What happens when you become antiracists. I woke up early today and wrote a series of what I call what happens. Derrick Bell was to blame. I wanted to use them to teach my daughter about symbols, about failure, about questions, about life in general, but most of all what happens when she becomes anti-racist. I finally got to the end of Derrick Bells ‘Faces at the Bottom of the Well’ and I couldn’t help but now become a true believer in the permanence of racism.

Derrick Bell

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, this idea that justice for faces at the bottom of the well can’t actually be won in the United States. I bought this book last year at the height of all the racial reckoning and kept keeping it at a distance, not ready to confront the reality I knew was nestled within the pages of this book. Until this weekend. This weekend, I confronted the bitter truth of racism in America with the finest legal scholar that ever lived. I can see why people laughed it off when he once shared his opinion. Few people are prepared to confront this harsh reality about life in this country. ‘If racism is permanent, what is the point of the struggle’ as Michelle Alexander points out in her foreword. Granted accepting the permanence of racism does not mean accepting racism itself. Bell himself suggested this as well. His book has so many truths lurking for today, especially whether the battle can ever be won. And so for those who choose to become antiracists, know these truths about racism stated so eloquently by Derrick Bell:

That the cause is greater for those who choose hope rather than despair.

Those who recognize the futility of action and the conviction that something must still be done.

Those who know racism is permanent, not fleeting.

Those who see it in their real lives, not in sentimental minds.

Those who choose survival, rather than being silent.

Those who choose light rather than darkness.

Those who choose freedom rather than bondage.

Those who know there is no giving up, even as history continues to unfold.

Those who choose to be counted as antiracists for as long as racism exists.

For them, there is still hope, still meaning, even in this struggle to become antiracists.

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.

Few bear witness to power within Black girls. Even very few celebrate it too. Yet black girls who are celebrated today, will be celebrated tomorrow and always. Today, I celebrate my daughter. She shared papers she received from school today. One after the other, they showed how terrific she was, whether with geography or spelling or basic reading. She was delighted to share her scores. I told her I was proud but better yet, I asked her how she felt. Her response: While she was taking these tests she was nervous. But now, she felt good about the scores because they show how she overcame her fears. As I listened to her, I was suddenly in awe of her intense awareness of fear and how to overcome them. She is only 9. Yet, this inward realization of her strength as applied to the outward celebrations of her tenacity is a treasure that surely must be supported at all cost, protected too. For black girls who know they are terrific today, will surely be legendary tomorrow. Keep being terrific my child.

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.

My son has begun to leave traces of his drawings and coloring everywhere. He loves drawing these days because Mo Whilems taught him how to draw a pigeon trying to drive a bus. He also loves coloring because alpha blocks are zesty and full of colors. They taught him how to color within alphabet known as blocks. It’s as if he has begun an endless hunger for art. But it’s his art assignment at school that has me mesmerized this morning. Coloring or drawing didn’t come naturally or easy to him. Here is a boy for whom coloring between the lines or within spaces was a chore. There were assignments full of coloring that he never really completed, never really understood, and saw as a waste of time, if as things to assign. The colors he placed rather haphazardly disturbed nothing, moved nothing too. From then on, coloring became a chore, another thing to do, another thing, often described as boring, this thing that we bore into him.

Pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
Alpha block

Until this summer, our summer of light, our summer full of discoveries. It was this summer, one with no therapy, that my son discerned for himself, the intimate sustained surrender to art for art’s sake. In the absence of demands, through frames that are separate, yet particular, a pigeon, alphablocks, and now the Virgin Mary, this thing that was once boring, complements his minds’s many dazzling ways, deepening an enduring desire to do more, be more, involved yes, but consumed more with what he creates with his own hands. A pigeon, alpha blocks, even the Virgin Mary all pry open the pages of his intriguing mind. His art, has become now, more important, than his silence, more important than days where his mind frays or melts down. This is a keep worth reliving over and over again, one where his art is becoming life, one frame at a time.

Virgin Mary

I asked him, why he even painted Virgin Mary brown. Most depictions are of a fair lady, fairer than the white of snow. His is only 7 years and I am fascinated with how he depicts humanity. His response as clear as a sunny day: because she is supposed to be brown. I don’t take this response lightly. His mind is a puzzling masterpiece to all of us that know him intimately. To see this journey, to watch as he follows his path, through art, through colors, through people, is to see possibilities with minds on a spectrum. All of us that are typical have so much to learn from children on the spectrum, whether from their thoughts on pigeons, or alpha blocks or Virgin Mary. Don’t wait for society to tell us how they should act or speak or even react to ways that are untypical to a typical mind. Each of us are destined to use the skills we have to meet minds that dream of days were dreaming is life’s streaming, this beaming in need of more esteeming. I am learning each day that those of us with the privilege to see how the brain works differently are the lucky ones. How each coloring, each drawing becomes a thing worth keeping is my prayer for you, for me, a desire for what to come when we all keep coloring. Keep it, because it’s what you, we, are all supposed to do.

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.’

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.