I long to be word’s happiness in places, where happiness is instant. I long to feel word’s peace in places where peace is instant. I long to embrace word’s beauty in places were beauty is instant. I long to know word’s change in places where change is instant. Happiness, peace, beauty, change, all flow easily, when words are buried deeply in your soul.
I have been writing and deleting the start of an imaginary book yet unwritten. As if afraid to walk into my moonlight. Yet, fear is the last thing on my mind. So I keep writing. I call it ‘Black Mom Light.’ A coming-of age memoir for rising as a black mom from darkness to light. An anti-racist memoir on being a black mother in today’s America. I also call it ‘Brown Mom Listing.’ The second name is from Jacqueline Woodson ephemeral memoir in verse, ‘Brown Girl Dreaming.’ If her memoir were full of poems that were profound and moving, mine, are full of lists, a keep list, equally profound and captivating. I am obsessed with the style of her book that it inspired name number 2. I imagine my keeplists, what you read here every day as listing or the act of putting words, or stories into lists to keep. I also envision them as being focused on what truly matters and keeping that for myself, for yourself, for my people, for your people, for humanity. These lists span my days like a wide bridge, wild butterflies too, forever ready to spread their wings and fly, forever ready to move to new heights, to new places, so many wonders to see, in the words of my daughter, my forever muse.
The thought of what to keep, what to list each given day is a treasure for each passing day. They give me strength for days when none is left. They help me attend to other things too, like my other obsession, grant writing. Every lists carries my heart and my thoughts to somewhere. Maybe flowers. They are also my forever muse , forever brilliant, forever of use. Maybe trees. I have no names for all I see, but they too help me attend to all I need to do. Tall luscious trees and their graceful abundance are bound to make you dance as the make me dance. Maybe my children. My forever muse. Not a day goes by without being caught in their spell, their wants, their blissful gifts, that lift to new abyss. But hidden at the root of all I choose to keep is a desire for legacy, for light, for rising above what society says we should or must do as parents, as professors, as people. Yet for every thing I keep, there are some I still don’t share here. Some written even at the same time. Like the one written right before I shared this one. Those ones are part of what I describe as my extraordinary lists. We are all extraordinary people in the end. No one else exists as me, with thoughts like mine. I would rather I live life in extraordinary ways than ways destined to be ordinary. I wasn’t made of ordinary. So this list is my attempt at that. One keep at a time. The destination remains unknown. We are moving beyond the rigidness of your vision. If this is our first meeting. Welcome. The vision for this keeplist is extraordinary. Every list is in place of the vision society may have for women like me. A keep of sorts, of conversations we are not having, of refusals to be silent. This woman maybe black or brown. But her voice is shrouded in light and with each day, she walks out into moonlight to touch her power.
The words rise up. I note them. They come on their own, with their own nodes, own goals, that unfold one note at a time. They come with their own meaning everytime. I am obedient to the sounds that flow, the insights that grow, within minds long in need to ignite, in need of light. I am light. Like a tree that grows higher, and higher, branching out in different directions, like thick branches with lush green leaves full of water. I am green. I sit, listen, and let the words sway like trees on a windy day after hurricanes that stroke with water-like canes. Still these tree rise up and grow. For where trees grow, water flows. I am water. So to are my words. I have been discovering for the past year that where words flow, stories flow. I am stories. For one year, the stories in my mind, in spaces and boxes I once carved as private, have been flowing like a river. I am a river. A naturally flowing river, in search of an ocean, or a sea, a lake or another river. I have arrived at my destination. Words are my water, collected now in a river that flowed through a complex meandering path I called keep lists. There were no short paths. Every thing that mattered were loosened and dislodged like the rocks along the sides of river beds. I became loose with words that deepened my riverbed, eroded my hard phases, and elevated my soft places, all with grace. I am grace. An amazing grace, once blind but now open to all the spaces that make me whole. I poured myself into this space, poured my soul to the possibilities of this phase, of writing something to keep, words to keep, in a list to mold and shape as my own, in a list to own. And through this list, my words became fast-flowing. A source of energy, of life. I became soaked in the opportunities and form of each word, each list of things to keep. I am a list.
I have been reading a lot lately about lists, about why people use them in the first place. Most people write lists, to-do lists for example, to stay organized. Some write lists to stay in control, ticking things off when completed or moving things around to track completion. The first time I saved a list was in the middle of the pandemic. There were nothing to do with my lists. Nothing to track or even complete. My lists were focused on what to keep. A keep lists of experiences. The only objective: to write one list a day. The list was expected to make sense of life as a mother, a black working mother in academia with four children, one born in the fifth month of the pandemic. There were no organization necessary. No length was too long. Or to short. Everything was allowed in the lists. My thoughts, the news, my work, my family. Writing long lists was gratifying. So too were short ones that cut right to core. But lists about meaningfully people in my life, like my children, my students, my mentors, even the experiences of my husband on the frontlines or the last days with my sister in-law and her battle with cervical cancer were extra fulfilling. The pandemic and it’s impact were intense for all families. It was also equally frustrating, equally challenging, yet equally mesmerizing, and equally joyful. Not for the illness it brought or the deaths or sorrow it left behind, but for the discoveries, unexpected ones, like making a list, a virtual keeplists of time in a pandemic. There were no end in sight too. The pandemic held us all in a tight grip. And so the list grew and moved beyond the pandemic itself to capture life as we lived it one day at a time, all to preserve and protect all that mattered in a time where living was truly fragile.
Today marks the one year anniversary of this list. Words still do not fail me. They have become my everything, my hope, my joy, my hurdles, but yet my triumphs. I thank all of you that have read anything I wrote here. I thank you for coming on this journey with me. There is still no end in sight. Only that where my words still flow, my stories will surely flow.
Dahlias are intense flowers like mother.
A league on their own, each petal is a colorful ray, of doubled flowers, in yellow or purple-ray florets, whites, ivories, and scarlet rays too. All in multiple whorls of ray flowers, all forming circles, forming clusters, forming bunches so compact, that it can only be described as motherhood. Dahlias are like mothers to me, so intense is the experience to me.
Their golden round and its countless petals, are like countless stars, that circle my being, with a stillness, so formless, so nameless, and so restless. The sighting of Dahlias are like mothers on days things are barely fathomless, days things are formless, even days we feel so flawless.
Dahlias indeed are stars. The blind see nothing. Both those who see, open their hearts. Their minds too open. To a stillness that is forever dazzling, forever haunting, each glimpse, forever brilliant, forever etched in memories as with days forever mesmerizing or days forever feeling helpless, or forever full of deep thoughts, that maybe forever inspiring while at the same time, make your feel forever dreamless, until moments become once more forever captivating, forever full of passion, in the midst of wild terrains that are forever demanding, even as you stay forever looking, yet feel like everything is forever in vain. Dahlias and their intricate whorls are forever full of surprises with every whorl which summarizes all that motherhood forever epitomizes.
The mere sightings of Dahlias galvanizes you to become one with all you desire, all you despise, all you disguise, even all you downsize as your journey from your base to your inner interior, the space where you hide your deepest desires, first for you, the place where all your dreams resides, all for you.
I have been there before. Of feeling lost, yet finding myself, of knowing how to proceed, yet loosing my way, but everything slowly making sense once my eyes greeted Dahlias.
Time stood still for Dahlias. They invite you in, invade your being, demand that you literally stop to recognize them, greet them, with all you possess, all within your power to soar as you devise ways to harmonize being one with your inner strength, one with this intricate flower. This is what Dahlias are known for. An inner strength so haunting, that you may fail to recognize the moment you give your self away to all the flower symbolizes. You may have been here before. Every time your eyes meet Dahlias. The sighting burrows deep in your soul. Like the soft kiss of a breeze. Dahlia’s kiss are forever captivating, forever etched in memories, that are forever lasting.
Yellow Dahlias gently kissed me while taking my baby to his daycare this week. Red ones too, ushered a tenderness so divine, gently caressing my restless heart, like fine wine. Slowly, I pressed forward, running out of excuses to delay this moment. He was supposed to start last week. It was his first time, and my heart and speech where rambling in chaos. Even though this was the day we have been waiting for.
I have been here before, with three other children. But something about baby number 4 made me nervous, made our day restless. Nothing was packed properly. Not his snack, not his water bottle, not his bag. Nothing was labeled properly either, not his diapers, not his wipes, not his bag. I should be happy. I should be pleased. No troubled mind, no demanding time. No breastfeeding, not restless feeding. Finally, all my children will be out of the house. Finally, all time, would be mine to claim. Sleep too. Yet, I was restless, nervous too. I fought through pain, until Dahlias met my eyes. With their sweet embrace, they encircled my being, forcing me to rise, to open to the sweet tenderness of this moment. Like the warmth of deep blue skies, I opened to their sweet embrace.
These are some of the secrets that I tend to keep hidden until now. Tend to ignore, dismiss too, until now. Stopping to recognize the power of opening up, was the gift I got from Dahlias. That and letting go. Of all the pains and joys of motherhood. The hopes and dreams we have that slowly dissipate, when we put others first. Slowly die, when we fail to put ourselves first. Even when we give our children the will to fly. We forget to fly too, afraid we will fall. I should be happy. I told myself 100 times, it will be okay. I knew this. We have been here before. Letting go, was painful. Unleashing a power, that made me rethink this moment, this freedom, this time that I knew would come one day. All children have to grow up. My baby, my last born, the one I bore during the pandemic was slowly walking to embrace all that life has to offer. I should be happy. Yet I felt lost.
I was lost, until Dahlia found me.
I was lost in its petals. This ethereal beauty, filled my restless soul with ease. Our greeting was gentle, a soulful ease. Like lovers we caressed each other, gently took hold of each other. With stillness so profound, so earth shaking. Time stood still, and Dahlias held me captive. We held on to each other. Afraid to blink, our eyes remain captivated by each other. Letting him go became easy. Watching him go with such reverence, became easy. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and caught him as he looked back. I saw something. Movements he initiated. Eyes locked with mine. As if to say are you coming. I am, always and forever, behind you, looking at you, loving you, captivated by you, inspired too by you, my baby, even as your journey through this world, through life. Keep Dahlia’s in mind for your journey through motherhood.
Things that combine intellect and instinct are rare. They are like a string bean. Tall, but compact, yet full of insights that would make you green. Their seeds are not only clean, but desirable and plump in pods that are always ready for transportation, transformation too. That everything that combines intellect and instinct will under favorable conditions develop into something worthy of praises, with desirable qualities worthy of embracing, emulating even, is my keep for today. Radiant Health Magazine with its fruitful marriage of intellect and instinct is a rare magazine.
I personally know the Editor in Chief. So I can see why some may think that I write these words to please her. On the contrary, despite being in production for seven years, despite knowing all her struggles, all her resilience, I never bought a copy until 3 weeks ago. I am her biggest supporter, but I didn’t include my finances into all her hardwork until recently. Granted, it was a motherhood issue. If you have being following my blog, you will know I have a soft spot for all things black and motherhood, especially things that highlight our possibilities and not our deficits, things that combine our intellect and instinct with sweetness and tenderness worthy of praises. Her motherhood issue turned me into a firm believer and subscriber. Over 184 pages in premium silk paper. Let me repeat that again, paper made with premium silk materials adorn the pages of Radiant Health Magazine.
Ben Okri once described resilience as being weird, with a future bristling with possibilities. And when you heal from the process, when tomorrow comes and you flower and bear fruit, like a Savannah after rain, you will amaze. Radiant Magazine is like a rain-filled Savannah. All it brings into being, possibilities, philosophies, motherhood, or even self-care, are unexpected gifts that keep giving long after one issue is closed and another begins. It’s combination of intellect and instinct transcends the limitations we impose on the possibilities of health for black women by black women. There is always something beautiful, there is always something vulnerable, there is always something straight-up, all spoken with an eloquent grace, tailor-made to soothe all aches black women face like a restorative balm. Grab a copy for yourself to see and feel what I mean.
Let me close with this, James Baldwin once said that the precise role of an artist, is to ‘blaze roads through a vast forest.’ Audre Lorde said something similar about the necessity to ‘journey towards a deeper self, to express the power of our knowledge and experience, as we find the courage to tell the truth.’ ‘To become more appealing and rewarding with every reading, always starting new ripples of significance’ is what Chinua Achebe described as the hallmark of work with a heightened sense of life. While Adrienne Rich would suggest that ‘as women, we have our work cut out for us if we are to usher the possibilities of change from a Western male-dominated world.’
Radiant Health Magazine is blazing roads as it makes its purpose known one issue at a time. It pulls us all in, probing deeper and deeper to help us rediscover and know the meaning of our journey as women, black women, and our discerning self, our intersectional selves too. The special gifts are the combination of intellect and instinct, a combination so deft that the outcome is a haunting beauty that resonates with clarity. You keep taking good care to ensure that black women are not invisible, that we are not silent, that we are not ignored, that we are not dismissed, that we are not forgotten. Your vision is clear, like a fine crystal glass that is equally sterling. Keep being dedicated to the discerning black woman, keep accelerating knowledge of her ways, her being, keep illuminating paths to her wellness, her health, her beauty, her culture. You do it so well, that all I can say is keep being Radiant. I applaud you!
We come home to ourselves. Our realized desiring selves. We also come home to spaces that are loving, spaces that are giving, spaces that are nurturing, spaces full of awareness, spaces that enable looking. Of all these spaces, looking is my keep for today.
Bell Hooks once described a power in looking. A power also with choosing to stop looking. She described it as a gesture of resistance. And when you return to looking, when you return after turning away, an oppositional gaze emerges. I am in this space, these days.
Not to be confrontational or difficult or even disrespectful, I am finally understanding the pleasure of saying no. I understand now what it means to say no to structures which had asked so much from me when I assumed a posture of subordination. Saying no is a radical gift that I gift myself these days, a gift that I use to nurture and protect me.
In the past, I was the first with ideas. I still am in circles that value my intellect. I was the first to say yes, to give myself fully to such spaces because we were all fighting the same beast. The truth is, our battle was personal and we wanted to come out victorious and unharmed. Until the fight turns on you. Until you realize you are now the beast and your head is on the chopping block. Hence why looking becomes critical.
Bell Hooks described this as having an oppositional gaze. Mainstream research circles in no way acknowledges that black women can thrive on their own. You don’t have to ask me, just do a quick search on who gets funded and you will see that they are not black or female. Look also at those in power in whatever space you find yourself in and again, whether at a grocery store or at a hospital, chances are that your leader isn’t black or female.
It’s for this reason that an oppositional gaze becomes vital, viral even if you are black and female.
Mainstream circles will remain ‘aggressively silent on the subject of blackness and representations of black womanhood,’ noted Bell Hooks. Many disallow the ‘possibilities of spaces, places even that include black women’s voices. It is also difficult to talk when you feel no one is listening, when you feel a special narrative has been created that only the chosen can understand’ she states. Yesterday, I was in such a space.
I know I shouldn’t be using this medium to air personal grievances. But I want growth and I need to continually gift myself the freedom to just say no to spaces that fail to enable me to discover or uncover all that I have. I did that internally, silently too when demands were asked. Not because I could not speak, but because it is difficult to speak when no one is listening. It’s is also difficult to speak when you are not valued.
So I stayed mute and looked. I stayed mute and applied Bell Hook’s oppositional gaze. I shared my thoughts with friends and they said, staying mute doesn’t help you grow. I disagreed. It helps me. That’s all that matters these days.
After going through this pandemic (we are still in it too), after going through moments of chaos with homeschooling, moments of stress with raising children, all I want these days are moments of healing for myself.
Even though silence will not protect me, and Ms. Lorde would want for me to transform it to action, I am, but for myself. I am learning to say no for myself first. This gesture protects me from whatever they think they have in store for me. I say yes always and all the time to spaces worthy of my yes. I say yes to spaces and people that know my worth.
I keep learning this every day. The power of saying no, the power of saying yes. It’s mine to gift first, to spaces that nurture and protect me. Spaces unafraid to affirm my subjectivity. My yes these days belong to people that are not afraid to hear me speak. People that know that my words are just that, words, with no desire to harm but to help them grow. People that don’t make me speechless. I was not born to be speechless.
This power that I gift myself, this power of oppositional gaze is to protect myself for the violence perpetuated and advocated in spaces that would rather I stifle my growth. And if I describe it as violence, it’s because this is still a battle, and the goal remains being victorious and unharmed. Writing in this way, about the power of oppositional gaze, makes my healing possible. I am also learning that there is more to looking. Keep it for yourself, especially in spaces where you gift yourself the power of saying no.
Illuminating. That’s my word for the day.
I am intrigued by its meaning. Webster’s defines it as providing insight and clarity. Becoming highly informative too.
Macmillan was my preferred definition. The idea of providing new and useful information so that something becomes clearer and easier to understand makes the word an important tool to which to speak to you to today.
I am a black woman coming to terms with my illumination. I am forever in search for ways to make things I love to do seem easy to understand, seem clear, and full of insight and not just for me, but for you, whoever you are reading this now in search of new insight to things that truly incite.
Like light. What is it about this word that keeps me returning back to it? It’s almost like I want to scream it out to the world with all my might. I just might too with precision and clarity.
For we have been in darkness for too long. We have done things as people truly blind to the world. We have not made efforts or strides to illuminate spaces and places in desperate need for light.
I am first to admit that part of my world has been in darkness for too long, under the shadows of the word and worlds of others for too long and still so eager to push through the darkness towards things that are illuminating for as long as I can.
Like the idea of being a black mom in light. A black woman in light.
I know whose I am is the first mantra. I know it from my hair follicles to the soles of my feet. Nothing I do is by accident. It is all by design, all written from the first moment I was conceived. I know whose I am is all I say with clarity on days when darkness seeks to envelope my world. On those days, knowing that I was made by design helps push light through.
The second mantra, make your case known. Do your best to push for light. You will fail in the process. Do so gracefully. Become prepared to make failure even a habit. I have no problem failing on my way to making light known. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden no matter how hard darkness seems to engulf the city. And there will be darkness. You will even go through the deepest depths of darkness. But when you remember who designed you, who first called you, then even the darkness is not dark enough for him.
Your ways are not my one is the third mantra. You want me to do it this way. Great, but what if I tried this way too. Ooh I will fail. I chuckle. Failure is always an option when you are a black mom, a black woman in light. It’s our second mantra for crying out loud. So yes, I will do it my way and I am prepared to fail daily until my way makes sense. It has to for I know whose I am.
Finally what’s your legacy? What is the institution that you are building and how will you make it last? This fourth mantra keeps me up at night. Not because I have the answers but because I care deeply about the stories the legacy will tell long after I am gone. I care deeply about the thoughts, the actions, even the words that I hope will speak louder for me, more eloquently than anything would. I care deeply about the spaces we build, the places that nourish our being, for what we own, what we build, our very own Institutions and structures cannot be broken when we build it with light. What’s your legacy becomes a clarion call for what being in light truly entails.
It’s for them afterall. Our legacy. Those we have asked to gather around our table, those we called to invade our space, those we choose to make room for in our place, our mind, our heart, our soul.
We cannot all going through this life together. I get it. The chapter we may find ourselves in today, will surely end tomorrow. When it does, who remains, who leaves?
I care deeply about those that choose to remain even when all that surrounds us makes no sense. I care deeply about those that choose to remain even when I hurt them deeply. I care deeply about those that choose to remain because they trust my words, the language I use, even when all I say may be empty. I care deeply about those that choose to remain to help me uncover all the noise, on this road to becoming clear, precise, illuminating, light.
I care deeply about those that see my light. I don’t take it all for granted. This process of becoming light. I care deeply about all of you on this journey. I know some of you read this.
I thank you for listening. I thank you for seeing the vision. I thank you for believing. I thank you for helping me, helping us push through this light that the world desperately needs these days.
Nothing we are doing is by accident. It is all by design. I care deeply that you see it too. Thank you for pushing light through with me. Thank you illuminating my world.
If I am not saying much now with precision and clarity it’s because we just gave birth. We have been in labor since September when this writing began. A 10 month pregnancy that has finally given birth to a dream. To think that I had to do so much writing to make way for this dream is breathtaking to me. To see the people we have assembled is even extraordinary.
These next few months are like those of a newborn. Nothing will make sense. We are still in darkness as it’s takes a while for newborn babies to open their eyes and see faces and shapes and sounds that will forever remain. We are truly newborns at this moment. But in due time, we will crawl, walk, and even run. Until then, keep illuminating the world. It truly needs our light to push through.
We went by water yesterday. My kids and I. Not a big water park as before. But a small indoor pool perfect for cooling down the rays of heat of a truly scorching summer.
I didn’t want to go. I still remember the meltdown from our prior excursion to a water park. I didn’t even bring out my green swimming suit. No need to swim when your mind and eyes need to stay alert. And I was prepared to stay alert this time around.
I spoke to my son with a gentle ease. I do it all the time too, eyes to eyes. He seemed to listen with ease, talking and repeating word for word like a gentle breeze. I told him we would go by water again and this time we will have a great time. I reminded him of the need to not cry. I took him to the side to quell all the noise I knew his brain was destined to make. Spoke power to him to overcome them, to enjoy being one with water, to look forward to the experience coming to an end too. I did all this because I didn’t want to end as we did the last time. I didn’t want eyes on us. I certainly didn’t want a meltdown like before. I still feel tense whenever I recall the experience. I also know he doesn’t mean it hence why I would still take him by water even though I know it may end badly.
We got dressed. He wore his favorite blue swimming shirt and pants. The words fortnite in a camo print were written on his shirt. Praying to not rewrite history still kept me alert. I watched as he gently made sense of all the water around him. I did so watching his other siblings too, better than any hawk would too. His sister went up and down a large yellow water slide. His little brother found joy up and down a red water slide. My son stood next to the water dripping down in a progressive style next to the water slide. The twirling water from little spouts seemed to make him joyful and surprisingly gentle.
He seemed happy to just watch water gush out of the spouts gently. Watching him watch water kept me in a state so gentle. Honestly words failed me. Here I was expecting the worse given our prior attempts at a water park that left me so drained. But he once more proved why children on the spectrum are truly divine by design. By the end of the day, approximately 20 minutes to my timed departure, when I said it’s time to leave, he asked if he could have one more turn on the silde. His response kept me stunned that all I could do was nod my head.
I watched as he went up and down the slide one more time, watched his face light up with joy one more time, saw as he came out of the pool with his brother and sister one more time, all with a gentle ease that kept me stunned for a long time. Here is truly my son, whose spectrum is perfect and by God’s design. I cannot fully make sense of the changes we go through with him all the time. But I am grateful to see the boy his is growing up to be one step at a time. Keep these gentle ease for kids like him. Great days are full of joy, full of ease, truly gentle, and all by design.
There is a power that emerges when you gift yourself and your family, the simple and freeing pleasures of walking. We gave that gift to baby almost 2 days after his arrival at home. We took him for his first walk along the paths of Forest Park. The pandemic was still breathtaking in its design. Lockdown was still in full force. So too was mask wearing in all public spaces, though ignored by many by design. We wore our masks, and with a bundled up baby, we walked together along the pathways of Forest Park.
I have alway found walking to be a site of joy, pleasure too and freedom. There is an African proverb which states that ‘if you want to go fast, walk alone. But if you want to far, walk together.’ My family and I are prepared to go far. Walking for us, is and remains a site of joy, pleasure still, and freedom too.
All our being, all our senses as one family are nurtured, protected too, because we took one step forward, and another, together. There is love, affirmation, support, and freedom to see and observe things as they are, when you walk through life with others. Baby sat on his stroller oblivious to this gift. We kept giving it to him knowing the impact of our gift.
My daughter in her blue denim overalls tried to tell him about the world as we walked along Forest Park. She played I spy with her brothers, spying things they saw along the way, like something green such as all the trees and grass along the Park, or something brown like dead leaves along the path, or something blue like the clear blue skies that brighten our day as we walked along the Park. Their spying game while walking, it’s meaning and value, were never lost on me.
As we move forward in life, whether freely, or openly, we bear witness to the truth that we are never meant to walk alone. Baby’s first source of food for life, where from the milk oozing out of my body. His first bath, were from Dad’s hands, as he gently washed him with a fragrant free soap that is supposed to nourish his being from his hair follicles down to the sole of his feet. Everything we do with babies are never done in isolation. So too is walking through life.
As we crossed the bridge along the park, we stopped to take photos with baby. We gathered ourselves around baby, who laid gently in his stroller. With the sky still brightening the day with the most perfect of blues, and with heads held up, with perfect eyes smiling beneath our masks, we took a photo to capture this moment in time, a moment we first walked together with baby.
Stories of families who walk together, black families in particular, often remain within the families, often within their albums tucked neatly away, in their memories, or phones, never to see the limelight or become fully represented as something we also do. We walk, never alone, but together. Aretha Franklin once belted this as a tune. And when we walk, we gather ourselves together, hold our heads up high, and smile, whether through storms or perfect skies. We do so together, because we know, that in life, no one, not even a newborn goes through their journey alone. So get your courage together and walk on, Ms. Franklin would say. Walk through the rain, even through the storm, just know you never walk alone. It’s the perfect gift we gave to baby as a family, one that I intend to keep always.
There is a Black exodus happening in academia. It is female, oppressive, and recursive. The latest, Dena Simmons of Yale University. She left the university citing ‘racism and years of bullying.’ She didn’t feel ‘valued’ or ‘protected’ at Yale. I spent my Sunday afternoon reading brief but concise social media postings on Dena. They were mostly by Black women. Some still in academia. Some gone, and off to start their own enterprises, in spaces and places where they would feel safe and protected. There is a Black exodus happening in academia now. But it is a site of power. Black women are reclaiming, restoring, even rekindling their God given power to exit spaces and places that do not value or protect them.
But how do we bear witness to a moment that is often not recorded, not discussed, not visible, not even in mainstream media, but yet a lived experience of many black women in America? Writing, is the one place where we can retrieve, restore, recover and give voices back to the unknown and unshared invisible, experiences of all black women, those in or not in academia. It is the one place where our silence will not protect us. It is the space where no one tells us what to do. It is the place where we can create rooms for our own unique experiences. All the words I write, every phrase and every structure, is mine to do as I please. If I wanted to control the narrative, all you see and hear about me, even what my social spaces, or social interactions may look like, at home, at work, even at church, then I would have to be radically open and write from my soul. For it is in writing that we bear witness to our history, our stories, our ways of being, our lived reality, our gaze.
Bell Hooks shared in a glorious piece entitled ‘the oppositional gaze,’ the power inherent with looking that is in opposition. Our ‘gaze’ she said, has been and remains a site of resistance. But it can also be a site of power, a site that breaks silence, breaks constraints and makes us the subject rather than the object of dialogue. Yet one thing black women don’t do enough though, is value our process of looking, enough to publicly name it, she stated. Even when we have our own reality, our own history, our own lens, our imaginations, one that sees the world differently from anyone else, Hooks stated that we do not name it or even describe this experience of seeing things rather differently. Even when we create alternative lens, based on our own unique ways of contesting, resisting, revising, and interrogating the dominant ways of knowing and looking, we still do not define our realities. Yet, how we see ourselves, whether at the center or the margins of our stories, how we look at ourselves, Bell Hooks notes, is most is important.
So to is my writing, the place where I am most free to be myself, to see myself. This blog has become a space of agency for me and for every reader, both old and new. Know that every keep, every word written, is my way of looking at myself, my way of using my lived reality to know the present, and imagine the future. Every keep is my way of reclaiming, restoring and rekindling my power. So though there may be a Black exodus in academia right now, for those of us still around, do keep an oppositional gaze.