I am in love with Nikita Gill’s Where Hope Comes From. It’s my go to guide for healing and light. And her poem How to be Strong is one of my favorites. There are no rules when you are already strong. Your strength is within you, always no matter the obstacles you face. The idea that strength is already within me is the keep I truly need for these crazy days. Enjoy.

Our ancestors are our first audience. Christell Roach reminded me of this yesterday. They have stories long forgotten and must be told by us their legacy that remain. So here is my attempt with that.

I have tried to understand my creation story. Tried to know on whose shoulders I stand. My father’s side has plenty empty holes. Of his father, his mothers, and all the ancestors that came before him. The only thing I am left with is his surname, Iwelunmor , an Igbo name which means ‘anger never reaches my soul.’ So from him, I am never supposed to be angry. And if I ever get to the point where anger hijacks my thoughts, my words, my actions, then I must stop short still with letting it reach my soul. That is the extent of my father’s side that I hold on to too. It gives me hope.

My mother’s side, has holes too. Mainly with her father, but especially with her mother. I am always drawn to every single thread of information I glean about her life. For starters, she was an orphan with 2 siblings, a brother and a sister. I am unclear of when her parents died, except she was young and was subsequently raised by her uncle. Then we were told she married my grandfather, a chief, early and without the support of his people. So their marriage was never fully recognized. Their marriage also never bore any children in the early days which gave my grandfather and to the joy of his people, the right to marry more women. He did. Not just one, but two. They would go on and give him numerous children and my grandmother, watched all of this and even joined in raising those children. That she still persisted to have her own is the creation story I long to complete for myself.

I know she persisted as we are the evidence of her persistence. I would not even be here writing this at this moment if she gave up. So nestled within my DNA, long before I would become, is the insistence to persist. That creation story had gotten me through many periods of self-doubt and despair. I exist literally because my grandmother persisted. So who am I not to do the same. But even with this story, there is still an aspect of her life that I still want to know, the how and why? The how because it took her 20 years to give birth to my mother and why because 20 years is a long time to never give up. The how too because this was a time of no artificial insemination. There were no hospitals and, well, a water goddess has a hand in my creation story. So I exist because my grandmother met a water goddess who gave her some potions that enabled her to give birth to my mother. I stand before you, in full bloom, birthed by the hands of a water goddess.

My grandmother!

So now I am obsessed with this story. I long to bear witness to this power of persistence and Christell Roach and her lecture on Storytelling as a tradition on witness, is my guide. Our light festival did more than I could ever imagine yesterday. It got me up today thinking in essence about child birth in a time where women were lucky to have any form of hospital or maternal care. That my creation story is tied to maternal, child health is my muse now with public health storytelling that all I can say is stay tuned. I am in the business of storytelling now and I will do like Outspoken Bean suggested and begin anywhere. Welcome to the fire that our first LIGHT festival has lit within me and stay tuned for next year. We are coming with more fire.

We are coming with FIRE for public health!

My eyes judge your fullness in delight. Ten years of coming into your light. On the day we dedicated you to the universe, the day we raised you up to the one who first loved you, surrounded by all those who loved you, I imagined this for you. I still do for today and tomorrow.

How it began!

That you will remain as beautiful as the day of your birth. That your days will be as as lovely as the sun. And your nights as majestic as the moon. That you would shine as bright as the stars and remain as breathtaking as the clouds in the skies. That you would remain as gentle as the morning breeze or as heavenly as summers rain. That you would soar beyond your wildest dreams and tower above the tallest trees. That they will speak of you in distant places and marvel at your kindness and gentle spirit. That your smile may melt the hearts of people and your presence enrich their lives. That you would dance like angels dance and let the most high guide you every step of the way. That you will succeed in everything you do and never give up when things become hard. That you will never forget who you are and cherish every beautiful moment on earth. But above all, may your rhythms continue to capture our spirits. May you continue to bloom within, like peonies in Spring. May grace, joy, peace, love and happiness be with you always and may good things and beautiful things follow you all the days of your life.

10 years later!

I find myself spurred to relieve moments long forgotten with you. Day and night in June in Paris seems like eternity with you. Like resting underneath canopy trees at Bercy gardens with you. Or running our hands through silver-colored birch trees with you. Reuilly Diderot, Avenue Daumesnil may sound strange to you. But they hold memories of times with you, the beginning of you too, I will never forget. Thanks to dear friends like Richard who love you just as you are, our dear Belle.

At Bercy gardens then!
Same spot now!
Love you to the moon Richard! Thank you for being there from Day 1 through pregnancy with Belle and now

Nearly 10 years ago this week, I embarked on a journey that changed my life. It was grounded in love. The kind that liberated your heart to do anything. My life has become radiant, joyful, light, all because I found love. It’s this love that I seek to speak about this week, to awaken my heart once more to never forget the first memories of becoming a mother. Come with me all week as I take a trip down memory lane with becoming a mother for the first time.

In the beginning.
And then there was just two of us!

A son found his mother, slumped on the floor one night, stiff, unresponsive. He picked her up, thinking she slipped and fell, maybe from a heat stroke, a stressful day, and laid her gently on her bed. Not before he put a cool towel on her forehead and kissed her cheeks as he bade her good night.

The next morning, the son went to check on his mom. He found her just as he laid her, stiff, unresponsive, only this time, life became more urgent. Not his, but for a mother who lived and slumped, as if life never meant anything, as if all it seeks is to leave you stiff, and unresponsive too.

Stroke by stroke, each hour is a gift. Piercing through life, each moment fragile. Now son buries a mother, he first saw stiff, unresponsive. A mother departs, not as she came or lived, despite giving life to sons and daughters who still live.

I am wise enough to see that this mother could be anyone who forgets first to live. So with each passing day, I beg mothers anywhere, do what makes you smile. Cherish sunsets and long walks alone. Be friends with friends who make life glorious till the last call on a Friday evening. Laugh through ice creams and daffodils. Kiss foreheads of little ones and big ones you love. Live so life never finds you stiff and unresponsive.

Lucille Clifton always had the best images of black mothers. This is one of hers I love.

I write at a crossroads of a life that has known pain, felt anger, cherished joy, and carried the idea of sustaining anything as urgent. I write too from a place of commitment, a mind that has known what it means to transform and be transformed, all while identifying and defining what life means to me. I have never taken the path others take. I have never done things only to regret them later. I have lived as though life could end tomorrow. I have dreamed as if dreaming was air, living, lying awake, on a bed of green grass as soft blue skies and clouds glide by. I have done these things and still I choose to write. These days, writing is all I know. So I write for connections between and among women, the most feared, the least understood, those tender, sharp and unafraid with eyes startling and ready to transform. Truly I write for the most transformative being that ever existed. I write so she lives, whether as a woman by herself, a sister, a friend or a mother. Today I write to myself and all the women we celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day

Four times, have I known pain. Child birth would bring pain so unbearable that you scream from the deepest depths of your soul. Four times have I screamed. To hold lives so complex, with smiles all for me. The piercing cries of restless children that test all you know. Especially at night, in middle of a deep sleep that forces you to stroll aimlessly for their needs. I always smile when today comes along. Not for the love I see in my girl and my boys, my better me, but for the journey we get to take. Nothing sets me so high than a reminder of all we have been through. The journey we still take through tears and dreary darkness. Those to Andy’s frozen custard for pleasure in a cup and spoon. These things, this rush of beauty and pain are the heart of motherhood for me. We knew there would be pain. The beginning was full of it. We knew pain will continue. Today still has some, lurking to uncover unknown and hidden spaces. We have tried to be strong. Tried to be our best selves so they too stand and be strong on their own. We have laughed and we have cried. We have laid down in mourning for an angel, and a bird we named Sky. They know good things never last. Like blue birds named Sky. They know too that we are in this moment together. A unique group we are. With birds and lilly magnolias. Grass so green, skies so blue that all we can do is lie down and let life be. We are living together for this moment. The skies paint an everlasting blue color. We look at each other, hoping this moment lasts forever.

Rain falls from the skies to the earth. Falls down to rivers and lakes, to flowers and trees all from skies open and free. Today I am free. I stand, not afraid to be me. To see the rain that have fallen for the past 8 years, where nothing seemed to stop all in my soul. To feel like flowers do. Tulips and daffodils, Japanese Cherry and lily magnolias. Rain with soul fall over all these like water over rivers not troubled, not alone. The directions I have taken to get here. Nights full of sleeping less, and yet still full of rest. The children I had birthed through this. The love and support of a fearless crocodile of the jungle will never do, when all you know is rain. My mind wants to speak. Joy wants to flow. A little girl dreamed and lived out her wildest dreams just as she dreamed it would be. I am close to becoming my dream. Close to swinging through to the other side where dreams become reality, yet mindful that we never stop dreaming. The falling rain, gentle streams, crocodiles and flowers are all the strength, I need to begin again like when colors of a rainbow meet. To see I own even my silence, with all the blessings, with eyes still on the prize, is the rain I need to keep falling endlessly.

Art from my daughter.

Being rooted in all I do is free. I know my roots. I know my struggles too. I have lived through their lessons. Freedom takes a long time. With despair and fear, and a sprinkling of failure buried deep within. I have seen darkness of what it means to work. Roots buried deep only know dark. They know too that light takes time. I am beginning to know light. Both have taken a long time that I know first hand when the rain began to fall on me. I know too that you do not talk to a horse and wait for it’s reply. Whether it’s falling rain or neighing horses, I can testify that words are not enough to describe work. Neither are sentiments on papers. Only stories will do. Only the stories, with inward testimonies, of all the ways you reconciled shattered dreams with hopeful visions will do. Now that my roots pierce deeply into the soil, I look forward to shaming the devil as I speak my truth.

Image from Lucille Clifton’s Everett Anderson’s Goodbye personifies how I feel these day. I know my roots.

I am overwhelmed and tired. Trying to stay focused but exhausted. I feel like I am running a race that never ends. I want it to end, but I keep running. There will be days like this I am told. Today is one of those days, I see. Nothing brilliant to say expect that all I need right now is rest. This maybe the most brilliant thought I have held all day.