Not only did I teach my virtual class today, but I also took my 4 month old to his doctor’s appointment. The day started like every other Tuesday, with a packed work schedule, homeschooling 3 kids, and my son’s afternoon appointment all on my mind. Why, then, one wonders, are working mothers experiencing what can only be described as burnout, as parental stress is high, demands from the family spill over to other spheres of life, while the global pandemic continues to exacerbate? We are in a mess, you know, with no end in sight for the next 70 days until new leadership is sworn in next year. I’m am honestly exhausted, although the recent Pfizer news of a vaccine that is 90% effective gives me hope. But we still have to get out of this mess and only our individual systems of support will save us for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

At our 4 month appointment.

Merriam-Webster defines support as the ability ‘to endure bravely or quietly, or to bear.’ These days, we must do all we can to provide sufficient strength for mothers to endure what is unbearable, to keep going despite their undertaking, despite the demands of work and life. That’s what happened for me today. Despite being exhausted, despite feeling tired and not able to function after teaching and my son’s appointment, during yet another meeting after rushing home from the appointment, one of my colleagues volunteered to take up duties that I could not endure quietly anymore. The support was necessary, appreciated, and I was grateful.

At our 4 month appointment.

It was a reminder that if we don’t acknowledge all forms of support working mothers need or get, whether big or small, if we don’t give them the help to endure bravely or bear quietly all the stressors they face at this moment in history, then we will support ourselves and the things we will endure and the things we will bear will destabilize all that you know about how mothers thrive, or how they cope with work and motherhood. Support would be liberating however; support would allow more dialogues, more listening, knowing that how mothers cope maybe useful, may enhance knowledge on the bravery, the strength of being mothers who work or the endurance of workplaces with mother. It is for this reason I say, keeping uplifting working mothers, if not for anything, but so we all listen and learn how to endure bravely in a chaotic world.

Today marks day 60 into my writing journey. This past month was difficult and draining and the last thing on my mind was writing. The idea of not writing was equally devastating. So I tried my best to write. I knew I had a story to tell, another keep worth fighting for, worth writing about, albeit one sentence at a time. Homeschooling was finally getting to me and so was work. There were far more deadlines, far more appointments, far more meetings to attend, all of it tiring. But I knew I had to write about these experiences. Like focusing on the people that matter as I journey through this thing called life. It for them that my writing makes the most sense. My children’s clothes with subtle messages such as radiating kindness or keep being tiny but might, continue to be daily inspiration to me.

Then there was the End SAR movement in Nigeria. Nigerian youth reminded us all why leadership matters. It matters for ending police brutality. It matters for ending corruption. It matters for addressing the trouble with Nigeria which continues till this day. I knew I had to write because I didn’t like what was going on and someone had to put it in words.

But just when I felt like losing hope, I was reminded by my children to always focus on the bright side. Like when my son was kicked out of school at age 2, couldn’t speak even at age 3, but wants to be an astronaut and knows all the planets and their possibilities at age 6. The bright side was better. It helped me write. So I wrote about claiming one’s space in life, spreading love with meal trains, rethinking the possibilities of motherhood, celebrating the audacity of being black and female and why winning for our children matters. The bright side was excellent to me.

My everyday keep, with subjects so dear to me, stories that allow me to be vulnerable, or stories often not described or taken seriously, are the reasons why I write. No one writes about the daily struggles or joys of working mothers. I can’t even think of a book or a magazine dedicated to our lives, our views. Despite this past month being very difficult and draining, I knew I had to write. I wrote so that I can read my own experiences, reflect on it, recharge where I must or release what must go, from my mind, into words, everyday, until everything is clear to me. Reading about these experiences is excellent to me. Though the struggle with writing remains, I approach the next 30 day with confidence, for the bright side, is now always on my mind.

Little children won yesterday. Regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity, all children won. They won when we elected a President who quoted one of my favorite Catholic hymnals. The idea that God was quoted during a President-elect speech, and how he would raise us all up on eagles wings, won my soul. This truly was the battle of the nation’s soul and good won yesterday triumphantly. Then there was my favorite chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Specifically Ecclesiastes chapter 3 versus 1-8 won yesterday. The very first verse even reminds us of how everything that happens, happens at the time God chooses. This reminder and the idea in verse 3 that the time for healing has arrived, won yesterday. Healing won yesterday.

Representation also won yesterday. All forms of it. From the youngest ever elected senator, now turned oldest ever elected President. Then there was the first Professor as our First Lady. As a fellow Professor with a zeal for nurturing the next generation of learners, educators won last night and I was exhilarated when we got our very own shout out from the President-elect. Then there was the first woman, the first black woman, the first south-Asian woman, the first Jamaican woman, the first child of an immigrant, the first HBCU graduate to become Vice President-elect. To say I am in awe of this audacious moment is an understatement. Diversity truly won yesterday and it was joyous.

The first black female Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

And just when I couldn’t stop feeling emotional, just when I finally told my daughter to become inspired by her leaders, to say her name and know her name, the leader, Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris explained once more why ‘We the People’ won yesterday. We won for all our children. We won so that they could do as she suggested: ‘Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction. And see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.” Democracy is joyful, full of hope, and dreams when ‘We the People’ lead with character, empathy, love, and respect for one another. That’s what won yesterday, democracy, character, plus good, healing, representation, diversity. They all won for one thing and one thing only, our children. Keep winning for them. They deserve the very best this thing called life has to offer. They also deserve inspirational leaders like Joe and Kamala who won yesterday.

With Georgia quite literally on everyone’s mind this week, I spent the time reading about all the visionaries that made this blue season possible. Almost all of them are black, female and gifted. Like Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project (here). Not only is Nse a proud naturalized citizen, but she was born in Nigeria and raised in Southwest Atlanta. In the middle of a global pandemic, Nse and her organization worked tirelessly to ensure that all Georgians knew that their voices mattered and that these voices needed to be heard through their vote. She used her voice for power, as a vital necessity for existence. And the result is quite simply sterling. Nse is sterling.

Nse Ufot.

Sterling in silence. Sterling in her ability to be silent, but plant seeds for over seven years, seeds that led to 800,000 Georgians registering and flourishing with their vote in 2020. Sterling in her ability to mobilize young people, people of color, women, all sorts of women in Georgia. Sterling with being a strong leading voice, drowning our misinformation that undermines democracies. Sterling in calling out the incompetence of failed leadership. Sterling in her passion for the pain inflicted by the ongoing global pandemic among the very Georgians who continue to bear its brunt. Sterling in her fight to end voter suppression for all.

But Nse is also sterling in survival. Sterling with surviving the election of 2020 that has Georgia quite literally on everyone’s mind. Sterling in working with other black female leaders (I will reflect on all of them this week) to do the unthinkable with making Georgia, a very red state, turn blue for the first time since 1992, during the most pivotal election of my lifetime. Sterling still, post-election in helping to cure votes since Tuesday night before the Friday deadline. Sterling in turning many Georgians singular vote, their hopes and dreams with it, toward survival and change.

Nse Ufot is sterling. She is also a great reminder of how hard black women work, behind the scenes, for years, to transform our silence into a language of survival. Audre Lorde and all the black female leaders who have gone before us (and the black men too) would be so proud of you Nse. Keep being sterling.

This entire week has been exhausting. I am completely drained and fatigued and want everyone and everything to understand this election needs to end. Everyone needs to move on. Count the vote because every vote counts. Then call it already. We all know the winners. We watched as their votes came. Poised and calm, steady hands and heart. They can’t steal it from them. So instead we watch and as we keep facing the truth, they keep filing lawsuits. I will keep praying over our power, over any lawsuit, because surely the truth always prevails.

I went for run through Forest Park today. One of the best things about living in Saint Louis is Forest Park and all its trees with their changing leave colors during the fall season. And the colors are amazing. A display of God’s love for what he calls his own. My kids and I visit the park often and especially on days when the weather is glorious like today. I went running because for the first time in a long time, I needed to encourage myself in his word. Just me and him, one on one, to bask in his love for me like the changing leaf colors on the trees all across Forest Park. There was a time I was truly desperate. I wrote so many grants, often with very few guidance and nothing seemed to stick until 2 years ago when I got the grant of a lifetime. Even then, there were milestones to achieve and some tried to teach me their ways or ignore my own abilities. My story, my journey is not like others. I know why I am on this earth and it’s not to play small. With the help of my co-leaders we didn’t play small. In fact we worked harder than expected and today all that hard work finally paid off. To be young, black and female in academia is probably one of the hardest jobs ever. Few people genuinely believe that you are a leader, many people doubt your abilities, some even see you as a second class citizen and talk down to you or ignore your expertise, but still you persevere. Today I did and ran for me.

I ran through Forest Park like I never ran before because I know like the leaves on this tree, my refuge is the Lord. I ran like I never ran before to thank God for what he has done. Every thing that I have and everything that I am belongs to him alone. I ran to thank him for the journey thus far. I ran because I know the road ahead will not be easy. Songs like ‘Order My Steps’ and ‘Grace’ and ‘The Best in Me’ played on my headphones as I ran. It was the sign I needed from him. I know he is my refuge and shelter even when things may make no sense. I ended with ‘All things are working’ for my good as they are. This tree with leaves in yellow was a reminder of God’s love for me. If he can care for the birds in the sky or trees with leaves that were once green and now yellow, how much less for me. Keep encouraging yourself in him, he sees the best in you always.

The past 24 hours has been exhausting, draining, but defiantly optimistic. We have all waited patiently for every vote to count. We all see how impossible it is to even engage in dialogue with those that still choose to divide us. But even these divisions are tiring. Americans desperately needed a change and millions of people casted their ballot, waited in long lines, just so out votes count. And now as the end seems close, I am extremely pleased with the outcome and the opportunity to say the words Vice President Kamala Harris. The sheer audacity of her victory is enormous and history must commend her for running a fine campaign with President Joe Biden. Because of her, any other girl or woman can aspire for that highest office and not survive but also triumph as a female leader this country desperately needed.

History must also commend every black woman who organized, who worked tirelessly, unprovoked but determined to ensure that a black woman leads this nations highest office. Her victory is very much ours. Just when they think we have nothing to offer, even when they think we are silent, or nasty, we plant, little seeds here, little seeds there, working hard, from one post to the other, always aspiring to the best we know we can achieve for ourselves and all those around us and we work hard. Every one underestimates how hard the black woman works behind the scenes, even when they seem silent. Until the time comes to survive and boy are we glorious when we survive. Today was a triumphant day for all black women and because of Vice President Kamala Harris, we can all defiantly flaunt and celebrate just who we are. The seriousness of all she accomplished in her lifetime warrants us, no commands, that we celebrate being black and female in America. I celebrate her today and forever for making me hopeful, for getting us out of this mess, for helping me to dream once again of the audacity of being me.

I waited 2hours and 10 minutes to vote. In 2020, even in the middle of a pandemic, there are still so many unnecessary hurdles to exercise one’s right to vote. I woke up at 6am, excited to vote, knowing that my vote may not make a difference in my state, but I still got ready, and left the house. By the time I stood in line, it was 6:30 am. Although the polls opened at 6am, we were not moving. In fact the line was at a standstill at 6:30am and growing.

The wait begins!

Immediately I had to make a decision. To stay in line or go back home. To stay in line or return home to start the days activities with homeschooling. To stay in line or cancel my own lecture for doctoral students for the day. All these thoughts were running through my head because the lines were not moving. Then I thought about the pandemic, truth versus lies, health care, science versus fiction, morality, truth versus lies again, climate, change versus denial, economy, crisis versus long-term crisis, the list goes on and on. The issues are endless and the only thing that matter was to stay in line. So I did.

A long line to vote.

I canceled my son’s morning homeschooling sessions. I made contingency plans for canceling my own classes. I prepared to hunker down and wait in line until I voted. This is in a red state, a state that should already belong to the incumbent, still voting was cumbersome and by this time it was only 7am. So I started to document my experience. The lines were still growing. But we waited. Some people drove up, drove away. But we waited. We complained, we loathed the difficulties inherent with the system. And still waited. Some asked how long, and we heard 1 hour, 30 minutes, others said 2 hours. Still we waited. We waited, because our lives depended on this vote. We waited because we need to get to the bottom of this pandemic. We waited to exercise our right to vote.

Almost at the door!

We voted because as a global health researcher, as a public health researcher, the truth matters, public health matters and science, not fiction matters. We waited because our singular vote matters on this day, for myself, for my family, for my state, for this country. We waited despite all the unnecessary hurdles, despite only 2 voting machines in our location. We voted so that we could participate in this thing we call democracy. Keep waiting in line even if it takes 2 hours as I did today or longer. Wait. Your vote matters.

The most famous holiday in Mexico is today, The Day of the Dead. It’s a day were large numbers of tourists descend upon Mexico to watch a range of artistic displays, carnivals, even ritual performances all around the theme of death. Plus there are skulls, lots and lots of skulls and skeletons too, all confronting mortality in ways that honor the deceased. Some have described this day as Mexico’s obsession with death, a fondness for dying and reverence for the deceased. Today is also Mexico’s version of the Roman Catholic celebration of All Souls Days. A day we celebrate the souls of people like my father and my father in-law from whom we are able to flourish.

Stanley Brandes in his article entitled ‘Is there a Mexican View of Death,’ noted how today is so salient in Mexico than anywhere else, as a form of national identity, an effective way to create and maintain ethnic and national boundaries in an era of globalization’s where boundaries become porous. But it’s the ubiquitous presence of skulls, in whimsical colors and humor, as an aesthetically pleasing acceptance of death that makes this day unique and creative for me. For art today, my son took a stab at creating his version of a skull mask to celebrate the day. Any color was permissible, whether blue teeth or red shaped heart nose, or purple eyes or flowers in orange or green, so long as it made him happy, we were pleased. Perhaps the skulls are living. Perhaps they are dead. We, like the skulls celebrated today, are the ones who need color, to continue to fulfill our roles on earth, from one descendant to another, as we confront life, confront our living. Keep coloring the dead, keep coloring life, today and beyond.

One of the greatest burden and gift of living through this pandemic is homeschooling. It’s a burden. Simple. Ask any mother currently homeschooling any child and they will list all the burden. For me, my list is long, but I’ll spare you the trouble and focus on one-Attention. Attention is difficult for a six year old especially through a technology we restrict for play but allow for education. Attention is also hard for an 8 year old especially when siblings in the next room are crying because they loathe math or reading or even science via Zoom. Then there is the 3 year for whom attention is very minimal at this age. Attention for him is a chore especially when it comes to watching any school related materials on Zoom or remembering sight words he read out loud less than a minute ago. Like I stated above, homeschooling and it’s insistence on focused attention from children is burdensome.

My son and his sister watching an African storyteller telling African stories

But learning, all forms of learning that has occurred during this period of schooling at home is one of the greatest gifts my family and I have received as a result of this global pandemic. Learning for us is a gift, part of our natural existence not restricted by any curriculum or any agenda. Not a forced activity imposed by any professional or occurring in isolated spaces. Learning, unapologetically realized, recognized, is done everyday at home, insides spaces without walls, through lens never needing to be closed, from the pirate stories, to astronaut goals or even scary mummies all for example, for Halloween celebrations yesterday. Learning for my six year old for example, occurs through interactions with his siblings on a daily basis, something formal education would have restricted or curtailed by now. For him, it’s in the way he politely asks for his turn. That’s all. Interaction is a big developmental task for him and the opportunity to learn at home has instilled asking politely for his turn with a laptop, a book, even the last piece of chicken on the table. He politely asks before proceeding to do anything.

A pirate, an astronaut and a mummy.

For my 3rd grader, learning is expressive. Like the way she draws everything for every occasion like Halloween yesterday, a black cat and jack-o-lantern. Or the way she took a short story she wrote and made it into a chapter book, now with 12 chapters and counting. But as if that’s not all, learning, especially our poetry sessions once a week is about normalizing the mistakes she makes with reading poetry, repeating the process over and over, despite whatever setbacks she feels, until she becomes comfortable, even confident with the words and her understanding of the power of language. For my junior kindergartener (also for his brother and sister) learning occurs within a complex network of people, places, nature, and things. Like with our Sunday walk around the amazing Forest Park in search of the Dinosaur Park (will make a keep story of this soon) or with making leaf man out of dry leaves he picks along our walks during this glorious Fall season. Learning is everywhere, something he does everyday, without any curriculum, just part of his daily living.

My daughter’s Halloween drawing.

These are the gifts homeschooling has given to my family. Learning for us is part of our DNA, fundamentally connected to our everyday existence. Beyond this pandemic, I intend to do my part to keep affirming my children’s learning in this way.