Finally, this day of grace, so amazing, has arrived. This day will forever be etched in my memory now. Not because of what I get to call myself from today, A full Professor, but more so for the untenable reality I molded for myself, reduced to manageable, transforming essence, my way, now my knowing so deep.
I think about the Late great Toni Morrison’s letter to women, girls, daughters like my own, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, mother in law, herself, often. But especially today. To that letter I would add fathers, mentors that are male, brothers, uncles, friends that are male, my sons and my husband. All of you have been the rim of my world, my beginning and everything that personifies the word primary.
When I stepped into academia 8 years and 11 months ago, I knew it was not ready for women like me. Those dark like me. Those that will not stop motherhood for anything. Those also prepared to do the damn work necessary. So I battled demons. Literally did as Psalm 23 noted and walked through the deepest darkness, never forgetting that I have everything. I lost friends along the way. Mentors too. Lost loved ones, one of which whose death is still as painful as the day she died 11 months ago as if it was today. Before the journey began, I laid the path that I knew I would follow my way and followed as I knew how best too, stumbling and getting up along the way. There were plenty stumbles. But also many rising up too. Silence tried to keep me down. It succeed for a minute until Audre Lorde reminded me it will never protect me. Suffering was plenty. Not just with work but also at home. But still, like Ms Morrison would remind me, I am like no other. Not in the way I suffered or stayed silent. But for what I did through both. I was never the most loved, not the most celebrated, maybe the most silent and of course the least eloquent about my experience in academia. But I did it all my way without blinking and that way still agitates me over and over again. Even on this day, even in this moment, I am so grateful for Ms. Morrison’s letter and for the reminder that I did all right. I celebrate today with grace knowing that my sweep is grand. I will forever be endlessly refreshing when it comes to the work I do. They can say what they like but I know the work will change lives and if you don’t know yet, learn my history. I come from a lineage that was not meant to be. The word perseverance was etched in our soul, and it runs through my veins. I know Papa and Mama and Angi would be happy with me as they celebrate today in heaven too. You have done alright Isioma (my middle name), they would say, the one for whom we literally named knowledge. You took this thing many fear, passed through it and even danced through it your way and in the best of company, all of you whom I call my people. We did it. I thank all of you that got me this far. You are so many and my heart is full. I thank you for crying when I cried. I thank you for celebrating when I celebrated. The birth of my children, my marriage, failed and successful grants, new and old jobs, thank you for walking alongside me through this journey. Thank you for being there even when I could not be there for you. There is still movement in the shadow of the sun. I am still coming from the rim of the world. I will always remain that disturbing disturbance you all know so well, neither hawk nor stormy weather, but now as Professor Juliet Iwelunmor-Ezepue, a dark woman of all things. I intend to keep rustling, like life. Thank you Ms. Morrison for this knowing so deep. Thank you to my community. This one is for you all.