In the span of 49 minutes, in the early hours of this morning, while reading Derrick Bell’s ‘Faces at the Bottom of the Well,’ I had changed my sons diaper twice, given him a bath once. He was suffering from a bout of diarrhea and I was hoping he would go back to sleep so I read in peace. Eventually he slept off just as I finished reading the second chapter on Afrolantica Awakening. It was the awakening that has been burning inside me, manifested through the words of Derrick Bell in the second chapter of his book.

The idea of Afrolantica seemed profound, not as a concept but more so for it’s possibilities, it’s liberation. Imagine what can happen when you move towards light. That to me is the premise of this chapter. The idea of working together, planning together also, for our collective liberation. We have all been enslaved for too long. Our minds have bought into certain ways deemed appropriate, even acceptable for too long, that the idea of being different, the idea of even moving in different cycles is an aberration. In the meantime, there is freedom for all, if we all work together to liberate ourselves, if we all pool ourselves resources to free ourselves from the shackles that continue to enslave our minds.

In Afrolantica, you find an awakening. You also find uniformity of support, opposition for majority, but defiant determination from those with ready to oppose the oppressors. We can all bear witness to the greatest gift we have nestled inside ourselves if we move towards this awakening, RBI’s ability to free ourselves. That’s the lesson I am taking away with this chapter. The idea that neither grief or despair can diminish what we already possess: an awakening. Not of places, or even phases, or even people, but of our minds. It will always be worth it when you take the courageous step to liberate your mind, to unlearn all that once occupied your mind, to act on your own, with a mind free from oppression.

Afrolantica is an awakening so inspiring, so liberating. An awakening full of deep satisfaction, deep cooperation too. An awakening of what we already possess, what is inherent in all of us. An awakening for those looking for something better, those willing to try even if they don’t find it. An awakening full of truth, full of knowledge of ways to act on our own. An awakening for our own kind of people, our own kind prepared to glow in collective confidence, flow in self-confidence too. An awakening grounded in the spirit of participation, engagement too, not as one, but a collective fighting for generations upon generations. An awakening whose very foundation will spread to others far and wide. An awakening that recalls the tenacity for human life, the tenacity to survive all efforts to dehumanize or obliterate thousands of people that look like you and me. An awakening so infectious that it burns a fire this time, for a generation with renewed tenacity. An awakening this generation knows we possess so well, the tenacity of those that came before us. An awakening we will hold on to, an awakening you should hold on to: that one day, somewhere in the world, a generation will rise up too, to showcase what they know they actually possess, that their minds too are liberated, and somehow, someway, they too will work to move generations towards light. This is the awakening we have all being waiting for and this generation is prepared for the journey towards Afrolantica.

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.

The kids were jumping on the trampoline. I was amazed by how far we have come. Baby was strolling gingerly towards them and away from them, in his yellow green shirt that read how he was a ‘little man with big plans.’ He truly was. Today’s plans, dirt and all sorts of ways to become one with dirt. Dreams of one day jumping on the trampoline too we’re on his mind. On this first day of Fall, in the second year of a pandemic that ceases to end, I am sitting here staring at how far my family and I have come. Baby is still walking back and forth towards his siblings jumping on a trampoline and away from them. A cool breeze, so gentle like a baby’s kiss, gently kisses my face this evening. Everything seems sterling to me. The green of the grass. The blue of skies. Even the white of clouds have a certain aura to them that personifies my aura these days. I am walking in light and there is no turning back. My mother-in law spent her days during the early parts of summer tending to a garden. It was also her way of coping with the illness of her only daughter that would come to do consume our entire summer. Today I stared deeply at how her garden continues to flourish, continues to remain glorious, even in her absence. Angie would have been proud of her. Angie would have loved her light.

African Greens from our garden

We all know light when we see it. Light is peace. It is peace for the mother, the wife, the teacher, the daughter, the sibling, the awakened public, suddenly rising from their comatose state. Luminescent, incandescent, glistening, hers, that glow with a light within are trouble for tortured souls, trouble for those who prefer chaos. And the world is a chaotic place, violent place too, for those rearing and resting in darkness, sly racists too who prefer their structural violence rather than the power of roaring lioness. Still, like a lioness, I choose light for its aura, it’s brilliance, it’s chink, it’s dazzle, it’s ethereal, it’s fire, it’s gleamer, it’s halo, it’s illumination, it’s jewel, it’s kindle, it’s luminosity, it’s morn, it’s nature, it’s optical, it’s prism, it’s queer, it’s radiance, it’s spark, it’s twinkle, it’s upbeat, it’s vividness, it’s wave, it’s x-factor, it’s yellow, it’s zenith. Certain openings for light visited on people are so blazing, so lustrous, so airy, so zestful, so effortless that it must be protected at all cost. It’s not a gift. It’s a necessity. For a city, a people, built on light cannot be hidden. Blaze your light and keep it too at all cost.

With writing, if you remember that being scared is normal, if you are going to be scared anyways, you might as well do so radiantly. Michaela Coale was luminescent in yellow at the Emmy’s as she described this in detail. Her history-making win as the first Black woman with an Emmy for limited series writing was magnificent. But it’s her sterling speech that I am keeping here today. Not only did she dedicate it to survivors of sexual assault, she used the opportunity to remind us to crave our God given spaces for ourselves, claim it and own it too. Not with being visible as society demands these days, but with being invisible, disappearing for awhile to tend to you, to see too what comes to you in silence. But her reminder that, ‘writers, should write what scares them,’ has me saying Amen and Amen like I just entered a moving sermon led by God himself.

Michaela Coale

The idea of how writing scares me personifies this entire blog. I have no idea why I write here sometimes. Sometimes, I tell myself that it’s for a memoir or a story worth telling and so this is all preparation for it. Truth is, I have no idea what to say even if it was a memoir as the very idea of saying a book is complete or the story ends scares me. That’s why I keep this list. It never ends and I like it that way. I also like that I am moved by words that come right after the next even as I type this sentence. Sometimes, the words keep flowing and I keep writing as if there is a quest to complete, a long rain of thought to finish up through words that string themselves together, sometimes all on their own. Other times there are no words and that is fine as well. I say one or two sentences and close that train of thought for the dead end it brings. Other times I am moved by simple phrases or sentences that just come for no reason except to make me sit and ponder what comes next. Like yesterday afternoon, my 4 year old and I lay on a soft bed of green grass at the back of our home and looked up to the blue skies above. I felt the urge to remind him that if he ever needed me or looked for me and he couldn’t find me, guess where he would find me, he said well next to him. I said of course, I will always be right next to you. But if there ever was a moment and you couldn’t find me, know that I will always be up in the blue skies, behind the white clouds in the sky. As I said these words to him, it was as if my life flashed before my eyes and I wondered what if such a day ever comes. That’s what I mean by writing what scares you.

Death scares the crap out of me for it’s finality. I keep wondering is this how it really ends whenever I think of my sister-in law. She was just here. I feel like calling her, just to say hello and hear her voice just one more time, just to be told this was all a bad dream. This is what I mean by writing a train of thought with words that line themselves up neatly as if by design. Then the words move me back to a previous thought. I realize with Angie that it isn’t a dream and yes death is truly at our doorstep. All this made me feel the need to remind my 4 year old that I would always be up in the skies, behind the clouds and he simply nodded his head as he looked up to the sky.

The words, like so many others, come on their own, with their own agenda, and a demand to be still and let them flow. I listen and do so diligently and move at times too down a rabbit hole of putting more words together, like with discussing where else my son would find me if he ever looked for me. Laying on a soft bed of green grass. Climbing up tall banana trees with monkeys swinging back and forth. He loves bananas. Anything in nature too, flowers that blossom in spring. My favorite these days, Dahlias. Butterflies that flutter their wings and fly. So too, would I fly when I write what scares me, when I write about me and all that matters, all I intend to keep with this thing called life. I am convinced that I am not meant to shrink my God given space on earth and if words are what he has in mind for me, then I am ready. Use me. Nothing you are reading now was planned. The words came on their own. A simple image, a win and an acceptance speech, triggered them too and I am loving this phase of my life, one word at a time. Though tomorrow may be uncertain, for today, and always, I intent to fully write what scares me.

We have been holding our breathe for Amanda Gorman’s book since January. We finally got a copy of it this part Friday. The title: Change Sings. It begins with a little girl holding guitar, strumming a tune, as if to begin belting how change sings, how not to fear too for its coming. Next, we see her walking through a prism of colors and words that inspire change. There is even an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as the little girl dreams with the cries of true dreamers. And so the story begins. The little girl slowly assembles other young people just like her hoping for a change that sings, long for it’s it’s mysteries, it’s history, collective strength and light that each day brings. We awaken to love when change sings, to courage when change sings, to tolerance of differences that roar and springs when change sings. But the beauty of this story is that change has always been there, inside of you and me, growing like a seed, something the world needs, something we too can sing along too, for change, it’s gifts, it’s mysteries, are all ours when we give it a fighting chance. Clearly we love this book. Keep a change that sings for you and me.

I waited a day to write this. I waited to see if anyone would remember. I searched Google. The local news in Birmingham didn’t forget. It was the 58th anniversary. 58 years of flowers that could have bloomed, yet cut too soon, gone too soon. The youngest among them, Carole Denise McNair, only 11 at the time of the bombing would have turned 69 this year. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson, all 14 at the time, would have been 72. There lives were cut short because of hate. And 58 years later, only 3 sites, 2 of them, local news sites remembered. These are times when words don’t come. Yet for the sake of history, these are times when words are all we have, since their story, their history, are cut from books that should have their stories. We still live in times of hate, where lives so fragile, are cut so soon, with so many gone too soon, that we fail to remember where the sun set to soon. Yet their memories, even their stories of flying and sailing away to soon, to a place, to love that replaced hate, something so unfamiliar to date, is the keep I choose to remember in this space. Their lives may have been short, their deaths even quick, but none of that was in vain, Toni Morrison wrote in her book ‘Remember.’ I agree. I so agree.

From Toni Morrison’s Book ‘Remember.’

Something about a new school year keeps me hungry and restless to learn something new. A new strategy, a new framework, a new innovation, a new story. This school year, I am taking lessons from the master storyteller herself. Though she is gone, Toni Morrison’s many many literary treasures continues to teach and inspire and help me soar to new heights, new possibilities, new dreams. Today, I am dreaming of a time when schools began the tumultuous journey to integration. Many may take it for granted that black and white children can go to schools together today. But there was a time this wasn’t the case. Toni Morrison’s book ‘Remember’ is a historical work for young people, full of archival photographs that depicted what happened after the U.S Supreme Court declared segregation in schools unconstitutional.

Through a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of students who lived through the era, Morrison reminds us all to remember because and as she noted, ‘it’s the mind’s first step towards understanding.’ And so we begin a journey towards remembering, towards a time where there was as much hate as there was love, as much anger as there was hope, as many heroes as cowards. This fictional account of ordinary people living ordinary lives takes us to new journey, new friendships, new kinds of fear, and old kinds of emotions. A wide road maybe ahead, but the path towards it was narrow, often closed, before we even see a path. This was also a time when children had to be braver than their parents, when pastors, priests and rabbis walked with strangers. It’s this time that I choose to remember. Not because of the difficulties of this period, but more so for the path that unfolded, the brave people, brave children that walked through them, through closed doors into possibilities that make today glimmer with hope. We cannot forget this time and I urge whoever you are reading this to keep remembering too.

I was greeted by roses today. Crimson-eyed ones. China ones too. Each had a story to tell. A symbol to sell. Crimson-eyed ones are precocious, full of color, full of life, a colorful life. China ones are love personified, plus full of happiness, full of beauty, a beautiful happiness. Such was my Monday morning. A wish for life that is colorful. A prayer for life that is beautiful. A wishful prayer so precocious, so lovely. My prayer for you. I was greeted by roses today. Crimson-eyed ones and China ones too. May their beautiful colors, keep your life full.

China roses
Crimson-eyes rose mallow.

I cherish the boisterous Black Angel that drives me. It’s ups and downs help protect the place where my power rises. Today, I let it rise beyond the sources of pains it’s leaves behind, sources of grief too. I let it eat, the few things that sustain me, like smoky hot party jollof rice and deep fried croaker fish. These details are not for you to be misled. They are for me to remember to keep what sustains me. To keep the memories from what passes through, the people who pass through too. This weekend, it was our bosom friend from Georgia, Tony. We met back in 2017, shortly after baby number 3 was born. He had a bad case of respiratory viral infection and he was only 2 weeks old. We met in the emergency room too. We have been tied in the hip ever since. This weekend he came all the way from Georgia to pay his condolence visit. To know him and his family, is to know love. A deep love, that is forever eternal between our families. We may not see for years, but when we connect, his love sustains, like smoky hot jollof rice and fish. These are the people that matter and this weekend I learnt once more to keep what sustains me. We are forever keeping Tony and his family in our hearts.

It’s time for new dreams, new stars to pursue, new light to seek out in this mysterious pulse we call life. I started to write a reflection piece yesterday. About auto-ethnography as lists and how it changed my life. Then I let the words speak and they spoke as they wanted too, highlighting unsuspecting dimensions, just as gentle as soothing breeze.

I did then and now still believe in the power of words, their power with pushing forward the highest in us, including all we inhibit inside our minds until they come to the surface. Starting this list of things to keep literally changed my life and for the better. It spoke to my joys and my hurdles with being a mother in academia. It also spoke to my doubts, and of course my fears, but mostly importantly circles of thoughts completed, many of which were like melodies from heaven for many unmeasured silences of being a mother, being black and being female in academia. In the end, these lists helped me to stay focused on what matters to me. The rhythms of life well lived on one’s own terms. Not the accolades, not the grants, and yes not even the papers or work. All of that is minimal in comparison to the blessings, the legacies that outlive what we do, long after we are gone. And we are all going to leave one day.

So this list is more so about that inner dialogue we all have within ourselves, I had within me, a private journey to my own truths of what matters to me, what I want to be known for, and how somethings, some people, some ideas, some hurdles, all of them combined, helped to restory my life one list at time. All of that combined helped to raise the possibilities of storytelling for me, hence why it’s time for new dreams. The talented and prolific author and poet Ben Okri is my guide and his profound and enchanting book of the same title is my inspiration. The destination, as with this lists, remains unknown. But I look forward to exquisitely crafted ideas that speak to the beauty and triumph of a being a black mom in light.