Claude McKay once wrote a poem entitled ‘if we must die.’ In it, he shared that may our death not be like hogs who are hunted and penned down, while dogs, mad and hungry bark around, mocking us even for dying like pigs. We are better than pigs. Much more glorious. And so if death is to be ours, if all of us have to live through a last sunrise or a last sunset, then he noted that may it come nobly, so that even our living is not in vain. Yet so many people live in vain. Death will always be victorious, however you live. I know that. But try to be better than pigs even if we must die. Even Jane Goodall noted that death can be the last great adventure, the idea of what lies beyond it. Know it and you know life. All of this got me thinking of life. That and seeing a full moon tonite. So I literally penned a response to McKay and called it, “If we must live.”

If we must live, if we must do it our way, may we do it like the moon, unafraid to glow, unafraid to be brilliant. May we also live with people unafraid to dream, people unafraid to pass through uncharted territories, rugged landscapes or rough terrains because they are so drunk in their dreams. If we must live, may we be uninhibited by our dreams, drunk in them too and be with people who dream drunk. For what use is life without dreams even if the dreams are hazy and complex. All dreams are. What use is life without imagining the impossible, like reaching for the moon, touching it, knowing it’s there always, longing for it, seeing it and then somehow surpassing it. If we must live, may our dreams take us past the moon, take us to new heights that defy words. May we do so dreaming of life too beyond reaching for the moon. May we surround ourselves too with dreamers and together, may our dreams help us surpass all our hopes for life, even the audacity of surpassing the moon. For to live beyond the moon, is to be bold, audacious, and any other word that personifies daring. If we must live may we dare to dream. May we dare to be like the moon. Dare to be with people and places that take us to the moon and beyond, and keep us forever glowing in an ethereal radiance that can only come for life lived beyond the moon. So if we must live, may whatever lies ahead of us, be as brilliant as the moon and still surpass the moon’s brilliance. Imagine that, a life whose brilliance, whose glow surpasses the moon. What a life that would be, this life beyond the moon, beyond your wildest dreams. If we must live, may we do so beyond dreams that came before us, dreams that take us high through paths unknown, for whatever adventures that lie ahead. If we must live, may we go wherever our dreams take us. And may dreams light the path, however dark it may seem, for however long it maybe. And even if we must pass our last breath, pressed against death’s firm grip, may we whisper ever so softly, how we lived, because we dared to dream.

Tonite’s moon.

This dream, I dream, of life beyond the moon, is as breathtaking as a baby’s kiss, my baby’s kiss. I gave him the moon. Well at least a small glimpse of it. He kissed me right after, as if to say thank you. If we must live, may life’s many breath be the moon, be beyond the moon, and be as gentle as a baby’s kiss. I am dreaming in love. I am dreaming of my baby’s kiss. And life, is so worth living, because we, my baby and I, dared to dream.

Henrietta Lacks is like all of us to the scientific landscape. Nameless, faceless, voiceless, with no power to make decisions with how we are viewed to the field. She didn’t have a say with her own unique cells. No wonder people distrust a paradigm that continues to treat people as if they have no name, no face, no voice, not even power. Until now. The past week has been surreal.

To give a quick background and this is from Yasmin Amer for NPR news: ‘In 1951, a Black woman named Henrietta Lacks walked into Johns Hopkins Hospital in agonizing pain. Doctors diagnosed her with cervical cancer. She died just months later. But what this mother of five never knew was that her cells would outlive her and be used to develop new drugs and vaccines…Her cells were the first known immortal cells. Whereas other cells died in the lab, hers thrived. They multiplied. They gave doctors the ability to do new, innovative research. Names and fortunes were built on them, nicknamed HeLa cells for Henrietta Lacks.’

Watching the Lacks family do their part to put a name, a face, a voice to cells used without permission is soul gratifying. To see the highest health organization in the world, the World Health Organization acknowledge that some injustice occurred in a field that preys on people for what what just is and not for their overall being, is also soul gratifying. Henrietta Lacks is no longer nameless, or faceless or even without voice because some voices, came together to say in harmony together, enough is enough. Enough is enough with treating people as if they were commodities in science. Treating them as if they were indispensable. Enough is enough with being faceless in science too. Enough is also enough with being voices with science. She matters just as everyone else matters as well. Science can no longer pretend as if it’s not in the business of people who have names or faces or voice. They do.

Every single person that interacts with the field has power even beyond science. We in the field are not the only ones that get to decide what has impact or who counts. They public had a critical say to advancing the field. They have a critical say with dictating how we best use our tools to serve them. And if and when we deviate from what is permissible, the public has a say with putting us right back in order. That is what Henrietta Lacks Family did for her this past couple of days. She may be long gone, but forever and ever we will say her name, see her face and know her voice. She was powerful beyond her wildest dreams and will remain so for as long as time permits.

The immortal Henrietta Lacks

Love is the closest thing to heaven on earth. It’s the closet thing to what we all deserve, what we all dream to have. To love, be loved, and die loved. It’s the light we all need when surrounded by so much darkness. To light, be lit, and die with light. To let our light flow as we want it before we become dust to dust, ashes to ashes, keeps me focused on love. And this love will break all we know. Our hope, our beliefs, even our faith that tomorrow will be so much better than today. Love knows all things. Surpasses all things too. But love, breaks all things. It hard to write too because to love and be loved is like a willingness to break and be broken. I am thinking particularly of my children. I know they say there will be tough days but the past two months of caring for them fully have broken me down. Tears have rolled down my eyes and I too have asked myself whatever possessed me to have so many of them. Love remains the answer. Dreaming too.

Then there is work. My fourth love that seeks to be first. It constantly breaks my heart with every twists and turns, every attempts from others to dim my light for fear it may outshine theirs. In these moments I’m realizing that even love with work is only as great as the dreams that can be realized. The more beautiful the dreams, the greater the love. We focus too much on work as defined by others that we forget to dream. Rather than waste time with those who choose to dim the dreams, dim your light, it’s best to surround yourself with those who prefer to help you realize them, help you dream. We need more dreamers at work. For what we value for work, can only flourish and shine when it’s built on love, when it’s built on dreams.

I have been dreaming lately of a new kind of work, dreaming of raising the possibilities of work built on love. Not just one that reflects what I currently do, but one willing and committed to transforming work beyond what I do, even if it breaks me down. I have also surrounded myself with dreamers, a rare group of people willing to transform all we know about the work we do. We are in love, this group and I. I expect one day that our love too will break us. Yet we choose to dream. For that is the hallmark of what it takes to love, be loved and die loved. Also what it takes to light, be lit and die lighting our paths, our own way. We choose to dream so our love, our destiny can unfold. For we know that even with this work, even with the willingness to be broken, there are fragments of paradise, fragments of light pushing through that refuse to be hidden. We are pushing through these dreams knowing we are loved. Knowing too that we maybe broken. Yet we keep dreaming. Keep dreaming with those who choose love.

P.s this keep was inspired by Ben Okri’s A Time for New Dreams, my muse these dreaming days.

Sometimes, it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. I firmly believe this. To see the true manifestation of this word, also means you divorce yourself from the experiences and people who created or enabled those painful experiences to emerge in the first place. I wholeheartedly believe this. All the looking into why things happened or even why you let them happen is not the main crux of the issue. I am learning to believe this. Rather it takes a clear sense of you, to see yourself clearly in the situation. I am slowly believing this. Last year for me was full of pain on so many levels, both personally and professionally. Some of the pain were self-inflicted. I talk to much so I know that it can land me in trouble with people thinking I am belittling or undermining them. Far from it. My weakness remains a gift that can create pain. I am learning from this. Some of the pain lingers on, unable to fully detract myself or fully come to terms with why I feel like a black sheep in a room that once was inviting, celebratory even. To see how folks take their time to exclude you, take their time to remind you of how they even paved the way for you is unbecoming at times. It’s strange to see this all unfold too. But I wouldn’t even be writing this if it wasn’t meant for me to heal. I choose to believe this. Pain comes with rejection. I get that. It also comes with exclusion. I see that too. But most of all it comes with change. I am fully embracing this. It has taken me awhile to really say it to myself and out loud. But enough is enough. I choose me. I choose change. This one I believe. So if you don’t see me, if you don’t hear me, if you don’t even know me anymore. It’s not you. Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. I am changing my ways so that I be. This one is for me. Keep learning from painful experiences.

My children give me permission to dream as I watch black birds fly across cloudy skies. Permission to win as we celebrate my Belle dominating sports today. Permission to write about our favorite things like Andy’s frozen custard or our favorite place, Drace Park. Permission to laugh about silly things like would you kneel or knit a hat (the idea of kneeling had us all laughing). Permission to sing, like just the two of us (Lotanna and I’s favorite song) and how we will make it because we tried. Permission to learn about spelling words like believe for my girl, retell for Boy 1 and mommy for Boy 2. Permission to sing of how this little light of ours will shine with no intentions of being hidden. Permission to speak up even when being brave. Permission to live, on my own terms and in my own way. Permission to be my best self, with keeping what matters. Permission to connect with what makes me whole, like them, their aura and vibrant personalities. Permission to create my own inner light, as I push through one keep at a time.

Zora Neale Hurston described research as a ‘formalized curiosity.’ One that involves poking and prying with a purpose. I have been blessed to call research my job. To engage in this formalized curiosity full time is the best gift I have ever given to myself. Many take it for granted, but I know what I am capable of. Whether it is about remote ischemic conditioning or crowdsourcing youth interventions, if it requires poking and prying with a purpose, I’m all in. Which is why of late, I have been wondering what else can I use my research skills with. Clearly, it has taken me to the world of literature, black literary scholars to be precise, from the eyes according to Zora, to light according to Audre. There are some books on becoming dreamers, books on why my future depends on me remaining curious and of course books about tracks along dust roads or the fire in my head. I see this phase of my research as intentionally trying to uncover all that I can about the world in which I dwell in. Research now has taken me to places I never imagined, reading words, I never expected. In some instances, I have been carried away, whether is with a list focused on dreams that never end, or a list of why chasing butterflies matter. In other cases, I found myself writing things that seem harmonious in my head, to the point where I recite them to myself, as if on a stage for spoken words only. These dances in my head, unleashed through words in this blog is my attempt at surrendering to chance, surrendering to what I intend to do for me. To research things I want to for my own pleasure. To think I have been on this journey for 13 months seems surreal. The future also seems very uncertain. But for today, I’ll rather remain curious, remain compelled to do this formalized curiosity work Ms Hurston described as research.

Dreams show us what we can be.

Unending dreams based on stories untold.

Music unheard.

Art unseen.

Words unspoken.

Visions untapped.

Ideas unimaginable.

Strength unknown.

Intensity unrelenting.

Wisdom understated.

Prayers unceasing.

Truth unapologetic.

Love unstoppable.

Failure untiring.

Revolution unexpected.

Territories uncharted.

Possibilities unseen.

Stars undenied.

Fire unquenched.

These fires in my head. Transformed into visions beyond words is unspeakable.

Dreams help you say it in your own way, unconcerned about the underlying consequences of your dreams knowing it is destined to be undenied. Structures of your thoughts become unbreakable with dreams undefeated. Dreams created for change unintended until they started to manifest unassuming. Impossible places turn into possibilities unwavering. These dreams that take us to new places of clarity undeterred.

I’ll rather dream these days unhindered by anything or anyone. I’ll rather hold on to my dreams unfiltered by the norms of today. I’ll rather soar to new places far and wide, uncharted places too that only dreams may allow undaunted by anything or anyone. I’ll rather go to spaces that value a wandering spirit that dreams unrestrained. I’ll rather be with people that dream unfazed by yesterday, but prepared to light a torch for a tomorrow full of dreams unknown.

Dreams show us what we can be. An undeterred dreamer, a writer, a mother, me, however long I choose to keep dreaming unhindered by your unwillingness to dream. Keep dreaming unending dreams.

Since Fall refuses to start its cool, we took to the Park this sunny Sunday morning. Four children and I went for a walk at first. Then they ran to the playground, the bright yellow bars and obstacle courses. Then four children started swinging on swings. Just to be a child on swings is joy that keeps giving this bright sunny morning. Then the wind started to blow, this cool gentle breeze. Maple trees swayed as gentle as the breeze. While my children, kept going back and forth, swinging on swings. I’ll rather be here this morning, with my children swinging on swings.

My kids and I chased white butterflies this morning. We watched as they fluttered their wings and soared to new heights. We inched closer as the nestled on ivy-leaved morning glories. We sighed deeply as they gently kissed luscious green grass. We flicked our lens as they trampled through wild shrubs, until they found a place to rest their wings. The wind was friendly. So too were the skies this morning as we chased these butterflies.

I imagine this is love. To nestle in its divine glory. To feel the winds blow. To wonder it’s next move, it next resting place. To do so in splendor, a joyful splendor reserved for those who chase butterflies. For those who flutter your wings and fly to new glories, soar to new stories, of moments when butterflies and you are one. My kids and I are surrounded by love, which glides as gentle as these butterflies on a sunny morning. To know this love, to feel it’s warmth, as we run through shrubs, chasing butterflies, through lush grass, watching it soar, falling deeply into a divine grace, one our souls are so drunk with as we bask in our love for each other. My kids and I chased butterflies this morning. But truly we, chased our love. Keep holding onto it.

Earlier this week my little girl came home with a Prize: The Duchesne Award.

As background, her principal wrote the following to dad and I in an email: ‘this student lives like St. Rose Philippine Duchesne by confidently living as a child of the Sacred Heart. Her faith shows in everything she does. She has a happy disposition and is a pleasure to be around. She radiates pure joy and it shows and everything she does, especially in her creativity. She is a good friend to her peers as well as always being polite and courteous to adults. She is a beautiful writer just like St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and expresses herself through thoughtful and creative writings she shares with her class. Her smile brightens the classroom every single day. She is encouraged to show her “brave” and stand up for what she believes in. She is strengthened by love and friendship and always has a positive outlook on all situations. The Duchesne Award for 3-6th grade goes to Lotanna Ezepue. Congratulations!’

Receiving her award!

I wanted to write something beautiful to my little girl after seeing. In fact, I did to her principal but not to her yet, mostly because words fail me. Not because she is my daughter but more so because she is all our hopes and dreams come true. To behold a child full of grace, is to know one truly blessed amongst many. They say a child shall lead, especially those whose feet are blind. And when they do, they will rise on wings like eagles and soar beyond golden sunsets. You my child are golden and may you continue to lead all of us in search of new paths with your creativity and discipline. For to know you, to love you too, is to know grace and our souls are full, because you bless us with your gifts. Keep soaring my Belle.