My dad had a garden in the front of our home in Nigeria. He planted hibiscus flowers and aloe Vera plant. He loved the natural ingredients nestled within them. He made the most exquisite juices with them. Memories of the garden always flood my mind during Spring. We are getting ready to begin our gardening this year. I am praying winter is fully gone. I hope to reconnect once more to the memories of my father, walk in his footsteps this Spring as I connect my children back to the earth, and now teach them how to garden. See images from our garden last year below. We had peonies, African greens, garden eggs and cucumbers last year. Happy Springtime gardening.

That which is deep within us rises. Through dreams upon dreams, lifts up. Through shrouds of darkness too, continues an ascent. Until unseen visions take to the air, like eagles and soar. I see mountains. No turning back.

My week has been nothing short of chaotic. If I didn’t know I was obsessed with grant writing, well it was made clear this week. I am leading another one and all I want is your prayers, for grace, for strength, for a final version that makes me smile as I watch my cup overflow. That which is deep within me is rising beyond me.

These words are just one to keep.

‘Black stands out best of all. Black is the most beautiful. Our body gleam all colors in the sun. Black is the most beautiful one.’

They are not mine. They belong to the late great Ashley Bryan. We read his book Beautiful Blackbird tonight. It’s a story about how true beauty always comes from within. Also how no matter how much we may feel invisible everyone wants what they think black folks have. Of course he meant for this to represent black birds, but if you remove the word bird, you will see that everything black is still the most beautiful of them all. My message to my kids. Keep this for you.

When you have so very far to go, like miles to go, do not be afraid to fail.

No one who has ever dreamed, has ever set aside the possibilities of failure.

Like a third eye, failure is always lurking around, always inclined to teach a lesson.

Be firm still and know it’s going to happen.

Your dreams may fail.

Like a candle, all the flames burning within, will flicker one last time.

Against all your courage and perseverance. Against all your hopes and dreams.

To fail is inevitable, just as sure as air we breathe.

Yet it is brave to try, fail, then try again.

With or without fear.

When nothing seems to make sense and failure is all you see.

Know that seeing is better. At least you walked a mile. You can do another.

Audre Lorde has a litany for survival. ‘For those standing upon the constant edge of decisions crucial and alone…When the sun rises we are afraid it will not remain. When the sun sets we are afraid it might not rise in the morning…when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed. But when we are silent we are still afraid. So it’s better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.’

So I speak on behalf of communities, of many people within these communities, saying that when we speak of community engaged work, really it’s researcher driven work using tools or strategies that are not of the community but what dominant perspectives suggest ought to be.

Often times the solutions for healing, whatever solutions you want are nestled within communities, yet for issues related to power, expertise, authority, communities might be the last one at the table. And solutions may already be designed for them and never with them or even through them leading the way. My children teach me everyday why anything including conversations about them should begin with them.

In the book The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. M Scott Peck defines ‘true community as the coming together of a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other while making the conditions of others our own.’

I think if we truly want to be in service of the community, if we really want to be engaged in work that propels them, then we must first get up from our pedestals and meet them where they are, using language and tools that makes sense, those co-created together even. And if we fail, know that you wouldn’t have failed the community. Not when they came along with you for the journey. Moved through fear with you, to learn new ideas, learn new ways of seeing the world. To rejoice and mourn with you too. And together we can begin again past the failures until we reach the goals and love for our beloved community. Doing so together. Dominant research paradigms continues to make us choose sameness instead of diversity, as if all communities are alike. I think by finding out what connects us, revel too in our differences, all of this together brings us closer to meaningful community, one where true community engaged research can flourish.

‘My mouth is burning. I cannot touch you and this is the oppressor’s language.’ Adrienne Rich.

I need to reach you with words. To make words that I use touch whatever site of joy or suffering you find yourself in. I find myself doing so with language that isn’t mine. Language that may not touch you. Yet I need to reach you.

I think about these words often when I find myself in circles where people espouse their authority over anything. Forgetting even their authority may or may not still be accessible to people. I realize we can touch people with the works of our minds, with our words too. But yet, even the language we use may not be accessible to people. Of course we can make language and our work do what it is supposed to do. Or we can take the oppressors language and turn it over its head. It’s something that I have been toying with. Liberating my self in language. Choosing to close this with no wahala. I go change how I speak to una one day.

Imagine being with women. Some as radiant as stars. Yet everyone different, with their own stories and testament. Eyes staring at each other, like a mirror. The strength unknown. The gift of opening. The tears that flow. From deep within. A space we let go. Like fruits falling. We let go and cry. The crying. All of it that flows. Beneath the weight of silent selves. The hugs. All the deep moans, our mouths let out. Through tight hugs and throats. All from a place of knowing. The wiping of tears. The warmth of hands with a gentle ease. The bonding that occurs. When beauty within lightens up like a thunder. The peace too that overflows after the storm. All that follow like eyes on a mirror are divine. I have been in such a space. I surrounded myself with women as brilliant as the stars. Within our power, within all we know is possible, I saw for myself that we can watch seeds grow, see flowers bloom, stand erect as trees, watch birds soar to the skies above, and still see them reach for the earth below. We can reach for cactus and cry afterwards for forgetting the lessons of pine needles. We can also choose to recollect pain. Like a pregnant woman on her due date. First, it begins, next you lose yourself, then joy overflows despite pain. Nothing so certain as pain. As joy. As falling, and rising again. Surrounded by women through and through. Surrendering to the lessons of trees and branches and deep evergreen forests. When you find yourself in such a space, know that even the forest is woman, just as erect as trees. Gusts of wind may push us to bend. Some of us may severely bow and bend over and over again. Others may spring back at a different speed. Straighten up at their own pace. No matter what, every tree, like every woman is helped. Until we stand. Together we are no longer womb but on our own.

Still high from my trip to Paradise Valley and Happy Women’s Day!

Through the eyes of our children, you continue. I see you, flickering your hair, smiling back, knowing that I know you live. You live.

March 6th, 2009, we laid my father to rest. I think about him everyday. Anniversaries hit differently to. I wish he was alive. But these days, I am seeing through my children that he is and will always be alive. It’s in the little things they do too that reminds me of him. Keeping this here to honor him, his love, our memories of life together that I see reflected through the eyes of our children.

I went on a sound journey this evening. Something about sound meditation keeps drawing me in. I experienced it for the first time in person last week with Abigal and when she invited us to join her virtually, I couldn’t resist. See the past week has been extremely hectic, workwise. I have been in revision mode, revising what maybe the grant of my life. I know I have written so many grants, but this one solidifies my calling public health wise. We submitted it last year in the middle of a very hectic personal experience. It was reviewed and scored really great for a first submission. So I knew I had no choice but to revise. Revisions are the worst. I would rather not revise a grant that go through reviewers comments. I have so many that will never ever be revised because I hate revisions. But I knew with this grant I had no choice. So I have been in revision mode for over a month and let’s just say crunch time is now, as the grant is due on Monday. I finished revising the grant this morning, sent it off to my colleagues and spent the rest of my day literally doing nothing. Sure there were other meetings and things to do, but my brain was toasted. I spent the day shopping for spring items for the kids, spring items for the house, and not even spring items for myself. Just others. Then I got snack the kids could have for their movie night, picked them off from school, made dinner and sent them off to watch a movie just so I could join Abigail on her sound meditation retreat. About 10 minutes before the meditation, I began to experience a migraine headache. I never really get them and so now I knew the meditation was on. I got prepared, joined the Zoom meeting and shared briefly what I hoped to gain. Something about receiving from the universe, but also letting my light out and being the best of myself. Then we moved over to Youtube as the acoustics are much better she noted. It was. I was transported almost immediately to sounds coming from so many places, from myself too. As I soon as I surrendered to the sounds of the Himalayan singing bowls and Shruti box, the flute and the Chinese gong, my universe started to open up. Clarity began to pour in. I received it wholeheartedly. Visions of myself, my hopes and dreams too. Storytelling, healing, people, the love of my life, my kids, those I want to help because I am destined to and those I may lose along the journey. Either way, I was transported to a mindful aspect of myself. One where with every fiber of my being, I know that I am truly grateful and blessed. Keep sound meditations.

Abigail is so powerful in her sound meditation zone. I highly recommend. Peep the Shruti box, the flute, gong behind her and the Himalayan singing bowls. LLC

Everyone wants to be a black woman. Everyone. Some want us invisible and silent. Something like being dead. Others want us behind the scenes, serving others. Something like only bending one’s knees. While others want us to follow only. Something like never leading an orchestra. Trying climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and they’ll have you fall before the climb. Try going to the bottom of the ocean and you will drown before getting there. And if even you make it, even if you try to climb the highest mountains or sail to the bottom of the oceans, none of that will be enough, when you are never meant to be visible. But still try. No matter what, try. Nothing is worse than being invisible and silent. You might as well be dead.

Image credit: Sindiso. He posted it on instagram with the caption BLK is and I couldn’t help myself.