My first son hates to read. Not all books. Just the ones that have to do with school. Give him a Dogman book or anything with space and he will quietly read and read. But homework, or anything from Journey is a pain. Today’s assignment was a chapter in his Journey book. All he had to do was read. He complained and complained and tried not to do it. Even asked for us to do it together. I stood my ground and told him to read. Even went as far as to share about how his sister read in church on Easter Sunday all by herself. In fact he should be like his sister. That was all I needed to say and 10 minutes later, the chapter he dreaded to read was done.

Big sis remains a big influence in his life. Watching her read all by herself in Church on Easter Sunday was a gift that keeps giving. I am inspired by them and their gift to each other.

All of it, the death, the rising is for you. Insanity came along and condemned the one who loved you to death. Sanity ran out ahead and still you talked of death. Whether insane or sane, the grave, the rising, and everything in between was still for you.

There is a passion for survival more poignant on Easter. I imagine it’s because we journeyed with him from his death to his rising. Left the place of agony in search of the sanity of rising from the death. Though we know the dead remain silent forever. We call ourselves sane. Not only with mourning the end of a lifetime but becoming inspired to seek heaven with the rolling of great stones. What many crave for with this day has never been mine. I know he rose for the dead today. I marvel at this feat. But what always keeps me in awe is how people didn’t see him walking among them even as he rose from the grave. The grave did not inspire still. His life is still not an inspiration for many. People have always being the living source of all that is good about today. They transcend even death on the cross or rising from the grave. I am drawn to that insight. The idea of today being for many who still doubt that he lived let alone died or rose again for us. His rising takes on a new meaning always, that should be stated over and over again beyond today. All of it, the death, the rising, is about you.

Her story, like many, are untold. Her pain, unknown. Her cervix, unforgettable. But her death, free.

Think of the depths she took. Think of the blood she hid. Think of the control she fought. Then think of the words unspoken.

Lusting for life, she only spoke to friends. Insisting her cervix was a private affair. Her bleeding, common. Her pain, of strong purpose. With an extraordinary will to survive. She hid it all, even from her mother. Then think of the fears unnamed. See the pain unnameable.

We called her Angie. The one who held us together. Who spoke of things being alright. While she walked around quietly in pain. But underneath, she was stronger than leaves of palm trees. Brittle, but wiser than tapped wines of palms. When you taste her, you taste joy that lingers for six hours. When you feel her, you feel love that lasts from dawn to dusk.

I still hear her calling my name. Still hear her saying, Osodieme. Osodieme. Osodieme, with a smile that remains buried deeply. Tears still flow. Words remain unspoken. For pain unknown, and fears unnamed. Anger still spills over the purple embroidery clothes so soft to hold, she once made for me, now persevered like fine pearls.

Those who live good lives find peace and rest in death. Was she not good enough? Like rain falling from the sky. Was she too hard, like drops on window pane? Or was she just dark like grey skies amidst heavy rain? Nothing and no one at all was there for her cervix. Within three months of poking at her cervix. Three months of energy slowly disappearing. Our angel was gone.

It’s been eight months of hell. The pain in her mother’s eyes unknown. Her fears too unnamed. We live with nothing but storms in place of words we long to hear, Osodieme.

I am looking over the prayers she shared last Easter. Keeping them here for I so miss her and truly sad that I won’t get her prayers anymore.

Really the children are having fun. Thank God for them.Everyone of them are looking fantastic. Happy Easter to you all. (2021)

He has risen and has taken away every of our affliction away in Jesus name Amen. Have a wonderful celebration. (2020)

Something about today, Good Friday, keeps me grateful. To see him on the cross. To see hands outstretched. Head bent to the side. To see thorns like a crown pierced to his head. To see the nails, hands and feet nailed to the cross. To see the blood, the body, all the pain I know he must have felt. To know he still did this for me, keeps me grateful. I am able to live courageously, to hope confidently, to persevere defiantly because his feet and hands were nailed to a cross for me. Nothing but the cross carries me beyond myself, beyond this place, beyond these moments I find myself in. Nothing but the cross helps me recognize and know that I am full of possibilities, my dreams are endless, and together we will not merely survive, but live over and over again. Nothing but the cross.

Image by roja_deshetty on instagram.

I grew up in Lagos Nigeria, always looking forward to Good Friday mass. Maybe it was the processions we often watched. As a child stations of the cross was very dramatic back then and we would follow a procession that narrated Jesus’s experience up until his death on the cross. Then we would head to church and these words ‘it is finished,’ often left me in tears. Since we moved to the US, I have never seen a procession but we do our part to ensure that we are in church every Good Friday. I am still in awe of this day that I decided to write a little reflection as to why above. I hope you remember always how the cross came along and saved all of us. We are all nothing without the cross.

I have taken plenty short trips in life. But few are as unforgettable as the past 4 days in Lagos. Imagine arriving to blue skies. No soon after we arrived, even after all the chaos we encountered at the airport, I arrived to skies perfect and blue.

I entered Lagos too with clarity. Day after day, I saw myself opening up to the wonders of this place. Opening up to the young people nurturing its greatest hope. We came for them. Came to witness all they could offer for themselves and those like them. We called it PrEP4Youth. They called it life changing. And one by one I saw as young people came up with ideas of how to care for each other. Ideas for girls without hope and boys out of hope. I saw how they told stories of themselves, told stories of their peers and dreamed of ways they could all live in a land where the skies remained perfect and blue. I kept saying nothing about you without you. They kept showing nothing for them without them. For where they come from, their is no need to ignore them, no need to divide them into those that receive or complete, no need to act as if they cannot lead things for themselves. The past four days left moments of joy, from teams exceptional and finesse, from youths thinking outside the box, in red shirts, or green shirts, braided hair, or faded cuts, Godswill, or rising up again. I saw all this and more with fullness for tomorrow. Nothing about young people without young people. Nothing about people without people. This is the change they want.

If you want to decolonize anything, start by stepping out of the way. Then proceed with this mantra, ‘it is not about you.’ Nothing for people, communities, health systems, anyone, without them. Some may write papers on this, some may even have stories to tell. I saw first hand in Lagos, the need to step out of the way, so people themselves tell their own stories. This is why I firmly believe and will continue to do my best to ensure that we are all storytellers. No degree or peer-reviewed journals required. Just come as you are. I am on a mission to build platforms for storytellers in health who dare to dream.

To lead, when one has never led, is courageous. Risky and daring, but with courage. To see it’s outcomes, it’s possibilities, so rich, is divine. To know that I lead this, keeps me on my knees. I am nothing but the grace of God and so full of thanks today for the risk, for daring and for leading courageously.

While watching WAHL street recently, I heard top pioneers in entrepreneurship share the following: ‘Are you prepared to put the work in and honor what you don’t know. Believe in your self. Believe in your idea and dive in head first. People love to tell you what you can’t you. Because they don’t want you to win. That has to drive you.’

These words personify my 72hour weekend in Lagos, Nigeria as part of the 4youth by youth 3rd Designathon focused on youth-led strategies for PrEP. I listened and watched as young Nigerians put in the work to honor what they didn’t know. I saw them believe in themselves, believe in their ideas too. I marveled as they dived in head first, to think outside the box for their ideas. I was impressed with their drive overall and all the work they did.

Today, 15 teams came together to pitch their ideas. Of course many wanted to do mobile apps, but there were board games, ideas focused on settings based ambassadors, awareness based strategies using local groups and pharmacist based ideas. We were awed, moved, inspired to see what 72 hours can do. They surprised me, elevated me, and made me feel thankful that I get to call this work. It’s more than work, more than me, this platform that I can’t believe I lead. I can’t believe how I got here too. I told that to the first team that pitched and well didn’t adhere to the 5 minute rule. They seemed dejected that their time was up before they could finish sharing ideas. I saw the look in their eyes and felt that look for myself. I have been rejected so many times. Cut off too before I could articulate my ideas. My ideas no matter how well I drafted them have also failed. I told them it took close to 30 failures to get here. If I am quiet, if am not busy or seem amazed and looking, it because I can’t believe we are here. I can’t believe I get to lead this. I know failure all too well and I encourage them to not let it get to there. There are lessons in failure worth celebrating. Hold on to it as it’s more valuable than winning. I am a living testimony. They smiled I went back to my seat, still looking in amazement that I get to lead this.

I have no idea what may come next. We have one more year of this project. But if this is all I get to lead, I am grateful. Bill and Sonia, thank you for taking a chance on me. Joe and Oliver, this was our first venture together. We were strangers when all this began and to think we end as family keeps me speechless. Thank you both for believing in me when I had no idea what I too was pitching to you. Chisom and Titi, we are of course nothing without you, thank you for leading all the way with clarity and ease and light. Isioma, well you know the beginning. This is still only the beginning and so much more is yet to come. Thank you for being in my corner always. Everyone at NIMR, so many of your from Dr Musa, Oladele, David, MMartins, Ifeoma, Nurudeen, David, Naco, I know I will miss so many other names, but thank you. Ucheoma, well you know the failures, thank you for going through them to also witness the success, you are truly a gem. Amanda and Alexis, you too capture my passion in ways words often fail me. Thank you for believing and seeing so much more in me. All the 4YBY team, all our youth ambassadors, all our judges, all that passed through us from the beginning, my mouth is speechless so I will pray. God alone knows the plans for you and I use this space to say they are good. Thank you for believing in me, when I never knew where to begin. Dr. Afadapa, we go way back. Thank you for your love and friendship. Drs. Airhihenbuwa, Ogedegbe, Conserve, Belue, Katie and Nora, Khadijah and so many others within ITEST, CCHUB, Pinpoint Media team, Chris, all of you that made all this happen, thank you.

Last but not least my family. Zobam, none of this is possible without you. I am only stronger because you saw greater things in me. Love you beyond us. I bless God too for us. My children, my better me, love you all and thank you for being patient all these years as mummy traveled for work. Mama, without you, none of this can happen. Thank you for taking care of all of us. My brothers and sisters, my in-laws, Chukwuma, Yusuf, you all have been my support and I know my words may never be enough. Thank you. 4 youth by youth to the world. This is just the beginning. Watch us now roar as we pave the way to greatness. As always. The lessons of failure are me and through this project, I can see it’s grace too.

Dreams begin here. With people like you. Sitting and pondering. Drinking and eating. Laughing and living. Loving and living life, our way. A dream, to sit by the ocean and think for self. To live among others like you keeping things worth keeping. To simply live. All will do. For where dreams begins, life lives as it intends. I am in a space between dreaming and living.

April 8th

The scene was full of brilliance. Young people answering to their names. They see their light. They know their season too. This is it. See them rise, past all expected. Entering their destiny without error. Standing in rooms they own. Full of grace for all they know. Blooming on their own, like a promise made to flowers. Nothing about them without them they say. We have been patient for too long, they note. It’s our future after all, they share. See as we illuminate it our way, they finish. We stand, saying nothing all. Nothing we say matters. Not when their clouds are full of rain. Not when we watch them think outside the box.