We remind ourselves, each day, all children are precious. Black, Brown, White, no matter the color, or creed, all children, whether strange or foreign, are precious. Recently, I have been struggling with the reality that some children have nothing precious or valuable within them. I often wonder too what happened to them that at their tender age, they only know hate. To see them seduced by it, to hear glimpses of their hate expressed through actions, such as stepping on another child’s foot for no reason and intentionally, or telling them they don’t belong in certain places or spaces, makes me cringe.

Yesterday, I found myself screaming and giving way to much attention to the spiteful ways of hateful children. Then almost immediately, I felt so sorry for them. I felt so sorry that they don’t know love. I felt sorry that they weigh themselves down with hate. I felt so sorry that they have no place to shed a tear or even be heard. For if they knew love, if they felt it deeply within their heart like all children who are precious and valuable do, then maybe they won’t be as hateful as they are. Or they maybe worse. These are the realities I am slowly learning. That when children bully, that when they go out of their way to be mean to other children, that there are deeper issues at hand, one that begins from a place where no love exists. And I feel so sorry for them.

I pray they find love. I pray they bask in the warm gaze of acceptance for their ways. I pray they learn of it ways, it’s joyfulness and kindness. I pray they see it too in other children. But most of all, I pray they learn one day that they are indeed precious or valuable, even though no one at home tells them so.

And for those who endure their ways, I leave these words for you. I praise you for your valiant struggle. I praise you for asking them why they hate, even though your questions keep leading to more hate. I say always, always ask why. I praise you for your voice. I praise you for speaking up, fighting back, even though they remain least willing to be civil. I praise you for demanding to be heard. I praise you for using your strength to weigh them down with love. I praise you too for feeling sorry for them. No matter how many times they hate, I praise you for looking at them despite their hate. By looking, you teach love. No child that knows love, can look away when others know hate. So I praise you for looking. I praise you for teaching them civility, for reminding them about humanity, for doing the work necessary to love your enemies as your self. You are indeed precious and valuable. Truly remarkable in every single way. And your love, like Dr. Martin Luther King once noted, is the only force that can turn their hate into love. We never get rid of hate by meeting it with hate. Even if they choose to destroy or tear down, that’s what most haters do, I still praise you for transforming their hate into love. For letting your words and your actions speak love. This is a reminder that you are indeed precious and valuable always.

I love thank you cards. I love to read them. Love to see them. Love the humanity inherent in them. I especially love when they come from strangers. My husband gets them all the time. He knows how much I love to see them too. This time, the stranger was more than gracious, so much so that she bought a mug so he never forgets her. I love her for it. Frontline workers are exhausted. The pandemic is unending and we are all tired. To see him sacrifice even his own health to care for others, always makes my thankful for him. To see the grace from the people he helped makes it all worth it. I may not be at the clinic everyday or even at the hospital but every good surgery is felt at home. Bad ones too are felt. But thankful ones hold a special place in our heart. Thank you to all those who take the time to thank frontline workers still. Your grace and thanks is so appreciated.

I want to be that no ordinary kind of woman that meets herself every time through words. To remind her, that because of words, we can survive, live, love, pray, as we escape the unthinkable. These are cold days, but words can lead out to our breakout as we learn what life is. So if I am to live up to my middle name, if I am to bask in the glory of what it means to be named Isioma, then I am prepared to discover all that I am through words. I am prepared to meet myself over and over again, ringing like a bell, of how I survived and survived, because words came and I let them move me, seduce me, transform me, and illuminate all that I am becoming.

It’s our world anyways and we can write till we reach beyond ourselves. I want to write too, every time we meet ourselves. For this gift of writing, this gift of putting our thoughts into words, is a treasure. I am grateful that our cup continues to overflow. I am learning day by day that I live to write. A note, a phrase, a poem, or even a collection of things to keep if only for my sanity in a time of a pandemic. Today, I met myself. Today I went on a long conversation with the woman I am becoming. A storyteller that writes to live. We spoke of our love for words. Our love with putting down all our ideas into words that are pleasing to our soul. We encouraged ourselves too. Like two birds nestling by a stream, we told ourselves that we are doing fine with every single moment we note all the words that come to mind.

I am pledging allegiance to this freedom to write our lives through words we put together. How rare to live a life in words for ourselves first, for our dreams, our love, our heart desires, our morning sunshine, our children as dark as night or for the one called to save us. And words, have been our savior, our Chizoba in a world full of despair for a pandemic that refuses to dissipate.

More than escape, writing is life and a way of being still with ourselves. For we know, he knows the plans for us. The earth may shake. Cities may crumble. But happy are those who tend to life through words. This dancing of the mind, this communion with oneself, is like bread. It continues to give me new strength. And through his words, we are living in the pleasure of discovering and uncovering the plans for ourselves everyday. Writing is like the sun and it continues to set my life everyday. Writing also continues to move me to a place of divine connection to the power working within me. That’s what myself and I concluded and we will continue to choose the path we take, choose to put them in words, all because we know of his love. All we ask is that you continue to breathe on us daily so we make new words in us again and again as we escape from this world again and again.

Langston Hughes has a poem entitled ‘I Too.’ It’s based on Walt Whitman’s classic ‘I Hear America Singing.’ For some reason, I saw the poem today while sifting through my Langston books. It got me wondering, and with all we have endured this year in 2021, just how would America sing? For sure, she would sing of being sick. Omicron has me exhausted. I’m tired and would like to really see the end of the tunnel with this pandemic. I also realize we have a long way to go if we continue along this path of not vaccinating the world. Don’t get me started on those including children under 5 that are not vaccinated. I fear for my kids under 5. Then there are the violence, a 14 year old killed while shopping with her mother, or kids killed at school for doing what they are supposed to be doing, going to school. Then there is poverty. My family and I spent Christmas eve taking care of homeless people in Saint Louis and let’s just say I am overwhelmed. Why can’t we get to the bottom of homelessness or poverty in general? I share all this to say that if Walt or Langston were to write their poem today, for sure, they would both be on track with where we are as a country, but also we would be sicker, more violent, and definitely poor. Hence my take below.

By Langston Hughes

We too sing America. We are your new generation. A sick, violent, and poor generation singing as we await 2022. We sing of a pandemic, which turned the world upside two years ago, and continues along its path. The healthcare worker sings of burnout and exhaustion. The parents sing of juggling multiple stressors at work and home. The teenager sings of being in a constant state of flux, as they cope with the pandemic. The children sing of a childhood gone in disarray as the pandemic surges on. While the elders sing of isolation as they continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. As if that’s not enough, we too live in an America where violence is more common than a Sunday rest. Your children, sing of the violence they see in their schools with classmates choosing bullets rather than books. Your communities sing too of violence on their streets, with protesters insisting that Black Lives Matter and they do. Your Congress sings of violence too, with an angry mob that would rather desecrate its halls that choose your democracy. While those we elect sing in words that would rather tear us down than build up we the people by the people. As if that’s still not enough, we live in America where one-third of your children are poor. Your families sing of not getting enough to eat with food insecurities and not getting enough to drink with water insecurities. Your poor households sing of bearing the brunt of rising prices. Your public sings of lacking systems, health, education, governments, that continue to fail to put them first. While your citizens sing of not having homes for your children. Besides, nothing seems to be transforming all we still know about America. That this too is a land that still fails to take a stand for all forms of racism, for immigrants, for rural life, for your children, who continue to sing of being sick, continue to be weary of the rampant state of violence, continue to remain poor, despite being born on fruited plains.

I pray 2022 has us singing a different note.

Let no one silence or suppress your truth. Whether unpleasant or uncomfortable. May no one stifle or suffocate your significance or shared responsibilities. Scam or strangle your sensibilities or collective senses with lies. As you strive for uncomfortable representations beyond unpleasant shadows. Rather may you continue to connect and commune. Reveal and reveal. Every unpleasant or uncomfortable truth. As you voice all there is to voice for a people long denied their voice. People still absent in images like this below. The unpleasant truth is that we are not all the same, not all man, and not all equal never mind their comforting lies. Pandemics are not individually focused, never mind the comforting lies many still perpetuate. Vaccines too are not for individuals neither are masks or your decisions that you think affects you alone. It doesn’t. Omicron is here because we forgot that we are a people first. Pandemics are not concerned with individuals. Never have and never will. There are no personal responsibilities in pandemics. Only shared ones. No individual responsibilities too. Only collective ones. Individualistic countries won’t get it. Collective ones will. And pandemics will still not be concerned about individuals. Only what the collective do. These are unpleasant truths worth spreading.

I prefer to avoid you completely. I prefer to runaway too. Time is slow. But your stretch is deep. Unfriendly too. I tried to stay put. Wished this would all go away. I was a fool. The risks were plenty but being your fool was easy. I tried to give myself the maximum chance of survival. Even the minimum almost ruined me. So I preferred to runway. My own words were a trap. I dug a hole for myself. Moved up and down the hole and was still trapped. Even my spirits were drained. Survival too seemed far away. I thought to pray. I hoped it would give me the fuel to withstand the cold. Hoped the prayers would tide me through this period. For what we pray for can mean life or death. I prayed for life. Though death seemed to lead the way. 800,000 deaths today and it’s shadow still looms deep.

The walls of my throat are thick. Tears have stoped flowing. All we can do is defend our own. So our eyes are open. I pray you find more pair of eyes. The more pair of eyes there are to see, the more hearts there are to feel. We have lost our ways with seeing and feeling that death is now us. So I pray for more pair of eyes. Those bold enough to fight undetected. To single out those who prefer to die rather than protect themselves. So being with more pair of eyes, moving as a flock would represent real security for those of us prepared to live. Robins in the winter adopt a policy where the males and females, hold for a time, separate winter territories they defend. I pray you find your Robin, if male or female. And when you do, be as strong as a lion and run from nothing. Your clouds have no rain.

Langston Hughes has a poem of how a seed planted at the right time, produces flower, that go on to become more than the seed ever imagined.

Imagine if the path of the pandemic was like a seed. Imagine how we will blossom when we become flower. All because we took the time to first plant the seed.

For people’s health, with this pandemic, we should be like seeds planted and watered by people who tell us which way to go.

Langston Hughes has a poem of how a seed at the right time, produces flower, which goes on to become more than the seed ever imagined. ⁣

Imagine if the path out of the pandemic was like a seed. Imagine how we will blossom when we become flowers. All because we took the time to first plant the seed. ⁣

For people’s health, with this pandemic, we should be like seeds planted and watered by people (and not solely experts) who tell us which way to go.

Where there are no attention to the public, the path out of the pandemic is hopeless.

We have being fighting this virus for close to 2 years next year. It keeps winning. My opinion, physicians are to blame.

No, I do not hate physicians. I am married to one. We started to have a debate about this during Thanksgiving and let’s just say the physicians in the house proved my point.

My opinion again, the absence of public health people, not to be equated as presence of medically trained people only, are to blame.

As someone who calls themselves a public health expert, our absence in this pandemic is part of the problem. We are no where to be found. The physicians have taken up all the oxygen they can and will continue to use it while the path out of the pandemic remains hopeless.

Do you know who really vaccinated people, with small pox vaccination for example? You guessed it, not only physicians but community health workers.

Ooh, what about polio vaccines in many parts of the world, right again, community health workers were there too. Yet these same community health workers have no spokesperson at your nightly news forum, speaking precisely and with clarity about how they work to address a community’s health, people’s health, the public’s health. Even community health is nowhere to be found and behavior does not occur in a vacuum or in interactions with doctors and patients alone. They seldom do, and focusing on them alone is why the path out of this pandemic will remain hopeless.

The fact that we keep hearing only how great the vaccine adds to the problem. It is great, one of the best vaccines ever made. But how about hearing how great masks are? They are excellent, and an excellent protection for others and oneself with the virus. Even research show that face masks significantly reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to social distancing. We find a very low risk of infection when everyone wears a face mask, even if it doesn’t fit perfectly on the face. Imagine that, you don’t want a COVID-19, wear a mask.

And don’t let me get started with at home or self-testing. I am just curious who in the right mind told the US government that asking your insurance company to reimburse the Binax kit you bought from Sams club for $14 will motivate you to want to test? Do you ask your insurance company to reimburse you for the pregnancy kit you both for your self, or even the blood pressure measuring devise you use at home?

Common sense is not even being used anyone and yes I blame it on the absence of public health experts. In fact it drove me to want to explore what went wrong with our field and why are we now where to be found. Truth is public health as a field, has been no where for a long time when all we do is speak to ourselves at conferences and publish papers in our journals for ourselves only. No member of the public talks to each other with introductions, methods, results and discussion. No one. We have also been no where when even the journal we publish all our work in are not even open access or accessible to the public we serve. And we have been no where when all we do is serve our resumes and impact factors and not center even the public in public health.

The time has come for change and changing how we speak to the public is key. Using words, creatively, for me is like air, true necessity for reaching the public today. With public health, I’ll rather use words to reach you, than teach you about grey skies you see with your eyes. Grey skies like the racist bans on African countries from flying to the US and other European countries. Truth is everything will always be nothing for people and places that treat us like the heart of darkness. So don’t waste time searching for water as if they don’t see Africa like a desert. Until the vaccine arrives, wear a mask. This is a public health message that is easy and should be shared widely. And for people’s health, we should be wide open and let people tell us which way to go.

With history, be prepared to construct and reconstruct it from a different perspective, a Black perspective, an African perspective too. Our stories have been told to us by others for far too long that this time, the lions are ready to take the stage. The complexities and racist histories of colonialism is finally taking center stage with this global pandemic. Variants of it has been there from the beginning, though swept under the rug of globalism. It is rather a class on colonialism and this time, there are no more slaves in this version of history. No more white people selling bodies for profit. No more tantrums from leaders disguised as fit but truly unfit. Plus no more pretense as if we are all in this together. We are not. The inequities with vaccine distribution was clue number 1. Number 2, the injustice with flight bans.

With Omicron variant surging through countries both in Asia and Europe, why is a travel ban only issued for countries in Southern Africa? This is the truth about decolonizing Global Health worth spreading, plain and perfect. Powerful leaders will always be leaders with power. They will do and claim to do what is always in their best interest even if this interest serves only their needs. Anyone expecting anything less has not been open to all the travesties that is colonialism. The emperors maybe wearing new clothes but they remain emperors, powerful ones now with subtle charm that invokes globalism when the harsh realist is individualism. They may claim change but their change is more or less like distant skies out of reach rather that streams of water in plain view. Everything about their dominant treatment of others both implicit and explicit remains true, and will always remain so during and beyond this pandemic.

The solution, lions tell your story. There will be a struggle. Embrace it. Refuse to be enslaved again and tell your story of injustices however you choose. This time, the path to pandemic freedom will be different. Not because we relied on the West, but rather because we believed in each other. I spent my morning retweeting and sharing videos of people telling the story, this time from their perspective. Dr. Ayoade Alakija’s interview with the BBC stood out to me. Watch here and see how lions are roaring to tell their stories.