I met fear this past week. Danced around in its oasis. For once, it left me without words. Instead, the words were painstakingly put together as a grant. I spent this week writing what maybe the greatest grant ever written. I know I say this a lot. All my grants are like blue skies on a sunny day. Everlasting, beautiful, great. And this one was different. It took me to the shadows of hell and back. Took me to the center of my fears, the space often hidden and out of view. It made a fool of me. Asked me if I was sure this was the life I wanted. I am so sure. So it proceeded to make a fool out of me. Took me to depths I have never know, knowledge too, I lacked and people, I dare not speak to because words won’t do. I spent the week instead harnessing all the words I knew for this grant. Spent it buried deeply in literature that wasn’t only foreign but truly out of my league. I felt elementary this week. Felt like I needed to get back to a version of school where only blankets were allowed. I found one, black and took it all around the house this week. Took it with me to my desk as it was all I knew, and the floor nearby. If I am being honest, even the thought of a shower or food to eat seemed insurmountable. None of that mattered except the words I was putting together in this grant. All the words hijacked me, took me as a hostage in my own mind, my own space too. Until today.

Early this morning, they finally let me go. Finally let me see the beauty of a day. The rising sun in all its glory. Early this morning I moved beyond fear to a space I will now forever cherish, with a team that is truly unconventional, unconquerable and everything that personifies the word love. We met each other in a space where identities didn’t matter. Just the coming of ideas in ways that bring out the best in the ideas. I dwelled with them through words. Let their words too nourish me like a balm. They helped to soothe the tension in my head for this week that I am still in awe of their love. I still lack the words to speak of the utter grace they all provided for me. My heart is full. Angi’s test will become a reality one day. Only that it started the day fear let me go.

Seeing you today, seeing all of you, was a joy to behold. Belle, on this 10th year of your life, I pray you never forget the joy you felt today in this city of love. Seeing all of your melody and light, your laugh and stride, every single thing about you was the peace our soul needed. You are peace, and love and you make life easy to love. You make life love, with a breeziness that makes all around you feel good to be with you. You made us all feel good today. You made our hearts swell with joy, our lips quiver with laughter. You were more than a day. More than a groove that made us all move down Faiderbe to Trocadero, Palais Congress and back to Bercy village dancing to a tune you play so well. Only you are like jazz. You never worry about how your melody flows or your love shows. You gift it to everyone around you. I pray you keep playing this tune of life, your way. Keep playing it past this 10th year of life and beyond. I’ll remember love in June, remember the joy of so many we met in the city of love, because all of you, is unique and love. So do not be afraid. Your name and love is all you need. When you pass through deep waters, remember your name and love. Even if fires burn, remember who you are. We will give up everything for you. Belle you are precious to us. We will give up all we own for you. Belle you are loved and honored, from every single place on earth, including the tallest towers that greeted you warmly this morning. You put a lot of beauty into life. For that we are thankful and pray you never forget just how beautiful, how blessed, and how loved you truly are.

How it started 10years ago!
Happy 10th birthday!

I have been struggling with writing lately. Sure, the goal was to keep one thing a day. But 24 hours is long with my family, that writing suffers. I have also asked myself, why write? Who cares? Or what will you gain or lose whether you write or no longer choose to write. The only answer and the one that keeps me going, is because I have to. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it. I do. It doesn’t matter if the words too are jumbled some days or poetry another day. It certainly doesn’t matter if I go through some days without words. All that matters and when the words come is to put them down.

My motivation for today!

So I write because I have to. I write because it’s my season to do so. I write because I have waited so long to understand what words do when they flow from my heart and my soul to this space that I choose to keep. I write because it gives me life, joy too. I write because it allows me to write in other ways that I never thought I could. I write because I am lit for it. I write because I am not consumed by it. I write because something about writing, like God, keeps me in awe. I write because I see words like a tree, an evergreen tree planted near streams of flowing water. I write because the words will find me, whether I choose to find them or not, they call and I obey. I write because I have a feeling for it. I write because writing promises nothing, not fame, nor fortune, nothing but torture, yet I choose the wounds and spaces it opens up for me. I write because it is healing for me, healing for my mind, healing for my head, healing for all that makes me whole. I write because I can’t seem to conceal my thoughts these days, so I put them in words. I write because if something should happen, there will always be words to help me make sense of it. I write because it pushes me beyond my limits, pushes me to meet myself beyond myself everytime. I write because it reminds me of the time I went sky diving, the fear, the thrill, the sheer happiness too of seeing a world from above the skies, reminds me that writing can once again become like that moment. I write too for the time when I smiled next to a lion, the greatest animal that ever lived. I write for that girl turned woman, who stayed fearless, knowing that she had conquered all that held her back. I write then for resistance, for the fight that I have to keep digging and fighting so many more women like me conquer their fears.

My lion picture!
My lion picture!

I write because people ask how do I do it all the time, how do I go from hollering at four children all day and then still producing work all day. I write because I come from a long line of women, whose stories are never told, who too hollered at children and made the most out of life as they saw it. I write for the one woman we all called Mama Ocha, the woman who raised me, taught me too the meaning of persistence, preserving, and everything in between possibilities and dreams that I know is within me. I write for Belle, my better me, shining from glory to glory and beyond, with all that is within her. I write for my boys, my gift from God, my God, the one I gift back to God, for because of them, I can be my best self. I write for the one who saved me, my crocodile of the north, the one who hailed from Nimo and Kaduna, to give me a life that is beyond my wildest dreams. I write for Onyelo, without her there is no me. I write for Okolie, the one who called me the apple of his eye, the one who gave me money to buy words early, the one on whose shoulders I continue to stand. I write for the future, for whatever the journey ahead may hold, I long to know you, to love you, to bask in you, knowing that words will be my guide through you. I write for my past, all the pain and hurdles that led to the outpouring of blessings that continue to surround me and all that I love. I write for goodness and mercy are with me, and I will continue to dwell in them and words for as long as I live. These are the reasons I write. The words come and I obey even if it means, I am I the only one that reads them. I will still write.

My Mama Ocha!

They say there will be mornings like this. Meltdowns too like this. Toothache pain from nowhere. Tears flowing non-stop. Listening to Favor. All of us wondering. Whether we will prosper. In this space where horses roam free. We will. Not when blue skies greet us good morning. Grass the perfect shade of green too. And air as gentle as can be, reminds us that everything will be alright. Everything will. Now that we choose, choose and choose rest!

On a morning walk.

We walk like lions, unafraid.

Stroll like kings and queens through sunrise, unending.

Someone of us have histories, unknown.

Some stories by moonlight, untold.

Some of us sing songs, unrecorded.

Some dance around masquerades, unrecognized.

Some of us carry weights, unbearable.

Some march for rights, unequal.

Some of us remember names, unnamed.

Some sound horns for them, unbroken.

We gather now together, for paths unfinished. Telling stories still unreal.

Of people, and places still unsung, still unseen.

Of how they strolled like lions, free and unforgettable.

This one is in honor of Ernie Barnes painting which just sold this week at Christie’s auction for $15.3 million dollars, money I wish he saw in his lifetime. Still I’m inspired by this story as it reminds me of why what you do today matters. It’s for the legacy you are leaving behind for tomorrow. So again, do what makes you smile. Words, art, do it unafraid. Do it whether unknown, unseen or uncelebrated. History will celebrate you one day. History will tell your story if you don’t story your story today. I keep all this things because I want to get ahead of the story it will tell. I want to tell it my way. That I lived like the woman in the red strapless dress in Ernie Barnes painting. I lived and danced to the rhythms of my life, unafraid, undeterred, heck even unknown. But I lived my way, unfettered, unforgettable, with every single thing I choose to keep.

I keep wondering too why this painting would evoke this more today.

Maybe it was the dancing. Every Friday and Saturday evening. A girl in dark red strapless dress, gyrating her body to good times. A man in blue pants, moving as if filled with the Holy Ghost. I imagine these were good times at the sugar shack. Big daddy Rucker playing music as if the world is coming to an end. A woman in a blue dress and red shoes swings her hips to all the blues she feels. This dancehall isn’t a dream. I remember once stepping in a club like this in Philly, surrounded by black and brown lives dancing to music that moves your soul. I know this feeling of joy. Spirit-filled moments like this are rare. I’m glad it’s frozen forever even if for a moment at the sugar shack. I am glad I am freezing it for myself too, even if through words I keep, unafraid.

Here is a truth. Cherish your failures. Bury your doubts. Protect your power. Knock on closed doors. Put a stake through your fears. Take what you want. Respect your pain. Let your spirit rise. Stand in your light. Speak with love. Do what stirs your imagination. Never forget that anything is possible. Find the time to dream. Know your words have transformative power. Use it for growth. Seek real and supportive relationships. Come together often. Learn to belong fully and truly to spaces you call your own. Let nothing, not even a sleepless night go to waste. Love deeply, as if it were forever. Survive all your freedoms.

I watched my baby at a family picnic dart back and forth a multi-colored block unafraid. Even when he fell, he kept going back inside, climbing up and down, until he found himself in the middle, just as he wanted. I figured there was a lesson in his ways hence why I wrote the above. Of course I took the time to dream, and watching a little boy cherish his failures will make you do the same.

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.

When my children say your name, Lucille Clifton, I smile.

How to carry water comes to mind. How to sail through this to that too.

I often wonder how you lived. Lived even beyond your own understanding. A good woman, an ordinary woman, a woman whose voice is light too.

I’ll never forget your Black BC’s, some of the days of Everett Anderson, moments where good-byes are not enough.

I too miss my dad, through and through and the hurt is still too deep.

But then your book of light, the notion that silence of God, is God, is the grace I need to reach beyond stars.

You for whom your blackness is like a star.

If I should ever find myself lost, if I should ever find myself in a garden of regret, I will settle against the bark of trees, hide within the fierce protection of falling leaves, and begin always with you.

I listened to Lucille Clifton’s children, Sidney, Alexia and Gillian today as they reflected on their mothers legacy with the Enoch Pratt Library. It’s was on the occasion of their mom’s death as she passed away today, 12 years ago. From them, I heard these words which I have kept here for myself and you all.

With Lucille’s daughter celebrating her legacy with Enoch Pratt Library.

Freedom, creativity, courage. The world needs the spirit, the light that moved in her. The world needs Lucille. She was a wellspring of strength, a mother, an extraordinary woman with a brilliant message. That creativity and art are necessary. Normal too and an outpouring of ourselves, our humanity, our strong foundation, for the ways of the world. The flow of life, like flow of a home should begin with creativity, begin with normalizing that which we all are, creative. Let your words speak your power, whether in joy or pain, sorrow or laughter. It’s okay to be sorrowful and joyful, all of that is part of life, being resilient, honoring and accepting all these things. That and reclaiming all that was once lost so generations never forget the stories and doing everything in life with a purpose.

Lucille lives on.

I love reflecting on the lives of Black authors and poets. My favorite being Lucille Clifton always. Her ways are God’s ways to me for he used her to minister to me. I am fascinated by the way she extended and enhanced her life as a writer, a mother, and a poet. Her love for all things Black and motherhood had sheer clarity. She knew how to use words to help you live beyond yourself. She used words to reflect on the past, the present and what generations after generations in the future needed to value and treasure, beginning with themselves, their legacy too.

There is a smooth evenness and passion in the ways she used words to reclaim her sense of light, reclaim history and make all we do, domestic, motherhood, even writing, seem extraordinary. She was extraordinary. Her words help make my world today coherent. She helped me remember and recover all sorts of stories from my life through words. She helped me assert agency as a storyteller, my way, however I choose to define it even with no model. She helps me accept my life as a mother and a scholar honestly. She helps me remain mindful of my purpose, my shared struggle with others, along this journey through life. She helps me experience community, yearn for it too. A community of like-minded people on a quest to find their light through the darkness of life. Those committed to becoming extraordinary in their own way. That’s what Lucille does to me. That she died today in 2010 is another reminder that so many of our great ones are gone and we are left to pick up where they left off. Lucille would want that. I intend to celebrate her always. Something tried to kill this, and has failed terribly.

I am undoing all that keeps my soul from prospering.

All that keeps me buried.

I am looking at the mirror to.

I know my soul.

I am like stars against the sky.

Like galaxies bouncing through space.

Becoming green as I pass through storms.

I know what stirs me.

I bow my heads in humility to know why.

Even all that holds my breath.

Every single thing I hold dear, seeks to rob me of my cares.

And if I fail.

If I fail to set my heart on fire or come close to deep waters.

Neither the fire nor the floods will engulf me.

Even the failure form part and not my whole story.

Contemplating your declaration that you alone know the plans, I am comforted by this calming thought: I know my soul.

Claude McKay

I am slowly making sense of writing in verse. Using my own ear and taste, turning words that come into compositions that suit my soul. And Claude McKay, the first great poet of the Harlem Renaissance is my guide today. His book Harlem Shawdows has so many short sketches that resonate with my soul. I have reflected on one of them before for a post that I called ‘if we must live.’

But this one on ‘I know my soul,’ was perfect for today. Maybe it’s his vivid brief descriptions of life. Maybe it’s his insistence on pledging no allegiance to any master. Something always keeps me yearning for more with him and it feels alright with my soul. I am drawn to how he puts ideas and feelings into words that move me. Mr. Claude McKay was quick to remind anyone that he never studied poetry in the traditional way. He refused also to use patterns, images and words that would make people stamp him as either a classicist or a modernist. He was neither. Only better. His knowledge and style suits my soul. They way he chooses melodies and rhythms by instinct or favors words and figures which flow smoothly and harmoniously is like a balm for my mind. I am also drawn to his directness, his truthfulness and naturalness of expression. In fact, he knows my soul and my soul glows in his words.

I imagine



the woman



of girlhood,

in me,



in nothing,

just loosening,






all buried


like snow,




my mind


this day,

I begin,


to you,

only you,


only you


begin this

I imagine,


Memories of my girlhood.

The bits and pieces of my heart are slowly coming together through words. The prolific writer, bell hooks is my muse and guide through this process of undoing as well as so many other writers. But Ms. hooks speaks to my heart. I have been reading a lot about bell hooks of late. I began dancing in her words more when the pandemic began. She was the perfect salve for healing in a time of uncertainty. I buried myself deeply into everything she wrote. Her death took it to another level and well, not a day goes by these days that I am not pouring into anything she has ever written. She was a rare breed. My sister, my mother, my confidant, my friend, all in my head of course. She is the writer I long and dream to become. One unafraid to simply write. With no fear of sanctions or anything. I began reading about why she wrote her memoir “Bone Black,” which mostly focused on memories of her childhood. One thing I remember was her struggle to even begin. She once shared that when she made the decision to write about her journey to becoming a writer, there were no words.

Secrecy and silence for example, initially blocked her ability to write. To write about one’s life, to leave a trace of it, was frightening for her. Writing for her though became something to hold on to, to keep close. Writing ultimately helped her see the world clearly. These days, for me, writing has become a way of looking and seeing, a way to of undoing all that keeps holding me back from telling the stories I want to tell. I too have stared and continue to stare at blank screens, holding back for fear of breaking whatever bond, I have for keeping my thoughts hidden. Becoming bell hooks, choosing that named helped her kill Gloria Jean Watkins, her real name, and real self. To Ms. hooks, telling one’s story, even the process of telling, is tied to a longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and release. This longing for release compelled writing but concurrently fostered reunion, one that enabled her to write about her life in a way that allowed her to find herself. Like a living memory writing about the past can shape and inform the present, can foster self-growth and change in a practical way. One that I am truly looking forward to now that I am slowly delve into my undoing.