Imagine being on the shoreline, crucial and alone. Imagine doing so to open a world rigidly closed. Imagine instigating unlearning, as you stimulate learning with words turned radical in the practice for freedom. The past one year I have been on a journey that I never could have imagined for myself. Two years ago, I walked away from a mentoring group that helped me grow. I walked away unsure of a future without the steady wisdom I had grown accustomed to. The hurt, the pain, made me wish I never instigate the hurt and pain I know I caused as well. My mouth often speaks in ways that end relationships and so even as I walked away from that group, I secretly wished that things would have been different for us. Leaving though, meant I was now a bird ready to fly on my own with wings unsteady, but ready to fly. We flew and landed straight on our face. We never lowered our gaze. Rather we got up and faced our fears. It was in that moment I turned to grant writing for the freedom it had offered to me. I knew some of the rules. The regulations were also inconsistent and I was determined to succeed or fail on my own terms. So I started blogging. While this blog was an attempt to keep something about my work and life as a black woman in academia, it offered opportunities to turn language into life or dreams, the highest point of my life. These days grants are an offering of dreams which means each attempt at dreaming for the public is all online.
I have been instigating trouble in my summer program. You will if your remember that you are the ones we have all been waiting for. The ones who live at the shoreline, standing upon the constant edges of decision, crucial and alone. I gift you the power of grant-writing as poetry. These words came out of my mouth unprovoked but led by the spirit. My intentions were to equate grants to stories. Most of my lectures and discussions often describe grant writing as storytelling. But when asked to describe grant writing in one word, I watched my lips utter the word poetry. I didn’t know how to take it back so I let the spirit say things like a litany for survival as only Ms Audre Lorde would or even our souls, solar and soldering as if Amanda Gorman was me and I was her. The idea of grants as poetry has never ever crossed my mind but it did as I lectured about funding your dreams and now I get to live at a shoreline knowing and remembering I was never meant to survive. Yet I will on my own grant writing terms.
A little over four years ago, a developer, my team and I were working with disappeared. We searched everywhere for him and couldn’t find me. He was young and many people told us to move on, that young people are never reliable. We knew it was unlike him but his disappearance shattered us too. We moved on, but kept hoping for the day we would meet again and well scream or smile. Today, we have been smiling. In four years, the developer who disappeared has turned into a brilliance that keeps me smiling. I sent a little message today which took me back to the fire we all went through together. He is coming into his own and his brilliance is divine. Keep young people close. When they shine, they just might dazzle you
I made an investment for a future that once seemed impossible. My state of being and all that I hoped to become fundamentally changed with this investment. Possibilities of life, all of which that enable me to voice and imagine more than I can be, allowed me to make this investment fully. There will be moments like this. Those that defy words. All because this investment allowed me to see beyond my being. Visualize your dreams, I say these days. Do all you can to even dream and then execute them fully. If you do, you too will be making an investment with a life that only practices freedom. I am free because I choose LIGHT.
I made an investment today, for a future that once seemed impossible. My state of being and all that I hoped to become fundamentally changed with this investment. Possibilities of life, all of which that enable me to voice and imagine more than I can be, allowed me to make this investment fully. There will be moments like this. Those those that defy words. Yet, this investment allowed me to see the beyond my being. Visualize your dreams, I say these days. Do all you can to even dream and the execute them fully. If you do, you too will be making an investment with a life that only practices freedom. I am free because I choose LIGHT.
I spent the evening working out. These words kept me going. The fact that Olisa don co-sign me for one. Then if you want to lose, bet against me. Not my words, but I am embracing it this season of my life. That and as you no dey for me, I carry my cross go Calvary. I told them not to sleep on me too. I too pray ooh. I been working to hard. So I no fit do mediocre. Premium be the swaga. I accept say I dey change. I no be the same person. And I’m not moved by what I see. I know who I be. I just want my peace. I go get everything I need. In my own timing. Afterall, Olisa don co-sign me. Know this and know peace.
Sometimes grants come to me as poetry. Often disconnected from reality, I am learning they enable me to be persistent with reality. The tools for grant-writing belong to masters whose noose can be tight around your neck if you don’t understand their intent. I do. So, sometimes, grants come to me a poetry. For hidden realities, for extreme emotions, those where people take, those where I give. Grants come to me as poetry. And truly when I listen, they are louder than storms.
My daughter cut her hair off today. It was by accident and she has been crying ever since. At first I was angry. I told her to go to her grandma to remove her braids. Grandma has always done so before. She felt she could do it on her own and didn’t need any help. I actually agreed and watched as she went back to her room to begin removing her braids. About an hour later, she came downstairs crying. I looked at her hair and about 40% of it is gone. There is also no point saving the remaining 60% as she cut it all out unevenly. At first I felt anger, which turned to disbelief, then hope, then peace. All sorts of emotions were running through my head honestly but these personify my mood. First I canceled her hair appointment for tomorrow because there was nothing to save. She cried through that but there are consequences for every action. Then I proceeded to use this moment to teach.
We all have to get rid of certain things that weigh us down and honestly for little girls in America, hair is one of them. I grew up with low hair cut at her age and never really understood why I had to do anything to my hair. It allowed me focus and I came into my own, never worried about what I looked. I share this to say, at her age, I also had no hair. I would have preferred we approached this differently but since this is the bed she decided to make, well, I look forward to making the most out of this experience with her, with joy, with pride, of all that she can be, just as she is meant to be. In the meantime, to encourage her of potential looks she could carry with her short hair, I googled for black girls with low cut hairstyles. Try it yourself. There are none. Only young or older women.
That black short hairstyles for girls are not even visible on the internet is the very reason I am proud she will bravely carry this short hair look this summer. It’s different for sure and requires some getting used to, but I’m elated for representation and visibility of all that she can be with or without hair. Keep black girls with their low cuts visible.
Thoughts of things simply the best come to mind on a day like today. I gave the lecture of my life, lead a program I truly love, sold our dreams to a funder, then played drums on old paint tubs with my kids. Life was indeed the best, better than I could ever imagine. Though you are gone, you will always remain the best Ms. Tina Turner. Totally stuck on your legacy for you are the best. We will keep rolling on the river for you.
About 18 years ago, I started my first research experience as a Ronald McNair Scholar. I owe a lot to the McNair program, alongside the MHIRT program for instilling joy and love for research and the importance of diversifying research excellence among minoritized scholars.
Today we started our @star4ph summer HIV research program. This one was a labor of love, amidst plenty struggles. Our hope is simple: find joy as you embrace your STAR. Thank you @MatiH_ID and @_karmacap for a session full of love. You both are the original MVP’s, the true STARS.
They say it heals and persevere. Writing. They say to use it to keep what matters. Anything from golden brown meat pies to the perfect strawberry smoothies. They say to use it to amplify and acknowledge, express and experience, cope and chronicle, reflect and resist, solve and save, pray and persist. For we are empowered to express. Emotions, honest, and true. For creativity and support. For wellness and well-being. Anger or change. Radical or necessary. Anything we note, begin with words we first keep, like the opening of peonies.
Blue, skies are blue. Smile, big smiles are big. Love from you is love. Grace will do, will do. Otito Chukwu. We celebrated our Tochi with grace and gratitude today. The skies were the perfect blue. Family flew from afar and full of love. We smiled, we toasted, we celebrated. If you knew how this journey began, you will know why we are grateful for grace. Keep flying beyond blues skies still. Happy graduation day, Tochi.
What awakens you to life? Questions. Mysteries. Love. Hurdles. Happiness. Fire. Advice. The other day my mother-in law, gave me an advice that I needed to take to heart. Today, my husband shared a token from a patients family with advice that I also needed to hear to take to heart. Life is short. All of it. Whether it’s 10 years or 80 years. It’s short. So, lick a spoon.
I did today. I really did. This reminder, awakened something within me. It’s not the people we meet along the way. Those that stop to say hello or those that hurry on by. It’s not the papers we write. The grants too we write. It’s this moment. Times where I get to reflect, these days that matter. Everything else seems simple and small, right next to the vastness of thoughts that awakens you to the possibilities within. Every deed, every sight. Things heavy, those deep. What we do now? What we don’t? All of it for this moment. Not for anything else. But this thing I call my own. What awakens you to life. For me these days, everything, and a spoon.