Everything changes, the moment you hear the word. Life flashes through in a second. None of us can cheat life. None can escape the battle of death. I have tried to understand 2021. Fast runners never win their race. A fish still gets caught in a net. No matter how hard I tried, I still can’t understand. Why cancer? Why us? Our fists are clenched.
Imagination is a transformative force. It enhances, sustains, and frees mind hungry to unleash their dreams. I have been hungry for awhile. Imagination has been filling my soul. It has helped and continues to help me rethink all I thought I knew about a people, their ways, their heritage, even their landscape fully and freely. I have been reimagining history, if only for my mind for now. With every one post I write here, the is one or two never shared. It’s almost like I write in secrecy and this time imagination is my muse, re-imagination my watchtower. I have been rethinking all we know about a place, my place of birth, my heritage, the place my people call home. To fully make sense of this re-imagination phase that I find myself in these days, my son and I went to the Saint Louis City Foundry yesterday. He had a doctors appointment not to far off and on our way back home I wanted to see first hand how the site which was once an abandoned area has now been reimagined as a food hall. I was impressed. Maybe it was the diverse array of food vendors at the hall, a Senegalese one being my favorite, but the entire space reimagined as a food hall made me understand just why we all need to be in the business of transforming ourselves often. No we don’t have to transform ourselves like the foundry, but every little act of imagination goes a long way to retell stories often absent from history. Stories about people unknown. I am in the business of imagination these days and I look forward to how far this journey takes me. City Foundry by the way is 100% astounding. You should go there if ever in Saint Louis.
Let no one silence or suppress your truth. Whether unpleasant or uncomfortable. May no one stifle or suffocate your significance or shared responsibilities. Scam or strangle your sensibilities or collective senses with lies. As you strive for uncomfortable representations beyond unpleasant shadows. Rather may you continue to connect and commune. Reveal and reveal. Every unpleasant or uncomfortable truth. As you voice all there is to voice for a people long denied their voice. People still absent in images like this below. The unpleasant truth is that we are not all the same, not all man, and not all equal never mind their comforting lies. Pandemics are not individually focused, never mind the comforting lies many still perpetuate. Vaccines too are not for individuals neither are masks or your decisions that you think affects you alone. It doesn’t. Omicron is here because we forgot that we are a people first. Pandemics are not concerned with individuals. Never have and never will. There are no personal responsibilities in pandemics. Only shared ones. No individual responsibilities too. Only collective ones. Individualistic countries won’t get it. Collective ones will. And pandemics will still not be concerned about individuals. Only what the collective do. These are unpleasant truths worth spreading.
Like many, I have been reading and rereading all the bell hooks books I have in my possession. I have been struck with how urgent her work is for those desperate for word work that awakens us all to our possibilities. bell hooks was a prolific writer. As I looked through her writings, I gathered she knew writing was supposed to do something. You don’t pen these many diverse thoughts if you don’t expect the words to do something. That’s the urgency I felt just looking at book after book. She knew writing was supposed to do something. Not things that keep you powerless or inarticulate or unable to assert your agency. To her and from what I have read these past days, writing is supposed to be something meaningful. Writing is supposed to be courageous that all I can say to you this morning is that you should keep writing. Your words matter.
Keep it because writing is supposed to reveal. Illuminate. Challenge. Or simple stir up. Writing is not supposed to traumatize. Exploit. Oppress. Or simply cause suffering. Rather writing is supposed to testify. Best witness. Feel. Or simply engage. Writing is not supposed to shame. Violate. Humiliate. Or simply frighten. Rather writing is supposed to nurture. Heal. Uplift. Or simply affirm. Writing is not supposed to dehumanize, distort, deny, or simply destroy. Writing is supposed love. Celebrate. Remember. Or simply awaken. Writing is not supposed to silence. Dominate. Punish. Or simply exile. Rather writing is supposed to resist. Critique. Demand. Or simply voice. Writing is not supposed to threaten. Marginalize. Alienate. Or simply colonize. Rather writing is supposed to value. Imagine. Desire. Or simply create. Writing is not supposed to abandon. Diminish. Ridicule. Or simply ignore. Writing is supposed to liberate. Burn. Renew. Or simply free. Writing is not supposed to erase. Deprive. Annihilate. Or simply be racisit. Writing is supposed to be radical. Sustain. Open. Or simply transform. However you choose to write, I hope you use it to reveal, illuminate, challenge, stir up, testify, bear witness, feel, engage, nurture, heal, uplift, affirm, love, celebrate, remember, awaken, resist, critique, demand, voice, value, imagine, desire, create, liberate, burn, renew, free, be radical, sustain, open and transform.
Sixty-nine seems like a very odd age to rest. My dad left at sixty-nine. I have never felt completely at ease with it. We are all supposed to have 70 years. 80 years if we are strong. So leaving at 69 just doesn’t sit right with me. bell hooks left at 69. I am sure if I created a list, I would come across many other notable figures that left at 69. We will all one day return to what we are. Dust. We will all last like a dream too. Life is short. The only thing left is to be wise and speak our hearts to God. No one will understand. But he will. Especially when you open your heart and talk to him unafraid. My heart is open and I am wondering why 69. Her gifts were immeasurable.
Nestled within book after book by bell hooks were hidden treasures. To her seeing ourselves should be pleasure. For there is power, freedom too when you see yourself. With her, I saw myself. There were no boundaries. Light was revealed in unthinkable ways. Light that remain uninhibited with each passing day. I am able to write out all in my head because she allowed me to see myself for what I am: A woman. A black woman with value.
She once wrote that many people have difficulty with appreciating black women as we are. With her, I was appreciated just as I am. With her, I can cry like Sojourner Truth once did, ain’t I a woman? With her, I am as outstanding as Anna Julia Cooper and my voice will cry out in these Midwest rivers. bell hooks introduced me to her. With her, my horizons were extended, my empathy broadened, all because I finally stopped to smell the Dahilas in my life. They were many. With her, I touched nature in ways that stirred my spirits. She cleared a path for me to see myself, know myself, love myself. She helped me keep what mattered to me. Her death at 69 years is a blow and continues to weigh heavy on my heart this morning. I am consoled by the fact that because of her, I will forever learn all about love, know what it means to belong, teach communities how to love, how to transgress too, use art like writing to heal, teach myself how to yearn for things like fresh fields of green grass while I boldly declare to anyone listening, ain’t I a woman. I am. I am all woman and black and loved and blessed in light always.
I took my time to write this. Good people are remembered as a blessing. So I wanted to take my time to remember your blessings. For you have indeed blessed us all bell. Your blessings give life like a fountain of water. So I knew I had to take my time to write this. I knew I had to do right by you who loved words. And your words are like pure silver destined to shine brightly now that you are gone so taking my time to write this was crucial to me. You are crucial to me. I got the kids ready for bed early. By 7pm they were headed for sleep. I wanted to feel your warmth once again and none of my children as much as I love them will get in the way. At least not today. Once in bed, I headed for that quiet place I reserve for thinking. Not the kind that flows with whatever situation I find myself in, but the kind destined to move me to higher glory. For you, I am prepared to rise higher. So I took my time to write this. Got some food to nourish my soul. They call it African salad. I call it love. It always hit the right spot. I made myself a bowl, with some catfish. An unusual combination but perfect for writing these thoughts I have for such a sterling and unsual woman. There were no wine. I wanted to feel everything I wrote for myself first. And only lemon yogurt would do. The Noosa brand. The perfect combination for cleansing that I would need to write these thoughts down for you. For you were my everything. You were more than the brightest moon on a clear dark night. Even the night has nothing on your brilliance. If God came down from heaven today, he would truly announce that you are his daughter, the one he is truly pleased with. We mere mortals were not fit to tie your shoe lace. With words you stirred trouble. You showed us the transformative power of words. And how by themselves are manifestation of divine spirit. With words you forced us to write so we too could see ourselves. I see. I see myself. I have been doing so with everything I write here because of you. So I wanted to take my time to see you again.
I began writing vespers this week. The death toll from the pandemic was overwhelming. Majority have died this year too in a time of vaccine. So the only thing left to do at the time was pray. Hence the birth of develing into what I will be calling vesper. The first one was okay. It reflected how I felt about the deaths from the pandemic. Today’s own is for a woman who has touched my soul in way that I really can’t fully convey. I dreamt that we would meet one day. I dreamt often of what we would discuss together too. Waking up to the news of her death has left a big hole in my mind that the only thing left to do is pray for an eternal rest. bell hooks lived a life many of us can only dream to live. She lived it radically in her own terms and along the margins that made sense to her spirit. She was my spiritual mother in my quest to keep what matters to me on this blog. So many of my prior posts were inspired by her writing. I can never really do justice to her influence hence why I choose to pray. Keep Vesper or an evening prayer for the sterling spirit of bell hooks. May she sleep well and may her family know that she did her part to the fullest in this thing called life. I’m sure they are aware of this but I just want them know that because of her, I learnt to see. And that is a legacy worth keeping. May this evening prayer I write, give them peace as well.
If you ever forget how to see, I pray you look. I pray you look for spaces that touch you in unimagined ways. I pray these spaces whether you create them or not, are in harmony with the beauty and peace your spirit desires. There is safety in numbers. Find your safety. Find numbers too in harmony with your spirit so you remain open to seeing love. Not the kind that is hard to define but the one focused on choosing love. I pray your spirit chooses love in whatever space you find yourself in. I pray this love will help you learn to see. To become a being who simply sees. And when you do, I pray you see art in the intimate spaces of your life. See it as life giving. See it as love giving. Light-giving too. I pray art becomes life and love and light for you because you learnt to see. For what you see, in these spaces, everything you see is crucial for the struggle. Not to escape our plight but rather for its spiritual ecstasy. The type that lets us see light in all things. Know light too for yourself and in see it in all living beings. I pray you come alive to the resurrecting power of light. The intensity of light. The fullness of well-light light, the wholeness of life is transformative. I pray you see for yourself this transformative power of light. Though tears are falling down these evening, I pray you still let your light shine through the tears. Other needs to see you shine so they flourish. Everyone needs to be touched by you. So touch them.
Then, I pray you find the power to be self-determining. I also pray you let nothing cloud your understanding. Cloud your commitment to act, to love, to light a world longing for your spirit. Let nothing stop you from stirring up your spirit for trouble too. Good trouble. The kind that doesn’t harden hearts. For every single close proximity to you is for our survival. So I pray you survive trouble. In winter, it’s not uncommon to see up to 12 Wrens roosting together for warmth. They learn to embrace their suffering together. I pray you find your dozen Wren. May they help you endure whatever sufferings you encounter. May they also help you awaken to your blessings. For you are blessed. You were blessed. I pray these blessings live on forever as we keep all that we learnt from you. I pray you also let it flow like rivers on days when you need warmth. Days like today. The world needs warmth now. But heaven needed it more. Rest in Power bell hooks, till we meet again.
I prefer to avoid you completely. I prefer to runaway too. Time is slow. But your stretch is deep. Unfriendly too. I tried to stay put. Wished this would all go away. I was a fool. The risks were plenty but being your fool was easy. I tried to give myself the maximum chance of survival. Even the minimum almost ruined me. So I preferred to runway. My own words were a trap. I dug a hole for myself. Moved up and down the hole and was still trapped. Even my spirits were drained. Survival too seemed far away. I thought to pray. I hoped it would give me the fuel to withstand the cold. Hoped the prayers would tide me through this period. For what we pray for can mean life or death. I prayed for life. Though death seemed to lead the way. 800,000 deaths today and it’s shadow still looms deep.
The walls of my throat are thick. Tears have stoped flowing. All we can do is defend our own. So our eyes are open. I pray you find more pair of eyes. The more pair of eyes there are to see, the more hearts there are to feel. We have lost our ways with seeing and feeling that death is now us. So I pray for more pair of eyes. Those bold enough to fight undetected. To single out those who prefer to die rather than protect themselves. So being with more pair of eyes, moving as a flock would represent real security for those of us prepared to live. Robins in the winter adopt a policy where the males and females, hold for a time, separate winter territories they defend. I pray you find your Robin, if male or female. And when you do, be as strong as a lion and run from nothing. Your clouds have no rain.
Some memories linger on like melodies that ring, long after memories are gone. Some people linger on, touching everything, your life, your work, your clothes, your mind, touching you like air. Today we closed a chapter to sweet memories that will forever linger, long after the times in Saint Louis come to an end. Today we said goodbye to Rhonda, but not until we touch something else again soon. For now, we let our memories linger on like melodies from heaven.
It has been a hazy week for me. Like the terrible fog we saw this morning in STL. I started the week in stride, with great news and almost immediately, bad news followed. I imagine this is what happens when you let the bad in. They reflect no stars and can keep you down, if you don’t immediately rise and praise the good. To be down and never know how to rise is my keep for today. And now, when we are certain of things we cannot see. Like the air we breathe. When we are sure of things we hope for. Like the sweetness of rain. When we are prepared for the journey ahead. Like flowers planted in the sun. But yet we leave without knowing where to go. Like the paths that thunders follow. I reckon then, oh then, will we look for our light, as we uncover all that is hidden within us. That’s how I got through this week. For even if we go through the deepest darkness. Even if we reach the depths of the earth. Underneath the same earth are sapphires, corals, rubies, silver, and dusts turned to gold. So too are your depths if only you dig your hardest places. If only you burrow through the hardest rocks in your life. When miners dig the hardest rocks, they discover precious stones. So too will you dig, and discover how precious you are. The depths of your light are precious.
I woke up today full. Find you a sisterhood and you will find life. We have been in STL for 4 years now and life still feels very transient until last night. We have always moved around the 2-4 year mark so for the first time it feels strange to have no plans to leave the state of Missouri. I said that out loud to myself yesterday. Midwest is now home. As I let that realization settle in, I looked at my surroundings. I looked at the people gathered at the table I joined last night. I was in the midst of some powerful women and we were all black, all mothers, all ambitious, and all sterling. I watched us all in awe. A passerby said the same thing as if reading my mind. His words ‘this is beautiful.’ I agree. They say food eaten in secret tastes better. I also agree. But better isn’t up to us alone. Better can’t happen in a vacuum. We are stronger together. Much better when we come together. And black women together makes the world better. If you heard all we shared together last night, heard our plans to make things we value better, you will understand. This is my keep for today.
When black women come together, we come as a better version of ourselves. We come to carry water. We come to forget the edge of the sea as we dive deeply into each other. We come to whisper through water too, fierce words that heal, that nurture, that uplift or part dead seas. We come knowing we do not know. We come looking for ourselves and seeing ourselves, even when soaked in water. We come afraid to look too, but looking together in fear. We come to have sisters on our side and our cup overflows. We come to listen and listen and listen. We of course come to talk and talk and talk and share tea. We come out of the fullness of grace as grace alone makes us full. We come knowing we are blessed and prepared to bless each other even more with our blessings like rivers and springs that gush out into valleys and hills. We come fighting for our children, pushing for their voice, their visibility in a land that would rather they remain invisible. Not with us. We are like fishes and we know how to use water. Even better, we come knowing now more that ever that we are water. We have no enemies where are life, our families, our work, our children are concerned. We come with the blessings of walking on water when storms rage. We come with the stillness too of knowing whose we are, even while on stormy seas. We come knowing that even though the darkness all around is so deep, we are willing to push through light, ready to walk on water too. We come because our brilliance are like the silver of moonlight, the brilliance of starry skies even on nights where strong winds blow. We come filling our lives with light, leaving too in a dazzling light that wind and waves obey. We come because coming together as a community, as one, is a basic necessity of life, our life. In the end, our eyes are deep in water and together we sail through because doing together with each other is a beautiful thing. Keep a sisterhood of black women wherever you find them. We really make the world better.