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.

Words call us, we go. A blurry thought, uncertain notes, hopelessly we stroll until meaning becomes clear, becomes us. Today we sat patiently trying to wait for words to come. It took a while. Children were crying. Hearts were weary but souls were full from a reunion a pandemic almost denied. We waited for the words to come, to express how we felt for we where thankful, full of thanks for a day that kept giving, spilling into another day that continues to give. Then the word ‘serious’ leapt across our mind. We questioned its intent, waited even for the discontent. ‘Serious’ what are we supposed to do with you. Then we remembered, being together is a serious matter. Being with family even in the middle of a pandemic is serious. The terrible stories we could have told are blunted because we did together seriously. So as we settle in, as we bask in the glory of yesterday, the majesty of today, and the hope for tomorrow, we know that together will always remain serious for us. Thanksgiving with people like us is a serious matter and we intend to keep it so.

In 1968, Dr. Morris Schaefer, a Professor and Head of Department of Public Health at UNC, Chapel Hill wrote a striking paper about the current issues in delivering better health services. He presented it at the 95th annual meeting of the American Public Health Association and many of what he shared then resonates with the state of public health today. In it he shared ‘how our incapacity to appreciate the character of the problems we face, may render us helpless when we encounter future challenges. Our field is not only confronted by new challenges, but also an increased urgency attached to old problems, new responsibilities, new functions, all at an increasingly rapid rates. Also with each
new challenge, comes the need to respond to continuing changes, all while maintaining the stability necessary for effective Public Health Service.’

If only our field heeded his advice in 1968. That and the idea that Public Health for better or worse is deeply enmeshed in political activity, despite the fact than antipolitical ideology persists. The handling of the pandemic is a glaring example of this. One section though that I choose to keep today is his focus on how ‘the past is still present.’ He was so thorough with the significance of the past and why we all need to have a reorientation in our attitudes about public health that it only makes sense to render it in verse for the present.

Without no further ado, read my keep below inspired totally by Dr. Schaefer entitled the ‘keep knowing that the past is present in public health:’

Public health faces a new day. While a hangover still remains.

Unsolved longstanding problems remain. Unfamiliar areas of services too.

Shortage of personnel remain. Solutions for the future too.

Conditions of uncertainty remain. Clamor for demands too.

Varied programs and goals remain. Complicated disciplines too.

Target populations remain unknown. The public we serve too.

Useful but limited textbooks remain. Old, standard associations too.

Struggles between agencies remain. Tensions across disciplines too.

Uneasy frontiers for public health remain. Uneasy boundaries between agencies and governments too.

Delusions of a old and well-propagated myth of the non-political character of public health remains. The persistence of the non politics myth too.

Lost opportunities remain. Lack of clarity of vision too.

Unsolved current problems still remain. An extension and intensification of past problems too.

Social problems significantly remain. The hands of the past on the future too.

Discerning local interests remain. Harmonizing initiatives too.

The need for imaginative and highly capable actions remain. Increased competency with information technology too.

Enormous strains on coordination remains. Responsibilities and resources too.

Long standing tensions among professional groups remain. Equal status of groups too.

The need for greater visibility with public health remains. Shortening lines of communications too.

Loss of potentially fruitful research remains. Duplicating research and services too.

Existing fragmentation of agencies remain. Business as usual too.

The urgency of problems affecting particular groups remain. Disruptive and limited responses too.

Struggles for allocations remain. Visibility and authorizations of those allocations too.

And so the continuing problems of the past remain. In the midst of new problems too.

Limited understanding of the persistence of these problems remain. So too our inability to solve them still (whether in 1968 or 2021).

Dr. Morris Schaefer address on current problems and issues with public health.

The words rise up. I note them. They come on their own, with their own nodes, own goals, that unfold one note at a time. They come with their own meaning everytime. I am obedient to the sounds that flow, the insights that grow, within minds long in need to ignite, in need of light. I am light. Like a tree that grows higher, and higher, branching out in different directions, like thick branches with lush green leaves full of water. I am green. I sit, listen, and let the words sway like trees on a windy day after hurricanes that stroke with water-like canes. Still these tree rise up and grow. For where trees grow, water flows. I am water. So to are my words. I have been discovering for the past year that where words flow, stories flow. I am stories. For one year, the stories in my mind, in spaces and boxes I once carved as private, have been flowing like a river. I am a river. A naturally flowing river, in search of an ocean, or a sea, a lake or another river. I have arrived at my destination. Words are my water, collected now in a river that flowed through a complex meandering path I called keep lists. There were no short paths. Every thing that mattered were loosened and dislodged like the rocks along the sides of river beds. I became loose with words that deepened my riverbed, eroded my hard phases, and elevated my soft places, all with grace. I am grace. An amazing grace, once blind but now open to all the spaces that make me whole. I poured myself into this space, poured my soul to the possibilities of this phase, of writing something to keep, words to keep, in a list to mold and shape as my own, in a list to own. And through this list, my words became fast-flowing. A source of energy, of life. I became soaked in the opportunities and form of each word, each list of things to keep. I am a list.

I have been reading a lot lately about lists, about why people use them in the first place. Most people write lists, to-do lists for example, to stay organized. Some write lists to stay in control, ticking things off when completed or moving things around to track completion. The first time I saved a list was in the middle of the pandemic. There were nothing to do with my lists. Nothing to track or even complete. My lists were focused on what to keep. A keep lists of experiences. The only objective: to write one list a day. The list was expected to make sense of life as a mother, a black working mother in academia with four children, one born in the fifth month of the pandemic. There were no organization necessary. No length was too long. Or to short. Everything was allowed in the lists. My thoughts, the news, my work, my family. Writing long lists was gratifying. So too were short ones that cut right to core. But lists about meaningfully people in my life, like my children, my students, my mentors, even the experiences of my husband on the frontlines or the last days with my sister in-law and her battle with cervical cancer were extra fulfilling. The pandemic and it’s impact were intense for all families. It was also equally frustrating, equally challenging, yet equally mesmerizing, and equally joyful. Not for the illness it brought or the deaths or sorrow it left behind, but for the discoveries, unexpected ones, like making a list, a virtual keeplists of time in a pandemic. There were no end in sight too. The pandemic held us all in a tight grip. And so the list grew and moved beyond the pandemic itself to capture life as we lived it one day at a time, all to preserve and protect all that mattered in a time where living was truly fragile.

Today marks the one year anniversary of this list. Words still do not fail me. They have become my everything, my hope, my joy, my hurdles, but yet my triumphs. I thank all of you that have read anything I wrote here. I thank you for coming on this journey with me. There is still no end in sight. Only that where my words still flow, my stories will surely flow.

We survived week 1. One full week of school. One full week of lunch packs. One full week of homework. One full week of early morning wakes; 6:30am. One full week of early bedtimes; 8:30pm. One full week of mask wearing. One full week of non stop questions. One full week of stopping to ask questions. One full week of endless days. One full week of mindless haze. I still wouldn’t trade it for anything, not even homeschooling. To be back full time is blissful. Our children need schools. You need to wear your masks and vaccinate so they have endless days of school.

We have been experience very hot summer days. 100 degrees hot. We stayed indoors. Stayed closed together too. My boys love outdoors. Jumping on their blue trampoline is one of their favorite things to do. All of that came to a halt the past few days. Staying cool inside the house was all they could do. Until this afternoon. My daughter has the bright idea of using our sprinklers to stay cool. Against my better judgement, I agreed. The water was cool. Their peals of laughter, even soothing with our new found tool . I was pleasantly surprised. Even sprinklers on a hot day works. It’s kept the kids cool, kept them dancing too. Kept me cool, dancing too, as I watched the joy in their eyes and feet. Keep dancing with sprinkling water.

The new school year is in full swing. A note to myself: Take it easy. Remember you are not really in competition with anyone but yourself. Hidden within the commandment love your neighbor as yourself, is the need to love yourself first. Without which I am sorry for your neighbor. So love yourself this new school year. Whatever you want to do, however you want to do it as well, do. It’s your ride and race. This thing called life. Here today, gone tomorrow. And the world would move on as if you never existed. So yes, take it easy or take am jeje, as pidgin English would suggest. Life na jeje after all.

For them, I will be taking life easy. (Shot by my 4 year old).

No need attending to anything too you don’t feel like or liking anything you attend. To be of use, to yourself first, to those you love, like these little boys and a growing little girl that needs a present mother, a loving and gentle one too is all that matters. Life Na jeje after all. No need overdoing anything or letting anything overdo you. It’s just a thing afterall and you matter. All of you. If the thing is going to lower your vibrations or take you down a path worth avoiding, then don’t go. Only go towards things that lift your vibrations up, challenge you too to do more than you can ever hope or imagine. Move towards things that let you remain in light. With grace and beauty too, take the time to become the light you were and are destined to be come in your own way, your own pace. This life Na jeje after all. Finally no need being in spaces that don’t value your many phases. We all change. A blue sky turns grey in a twinkle of an eye. Plants too and trees. So how much less all of us humans. So need being in spaces that don’t understand what it means to change. You will change. You have changed through this past year alone and I expect more change to come your way as you embrace this phase of your life. Afterall, even this phase of your life Na je je with all you have to care for.

To be of use to them, will require you to be of use to yourself, take an easy, don’t attend what you don’t want to attend, don’t do anything you don’t want to and don’t be in spaces that don’t value all of your phases. This life Na je je and as the new school year begins in full swing, take am easy is my keep.

We started the new school year today. We started full of hope for what lies ahead. We expect the pandemic to continue raging on. We expect debates on mask wearing to keep waging on too. While, I am so glad homeschooling has finally come to an end, I remain apprehensive as the pandemic isn’t coming to an end. I also wonder whether this is the right thing to do for kids who expect us to keep then safe till the end. My kids were happy to be back to school. Most parents I watched were too, part happy, part longing for them to remain close by, but thankful they are also gone. My daughter talked about butterflies in her stomach for the new school year. There were butterflies and balloons on school grounds welcoming them back to school. The pandemic took a lot from them last year. Here is to hoping for brighter days ahead, gentler days too. One that will allow our children to remain children, despite this never ending pandemic.

There is a power that emerges when you gift yourself and your family, the simple and freeing pleasures of walking. We gave that gift to baby almost 2 days after his arrival at home. We took him for his first walk along the paths of Forest Park. The pandemic was still breathtaking in its design. Lockdown was still in full force. So too was mask wearing in all public spaces, though ignored by many by design. We wore our masks, and with a bundled up baby, we walked together along the pathways of Forest Park.

I have alway found walking to be a site of joy, pleasure too and freedom. There is an African proverb which states that ‘if you want to go fast, walk alone. But if you want to far, walk together.’ My family and I are prepared to go far. Walking for us, is and remains a site of joy, pleasure still, and freedom too.

All our being, all our senses as one family are nurtured, protected too, because we took one step forward, and another, together. There is love, affirmation, support, and freedom to see and observe things as they are, when you walk through life with others. Baby sat on his stroller oblivious to this gift. We kept giving it to him knowing the impact of our gift.

My daughter in her blue denim overalls tried to tell him about the world as we walked along Forest Park. She played I spy with her brothers, spying things they saw along the way, like something green such as all the trees and grass along the Park, or something brown like dead leaves along the path, or something blue like the clear blue skies that brighten our day as we walked along the Park. Their spying game while walking, it’s meaning and value, were never lost on me.

As we move forward in life, whether freely, or openly, we bear witness to the truth that we are never meant to walk alone. Baby’s first source of food for life, where from the milk oozing out of my body. His first bath, were from Dad’s hands, as he gently washed him with a fragrant free soap that is supposed to nourish his being from his hair follicles down to the sole of his feet. Everything we do with babies are never done in isolation. So too is walking through life.

As we crossed the bridge along the park, we stopped to take photos with baby. We gathered ourselves around baby, who laid gently in his stroller. With the sky still brightening the day with the most perfect of blues, and with heads held up, with perfect eyes smiling beneath our masks, we took a photo to capture this moment in time, a moment we first walked together with baby.

Stories of families who walk together, black families in particular, often remain within the families, often within their albums tucked neatly away, in their memories, or phones, never to see the limelight or become fully represented as something we also do. We walk, never alone, but together. Aretha Franklin once belted this as a tune. And when we walk, we gather ourselves together, hold our heads up high, and smile, whether through storms or perfect skies. We do so together, because we know, that in life, no one, not even a newborn goes through their journey alone. So get your courage together and walk on, Ms. Franklin would say. Walk through the rain, even through the storm, just know you never walk alone. It’s the perfect gift we gave to baby as a family, one that I intend to keep always.