I fell deep into the unknown this past week. Everything was out of place. Even my face broke out in ways unknown.
It was as if life was full of chaos and change, all spiraling out of control.
I tried to relax, take things in stride but a life relaxed seemed like a luxury my strides couldn’t afford.
Not that I didn’t want it, but apprehension and anxiety seemed to keep me in a flight mode. So I figured I’ll learn something new about all I was experiencing, including those I wished I could fly away from.
Death has a funny was of reminding you about the gift of each day. The gift and voice of people too. Those you take for granted and those you ought to cherish much more.
So we moved in stride. Still anxious and apprehensive about our days, but appreciating all they bring.
The chaos, the change, life and death, all still completely out of our control but consoled that one day, we will meet again. Even boldly smite death’s threatening wave.
The idea of remaining in one piece, birthed this space where all my experiences, parenting, productivity, life continues to roam free.
I cannot begin to count all the ways it has helped me heal from fires and storms. My heart knows too, all the ways rivers flow in peace, all because we lived, our way.
And so to sum this year in few verses would also diminish all that the year gave. And it gave everything, death, chaos, hurdles, trust, betrayals, triumphs, stories, and speech made less.
Yesterday, between hearts full of joy, and souls at peace, I learnt the true meaning and power of grace. The thing 2022 gave the most.
It’s in the people you see, those surrounding your table, those walking along your sides, those passing through storms with you, and those keeping your minds and imagination roaming wild and free.
They made 2022 sterling, silent, but statuesque all because I pondered themes that allowed me to reach beyond my dreams and the skies above.
Grace was sufficient for me yesterday. Grace got me through today. Grace will lead me all the way tomorrow and beyond.
Seeing as though we remain pregnant and full of ambitions for this thing we call joy (not to be confused with what others call work), grace has helped me give my all. Emptied everything too as I proceed to the next fold.
Knowing that my best is still yet too come, grace is how I choose to walk, knowing that there are legions by my side, prepared for the battles ahead.
I may not be able to sum the year in few verses, but grace is all that remains. That and the multitude of happy faces gathered around tables in a lounge in Lagos, for this thing we all birthed together.
We never forget moments that are rare. Those that are dear. Those that remind us of how far we have come. Those that show grace still for the journey ahead. All of them collided today when we came across an original signature log from the West Africa Council of Medical Research.
The year was 1962 and the log was full of signatures from notable leaders visiting the council. Today, our program officer, all the way from NIH, added his signature to this precious book of treasures and history. To witness this made me proud and thankful for this rare moment where we all lend our voice and expertise to address health in Africa’s most populous country.
This place has haunted my dreams. In it, I imagined I would be surrounded by all sorts of art. Some would be hard to describe. Some would also leave me speechless. Well, speech and description were hard today. Meeting the legend every one calls Mama Nike too. But I’m grateful. All I can say is that if you are ever in Lagos, visit Nike Art Gallery. It would be so much better than your dreams.
I like this idea that glory will be revealed one day. Many may see or not see it too. But it’s been promised so all you can do is wait. 2022 was the year I reached my limit. It was also the year I knew my soul in the words of Claude McKay. The urge, the insistence, the trouble to do things as ordained was necessary even when exhausted and honestly, we have reached our limit. I didn’t think I would know or understand what limit looks and feels like because I am forever on the go but I do and 2022 taught it so well. Yet, contemplating who I am, Claude McKay still comes to mind because I know my soul. Everything is like grass and will wither eventually. Wild flowers too, fade when wind blows their way. I am learning though to lean in deeply to the one who measures the ocean by handfuls or the sky with his hands. To know that even exhaustion is allowed so long as I remember where to place my trust. I am. Strength is being renewed. I feel weak yet still feel like rising, still feel like running, still feel like walking, all because of whom I will always place my stride and trust in. He is the reason for 2022.
Imagination is crucial for life. I’m learning that every day. Imagination, that space between dreaming and thinking, between believing and daring, is a vital source of life. The prolific author, Achebe said if we starve it or pollute it, the quality of our life is depressed or soiled. The sterling writer, hooks noted that it is one of the most powerful modes of resistance that oppressed and exploited folks can use to provide a survival life like. She went on to note that when we are free to let our minds roam…imaginations will provide the creative energy that will lead us to new thought and more engaging ways of knowing. For all these reasons, I say keep your imaginations.
As long as the sun shines, the moon gives light, showers fall on the land and deers stroll idly by, near fields full of grass, so shall our hearts be full of thanks for all the wild blessings you bring our way. Like on this day, this deer, this delicate thing we call life. Happy Thanksgiving!
Octavia Butler once shared the following: ‘Forget talent! If you have it fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.’
As I begin to slowly wrap up this year, I am making sense of all I did this year. Talent didn’t get me far. I barely have any as some may say. Inspiration was plenty. But they can only take you so far as well. Reading these lines by the great Ms Butler is the necessary reminder that habit was all I needed. When I say I am okay with not getting a grant, though I continue to write, it’s because of habit. I would rather write a grant and fail than never even attempt to write one. Years of writing and failing, with many even writing me off, meant that eventually habit became my portion and this year, the grants written so far keeps me on my knees.
I am still not talented. I am also still prepared to fail. And habit will lead me all the way. The habit of writing and writing, and learning and learning whether I succeed or fail, is the lesson for this year worth keeping. Keep your habits. For me, it’s writing grants and learning how to write them, whether win or lose. It’s my self-care routine these days, one that I am prepared to fully safe guard from whatever storms I face. As this habit is always ready to burst from its own intensity, worrying and fascinating, probing and enlightening, while casting a spell, that keeps me grounded in the path ordained for me. It’s not a gift, but a habit I treasure completely and will treasure for as long as time permits.
Every now and then, I come across poetry that is arch and precise.
Some focused on the sublime that is our sublime, like the earth that is our earth.
And when I seat and mediate on the words, reflect too on the light they carry, I am pushed to carry this light too.
Knowing there is light in the light that is out there.
Certain words I read, stay with me, like notes to black women, moving and free.
Toni Morrison’s letter ‘A knowing so deep’ is one. Gwendolyn Brooks musings to Black women, is another.
I especially love these lines: ‘where there is cold silence.’ Think about it for a moment.
If you are Black and woman, moving and free, whether in academic settings or medical settings, in politics or any other setting, silence will be your companion.
Yet, despite it, prevail. My second favorite word in Gwendolyn Brooks’s musing.
Prevail. Black woman. Prevail.
I hear these words in Brook’s voice, and the voice of my mother, my grandmother and a generation of other women, a long line of them, I met and never met. They keep reminding me each day to prevail.
I was born around the same time a dearly beloved older woman in my family passed. Reincarnated to fulfill her previous life desires. Her full story remains unknown but when days get dark or dreary and work seems insurmountable, I hear her voice, which sound like mine, reminding me always to prevail. So I do.
I prevail. Through days full of polished tears. I prevail. Through hollow days with no rest. I prevail. Across a room full of questioning stares. I prevail. And even when they pry without care. I prevail.
Where there is cold silence. I’ll prevail. Through brilliant clouds. I’ll prevail. Through vigorous moon. I’ll prevail. And when nothing else matters. I’ll still prevail. Knowing that their silence will still be cold. Yet, I’ll prevail. When confrontations are startling and many. I’ll prevail. Even where there are no hurrays or handshakes or smiling faces. I’ll still prevail. All because large countries remain in eyes that still long to create and train flowers. For this reason, we shall continue to prevail in a light that is our light. See the sun, see it there shining in all it’s glory. There, exactly there, lies a Black woman who has learnt how to prevail. When they come for her and they will come in a silence that is cold. Prevail, you shrewd sun. Prevail and still prevail.
That’s the message Gwendolyn Brooks wants all Black women to know written years ago but still so poignant and relevant. It was a joy to rewrite this for today’s Black women. Keep prevailing wherever you are. And see the original piece below.
In today’s America, Black girls are an endangered species. Often times their humanity whether on display or not, for themselves or things as insignificant as flies, are ignored, denied, our outright destroyed. Many also fail to see the light they carry, chose to resist their light, or work to diminish their light. Such was the case of Bobbi, a little girl in NJ whose neighbor choose to report her to authorities rather than see the goodness of her humanity. Rather than giving him the the last word, I wrote the following to celebrate her worth and all those that celebrated her essence like what Dr. Ijeoma Opara did to make her dazzle over at Yale yesterday. Keep these musings for Black girls like Bobbi.
I imagine the world would be kind to girls like you. I Imagine they would treat you better than flies. Be it house or lantern flies. I imagine they would see you too. Know you and learn about what makes you smile in the morning or laugh in the middle of a movie night. I imagine they would care for you the same way they care for trees, or trash or neighbors or anything else with humanity they see. I imagine all this for you in a world large enough for you and them. But then, I remember that betrayal is their arch nemesis, while you are still the rim of the world, light’s very own genesis.
Everything about you is so clear, that you shine like stars with an aura so rare. No wonder they choose to dim your divinity. Yet, still you shine and through your diligence, you showcase the best of our humanity. You are truly the apex of our times for eyes still blind to the sincerity of our lives even for flies that tried to diminish the peculiarity of your light. So we keep imagining this for them and ourselves. That one day, somewhere, girls and women, dark like you, even those unlike you, will come together in a common desire for the best of our humanity for the sake of our collective prosperity. They will see and no longer be blind to your rarity. They will learn and no longer be in dark to your luminosity. That all things bright and beautiful, those dark like night and diligent in all things whether for lives or flies, whatever we choose to do, will be met with the same love you displayed for the best of our humanity.
This is my hope for all girls and women dark like you, myself included. Otherwise, keep displaying your light with severity. Let their eyes endure your shine till infinity or their obscurity. Either way, show them what it means to be the dawn, so profound, that they shiver at the sight of your light so full. With all my love.
Keep these musings in celebration for all Black girls like Bobbi.
Some poetry help you see who and what you are. I keep learning that every day. Lucille Clifton is my muse. I travelled for work over the weekend and carried along 2 of her books of poetry: ‘How to carry water’ and ‘Quilting.’ I was drawn to both because they help me see who I am, like the blessings of a tide. While reading, I came across this unnamed piece she wrote to mothers. I have always looked to Lucille Clifton for inspiration, partly because I see myself in her and this piece. Her role as a mother, a poet, a woman grateful for the many wild blessings words bring, makes it possible for me to also imagine these wild blessings for myself. She cleared the space for many people to see and know themselves better. Also left a lot behind for the next generation to pick up where many left of in this race called life. This piece below is for women and anyone else to keep running into all that we can ever hope to become.
I spent yesterday reflecting on this poem of hers about women and what we do in life and work. She started by describing a woman, one just like her, similar to the one in proverbs too. Often the last to sleep, but the first to be up. Always coordinating her life, those of her children and partner and everyone else in between. Yet, despite all that, she still takes the time to put something down, words like ‘Good Times’ or what the grass knew. Gift of understanding may not be hers. But yet, her space at the table is vital, like her own life.
Women like that, those who juggle life and work and do it well or not, deserve to be on many tables. Yet are not. Like Lucille, I think about that woman, somewhere, somehow, like me. I don’t take anything for granted. Every single day is a gift worthy of praises, if not for anything, at least because we got another day. Surely, there will be another and another and so I think about what to do with each day a lot.
Today and for the past couple of days, to be surrounded by women like me, those who generously opened up their worlds so that I too can come in and find a seat at the table have inspired me to write this piece. The gift of understanding is beyond me. The little we dream is precious and possible in their company. It’s this and a prayer that what we continue beyond here and now, becomes all we want. That in a sense is what we are. I pray that the brilliance, the wisdom, the contribution of all women, those like me and those not like me, be kept alive, every single time, we collectively open up and let others come in and find their seat at the table. Keep women!