They say it heals and persevere. Writing. They say to use it to keep what matters. Anything from golden brown meat pies to the perfect strawberry smoothies. They say to use it to amplify and acknowledge, express and experience, cope and chronicle, reflect and resist, solve and save, pray and persist. For we are empowered to express. Emotions, honest, and true. For creativity and support. For wellness and well-being. Anger or change. Radical or necessary. Anything we note, begin with words we first keep, like the opening of peonies.
Keep ignoring Black women at your peril!
So I wrote a grant in one day. I know. I surprised myself too. I started yesterday morning after dropping the kids off at school. The topic was clear in my mind but I needed literature to guide the grant writing process. So I spent endless hours looking through papers, for anything relevant. I book-marked papers, got key statistics here and there and tried but failed unsuccessfully with putting even half a page together by the time I needed to go get my kids from school. This was a five hour day wasted at least from the grant writing perspective. In between I had meetings, about 2 of them, one of which was a training program and all of them interrupted my flow with grant writing.
By 2:45 pm when I was getting no where, I stopped, showered and went to pick my kids from school. We got popsicles with his kindergarten class, then went grocery shopping at the African market. By the time we got home it was around 5pm and my day seemed to just go on with still nothing to show for it. We made dinner. I watched as the kids played outside and tried to write but still nothing. Then after dinner, I went to my room and hid myself. Grand-ma was with the kids so told myself to commit for at least 2-hours to get an aims page done.
We did. I was satisfied and went to get the kids ready for bed. I bathed my baby and tucked him nicely in his bed. Then I went back to my laptop to try to write again. It was around 9 and I wrote till around 10:30 pm or so. I took my night shower, put everything aside and committed to at least drafting some of the approach section. By this time I had some aims page and some rough significance.
I also wrote on my blog about something that tickled me earlier during the day. I belong to many academic circles, but one of them has been quite different of late. Imagine all of us writing a paper, but you really dislike me so much that you forget to tag me in your tweet about the paper. I really have no words except to say as I noted in my blog, ignore me at your peril. While they were being petty, I was committing to writing yet another grant that illustrates all the ways I survived and yes I did more than survive that group. Nonetheless, I can be petty too and so I blogged about them, got that out of my chest and went to bed.
I woke up around 5:34 determined to finish some aspects of the grant before my kids got up. At first I was slow. The words were slow and I struggled a bit and kept writing as much as I could. The words started to fall in place. The grant too started to make sense. My kids got up around 7 and I was half way through the approach of aim 2. By 10am this morning, I finished the grant in its entirety, added even the references, took a shower and went to buy groceries.
I am keeping this here because I literally wrote a grant in a day, never mind being a mother to four children and a wife to a very busy guy who literally saves lives. This year has been trying. To think that as the year comes to and end, I am still defying odds keeps me speechless. I still managed to take my kids to piano lessons today and yes, Saturday laundry is ongoing alongside making dinner for tonight. Black women like me are truly primary. We know who we are and we are prepared to show up and show out always. Ignore us at your peril. We are focused on all the things that make us full.
Keep being still!
I know what they say.
I know what the feel.
Through the valley
Through the deepest valley,
I know how to be still.
I stand still in awe
Keep climbing mountains!
If you have ever been invisible, ever been accused, ever been dismissed, ever been muted, even when not in a room, consider yourself lucky to have come this far. Then keep climbing your mountain. For few will see the moon glow as it does for those ignored. Few will understand that they choose their words carefully. Language is a tool to be used wisely. Poetry too is a tool that will make you memorize these word: The moon favors women who know the stories of lions.
See how they glow. Few will know that they are not helpless, not speechless, not ignorant, of the way titles and roles handicap humanity like those of hunters. See some of us were named before anything and anyone named us. If you don’t know, ask about Igbo people, learn about our history, our ways, how legions named us before the world saw us. Then when you are done learning, go back and witness how greatness unfolds for those in alignment with their Chi, see how their Ike, never ends, watch their Ije, and see how even Ani belongs to them. Then and only then will you understand how they flow through Oge, how what holds them is as divine as the primal vision of the bluest skies. Today and always, poetry will serve, nouns will choke verbs used to describe actions. Diagram this sentence too: Those climbing mountains, those who know themselves, those named before anything named them, those Igbo, those like lions too, will burn you a tune you will hum forever. Wait for it…
On the day so many witnessed the double standards black girls and women face, even in basketball, I witnessed the same for myself personally. I have written elsewhere about what it means to be silent and what it means to survive academia as a black woman on your own terms. The future will tell the story better one day. My asks have alway been simple, live and let live. Will I make you work, yes. I work, so anyone around me better get used to that. Will I make you question even your own existence. Yes. We are called to be cities on hills, so your light, at least around me, cannot be hidden. Will it make some quit. Absolutely. Quitting is part of the story. We should always stop when dreams are not in alignment. It doesn’t mean you can’t dream for yourself still, just that everyone needs to find it for themselves first. I did for myself, so it is only natural that anyone should have a plan for themselves. What I can’t I won’t tolerate is hidden agendas. It’s not in my DNA to hide anything I do. I am as transparent with all my goals and dreams as can be, my biggest weakness, because I love to talk. But the moment you begin to hide your own, should be the day you decide to roam this earth on your own. I will always wish you Ijeoma.
But back to today’s keep, here is how to keep being amazing even when one journey ends just as another begins, even as you climb any mountain on your own terms. Know yourself.
I spoke to my mentor yesterday and even from afar, he knew these moments will come. We have been going on this mentorship thing for over 16 years. We have witnessed the good and the bad, including the death of my father. That he is more than a mentor to me is not an understatement. I run to him when the good comes as well as when the struggles and hurdles come. Here is what he told me, word for word ‘let them head for the valley and you continue to climb the mountain.’ I know my people. They know me well. Chi-chi said change is necessary for growth and so is letting go. I am listening. Everything and everyone is reminding me how poetry is not a luxury. Keep climbing mountains.
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.
Keep your people close ooh and whatever is for you!
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.
Keep the roots of your approach!
Roots understand everything.
Out of sight,
Yet they see it all
and never judge
None goes unnoticed.
Just drinking water
When they can
As they can
If you could know
all the ways they connect,
If you could learn,
the commitments they know,
The cooperation too,
You wouldn’t apologize for your thorns either
Not when this thing, hidden but so vital.
Anchors those above
Cues and pattern formation
Moments of peak
In fixed positions.
Anchors all that witness too.
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.
Keep being a child of dreams
You are draped in all colors of the sun. All the shades of blue skies. All the greens of leafy trees. You who loves a life that cannot be denied. We named you after God so you never forget your name, never forget that you can own beautiful heavens, powerful earth and brilliant stars. You are also more than you seem. You name is God after all. Nothing can prison your mind. You who are free like air. A child of dreams. I pray you keep bursting open doors that amaze us all. We love you Olisa. Happy 6th Birthday, Olisa.
Keep your stories!
A womb tells the beginning of your story. Life forgets it’s continuity. Yet, if your stories, instead of theirs, your life, instead of their own. All your gains, instead of defeat. Your pain too, instead of deceit. If your lillies bloomed in any way. Your roses only registered thorns. Your days are as days. Your nights too, like nights.
If only you spoke of all the ways the rain fell on your head. A clear view of your flood. Those that deflated or those that manifested into all the sum of you. If you ever disappeared, even if for a minute, in your thoughts or in reality, all the moments, distant or near, that are simultaneous with your years. If there were no colors in your life, no dash of pink in Spring, or yellow in the summer, if only black and blue, then the telling of that will do. If there were hours unaccounted for. Labor unpaid. Tears unknown, joy undiscovered, desires unfulfilled, even delight unspeakable, only insight may salvage all the residue that remains.
So then tell all the arcs you know. Those that bent all the way to the ground, those that lost the ground or those that flapped up to foreground. Tell all the moments flowers made you smile. Dahlia’s or daffodils will do. Remember the rain, the depths of the fall or floods. Remember too ending hours of your existence, the earth beneath your feet, ideas that persisted, or encounters that made you rise, all before your sun sets.
When the hours of your existence have been accounted for, what will remain? I woke with this need to ask myself this question. Who will tell my story for me, just the way I would want it to be told? We die, that may be the meaning of our lives, said Toni Morrison. But we do language and that maybe the measure of our lives. So when your time is up, how would your life be measured? With the things you did and as told by those behind, or with your own words and as told by you.
I want my words to do the talking. I want it to talk back even when I’m gone. I want it to speak of all the ways I lived, the flowers I kissed, or the storms that persisted. Either way, our memories are all we have and we can keep them now, even as we breathe.
So to those wondering whether it’s worth keeping, these moments of our living, know that your stories are worth it. Keep it.
Keep breathing again!
The plans for this year was light. I planned to walk through flames, to risk the fires that burn, even in the cold, just so I get to the forest of light within. That was the new year plan. In one week, I have been informed by the year that this one will be a rollercoaster. Sit tight and hang on. If last year tried to consume you, this year is coming, bright and burning. And it’s only the 8th day. I opened my door this morning. Let the cold air seep in. I was reminded in that instant to breathe in. Cool air. Breathe in. Even as things burn. Breathe out. As smoke rises. Keep breathing. The year will come for you. Try to burn you too. Cold air will seep in. You will feel like you are sinking. Floors will give away. Yet, breathe in. Push them all back. Close the door. Breathe out. You have noticed the air. Noticed the smoke, and the sinking floors. But still, turn around and smile. They will not understand this air you breathe in.
The most sublime lessons are those learned and relearned. The post above was first written on the 8th of January, 2022. Now, a year later, the message feels like it was written today. I am keeping this year as a reminder to myself to keep breathing again and again. 2022 was indeed a rollercoaster. I still don’t expect folks to understand the air I breathe in 2023. Still, I intend to keep breathing.
Keep grace upon grace in 2023!
Happy New Year.
Something about this moment,
This New Year again,
Feels like a renewal
A time for reimagination
Only, this time, I’m in a village,
And the pleasing sounds of rare birds and cocks crowing, goats bleating alongside more bird sounds chorusing through tall palm trees, keeps me ready for the boundless possibilities of this New Year.
I am at the gate of new realities for another new year, inhaling too, the fragrance of a well-deserved rest, and a lingering happy silence, but this time, I am still.
Will this gentle breeze I feel this moment, will these sounds endlessly start my day, will the earth remain as red as it is or the palm trees rustle with the breeze? Soon, I will leave these place but may all the things I feel for it, all the rest and release I received from this place, be with me as a New Year begins again.
I have been away. I desperately need it. I had to cut everything off. I also had no choice. I was in a remote village and no amount of wifi would work. We had three from 3 different companies and my most spoken word this past week was no reception. I let time and the moment go on as expected. It was the restoration my soul needed that I really didn’t fully know I needed. It gave me more clarity, gave me peace, gave me perspective and now bring on 2023.
If I make changes or move in another direction, know that’s it’s this thing called grace. It’s my revelation for 2023. How I also choose to reevaluate my life too. I have nothing but grace, and with it, I have everything I need. This grace is my word and mood for the year. I pray it leads me and you all the way in 2023.
I saw a soft radiant sunset last evening. We were driving through an estate whose name when translated from Igbo to English means ‘blessings are great.’ Everything about out evening, from the setting sun, to our time at the estate, was full of grace, full of blessings. No wonder an Igbo man retires home the last few days of a year. The sun, the estate and all its hidden meanings are all I need as we begin to close out 2022.