Dahlias are intense flowers like mother.

A league on their own, each petal is a colorful ray, of doubled flowers, in yellow or purple-ray florets, whites, ivories, and scarlet rays too. All in multiple whorls of ray flowers, all forming circles, forming clusters, forming bunches so compact, that it can only be described as motherhood. Dahlias are like mothers to me, so intense is the experience to me.

Their golden round and its countless petals, are like countless stars, that circle my being, with a stillness, so formless, so nameless, and so restless. The sighting of Dahlias are like mothers on days things are barely fathomless, days things are formless, even days we feel so flawless.

Dahlias indeed are stars. The blind see nothing. Both those who see, open their hearts. Their minds too open. To a stillness that is forever dazzling, forever haunting, each glimpse, forever brilliant, forever etched in memories as with days forever mesmerizing or days forever feeling helpless, or forever full of deep thoughts, that maybe forever inspiring while at the same time, make your feel forever dreamless, until moments become once more forever captivating, forever full of passion, in the midst of wild terrains that are forever demanding, even as you stay forever looking, yet feel like everything is forever in vain. Dahlias and their intricate whorls are forever full of surprises with every whorl which summarizes all that motherhood forever epitomizes.

The mere sightings of Dahlias galvanizes you to become one with all you desire, all you despise, all you disguise, even all you downsize as your journey from your base to your inner interior, the space where you hide your deepest desires, first for you, the place where all your dreams resides, all for you.

I have been there before. Of feeling lost, yet finding myself, of knowing how to proceed, yet loosing my way, but everything slowly making sense once my eyes greeted Dahlias.

Time stood still for Dahlias. They invite you in, invade your being, demand that you literally stop to recognize them, greet them, with all you possess, all within your power to soar as you devise ways to harmonize being one with your inner strength, one with this intricate flower. This is what Dahlias are known for. An inner strength so haunting, that you may fail to recognize the moment you give your self away to all the flower symbolizes. You may have been here before. Every time your eyes meet Dahlias. The sighting burrows deep in your soul. Like the soft kiss of a breeze. Dahlia’s kiss are forever captivating, forever etched in memories, that are forever lasting.

Yellow Dahlias gently kissed me while taking my baby to his daycare this week. Red ones too, ushered a tenderness so divine, gently caressing my restless heart, like fine wine. Slowly, I pressed forward, running out of excuses to delay this moment. He was supposed to start last week. It was his first time, and my heart and speech where rambling in chaos. Even though this was the day we have been waiting for.

I have been here before, with three other children. But something about baby number 4 made me nervous, made our day restless. Nothing was packed properly. Not his snack, not his water bottle, not his bag. Nothing was labeled properly either, not his diapers, not his wipes, not his bag. I should be happy. I should be pleased. No troubled mind, no demanding time. No breastfeeding, not restless feeding. Finally, all my children will be out of the house. Finally, all time, would be mine to claim. Sleep too. Yet, I was restless, nervous too. I fought through pain, until Dahlias met my eyes. With their sweet embrace, they encircled my being, forcing me to rise, to open to the sweet tenderness of this moment. Like the warmth of deep blue skies, I opened to their sweet embrace.

These are some of the secrets that I tend to keep hidden until now. Tend to ignore, dismiss too, until now. Stopping to recognize the power of opening up, was the gift I got from Dahlias. That and letting go. Of all the pains and joys of motherhood. The hopes and dreams we have that slowly dissipate, when we put others first. Slowly die, when we fail to put ourselves first. Even when we give our children the will to fly. We forget to fly too, afraid we will fall. I should be happy. I told myself 100 times, it will be okay. I knew this. We have been here before. Letting go, was painful. Unleashing a power, that made me rethink this moment, this freedom, this time that I knew would come one day. All children have to grow up. My baby, my last born, the one I bore during the pandemic was slowly walking to embrace all that life has to offer. I should be happy. Yet I felt lost.

I was lost, until Dahlia found me.

I was lost in its petals. This ethereal beauty, filled my restless soul with ease. Our greeting was gentle, a soulful ease. Like lovers we caressed each other, gently took hold of each other. With stillness so profound, so earth shaking. Time stood still, and Dahlias held me captive. We held on to each other. Afraid to blink, our eyes remain captivated by each other. Letting him go became easy. Watching him go with such reverence, became easy. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and caught him as he looked back. I saw something. Movements he initiated. Eyes locked with mine. As if to say are you coming. I am, always and forever, behind you, looking at you, loving you, captivated by you, inspired too by you, my baby, even as your journey through this world, through life. Keep Dahlia’s in mind for your journey through motherhood.

An entourage went with him to daycare on day 1 by the way. Here he walks forward to life.
Here he looks back! I’m behind you always!

My life is not my own. So I give myself away so you can use me. This song by William McDowell is my keep as I start this week. This is the week where I learn whether it’s time or not for God’s plans to be fulfilled in his child. So if God then is for me, who can be against me, is the song I sing. If God is with me, whom shall I fear when everything is by his design. Also the fact I could never make this on my own. So I literally give myself away.

When I look back over all I have done the past few months, I realize with each passing day that I never could have made it without God. So giving myself to him is easy. He has always been before me. Psalm 139 reminds me that he knew this week, this day would come when I was still being formed in the womb. That’s the part that keeps me in awe, win or lose. Everything is according to his design. There is no one like him. Who can ever stop us when our God is greater, stronger, higher than anything even awesome in power. It has always been about him after all. It’s his plans, it’s his work, it’s his words, all written through me, but for his glory.

I am stronger because he allowed me to use the gifts he gave to me for his glory. I am wiser because I would do it again whether I fail or even win. I know how to still win even when I fail. That part keeps me grounded. Failure is always an option with God on your side. It’s all for his glory still and I am just a vessel that he uses to bless his children, uses to light a path, blaze a road through a vast forest of nothingness. I could not do any of this without him ordering every single step. So win or lose, being discussed or not, is all a reminder that if he is for me, who can be against me. If he is for me, whom shall I fear. And if no one knows me, he still adores me and I will do my part to remain his light. For a city built on a hill cannot be hidden. I cannot be hidden. Keep giving yourself away to God.

We come home to ourselves. Our realized desiring selves. We also come home to spaces that are loving, spaces that are giving, spaces that are nurturing, spaces full of awareness, spaces that enable looking. Of all these spaces, looking is my keep for today.

Bell Hooks once described a power in looking. A power also with choosing to stop looking. She described it as a gesture of resistance. And when you return to looking, when you return after turning away, an oppositional gaze emerges. I am in this space, these days.

Not to be confrontational or difficult or even disrespectful, I am finally understanding the pleasure of saying no. I understand now what it means to say no to structures which had asked so much from me when I assumed a posture of subordination. Saying no is a radical gift that I gift myself these days, a gift that I use to nurture and protect me.

In the past, I was the first with ideas. I still am in circles that value my intellect. I was the first to say yes, to give myself fully to such spaces because we were all fighting the same beast. The truth is, our battle was personal and we wanted to come out victorious and unharmed. Until the fight turns on you. Until you realize you are now the beast and your head is on the chopping block. Hence why looking becomes critical.

Bell Hooks described this as having an oppositional gaze. Mainstream research circles in no way acknowledges that black women can thrive on their own. You don’t have to ask me, just do a quick search on who gets funded and you will see that they are not black or female. Look also at those in power in whatever space you find yourself in and again, whether at a grocery store or at a hospital, chances are that your leader isn’t black or female.

It’s for this reason that an oppositional gaze becomes vital, viral even if you are black and female.

Mainstream circles will remain ‘aggressively silent on the subject of blackness and representations of black womanhood,’ noted Bell Hooks. Many disallow the ‘possibilities of spaces, places even that include black women’s voices. It is also difficult to talk when you feel no one is listening, when you feel a special narrative has been created that only the chosen can understand’ she states. Yesterday, I was in such a space.

I know I shouldn’t be using this medium to air personal grievances. But I want growth and I need to continually gift myself the freedom to just say no to spaces that fail to enable me to discover or uncover all that I have. I did that internally, silently too when demands were asked. Not because I could not speak, but because it is difficult to speak when no one is listening. It’s is also difficult to speak when you are not valued.

So I stayed mute and looked. I stayed mute and applied Bell Hook’s oppositional gaze. I shared my thoughts with friends and they said, staying mute doesn’t help you grow. I disagreed. It helps me. That’s all that matters these days.

After going through this pandemic (we are still in it too), after going through moments of chaos with homeschooling, moments of stress with raising children, all I want these days are moments of healing for myself.

Even though silence will not protect me, and Ms. Lorde would want for me to transform it to action, I am, but for myself. I am learning to say no for myself first. This gesture protects me from whatever they think they have in store for me. I say yes always and all the time to spaces worthy of my yes. I say yes to spaces and people that know my worth.

I keep learning this every day. The power of saying no, the power of saying yes. It’s mine to gift first, to spaces that nurture and protect me. Spaces unafraid to affirm my subjectivity. My yes these days belong to people that are not afraid to hear me speak. People that know that my words are just that, words, with no desire to harm but to help them grow. People that don’t make me speechless. I was not born to be speechless.

This power that I gift myself, this power of oppositional gaze is to protect myself for the violence perpetuated and advocated in spaces that would rather I stifle my growth. And if I describe it as violence, it’s because this is still a battle, and the goal remains being victorious and unharmed. Writing in this way, about the power of oppositional gaze, makes my healing possible. I am also learning that there is more to looking. Keep it for yourself, especially in spaces where you gift yourself the power of saying no.

Illuminating. That’s my word for the day.

I am intrigued by its meaning. Webster’s defines it as providing insight and clarity. Becoming highly informative too.

Macmillan was my preferred definition. The idea of providing new and useful information so that something becomes clearer and easier to understand makes the word an important tool to which to speak to you to today.

I am a black woman coming to terms with my illumination. I am forever in search for ways to make things I love to do seem easy to understand, seem clear, and full of insight and not just for me, but for you, whoever you are reading this now in search of new insight to things that truly incite.

Like light. What is it about this word that keeps me returning back to it? It’s almost like I want to scream it out to the world with all my might. I just might too with precision and clarity.

For we have been in darkness for too long. We have done things as people truly blind to the world. We have not made efforts or strides to illuminate spaces and places in desperate need for light.

I am first to admit that part of my world has been in darkness for too long, under the shadows of the word and worlds of others for too long and still so eager to push through the darkness towards things that are illuminating for as long as I can.

Like the idea of being a black mom in light. A black woman in light.

I know whose I am is the first mantra. I know it from my hair follicles to the soles of my feet. Nothing I do is by accident. It is all by design, all written from the first moment I was conceived. I know whose I am is all I say with clarity on days when darkness seeks to envelope my world. On those days, knowing that I was made by design helps push light through.

The second mantra, make your case known. Do your best to push for light. You will fail in the process. Do so gracefully. Become prepared to make failure even a habit. I have no problem failing on my way to making light known. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden no matter how hard darkness seems to engulf the city. And there will be darkness. You will even go through the deepest depths of darkness. But when you remember who designed you, who first called you, then even the darkness is not dark enough for him.

Your ways are not my one is the third mantra. You want me to do it this way. Great, but what if I tried this way too. Ooh I will fail. I chuckle. Failure is always an option when you are a black mom, a black woman in light. It’s our second mantra for crying out loud. So yes, I will do it my way and I am prepared to fail daily until my way makes sense. It has to for I know whose I am.

Finally what’s your legacy? What is the institution that you are building and how will you make it last? This fourth mantra keeps me up at night. Not because I have the answers but because I care deeply about the stories the legacy will tell long after I am gone. I care deeply about the thoughts, the actions, even the words that I hope will speak louder for me, more eloquently than anything would. I care deeply about the spaces we build, the places that nourish our being, for what we own, what we build, our very own Institutions and structures cannot be broken when we build it with light. What’s your legacy becomes a clarion call for what being in light truly entails.

It’s for them afterall. Our legacy. Those we have asked to gather around our table, those we called to invade our space, those we choose to make room for in our place, our mind, our heart, our soul.

We cannot all going through this life together. I get it. The chapter we may find ourselves in today, will surely end tomorrow. When it does, who remains, who leaves?

I care deeply about those that choose to remain even when all that surrounds us makes no sense. I care deeply about those that choose to remain even when I hurt them deeply. I care deeply about those that choose to remain because they trust my words, the language I use, even when all I say may be empty. I care deeply about those that choose to remain to help me uncover all the noise, on this road to becoming clear, precise, illuminating, light.

I care deeply about those that see my light. I don’t take it all for granted. This process of becoming light. I care deeply about all of you on this journey. I know some of you read this.

I thank you for listening. I thank you for seeing the vision. I thank you for believing. I thank you for helping me, helping us push through this light that the world desperately needs these days.

Nothing we are doing is by accident. It is all by design. I care deeply that you see it too. Thank you for pushing light through with me. Thank you illuminating my world.

If I am not saying much now with precision and clarity it’s because we just gave birth. We have been in labor since September when this writing began. A 10 month pregnancy that has finally given birth to a dream. To think that I had to do so much writing to make way for this dream is breathtaking to me. To see the people we have assembled is even extraordinary.

These next few months are like those of a newborn. Nothing will make sense. We are still in darkness as it’s takes a while for newborn babies to open their eyes and see faces and shapes and sounds that will forever remain. We are truly newborns at this moment. But in due time, we will crawl, walk, and even run. Until then, keep illuminating the world. It truly needs our light to push through.

We went by water yesterday. My kids and I. Not a big water park as before. But a small indoor pool perfect for cooling down the rays of heat of a truly scorching summer.

I didn’t want to go. I still remember the meltdown from our prior excursion to a water park. I didn’t even bring out my green swimming suit. No need to swim when your mind and eyes need to stay alert. And I was prepared to stay alert this time around.

I spoke to my son with a gentle ease. I do it all the time too, eyes to eyes. He seemed to listen with ease, talking and repeating word for word like a gentle breeze. I told him we would go by water again and this time we will have a great time. I reminded him of the need to not cry. I took him to the side to quell all the noise I knew his brain was destined to make. Spoke power to him to overcome them, to enjoy being one with water, to look forward to the experience coming to an end too. I did all this because I didn’t want to end as we did the last time. I didn’t want eyes on us. I certainly didn’t want a meltdown like before. I still feel tense whenever I recall the experience. I also know he doesn’t mean it hence why I would still take him by water even though I know it may end badly.

We got dressed. He wore his favorite blue swimming shirt and pants. The words fortnite in a camo print were written on his shirt. Praying to not rewrite history still kept me alert. I watched as he gently made sense of all the water around him. I did so watching his other siblings too, better than any hawk would too. His sister went up and down a large yellow water slide. His little brother found joy up and down a red water slide. My son stood next to the water dripping down in a progressive style next to the water slide. The twirling water from little spouts seemed to make him joyful and surprisingly gentle.

He seemed happy to just watch water gush out of the spouts gently. Watching him watch water kept me in a state so gentle. Honestly words failed me. Here I was expecting the worse given our prior attempts at a water park that left me so drained. But he once more proved why children on the spectrum are truly divine by design. By the end of the day, approximately 20 minutes to my timed departure, when I said it’s time to leave, he asked if he could have one more turn on the silde. His response kept me stunned that all I could do was nod my head.

I watched as he went up and down the slide one more time, watched his face light up with joy one more time, saw as he came out of the pool with his brother and sister one more time, all with a gentle ease that kept me stunned for a long time. Here is truly my son, whose spectrum is perfect and by God’s design. I cannot fully make sense of the changes we go through with him all the time. But I am grateful to see the boy his is growing up to be one step at a time. Keep these gentle ease for kids like him. Great days are full of joy, full of ease, truly gentle, and all by design.

The first moment they laid eyes on him was breathtaking. Because of the pandemic, no visitors were allowed around hospital grounds for the pandemics grip was ground breaking, heartbreaking too, for all the lives lost to poor leadership and decision-making. That we were heading home with baby about 36 hours later following his arrival was so striking. The pandemics grip was so tight that even newborn babies didn’t need the customary 48 hours in a hospital where the virus impact remained captivating. We arrived through the backyard. Grandma was watching the kids and knew we where on our way home. The kids were clueless. Dad held the car seat with baby and the hospital bags. I held my phone camera up ready to capture the joy I hoped would be striking.

The moment they saw us, the moment they saw baby, even the joy for the moment will forever be etched in my mind as it was amazing, this joy so elating. They sang how he was welcomed in the name of the Lord. Twirled and jumped around in excitement so exhilarating. Mama was singing and praying. The children were calling and repeating the name baby over and over again as if we named him baby. My middle son had a red shirt one with an emoji with four yellow smily faces making crazy but happy faces. My children did the same with all their crazy but happy faces. We were indeed welcomed in the name of the Lord following a birth during a pandemic so mesmerizing but still so frustrating. That we could come home with no problems and a healthy newborn kept me like grandma, singing and praying for this joy we found so intoxicating.

As was customary during the pandemic, everyone had to wash their hands or use hand sanitizers before touching baby. My children were no exception. He is so cute, my son said. My daughter agreed too. Baby lay restful in his car seat, straddling between being awake and being sleepy. They world was a scary place that refusing to choose either states made complete sense to me as well. What’s his name again, asked my daughter. Ranyenna. My son, refusing to learn just blurted that well we have two Olisa’s (the name of third baby now displaced from being our last baby). No we don’t, I said. His name is Ranyenna and you will learn how to say it with ease. Hi Breana, Hi Rihanna, they kept saying, until Ranyenna rolled from their tongue with ease.

But just when I though I had seen it all, my children surprised me with a bag. They say it was for baby. They back up some of their old toys in a plastic grey paper bag and made a paper card for baby’s arrival. They presented it to me to keep for baby. Their gift, even though full of toys used and old, is forever etched in my mind too as an example of love so blazing. Grandma talked about how she couldn’t sleep at night, about how she stayed up praying for our safe delivery. My kids talked about how baby was cute, how he was so cute and tiny, a cute tiny baby. I basked in their joy, knowing that the journey this time around was different, full of turbulence, made worse by a pandemic, whose path was groundbreaking, heartbreaking too. That our journey would end with us singing and praying was liberating. Watching Ranyenna awaken finally to their stares was joy so amazing that my soul kept singing and praying, for his blessings totally worth praising.

I see life as a journey. For some, that journey may take up to 86 years. For others, few months. Last year, my little nephew completed his journey in 10 years. He returned back to the one who first called him, first framed him, first loved him. We all have to return back to him. But the exit of a 10 year old, stings.

Here was a boy, his mother described as her king. An oasis of love, so divine, so beyond the beauty of flowers that bloomed in spring. Their love too was never supposed to end. Always supposed to rise up on eagle’s wing. Yet, perfect submission was all our soul could sing.

This weekend too is bittersweet for all of us living. Life remains a journey that will come to an end. Yet, many still take life for granted, pretending that there is no dead-end. Expending our time and energy for things that even our life can’t seem to comprehend. And when our journey comes to an end, very few remain to commend all we left behind, defend even the time we spent, sowing love that was supposed to transcend time.

I called his mom yesterday. Told her to be strong. That their love is still divine. That his journey, still sublime, even though the end stings, he is still the perfect definition of life lived by God’s design.

She called him her angel. God’s perfect being. Sitting next to the one who first called him. I asked her to send up a prayer to him for me. Remind God of all of us still here, all of us still contending with time, as we comprehend this loss our heart still cannot get over, despite time.

Then she took me on a journey, an oasis of her love for her king. Though, he is gone, she said, something great can still come out of this moment. She imagined it would be an oasis. His very own oasis of light. Where all the memories they had together transcends time. One where all things supposed to end, never truly ends. Like his smile, the warm glow in his eyes when he shines his bright smile. His words, those he reserved for those he loved, because they deserved all his words. Every thing about him was truly perfect and by God’s design.

When love is defended in this way, it never really ends. It begins again, always like a circle that never ends. So she is going to sow an oasis of love. She is going to raise awareness of his love. No other child should end their journey by 10. But if they do, she wants them and their families to remember not how but when, not why too, but when they choose love over and over again. A never-ending oasis, this outpouring of love that truly never ends.

Listening to her, made me realize how connected we all are to love and by extension light. Even in our deepest darkness, in moments that are difficult to comprehend, the pull and push for light transcends time. Like an oasis, the movement towards light never ends. We become light the more we seek it out for ourselves. Our light, does not exist in isolation. Rather they interact and will penetrate moments of darkness in ways that allow us to survive and thrive even as we bend to things our soul can’t fully comprehend.

When we move towards this oasis of light, we are no longer held captive by the firm grip of darkness. We move towards light even when darkness surrounds our journey. Our existence can only manifest great things if we let light flow like gentle waters along rocky streams.

The key is to keep moving, whether along rocky paths or in dark tunnels. Many say it’s at the end of the tunnel. I say it’s right where you are, whether at the beginning, the middle or the end of the tunnel. Light is all around you, so long as you choose to move. A mother’s love, resembles this oasis of light. I saw a glimpse of it as I listened to it being manifested in the words my sister spoke so eloquently with all her heart, all her might.

It’s an oasis after-all. Light invades our being despite our resistance, interrupts all the noise too, often with no assistance, and structures our lives when we choose it as the pinnacle of a supreme persistence for darkness that threatened our very existence.

No other being perceives it in this way. Darkness may come to disrupt it. Death too, in its own final way. But seeking light, doing our best to reach out to it, to clutch it firmly in our hands, is freeing, in it’s own unique way.

We are bound to be in darkness. Our journey through life began in a womb filled with darkness. Yet we thrived despite being surrounded by an air full of darkness. We did so, because of this light inherent in places filled with darkness. So that, even if we watch our children depart before we do, even if we pass through the deepest darkness, their gift back to us, reminiscent of the moment they first came to us, is an oasis of light

This is a mother’s love truly undefined, one my sister has found for herself. One that I hope to live up to, as I continue my journey through life. Keep this oasis of light for all mothers, especially those who bear the unthinkable, unimaginable, unbearable weight of loss. There is still light for them and all of us, even in these moments of loss. Rest In Peace, a perfect oasis of God’s light Kaysen.

I remember the day we met. I was summoned to a meeting at a faculty office by the Director of Health for Student Services. He was a close friend to my family. I say summoned because I tried to excuse myself from it. My excuses too were valid as I was on maternity leave. I just had my second child a month ago. I knew he meant well when he said it was for a student and she needed help. I arrived at his office promptly. Something about helping out a student in need keeps me standing always. Upon my arrival, I met the student and her uncle. They explained her situation and asked if I would take her on as a mentor for her masters degree. I felt I had no choice seeing that I was summoned and reluctantly said yes. I had no clue as well where to begin, as I would be on maternity leave while she navigated being a student. That was nearly seven years ago.

Today, that student, boarded a plane to begin her tenure-track career as an Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University. Our relationship has now come full circle. We worked together extremely well in ways that make me even wonder how I would fare as she leaves. I remember the beginning days of writing with her. She has always been a writer but need a little bit of finesse. It took time, with revisions, and discussions, all from a place of wanting to bring out the best in her. She listened, revised, listened some more and wrote and wrote.

These days, all I do is give a sense of the topic, and she is off soaring. I don’t even have to discuss much, let alone revise. It’s perfect. That’s what I mean by full circle. That as mentors, those we guide, will do better than us, greater than us even, and beyond our wildest reach, our deepest depths. I have come across mentors who prefer you remain a mentee. Some are also willing to stifle your drive because you dared to thrive. Possibly without them too. Yet, they too forget, that the greatest gift they can give to those they guide is the circle. Once it’s complete, mentees should become ready to soar, even if they stumble along the way. Still rise on eagle’s wind and soar.

That’s my keep for you today. That as you start this new journey at Wake Forest, as you close one chapter of your life and open another, that as you complete this circle and begin another, that you will always rise like an eagle and soar to new heights. Reach to for what is highest within your capacity and quietly make your name known. You may be overlooked, even underestimated but the future belongs to those who dare fly. Fly Dr. Ucheoma Nwaozuru. It’s your future.

My awakening summer was 2020. Like the entire country, I was literally in labor. Something wonderful was born on this day, by 9am last year. We became parents to our fourth child. We call him Ranyenna. In Igbo, it means giving him back to God.

His hair was full, short, brown and crinkled. His eyes were big, brown and beautiful. They moved slowly to see this world we live in. His voice was tender, very mellow, very hush, except when he cried and only food, stopped all the fuzz. I imagine he was weary. I was too. The world was unfriendly and unkind, squeezing through my canal, equally unfriendly and unkind and he choose to make his arrival in the middle of a pandemic and a long overdue racial reckoning so unfriendly and unkind.

The times were changing but my baby was as beautiful as the setting sun. The loveliest thing about life, about love, was in my arms. I was prepared to protect him like an eagle. Nourish his being for he was regal. Watch him soar unfettered like a seagull. For he was mine to gaze and hold so dear. His entire being filled me with enormous pride. I too was prepared to say, here is my child, with whom my joy for life, cannot be denied.

Love was more than a four letter word, more than a feeling, more than I can even put to words. Love was him and together we were loved. To see a child pass through the different stages of becoming a being. To listen from the beginning and watch till the end for over 9months until they they make their arrival to this world defies words. I have been through this 3 times already, but everytime has a magic of its own and Ranyenna’s birth was no different.

I felt no pain, expect during the critical times of labor. I didn’t even know I was in labor. And people continue to underestimate my labor. We walked into the hospital the night before, with our masks on like never before. We were 2 days early. I felt contractions. They weren’t painful or I seem to know how to tolerate pain. My husband asked whether we should go check it out. I did so because he suggested. I felt completely fine. I left my purple hospital bag in my car. These were the terrible beginning months of the pandemic. I feared even my bag wasn’t safe on hospital grounds. I was taken to a room where the nurses started to check whether I was in labor or a false alarm. I was in labor, 4 cm dilated, and I didn’t even know.

They took us to a plain-colored room around 1am or so. I was curious about birth in a pandemic. I expected it to be surreal and unlike my other 3 births. It wasn’t, except for all the mask people wore around us. My husband and I wore no mask in our room. They put all their tubes, started epidural, and waited for labor to progress. I went to sleep. By morning, they broke my water. And my labor started in full force by 8:30 am on that fateful Wednesday morning and by 9am he made his arrival known.

My Ranyenna cried, piercing tears that were so melodic to my ears. Then he came straight to my body. Flesh for flesh, love for love, I held him completely mesmerized that he was mine. Completely in awe that I passed through the journey for the 4th time with no problems. I am the last person to ever share news of being pregnant. My mom once said that because pregnant women go through a journey called pregnancy, it’s best to keep mum about the journey until you become a mom. It has always been my philosophy to keep mum. Until they arrive.

With baby number 4, his arrival illuminated my spirit and set my world ablaze. My soul has been on fire ever since. Because of him, being fearless is all I know. You would too if you watched yourself give birth to a living being. It’s an out of body experience that I can never fully wrap my head around. This gift called motherhood. One that I will forever cherish because I am never overlooked. I struggle with that a lot. Struggle with when I should speak or stay silent. When I should lead or follow. Even when I should stifle my drive so others and their drive are not stifled. It’s a struggle I’ll admit that means women like me get overlooked and underestimated all the time.

But with my children, with my greatest treasures, with my profound creation, with my cup that overflows, I am looked at, with eyes that say I love you and words that speak it all the time. Love that knows no despair. Love as gentle as an evening prayer. Love that never wears or tears. Love that is always there. Love that allows me to go anywhere. Love that I will follow anywhere. Love that leads me anywhere. With them, I found strength for this thing called life. Their love is all I need to get by. Your love Ranyenna is all I need. Happy birthday my gift I gift back to my God always.

My love, happy birthday!

The sounds of the times are changing. Stop a while for a moment and see how we refuse to bend to your unchanging. See our power. See our audacity. See our brilliance. See our grace. See as we turn our backs to your places and spaces. See how we elegantly uncover all our hidden secrets, all things that make us sacred. Our black has always been excellent. Always been graceful. Always been brave. Always been bold. Open your eyes and see for yourself.

Ooh and we are so brave, so full of grace. We are a bright light in a world that’s fallen far from grace. Though you may choose to remain the same. We know, that we are at a critical junction where being bold and brave is our middle name.

The moment to reckon with black women in academia is now. We are not some butler at a party, opening the doors for your arrival or all you allow.

It’s our party now.

Come in and stay awhile if you may. Eat our jollof rice and barbecue ribs with fried plaintains if you may.

Drink our palm wine or chocolate beer if you may. Dance to our music, ooh dance and no do, no do, shakara for me ooh. That’s the song we play.

Laugh, yes, let your soul laugh as you play with our children. They are our very own butterflies. Get to know how they make us fly.

And while you mingle, take a good look at all the other people in our inner circle, our interior life. Every one of them is a testimony of our strength, our tenacity, our perseverance, our power, our brilliance, our hidden secret, our reason for being, our greatest treasure, our life’s work, our legacy.

Like an Hibiscus flower at dawn, we bloom because of every single person we call our own, even single person ready in their battle gear, to fight this battle, just so they too can say we won. We do not fight this battle on our own.

Ooh and we won.

Every single person walked a thousand journeys with us just to help us win this battle. They cried too when we cried, for every time your insults were belittling, every time you questioned our credentials.

They carried us when we fell, when we stumbled, when we broke down under the weight of the pressure you felt was essential. They nursed us when we were sick and because of them we rise on our heels. Our bold rise today is because they lifted us up yesterday.

We are so powerful beyond these words we choose to speak with to you. Powerful beyond what you think you may know of us. We know our worth and are prepared to be audacious to leave spaces and go to places where we will be celebrated and not tolerated. Places that will help us thrive and not stifle our drive.

And why not. When we can cook and clean and write and sleep, all while running to make mango popsicles for our children, our butterflies, our greatest legacies.

We know whose we are and by God, we will be bold where we are.

You can’t stand in the way of all that is designed for our destiny.

You may wonder if this is the right moment, pacify us to keep mum for this moment. But what you forget, is how he alone knows the plan he has for us. Something great still will come out of this moment.

You may view us a a symbol of love and hate. But we are human beings too. You may view us as difficult too. Try to keep us mute too. But this is our supreme moment of destiny. This time is so long overdue.

So make your decisions. Decline, offer, deny, call it a difficult decision. Nothing will stop what is ours.

Nothing.

We will boldly decide and fight for what is ours. Even if you think it’s within your power to deny what is ours.

It is still ours. Our destiny. Our story. Our song. Our blessed assurance for a changing time where only bravery and boldness are all we know. One where praises will be sang by all the people gathered around our table, all the day long, including you.

Keep being bold and brave Black woman in academia. Thank you for showing us how Nikole Hannah Jones. And read her statement for rejecting tenure under her own terms here https://t.co/eMgYqRXbTL?amp=1