Ascension

Last night, I cooked spelt spaghetti listening and intermittently peering into the living room to catch scenes from Solange’s When I Get Home visual album. I love the scenes with Black cowboys, riding regally down Houston streets.

I cut that part of my evening short to virtually attend Brooklyn Public Library’s event #SAYHERNAME, A Public Reading of Audre Lorde’s Need: A Chorale For Black Woman Voices, hosted by Sheena Wilson and moderated by my storytelling sister from University of Alabama, Tuacaloosa, Dr. Jameka Hartley.

There are times where you should be speaking and there are times where you should just listen. Last night was a time to listen. It was not because Jameka and her fellow poets, Keya and Liseli read Ms. Lorde’s work beautifully.

It was because I needed to learn.

During Jameka’s introduction, she mentioned she was moved to do this after the tragic death of the young activist, Toyin Salau, earlier this year. Need was written in 1979 after the death of 12 Black women in four short months in the Boston area. Sadly, we know why this is still happening.

Black women are still invisible. Our pain is ignored. But when we speak up a little too loudly about our pain or organize coalitions, birth movements, we are a threat–to colonized mentality, to governments, to whatever “status quo” is deemed to be.

I found myself typing and then erasing in the chat “Black women are invisible and perceived to be a threat simultaneously. It is infuriating.”

I erased it because I just wanted to listen and for that night to be about these scholarly sisters honoring Audre. Another one of my storytelling sisters spoke up about the adversity she’s encountered in her quest to secure quality mental health resources. This led to a discussion that included solutions in the form of a “kitchen table”, a close knit group of people with whom you can be vulnerable, calling on an ancestor and “dating” therapists until you’ve found “the one.”

There was commentary from the one man in the room about his need to protect his own sister and other Black women. Recognition of the fight of queer women like Audre Lorde and the founders of the Black Lives Matter was discussed.

At the end of the night, powerful poetry was recited for us. It was the perfect closing. After logging off, my husband asked how I felt. He heard my rejoicing and saw my head nodding vigorously throughout it.

He knew how I felt. He knows I want to be in a real room with those people. He knows I now want to close the door behind me with a stack of books written by Black women and do my homework. I want to write and read and shift my perspective.

I want to ascend.

So last night started with a pot of boiling pasta, being awestruck at Black cowboys and transcendent music and ended with Ms. Lorde’s work setting something ablaze inside of me.

Liberation

I want to be paid the highest compliment.

She. Is. Free.

I would be, too.

Free to take all my clothes off

On my balcony

In the dark

Brown full flesh kissing night air

Free to fall in

And out of love

As many times as

My big juicy heart pleases

Free to swallow kiwis and mangoes

And cherries

Whole

Remnants dripping

Down my chin

Pulp lingering on lips

Free to

Laugh with eyes closed

And mouth wide open

Free

To get it wrong

And let it go

Someone said

Black women don’t fall down

Someone said

We’ve got to make the time then.

To fall down

Grow silent

Scream until

Throats ache

Cry without hiding tears

That splash and slide onto the chest

Messy with no smooth edges

Nothing gets laid down.

I say

Only then

Would that freedom

Be

True.

Only then

Would that freedom

Be real.

Only then

Would that freedom

Be me.

 

 

 

Reawakening

I wrote recently about resolutions, birthday resolutions specifically which got me thinking about whether I wanted to make New Year’s Resolutions this year. I only made one at the beginning of 2017. My husband and I resolved to go see more live music. Last September, we went to a phenomenal concert. Corinne Bailey Rae and Alabama Shakes at the Portsmouth Pavilion.

That night rocked our worlds inside out. I had only seen Corinne Bailey Rae once in Maryland (she opened for John Legend years ago) and I have the fondest memories of sitting on the grass, swaying and swinging along to her first album with my cousin Kim.

With those memories, I knew to expect greatness. However, this time there was a freedom in her performance. She owned the stage. Her figure could easily be described as wispy but I saw power as she sang and played her guitar, bringing me back to listening to countless hours of her first album, Like A Star, on replay, thinking “Trouble Sleeping”  was written for me and spellbound by the lyrics to “Enchantment”: “I’d tightrope walk with a blindfold on my eyes.”

Brittany Howard, front woman for Alabama Shakes, blew me away with her guitar solos, singular rock-gospel goddess voice that made me ashamed for not knowing all of the words to her songs.  After we left the concert, we vowed to have more nights like this, to make what felt like necessary room for nights like this.

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And a little over a year later, we have been to several shows, a couple whom we weren’t even familiar with and plan to see the legendary Ms. Jackson next month. But what stays with me is the night we saw two women, two beautiful Black women, one Southern, one British pour their light out and reawaken the childlike spirit in me that just needs to sing along until my throat dries up and dance until my legs fold beneath me.

Social Media Machine

As some of you may know, I only joined Facebook last September to engage in the private Facebook group for the School of Greatness Academy 8.0 class.  I also had no Instagram or Twitter at the time. I only had a long abandoned LinkedIn page.

I prided myself on not being part of a social media machine. I was satisfied to read, write, watch TV, go outside to experience the world without documenting it and catch up with friends and family via phone calls, text messages and emails.

I heard dramatic stories of social media drama and addiction. It seemed as if people were moving through the world with their heads cast downwards or upwards in a flattering angle.

I was never one for constantly wanting to be included in pictures. I took my fair share in the days before smartphones but it felt different–somehow more natural. Years ago, I was at a dinner with some friends and it seemed like we could barely enjoy the meal without constant picture taking. I respected everyone’s right to live and document their lives as they pleased so I was never overtly vocal about my discomfort. It was evident that I didn’t love it but I never wanted to ruin anyone’s fun. As I was driving home while they continued their impromptu photo shoot after dinner, I felt a sense of disconnect. Why was I so different?  Why did I even care?

The feelings passed as did the years. When I came to a crossroads last fall trying to decide if I was going to continue my graduate school education or get serious about my dedication to writing, I joined School of Greatness to learn more about goal-setting and pulled myself into a new world. It was apparent that I had been doing a little hiding, weirdly harboring a fear of judgment. I found, like with a lot of other things, you can strike a healthy balance. I slipped into the habit of  catching up with family and friends via scrolling, liking and commenting. It brought both a new sense of connection and disconnection. I experienced great joy seeing how members of both sides of my family and old friends had grown but it gave me a false sense of belief that I’ve really caught up. Unless I’ve had a conversation or seen you in the flesh, you may still seem two-dimensional to me. I have to take responsibility for my part in moving from the two into the three.

Although the realization of false connection rings true sometimes, I welcomed the wealth of opportunity and education that came with sharing my work, travel and the awe-inspiring events I’ve been able to attend. Before I started sharing myself and my work online, one of my greatest concerns was privacy. It still is because I have drawn a line about how much I want to share with the public, particularly with my marriage. I am a firm believer that some aspects of my life should be just for me (and my husband).

I have always been sensitive to the types of people I allow in my life. If someone is known for things like flirting with other people’s partners, lying, speaking to others in a patronizing manner or constantly talking about others for silly things like the kind of clothes they wear, I shut down immediately. Call it instinct, survival of the fittest, The Holy Spirit, intuition. It has served me well. I know they are people (just like me) who are carrying pain and insecurity within them and this is how they choose to relate to the world to avoid the healing work they have to do (Yes, I have watched more than my fair share of Iyanla: Fix My Life). I wish them well but from afar. I do not need to possibly sacrifice my mental health, my relationship and time to keep someone in my life for “their good moments.” I have learned that lesson.

On a positive note, opening myself up to all of those mediums of social media confirmed we are not alone more than ever for me. I see the struggle, the beauty, the triumph, the failures, the uplifting, the laughter, the teaching, the open gushing wounds of the hearts of millions of people. There is hiding and deception but the option not to do so is clear. There are connections and movements.  Even though I have wasted some time in the last year or so, there have been so many gains.. Maybe it’s because I knew the world before it, knew the world with it while I chose not to jump in or maybe it’s because I brought the wisdom of a grown woman to it.

There are no regrets. I have moved past fear to build this site and apply for a fellowship, share my work on these platforms and cheerlead for others on this journey along with me–the writers, the bloggers, the vegans, the wellness seekers, the psoriasis and PCOS warriors, small business owners, my fellow Greats who stepped out on faith to go after scary goals and other Black women who are often misrepresented as a monolith.

I will continue to embrace the mess of the world and carve out my own corner in it with all that is available to me. I will close with a haiku I wrote and posted a few months ago:

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Soul Cry

Inspired by Charlottesville:

When you woke up that day

You picked the best shoes to slide your feet in

So you could march

Put your outrage in motion

No one could accuse you

Of sitting idly by

You became an ally.

I only wish you didn’t become a martyr.

And to those beaten because of your hue

My heart cries and sings for you

Skin sweats and my arms

They want to hold you and ask you

Not to go back outside

To the “out there”

But then

I know I am asking you

To die slower

And let fear become your master,

A not so benevolent God.

And that cocoon

I want to wrap your

Pretty brown in

Doesn’t exist.

Does it?