Poem: Love is Our Reality



Love is our reality.
We do not have to hustle for it in this life.
No longer must we crave reciprocity
from those who are unable to love themselves.
Yearning for what we already hold in abundance,
while allowing that abundance to be depleted.
But, can anyone really “deplete” abundance?
Can love ever run out?

[I know from experience it can run cold.
Blood Ice in our veins
can make us do destructive thangs.
]

But what happens when the warmth of
a new day, a new joy, a new will emerges?
Emerges and re-minds and re-members and re-calls us back to love?
Re-news our minds and re-minds us that we are loved?
Puts us back together by re-visiting the love
we were before and the love we are now?
What happens when
love makes that long distance call
to the core of our being?
We become re-aligned to the reality
and the possibilities of us.
And that Love, the Highest Love, is our reality.

What Are the Stories of Your Petals?

Welcome to Native American Heritage Month honoring those who are contributing now, and have always contributed to society. I send special love to all  Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek) Peoples, as my family has both African and Mvskoke roots. Take a moment to learn more about the various Native Peoples who have honored the lands in the Americas for thousands of years.

In the spirit of examining the contributions of the past and the present, today’s newsletter is inspired by the prolific and profound works from the Poetic Powerhouses Nikki Giovanni and Tupac Shakur.


As I have written previously about creating a Love Space in order to help sustain us, I am practicing while trying not to sound too preachy. I have been actively surrounding myself with writings of Black Womxn authors. I am seeking advice as well as admonishment from their words. And as is the essence of Black Womxnhood, they are speaking life into me and into my work.

The Powerhouse: Nikki Giovanni. Image Source: American Liberties Magazine, 2017.

I was listening to a rendition of Nikki Giovanni’s piece honoring Tupac Shakur and the posthumous publication of his works in the book “A Rose that Grew from Concrete.” Tupac, never one to mince words or hide his personal development journey, drops this gem:

You see, you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love its will to reach the sun. Well, we are all roses – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals. Don’t ask me why, thank God [expletive], ask me how!

Tupac Shakur
A Hip Hop offering that honors  and features Tupac’s words and Nikki Giovanni’s poetry. Trigger Warning: Tupac uses the N-word towards the end of the video. 

Are you getting the feels, yet? No? Ok, wait for it…

Tupac’s words then mix with Nikki’s thoughts about embracing change:

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is;  once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”

As I hear Tupac’s truth through his beautiful metaphor of the rose that grew from concrete, while taking in both Nikki’s associated poem and the quote about change; I am led to the only question I have for us: What are the stories of your petals? This question is aligned with the newsletter that asked: “Do you know how much power your story holds?” Understandably, not everyone is ready to scream their stories from the rooftops. What I am suggesting is that you scream your beautifully complicated stories to an audience of one: Yourself. Looking at the rose that you are/are becoming (Quick Reality Check: Roses have seasons when they bloom and rest), what marvels do your petals hold?

Ok, so technically that’s two questions, but it’s not 7!

Fam, I want to encourage you to sit with your petals and allow them to help you re-member “…your will to reach the sun” and enjoy all the parts of who you are, while learning about the new world we are in. Please know that I will be somewhere doing the same!

In Solidarity.

Poem: She Stays

She stay creating
transforming destruction into art.
She stay owning what she does
and all that she is
and stay giving from her heart.

She stay doing dumb shit.
She stay learning from it.
She stay jumpin’ over haters
like they’re ‘gators in swamps
or snakes rattling in hidden pits.

She stay showing up 
even when it’s hard.
She stay loving on her Folx
even when they try 
to snatch her Card.
She stay hustlin’.
She stay grindin’.
She stay ridin’.
She stay providin’.
And when it gets to be too much
She is known to stay hidin’.

She stay writing.
She stay fighting.
She stay striving.

She stay trying.

Through it all 
what keeps her going 
is that she stays praying.
Because it is her relationship
with the Divine
that gives her the power
to keep staying.

Are You Tired of Wearing a Mask?

Short on time? Feel free to copy, paste and listen to this newsletter at https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/

Hoping today’s thoughts are reaching you on a day where you and your loved ones are in good health and safe.

Speaking of the importance of safety, my message to you today comes from a place of examining safety and liberation. Let’s jump right into it…


You no doubt saw the title of this post and thought to yourself, “Kecia, are you one of those people out there screaming at the Costco (or Dollar Tree) employees talking about you’re ‘not going to wear no stinking mask?’ Because if so, Sis, your messages are now being B-L-O-C-K-E-D!”

Hold on! I’m not going there, I promise! Just let me share a quick story with you:

The Greatness of “Mother Maya”

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being part of a panel focused on the writings of Black womxn. Each of us chose Black womxn authors that spoke to our respective personal development journeys. It was a powerful experience to say the least. I chose to focus my reflections on my self-appointed patron saint, Dr. Maya Angelou, or as I lovingly call her within my spirit conversations, “Mother Maya.”

Maya Angelou’s words found me when I was 15-years-old and have traveled life with me for more than three decades. I have long admired her brilliance with words. However, it was the way she was able to write herself back into her personhood (while living a very colorful and well textured life) that made me love her all the more.

All that to say, I think Maya Angelou was and is the dopeness!

One of the 500 writing projects I am working on is an experience I am calling “Mother Maya and Me.” It will be a compilation of her pieces and those I have written that were inspired by her work. The two pieces I was planning to offer to the attendees of the event were two love poems: Mother Maya’s “In and Out of Time” and my poem “The Poem I Will Never Write.” I often talk about for a Poet, Love is a bonafide job requirement. However, there was a little something that happened on the way to being all lovey-dovey… 

Masked @ Birth

Prior to the event, I read in our campus communication that some of my colleagues had decided that they were no longer going to observe the COVID-19 mask mandate. I thought this was a curious stance for educators (Read: My Pandemic Pisstivity was activated). And then it fully settled into my spirit: So many of us have had to wear masks from the time we were born just to survive. How convenient it is that some people are inconvenienced by a simple piece of fabric.

Long story short, I was led to the powerful piece below by Mother Maya and my poem “The Mothers Have Come.” Trigger warning: If you are looking to keep your Sunday light, do not watch/listen to these pieces today. Save them for Monday or Tuesday afternoon.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s powerful piece, in her own voice.

All of this leads me right back to the original question I posed to you: Are you tired of wearing a mask? And to be ABUNDANTLY clear, I am referring to the mask that hides your authenticity, your character, your brilliance, your full self so that others around you will not feel threatened by your presence?

7-Questions

During my keynote address at a Womxn of Color Summit, I shared 7-Questions for the community to consider as they think about solidarity and liberation. I have tailored the questions for you/us here:


7-Questions:
Unraveling the Other Mask

  1. How do you name and claim your accomplishments?
  2. Are you able to give another Person of Color their flowers or has the training of “Competition is Good” eroded your ability to partner and praise others?
  3. How (if at all) are you mentoring the next generation of Changemakers to own their accomplishments while still supporting others, as a way to deteriorate the foundations of Impostor Syndrome?
  4. How or in what ways does caring for yourself while supporting other Leaders of Color to do the same, show up in your leadership practice?
  5. What does setting boundaries, bossing up and sitting down mean for you as a leader?
  6. What does it mean to you to be a “Good Ancestor” (originally coined by Dr. Keisha McIntosh Allen and quoted by my friend and Sister-Scholar Dr. Yolanda Sealey Ruiz)?
  7. How will you continue to interrupt and dismantle “The Oppressor Within” in order to be culturally humble enough to keep learning, even when it is hard, inconvenient and/or is time consuming?

I hope that these questions and your honest, compassionate and courageous responses will help you lift the mask of oppression, shame and fear. You deserve to breathe freely and we are grateful for your every breath! 

Have a wonderful week! 

In Solidarity.

POEM: The Solution of X

This poem was written for the 4th Annual Womxn of Color Summit at the University of San Diego.

We are not a problem to be solved.
We are, and have always been the answer.
We are both sun and moon.
We are the Spirit Dancer.
All life flows through us
whether through womb, if we choose 
or through the words that we use. 
It is within our complexities 
and the righteous indignation 
that sits at the core of our connections
that allows us to be All the Things.

For we are the teacher, the test and the lesson.
We are the music, the instruments and the jam session.
We are the stand-in and the stand alone.
We are the letters, the Word and the poem.
We are the answer to the problems that others create
especially when those problems 
were designed to determine our fate.
 

We are the timekeeper and the time stamp.
We are whatever we want to be.
We are the x that goes beyond ‘ships
we are the force that launches ships
to sail and provide refuge to the refugee.

We are the x.

We are the x between Delores Huerta and the New York Rep. A.O.C.
We are the x between Marsha P. Johnson Alicia Garza, 
Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. 
We are the x between Cierra Fields and Madonna Thunder Hawk. 
Maria Teresa Ruiz.
Hayganush Mark. 
The Quintreman Sisters and the Williams Sisters.
Dame Katerina Te Heikôkô Mataira and Haunani-Kay Trask.
Malala Yousafzai and Henrietta Lacks.
We are the x between Yuri Kochiyama and Junko Tabei.
Zora Neale Hurston and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
We are the x between Cecilia Chung and Al-Jen Poo.
Velma R. Veloria and Fe Del Mundo.
We are the x between Fannie Lou Hamer and Tamika Mallory. 
Anacaona and Silvia Lazarte.
Melavika Kanaan and Kalpana Chawla.
King Hatshepsut and Miriam Makeba.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  and Kenya’s Sitawa Wafula
Who spoke these words:
“Whatever you do, do not let what happened silence you.” 

It is the Intersection that is the solution.
We are fully known.
Our existence is not only the solution
It is the only way home.
We are what was and what is next.
We are the vertex. 
Womxn of Color are the apex.
We are twilight, that which intersects the night and the day.
We are the mountaintop 
that reminded Martin Luther King Jr. of the justice pathway.

We are the pinnacle, absolutely nothing can hold us down.
We are the zenith and the apogee.
We are Womxn at the Intersections
of what is
what was 
and what shall always be.

Poem: The World of A Poet

Poets. 
We are not difficult beings. 
In a world full of manufactured complexity, 
Poets are the least complicated. 
We vibe on a Love frequency. 
We are activated by Injustice. 
We are most alive in spaces where Liberation is felt.
Words intermingle with air to sustain us. 
We stay hydrated 
and love to look directly into the sunlight because, 
well, our eyes are shielded by our rose tinted glasses. 
Our words are our world.
And if you are fortunate enough, 
we will share our world with you. 

Do you know how much power your story holds?

Happy Sunday!

If you are someone who is into celebrating holidays, October 10th is the observance of the following:

  • World Mental Wellness Day
  • World Homeless [Awareness] Day
  • Pastor Appreciation Day
  • National Hug-A-Drummer Day (Who knew?)
  • National Handbag Day
  • National Cake Decorating Day

Regardless of whether you recognize any of these holidays/causes/days of appreciation, I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe today and always.

Today’s message is likely the shortest I’ve ever written to you.

Ummm, didn’t you say that about a previous newsletter? Whatever, I’ll let you slide today.

As always, my Inner Critic with the raw-uncut feedback.

Our Stories Are Powerful. Period.

I released the last interview of the first season of my podcast, “More Than Metaphors” last week. The conversation was with a college friend of mine who has gone on to do tremendous things, which includes being a father and husband. Some of what he shared was expected given what I knew/know of him. However, a few stories he told gave me pause and had me challenge some major assumptions I had about him and his work. His story also helped me challenge a few assumptions I had about myself.

In this conversation, “Weekend Philosopher,” Husband, Girl Dad (times 4), and NASA Astronaut, Navy Commander, Victor J. Glover, Jr. reflects on the various lessons he has learned from his elders and contemporaries. He also shares the inspiring exchange between his younger self and the person he is now that has helped him “propel” his career, as well as support the “launch” of his firstborn child into college.
 

Since I am regaining my inquisitive nature (Read: I have gotten my nosy back), I found I was left with more questions that I wished I asked during our chat. Then it dawned on me: Isn’t that what the cycle of discovery/self-discovery is supposed to do? Lead us to more questions and more discoveries?

That said, I would like to provide you with the questions I usually ask my guests. Feel free to have fun with them and answer them as if you were a guest on the podcast (you never know…). For those who have been a guest on the podcast previously, feel free to revisit the questions to see how, or in what ways (if at all) your responses have changed.


7-Questions: The Power of Your Story: The Interview

1) Tell us about yourself. What do you do and why you do all that you do?

2) What have been your biggest lessons? What have been some of the best and worst pieces of advice you have received?

3) Could you talk a bit about what grounds you/reconnects you to your humanity? What are some of the lessons you would like to share with our next generation leaders as they are looking to change the world?

4) What have been some of your “Aha!” “Oh-Yes” and/or “Wait-What?” Moments you have experienced as you support others?

5) The BIG Question - As you know, the purpose of this podcast is to explore how, or in what ways has poetry/the power of words helped people find the courage to live their “poetry” out loud (poetry in all of its many forms). With that said, what piece of writing/words of encouragement/lyric would you like to share? or Do you have a particular poem, quote or a song that motivates you or gets you in “The Zone?”

6) Given everything you have experienced, what words of encouragement would you give to your younger self as you grappled with all of the feelings, experiences, concerns, expectations you may have been balancing at the time?

7) What do you think that same young person would say to the person you are now about everything you have accomplished and are looking to accomplish?

Do you have any idea of how much power your story holds? Your story may be just what someone needs to hear to get through a trying time, go to the next level, or allow themselves to dream again.

And maybe that person is you.

Sending you thoughts of love, justice and liberation!

In Solidarity.

Poem: The Me of Now

I am becoming more and more clear on who I am becoming.
This means I have to be patient with others 
as they shift their understanding of who I am.
This time is not a journey back to me anymore.
It is me being introduced to my new self.
The Me of Now.

The Me of Now is comfortable with the way 
she wears her brand of womxnhood.
The Me of Now gets excited when she respects her own boundaries
and demonstrates to others how to respect them as well.
The Me of Now gets downright giddy each time we say “No” 
in all of the splendiferous ways we are learning to say it.

The Me of Now takes responsibility for the hurt she has caused
while simultaneously holding others accountable for their actions 
(versus self-blaming or shaming others).
The Me of Now finally understands that while 
“Hurt people, hurt people,” that 
“Healing people are hurt people working towards a do-over,”
so compassion for self and others is crucial.

The Me of Now is still a bit clunky and shaky, 
like the legs of a baby colt.
However, the Me of Now is becoming more steady.
More focused.
More ready.
More available to Loving Guidance 
during the next part of this journey.

I see you, Me of Now.
Welcome Home.

The Creases of Collective Trauma: Reflections from 9/11

Image credit: Village of Willow Springs / Clerk’s Office News, Community News, Fire Department News, From the Mayor’s Office, Police Department News, Public Works News, Upcoming Events / Willow Springs Feature

On this day 20-years ago, I remember watching the news in disbelief as I begrudgingly ironed my clothes for work. At that time, I was a student affairs administrator. It had only been a short time since I earned my master’s degree from USD and now I was an employee. 

I can’t stand ironing. I see it as a fruitless chore connected to respectability politics. I’m sure Jesus wasn’t worried about wrinkles while out there healing the sick and loving on those the “Well-ironed crowd” shunned. I mean, really. All this to say, I was engaged in a process that didn’t matter on a day when my urgency to show up mattered way more than how polished I looked.

I recall rushing out of my apartment and during my drive to campus, I felt it all. Rather, I could taste it: Fear, sadness, confusion, helplessness, hyper-awareness, calm, out of my body/mind moments. Driving on the freeway in California was an eerie experience as well. There was this collective sense of unknowing/uncertainty, tied to disbelief and helplessness that was a thread connecting every driver on the highway that day. I did not know then to call it Collective Trauma, but I know it now. That moment, combined with the historical trauma that already lived in me from my African and Muscogee ancestors were active that day. I had to get to work and be a part of a community that had to support our students. What I did not know on my drive to campus was what that support was going to entail. 

That level of trauma was one like I had yet to experience (until 5 months later). It did not occur to me until I got to campus just how many of our students and employees had ties to the East Coast. Students were either from the area or had family members who travelled to NY, DC and or PA for business. Community members who had loved ones who worked in the Twin Towers. Colleagues that had friends who worked in the Pentagon. 

Image Credit: Orange County Register via Gulnara Samoilova/AP Photo –
Survivors of the World Trade Center attacks make their way through smoke, dust and debris on Fulton St., about a block from the collapsed towers, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 in New York.

When I got to my office, I put my purse away, found my supervisor to be directed to the students that needed support the most and went to work: Comforting students while my colleagues and I got on our cell phones dialing the phone numbers of loved ones to confirm what we could confirm. To this day, when I hear the words “We got through” or “We got one,” there is a momentary sense of relief that comes over me. You see, those phrases were yelled each time a member of our team was able to get hold of someone who was feared to be in the line of tragedy. 

Moving between screaming, sobbing students while “numbing out” in order to stay radically present, became my attire for the rest of that day and night. I am sure the wrinkles in my tear-stained clothes did not matter at all that day. 

Reflecting on that day as I enter my second semester back at the institution I left in February 2002 (five months after living through a family tragedy);  I think about the importance of just showing up just as we are. Not perfect. Not knowing what the hell to do at times. The simple act of showing up with our imperfect selves and having enough courage to love another person in pain. 

I have a faint memory of “Stolen Moments” when my colleagues and I would take a break to shed our own tears, breathe, hug each other, then go back to supporting our students. On that day, we felt like we were all we had. And, what we had to offer was more than enough.

 Oh, how the times have changed.

It shouldn’t take a national tragedy to bring out the best in us. Now, we’re in a time in this country where tragedy ushers a full-on assault from us on to each other. No, this is not an argument to go back to some fantasized or glorified, “Good Ole Days” because let’s face it, dehumanization through oppression makes for pretty awful millennia. What I will say comes in the form of my 7-Questions:

  1. What are some ways you have allowed yourself to 1) acknowledge collective trauma 2) release the collective trauma out of your body? [An excellent resource for Mind-Body-Soul work is the book “My Grandmother’s Hands” and the process of Somatic Abolitionism a practice championed by Resmaa Manakem]
  2. What, if any, are some rehearsed stories in your mind-body about a time of collective trauma that you may need to interrupt (i.e. question their validity and utility) in order to reveal a path towards healing?
  3. Who (if anyone) do you want to express gratitude to for helping you through the collective trauma (Divine Power(s), loved ones, strangers, ancestors, yourself, others)?
  4. Who (if anyone) would you like to extend forgiveness towards as you continue to process any of the collective traumas you have experienced (Again, Divine Power(s), loved ones, strangers, ancestors, yourself, others)?
  5. What questions, if any, do you wish you could have answered to help break up any mental blocks that may have you recycling/replaying the collective trauma?
  6. Depending on your age when the collective trauma occurred (if you were even alive when it happened), what expressions of love would you have wanted to receive in order to help you regulate/reconnect you to your humanity?
  7. Given the  uncertain times and collective trauma we are experiencing right now, how or in what ways have you “loved on” those who matter most to you?
Image Credit: Orange County Register via Robert Spencer/AP Photo –
A woman looks at missing person posters of victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 14, 2001.

On this day of somber reflection, during a time when fear and hatred are threatening our ability to critically self-reflect;  take a moment with me to re-member. As I have said in prior posts, you are still here serving as a Blessed Ambassador of those who we have lost. Please know, we are so glad you made it.

And to my USD colleagues who lived the experience of 9/11 twenty years ago with me: I see you. We got through. We got us. 

In closing, please know that I will “Say A Little Prayer” for each of you as we all work towards love, justice and liberation.

Do You Have A “Love Space?”

I hope you and those you love are healthy and safe as we prepare to part ways with August and welcome the month of September. 

Before I get into today’s message, I would like to send prayers of love and protection to everyone impacted by the events in Afghanistan. Whether you are a member of the U.S. military or an Afghan citizen wanting to find refuge for you and your loved ones, may “…the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7)” fall upon you as you seek safety. 

With everything going on right now, including the focus on returning to “business as usual” during these highly unusual times, I am focusing my email today on creating a different kind of safety, a spiritual and emotional place of respite that we all have the power to create. So let’s get into it…

Love and Change

This past week, I was blessed to talk to four very different groups that are gearing up to lead in their respective areas of influence. In all four discussions, I talked about Love and/or Spirituality as strategy for navigating all of the destruction that surrounds us. What I was saying wasn’t new or groundbreaking. My memory immediately pulls up files of the Civil Rights Movement and images of strategy sessions. Loving fellowship was always at the core of those meetings. No, not a group of “perfect people” trying to one-up each other. Regular people who wanted to see love in the form of justice lived out in the world. But, before they could love on the world, they had to love on each other and that required sharing love and space.

What is a”Love Space?”

A Love Space is an emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, space of rejuvenation. In this space, one’s personhood is welcomed and continuously validated. It is a place to restore one’s sense of purpose, gain perspective, and revive courage in order for the person(s) to move forward with the work of countering hegemonic, demonic, and pathologic forms of social dis-ease.

I developed this definition while designing a program for adult learners in Boston back in 2013. The term “Love Space” was being used to describe what the learning environment should “feel like.” Creating this nurturing environment was in addition to providing content to support the community members in being successful as classroom teaching assistants. There was no formal definition or description provided, but what was said about a Love Space was simply “You know it when you feel it.”

What does this definition have to do with dealing with the experiment of going back into the office, sending young children back to school, and leading life in a time where everything that is anything is a boiling hot mess?

“An emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, space of rejuvenation. In this space, one’s personhood is welcomed and continuously validated. It is a place to restore one’s sense of purpose, gain perspective, and revive courage in order for the person(s) to move forward with the work of countering hegemonic, demonic, and pathologic forms of social dis-ease.”

Definition of “Love Space.” Dr. Kecia Brown, 2013.

Do You Have A “Love Space?”

Oppressive systems must be dismantled. Periodt (For those who may be unfamiliar with that hard ass “t” added to the word “Period” is to denote an added layer of emphasis per Tyler Perry’s beloved “Madea”). And our righteous indignation (which is fueled by love) has us look at oppression with an expression that says “Is that the best you’ve got?!?”

Septima Clark and Rosa Parks at the Highlander’s Citizenship School Program; the epitome of a “Love Space.”

When we embody and are surrounded by Love, we create solutions that seem unfathomable. When we are overtaken by the Spirit of Love, we never give up on the idea that change is possible. When we know that Love is the only answer, we don’t get tripped up by the world’s questions. When you are in a Love Space, you know it and you feel it, because it fuels you.

A Love Space situates you right back into your divine essence over and over and over again.

Look, I’m not totally naive here. Sharing in a Love Space with other people is not going to be perfect. Sometimes it is clunky as hell and can be downright hard to watch. Oh, but the benefits are soooooooooooooo worth it!

As you go about your week, please make time to be nurtured by those in your Love Space. If you do not have a Love Space just yet, give yourself permission to develop one made up of those you love (and who love you back) and who will provide sound counsel. Consider adding the spiritual guidance of the Ancestors to your Love Space as well! Some of their written and spoken words are just a Google search away!

I hope you have a wonderful week! Sending you love from afar and wishing you continued health and safety as you work towards love, justice and liberation!

In Solidarity,