What enriches you? Empowers you too? What questions are you also asking yourself, for yourself first and no one else? Some issues are etched in my mind as priorities these days. The numbness with senseless murders for one, from people who resort to guns rather than love or even words. Even the thought of Enough isn’t helpful when another violence is around the corner and we keep doing nothing or staying numb to death. The state of health of all people, young, old, and how to ensure they live well sustainably, another urgent priority. Yet for these priority issues, I am beginning to see that there is yet another epidemic on the horizon. The idea of being alone and having no one to run to.

The US surgeon general recently shared a report on this, including the scary fact that loneliness and social isolation increase the risk for premature death by 26% and 29% respectively. This is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, something that many of us will never do, knowing its consequences. Yet why is our world a lonely place for so many and how can we ensure that we build social connections that have structure (i.e number of relationships), function ( i.e reliance on others for needs) and quality (i.e positive, helpful or satisfying relationships)? It for these reasons and many more that I loved attending the opening of Korede House yesterday.

Known as a third place, Korede House is a home away from home and a space where communities can be formed for example, to provide vital insight and energies necessary in our common battles against loneliness. It doesn’t force itself into any mold that exists. Rather on its own, Korede House celebrates the possibilities of becoming when minds are rested, reopened and renewed to consider all the connections that make us whole. You will connect deeply in this house. The walls alone, require and insist on your attention. You will listen deeply too. Not just for the purposes of hearing someone speak, but for the clarity such speaking can usher as a mirror into your own. Of course you will rest deeply too. The house is designed first for rest. Not on a superficial level, but the kind that makes you whole, re-centers you to your essence, while ushering joy as you recover yourself for yourself. When you walk through the house, moments of sweetness will engulf you, for the thought and care each space provides. Korede House is on the cutting edge of real social change, solving the core problem of loneliness and social isolation, one room at a time.

Thus, a third place such as Korede House, is one way of participating in the future we want where the burden of loneliness is eliminated. It’s provides a cohesive vision of what we hope such a future can look like, one where our abilities to imagine such a future will be stretched beyond what we think is possible. Yet, in understanding, in seeing common elements, in trusting our perceptions too, Korede House functions as an exemplary antidote of what the US surgeon general is advocating that our society wants and deserves today, tomorrow. Keep Korede House and their bring goodness vision in mind, with any attempts at achieving a future where loneliness is no more. See more here: Korede House

Congratulations Ronke on the opening of Korede House!

She fried yams this morning.

Thick golden, brown yams.

Cooking teaches love, a kind of power, full for those who know themselves, those who lead.

This morning we saw a tree bend all the way down to its purpose.

Our daughter is becoming a tree full of purpose, full of power.

She fried yams this morning.

Everyone else, including her brothers are following.

Like perfectly cut yams, we see the power of becoming trees.

My daughter’s fried yams!

In a world where the life experiences of black girls are invisible, many are changing the narrative. Some honor and center their lives with stories that are empowering and transformative. Some name and define all they ways they are let down instead of uplifted, ignored rather than elevated. Still others write so that they can be seen. From they way they speak, to the words they use and in different contexts, black girls are rendered visible, with voice, with vision. Their lives are not neglected or omitted. Not ignored or dismissed. Not when they live free. Thrive free too. In spaces that elevate all that make them beautiful, loved, and blessed. A generation of people are committed to understanding what makes them happy. What brings them joy too. All the way they cry. All they ways they thrive too. Even what they do to remain in the picture, to matter, to be superior, where they belong, or anywhere else.

It’s for this reason, I want to celebrate a new feat in my daughter’s life. Her attempts at cooking for others. It may seem trivial, the act of frying yams and eggs for a morning breakfast. She didn’t have to do it either, yet she did, in the same way her mother and grandmother, plus her daddy too, have done to make breakfast on any given Saturday morning. I celebrate my daughter for for preserving and enriching our lives with her fried yams this morning. Each piece we ate is etched in my memory now of the permanence and beauty of girlhood lived in one’s own terms. Cooking to me is life, and it’s the medium through which I offer love to my family and those around me. It’s also how we preserve our culture in ways that makes sense to us. I hope this experience of frying yams on a Saturday morning remains with my daughter. I hope the lessons of this act may help her to use cooking or any other life experiences she desires, in prudent ways, to incite change with the future she desires.

I am seeing and feeling what it means to be nestled knee deep in a winning season. This is my winning season. The enemies came from left to right, up and down to throw we off his plan. They succeeded at first with causing me to waste time. Then I remembered who ordered these steps and got right back to work. The journey for me has always been long, always been full of joy, always included hurdles, yet at the same time, even as the scales fall and dust settles, it has always been full of grace. It brought us this far, kicking and screaming as we choose life as it is lived. This is the meaning of life. The idea of remembering your origin, being aware of your limitations, yet still rising above them all. May these words, all of them I write, steal into your most innermost corners of your heart. May they also remind you of how no thoughts or theory of life can take the place life well lived. I am on the verge of letting faith, and assets within guide me as I tilt my bloom.

Image by Radiant health magazine.

I have been encouraged to dream, to do so with no filter, to stand outside in a vast field, listen as trees whispers, leaves and branches too. Just as clear-minded, just as strong. Though leaves waver with passing winds. Though branches fall off on their own, to the ground, now on their own. Yet, seeing the journey, seeing it through, whether through trees, or leaves, or branches, is the anything life lived as dreams, offer.

Keep dreams!

My baby boy hugged strangers today. I tried to stop him, but he hugged their back a little tighter. I proceeded to apologize for his touchy feely ways but the strangers, two African women turned around and hugged him back. I smiled. Then he he told them his name. Shared the name of his brother, his mother, his sister, his other brother and his grandma. The women smiled and shared the same. We were at a festival focused on tasting the best of food from a people far from home. But truly, through the eyes of my son, the eyes of two African women we met, strangers at first, we tasted the best of humanity.

The sight of love, from eyes that never lie, restored a balance time almost tried to hide. Watching their eyes widen, holding ourselves tightly, is the reason why living is a fire.

There was happiness all around, for love they know and a new love trapped in a new house they own. The one with hands called to save, built a house for them with love, one plank by plank.

For them and only them, we are choosing love. Choosing all the ways it helps us soar. In a backyard full of new grass, with tiny legs running all around, this love is like a fever that insists it remains.

The house that love built…

I took a long overdue trip outside the country to Lusaka. Where we are staying is breathtaking. So is my current state of life. Change is coming, like peace.

So I’m cleansing myself.

Someone told me to remember always the small things. I did and saw a small African butterfly, black and white, fluttering my way this afternoon. Such transformation from struggle to greatness is the reassurance unleashed along the way.

Instantly, I was reminded that I am living my best life, the journey is still long, few are invited, and in these rare moments, may bliss be our portion always, amen.

May peace too be our portion, for those never created to worry. Those never created to fear anything. Definitely not people, and definitely not change. Rather, we will do what makes our heart at ease.

Keep seeing some world…

Become known for profound illumination, plain speaking, spare elegance, deep thoughts, practical wisdom, a poetic voice. Then dwell on 91. Thousands will fall around. Tens of thousands. But you will not be harmed. Angels are in charge. They protect even your feet from stones. The same feet that trampled down lions and fierce snakes.

So become known as the one he protects, the one he saves, the one he will move mountains for, because he called you by name. That your claim to agency is firm, that they pass you by while others elevate you is clear, that you stay creative even in the face of their torment is grace. The joyful truths of these moments are yours. Enjoy it your way. The hidden and hurtful ones too are yours. Keep it for one day.

Until then, know that you are sacred, you are blessed, you are loved, and you are valued. And your children, all of them that surround your table even now, with the one he called to save you, the ones screaming from Zion, are all that matter. For them and always, Iwelunmor. If you know the meaning of my name, you know everything. Keep it.

My son made flowers for me. I have everything I need!

First, they shoot. They dismiss your look, dim your light, all to erase your name. They succeed. Or so they think. You may stumble, you may fall, you may bleed, you may weep. But your name remains. The thing they can’t destroy. The name they can’t uproot too. Not when the ground belongs to you. The earth and even them too. They exist because you live. They die even as you live. Every single way you restore, you rebuild, you reduce their hate to love. So remember your essence, remember love. That is the power of you, the one named Ralph. The one who endlessly starts over and over again, full of embers, that never die, full of light, that never dies.

Lean into all your complexity. Lean into all that make you chaotic. Lean into your strengths. Lean into your joy. Lean into your pain. Lean into your hurdles. Lean into kindness, for ourselves, the world. Lean into all that make you tender, whether you succeed or fail. Lean into all that make you free, like words strung together, your way. Lean into your specialness, all things that make you glow. Lean into all your feelings, all of them matter. Lean into all the ways you lived and survived. Lean into your bravery. Lean into the source of your rain. Lean into moments of light. Lean into periods of darkness. Lean into definitions of yourself for yourself. Lean into your own worth and possibilities. Lean into things that make you attentive, like leaves, flowers, and poetry. Lean into things that keep you fulfilled, like family and love. Lean into rigorous loving. Lean into the truth about you. But most of all, lean into your power.

The power of a woman who knows the power of a woman draped in leaves. Image Nike Art Gallery

We are meant to live our lives full. Demand excellence first for ourselves, then gift it to the world. I’m in a space where only things that make my life richer and full are allowed. I enter this space with grace and empowered to lead others to their fullness too. I do so loving what I do, even in moments when work doesn’t love me back. Yet, I move knowing the value of love, its appeal and how it has helped me live life to the fullest. I call this the uses of power. Modeled this after Audre Lorde’s uses of the erotic.

See, I started writing grants because I was told, it’s the only way to survive academia. You all know the horror stories. You know too, it’s worse from those you least expect it from. Those that dismiss or reject you. Those that would rather suffer than discuss all the ways the system makes us suffer. I choose to discuss and I offer myself always as an example of what can be if we are radically open. The process is hard. I said that yesterday. You don’t ask for millions and expect a bed full of roses. I know what it’s like to not sleep in 24 hours. When the pressure is on, it is in full rage mode. But I also know what it’s like to unwind. Sign me up for blue crystal waters or village living among tall palm trees any day.

What many never see is the balance. I live my life in balance. I also write here almost everyday to release. I may write about the same thing over and over again. It’s called expressive writing and it healing properties are immense. So I enter this space, knowing life can be different. I walk deeply through this space, assessing and reassessing the quality of my life, my work, and how I can let light move in and through it. This personification of love, one born out of the will to create, to live in harmony with the need to tell a different story, is a lifeforce, one that every single grant I have written, those that succeeded and those those that failed, empowered.

There are no two me. Try as you may, but I know my worth. It’s in my middle name, something my ancestors saw long before I was born. You don’t name someone Isioma and expect her to not live out the full potential of that name. This knowledge alone, empowers me and is a lens through which I scrutinize my time on earth. So I step into this space, this time of my life, reclaiming my worth, restoring my power, and knowing deeply, that I can do anything, through him who is the source of this power.

It’s this knowledge, that is deep within, open and fearless, strong and rich within, that I know seek to present to the world. I no longer fear the yes within myself. I no longer suppress any truth about my existence. That I have endured pain is well know these days. That it has come from people I least expected, some I admired and some I called my own, should be plain and direct. But I can’t be docile or loyal to what can or should be. Not when I graciously choose me. Boldly live within the power that is deep within me, and use it to inform and illuminate spaces that have been in darkness for so long.

These days, I am motivated and empowered from within. I share all of this here to use for my own good. Your own too. Never forget humble beginnings, they say. I don’t intend to. But I will move past them. I will not look away, even if you do the same. I will write and heal and write and heal until there is only writing, only healing too, my way. It’s this healing, this writing too, that allows me to purse change within my world, rather than settle for lip service. I step into this next phase of my life, in the fullness of the power, that I know is deep within.

Keep Ms. Audre Lorde!

Listen, the work is hard. Every single one written. Years of failures. Years of tears too. Every single experience, especially the ones I failed at, stretched me to my fullest. If I was intense with the process, if I was hard too, plain and direct at times too, know that all that mattered, was how to claim space, a foothold, platform, voice among voice, anything to be a lion, to tell the story of the hunt my way. There were moments of anguish, sleeplessness, frustration, hope, wild dreams, high on Jeremiah 29v11, because the plans even in pain and limited sleep, were for good. So we pressed on, shattered original thoughts and created new ones in span of weeks. Some were written in days. Two days being the craziest streak for an idea that still failed. Of course time would have helped. Prayers too. But when the ideas start to dream for themselves, even the dreams are nothing but themselves.

Wild as these experiences have been, nothing trumps what we went through mentally last year. Nine. Some, back to back to back. Ideas came out of nowhere. Some as if our lives depended on it. The ideas dreamed on, pulling us towards our finest hour, one that I will never regret all the ways the journey lead to this moment. Perhaps this is the end. One chapter ends, even when we all seek to keep it going. Ideas will come and go. Teams that bring it to life will come and go too. Every single experienced has pushed me to my zenith, one where there are no regrets even as this chapter closes.

So here is the truth. If I am silent or different these days, it’s because change is hard. The most difficult thing I have ever done. But the urgency of the moment is the ultimate. We still have to claim space with folks that truly see us. Those that know what can be if only we get the support we need, the investment too. The other day, someone said they wanted to invest in me. I cried. To be seen in this manner is the light I know that is deep within in me. It can never be hidden. Those in light see those bursting forth to their own. They propel them upward, so that their radiance, their brightness, their brilliance, is crystal clear. Perhaps this is the hope, that ideas brought to light, with the right people, a small circle of safety, no matter how long it may take, by their nature, will remain in light. Keep this reflection you now see in the mirror. It’s the light in you. Here is to smaller circles too, as I play Davido’s Unavailable song on repeat. Dem no Dey see light people ooh. Ooh and here is to this DREAM phase of life.

Image by Mikenzi Jones. I call it when a woman knows her dreams, knows her light, even the moon belongs to her.