In today’s America, Black girls are an endangered species. Often times their humanity whether on display or not, for themselves or things as insignificant as flies, are ignored, denied, our outright destroyed. Many also fail to see the light they carry, chose to resist their light, or work to diminish their light. Such was the case of Bobbi, a little girl in NJ whose neighbor choose to report her to authorities rather than see the goodness of her humanity. Rather than giving him the the last word, I wrote the following to celebrate her worth and all those that celebrated her essence like what Dr. Ijeoma Opara did to make her dazzle over at Yale yesterday. Keep these musings for Black girls like Bobbi.

Dear Bobbi,

I imagine the world would be kind to girls like you. I Imagine they would treat you better than flies. Be it house or lantern flies. I imagine they would see you too. Know you and learn about what makes you smile in the morning or laugh in the middle of a movie night. I imagine they would care for you the same way they care for trees, or trash or neighbors or anything else with humanity they see. I imagine all this for you in a world large enough for you and them. But then, I remember that betrayal is their arch nemesis, while you are still the rim of the world, light’s very own genesis.

Everything about you is so clear, that you shine like stars with an aura so rare. No wonder they choose to dim your divinity. Yet, still you shine and through your diligence, you showcase the best of our humanity. You are truly the apex of our times for eyes still blind to the sincerity of our lives even for flies that tried to diminish the peculiarity of your light. So we keep imagining this for them and ourselves. That one day, somewhere, girls and women, dark like you, even those unlike you, will come together in a common desire for the best of our humanity for the sake of our collective prosperity. They will see and no longer be blind to your rarity. They will learn and no longer be in dark to your luminosity. That all things bright and beautiful, those dark like night and diligent in all things whether for lives or flies, whatever we choose to do, will be met with the same love you displayed for the best of our humanity.

This is my hope for all girls and women dark like you, myself included. Otherwise, keep displaying your light with severity. Let their eyes endure your shine till infinity or their obscurity. Either way, show them what it means to be the dawn, so profound, that they shiver at the sight of your light so full. With all my love.

Keep these musings in celebration for all Black girls like Bobbi.

My daughter made art the other day. Her rendition of the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. In it there was a woman playing tennis dressed in a orange and yellow top and red and pink shorts. Her name was Jennifer Walker and according to my daugther, she had helped the US to victory with her 26th win. There were people at the stands cheering her one, but most importantly Jennifer looked like my daughter or any other brown or black girl with a keen interest in tennis.

I begin here simply to say representation matters, especially for little black and brown girls. Of course my daughter’s muse was Serena Williams and to see her depicted from my daughters lens is the reason for today’s keep. Eternal will Serena’s impact remain for many girls even now that she has retired.

Who says representation doesn’t matter, has never truly seen black and brown girls for all they are. For to see them, not just glance at them or walk past them. To see them is to see love. The uncharted kind, pure and free. The kind the overflows too for free. Love lives in there hearts for free. It begins there too for free. You see it from their hair follicles for free. Down to big brown and black eyes that tell tales for free. It’s in the way they smile for free. The kind that melts your heart because it’s free. They are also a door to souls truly free. Their laughter, or joy, a witness to these times for free. Spare and precious for free. Their love can walk through valleys for free. Press through mountains and wilderness for free. Seats of wisdom resides in their minds for free. Art, the kind that warms minds is yours through them for free. I have been moved by the voice they share for free. Moved too by the valley of tears that flow for free. My heart knows how they love for free. They dance and beat their own drums for free. Send me to paths uncharted for free. In them I find light that shines for free. One that I hope stay lit for the world to see for free. Even the thinnest ways you see them, today or tomorrow, is the engine that sustains many souls for free. Representation truly matters and I’m glad Serena gave these pearls for free.

My daughter’s art

We entered the month of November in silence. Death has a way of keeping people mute. Last night, there was a rumor that the son of a Nigerian musician was dead. We prayed it was a bad dream and all would be right with the morning sun. Only that it wasn’t a bad dream and a little boy who recently turned 3 years old in October was indeed dead. So we started this month in silence. Started this month knowing that silence can have multiple meanings, whether for survival or exercising our fundamental human right. But then I am reminded by the words of bell hooks that when we end our silence, when we speak in a liberated voice, our words connect us to one another. So let me share the following, protect your kids at all times. That’s is it.

The very best of me.

I spent this evening learning about wonder. It was from a philosopher at my institution. We were both attending an evening event and once we were free to mingle, she immediately approached me and we practically ended up spending the evening talking to each other. Initially I was hesitant to say anything to her. In fact what do you say to a philosopher. I had 2 philosophy friends in college. We were all doctoral students at the time, and I was struck by everything they did. One of them, Ronke Oke, has remained a dear friend and I will forever be grateful to her for the invitation to attend one of her classes where they talked about Franz Fanon and his books. I left that class buying the books and holding them for life. So anyone with a philosophy background scares me, hence why I was initially hesitant. But now, I am open to where they lead me.

Then I asked finally, what do you do. She said these words that stuck with me. ‘I study wonder.’ My ears and soul were open. Wonder, is that the same thing as curiosity, I asked? She said no. Wonder actually precedes and sets the foundation for curiosity. It’s like an engine for curiosity. She also mentioned how early philosophers spent time wondering before delving deeply into curiosity. We also display this better in childhood, with stories that seem so far fetching yet open and believable to a child’s mind. It is then no surprise that some child feel like they can fly and well actually proceed to fly never mind that they crash down to the ground.

I was struck and spent the rest of the evening listening to her. I saw myself in everything she said down to why I write grants. She concluded, you almost always begin in the realm of wonder, before curiosity leads you to ultimately write your grant. I was spell bound by this time. Wonder is truly the foundation of my work as a grant writer. I say it always that I have to visualize what I am writing first. I have to paint the full picture in my mind, before then writing it out. I am in the middle of a significance section of a new grant and I have spent close to an entire day on this section, just to have only 2 short paragraphs written. I have imagined what these sections should look like. I see them in my mind. But words are not coming together and so I keep imagining whatever will get that section written out in the way I have visualized it. So I close with the following prayer to this gift of insight called Wonder shared with grace from a philosopher at my institution (She has written it all as a book by the way and it is currently under review and I promise to be the first to purchase it once it becomes ready. I thank her too for offering to give me a copy).

My sons depictions of a butterfly inspires me always.

I pray that wonder cracks open your mind. I pray that it forces your eyes to bulge open and once open, may you be drawn into the underside of everything that comes your way. The torture, the pain, the joy, the wonder of it all, may all of them usher you through this maze called life.

I have met the source of my curiosity. It has always been there everytime I grumbled, stumbled, mumbled, and humbled myself through silences unearthing impossible desires within. Some of them were ordinary, but insisted that they become extraordinary in my hands. I cherish the scars left behind better now. All the ways things once indescribable have become describable these days. Everything I write seems possible now that I know my soul. I am content too with failing, knowing that the journey ahead towards what belongs to me has been cleared. I go through now with ease because you call me.

I know this moment is a witness to a struggle, a metamorphosis of sorts, a period of wading through life, until one becomes the butterfly that sees life beyond ourselves and all the ways we come out of shells to become more of ourselves.

I pray that wonder continues to carry you, me through this unavoidable journey. Without withholding, without scolding, but still molding all its range and depths. Still unfolding even as we change and accept, all the things we never thought possible, like death, like anger, like madness through this journey called cancer or things that arrest me now like wonder.

May you keep wonder, in the ways that butterflies sojourn through life.

By the way there was another philosopher there who has a book on human suffering. She said to send her an email and she will send it to me. I am on it. I see why I should continue to surround myself with them.

From the very beginning, you have watched me. You have seen too, how long I have cried in confusion. How long will I cry for help? Tell me, tell me why, fishes fare better than me, swarm of insects too.

You neither raise your hand nor turn us away, you neither ride horses from a distance nor swoop down like eagles attacking their prey. You say nothing too, when our heart is broken into pieces as numerous as grains of sand.

Still, I will wait to see what you will do. Still and knowing what is known, I will write down clearly, all the vision cupped in my heart, write them down so that when they burst through, when they burst out like waters from a mother, waters from me, I will know your grace and time.

For I know this vision still has its time. I know it presses on to fulfillment. I know too that it will not disappoint. I know that if it delays, I will wait for it. I will wait, knowing it will surely come, it will not be late, this vision I still have for a life beyond broken spirits.

Image from Lucille Clifton’s EA series.

It’s impossible not to have your spirit broken once or twice or more as a mother with children under 10. My spirit was broken today. In the middle of listening to the word of God. I knew the day would be chaotic. Didn’t know it would end in chaos. My baby started with crying. Just as we got to the entrance of church. He wanted a toy torch and we have a rule, no toys in church. So I left it in the car and he started to cry. Tears streamed down his eyes and nothing could console him. So I let him cry, held him close until he calmed himself down. We were in front of church through this and the service had begun. Kids were ushered to Sunday School and I proceeded to let the word of God flow in. First reading was from Habakkuk, one of my favorite verses in the whole of the Bible. The inspiration for todays musing. I asked how long, how much should I have to wait until this thing called motherhood makes sense. He said write your vision for it, wait for it and in due time, all you hope for it will come to pass.

I did and well my spirit was broken before I could seal the vision in my soul. My middle son came out of Sunday school crying. He ripped his paper and didn’t get another one. A kind lady in church saw he was in dire need of a brain break and brought over some stress balls. I rarely carry them around as we never really need them and well this time I made a mental note to always have some around. She only had 2 and I have three boys who have a hard time with this thing called sharing. I pleaded with son number 2, pleaded with him to share with baby, he did, until he ran out of patience. Then he started to cry, insisting that we go get ice cream after church of which I said no and never by the way.

It turned into the worst thing ever as he began to wail and scream to no avail. The music in church helped to drown his tears, but not enough for all of church to feel sorry for me. I was tired and helpless, dealing with son number one struggling with sensory issues and baby clinging to me and here comes son number 2 crying because he wouldn’t get any icecream after church. So I let him cry, let him have the last word until we got to the car. I let my spirit go and made it crystal clear that I refuse to ever use my own money to buy him ice-cream. Ooh that I know my roots. I know where I am coming from and from this day, if he will ever pull that stunt ever in church or anywhere else, then he will let the world know too the roots that formed me.

Needless to say my spirit was broken today and I feel like a mother running out gas, running of being nice and kind too. In the end, they will always come first, always be loved and adored, but I know my roots. We did not hail all the way from Onicha Ugbo to raise children who have no idea where they are going to. I concluded by reminding him of his name. Olisa. It means God and he did not bring us this far, just for us to stain his name. My vision for motherhood is still clear and I will still wait for the opportune time, but until then keep mothers in mind, especially on days when our spirits are broken.

My son tried to carry an orange box bigger than himself today. I tried to help. He shoved my hands away, choosing to carry it alone. Until he couldn’t. He stopped trying, opting instead to sit right next to the box, fully content. Looking at him, I realized that I have been observing him wrongly. He didn’t need my help because he was capable of doing the work all by himself. His way. Most children are. I smiled. He smiled back, content with his box on the floor next to him. His way. I am reminded of writers whose words become sharp, all because they wrote their way. I see them in my little boy and his orange box

My son! Love him

My son repeats himself always. He is on the spectrum so we expect this. But these days I have been working to channel all his repetition into something useful. Enter writing letters. Today he woke up saying the same things he wanted yesterday, his toys for Christmas. I told him to take a piece of paper and write a letter to me indicating what he wants. He did. Here is his letter. We still have work to do, but I think I am on to something. Keep writing letters, even from your children to you.

P.s. he is also reading to his baby brother. His first time doing so. This one brought a huge smile to heart.

He drew a rainbow. A rainbow for me. He drew it up to show that I was a good mom. A loving one too. A rainbow, for a mom, good and loving. This is the recent image from a boy who just a month ago drew himself laying beside a pool of blood. I stood next to him in the image, crying. His teacher thought it was disturbing and we almost ended his art before it began. He is only five. These days he still draws. Not blood or me crying. But all the things he loves. Mom, rainbows and all things blue, yellow and green. No reds, except on rainbows for mom. If you let them be, their minds will do all the dreaming, with images turning from blood to rainbows to love. Blood to rainbows. Crying to loving. Life moves. The connections you will make are varied. So, keep breathing, keep being limitless, little black boy, keep letting your mind roam free, through this jungle to light.

A rainbow for mom by my son!

My dreams keep dreaming. As if no ending is allowed. As if only poetry will do. As if all the alternating stress, those that pass unknown, those things light and heavy I embrace, everything they bring, like air, are worthy, profound, like breathing, this air of new dreams again.

And so we hurry, back to our sweet spot again. Only this time without force again. Back to our sleek covers again. Those soft and flurry. Those blue like skies and light like stars. All of them keen on letting us go. Keen on starting this journey again. Keen on making our dreams take meaning, again and again, like the sound of the winds blowing, like the murmurs of leaves blowing. Our hearts are full and glowing. Our dreams keep birthing new dreams again. I keep marching steadily to this beat again.

It’s only the second week of the second month of this new school year and already, I feel blessed. To think that my bold ideas are going to come to light soon, with funding too, keeps me on my toes and dreaming. The same day I got news for another one, well, we submitted another one. We can’t stop now, not when he calls us, not when he leads and we follow. My story is one David and Goliath in the making. I came across failed applications to university positions I applied to years ago. Back when I thought all I had to do was apply, all I had to do was try, and somehow, life would make sense. There were some places I dared not look into, an application for a position at Dartmouth comes to mind. There were some I thought I would get. Teacher’s College, was one I thought would make the Big Apple my oasis. Of course, there were many I didn’t get. I read all of them with vigor again, just in awe of what I envisioned for my career and hoped that some one, would take a chance on me. Many didn’t. But we kept dreaming.

Then I remembered all the grants I once wrote dreaming for a career in research, dreaming to one day do it my way. Many also failed. But what brings these 2 memories for me today is this ideas of dreams. My imaginations for health are wild and often not mainstream. I was never supposed to be in academia. It wasn’t the plan. I was supposed to be a medical doctor and lawyer and somehow cook food and well write fiction books. I gave up on medicine early, didn’t get into the law school I wanted (I really took the LSAT and applied), tried to cook my way through my dissertation and failed and still waiting for the day I call myself a fiction writer. None of the initial dreams I had for myself panned out, and so I did what was next best, dreaming with no end in sight.

I know it’s grace and I do not take this gift of writing grants lightly. I still don’t know how I will present it to the world, how I will reach folks too with simple strategies that allow me to keep writing and writing especially when the call speaks to my heart. I don’t write all the time and I do pass many that though tempting are not for me. But the ones I write, like the one I submitted today, keeps me speechless. There is a pattern to grant writing. I am learning that every day. There is an intake period, with key words from the call, that allow you to get into a zone. Once there, once you have a vision, once all the intersections and roadblocks are somewhat clear, once you know your collaborators and for me, your plans to execute something unbreakable and reliably yours, then you are on your way. All of this should also include plans to endure your dreams no matter the highs and lows, the periods of giving up and the periods of trying again. I call this finding your vice. I am open to whatever direction this takes me. Like the moon we saw tonight while driving home. My son asked if the moon would follow us home. I said yes. Like dreams they follow us everywhere. Like the moon, I am following my dreams. I know my vice. These days, I am full.

I needed to go through hell once to understand my worth. Hell helped me find my vision for the next years and decades of my life. From time to time, attacks will come your way, and they are like an obligation, a desire for you to know struggle. In my hell, I kept coming back to Psalm 23, kept reading and re-reading the words ‘deepest darkness.’ Looked it up in dictionary and all of this was my hell:

Extending inward, outer limits, considerable distance, difficult to comprehend, mysterious, grave, lamentable, intensely immersed, below level of consciousness, the most intense part.

Hell will make you go deep and there will be darkness all around. But then I remember the words, ‘even if and through.’ Darkness will come. Hell too. But even if they come, go through. When you find yourself extending inward, go through. At your outer limits, sail through. At a considerable distance, move through. Even if difficult to comprehend, or mysterious, grave or lamentable, still pull through. If intensely immersed, push through. Whether below the level of consciousness or at the most intense part, dig through this with the knowledge that he is with you. His rod and staff protect you.

My reasons always for going through. They me always not to be afraid.

All of them, all those that prefer you dwell in hell will see you. They will see how you remain an honored guest. See your cup overflowing. See the goodness and mercy all around you too. That’s what awaits you when you push through the darkness. I did recently and my cup continues to overflows.

Toni Morrison and her son Slade Morrison have a book about mean people I love to read to my kids. It’s my keep for today. To them, people are mean. They frown, they shout, even whisper behind peoples back. Family members are also mean. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, all of us have mean tendencies that can be confusing to children. I love this because it’s a delightful read and my kids get a kick out of it. But for all the meanness, the advice in the end is truly one to take on any life journey: smile through mean people and things. Smile through it all not matter how challenging everyday life may seem. I have been experiencing meanness lately and quite frankly, I will do as they suggested and smile anyway. Keep smiling. They dedicated this book to brave kids anywhere. Love it.

My son attends a school that was severely damaged by the floods that came through Saint Louis in July. Their entire basement was gutted and all the rooms they use for their sensory activities were destroyed. We started school a week later than most and had to readjust everything with classrooms now in a different location. Change is scary for us. Transitions too and the beginning of the school year is always fraught with anxiety for adjustment and routine and everything else that comes with living life on the spectrum.

Yesterday I picked my son up from school later than usual and I was struck by how calm he was. The old him would have been crying and freaking out wondering if I was coming to pick him up even if I was 5 minutes late. He hates not going home when everyone else is going home. Seeing him, calm made me feel reassured that we are going to have a great school year after all, floods, transitions and all. It’s these little things that matter for me these days. That and seeing the love the students gave back to their teachers for everything thing they have been doing for them especially now with all the change.

I am a proud mother of a child on the spectrum and seeing their humanity on display even as chalk drawing for their teachers car parking lot as a way to thank them for all they do, is my keep for today. Floods may come. Change, transitions, tossing out the old, adjusting to the new may coming along. But in all things, keep the love for the little things in mind, like chalk drawings to say thank you to others.