F is for freedom, for all the ways minds focused on it are truly free.
I finished my Dream course today. It taught me my purpose, gave me my joy, helped to craft the story my life, one that I hope to tell soon. I see the vision clearly now. This change with the season was needed. The chaos and all the distractions it brought along too. Where something stand. No matter what, something else will take its stand. Light will be light. It hates darkness after all. Even these storms will pass. And the dawn will withdraw its embrace, so that you arrive at the morning of your sweet break. See that bird. See how it escapes from the hunter’s trap. To soar, despite the trap. So shall your story begin, with those that stand by your side. Welcome to this moment of freedom.
Listen, this is your time, you a seed, you the earth, of a woman, you got the moon of your own, listen, somebody need a binoculars, to see you, somebody need to straighten their lens, to see all of you. Listen you are not Mars, Venus or any other bright evening star, not when he got his hands on somebody as divine as you, as sterling as you, a woman of the moon.
This is what the mirror said to me today. Keeping it here in praise of Lucille Clifton, my forever muse.
On the path to change, I finally woke up. I have been blind for awhile but now I see. Now that I have arrived at a place called joy, a space I claim for me. So I stayed there for a moment. I basked in the memories, those that carried me along, those that served as my ground, those that helped me soar, those that let me fall. I have stumbled out of change before. Fought it too. I’m getting old and it can be slow, plus life is to short to live with regrets, so I stumbled back into the path, filled with fear and uncertainty. I bent down to the will, to the mist and thorns along the way, those that will hurt, those that will ignite, all that I need to live my best me.
Yesterday I began letting go, began stumbling through this path called change again. The last time with a dear mentor was tough but necessary. So I did it again. If you knew me before yesterday great. The person that has emerged today is a day old. She is also eager to see the world, now that she is no longer blind. Fool me once, shame on me. But fool me twice… I look forward to the journey ahead, knowing that I will soar with all my might.
My spirit is brave. Anya di open. We have Chi on outside. We have checked our Ike. Know too that our Ijem is long, and our Ani is strong for what will unfold from our Obi. I stumbled back to change again because Oge deserves it. And when I did, my sister named Ngozi called. My best friend named an entire continent too. We ended the day with joy knowing that Nkiruka and Uchechi shall prevail.
(Oh by the way so happy that my dear friend Nkiru matched to SLU, finally our family is growing in STL).
Thank you to my sister too, she knows her task for my life. I love you dearly Ngozi and I am forever blessed to call you my own. These days, keep family and dear friends closer. They are your most important legacy. Whatever will be for you, will never pass you by as Nnem reminded me and if it does, it was never meant to be. Maybe for a season. Seasons come and go and so it makes sense that some may come in your life for a season. But the ones for you, those brave like you, will always be there. I needed to hear this. Love my family deep. Onye were mmadu, were ndu. Keep your people close.
To begin again is the dream of anyone. To do it all over again, this time with dreams gained, insights learnt, stories told, hearts bruised, yet glory revealed, is the dream of anyone. The dream of a woman, black like me. These days there is a moon falling from my sides and mouth and I know my magic.
This year marks my tenth year in academia. It’s also my most magical and ambitious year thanks to divine teaching of Ntozake Shange. I came prepared to move mountains. I came ready to do it my way, no matter the obstacles along the way. I gathered up my sleeves and with the help of so many, paved a path many dare not follow. I choose motherhood for example over and over again. I wrote grants to learn their beauty and their pain over and over again. The past 10 years meant that I didn’t stop working. If I left academia as a graduate student with 6 papers or so. In 10 years we have over 100 papers. If I left academia as a graduate student with one federally funded pre-doctoral award, in 10 years I have completed or currently working on 12 federally funded grants. If I left graduate school with the biggest loss, the death of my father, in 10 years I have added the death of my beloved uncles, aunties, sister-in-law, mentors, and nephew to the list. I also became a full professor in less than 10years.
I share all this to say the past 10 years have exceeded my expectations. Bear in mind too all of this came at a cost. The joy and perils of academic spaces for one. The lack of support another. That there is no air and these spaces stifle growth is true, especially for women black like me. But there is also joy, the sweet happy kind that occurs when you meet and collaborate with colleagues that allow you to dream. I have found my circle of safety in them. That and the people, staff included who allowed light in my life, those that saw more in me than I ever knew existed, those that stayed up all night, those that cried, those that laughed. All of them that helped me tell a story worth telling, are one way or another, gifts worth treasuring over and over again.
But it’s time for change. I know my magic too. I look forward to the next 10 years with the excitement of a woman currently in labor. What I am about to give birth to can only be described as God. He started this journey and I look forward to all the ways he completes it, knowing that his word is all I need. His plans are all I know. Welcome to my most magical and ambitious years, where dreaming and claiming space is finally allowed, on my own terms.
This poem was inspired by one written by Lucille Clifton, my forever muse. I have always loved an effective approach section of a grant. Granted it’s my weakness and my most painful section to write. A thorn personifies this section well. Still, I know I must move past the pain to put forth a blueprint that tells the foundation of what I propose to do. Today I gave my first attempt at describing the approach section of a grant as roots, the foundation of everything. I used the Igbo cosmology of Ani (ground) because, Aniwe ( the earth owns) Aninye ( my maternal grandfather’s name, the earth gives) and Anikamadu ( the earth is bigger than people). When you think of your approach section like the ground, the earth, the roots, all that remains hidden about your grant becomes sterling in your eyes. Roots know what holds you, they see and witness all that centers you as you delve deeply into ways to make this work excel. I am at my zenith with this thing called grant writing because I know my roots.
What public health does not need, is people unwilling to exact the truth. Those unable to look beyond the mirror, to illuminate life for those we serve. So these words are not written to impress. Not even written to note all the ways we let the public down. Rather we will put people back into the center. Lines will speak of the ways the public participated. Moments when voices pierced the silence around. Those that led gently to light. Those that exposed the wounds of injustice. We have tried to communicate. The public would rather conquer. We pounded consultation to a pulp. The public mocked the lumps of sugar in our throats. Sweet words never led to basic needs. Not yesterday or tomorrow. So we ask now that the public participate. However they see fit. Moments of despair. Those of hope. Whatever the public wants we will try though broken or whole. We only ask that you watch us closely. There is hope still preserved in things full of light.
Ideas are pure. Often silent. But immaculate. When they know their life giving possibilities, when they go beyond is sterling. Ideas from a life soaked in imagination, soaked in dreams too, are so splendid. Like a serenity for all things pure and immaculate. I am living in a time where ideas born out of my own and a group of people’s imaginations and dreams are like the moon, perfect and full.
We are slowly flowering like trees planted near streams and bearing fruit too. I am also learning too that the most authentic thing about living is our capacity to dream, to create, to transform, and still be greater than our dreams. We are defined by all the ways we dream, all the ways we survive dreams that turn into ideas. Ideas that remain dreams. Either way, these days I am living in moments that defy words. Ideas are the fabric of my life. Those that first began as dreams are leading me to my infinity. A place with no endings. No beginnings too. Just a life living unending dreams. Which is why these days I say, begin always with your dreams.
I have been using this blog to make order out of so many things that remain in disorder in my mind. Some days the words come and I let them come. I see a line. I feel its essence. The words flow. I note them down.
Other days, words are hard to come by. We go through a day or two with no words in sight. Then there are days when they come just as I am waking up. Or just as I put my baby to bed. Mist for example from a week a go, came after reading a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Invisible things from Ben Okri’s song of freedom and why children of stars ought to amaze. The sheer simplicity of that line, let words out of me that reminded me again and again why even the unseen aspects of my life was sublime.
The past days/weeks has been full of indifference to me, a black woman in academia. The source from multiple places and multiple people. So when I dwell on the why, flesh out the what or even describe the how, all that I keep doing is reminding myself of why I need to hold on to my dreams now more than ever. I am Onyelo’s daugther afterall. An existence that was never expected, if Juliana didn’t persevere.
Everything I do isn’t by accident. Everything that comes my way is part of my destiny too. The process for my becoming. Those that keep me in awe these days are the reasons why I know I have to keep this blog. You have opened my eyes in ways I never dared to dream. Having an outlet for all the disorder on my mind, has allowed me to surpass all the dreams I had for myself despite all the stress and change that came along the way. I am Onyelo’s daughter after all. Nothing happens by accident.
The past two days has my soul being still. What the lord is about to do is beyond me. Chaos came this week. But then I remembered Psalm 121. As if on cue, Ronke Faleti texted and asked if we would hang out on Friday. I said I am tied up but hey, I need help and I’m drowning can I lean on you. All of this may seem like I’m rambling but know that when God is for you, what he will do will surprise and surpass even your dreams. If the chaos came on Wednesday, nearly 2 days later, Ronke came through with 3 lifelines. As if that was not enough, I saw Anwuli. Like literally saw a person named Joy from nowhere that I kept saying the name of the lord. I share all this to say look up to heaven always and know who you are. I am Onyelo’s daughter, an impossible dream. This one is for you Ronke, my sister from another mother. I love you tire.
Birds fly in three ways. Some flap. Falcons flap by lifting and thrusting their wings across the skies. Some soar. Eagles rise up on their wings and soar to the skies. Some glide. Vultures glide across the skies hurtling down like stones dripping from the skies. To watch falcons flap, see eagles soar or look as vultures glide effortlessly across the skies, is to remember which road to take, beyond the darkness of doubts, which bird to follow too, now that they light a lamp for you.
The day begins with love. To women everywhere, especially those black and hive. Those that smile when we arrive. Those who switch tongues on overdrive. Those who blow kisses that jive. Those whose laughter we archive. Those who stay unmasked and alive. Those yearning for all the ways we thrive. Those who celebrate all the souls we revive. Those letting go of silences that deprive. Those freely expressing all the ways they strive. Those always prepared to live. Those who show how to do more than survive. Those too choosing the crossroads they drive. We begin this day with you, in love.
Knowing too that they will always accuse you of tending to the past. Whether you made it or not. Whether you sculpted it or not. Whether with your own hands or not. Whether you named it or not. Whether you learnt it everyday or not. Whether you remembered it or not. Whether you are strong or not. Whether you will travel the distance or not.
Still, to know you, is to love all the ways you help us express ourselves. Love all the stories we tell about ourselves. Love all the ways we celebrate ourselves. Love all the ways we interrogate ourselves. Love all the ways we cherish ourselves. Love all the ways we pray for ourselves too.
I am so inspired to let you know that we are really cool. We are. Those who left or didn’t leave school. Those who lurk or didn’t lurk late. Those who strike or didn’t strike straight. Those who sang or didn’t sing sin. Those who We know or don’t know. All of us who die or didn’t die soon enough to this thing we call life.
Those who stay critical. Those who remain resolute. Those honest. Those bent on fathoming what it means to be black, beautiful and woman. I salute you. I celebrate you. I extend this beacon of love to you today and always. Happy International Women’s Day.
Poetry inspired by Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks, two iconic women of substance that inspire my life’s journey.
I know silence. I have seen it’s power. First they use language to keep you mute. Some are clear in their intent, other are subtle, all of them are designed to keep you silent. They succeed. Or so they think. First you are silent. You observe. You notice. You think. You note. You keep silent because words are few. They keep their ways. They know their ways. They see your silence. They note your pause. They keep their ways still. Knowing power belongs to them. Or so they think. Next you note their ways. All the subtle things they do. Those seen and unseen. Those spoken and unspoken. You learn to read lines. Learn to see the lines between lines written to keep you silent. You stay silent until you remember, you were never meant to survive. So you speak.
If they are going to write you out of history, at least your words will bear witness to your victory. You speak. If they are going to keep you invisible. At least your words will tell of your glory so visible. You speak. If they are going to ignore you, dismiss you, even pretend that you don’t exist. At least your words will uplift you, represent you and celebrate all the ways you persist. You speak. If they are going omit you, unname and misname you. At least your words will name you, rename and rename you, for we are born twice with every naming ceremony we do. You speak. Even if they hoped you would be silent. You speak because you know your silence will never protect you.
Knowing too that this is what it means to be black and woman, to be bright and human, every single part of your being, those sterling and sublime, pregnant with dreams unknown, in full glow, but still unseen, and all day, all night, in the land of troubled waters, where your air is music, where your universe is melody, where the wind sings in perfect harmony, with hawks and stormy weather, there they will find you always, with your disturbing disturbance, with your dream so brightly burning. There they will find you speaking, rustling with thing called life. Now that you speak and speak, in your way, so sublime.