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.

I remember reading these lines from Audre Lorde years ago, in a letter she once wrote to a friend, that it is ‘out of chaos that new worlds are born.’ For the past two years, I have been moving past so many boundaries I once set for myself through words. Of course the pandemic was to blame, as well as homeschooling, being a new mom to my baby boy, while losing my nephew in his sleep 2 days after we welcomed my son. My world was indeed chaotic. I was also exhausted.

In the middle of feeling an intense weight of so many barriers blocking paths that would lead to any space of fulfillment, I began to write something to keep. At first it was haphazard, and new and even frightening to bear witness to my life experience on a blog for all to see. At the same time I knew the work was urgent, and so I prepared to showcase all of me for the world to see. What became as a side hobby, has grown into a a full blown exploration of myself as stories, a clarification too of how what lies within affects all that I do. What’ll keep has become a life anthem for me, teaching too what matters, and creating something new, for me, my legacy even out of chaos. I decided to draft this piece in recognition and celebration of this moment where I continue to meet myself eye to eye, as Audre Lorde herself would want, so you to find the courage within yourself to start doing the necessary work of finding bits and pieces of you to keep.

What’ll Keep!

I am learning to love myself, to touch my innermost tender spots, so that I reach you and we both speak truth to each other. Do you know what you’ll keep?

Are you prepared to sleep with the certainty that death will one day surely come! And when it does, will you be prepared to greet even death, tenderly, in love?

To dare to see each other, without dismissal or fear, but total surrender to the love you both share. Even death, loves you still.

It wants to tell your story for you, relive everything about you, even if for a wakeful moment, or until shots signal your journey from this world to the next. To die well, is also to live well. Knowing what you’ll keep, everything, both the good and the bad, is the beginning of wisdom, a precondition for living and dying to a life more precious than any diamond.

I am turning my ear and opening my heart to understanding what I’ll keep these days. I am laying to rest all that makes me fearful, and weak and timid, and instead using the gifts of power and love to protect and support what is useful to keep.

All the things that matter to me, more fully and deeply. I am bearing witness to bits and pieces of all that matter and keeping it in a space, as a testimony to my interpretation of a life lived fully well, endlessly too, on my terms.

I am falling in love with making something out of nothing, sustained too by other people’s testimony, solitude, anything they share that allows me to walk in the spirit.

To be in sweet communion with words, to nurture my inner life through words I choose to keep, is to know love. Do you know what you’ll keep?

To reclaim whatever life brings your way. To meet yourself, eye to eye. To become one with yourself. To marvel too at all you are becoming. All I am becoming too. To examine and savor every aspect of your being, including what it means to be permanently connected to you.

To dream too of what to keep, to do so for myself, ourselves is to live life out loud with you, endlessly. I am living life endlessly, my way, not conformed to the world and it’s ways.

To understand that piece of myself which remains hard to hold, to put it into words for me, for you, is the beginning of wisdom, this necessary legacy work I build for you, for me, in love. I am in love with loving myself and ourselves. In love with knowing, what I’ll keep.

These days, I want to sleep and wake up next to all the things that make life sweet. Next to love, and all things I cherish.

To hear it greet me, tenderly with each passing day. To love in light as well as in darkness.

To establish authority over my own, our definition of us, is the beginning too of affirming our worth. The beginning of a rigorous pursuit of the possible in us.

I want to lie in bed, with my arms around all those I love, all things possible and worthy of keeping. To drift in and out of sleep with them, quiet the noise that invades our dreams, while falling deeply in love with each other.

Writing daily, anything to keep, has become what Audre Lord once described as the ‘beginning of an essentially uncharted and insecure journey.

There are no prototypes, no models, no body of evidence other than a commitment to ourselves to keep the specifics of our lives, however we meet them.’

These are the things that keep me in love, not like a stolen pleasure or a wild treat, but more like the air we breathe, day after day.

These are the words that burn away chaos, that give me strength, that help me find a solid ground from which peace can flow from within, like a might stream.

What will you keep?

For me, till my last breathe, everything.

Happy Birthday Audre Lorde!

Who are the bearers of messages most important to our lives? How are they helping you actively work for change? For me these days, black authors. I find myself reading and reading books from authors who voices are amplified more so in death than while alive. Audre Lorde first comes to mind. Her words have a way of helping me be as free as a bird. When I read her, when I pay careful attention to her words, much of what I end of saying is all I hope she would approve were she to be alive. Words like how one of the most basic Black survival skills is a willingness to change. It’s a necessary condition for survival she would say, something we learnt over four hundred years ago. Something the new generation needs to become fast with learning. No need repeating the same mistakes of the past.

Change also means growth, even though the act of growing can itself bring pain. Lessons in life will be 100% repeated if not learnt, she would also say. Learn them, even build upon them as they serve as paths towards survival. Don’t waste time romanticizing them too, but know that the lessons they teach seed possible futures. One that will be complex and not easy to achieve. In the end, we will become powerful because we survived and moved in the direction of change. Everything we do to learn the lessons is for our survival and growth. Change therefore is our responsibility. Each of us, where ever and however we stand, and in whatever arena we find ourselves in must change noted Audre Lorde. Which is why I ask again who are the bearers of the messages most important to our lives? How are these bearers helping you to actively work for change? Keep changing whoever and wherever you are.

I am in the business of light making. It is messy, very complex with turns that keep winding.

When rich countries get 40-60 percent of Covid vaccines and others, especially countries in Africa, get only 3%, you will understand why I choose light.

When racism, especially structural racism is at the heart of why we consider some youth to be deficit rather than as asset, then you will get why I fight for light.

When people are denied deep sleep for centuries, due to trauma inflicted generations ago from the sins of enslavement, then you will understand why deep healing through light becomes the only way.

What would it be like to live in light, to live in a space where the pursuit of our healing is not defined by others but us.

Audre Lorde once noted that ‘our battle is to define survival in ways that are acceptable and nourishing to us, matching it with meaning, substance and style.’

This is my attempt at a doing so, by being a burst of light for public health.

Though the road ahead is rough, I remain committed to this business. It is forcing me to reach out to unlikely partners. The public demands that we do. The public also demands that we listen as we reflect and act on this long-overdue renaissance necessary for public health.

We are convinced that the only way forward is to intentionally put the public back in health. Not in a way that oppresses them or consider them to to be the problem only, but in ways that build, ways that uplift, with every single thing we publish.

I am in the business now of doing what Petteway and Bowleg asked that those of us committed to the public’s health should purse. Not with using the master’s language only, but with using and finding tools that serve the every day realities of all the people we want to serve.

The process is messy, complex too. But I am committed to dismantling the ways we disseminate information on health to the public.

Who needs impact factor when the factor we seek to impact is more important than words that never connect to daily realities.

I am in the business of distributing light instead, not as p values greater than .05, but as people values that allow people to thrive.

I keep wanting to run away from it, to ignore it, hoping that the itch would go away. But I am drawn to it.

To become one with light is bravery undefined, love unfiltered, for possibilities unquestionably misunderstood.

So I follow the paths it illuminates along this way for the course of being different. Everything in my mind says we are on the right course. This feels right too and if I’m not sharing much yet, know that the time has not come for me to unveil all that is happening behind the scenes. But in due time, we will tell the story. Of how brave folks fought for light, with all their might in-spite of the all the fear that held them in a grip so tight.

We pushed through.

For when you are in the business of light making, the only way forward is light making, no matter how long it takes to make the light you seek to inspire.

I am in the business of becoming that leader that will work to ignite the healing and transformation necessary for the public’s health. I don’t have an answer or solution yet. But I want to keep this here for me as a reminder to keep being in this messy, complex business of making light. We just may become the burst or pacemakers for this renaissance.

Audre Lorde once shared in her phenomenal book Sister Outsider ‘that the quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized.’ Grant writing for me is light. It is the space through which all my ideas are given permission to simply flourish whether they make sense or not, whether they get funded or not. It is through grant writing that I give names to ideas that are nameless and formless until they are about to be birthed and even felt. The distillation of process by which grant writing springs to birth new ideas, as the new ideas births new concepts, and the new concepts birth new knowledge is the key to understanding. I am in the business of light making because grant writing first called me. Keep being light.

What are the things you wish to change for yourself? What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What hurt, or pain, or emotions do you swallow day by day? What sickens you, even kills you, still in silence? These words from Audre Lorde’s essay on transforming silence into action are my daily source for life. I highly recommend every woman to read this transformative essay by Audre Lorde. It literally changed my life after an ugly, painful experience I faced last year. It helped me transform my silence into action. It also helped me face my fears even at the risk of being annihilated. I can gladly testify that it helped me understand fully that many people are not suppose to journey with you through life and though that may come with fears of it own when the journey ends, because of this essay, I am prepared to face my fears.

So can I be the face of your fears. Look at me. I am woman. A black woman. A black woman and a mother. A black woman, a mother, and a researcher. A black woman, a mother, a researcher, a grant writer. A black woman, a mother, a researcher, a grant writer, and a story teller. I am me, through it all, fearful or not. I am also a warrior, too, with so many scars. I am willing to do my part, to share them so you change your ways and become the warrior that you are destined to be. Can I work with you to transform your silience into language and action? It would be my greatest joy to journey with you on this journey we both find ourselves so you to find your way to breaking all the many silences you have. This sharp awareness, to the full possibilities of journeys we take, whether in fear or in light, is the keep I am sending out to the world today. Break your silence, transform them and face your fears. When your do, you will live a deeper life, one full of power and awe of the possibilities that flow within you.