I liked a paper shared on Twitter yesterday. It focused on why decolonizing geosciences mattered. I loved everything I read that I felt it was critical to keep some. The fact that we have been told that certain ways of knowing and doing are superior resonated deeply with me. That and the fact that for eons we have been told that local or indigenous ways of knowing are inferior. That experts are only outsiders with resources, and if they are coming from the West, even better. That expertise can’t come from insiders, those who carry treasures of their life within their core. Yet to address harm and change how science is done, we must deeply recognize how colonialism have benefited experts and not those with expertise for whom knowledge first belonged to.

This paper is a perfect example of why stories matters with any attempt at decolonizing anything and any field. The hunt has glorified the hunters for too long that all we know are the stories of the colonizers, the stories of the experts, the stories of the hunter. This is my attempt at changing this with this article and the work of many great minds as an inspiration. I simply call it tell your story with decolonizing anything, somethings, or everything. We have nothing to lose these days and so we might as well strut like the lions we are.

With decolonization, tell your story, they say.

While the legacy of the hunt lingers.

Tell your story, they say.

Or the hunt will continue to glorify the hunters.

Tell your story, I hear. The hunter has failed everyone, including those being hunted.

But you can’t decolonize anything. You can’t decolonize somethings. You can’t decolonize everything.

It’s a myth.

It’s a myth.

It’s a myth.

And decolonizing should mean much more said the powerful as they wield their power in powerful spaces they erect and maintain to keep telling the stories of the hunter, to maintain their power.

Yet, we know that we can’t decolonize powerful spaces.

We can’t decolonize powerful people.

They are hunters. Their weapons are mightier. Their impact last longer than a day.

But while the debate about the myth of decolonizing remains, while the powerful even join and lead the debate, are we supposed to be silent?

Are we supposed to watch and stare as they continue to cast their shadow?

Are we supposed to live as if we don’t have our own historians?

Are we supposed to continue to forget that we are lions? No.

Rather, the time has come for the lions to tell their story.

The time has come for the lions to have their own historians.

Like a tale by moonlight, let me begin with the following;

Story, story, story.

Story, story, story.

Story, story, story.

I woke up today full. Find you a sisterhood and you will find life. We have been in STL for 4 years now and life still feels very transient until last night. We have always moved around the 2-4 year mark so for the first time it feels strange to have no plans to leave the state of Missouri. I said that out loud to myself yesterday. Midwest is now home. As I let that realization settle in, I looked at my surroundings. I looked at the people gathered at the table I joined last night. I was in the midst of some powerful women and we were all black, all mothers, all ambitious, and all sterling. I watched us all in awe. A passerby said the same thing as if reading my mind. His words ‘this is beautiful.’ I agree. They say food eaten in secret tastes better. I also agree. But better isn’t up to us alone. Better can’t happen in a vacuum. We are stronger together. Much better when we come together. And black women together makes the world better. If you heard all we shared together last night, heard our plans to make things we value better, you will understand. This is my keep for today.

Our community.

When black women come together, we come as a better version of ourselves. We come to carry water. We come to forget the edge of the sea as we dive deeply into each other. We come to whisper through water too, fierce words that heal, that nurture, that uplift or part dead seas. We come knowing we do not know. We come looking for ourselves and seeing ourselves, even when soaked in water. We come afraid to look too, but looking together in fear. We come to have sisters on our side and our cup overflows. We come to listen and listen and listen. We of course come to talk and talk and talk and share tea. We come out of the fullness of grace as grace alone makes us full. We come knowing we are blessed and prepared to bless each other even more with our blessings like rivers and springs that gush out into valleys and hills. We come fighting for our children, pushing for their voice, their visibility in a land that would rather they remain invisible. Not with us. We are like fishes and we know how to use water. Even better, we come knowing now more that ever that we are water. We have no enemies where are life, our families, our work, our children are concerned. We come with the blessings of walking on water when storms rage. We come with the stillness too of knowing whose we are, even while on stormy seas. We come knowing that even though the darkness all around is so deep, we are willing to push through light, ready to walk on water too. We come because our brilliance are like the silver of moonlight, the brilliance of starry skies even on nights where strong winds blow. We come filling our lives with light, leaving too in a dazzling light that wind and waves obey. We come because coming together as a community, as one, is a basic necessity of life, our life. In the end, our eyes are deep in water and together we sail through because doing together with each other is a beautiful thing. Keep a sisterhood of black women wherever you find them. We really make the world better.

Danielle Doby has a beautiful book worth keeping. It’s simple invitation, ‘come as you are’ is quite simply sterling. I am coming. I am coming into a space that allows me to choose in the name of my heart. I am all for a space in praise of my younger self’s quest for life’s light. I long for the tender infinite living within me and I thank Danielle for using words to help me greet my younger self with power. I embrace spaces that remind me not to skip the struggle. I am also in love with knowing that the light in me cannot always see and honor the light in you. Still we can find steady breath in our unknown light. We find lessons worth learning and relearning simply because nothing is meant to be done alone. Not even our light. And even when this season of discovery becomes closed off to others, I welcome the gift of light that continues to pour itself in dark places that surround me.

This is the gift of Danielle. The gift of being consumed by love. The gift of love in its fullest circle is worth finding, worth knowing, worth loving. It’s for this reason that I remain thankful for her reminder to keep being drawn to the light in others. It is how we know that we are not alone. Her book is a perfect guide on how to become seekers of light, how to let our stories exist so others can see for themselves the power of pain, the power of struggle, the power of stunning resilience and belonging that is also theirs to make as they choose. The sun was with Danielle as she wrote her book. I am thankful that my eyes opened and my mind choose to rest in the warmth of her embrace. I am still learning what it means to belong to myself in light for here and now and with other seekers of light. I love my sisters keeper and it’s sweet appeal to surround yourself with other women who show up and own their independence unapologetically but still believe in the collective’s success. I also forgot to remind you all to do as she noted and do what ignites worlds within you. She shared how we should all let our work and everything we create be a direct extension of our hearts space. Now more than ever, the world needs more of your light. All I can say is thank you for using your words to gift me light.

There is so much to love about this little book that ask you to keep I am her tribe. It will inspire you to reach deeply for the light within you, for your sun.

With history, be prepared to construct and reconstruct it from a different perspective, a Black perspective, an African perspective too. Our stories have been told to us by others for far too long that this time, the lions are ready to take the stage. The complexities and racist histories of colonialism is finally taking center stage with this global pandemic. Variants of it has been there from the beginning, though swept under the rug of globalism. It is rather a class on colonialism and this time, there are no more slaves in this version of history. No more white people selling bodies for profit. No more tantrums from leaders disguised as fit but truly unfit. Plus no more pretense as if we are all in this together. We are not. The inequities with vaccine distribution was clue number 1. Number 2, the injustice with flight bans.

With Omicron variant surging through countries both in Asia and Europe, why is a travel ban only issued for countries in Southern Africa? This is the truth about decolonizing Global Health worth spreading, plain and perfect. Powerful leaders will always be leaders with power. They will do and claim to do what is always in their best interest even if this interest serves only their needs. Anyone expecting anything less has not been open to all the travesties that is colonialism. The emperors maybe wearing new clothes but they remain emperors, powerful ones now with subtle charm that invokes globalism when the harsh realist is individualism. They may claim change but their change is more or less like distant skies out of reach rather that streams of water in plain view. Everything about their dominant treatment of others both implicit and explicit remains true, and will always remain so during and beyond this pandemic.

The solution, lions tell your story. There will be a struggle. Embrace it. Refuse to be enslaved again and tell your story of injustices however you choose. This time, the path to pandemic freedom will be different. Not because we relied on the West, but rather because we believed in each other. I spent my morning retweeting and sharing videos of people telling the story, this time from their perspective. Dr. Ayoade Alakija’s interview with the BBC stood out to me. Watch here and see how lions are roaring to tell their stories.

Grief is love unexpressed. I learnt that today watching an Instagram video of Andrew Garfield as he talked about the passing of his mom. To him, grief is a beautiful thing. Grief is also unexpressed love. He hoped his grief will remain with him as he never got time to express all the love even though he expressed it all the time. So he hoped that this grief stays with him for as long as he lives. Listening to him got me thinking about my summer of grief with Angie’s passing. All that I wrote, both those shared and unshared are all the unexpressed love I had for her. I can still hear her voice. I still hear her calling my name and I miss talking to her terribly. His message also came at the right time.

We cut down a tree in front of our home early this month. It was an Oak tree and it’s roots were buried deeply into the ground. We cut it down because there was a hole the size of a soccer ball at the bottom of the tree. On the outside the tree still seemed to have life and some leaves, but internally it was rotten to its core. Rather than waiting for the day it decided to fall, we felt it was time to let it rest, hence the decision to cut it down. About five men came together to do the job. This was a huge tree and they spent hours cutting down one branch after another, until they got to the bottom and brought the entire tree down. We watched from afar, mesmerized as something so large came down back to the earth.

The day before Thanksgiving, we planted a new tree near the spot where the old tree came down. It was a gift to my husband from his coworkers for the death of his sister, our dearest Angie. I called back in October to let the company know the type of trees we would love. They recommended a tree whose name I cannot remember but promised its leaves would be red in the fall. I accepted and agreed to their selection. He noted they would come in November to plant the tree as this Fall is typically the best time to plant trees. He noted they would go to sleep anyways and wake up in time during spring. On Wednesday, our sleepy tree arrived. As we watched them dig deep into the earth, I realize just what I am truly thankful for this year. Life and Grief. We are all sleepy beings passing through the earth, one life at a time. One tree at a time. Every tree we plant, every root we bury deep into the earth, is life worth roaring for. Life worth grieving for too. Every root is set firmly in place and cannot be moved. Every grief too is love unexpressed and cannot be disapproved. I approve this grief, just as I approve your ability to live your life in your own way. Everything glorious and majestic surrounds us when we are rooted deep into the earth. Everyone of us is protected, not oppressed when we are rooted in life, in grief, in God. This is grief at its finest, rooted deeply in us when we rethink its core. It is truly love unexpressed, a beautiful thing that I hope will remain with us just like this tree we planted in Angie’s memory. Keep the power of unexpressed love with grief.

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.

Nikki Giovanni has a poem called quilts. I read it in her poems and prose book ‘Make me Rain.’ The title first of all is a blessing in disguise, for those hungry to let words flow like raindrops on a cloudy day. Quilts as described by Ms Giovanni to me is like a fast-flowing river. Nothing seems to get in its way. Not the source which begins a river or the path through which it flows. All of it are connected to make a river flow. So too are quilts. Every single piece used to make a quilt is sewn together by design, is put together with love, lots of love too.

I have been thinking lately about the quilts that make me whole, every single piece that comes together to create all that I become. My life quilt is also like a river, with every single piece, a source of energy that shapes and form, all that I become. These pieces connect at a point, connect through hard hurdles and constant strife to tell our story. In the middle where we connect, in the middle where we intersect over tiny threads that meander back and forth, back and forth, through more hard hurdles, and painful strifes, in that middle, our greatest strides are taken, our greatest acts, created, as we become all that makes quilts precious. These unseen component of our connections, the untold stories of our flow, may very well be the reason we are built like rivers. And like rivers, may we continue to flow in love, grow in love, one piece at a time, one quilt at a time. Keep flowing like rivers, loving like quilts.

Dr. Milton Terris was an outspoken advocate for progressive Public Health Policy. See this article about him here. But briefly, ‘throughout his career, Terris was always an active and dedicated member of American Public Health Association (APHA): he served as secretary of APHA’s Medical Care Section from 1948 to 1952, a member of the section’s council from 1952 to 1959, a member of the APHA Executive Board from 1958 to 1964, and president in 1966 and 1967.’

Dr. Milton Terris

I came across some of the papers he wrote last month while running through the rabbit hole that is the archives of the American Journal of Public Health. I am a lover of history and nothing fascinates me more than the history of Public Health, the realization that this field is a circle that keeps turning around it’s axis, and in numerous occasions, falling short on its promise. Dr. Milton Terris was speaking about this some 30-50 years ago, hence my obsession today about one article I saw that complied his last words. They are powerful. Very apt for today and for all of us committed to serving the public and not ourselves. To think that all the thoughts in my head about putting the public first has once been echoed in the past makes our field exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Hence why I remain committed to learning the past in hopes that it will allow me and my team to understand better the crisis we find ourselves in today. So allow me to share through verses, the last words of Dr. Milton Terris. I hope they light a fire necessary within you to truly remain committed to serving the public in public health.

For the public, we have remained indefinitely in our ivory towers that have now crumbled all around us and those we serve. We remained without coalitions, a citizens coalition, made up of organized and unorganized workers, farmers, professionals, and other middle class citizens; women, Blacks, Hispanics, youths, senior citizens, and other minorities-in short, the majority of the people of our nation, who can and will assure that the principle that health is a human right, and not a privilege, will be realized for all.

We remained in the era of rampant selfism that served only ourselves and not the public we purport to serve. We remained committed to publications and conferences and not the fullest possible commitment, dedication and leadership to the public who have no access to our publications or conferences. We remained in a siloed pubic health agenda that continues to fail to ensure a peaceful, just, and hopeful society for all. We remained in privilege mode and not in humanity mode that ensures that health is a human right for all the public we serve. We remained in crocodile tears mode too rather than taking serious action to end racism, poverty and everything else working against the public we serve. We remained in lip service mode to prevention rather than advocating in deed and in word for a standard of living adequate for the maintenance of health.

We remained on the road to general principles and theoretical frameworks as if they are enough and will get us on the road that requires political will and moral courage to enact legislative measures on health for all the public we serve. We remained in recommendations mode too as if our public health crisis will go away with our evidence based recommendations rather than thoughtful and spirited analysis of the causes of the crisis and the definite and effective action to reduce their impact. We remained with our feet in clay rather than intensify our work on the defense of the public we choose to serve. But above all, we remain a generation whose discoveries are not translated into practice for the welfare of humanity in the shortest possible time, who continue to fail to create a new golden age that centers the public in everything about their health.