We stood at the edge of decision recently, one crucial and alone. We refused to indulge another moment of failed dreams. We have seen seasons come and go. We have looked inward and outward to make sense of the day. Now, we want to breed futures full of dreams. Now we are like bread on a birds mouth. We are dreaming where others thought dreaming was an excuse. Anger was a faint line on my forehead. There are many uses of it, we are learning. For those never meant to survive. These days, as the sunrises, we will dream. As it sets, we will still dream. Our hearts are still full. Days like today will never come again. Not for those unafraid to dream. We will still dream. Though change is coming. Though we wish it was today. We see what lack of dreams breed. The contempt and hatred too. Yet, we will wait to still dream and dream again, knowing the next time, for those who dare dream, would be divine. Welcome to the end of dreamless existence.
Keep being amazing!
I used to wonder about seasons and change. About spring and change. About sudden nearness of days, that seem only to lead to weariness and pain. Today I stood in front of strangers, stood in front of friends and colleagues too. Spoke of pain, spoke of the day, I knew when the rain began to beat me. We still carry a heavy burden. Of guilt, of silence, of what it’s like to wish, for time, to wish for life. This week has been full of lessons. A friend lost his wife, just as their new triplets arrived in the world. I launched a cervical cancer program that started only because my sister in-law died. The end is hard. Beginnings too. I felt both this week. If I was silent, I was processing change. If I was absent, I was liberating change. Both are happening simultaneously that all I can say is grace. So many tried to bring me down this month of March. So many thought I would fall, but they forgot my name is Isioma, my mother is Onyelo, and I am the granddaughter of a woman who persevered. Legions are always behind me. They birthed me and made me their wildest dreams. Our resilience is weird. Our future bristles with possibilities. What they tried to destroy, is only stronger. When it’s time, I will amaze.
I remember having dinner with her one workday evening. Looking back those evenings were rare and special and Boulevard Garibaldi with all its restaurants were a space for healing for souls weary from living and working in the city of lights. They say we are supposed to be grateful. The Tour Eiffel was our constant view. An emblem of hope of which sorrow and struggle was forbidden. A million people would kill to be in our shoes. Some would gladly move the earth for our view. Well, back then, the shoes were tight and suffocating, that peeling them off was urgent for me.
The month was February. I remember distinctively because there were roses everywhere. Lovers too everywhere. Their hopes were urgent. Our meeting too. We sat across from each other too, hopeful for what the night of companionship, night of communion together would finally bring. These were the early days of living in Paris and we were slowly getting used to calling it home, slowly understanding where the rain began to beat us too. I needed our communion. Needed our meeting and time for healing. My supervisor at that time was difficult. My ears were tingling for the first time. My days felt grey. But she brought the sun and a splendid sunset.
She would become my sanity in those days, my place of comfort, my shelter from storm, my whistling trees, my blue skies on a sunny day, my starting point, rustling like a gentle breeze. The evening sky the night of our meeting was grey. The air too was grey. Yet, we met for dinner and healing, time could no longer delay. The night seemed to be like any other night. Waiter approached our table and asked what we wanted to eat. We ordered and proceeded to speak about why it took a long time to finally meet. I remember the food being immaculate. Something about the way French people treat chicken and potato on a menu would make any dull day seem bright. Yet, the food, no matter how great it was, paled in comparisons to the meeting of our minds. And it was truly a meeting. A whisper of Mahogany.
She named her poetry after the great Mahogany tree native to her land. She named it whispers too, for the stories it knows so well, and wants to tell. Her mouth were like whistling trees. I listened as every word fell from her lips. Every world held me spellbound, as if I too was becoming like the Mahogany. As if I too could learn how to whisper. There were words for mothers, those about love, truly sacred and simple. There were words whispered by Mahogany. Not in a singular voice, but a plethora of voices. Every word she spoke, to an audience of one, was as crucial as it was powerful. I listened and soaked up the words like a sponge. The evening sky was no longer grey in the sweet surrender. The air too, no longer grey, but tender, kind, sweet, in the pure light of the evening. Our food no longer, poulet, or frites but a shared communion that griped us both with a dazzling array of words.
To see a woman speak, to watch how her words glow, to see her light, those that uncover, those that unite, words full of magic, words that bring magic, is to see the moment she shines, transparent to her core. There are few people that move me, few that push me to my zenith, my highest place where only light is reflected, like a lamp that never dims. That night, Ritamae, became one of them. My highest place, where only dreams are allowed. Where words too are required, those that stir, those that smile, those that uncover the brightness within, like the sweetness of fruit, ripened to their core.
The night ended with a plethora of voices speaking. Those of my friend and those of whispering Mahogany. Twelve years later, I give them back to you, give you these memories too, of the night our souls connected, one evening a long time ago in Paris. I greet you too in words of my own, words that I hope remind you of how far we have come. And we have come too far. Yet, to see that glow again in you, to see your light, even in this moment you unveil Mahogany, is to know the pride of women, who speak. Keep speaking in your moonlit way. Keep being Mahogany, you who bring the sun and splendid sunset.
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 what the mirror said!
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.
Keep all your tears!
I have this memory, etched forever in my minds extremity, of tears, of chaos, and vows that I made, as winds rustled by, that you my son, the one God gave to us, the one that taught life’s extremities, those that flair up on their own, those that rhyme on their own, those that bang, those that tick, all of them that occur during nights without stars. I remember all of them so vividly, moments with no roots, to nourish us, no stems, nothing, just detached and naive about life and all its extremities. Yet these extremities took their own time to flower, took their own time to reveal the budding promise we made with the wind years ago, that come rain or sun, come rainbows or spectrum, the flesh of my flesh, and the bone of my bone, will one day surpass the tears we cried so long ago. To see that day come, even a glimpse of it, is to see a dream come through. One without fear for a tomorrow so near. Keep believing even in tears.
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 your ambitions!
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.
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.
Keep impossible 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.
Keep birds in flight in mind!
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.
Keep Black Women!
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.