Words call us, we go. A blurry thought, uncertain notes, hopelessly we stroll until meaning becomes clear, becomes us. Today we sat patiently trying to wait for words to come. It took a while. Children were crying. Hearts were weary but souls were full from a reunion a pandemic almost denied. We waited for the words to come, to express how we felt for we where thankful, full of thanks for a day that kept giving, spilling into another day that continues to give. Then the word ‘serious’ leapt across our mind. We questioned its intent, waited even for the discontent. ‘Serious’ what are we supposed to do with you. Then we remembered, being together is a serious matter. Being with family even in the middle of a pandemic is serious. The terrible stories we could have told are blunted because we did together seriously. So as we settle in, as we bask in the glory of yesterday, the majesty of today, and the hope for tomorrow, we know that together will always remain serious for us. Thanksgiving with people like us is a serious matter and we intend to keep it so.

We become light by choosing it. Whether or not we are surrounded by darkness or not, whether or not others share or are indifferent to our light, whether we are open or closed to the idea of becoming light, all the possibilities and hurdles light entails becomes ours when we choose this path. It can be a gloomy path too. One where your light is bound to fall, on spaces that leave behind scars, no matter how hard you try to place it above stars.

I have been reading the memoir of Lucille Clifton, with an introduction by Tracy Smith where she described Lucille’s namesake Lucifer. Did you know he was once described as God’s bringer of light. Even the devil brought light, and fell along the way. Even this once bright morning star, he who was determined to climb up to heaven, determined to place his throne above the highest stars, determined to climb to the top of the clouds, determined to even be like the Almighty, was also brought down to the world of the dead, brought down and became known as the devil himself.

Which made me realize that there is light. There is light for the living, for the dead, and even the devil. There is light for anyone who chooses it if only our hearts are open, our minds receptive, as our light shake and tremble the earth. With rays that burrow deeply into our souls, twitching our body as it quivers in space, light can become yours. Generations by Lucille Clifton is teaching me this. I now know in my soul, see in my goals. how light is creeping in, invading all my spaces, evading all my phases, many once laced in a futile dread, many now faced the sweetest grace. I was once lost, but now I know my light. I arch my back as I contemplate it’s infinity. I also watch as it conspires to keep me from falling, keep me from reaching heaven. And though the devil succeeds, with every fall I take, I still know my light, and my light knows me.

Light and grace are my inspiration as we round up this year. Light because 2021 has been a year of darkness. A year of death. A year of sorrow. A year of pain. I experienced this kind of pain in 2020. But it burrowed more deeply into my marrow in 2021. I am choosing to break free. Grace because, every experience so far has been an enigma on its own, a hidden path on a road full of curves. And grace always leads back home, back to my purpose, back to myself, back to my light. This light within, seeks to begin, a path, a journey, that refuses to be hidden, hence why I keep this today.

This note to myself, is an attempt to awaken up the light within, reclaim it’s power with grace, reclaim its ability to help me heal, to help me listen as its essence tills my being. In doing so, my heart is open and my mind is receptive to people and places that bring light, people and places full of grace. Today, I am receptive wholeheartedly to the work of Renike (you can find her on instragram at iamrenike). She is light personified. An amazing grace, which breaks through like light everything time I see her work. Today, I am choosing light, choosing grace through the gifts of Renike. I call this “She is light.” I also called it “She is grace.” Honestly. She is both. And as you start your week, may you choose to keep this light, this grace, always.

She is light. A graceful light forever radiating. Forever rising. Forever inviting. Forever flowing. Forever glowing. Forever twinkling. Forever blinking. Forever gleaming. Forever beaming. Forever brighting. Forever igniting. Forever flaring. Forever glaring. Forever blazing. Forever dazzling. Forever revealing. Forever sparkling. Forever flaming. Forever shimmering. Forever kindling. Forever illuminating. Forever glistening. Forever lighting. Forever shining. This light, she chooses by design.

Star as light by Renike

She will not be silenced. Not be muted. Not be hushed. Not be restrained. Not be reserved. Not be speechless. Not be voiceless. Not be noiseless. Not be motionless. Not be wordless. Not be soundless. She will not be unspoken. Not be unseen. Not be unknown. Not be unvoiced. Not be quiet. Not be calm. When her grace abounds in stride.

Silenced by Renike.

She is enough. Her beauty, enough. Her curves, enough. Her arch, enough. Her depths, enough. Her roots, enough. Her stride, enough. Her gaze, enough. Her twirl, enough. Her strength, enough. Her, dreams, enough. Her hope, enough. Her joy, enough. Her light, enough. Her grace, enough.

Enough by Renike

She carries energy. Carries fire. Carries trials. Carries desires. Carries histories. Carries victories. Carries struggles. Carries hurdles. Carries nations. Carries notations. Carries elevations. Carries narrations. Carries earth. Carries sun. Carries moon. Carries stars. Carries mountains. Carries hills. Carries valleys. Carries depths. Carries darkness. Carries wilderness. Carries night. Carries light. Carries power. Carries flowers. Carries water. Carries streams. Carries rivers. Carries floods. Carries buds. Carries blood. Carries tears. Carries air. Carries heir. Carries sons. Carries daughters. Carries rain. Carries pain. Carries life. Carries grace, so amazing and by design.

Energy by Renike.

She is wild and free. In peace or chaos. In fear or bravery. In struggles or survival. In darkness or light. She is grace.

Wild and free by Renike.

She dwells in her being. Dwells in her essence. Dwells in her presence. Dwells in her existence. She dwells in her soul. Dwells in her whole. Dwells in her sole. Dwells in her stroll. She dwells in her reality. Dwells in her mentality. Dwells in her mortality. Dwells in her morality. She dwells in her fire. Dwells in her sapphires. Dwells in her desires. Dwells in her wildfire. She dwells in her zen. Dwells in her pen. Dwells in her men. Dwells in their amen. She dwells in her substance. Dwells in her abundance. Dwells in her resistance. Dwells in her persistence. She dwells in her true life. Dwells in her high life. Dwells in her light life. Dwells in her grace life.

Being by Renike.

She can and will get through anything. Get through fire things. Get through burning things. Get through flying things. Get through stolen things. Get through controlling things. Get through aggressive things. Get through violent things. Get through dark things. Get through flaming things. Get through golden things. Get through rising things. Get through powerful things. Get through breakable things. Get through strong things. Get through rough things. Get through everything. Get through nothing. Get through somethings. Get through hateful things. Get through pleasurable things. Get through earthly things. Get through healthy things. Get through birthings. Get through life things. Get through light things. Get through grace things.

Anything by Renike.

She is taking back her power. Taking back it’s freedom. Taking back her story. Taking back her glory. She is taking back her girl. Taking back her swirls. Taking back her twirls. Taking back her pearls. She is taking back her body. Taking back all she embodies. Taking it back for somebody. Taking back for everybody. She is taking back her presence. Taking back her essence. Taking back her all her luminescence. Taking back her omnipresence. She is taking back her sins. Taking back her skin. Taking back her kin. Taking back their wins. She is taking back her enigma. Taking back her mystery. Taking back her ambiguity. Taking back her paradox. She is taking back their disruptions. Taking back any repetitions. Taking back any omissions. Taking back their violent reactions. She is taking back her life. Taking back her light. Taking back it’s depth. Taking back it’s aura. Taking back it’s power. Now, she is power. Her blackness, divine. Her arch, sublime. Her strength, sunshine. Her grace by design.

Power by Renike

If you can do support this amazing artist here https://www.inprnt.com/canvas/iamrenike/

My daughter wrote a haiku about birdhouses, about how birds get food from inside them, and of course how birds eat the food. It was nestled towards the end of her book of poetry where anything was allowed. Roller skates made in rainbow colors. Birds and their birdhouse. Puppies playing. Even her name and all it stands for, at least to her. To go through life fixing your mind on others, birds, brothers, puppies is freedom to me. Sitting under a moonlit sky is freedom too. To go through life, under a moonlit sky, with others, my daughter, her brothers, is the ultimate freedom. Keep this freedom for you.

Nearly one in 5 youth have experienced some form of bullying. As a parent, listening as your child describes their own experience with it can make you feel angry, helpless to, as you try to navigate school policies and zero tolerance statements that seem great on paper.

Like most parents, my first instinct was to understand why people bully others, understand why they choose to hurt others in ways they have no right to do. I found myself doing so recently until I realized I was tapping into the master narrative of the bullying phenomenon. We all do, choosing narratives that forces us to surrender to the bully as if we are powerless in the situation.

Today, I say enough is enough. It is time to change the story and use this moment to teach everyone, my own children in particular to become brave. No use wasting anymore time on the bully. I’ll rather use this moment to teach how children can turn their inward light on in moments of darkness, in dark places too and through dark minds prepared to inflict pain. They can use these moments to become brave. For when being unkind reveals it’s real nature, crossing lines and spaces for their own self pleasure, that’s when to turn nurturing and protecting on. That’s when bravery truly needs to get up, stand up, and stir things up too. Bravery needs to equally fight to push darkness out. We are prepared to fight for light. The world needs more brave children, now more than ever. Children who know they are light and their power cannot be hidden. If I was to turn this into a teachable moment, like the image below, I would turn it from hate to love and begin like this:

Art from A ReCAST even shared by Stacey.

What happens when you are bullied. It’s the day you become brave. Your eyes, your hair, your voice, your smile, even your looks may cause others to become mean. Yet, choose to be brave. Do you know that you don’t have to be mean? Choose to be kind. Do you know that you don’t have to say all the bad things they say to you? Choose instead to listen. Do you know that you don’t have to understand why? Choose to remember love. Do you know you have the power to turn this around? Choose to change the story. Rather that feeling sad, spread happiness. Rather that feeling angry, spread kindness. Even when they are mean to you, spread confidence. Even when they continue their behavior to you or anyone else, spread love. It’s a gift they probably never received from people that look like you. Until now. So choose to spread your light.

Be brave by standing up straight. Tilt your head up, and look them directly in the eye? Shout as loud as you can, ‘Enough?’ Then say ‘Don’t talk to me like that. I love myself and you should too.’ Turn around and walk away confidently. You are indeed loved. We can use this moment to teach about love, to spread it too, so the story change. What if nearly 1 in 5 youth have experienced some form of love, experienced being brave. That is a story worth telling, worth keeping too as we teach our children to become brave.

When you find your team, cherish them. Embrace them too with love. Not on days when things make sense, but on tough days when tensions are high and tempers are flaring.

I have found my team and I love every single way they thread my needle. I love how the pieces fit so neatly with my team, like a hem sewn together neatly. I have always wonder what it takes to use large yarns to knit a blanket or a sweater, so seamlessly that not a single fiber is out of place. That what happens when you find your team. Not a single moment with them is out of place.

We are working together on something so phenomenal, that you really have to wait to see it. These are also not days when things make sense. In fact nothing what we are working on together makes complete sense, but we are a team. We trust each other and lord knows that the end will be totally worth it. That’s what happens when you are with your team, your people.

Radha Agrawal in her book ‘Belong’ stated that once you find your people, when together you create a community that matters to you, you will live a more connected life. In fact she dedicated her book to courageous and generous souls who wake up every day to create and serve their communities, souls that actually enjoy the process and not only the destination. I am journey with such people in my team right now. She calls it belonging or a feeling of deep relatedness and acceptance, a feeling of “I would rather be here than anywhere else.” That’s what I feel after our teams meetings all the time.

Together, no dream is too small, no vision out of limit. In fact the bigger the dream the better. The world needs dreamers, people bold enough to take on the world and we are as bold as they come. Fierce and fearless to with our legacy building work that makes no sense right now and that’s okay. We are a team and together our seams all fit nicely together.

Find yourself a team and when you do, cherish them fully. I love all of you on team light, team leaders igniting generational healing and transformation. All of you are transformational and I thank you for coming along on this light journey. Together we are a keep worth fighting for. Keep a team you cherish.

I long to be word’s happiness in places, where happiness is instant. I long to feel word’s peace in places where peace is instant. I long to embrace word’s beauty in places were beauty is instant. I long to know word’s change in places where change is instant. Happiness, peace, beauty, change, all flow easily, when words are buried deeply in your soul.

I have been writing and deleting the start of an imaginary book yet unwritten. As if afraid to walk into my moonlight. Yet, fear is the last thing on my mind. So I keep writing. I call it ‘Black Mom Light.’ A coming-of age memoir for rising as a black mom from darkness to light. An anti-racist memoir on being a black mother in today’s America. I also call it ‘Brown Mom Listing.’ The second name is from Jacqueline Woodson ephemeral memoir in verse, ‘Brown Girl Dreaming.’ If her memoir were full of poems that were profound and moving, mine, are full of lists, a keep list, equally profound and captivating. I am obsessed with the style of her book that it inspired name number 2. I imagine my keeplists, what you read here every day as listing or the act of putting words, or stories into lists to keep. I also envision them as being focused on what truly matters and keeping that for myself, for yourself, for my people, for your people, for humanity. These lists span my days like a wide bridge, wild butterflies too, forever ready to spread their wings and fly, forever ready to move to new heights, to new places, so many wonders to see, in the words of my daughter, my forever muse.

The thought of what to keep, what to list each given day is a treasure for each passing day. They give me strength for days when none is left. They help me attend to other things too, like my other obsession, grant writing. Every lists carries my heart and my thoughts to somewhere. Maybe flowers. They are also my forever muse , forever brilliant, forever of use. Maybe trees. I have no names for all I see, but they too help me attend to all I need to do. Tall luscious trees and their graceful abundance are bound to make you dance as the make me dance. Maybe my children. My forever muse. Not a day goes by without being caught in their spell, their wants, their blissful gifts, that lift to new abyss. But hidden at the root of all I choose to keep is a desire for legacy, for light, for rising above what society says we should or must do as parents, as professors, as people. Yet for every thing I keep, there are some I still don’t share here. Some written even at the same time. Like the one written right before I shared this one. Those ones are part of what I describe as my extraordinary lists. We are all extraordinary people in the end. No one else exists as me, with thoughts like mine. I would rather I live life in extraordinary ways than ways destined to be ordinary. I wasn’t made of ordinary. So this list is my attempt at that. One keep at a time. The destination remains unknown. We are moving beyond the rigidness of your vision. If this is our first meeting. Welcome. The vision for this keeplist is extraordinary. Every list is in place of the vision society may have for women like me. A keep of sorts, of conversations we are not having, of refusals to be silent. This woman maybe black or brown. But her voice is shrouded in light and with each day, she walks out into moonlight to touch her power.

The words rise up. I note them. They come on their own, with their own nodes, own goals, that unfold one note at a time. They come with their own meaning everytime. I am obedient to the sounds that flow, the insights that grow, within minds long in need to ignite, in need of light. I am light. Like a tree that grows higher, and higher, branching out in different directions, like thick branches with lush green leaves full of water. I am green. I sit, listen, and let the words sway like trees on a windy day after hurricanes that stroke with water-like canes. Still these tree rise up and grow. For where trees grow, water flows. I am water. So to are my words. I have been discovering for the past year that where words flow, stories flow. I am stories. For one year, the stories in my mind, in spaces and boxes I once carved as private, have been flowing like a river. I am a river. A naturally flowing river, in search of an ocean, or a sea, a lake or another river. I have arrived at my destination. Words are my water, collected now in a river that flowed through a complex meandering path I called keep lists. There were no short paths. Every thing that mattered were loosened and dislodged like the rocks along the sides of river beds. I became loose with words that deepened my riverbed, eroded my hard phases, and elevated my soft places, all with grace. I am grace. An amazing grace, once blind but now open to all the spaces that make me whole. I poured myself into this space, poured my soul to the possibilities of this phase, of writing something to keep, words to keep, in a list to mold and shape as my own, in a list to own. And through this list, my words became fast-flowing. A source of energy, of life. I became soaked in the opportunities and form of each word, each list of things to keep. I am a list.

I have been reading a lot lately about lists, about why people use them in the first place. Most people write lists, to-do lists for example, to stay organized. Some write lists to stay in control, ticking things off when completed or moving things around to track completion. The first time I saved a list was in the middle of the pandemic. There were nothing to do with my lists. Nothing to track or even complete. My lists were focused on what to keep. A keep lists of experiences. The only objective: to write one list a day. The list was expected to make sense of life as a mother, a black working mother in academia with four children, one born in the fifth month of the pandemic. There were no organization necessary. No length was too long. Or to short. Everything was allowed in the lists. My thoughts, the news, my work, my family. Writing long lists was gratifying. So too were short ones that cut right to core. But lists about meaningfully people in my life, like my children, my students, my mentors, even the experiences of my husband on the frontlines or the last days with my sister in-law and her battle with cervical cancer were extra fulfilling. The pandemic and it’s impact were intense for all families. It was also equally frustrating, equally challenging, yet equally mesmerizing, and equally joyful. Not for the illness it brought or the deaths or sorrow it left behind, but for the discoveries, unexpected ones, like making a list, a virtual keeplists of time in a pandemic. There were no end in sight too. The pandemic held us all in a tight grip. And so the list grew and moved beyond the pandemic itself to capture life as we lived it one day at a time, all to preserve and protect all that mattered in a time where living was truly fragile.

Today marks the one year anniversary of this list. Words still do not fail me. They have become my everything, my hope, my joy, my hurdles, but yet my triumphs. I thank all of you that have read anything I wrote here. I thank you for coming on this journey with me. There is still no end in sight. Only that where my words still flow, my stories will surely flow.

I asked myself today, a question most mothers ask themselves everyday. How the hell do you do this? Today was the first time in close to three weeks I had a day to myself. Not an entire day, more like four hours for me. I have been running a nonstop marathon even with kids in school. A little after they all went back to school in mid August, they all became sick, one after the other. We thought it was Covid, took a test and it wasn’t. Just a nasty viral bug that meant sleepless nights and restless days. It all finally cleared up over the weekend and today, even my one year old went back to daycare. Just as I left his daycare, I took a deep breath and asked myself those seven letter words, that many mothers ponder everyday. My eyes immediately greeted Dahlia’s planted outside the daycare. A symbol of best wishes. It was as if it wanted to offer some to me. To wish me well at this moment I called my own. How does it swirl in this way I asked, with finely carved petals, that hang together neatly, as if painted by hand. I stopped and stared at them for a brief moment, took in the air and said a little thank you. How the hell do I do it? By his grace. His sheer grace. I am nothing on my own. I shudder to think that I can go through life on my own. We are not meant to do this thing called life alone. That’s how I do it. By his grace and it’s truly sufficient for me.