The news of the Queens death came to me yesterday in the middle of work. I paused to immediately reflect on the number 70 and the age 25. Here was a woman who ruled her land for over 70 years, a land she inherited at the age of 25. Legacies are built this way, young and over a long period of time. Like many though, I also tried to imagine all the things that legacy carries, the good, the bad, the unspoken, the hidden, the hurdles, the joy, the pain, and whatever may personify love. Such a legacy, one built over 70 years includes all of this and more, many in full view for all to see and many we will never know. Independence also immediately came to mind as images of what happened when African countries, like Ghana, Nigeria asked for their independence under her watch. I imagine those conversations were not easy, probably disturbing and ultimately met with agreement. To also rule over that legacy kept me both numb and uneasy about her passing. Places we call home have a history that includes the Queen’s legacy, a history that is often told from one point of view to the detriment of other points of view.

So yesterday all the unknown stories about this 70 year legacy came into my mind like a flood. They say when an old person dies, a library dies with them and truly I felt like a trillion libraries died with the Queen yesterday. I still have questions, some I know the answers will not be easy, some I know will never be known. But for all her legacy, how she kept all this intact is my keep for today. That and what is your legacy and what are you doing to keep it whether 2 years or 70 years later. Are you also speaking things unspeakable to your situation, reveling in the joys and hurdles of life, or will your story, like your legacy die the moment you depart? These questions are among the reasons why I ask anyone I know to try to keep something about themselves, their way, so their libraries remain, long after they are gone. The full picture of your life will never truly be known, but at least you will have a say is what is to be told about you, when words fail you.

For me, I have been writing for two years, the only way I can. I call it my ‘What’ll keep.’ Part reflections, part poetry, part notes, some little, some long, but all worthy of being kept. I began this list as a form of detour from the trauma of homeschooling a child on the spectrum during a global pandemic. I wanted to give a sense of the beauty, the hurdles, the joy, the truth about life as a mother and life as being black and female in academia. I wanted to also reclaim my essence beyond the narrow confines of academic world view.

See, I am more than whatever academic paper you will read about me. I have always know this. I also know my role within academia, what to do and not do, all in the name of survival. I wanted to take all the pieces of me, those known and unknown, those I am discovering and uncovering, every single thing complicated and uncomplicated about my world and give them a space to breathe, all on their own. My one mission was to give attention to all aspects of my life that are often hidden, but yet central to what I do as a parent and professor. I also called it finding my light.

I have been in darkness for too long. You will, if all you use is the master’s language. So I sought other styles, created this space, just so all of me could flourish as I wanted. This blog will always be the best gift I gave to myself and my career, two years ago. That I continue to celebrate this recalibration of my career is no small feat. It may all seem like a long list of things to keep. It’s intentional. It may seem disjointed, not connected as finely as any introduction, methods, result or discussion section would suggest. It’s intentional. It may also seem like I’m unproductive from an academic standpoint when all my energy is spent on few words or long essays that I can’t even cite on my CV. That too is intentional. It was never for my CV. Never too for academia even though it has so many academic undertones.

The truth is that it was for that divergent part of my brain, the part that knows our worth and refuses for us to be boxed in one corner or described as such as such, the part that loves writing, grant writing in particularly, the part to that would rather write and fail than never ever write a grant again. For that part to flourish, then it would need a break every now and then and this list of things to keep have been the perfect gift to me. I am in awe of all I have written down in 2 years. In awe too of how writing in this way keeps giving and giving to my intellectual life.

It’s been 2 years of relentless pursuit of something to keep and this fearless unearthing of all I choose to keep, my way, is the clarity with life, that I never knew my soul needed. I truly appreciate the grace each keep offers. They are my legacy, my words, my way. Here is to two years down and many more to go. Happy Anniversary.

I write at a crossroads of a life that has known pain, felt anger, cherished joy, and carried the idea of sustaining anything as urgent. I write too from a place of commitment, a mind that has known what it means to transform and be transformed, all while identifying and defining what life means to me. I have never taken the path others take. I have never done things only to regret them later. I have lived as though life could end tomorrow. I have dreamed as if dreaming was air, living, lying awake, on a bed of green grass as soft blue skies and clouds glide by. I have done these things and still I choose to write. These days, writing is all I know. So I write for connections between and among women, the most feared, the least understood, those tender, sharp and unafraid with eyes startling and ready to transform. Truly I write for the most transformative being that ever existed. I write so she lives, whether as a woman by herself, a sister, a friend or a mother. Today I write to myself and all the women we celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day

Four times, have I known pain. Child birth would bring pain so unbearable that you scream from the deepest depths of your soul. Four times have I screamed. To hold lives so complex, with smiles all for me. The piercing cries of restless children that test all you know. Especially at night, in middle of a deep sleep that forces you to stroll aimlessly for their needs. I always smile when today comes along. Not for the love I see in my girl and my boys, my better me, but for the journey we get to take. Nothing sets me so high than a reminder of all we have been through. The journey we still take through tears and dreary darkness. Those to Andy’s frozen custard for pleasure in a cup and spoon. These things, this rush of beauty and pain are the heart of motherhood for me. We knew there would be pain. The beginning was full of it. We knew pain will continue. Today still has some, lurking to uncover unknown and hidden spaces. We have tried to be strong. Tried to be our best selves so they too stand and be strong on their own. We have laughed and we have cried. We have laid down in mourning for an angel, and a bird we named Sky. They know good things never last. Like blue birds named Sky. They know too that we are in this moment together. A unique group we are. With birds and lilly magnolias. Grass so green, skies so blue that all we can do is lie down and let life be. We are living together for this moment. The skies paint an everlasting blue color. We look at each other, hoping this moment lasts forever.

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji, woman to woman, I know many who look like you. They look like me. You illuminate our ways for all to see. Uncover cherished dreams long gone with the wind. Remind us to persevere too. We see you and whisper sweet prayers of thanks. Many will never fully understand what it takes to sit in the seats we sit on. Many will never fully get how we touch each other in secret places through a look, a smile, a word, or a sigh. We do not come speaking as if we are afraid. We are not. We do not come waiting for your praises. We are not fools. They stay rigid in denial. We remain a burst of light. Where they reside in a rage for finally seeing a black woman in stride, we stay perched up knowing there is magic in our stride. There is. We see it across our screens. We feel it too.

We know the boundaries of our desires. Our eyes fill up with tears for finally being seen. Call it what you want. Let them do their best to remember the old days when we cleaned and not lead. But we hope their eyes do not hurt in pain for still seeing us. And even though we shine brightly, we still know our blackness is rich beyond today, our womanhood supreme and beyond fear, and our head, held up high like the mount of Zion. Our entire being even in your spaces is sharpened like knives, unresisting, unwavering, unyielding, not when we are called to lead. We are called. There is magic in our stride even in this season. And like baobab trees, we will stand erect forever.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, sorry I’m just calling it early because we know the end result. Tell them God told us.

My dad had a garden in the front of our home in Nigeria. He planted hibiscus flowers and aloe Vera plant. He loved the natural ingredients nestled within them. He made the most exquisite juices with them. Memories of the garden always flood my mind during Spring. We are getting ready to begin our gardening this year. I am praying winter is fully gone. I hope to reconnect once more to the memories of my father, walk in his footsteps this Spring as I connect my children back to the earth, and now teach them how to garden. See images from our garden last year below. We had peonies, African greens, garden eggs and cucumbers last year. Happy Springtime gardening.

Everyone wants to be a black woman. Everyone. Some want us invisible and silent. Something like being dead. Others want us behind the scenes, serving others. Something like only bending one’s knees. While others want us to follow only. Something like never leading an orchestra. Trying climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and they’ll have you fall before the climb. Try going to the bottom of the ocean and you will drown before getting there. And if even you make it, even if you try to climb the highest mountains or sail to the bottom of the oceans, none of that will be enough, when you are never meant to be visible. But still try. No matter what, try. Nothing is worse than being invisible and silent. You might as well be dead.

Image credit: Sindiso. He posted it on instagram with the caption BLK is and I couldn’t help myself.

Where there is a woman there is magic. Where there is a woman, magic is there. If the moon is falling from her mouth, if the brilliance of the moon is even in her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic. Like a gentle deer, she knows her brilliance too. And a woman prepared to share the brilliance that is her, prepared to reveal even the moon falling from her mouth, is magical, sterling, grace and everything else that personifies the radiance of a queen. For when you see women with moon in their mouths, when you get the chance to surround yourself with a community of women, for whom the moon has found a rest place within, rise too and join them, or get out of the way. Either way, there is magic, and the women are walking and working hand in hand with the moon. I am in the midst of women with moon falling out of their mouths. In the midst of magic and my soul finally sees, surmises, understands content.

I wrote this mini verse in honor of Ntozake Shange’s novel, Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo. It’s from the opening lines of the book. Indigo, a key character rarely spoke because there was a moon in her mouth. Indigo knew who she was, was in contact too with spirits who helped her imagination roam free. I once read this from an interview with Ntozake, that ‘imagination allows us to feel and express those things that might destroy us in any other form. If we couldn’t write, if we couldn’t sculpt, if we couldn’t play music, we might kill somebody.’ Of course I don’t intend to kill anyone, but with each passing day I am learning that my responsibility like Ntozake would suggest is to write something that somebody can take and have it in their life. Even if you remember a line, then my job is done. For today, I hope you remember it is worthwhile. That you never be afraid, whatever it is, whether beautiful or terrible, to keep something, no matter how small, for you. I am keeping this knowledge that where women are gathered, there is magic, and if the moon rests in her mouth, brilliance and light is your portion.

Some memories linger on like melodies that ring, long after memories are gone. Some people linger on, touching everything, your life, your work, your clothes, your mind, touching you like air. Today we closed a chapter to sweet memories that will forever linger, long after the times in Saint Louis come to an end. Today we said goodbye to Rhonda, but not until we touch something else again soon. For now, we let our memories linger on like melodies from heaven.

I woke up today full. Find you a sisterhood and you will find life. We have been in STL for 4 years now and life still feels very transient until last night. We have always moved around the 2-4 year mark so for the first time it feels strange to have no plans to leave the state of Missouri. I said that out loud to myself yesterday. Midwest is now home. As I let that realization settle in, I looked at my surroundings. I looked at the people gathered at the table I joined last night. I was in the midst of some powerful women and we were all black, all mothers, all ambitious, and all sterling. I watched us all in awe. A passerby said the same thing as if reading my mind. His words ‘this is beautiful.’ I agree. They say food eaten in secret tastes better. I also agree. But better isn’t up to us alone. Better can’t happen in a vacuum. We are stronger together. Much better when we come together. And black women together makes the world better. If you heard all we shared together last night, heard our plans to make things we value better, you will understand. This is my keep for today.

Our community.

When black women come together, we come as a better version of ourselves. We come to carry water. We come to forget the edge of the sea as we dive deeply into each other. We come to whisper through water too, fierce words that heal, that nurture, that uplift or part dead seas. We come knowing we do not know. We come looking for ourselves and seeing ourselves, even when soaked in water. We come afraid to look too, but looking together in fear. We come to have sisters on our side and our cup overflows. We come to listen and listen and listen. We of course come to talk and talk and talk and share tea. We come out of the fullness of grace as grace alone makes us full. We come knowing we are blessed and prepared to bless each other even more with our blessings like rivers and springs that gush out into valleys and hills. We come fighting for our children, pushing for their voice, their visibility in a land that would rather they remain invisible. Not with us. We are like fishes and we know how to use water. Even better, we come knowing now more that ever that we are water. We have no enemies where are life, our families, our work, our children are concerned. We come with the blessings of walking on water when storms rage. We come with the stillness too of knowing whose we are, even while on stormy seas. We come knowing that even though the darkness all around is so deep, we are willing to push through light, ready to walk on water too. We come because our brilliance are like the silver of moonlight, the brilliance of starry skies even on nights where strong winds blow. We come filling our lives with light, leaving too in a dazzling light that wind and waves obey. We come because coming together as a community, as one, is a basic necessity of life, our life. In the end, our eyes are deep in water and together we sail through because doing together with each other is a beautiful thing. Keep a sisterhood of black women wherever you find them. We really make the world better.