Birds fly in three ways. Some flap. Falcons flap by lifting and thrusting their wings across the skies. Some soar. Eagles rise up on their wings and soar to the skies. Some glide. Vultures glide across the skies hurtling down like stones dripping from the skies. To watch falcons flap, see eagles soar or look as vultures glide effortlessly across the skies, is to remember which road to take, beyond the darkness of doubts, which bird to follow too, now that they light a lamp for you.
Keep Black Women!
The day begins with love. To women everywhere, especially those black and hive. Those that smile when we arrive. Those who switch tongues on overdrive. Those who blow kisses that jive. Those whose laughter we archive. Those who stay unmasked and alive. Those yearning for all the ways we thrive. Those who celebrate all the souls we revive. Those letting go of silences that deprive. Those freely expressing all the ways they strive. Those always prepared to live. Those who show how to do more than survive. Those too choosing the crossroads they drive. We begin this day with you, in love.
Knowing too that they will always accuse you of tending to the past. Whether you made it or not. Whether you sculpted it or not. Whether with your own hands or not. Whether you named it or not. Whether you learnt it everyday or not. Whether you remembered it or not. Whether you are strong or not. Whether you will travel the distance or not.
Still, to know you, is to love all the ways you help us express ourselves. Love all the stories we tell about ourselves. Love all the ways we celebrate ourselves. Love all the ways we interrogate ourselves. Love all the ways we cherish ourselves. Love all the ways we pray for ourselves too.
I am so inspired to let you know that we are really cool. We are. Those who left or didn’t leave school. Those who lurk or didn’t lurk late. Those who strike or didn’t strike straight. Those who sang or didn’t sing sin. Those who We know or don’t know. All of us who die or didn’t die soon enough to this thing we call life.
Those who stay critical. Those who remain resolute. Those honest. Those bent on fathoming what it means to be black, beautiful and woman. I salute you. I celebrate you. I extend this beacon of love to you today and always. Happy International Women’s Day.
Poetry inspired by Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks, two iconic women of substance that inspire my life’s journey.
I know silence. I have seen it’s power. First they use language to keep you mute. Some are clear in their intent, other are subtle, all of them are designed to keep you silent. They succeed. Or so they think. First you are silent. You observe. You notice. You think. You note. You keep silent because words are few. They keep their ways. They know their ways. They see your silence. They note your pause. They keep their ways still. Knowing power belongs to them. Or so they think. Next you note their ways. All the subtle things they do. Those seen and unseen. Those spoken and unspoken. You learn to read lines. Learn to see the lines between lines written to keep you silent. You stay silent until you remember, you were never meant to survive. So you speak.
If they are going to write you out of history, at least your words will bear witness to your victory. You speak. If they are going to keep you invisible. At least your words will tell of your glory so visible. You speak. If they are going to ignore you, dismiss you, even pretend that you don’t exist. At least your words will uplift you, represent you and celebrate all the ways you persist. You speak. If they are going omit you, unname and misname you. At least your words will name you, rename and rename you, for we are born twice with every naming ceremony we do. You speak. Even if they hoped you would be silent. You speak because you know your silence will never protect you.
Knowing too that this is what it means to be black and woman, to be bright and human, every single part of your being, those sterling and sublime, pregnant with dreams unknown, in full glow, but still unseen, and all day, all night, in the land of troubled waters, where your air is music, where your universe is melody, where the wind sings in perfect harmony, with hawks and stormy weather, there they will find you always, with your disturbing disturbance, with your dream so brightly burning. There they will find you speaking, rustling with thing called life. Now that you speak and speak, in your way, so sublime.
Keep unnaming and renaming yourself!
First we accept. All definitions will do. Formats and styles that worked previously too. We accept things as they are. We pray they accept us too. They don’t. We try and try and still we remain unaccepted.
Then we begin to look inwards. We begin the work of looking at ourselves through their lens. A double consciousness of sorts. What do they see in us? What don’t the like about us? Are we too ambitious? How do we stay ambitious without offending them? All the subtle ways to act or not act are part of stage 2.
Then we act. If we are going to remain true to ourselves we might as well be ourselves. Or there will be no self. So we redefine ourselves and them. Choose their language carefully but redefine our own. We unname things that we know won’t work. Unname the process to. We give up parts of self that stand in the way. Give up stories and questions that paved the way. We build nests in windy places. We fill our emptiness with things hollow. Then risk it all for the beginning of truth.
The fourth stage is where we learn to rename ourselves. It’s where we learn the hidden lives of trees, the lessons of the fallen leaves, learn how every leaf too is a hallelujah. We learn the blessings of boat, learn to carry water, learn about the light within, learn all that we carry, learn how to seat at our table, know who prepared it too. This stage is where we reclaim ourselves, begin our dreaming, reclaim our mystery, know our history, so we severe our misery.
Finally, we rename our world. When eyes have seen oceans, lagoons will never do. Rather, we bring all dreams to the ocean, we bring our fears too. We connect the two and dream beyond our fears. We know the force of our lives. We know the source of our lives too. We dance, we love, we work, we dream. The possibilities of a self renamed and reborn, resisting and reimagining all obstacles along the way is rewarding. The freedom too, from being defined is pure joy. All the ways you rise like a bird in flight. All the ways you peel things off like an onion, down to the core of you, is sublime.
These days, I have given my name and my life, freedom, my history and dreams, a new medium, all the misery from things and people, a deep hum, while I press forward to a new dawn. All the trees inside me have moved into the forest. Roots are connecting deeply with other roots, as leaves shout hallelujah. The sun and moon are me, forever hungry, forever sharpened, like the edge where day and night meet. When you know you were never meant to survive. Know too that the battle is on.
There are five stages to becoming a soulful grant-writer. I listed them above. One steeped in storytelling too. These lessons personify how I do more than survive the grant writing process, survive academic setting too. Last week, some things tried to break me but truly failed. From the those who only see what they want, to those who follow without spine, some things tried to hold me back that all they did in the end was remind me of my dreams. Hold on to your dreams. It is a matter of life and death these days. They will come for you in subtle ways, ignore and dismiss you in big ways, but their ways are not your own, you who dream dreams that dream their own dreams. Know this and know peace. You are divine.
Keep invisible things!
We celebrate things we see. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, marriages, even funerals. But the things in life we rarely see, those that leave us breathless or speechless are worthy of praises too.
I have shared previously that for every single visible thing I keep, there are many that remain invisible. Some the world may never see. The aspiration, to remain invisible. Writing in this manner started as an exercise focused on keeping something, my way, and free from any guide. The true value continues to unfold with each day. To keep something may have been the true intent. Yet, the next phase keeps me humble. My spirit had to go through this exercise of purging itself of everything that held me back. In doing so, my eyes opened.
I became the child that was not satisfied with the lagoon, when my eyes have greeted oceans. The unseen things in my life these days are my masterpiece. What you see, the ones celebrated too, are merely byproducts. It has been difficult to dream up the next phase, to summon up the courage to accept what the spirit desires without struggle, even when I would rather hold on to a higher calling. I am who I am after all. Writing freely has indeed woken my mind up, like birds without wings, who still sublimely fly. All the possibilities too, those for change, those for freedom, those focused on lasting, those full of light, and those guided by the spirit, are its many gifts. The sun has moved permanently close. The stars and moon too. I am a child of all, and now prepared to amaze.
Keep a soulful life!
How might we create the conditions for a soulful life. I am learning this every day. In a quest to do my most audacious work, I found myself strolling down a never ending hole of what it means to live your most authentic life whether at work or at home.
For starters, and everyone will have to discover this for themselves, but it means doing work necessary for your soul. Not for profits, not even for pleasure, but for all the possibilities that exist when you know your soul.
It means being open even when you would rather be closed. It means thinking and speaking in images, like how rivers change their course and so can you. It means paying attention to your dreams, it feeds your soul. It means being aware of where you are going, even when the road seems long and unwinding. It means having a litany for survival, knowing you were never meant to survive. It means knowing when the rain began to fall on you. It also means learning how to carry water and air and anything that seems free and light for only a free mind can make a free world.
It means giving your life all the beautiful things it needs, like watching two birds spread their wings and soar at the glimpse of your arrival. It’s the soaring part you keep, knowing that every time you fall, the alternative is to rise. It means stepping into your eternity, your own kind of paradise where the sun and the moon rise to greet you. It means aiming for the fullness of life, it’s emptiness at times, but it’s fullness most times, like in Spring when new flowers start to bloom. It means creating conditions that allow your soul to live, even if it means turning things upside down and stepping away from that which depletes your soul. There will come a time when you will have to leave this world. We will all die one day. Until that time comes, do what makes your soul happy. As for me this mere moment of reflection is all I never knew I needed. Welcome to my most soulful year.
Keep peace this women’s history month.
It’s women’s history month and let’s just say I’m exhausted. Women, some, can be our own enemies. Women, some, can derail anyone and anything they think they have power over. The past two days at work has been disheartening and to think that I start this month wondering why some women are our own worst enemies is my keep for the day. That and Toni Morrison’s essay on Cinderella and her stepsisters. The feeling she felt for urgency with Cinderella is how I feel now. What is unsettling still is that a workplace full of some women can still be like the story. We contribute to grief even when we ought to be releasing happiness for all. We go out of our way to make things difficult when only light should flow.
So I am going to spend the rest of this month not doing what some may have thought they gained by keeping me down and oppressed/deflated these past two days.
Rather I will focus on my nurturing side, things that move me in the direction of freedom, knowing that only free people can make a free world.
I will dream of what can be, possibilities beyond reach. I will nurture all sorts of pursuits, those that make me grow, and those that keep me joyful. Things of value to you in any workplace seldom are. It is not safe to guard over a place that will replace you in a heartbeat even as you pass your last breath.
So I will dream and uplift the safety and power of all those around me, including my step sisters. I will not enslave them mentally or use words to derail their life goals. I will uplift women, those that hate me and those that love me. I will uplift all those that choose to belittle me too. Those that would rather I clean or wipe their tables, those that would rather I pick their trash too.
Being black and woman in academia is a gift I will always cherish. It’s much more than work as it has enabled me to live beyond my dreams. My name is Isioma and if you know the meaning, then you will know why I choose peace this month as we celebrate women’s history.
Keep black history.
My forever muse with black history month will be Lorraine Hansberry. These days I have been reading and re-reading her address to three scholars of the United Negro College Fund back in the 60’s. This particular sentence ‘look at the work that awaits you’ is how I choose to close out this month, knowing that black history is every month, still.
The work that awaits all of us committed to history is under assault these days with so many forgetting that black history is American history, no matter how you choose to tell the story. History has been made and written and if not now, it will still be told. So for me personally, I choose to focus on the work that awaits us all. The work of writing about people that look like me, telling their stories so history never forgets that they also existed. These gifts are not to be taken for granted. I also intend to perfect them one story at a time, knowing as as noted by Ms. Hansberry, we have something begging for attention, worthy of being used to tell stories that matter. I do not know what this may lead to in the end but for know, keep black history in mind period. The world needs our history and it is up to us to tell the stories of our people, to perfect them too, by writing to a point about all our history.
Keep being mist!
I see that I may have to obscure understanding,
drizzle like fine rain,
enlist all fog,
till they hear me roar.
I taught my first dream grant-writing course today. It’s been a long time coming. What we will be waits in us like an ache and today I saw it with my own eyes. I didn’t know where the words were coming from. They seem to come from a place carefully crafted for a moment like today. I saw myself see myself in ways I shudder to describe. My spirit led the entire session and we let it lead. Grant writing can be so much more if only we speak from our soul. I saw that today for myself and I am me and all the things I dreamed of. This course is a big thank you to everything that paved the way, including my dreams. Keep dreaming dreams that are beyond your own understanding.
I know now that hurt people, hurt people. That reconciliation is still necessary. That it leads to harmony. That life is too short. That things broken can be fixed. That the sun sends its rays to everyone. That flowers bloom for hurt people too. That words speak life. That forgiveness is like an egg. That things fragile can break. That pain is fragile. That it hurts deep but fragile. That it ignites bitterness that can linger. That sour grapes are bitter. That doors locked with pain can be opened. That reconciliation opens doors. That understanding starts with you. That even pain can dissipate. When souls free reconcile.
Yesterday was tough, but there is always a gift with another day. Today, I opened my heart to the gift of reconciliation. It is still a work in progress, one that personifies the gift of butterflies. I am willing to make changes, so that we all achieve their beauty. Keep reconciliations.
Keep, keep your power!
Sometimes I struggle to find the words to keep. I’ll rather hide my thoughts from the world. Laying instead on the ground. Crushed and broken by the storms around. Sometimes, words won’t do. Wishing I could flee from the pain pursing me to my grave. Intimidated by the rage. I lay again on the ground. Crushed and broken by the storms around. Fear isn’t what I feel. Pain, maybe, sadness too. Wondering whether my human heart will be buried with all its ache. I lay instead on the ground. Remember there is power in the grave. Praying for a stronger soul to withstand the storms around.
Today nearly crushed me. Someone I truly loved too. For once I didn’t know what to say. Didn’t even know what to keep. Something about how anger can be too deep. That even when tears flow, hearts may remain unmoved. Being a parent, a wife, a sister, a friend is hard. Doing so with invisible scars from work and home, may force you to be silent. Until your remember what the late great Audre Lorde noted, even silence protects no one. So I’m keeping this here.
Even in pain, these words still matter. Language too for what to keep needs consistent nurturing and attention like a garden for days like today.
Life will try to crush you. Force you to the ground, even early to your grave if not careful. It almost did to me today. But I’m keeping this here to remind myself about the gift of today. There will be days like this. Storms will come and they will crush you to the ground. But the plans he has for you, those you know of and those you still don’t know about, are great. They are beyond words if only you remember there is power even in the grave. Keep, keep your power.