Nikki Giovanni has a poem called quilts. I read it in her poems and prose book ‘Make me Rain.’ The title first of all is a blessing in disguise, for those hungry to let words flow like raindrops on a cloudy day. Quilts as described by Ms Giovanni to me is like a fast-flowing river. Nothing seems to get in its way. Not the source which begins a river or the path through which it flows. All of it are connected to make a river flow. So too are quilts. Every single piece used to make a quilt is sewn together by design, is put together with love, lots of love too.

I have been thinking lately about the quilts that make me whole, every single piece that comes together to create all that I become. My life quilt is also like a river, with every single piece, a source of energy that shapes and form, all that I become. These pieces connect at a point, connect through hard hurdles and constant strife to tell our story. In the middle where we connect, in the middle where we intersect over tiny threads that meander back and forth, back and forth, through more hard hurdles, and painful strifes, in that middle, our greatest strides are taken, our greatest acts, created, as we become all that makes quilts precious. These unseen component of our connections, the untold stories of our flow, may very well be the reason we are built like rivers. And like rivers, may we continue to flow in love, grow in love, one piece at a time, one quilt at a time. Keep flowing like rivers, loving like quilts.

Dr. Milton Terris was an outspoken advocate for progressive Public Health Policy. See this article about him here. But briefly, ‘throughout his career, Terris was always an active and dedicated member of American Public Health Association (APHA): he served as secretary of APHA’s Medical Care Section from 1948 to 1952, a member of the section’s council from 1952 to 1959, a member of the APHA Executive Board from 1958 to 1964, and president in 1966 and 1967.’

Dr. Milton Terris

I came across some of the papers he wrote last month while running through the rabbit hole that is the archives of the American Journal of Public Health. I am a lover of history and nothing fascinates me more than the history of Public Health, the realization that this field is a circle that keeps turning around it’s axis, and in numerous occasions, falling short on its promise. Dr. Milton Terris was speaking about this some 30-50 years ago, hence my obsession today about one article I saw that complied his last words. They are powerful. Very apt for today and for all of us committed to serving the public and not ourselves. To think that all the thoughts in my head about putting the public first has once been echoed in the past makes our field exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Hence why I remain committed to learning the past in hopes that it will allow me and my team to understand better the crisis we find ourselves in today. So allow me to share through verses, the last words of Dr. Milton Terris. I hope they light a fire necessary within you to truly remain committed to serving the public in public health.

For the public, we have remained indefinitely in our ivory towers that have now crumbled all around us and those we serve. We remained without coalitions, a citizens coalition, made up of organized and unorganized workers, farmers, professionals, and other middle class citizens; women, Blacks, Hispanics, youths, senior citizens, and other minorities-in short, the majority of the people of our nation, who can and will assure that the principle that health is a human right, and not a privilege, will be realized for all.

We remained in the era of rampant selfism that served only ourselves and not the public we purport to serve. We remained committed to publications and conferences and not the fullest possible commitment, dedication and leadership to the public who have no access to our publications or conferences. We remained in a siloed pubic health agenda that continues to fail to ensure a peaceful, just, and hopeful society for all. We remained in privilege mode and not in humanity mode that ensures that health is a human right for all the public we serve. We remained in crocodile tears mode too rather than taking serious action to end racism, poverty and everything else working against the public we serve. We remained in lip service mode to prevention rather than advocating in deed and in word for a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health.

We remained on the road to general principles and theoretical frameworks as if they are enough and will get us on the road that requires political will and moral courage to enact legislative measures on health for all the public we serve. We remained in recommendations mode too as if our public health crisis will go away with our evidence based recommendations rather than thoughtful and spirited analysis of the causes of the crisis and the definite and effective action to reduce their impact. We remained with our feet in clay rather than intensify our work on the defense of the public we choose to serve. But above all, we remain a generation whose discoveries are not translated into practice for the welfare of humanity in the shortest possible time, who continue to fail to create a new golden age that centers the public in everything about their health.

We become light by choosing it. Whether or not we are surrounded by darkness or not, whether or not others share or are indifferent to our light, whether we are open or closed to the idea of becoming light, all the possibilities and hurdles light entails becomes ours when we choose this path. It can be a gloomy path too. One where your light is bound to fall, on spaces that leave behind scars, no matter how hard you try to place it above stars.

I have been reading the memoir of Lucille Clifton, with an introduction by Tracy Smith where she described Lucille’s namesake Lucifer. Did you know he was once described as God’s bringer of light. Even the devil brought light, and fell along the way. Even this once bright morning star, he who was determined to climb up to heaven, determined to place his throne above the highest stars, determined to climb to the top of the clouds, determined to even be like the Almighty, was also brought down to the world of the dead, brought down and became known as the devil himself.

Which made me realize that there is light. There is light for the living, for the dead, and even the devil. There is light for anyone who chooses it if only our hearts are open, our minds receptive, as our light shake and tremble the earth. With rays that burrow deeply into our souls, twitching our body as it quivers in space, light can become yours. Generations by Lucille Clifton is teaching me this. I now know in my soul, see in my goals. how light is creeping in, invading all my spaces, evading all my phases, many once laced in a futile dread, many now faced the sweetest grace. I was once lost, but now I know my light. I arch my back as I contemplate it’s infinity. I also watch as it conspires to keep me from falling, keep me from reaching heaven. And though the devil succeeds, with every fall I take, I still know my light, and my light knows me.

The path to light neither begins or ends with me. It’s a path afterall and it’s true destination will remain unknown. Light emits ray and it often falls on people open to its ways. I am open to the journey and all the curves along the way. Those that deflate or drive, alter or align certain values one achieves when you bare your bosom to the sun. I am open to the bewildering aspects of the journey too, like why do I have to keep falling each time I get up. Or why am I vested in the good of others, their derision too, and not what matters to me.

Becoming light is tedious, full of strife, plenty doubt, with a heavy dose of failure. Becoming light is be like a tree, a naked tree in the middle of Fall, with no green leaves for cover. All have fallen, and lay by it’s side. And the tree, this glorious tree which once stood as bright as the distant moon, has nothing more to say. So to is the journey to becoming light. My daughter and I read Langston Hughes ‘Song’ yesterday. We both agreed that this writing, so effortless, so evergreen, illustrates what it means to become light, showcases how it’s a journey that never end, one full of pain and strife we gladly accept. We wished Song would go on, like a distant tune echoing through a windy, lonely night. We are children of the night after all and we refuse to be afraid of light, refuse to be afraid of the dark, refuse to be afraid to bare our souls to the sun, refuse to be afraid to open our life to strife. Our fists maybe sore from knocking on closed gates. The gates keep closing too no matter how hard we knock and we are knocking furiously. But we will wait. We will wait until the moment when we truly become light.

Langston Hughes, ‘Song.’

I woke up this morning refusing to answer the door. Refusing to let the rays of the day seep in and envelope my being. Then I remembered Lucille. I remembered her praise for impossible things. Blessed things too. You might as well answer the door, she would also say. For truth is furiously knocking. The truth, I am tired of things that make we dwell in nothingness, even if they knock furiously. Things that lack fire. Things that lack air. Things with no fight. Things with no might. I refuse to answer the door. For days with no light might as well be days full of night, days out of sight, days full of flights. Nothing seems right. All the birds are in flight. This plight is downright agonizing when disruptions are all in sight. I’ll rather be a bird in flight. And fly to new heights. Or stay buried like fig trees through cold nights and moonlight skies. I’ll rather let doors close so long as I ignite my light, and ignore their plight. So here is to days when truth knocks. Let it knock and keep doors closed. Lucille may not like this, but you will thank me later. Thank me for making your light, finite, through doors you choose to close. Close them.

Light and grace are my inspiration as we round up this year. Light because 2021 has been a year of darkness. A year of death. A year of sorrow. A year of pain. I experienced this kind of pain in 2020. But it burrowed more deeply into my marrow in 2021. I am choosing to break free. Grace because, every experience so far has been an enigma on its own, a hidden path on a road full of curves. And grace always leads back home, back to my purpose, back to myself, back to my light. This light within, seeks to begin, a path, a journey, that refuses to be hidden, hence why I keep this today.

This note to myself, is an attempt to awaken up the light within, reclaim it’s power with grace, reclaim its ability to help me heal, to help me listen as its essence tills my being. In doing so, my heart is open and my mind is receptive to people and places that bring light, people and places full of grace. Today, I am receptive wholeheartedly to the work of Renike (you can find her on instragram at iamrenike). She is light personified. An amazing grace, which breaks through like light everything time I see her work. Today, I am choosing light, choosing grace through the gifts of Renike. I call this “She is light.” I also called it “She is grace.” Honestly. She is both. And as you start your week, may you choose to keep this light, this grace, always.

She is light. A graceful light forever radiating. Forever rising. Forever inviting. Forever flowing. Forever glowing. Forever twinkling. Forever blinking. Forever gleaming. Forever beaming. Forever brighting. Forever igniting. Forever flaring. Forever glaring. Forever blazing. Forever dazzling. Forever revealing. Forever sparkling. Forever flaming. Forever shimmering. Forever kindling. Forever illuminating. Forever glistening. Forever lighting. Forever shining. This light, she chooses by design.

Star as light by Renike

She will not be silenced. Not be muted. Not be hushed. Not be restrained. Not be reserved. Not be speechless. Not be voiceless. Not be noiseless. Not be motionless. Not be wordless. Not be soundless. She will not be unspoken. Not be unseen. Not be unknown. Not be unvoiced. Not be quiet. Not be calm. When her grace abounds in stride.

Silenced by Renike.

She is enough. Her beauty, enough. Her curves, enough. Her arch, enough. Her depths, enough. Her roots, enough. Her stride, enough. Her gaze, enough. Her twirl, enough. Her strength, enough. Her, dreams, enough. Her hope, enough. Her joy, enough. Her light, enough. Her grace, enough.

Enough by Renike

She carries energy. Carries fire. Carries trials. Carries desires. Carries histories. Carries victories. Carries struggles. Carries hurdles. Carries nations. Carries notations. Carries elevations. Carries narrations. Carries earth. Carries sun. Carries moon. Carries stars. Carries mountains. Carries hills. Carries valleys. Carries depths. Carries darkness. Carries wilderness. Carries night. Carries light. Carries power. Carries flowers. Carries water. Carries streams. Carries rivers. Carries floods. Carries buds. Carries blood. Carries tears. Carries air. Carries heir. Carries sons. Carries daughters. Carries rain. Carries pain. Carries life. Carries grace, so amazing and by design.

Energy by Renike.

She is wild and free. In peace or chaos. In fear or bravery. In struggles or survival. In darkness or light. She is grace.

Wild and free by Renike.

She dwells in her being. Dwells in her essence. Dwells in her presence. Dwells in her existence. She dwells in her soul. Dwells in her whole. Dwells in her sole. Dwells in her stroll. She dwells in her reality. Dwells in her mentality. Dwells in her mortality. Dwells in her morality. She dwells in her fire. Dwells in her sapphires. Dwells in her desires. Dwells in her wildfire. She dwells in her zen. Dwells in her pen. Dwells in her men. Dwells in their amen. She dwells in her substance. Dwells in her abundance. Dwells in her resistance. Dwells in her persistence. She dwells in her true life. Dwells in her high life. Dwells in her light life. Dwells in her grace life.

Being by Renike.

She can and will get through anything. Get through fire things. Get through burning things. Get through flying things. Get through stolen things. Get through controlling things. Get through aggressive things. Get through violent things. Get through dark things. Get through flaming things. Get through golden things. Get through rising things. Get through powerful things. Get through breakable things. Get through strong things. Get through rough things. Get through everything. Get through nothing. Get through somethings. Get through hateful things. Get through pleasurable things. Get through earthly things. Get through healthy things. Get through birthings. Get through life things. Get through light things. Get through grace things.

Anything by Renike.

She is taking back her power. Taking back it’s freedom. Taking back her story. Taking back her glory. She is taking back her girl. Taking back her swirls. Taking back her twirls. Taking back her pearls. She is taking back her body. Taking back all she embodies. Taking it back for somebody. Taking back for everybody. She is taking back her presence. Taking back her essence. Taking back her all her luminescence. Taking back her omnipresence. She is taking back her sins. Taking back her skin. Taking back her kin. Taking back their wins. She is taking back her enigma. Taking back her mystery. Taking back her ambiguity. Taking back her paradox. She is taking back their disruptions. Taking back any repetitions. Taking back any omissions. Taking back their violent reactions. She is taking back her life. Taking back her light. Taking back it’s depth. Taking back it’s aura. Taking back it’s power. Now, she is power. Her blackness, divine. Her arch, sublime. Her strength, sunshine. Her grace by design.

Power by Renike

If you can do support this amazing artist here https://www.inprnt.com/canvas/iamrenike/

I have been wondering out loud what people may say if they came to my funeral. No I’m not dying. But death is inevitable. My grandma died this past week 25 years ago. Her death is forever in my memories. My first death experience too. The first time I knew death existed was the day my grandmother died. The day death came knocking, knowing that I will never forget that one day it will greet us too. Even the richest person or the poorest person on earth today will eventually die. The great equalizer that no one can ever cheat, ever beat or even tweet. The day you die will arrive one day. On that day, what will people say about you. Will they cry? Or will they greet your death with lamentations laced with sorrow and joy. Lamentations for a life once lived. A life lived to the fullest. A life worth celebrating. A life forever creating. A life once pulsating. A life forever educating. A life often frustrating. A life forever motivating. A life once stimulating. A life always translating. A life fully captivating. A life forever listing. Hence why I have been wondering, when I die, what would people say. I wrote this all as a verse, for my thoughts kept wondering.

My grandma, Mama Ocha. May her soul continue to Rest In Peace. Amen.

When I die, what will people say? Who will cry for my journey? Why will flowers line my tombstone? When will they come again with flowers for my cold stone? How will people describe my life, my journey? If these thoughts may seem unreal. They are. But I wonder for the people I greet today. Did I meet you well? Did I treat you well? Or did I beat you well? Life can be so fleeting. Our last words can be so depleting. Unless I keep this for the day death comes greeting. A day I truly won’t be tweeting. But on that day, when you come to my funeral, if you come to see my passing, don’t cry for a life once lived. Don’t let tears fall where our love once lived. Don’t let sorrow thrive where our perseverance continue to live. Don’t speak of our yesterdays where broken hearts once lived. Don’t wonder for our tomorrow, where endless possibilities continue to live.

Don’t let your heart be full of sadness for where our joy once lived. Don’t let this silence cause you to question where our devotion continue to live. Don’t let this passing cause you to hide, where our light once lived. Don’t let the end cause you to forget how our dreams continue to live. When you come to our funeral, don’t cry for a life once lived. Rather live, for we lived, this thing we called life. Looking up to the mountain, to the sun which never hurt, the moon which never failed, this life we once lived.

I smiled when I saw a video of Keke Palmer this morning. It was a video, a masterclass even on how to shoot your shot with what you want. Keke Palmer was on the view and she took the time on live TV to ask Whoopi Goldberg if she could be an actress on Sister Act Three. To which Whoopi, responded yes. I paused after seeing this because for one, I love when black women celebrate each other, propel each other to new heights to. It isn’t often on display when we do so too, so seeing it in this young generation was refreshing. It also helped to frame my thoughts for today on why black women, in fact all women in general need to keep shoot their shots with whatever you want. We are already putting in the work, sometime a lot of time that is never fully accounted for in a typical 40 hour work week, hence the need to go for what you want. Of course have the data to prove you deserve that which your heart desires. Be accountable to people not just in words but through tangible proofs illustrating why you deserve that request and you just might receive a positive response. I am looking forward to shooting my shot in this next phase of my life. I intend to live our the biblical principle, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open to you. I will not ask for something I cannot do and if I am asking, know that it is already done.