Illuminating. That’s my word for the day.

I am intrigued by its meaning. Webster’s defines it as providing insight and clarity. Becoming highly informative too.

Macmillan was my preferred definition. The idea of providing new and useful information so that something becomes clearer and easier to understand makes the word an important tool to which to speak to you to today.

I am a black woman coming to terms with my illumination. I am forever in search for ways to make things I love to do seem easy to understand, seem clear, and full of insight and not just for me, but for you, whoever you are reading this now in search of new insight to things that truly incite.

Like light. What is it about this word that keeps me returning back to it? It’s almost like I want to scream it out to the world with all my might. I just might too with precision and clarity.

For we have been in darkness for too long. We have done things as people truly blind to the world. We have not made efforts or strides to illuminate spaces and places in desperate need for light.

I am first to admit that part of my world has been in darkness for too long, under the shadows of the word and worlds of others for too long and still so eager to push through the darkness towards things that are illuminating for as long as I can.

Like the idea of being a black mom in light. A black woman in light.

I know whose I am is the first mantra. I know it from my hair follicles to the soles of my feet. Nothing I do is by accident. It is all by design, all written from the first moment I was conceived. I know whose I am is all I say with clarity on days when darkness seeks to envelope my world. On those days, knowing that I was made by design helps push light through.

The second mantra, make your case known. Do your best to push for light. You will fail in the process. Do so gracefully. Become prepared to make failure even a habit. I have no problem failing on my way to making light known. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden no matter how hard darkness seems to engulf the city. And there will be darkness. You will even go through the deepest depths of darkness. But when you remember who designed you, who first called you, then even the darkness is not dark enough for him.

Your ways are not my one is the third mantra. You want me to do it this way. Great, but what if I tried this way too. Ooh I will fail. I chuckle. Failure is always an option when you are a black mom, a black woman in light. It’s our second mantra for crying out loud. So yes, I will do it my way and I am prepared to fail daily until my way makes sense. It has to for I know whose I am.

Finally what’s your legacy? What is the institution that you are building and how will you make it last? This fourth mantra keeps me up at night. Not because I have the answers but because I care deeply about the stories the legacy will tell long after I am gone. I care deeply about the thoughts, the actions, even the words that I hope will speak louder for me, more eloquently than anything would. I care deeply about the spaces we build, the places that nourish our being, for what we own, what we build, our very own Institutions and structures cannot be broken when we build it with light. What’s your legacy becomes a clarion call for what being in light truly entails.

It’s for them afterall. Our legacy. Those we have asked to gather around our table, those we called to invade our space, those we choose to make room for in our place, our mind, our heart, our soul.

We cannot all going through this life together. I get it. The chapter we may find ourselves in today, will surely end tomorrow. When it does, who remains, who leaves?

I care deeply about those that choose to remain even when all that surrounds us makes no sense. I care deeply about those that choose to remain even when I hurt them deeply. I care deeply about those that choose to remain because they trust my words, the language I use, even when all I say may be empty. I care deeply about those that choose to remain to help me uncover all the noise, on this road to becoming clear, precise, illuminating, light.

I care deeply about those that see my light. I don’t take it all for granted. This process of becoming light. I care deeply about all of you on this journey. I know some of you read this.

I thank you for listening. I thank you for seeing the vision. I thank you for believing. I thank you for helping me, helping us push through this light that the world desperately needs these days.

Nothing we are doing is by accident. It is all by design. I care deeply that you see it too. Thank you for pushing light through with me. Thank you illuminating my world.

If I am not saying much now with precision and clarity it’s because we just gave birth. We have been in labor since September when this writing began. A 10 month pregnancy that has finally given birth to a dream. To think that I had to do so much writing to make way for this dream is breathtaking to me. To see the people we have assembled is even extraordinary.

These next few months are like those of a newborn. Nothing will make sense. We are still in darkness as it’s takes a while for newborn babies to open their eyes and see faces and shapes and sounds that will forever remain. We are truly newborns at this moment. But in due time, we will crawl, walk, and even run. Until then, keep illuminating the world. It truly needs our light to push through.

I see life as a journey. For some, that journey may take up to 86 years. For others, few months. Last year, my little nephew completed his journey in 10 years. He returned back to the one who first called him, first framed him, first loved him. We all have to return back to him. But the exit of a 10 year old, stings.

Here was a boy, his mother described as her king. An oasis of love, so divine, so beyond the beauty of flowers that bloomed in spring. Their love too was never supposed to end. Always supposed to rise up on eagle’s wing. Yet, perfect submission was all our soul could sing.

This weekend too is bittersweet for all of us living. Life remains a journey that will come to an end. Yet, many still take life for granted, pretending that there is no dead-end. Expending our time and energy for things that even our life can’t seem to comprehend. And when our journey comes to an end, very few remain to commend all we left behind, defend even the time we spent, sowing love that was supposed to transcend time.

I called his mom yesterday. Told her to be strong. That their love is still divine. That his journey, still sublime, even though the end stings, he is still the perfect definition of life lived by God’s design.

She called him her angel. God’s perfect being. Sitting next to the one who first called him. I asked her to send up a prayer to him for me. Remind God of all of us still here, all of us still contending with time, as we comprehend this loss our heart still cannot get over, despite time.

Then she took me on a journey, an oasis of her love for her king. Though, he is gone, she said, something great can still come out of this moment. She imagined it would be an oasis. His very own oasis of light. Where all the memories they had together transcends time. One where all things supposed to end, never truly ends. Like his smile, the warm glow in his eyes when he shines his bright smile. His words, those he reserved for those he loved, because they deserved all his words. Every thing about him was truly perfect and by God’s design.

When love is defended in this way, it never really ends. It begins again, always like a circle that never ends. So she is going to sow an oasis of love. She is going to raise awareness of his love. No other child should end their journey by 10. But if they do, she wants them and their families to remember not how but when, not why too, but when they choose love over and over again. A never-ending oasis, this outpouring of love that truly never ends.

Listening to her, made me realize how connected we all are to love and by extension light. Even in our deepest darkness, in moments that are difficult to comprehend, the pull and push for light transcends time. Like an oasis, the movement towards light never ends. We become light the more we seek it out for ourselves. Our light, does not exist in isolation. Rather they interact and will penetrate moments of darkness in ways that allow us to survive and thrive even as we bend to things our soul can’t fully comprehend.

When we move towards this oasis of light, we are no longer held captive by the firm grip of darkness. We move towards light even when darkness surrounds our journey. Our existence can only manifest great things if we let light flow like gentle waters along rocky streams.

The key is to keep moving, whether along rocky paths or in dark tunnels. Many say it’s at the end of the tunnel. I say it’s right where you are, whether at the beginning, the middle or the end of the tunnel. Light is all around you, so long as you choose to move. A mother’s love, resembles this oasis of light. I saw a glimpse of it as I listened to it being manifested in the words my sister spoke so eloquently with all her heart, all her might.

It’s an oasis after-all. Light invades our being despite our resistance, interrupts all the noise too, often with no assistance, and structures our lives when we choose it as the pinnacle of a supreme persistence for darkness that threatened our very existence.

No other being perceives it in this way. Darkness may come to disrupt it. Death too, in its own final way. But seeking light, doing our best to reach out to it, to clutch it firmly in our hands, is freeing, in it’s own unique way.

We are bound to be in darkness. Our journey through life began in a womb filled with darkness. Yet we thrived despite being surrounded by an air full of darkness. We did so, because of this light inherent in places filled with darkness. So that, even if we watch our children depart before we do, even if we pass through the deepest darkness, their gift back to us, reminiscent of the moment they first came to us, is an oasis of light

This is a mother’s love truly undefined, one my sister has found for herself. One that I hope to live up to, as I continue my journey through life. Keep this oasis of light for all mothers, especially those who bear the unthinkable, unimaginable, unbearable weight of loss. There is still light for them and all of us, even in these moments of loss. Rest In Peace, a perfect oasis of God’s light Kaysen.

I am in the business of light making. It is messy, very complex with turns that keep winding.

When rich countries get 40-60 percent of Covid vaccines and others, especially countries in Africa, get only 3%, you will understand why I choose light.

When racism, especially structural racism is at the heart of why we consider some youth to be deficit rather than as asset, then you will get why I fight for light.

When people are denied deep sleep for centuries, due to trauma inflicted generations ago from the sins of enslavement, then you will understand why deep healing through light becomes the only way.

What would it be like to live in light, to live in a space where the pursuit of our healing is not defined by others but us.

Audre Lorde once noted that ‘our battle is to define survival in ways that are acceptable and nourishing to us, matching it with meaning, substance and style.’

This is my attempt at a doing so, by being a burst of light for public health.

Though the road ahead is rough, I remain committed to this business. It is forcing me to reach out to unlikely partners. The public demands that we do. The public also demands that we listen as we reflect and act on this long-overdue renaissance necessary for public health.

We are convinced that the only way forward is to intentionally put the public back in health. Not in a way that oppresses them or consider them to to be the problem only, but in ways that build, ways that uplift, with every single thing we publish.

I am in the business now of doing what Petteway and Bowleg asked that those of us committed to the public’s health should purse. Not with using the master’s language only, but with using and finding tools that serve the every day realities of all the people we want to serve.

The process is messy, complex too. But I am committed to dismantling the ways we disseminate information on health to the public.

Who needs impact factor when the factor we seek to impact is more important than words that never connect to daily realities.

I am in the business of distributing light instead, not as p values greater than .05, but as people values that allow people to thrive.

I keep wanting to run away from it, to ignore it, hoping that the itch would go away. But I am drawn to it.

To become one with light is bravery undefined, love unfiltered, for possibilities unquestionably misunderstood.

So I follow the paths it illuminates along this way for the course of being different. Everything in my mind says we are on the right course. This feels right too and if I’m not sharing much yet, know that the time has not come for me to unveil all that is happening behind the scenes. But in due time, we will tell the story. Of how brave folks fought for light, with all their might in-spite of the all the fear that held them in a grip so tight.

We pushed through.

For when you are in the business of light making, the only way forward is light making, no matter how long it takes to make the light you seek to inspire.

I am in the business of becoming that leader that will work to ignite the healing and transformation necessary for the public’s health. I don’t have an answer or solution yet. But I want to keep this here for me as a reminder to keep being in this messy, complex business of making light. We just may become the burst or pacemakers for this renaissance.

We are seldom invited to participate in any discourse. Seldom even debated when we are the topic of discussion. I didn’t want to keep this post here but someone has to do it. Not in the way the West portrays it as one side over the other, but to shake my head in disappointment. Our behaviors are always fascinating to others. Always engaging even when we do nothing. And others are ready to catch us when we slip and fall. Not to give us a hand to get up, but to keep us down as they make us the trending story. Keep us down as they write essays that buttress their silly generalizations about us. Keep us down for clicks and likes and shares. We have come to this moment and it’s painful to watch when we have so much to do for our community, our unity.

We are also a people known to have infinite tolerance for differences. We love being different. And we know who we are. That’s why I was stunned with what I read about us today. Not at a time like this. These days we have the freedom to develop without the discretion or dictation of others. There is a part of our lives that is flourishing and continues to flourish unabated. It’s in the space where we use words, our imagination, whether fact or fiction for the uplifting of others. I am in the business of doing this kind of work both professionally and personally through this blog. It’s a glorious freedom that our ancestors never had. We are finally that excellent dream they had long ago. And it’s coming to tatters thanks what I read on NPR today.

I came across a portrayal gone array on NPR with titles that made me cringe. It was on the famed Nigerian Author Chimamanda Adichie and non-binary Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi. It’s not everyday you see profiles of two Nigerian authors. Seeing the title on NPR, broke my heart. ‘Fiery essay, former student’ what could have possible gone wrong and why is there a public feud. Long story short, I spent my afternoon going down a rabbit hole to understand the source of the contention. You can read the NPR article (The Feud Between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie And Akwaeke Emezi, Explained –

When I was done, I kept asking myself, who does this serve in the end? Who is uplifted by this? We all arrive at our conclusion of events in multiple ways, learning each time, I hope. The process, any process of becoming a writer is full of hurdles. So when we do make it, when we become famous or have that voice, why do we betray that process by airing our dirty laundry to folks who could care less about us. I kept repeating this to myself. I ironically came on NPR to read about Biden signing the bill proclaiming Juneteenth a federal holiday and in scrolling down, the post by these authors was prominent. New York Times and the Guardian has a feature on them. Adichie calls them ‘opportunist’ sharing personal emails to buttress her points. They call her ‘agbaya’ or an old fool who has not published a full length book in eight years. Who does this serve? If writing is supposed to be uplifting, transformational, even reverence, who does this serve when talented writers trade insults against each other. No one.

I’m not taking sides. Just in the business of light making and using words to build us and not tear us apart. That should drive anyone in the business of writing these days. We just got through a pandemic of a life time. Shoot we are still in it with all the variants. We are also in a racial reckoning, a youth rising and the least those in power, those with a voice, should do, is be different. Not the same old pre-pandemic ways that serves no one. So if they ever read this, my advice, keep your interior life to yourselves. Move instead towards light. We need more light bringers using words eloquently now more than ever.

I once said to myself, you are in the business of being light. To do so, I became prepared for light to guard my thoughts, my words, my actions and all I profess to be. By light I leaned on words from the Bible: A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. By light, I clinged to these words by Toni Morrison where she asks: ‘Does your face light up when your children walk in the room.’ By light I also dwelled on these words by Chinua Achebe where he noted: ‘not to disparage the day that still has an hour of light in its hands.’ To become light, I was motivated by Ben Okri’s words where he asks that we: ‘infect the world with your light.’ And by light these words by Audre Lorde’s forced me to act: ‘The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live.’

If I am to become light, to truly be in the business of being light, then I knew that I had to be brave enough to see it and be it in my life in the way Amanda Gorman eloquently expressed during the Presidential inaugural address. But here in then lies my greatest dilemma: In being light you will come across places and people and spaces that try their hardest to diminish or put a glimmer in your essence. Your duty is to overcome them. How? By reminding yourself no matter whether you are on the journey alone, that always, you are light. You cannot be hidden. Let your face light up when all things come your way. Whether it’s your children or life and it’s many hurdles. Choose to still light up. For when you do, the whole world will be infected by your light. And the quality of you, your life’s product, will always be light. That’s truly what being in the business of light making entails. That you remain light always, against all odds and infect the world with it. Keep being light always.

Some may never get your ways. That’s okay. Some may say it’s impact is not understood. That’s okay too. Some may say you work too hard and for nothing. That’s truly okay too. In fact not getting your ways or understanding what you do is perfectly fine. So long as you know who you are. So long as you remember always that you are light and so let your light shine. I keep coming back to this on days when things seem out of place not because there will be days when things are perfect but mostly for the days when things make no sense. On those days, on days when things are just as confusing to you and everyone wonders what’s the purpose after all. Tell them I said that it’s because you are light. You cannot be hidden. Even when your ways make no sense. As light, it does. Even when no one understands what you are doing. As light, he knows. Even when it’s impact isn’t as tangible as it should. As light, it is. In the end it’s for his glory. It’s for his praise. We are all called to be the light of the world. All of us are including you. So keep being light especially on days when things seem out of place. For as light, your glimmer, in fact, you cannot be hidden.

Towards the end of last year, I shared a little post about being light. We baptized my last son that day and I was moved by the Priest remarks on why we should all keep being light. Amanda Gorman reminded us once more about being light during the inauguration. As if the universe was conspiring to tell me something, today’s bible verse focused on being light so much so I had to paraphrase it for myself: ‘I am like light for the whole world…I cannot be hidden.’ You are also like light, if only you know it.

When Amanda Gorman shared her mantra the other day on CNN, I was reminded of grad school days when I used to paste several mantras all over my apartment. To get through a PhD process, I highly recommend them. I remember having so many on my mirror in my bathroom and even on the door of my apartment so that before I went outside I reminded myself of my inherent purpose. One that came to mind always was today’s Bible passage about being like light. Even Amanda shared it in her poem. When you are brave enough to be the light, to know that you are light, then absolutely nothing can stop you. The scripture states it so clearly: ‘You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.’ Let that sink in for a moment and re-read my paraphrase again: ‘I am like light for the whole world…I cannot be hidden.’ Keep being light, keep knowing that you are light. You are. That’s why no matter how hard you even try, your light cannot be hidden. Your inherent purpose on earth is destined to shine one day if only you keep knowing you are light. You are. It’s now my new mantra for my children. They are like light and like my baby boy’s picture below, they will not be hidden. He agrees.

Ranyenna you are light.

We baptized our baby boy today in church. It was a small ceremony but perfect for our baby. Our priest was a delight and made the ceremony a thing of pure joy. To welcome a child to the church is a big deal in my family. Covid may have derailed how we usually celebrate this occasion. But looking back at how today went, I would not have it any way. The priest gave my baby a candle, a symbol he said of Jesus to the world. He also prayed that my son may be a light to the world in the way Jesus is to us. I was moved. As I lay here basking in the brilliance of today, all I can share from the bottom of my heart is to keep being a light as well for all to see the glory of God in you.