Nearly 10 years ago this week, I embarked on a journey that changed my life. It was grounded in love. The kind that liberated your heart to do anything. My life has become radiant, joyful, light, all because I found love. It’s this love that I seek to speak about this week, to awaken my heart once more to never forget the first memories of becoming a mother. Come with me all week as I take a trip down memory lane with becoming a mother for the first time.
I have been struggling with writing lately. Sure, the goal was to keep one thing a day. But 24 hours is long with my family, that writing suffers. I have also asked myself, why write? Who cares? Or what will you gain or lose whether you write or no longer choose to write. The only answer and the one that keeps me going, is because I have to. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it. I do. It doesn’t matter if the words too are jumbled some days or poetry another day. It certainly doesn’t matter if I go through some days without words. All that matters and when the words come is to put them down.
So I write because I have to. I write because it’s my season to do so. I write because I have waited so long to understand what words do when they flow from my heart and my soul to this space that I choose to keep. I write because it gives me life, joy too. I write because it allows me to write in other ways that I never thought I could. I write because I am lit for it. I write because I am not consumed by it. I write because something about writing, like God, keeps me in awe. I write because I see words like a tree, an evergreen tree planted near streams of flowing water. I write because the words will find me, whether I choose to find them or not, they call and I obey. I write because I have a feeling for it. I write because writing promises nothing, not fame, nor fortune, nothing but torture, yet I choose the wounds and spaces it opens up for me. I write because it is healing for me, healing for my mind, healing for my head, healing for all that makes me whole. I write because I can’t seem to conceal my thoughts these days, so I put them in words. I write because if something should happen, there will always be words to help me make sense of it. I write because it pushes me beyond my limits, pushes me to meet myself beyond myself everytime. I write because it reminds me of the time I went sky diving, the fear, the thrill, the sheer happiness too of seeing a world from above the skies, reminds me that writing can once again become like that moment. I write too for the time when I smiled next to a lion, the greatest animal that ever lived. I write for that girl turned woman, who stayed fearless, knowing that she had conquered all that held her back. I write then for resistance, for the fight that I have to keep digging and fighting so many more women like me conquer their fears.
I write because people ask how do I do it all the time, how do I go from hollering at four children all day and then still producing work all day. I write because I come from a long line of women, whose stories are never told, who too hollered at children and made the most out of life as they saw it. I write for the one woman we all called Mama Ocha, the woman who raised me, taught me too the meaning of persistence, preserving, and everything in between possibilities and dreams that I know is within me. I write for Belle, my better me, shining from glory to glory and beyond, with all that is within her. I write for my boys, my gift from God, my God, the one I gift back to God, for because of them, I can be my best self. I write for the one who saved me, my crocodile of the north, the one who hailed from Nimo and Kaduna, to give me a life that is beyond my wildest dreams. I write for Onyelo, without her there is no me. I write for Okolie, the one who called me the apple of his eye, the one who gave me money to buy words early, the one on whose shoulders I continue to stand. I write for the future, for whatever the journey ahead may hold, I long to know you, to love you, to bask in you, knowing that words will be my guide through you. I write for my past, all the pain and hurdles that led to the outpouring of blessings that continue to surround me and all that I love. I write for goodness and mercy are with me, and I will continue to dwell in them and words for as long as I live. These are the reasons I write. The words come and I obey even if it means, I am I the only one that reads them. I will still write.
I had a conversation with my mother in-law yesterday. We were talking about work and why I keep getting carried away with one grant after the other. Most of them are also not successful. In other words, you may be carried away with work and still have nothing to show for it. I heard myself say during the course of the conversation that I could go days without eating, if I have to when it comes to writing my grants. It also doesn’t matter if they are all unsuccessful. I also noted that I really don’t know why especially because I don’t need anyone of them. Of course becoming a successful grant writer is wonderful but the stress of it all makes you wonder why even bother. In the course of our dialogue I also framed my reasoning in this way: I don’t need wealth, just sustainable health and healing to all who deserve this right. It has always been for people and how they can have sustainable healing. Writing in this manner is full of sleepless nights and extremely stressful. I still do it because I believe in the cause. If one person can be saved through something I worked to get a grant for, then I will be content. The one I am writing these days is beyond me. I told my partner in writing that I thought we had written difficult grants but this one is something else. I may not get it. But I learnt something new about myself during this process. That I am willing and able to talk to anyone to bring my crazy dreamed up ideas to life, anyone one. That to me is the gift that grant writing keeps giving and for that I am content, win or lose. So to close: I don’t need wealth. Just sustainable health. To all those who deserve this right.
Boys smiling together. In search of twigs, chasing birds, basking underneath tall trees, with their cool breeze. You can’t stay here forever. I wish. Forever here, stay, can you?
It feels good to step away. Remembering to rest again. All it does, like the green on trees, will make you seek new ways. I am leaning on light. Leaning on green blending with skies so blue. We are on our way, to a place where cows, brown and white graze as they should all day. Trees tall and erect, do it better than me. Not because they know their roots. Not because they know that which keeps them erect. No branch, no leaf, no green is out of place. They only know light. Flowing through rivers born near mountains. They know grace too. Ask them how, and they will show why being here matters. They teach us how to rest. Today, I belong to them again.
I have been numb since last night. Trying to make sense of unrecognizable children, parents giving DNA samples, the horror within grounds that are supposed to teach and not kill will keep you numb. I am still at loss of words even as I try to make sense of what happened in Uvalde with words. We were just here last week. Just here asking anyone who come to this space if for a second to keep Buffalo in mind. Keep track of empty promises. Keep even how we collectively make sense of lives gone so soon. To think some of the graves are not even cold, keeps me numb. Some of the dead from before warned us about this failed state we call ‘We the people.’ This isn’t is about we or the people or the rights you think belong to you because you live in this moment, this phase we call life. I have seen chickens die, in thoughtful ways than the children at Uvalde. I have seen birds live and die with dignity than 4th graders and their teachers in Uvalde. I have even seen ants be treated with compassion, worms too with love, than children who lived and died as children, our greatest treasures because of our failure to act.
This is more than a fight for life. Guns and people are killing people with guns. The sum of us had it right. We have been socialized into becoming a society where shooting in schools is normal. The same goes for shooting at the grocery store, shooting at a church, shooting at a movie, even shooting of our neighbors simply because we have the right to bear arms. Our systems of rights, the one focused on guns, is the beginning of our downfall as a people. We can never be for and with people, if we believe in rights to kill people. That’s what we do everyday when we do nothing.
We did nothing ten years ago after Sandy Hook. We did nothing 10 days ago after Buffalo. We cannot in good faith do nothing after Uvalde. 19 parents will go home once again without a chance to say goodnight to their children. So pardon me, but I am angry that we live like this. Angry because I live in a system that continues to allow this to happen. Angry because we are traumatized and retraumatized everything another shooting occurs. Angry because empty promises are not enough. Angry for our children who deserve the right to be children and not face school drills focused on mass shooting. Angry as a mother, a teacher, a human being for the way we continue to treat human lives worse than dogs. We cannot shut up and accept this. We have a right to fight for we the people. Otherwise the next shooter will come along. He or she will bear those guns again and we will find ourselves here once more, numb to what we keep allowing. Uvalde could have been prevented. Buffalo too and certainly Sandy Hook.
I want to breathe free and live and not die by guns that I do not bear. I deserve that right too. To not bear arms, and still live. We have ignored this hidden wound for so long that maggots are now coming out of the carnage we brought on ourselves. The pain inflicted by guns is real. Ask any of the parents in Uvalde right now. Ask anyone in Buffalo. Ask those in Sandy Hook. Ask those in Columbine too. Truth and healing is what we all need right now. And the truth is, we are a failed state if we continue to live by guns. Otherwise what kind of country allows children to die in a senseless way. What kind of country allows people to die at grocery stores too. We the people or we the guns!
What I know is, guns are bad. They have always been bad. Always been the downfall of life. And the time to act against guns is now. Enough is beyond enough. My heart is broken. It palpitates everything another shooting occurs like today. The realization that nowhere is safe sinks deeply in my soul. Not when schools are not safe. 21 dead again. Not when grocery stores are not safe. 10 dead before. Not when churches are not safe. 9 dead before that. Nowhere is safe when guns remain all we know, all we cling too, like Jesus dying on a cross. Even he lived and died not by guns, not by senseless death, and certainly not by those who cling to inhumanity for humanity sake. This isn’t a gathering of words for the sake of words. No words will do when people continue to meet their graves in senseless ways. Just brace for impact or when these guns come knocking at your door. Even your prayers won’t do. Unless we collectively act against guns.
‘So there are no models. Create from scratch. Checkout everything for health or disease. Know then that revolution begins with self, in the self. You make false starts because of the models you use. Ask questions instead. Everything is incompatible with those that believe in we the people. Reject the opinions of those who love to explain us to us. Reject all notions of roles not committed to us. We got time. Mouth won’t do it. Neither would haste, urgency or stretch-out-now insistence. Not when a revolution, so needed for us is here.’
That’s what Toni Bambara said in Black Woman. It’s my mood for the rest of the year.
Trying to make sense of Buffalo will make you question the meaning of life. Make you wonder whether we will ever get through this. That even grocery shops are not safe simply because of the color of your skin. No where truly is safe anymore. All I keep wondering is whether these deaths will mean anything to anyone. Clearly nothing may come out of this except empty promises and broken dreams until the next attack where more empty promises become like air, invisible, meaningless. Lives keep getting murdered senselessly that even a rest won’t do. Keep Buffalo in mind.
We walk like lions, unafraid.
Stroll like kings and queens through sunrise, unending.
Someone of us have histories, unknown.
Some stories by moonlight, untold.
Some of us sing songs, unrecorded.
Some dance around masquerades, unrecognized.
Some of us carry weights, unbearable.
Some march for rights, unequal.
Some of us remember names, unnamed.
Some sound horns for them, unbroken.
We gather now together, for paths unfinished. Telling stories still unreal.
Of people, and places still unsung, still unseen.
Of how they strolled like lions, free and unforgettable.
This one is in honor of Ernie Barnes painting which just sold this week at Christie’s auction for $15.3 million dollars, money I wish he saw in his lifetime. Still I’m inspired by this story as it reminds me of why what you do today matters. It’s for the legacy you are leaving behind for tomorrow. So again, do what makes you smile. Words, art, do it unafraid. Do it whether unknown, unseen or uncelebrated. History will celebrate you one day. History will tell your story if you don’t story your story today. I keep all this things because I want to get ahead of the story it will tell. I want to tell it my way. That I lived like the woman in the red strapless dress in Ernie Barnes painting. I lived and danced to the rhythms of my life, unafraid, undeterred, heck even unknown. But I lived my way, unfettered, unforgettable, with every single thing I choose to keep.
I keep wondering too why this painting would evoke this more today.
Maybe it was the dancing. Every Friday and Saturday evening. A girl in dark red strapless dress, gyrating her body to good times. A man in blue pants, moving as if filled with the Holy Ghost. I imagine these were good times at the sugar shack. Big daddy Rucker playing music as if the world is coming to an end. A woman in a blue dress and red shoes swings her hips to all the blues she feels. This dancehall isn’t a dream. I remember once stepping in a club like this in Philly, surrounded by black and brown lives dancing to music that moves your soul. I know this feeling of joy. Spirit-filled moments like this are rare. I’m glad it’s frozen forever even if for a moment at the sugar shack. I am glad I am freezing it for myself too, even if through words I keep, unafraid.