Why do what we do? Why get in the game even if you don’t know how to play? My answer is simple. If your know your vision, nothing will ever get in your way. And my vision is bigger than me. What you think you see or know about what I do is only 30%. What you don’t see until time is another 70%. Sensible people keep quiet about what they know. I am learning that every day. I never start a journey because I expect it to be easy. I never start one unless the plans are bigger than me. If I am not dreaming, then I am not living. And even when it seems like a dream has come through, I am like a blue ocean that refuses to be still.

So what do I want out of this path I find myself in called public health, more. That’s it. The late Kobe Bryant in his commercial with Kanye West acted this best. I really want more. More grants and all that it takes to succeed or fail in them. More stories too about how you even begin to write them. Of what use is public health if you don’t master the oppressors language and use it for good. Grant writing is me doing what Lorraine Hansberry asked that those young, gifted and black do with all the gifts the have: Write to a point.

I am writing to a point with each grant I write and yea prepared to fail too. Of what use also is research or anything we do in public health without funding. Entrepreneurs never start a business without funding. Churches never go a Sunday service without asking for offerings. How much less public health? It is so much bigger than the papers we write. So much bigger than requests for papers or all the variants advertised about them these days. Which is why I am in the business of ensuring that everything I do in the field begins with the funds in mind.

My vision is to do great work that impacts lives and lasts. I am calling it an ILL (Impact Lives & Last) vision these days because it will need lots and lots of funding. That is why I always begin with grants. Begin to with the process of perfecting the art of writing one. The public deserves this. I will never underestimate the hard work it takes to write one. But when you remember your vision, you keep writing and perfecting the art to a point. Even when the public sees the 30% of the outputs of any grants I write, understand the remaining 70% you don’t and may never see is where dreams are made off.

I am dreaming in public health and doing so my way. Nearly all of academia doesn’t elevate dreams. Nearly all. But if you find yourself in a place or space where dreams are allowed, I hope you dream to a point and give people a reason to want to do more.

Yesterday, we gave an update on LIGHT to our steering committee and I can’t help but envision all the things we intend to do more off. LIGHT is leaders igniting generational healing and transformation with a vision to center the public in public health. The 30% you see of LIGHT keeps us humble. But the 70% you don’t see, is my keep for today. We don’t call ourselves LIGHT for nothing. The public in public health demands LIGHT and we will dream to a point to give it to them. So welcome to our more for LIGHT. Our goals and dreams are to give you more reasons to love poetry, stories, art, letter writing or whatever else the public deserves. Enough of the experts. No offense and yes, myself included. We want to also give more reason to include the public in writing for about their health and those of people they love or care for. More reason to increase demand about the public in public health. More reason to reorder realities in new ways. More reason to fundamentally shift perspectives. More reason to see for ourselves the times we didn’t see. More reasons to hear for ourselves all the times we didn’t hear or listen. More reason to paint pictures about health our ways too. More reason to build on our common values, however long it takes to include the public in public health. This is only our 30%. The 70% of LIGHT unknown to the public startles me. You can be part of this with our new open call below:

‘Like desire, language disrupts, refuses to be contained within boundaries.’ These opening lines of bell hooks essay on ‘Language’ in her book Teaching to Transgress is my muse for today. Not only for the meaning behind these words, but for the simplicity of the lines. I am in the final stages of prepping for my grant writing course for this Fall and beginnings are my muse.

I love grants with beginnings that are effortless. Beginnings that are open, inviting and quite simply refreshing. They usher you in like a wave. Force you to pay attention to the rise and fall, even the moments where you actually dive in to catch the wave. I am inspired by words that take root in my memory. Those that refuse to be forgotten. Their presence in a grant, especially in the beginning of a grant startle me.

If you want to really master the art of grant writing, invest deeply in beginnings that are unforgettable. Begin to with beginnings that disrupt. Those that force connections and spaces for alternative thinking and innovations. We touch one another in language. Excel too with our grants through language. Grant ideas like desire, with language that refuses to be contained are the core of well-written grants. Mastering beginnings of such grants is my muse this fall.

What a week. And we nearly missed posting yesterday. All I can say is there will be days like this when nothing will be done. On those days rest. What you maybe carrying maybe to heavy for you hence the need to rest. Put it down and take a break. It’s okay to do nothing. I did. Slept my afternoon and night away and woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world. Keep resting.

Lucile Clifton once shared, how our lives are a circular stair. It keeps turning through time. To know why, we circle the world and back, one year after the other, is to know light.

I am flooded by the brilliance of light. A majestic ray, that blooms, past the very speed of itself. The very speed of light. Something inside is open, and as present as the very air we breath. Something inside is on fire, it’s flames engulfing this air, I breathe. To know light, is to turn in circles. A never ending spiral of circles, that keeps turning and turning till no end. A spiral of light, that keeps shining and shining with no end. The reason I speak of light, is for you to see what happens when eyes are wide open. Depths too, are wide open. Brilliance is pouring in. Light is pouring out. I am becoming my wildest dreams. Seeing all this illumination within. Makes me look to the mountains above. The one who made heaven and earth. Helps me rise to a light above. I am like an eagle that soars, like an eagle that soars to the skies, an eagle that soars with words to the skies. And light is leading me all the way.

To see him. To see him high and exalted. To marvel at the throne, the robe, the really long robe filling up the temple. To see angels with wings, six wings, two covering their faces, two covering their feet, two for flying. To hear angels calling one another, singing holy, and the whole earth full of glory. To hear the shuffle of sound, doorposts, threshold shaking at their sound and temples full of smoke. To see all of this majestic beauty would leave me speechless. I too am unworthy. What will I do if my eyes sees God? If he asked whom he should send? With arms stretched out and voice crying out. Me. Here I am. Send me.

One of my favorite bible passages is Isaiah chapter 6 and the year King Uzziah died. To see the lord, to see him high and exalted, would give me chills. To even hear him ask whom he should send would cause my feet to shake. I am always his. I too would answer the call and ask for him to send me. When God calls, when you see him too, answer. Just keeping this here as a reminder to myself that I am always ready. You can send me Lord, send me.

I am not quick to describe for myself whether life is this or that.

There are so many different ways to live life. Many different ways to make it your own out of something much deeper than anything that you can describe.

Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes you will succeed.

But life keeps going, almost like the dew on grass which no one knows where it comes from or what to do with it except to cut it off.

To deal with life, to stand one day naked, and look at yourself in the mirror is the real challenge in life.

I have looked at myself, looked at my face, full of dark freckles and dimples that always know when to reappear. I have paid homage to the gap between my teeth, and the moles at the back of my neck where my daddy too once had the same. Deep are the roots between us.

I have seen the flow from my hair follicles to the sole of my feet. Marveled too at the body that birthed three kings and a queen.

I remain in awe of the excess fold, all of it in the right place, all the curves too, in a way I choose to never change.

I have seen too the large mole on the top of my breast, felt a lump once that made me cry, until it wasn’t what I thought it was.

I have known deep love in this skin again, bathed it too with pink rose and vanilla again and again, that it could only be love.

I love this skin I’m in. Love too the curves of my back, the scars on my back, one the shape of a crescent moon, whose pain I’ll never forget.

I seem to forget other scars though, like the one from a broken glass on my right arm, or the one nestled on the side of my left index finger. They call it a birthmark. I call it a kiss from God.

To me, every inch of my being is a miracle. Every fold, every curve, every dark spot here and there, is truly a miracle. My legs are thick and strong, bones too, strong as a bronze. If this is what it means to be made in his image, then I am truly loved, beyond these words I use to speak of life as this or that.

My mood this new school year!

Today, I walked through streets that framed me, streets like my old 5th avenue, my old house 9, my old Festac town, my old Festac roads, my old Nazareth school, my old Agboju market, my old suya spot, my old stomping grounds, my old joy. Hibiscus flowers are gone. Aloe Vera too. But what will be, all my hopes and dreams, birthed from this place, throbs in me still like an ache.

5th avenue.
The streets that framed me.

I imagine young people can be partners, leaders too with health interventions. I imagine they can come up with strategies that matter for themselves and other young people. I imagine that if we give them an opportunity, not just as beneficiaries of health programs, that they will surprise you, wow you too. We have spent the past 4 weeks with our last innovation bootcamp for now.

Young Nigerians have surprised me, wowed me too. They are prepared to decentralize PrEP, prepared to get other young people to become aware of it, use it, adhere to it, retain it, and even evaluate all of this. Implementation science is in it’s prime with youth-friendly strategies and how to truly bring end users into the design of these strategies not just as consumers of them later, but as partners and leaders.

Joe Tucker, Oliver Ezechi and I imagined all this and to see it come alive and on its own now that we approach the fifth year keeps me humble. Nothing but grace saw us through. We remain totally grateful to so many including our esteemed judges. We are so thankful to the Nigerian youth themselves. All of you stood in a blaze of courage, rising like the anthem, into the mouth of 4yby’s history.

You all reached within yourselves, within limited resources too, to find more beyond yourselves, ample resources rarely tapped into but within your reach. We are prepared to see you rise, and will do our part to watch you soar always. This is just the beginning.

I am basking in the words of Audre Lorde these days. In her short essay oh how she intended to live the rest of her life while battling liver cancer, she shared the following I will keep forever:

‘I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do.

I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my nose holes, everywhere.

Until it’s ever breathe I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!’

May we all live our lives with this kind of sweetness. I truly will starting with this seafood okro I ate that defies words.

The sweetness of seafood okro, from a local restaurant in Lagos is my keep for today.

To be born and raised, to remember and relive the sights and sounds, plus grey skies and dusty air. Then to inhale the sense and exhale the stupidity, to be reminded of why and when, plus why again, is to accept the sigh everyone knows so well.

Lagos, Lagos. Seeing you, your place, the people, life, for those je je, those taking am easy, and those navigating their daily hustle never gets old whether on Ojuelegba road or Lekki Phase 1. Lagos, may I never forget all that you are, all that you do. May I always remember too the source of my story, my song.

I spent my day in Ojuelegba road and yes I sang Wizkid’s song all day. They know his story.

Let them say, you did it your way. You failed and failed. You stood too and stood. You withstood all that fear had in store, down to the last syllable.

Still, you weathered the storm. Danced through fire. Circled back to beginnings full of failures and pain.

Still you worked. You rose up early and worked. Accepted it all, like cloudy skies sailing through. Ijeles too spinning through the beat of drums at feasts full of yams so new.

Still you looked up. Face full of tears and wondering when to give up or persist through the hell called failure.

For what good is life without a lesson or two. What good is failure, without learning it’s bitter acid.

Let them say what they say. But where you have been, circles and all, is still just the beginning.

To know that I am surrounded, safe and supported with all my failures keeps my grateful.

I’m learning the importance of belonging. The importance of surrounding myself with those willing to support all that I care about it. Even if it fails 1000 times. The 1001th time is my keep for today. Even ideas that first fail, still fail until time. It’s this time, I long to master.

I remember these days, like a woman in labor, pain at the thought of pushing, but joy rattling all my being. Sounds pierceing through.

Ah, the sound of life, unforgettable. Like you, Papa, my forever love. Rereading your letters. A blessing. Every single word in place. Near my heart. You will always remain.

You are my highest mountains, and tallest towers. All I am is within reach. Like God shining from Zion. A city perfect in beauty. You greatness will remain. Beautiful. Those not yet born, will praise you.

My Papa would have been 82 today. Because of him, it will be said that we lived. Strong and mighty, the source of our blessings. To know my father was to know love and joy and anything else that personifies grace. He gave us the best of himself. Made us all stand tall and supreme like Mount Zion. I will always love you Papa. Sleep on.