscurity. I could notice my hands but couldn’t tell their color. I lit the candle. Then I remembered my mother’s strict warning about playing with fire. I blew it off and peacefully found my bed. I was not sure what time it was, but I knew it would soon be dinnertime. I was hungry, but I had to wait a few more minutes, or maybe hours; there is a specific time when dinner is served. And, unless that time comes, dinner will not be served.  I lay quietly on my bed staring at the ceilings for a few minutes.  I dosed off and started to dream. 

In my dream, I was playing outside under the rain. At first, it was a slow light rain. Then it started to get heavier.  Over some time, water started to pile up in our house. I heard my mother screaming at me to come inside, but I was enjoying myself under the rain.  Then the rain started to swallow the house and me. I saw my Father, my step Mother and my half siblings on a boat sailing to safety. I looked behind me and saw my mother with my sister on her back pleading with my father to come back for us, but they were all laughing at her and sailing away.   My mother loosened my sister from her back and also swam her way out. I was left all alone with my sister standing on top of our house roof surrounded by water.  Then a loud sound jolted me from my sleep. 

A voice of a woman and a crying baby took over the atmosphere and bumped me up. It was the voice of my mother and that of my little sister.  The sound was coming from my mother’s room. I got up from bed and ran towards my mother’s room. I stood by her door and watched my father thud and groan while striking her. Her scream was similar to that in my dream. I squeezed my eyes shut trying to pretend it was all a bad dream. The cursing and the pounding continued, Plates and cooking pots fell from every direction making a horrible sound, and my sister laid on the ground and screaming below my father and mother’s pushing and pulling feet’s.  I saw my stepmother walked in and carry her out of danger of being trampled upon. She ran out with her and screamed for help from the neighbors. 

Neighbors came in, but my father had already locked the door without noticing I was inside. I heard neighbors banging on the door and shouting my father’s name telling him to open the door. They tried to break it with a heavy metal bloke. Chaos was all over the house:  The neighbors ordering voices and banging on the door, my stepmother and half siblings wailing, and the sound of belt slashing on my mother’s skinny body.  I stood motionless, watching my mother struggle to free herself from the monstrous grip of my father’s hand on her neck.  Her eyes bulged out as if they were about to fall from their sockets.  Her tongue was out, and all of her veins were stretched. Her face was red and tears were coming from her eyes.  She freed herself and quickly inhaled as much air as her lungs could contain. But, before exhaling, my father had already caught her by the neck again, squeezing it with all of his strength and banging her head on the wall. All the while, he was screaming those awful words and spitting out cusses at her. He clutched her hair and swept her with his leg. She landed flatly to the ground with her head hitting the hard, cement floor. She tried to cough, but it escapes with a Clichy sound like that of a rat caught on a trap. I ran to her and cover her with the whole of my body so my father would hit me instead of her. He tried to pull me away, but my grip was strong on my mother’s neck that it almost lifted her off the ground. My father finally gave up then walked away and opened the door. I heard the neighbors trying to talk to him while others came in to check on my mother. They tried to loosen my grip on her but I was afraid to let go. I clutched tighter on her as if keeping her from the chilly weather. A voice begged me to free her so they could help her.   I pressed my head on her chest then realized my whole face was wet. I must have been crying.   

My mother’s friend calmed me, and then begged me to go with her to my room. I slowly loosened up my grip, stood up, and reached for her hand. She covered me with her large body and I felt a warm, empathetic comfort.  I turned my head to the direction were my mother was laying, and saw the neighbors pouring water on her head and putting garlic on her nostril to regain her consciousness. She mewed down deep in her throat then grumbled. A sound like nothing I had ever heard. She softly cried, “I want my daughter.”  I could not stop staring at her as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Additional garlic was forced on to her nostril that led her to ferociously cough, and flickered her head spattering saliva and phlegm on her already wet engorged face. A face that was once the catch of all men eyes cannot even be recognize in a broad daylight.  

A lady beside her took her head tie and cleaned her face up. They picked her up and put her on her bed. My mother’s friend took me by the shoulder and led me to me room. She was a tender loving lady who empathized with everybody that brought his/her story to her house. Her husband died a few years before. Since then, men came to marry her and she kept turning them down.  Men who held grudges against her, ungraciously and enviously made up stories to smear her image. Her Brother in-law tried multiple times to force her into marrying him or she would have to move out of the house. He accused her of murdering her husband so as to take custody of his properties. Being the strongest woman that I ever known, she never changed her way of life, nor has she ever wavered in her resistance of unprincipled, egocentric men.  She was my mother’s best friend and my father never liked that. He had the feeling that she would corrupt my mother’s mind and make her rebel against him. Men feared her, because she had the heart of a lioness that stood strong to men’s intimidation. 

Whatever the problem was, I knew it was not that big of a problem. My Father took pleasure in beating my mother. Sometimes he did it to amuse my stepmother, and other times, for his own amusement.  He would often come home drunk, and start to beat my mother. If he had a bad day at his job, he took it out on my mum. If he was angry with my stepmother, he turns it on my mother. Whatever my mother did never seemed to please my father. He called her all kinds of names, and maltreated her with all kinds of abuse. He even sometimes denied fathering my sister and me and called her a prostitute. 

There was silence all over the house. Not even the voice of my sister was heard. She must have had fallen asleep or was taken to a neighbor’s house. My father also must have been in his room regretting what he just did, or went out to get drunk as he always does. My mum’s friend laid me on my bed. Shhu-shhing me whenever I coughed or snuffled. 

 “I pray your experience will help you love, respect, and fight for women.” She said, pulling the blanket on me and gently pampering me to sleep. My body was racked with sobs: I sobbed every second the image of my mother comes to my mind, I sobbed at my detestation towards my father and every abusive husband, I sobbed for my little sister and every girl child, and I sobbed for every mother obscure in their house of abusive husbands. I sobbed until I could not sob anymore, and it turned to a lung painful hiccup. My mum’s friend fetched water for me to drink. I drank and it capsized to slower hiccups until I dosed off. 

The story of my Mother is like many stories around the world. It is not unique. I tell this story in honor of her and, in honor of all women who are veterans of domestic violence around the world especially in Africa and the Middle East where life is organized about this central culture of the view that women should serve men. It is a culture in which women are marginalized, in which men are expected to dominate, in which it is normal to hit your wife.  Please watch out for my book “The Course From My Mother”. 

Sang W Mendy, AKA DJ WILLIAM was a former radio DJ in The Gambia and now studying in the USA