A Cure Within the Contagion

(Revised: 3/28/21)

This post was originally written on March 21st, International Day for the Elimination of Racism or the UN’s #FightRacism Day. Thank you in advance for your commitment to eradicating the other pandemic that we are working to uproot. There have been so many opportunities to deepen our learning and commitment to fighting for our overall wellbeing in the form of liberation and justice within the last two weeks. I would love to share with you some of my reflections and questions:

A Word About Feedback

What happens when we are working towards being a better version of ourselves and support from those around us feels destructive? Reflecting on this question, I began to think about times when I have received various forms of feedback throughout my life: some of it constructive at the time, while other feedback felt more oppressive in its purpose. There are two experiences in particular that resonate with me: The first came during a time when I was working while emotionally broken and receiving feedback on a workshop. The second time was recently as an educator. Now that I am firmly in a Renewed place, feedback informs me; it does not form me.

The reason why feedback was difficult for me to take when I was navigating brokenness was because macro and micro aggressions were landing on me at the same time. It felt that way because 1) I was concurrently experiencing microaggressions from others personally and professionally during a time when folx in this country were…you already know and 2) I began to internalize those messages and eventually began to tear myself down. 

It is very hard to distinguish constructive feedback from well-meaning others, against the “You Suck” pit that has been intentionally dug for many of us by those who mean us harm. Once in said pit, if you are unable to claw yourself out; you are likely to get hit by what others are hurling down at you…even if what they may be hurling in your direction could potentially help you out of the pit. When guilt and shame team up with the scripts of white supremacist misogynistic heteronormative ableist capitalistic patriarchy, then even a simple evaluation of how you are showing up in an environment can turn into a form of damnation.


As I reflected on the significance of what is called the Convoy Model of Social Relations in my own experience, I am reminded of how “…people create convoys to match their personal needs and experiences, but personal and situational characteristics play a role within circumstances that may promote or constrain an individual’s ability to create the convoy that would be maximally beneficial to them (Fuller, Ajrouch and Antonucci, 2020).”

What the hell does that even mean?

Said in a different way, what’s going on inside of us and what’s going on around us play a part in how well we can create circles of support that are best for us.

“…people create convoys [of support] to match their personal needs and experiences, but personal and situational characteristics play a role within circumstances that may promote or constrain an individual’s ability to create the convoy that would be maximally beneficial to them.

Fuller, Ajrouch and Antonucci, 2020

I became deeply curious about circles of support as Meghan Markle described her treatment during her time with the Royal Family. Additionally, I wondered about the quality of support for the 21-year old white man chose to do by killing women he fetishized in Atlanta, Georgia. Don’t get it confused, the reality of the mental health crisis we have on our hands should not be lost on anyone. And, let’s not denounce the nuanced work that is directly connected to white violence and access to guns and other mechanisms of physical, spiritual and mental assaults (miss me with the whole “guns don’t kill people…” programmed track). An overarching question that comes to my mind is: What are the roles those who are engaged and invested in us have with regard to our wellbeing? 

Justice for Breonna Taylor, Xiaojie Tan and all
whose lives were taken as a result of white violence.

When I think about the word “invested,” I think about those who have benefited from our more toxic behaviors like people pleasing, self-abandonment, need for external validation over internal evaluation, those who take advantage of our vulnerabilities for their socio-political and personal gain…those assholes. We also have to be accountable for our own toxic tendencies. It is incredibly difficult to acknowledge when we have benefited from someone else’s toxicity and have also been that toxic person (In other words, we have also been the asshole in someone’s story). Trust, I know from experience how jarring that realization can be. 

You better go ‘head and own it, Sis!

It is sobering to realize that the same destructive and narcissistic ways of engaging that I experienced in personal and professional settings that were detrimental to my mental health and wellbeing, I now embody in some form.

If we use the coronavirus as an example (I’m sure you’re thinking “Please, don’t”) it may paint a more vivid and relatable picture. Here are 2 points to consider:

  1. Say you are reasonably healthy and you engage with someone with the virus. You will become infected with the virus. Whatever is going on with your immune system will determine how well your body is able to fight it and which symptoms you will display (if any). 
  2. If your immune system has already been compromised prior to becoming infected, the internal fight back to health is a harder and longer one. For some, the attacks from the virus is more than their system can bear. Others may recover with lingering effects from the impact of the virus, while others still may have little to no impact at all.

The reason why I chose to liken our mental health crisis to our current health crisis is to show the inextricable link of the two: 

  • When we surround ourselves with those who are committed to their wellbeing and we are also committed to our wellbeing, compromising moments may still happen, yet we have more resources towards recovering from those setbacks (Wellbeing Champions).
  • When we surround ourselves with those who have a lackadaisical relationship with their wellbeing, the level and quality of support will not necessarily be that plentiful or even helpful (Wellbeing Passivists). 
  • When we surround ourselves with sick folx who could care less about our wellbeing or even actively work against it, we are going to get sick or even more sick than we were initially (Wellbeing Obstructionists).

In reality, we engage with all three of these groups without knowing it, sometimes simultaneously. Additionally, somewhere in our lives we have been in each of these three groups in someone else’s life. We have been the mental health and wellbeing Champion, Passivist, and Obstructionist. Our complexities, stories, and lived experiences play out in different ways and given our socialization in this world, we act accordingly. It is only when we engage in critical self-reflection and work with those who can help challenge our assumptions in healthy ways, that we have those glorious aha! moments that foster transformative learning and liberation.

These are the thoughts that are swirling around in my mind as I am trying to make sense of, and learn from Meghan Markle’s experiences (more to come in my next post), while examining what can be known and gleaned from someone’s decision to murder eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Here are my 7 Questions to support us in deepening our learning. Feel free to reframe them so that you may work through them for yourself: 

  1. Who was around them and what level of support did they have versus what kind of support did they need? 
  2. What were the stories they each were telling themselves about their value, their worthiness, their purpose? What lies were the most salient and what were the sources of those lies? 
  3. In their moments of decision, what added support would have helped them make a decision that would have supported their mental health and wellbeing? 
  4. If they could rewrite their Liberation stance based on what they know now, what would it be? 
  5. Moving forward, what might dismantling the oppressive thoughts, conversations and ways of being in their internal and external lives look like as they continue on their respective paths? 
  6. How are in what ways (if at all) will they engage the various wellbeing groups in their lives now? What will they need in order to be able to recognize which groups they are operating in with others (i.e. How will they know when they are being Champions, Passivists and/or Obstructionists)? 
  7. How will they break the guilt/shame cycle when they have that realization? What (if anything) will they do differently as a result of breaking that cycle?

These two stories seem so very different. They are different. Yet, they have a common denominator: White violence as a direct byproduct of white supremacy. 

Shout out to the adults who are supporting students with math. I know you cringed when you read the words “common denominator.” I pray your response to white supremacy and violence is met with even greater revulsion.

Just as the current vaccine for the coronavirus has elements of the virus itself (respect to Onesimus, the enslaved person who shared his knowledge about inoculation and to whom we should honor for what the U.S. uses as its immunization process), a cure can exist within the contagion. Our intentionality behind what we do, how we do it, and with whom we surround ourselves as we are moving towards our welbeing and liberation, can create a turn of events for the better, if we do not succumb to the damage.

Sending you thoughts of Love, Justice and Liberation in recognition of International Day for the Elimination of Racism #FightRacism Day.

In Solidarity,

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Source: Fuller, H. R., Ajrouch, K. J., & Antonucci, T. C. (2020). The Convoy Model and Later-Life Family Relationships. Journal of family theory & review12(2), 126–146. https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12376.

When Regret Teaches, Take Notes

The last two weeks, I have been meditating on the lessons that regret can provide. Like some of you, I have been engaged in a form of functional grief during this time of racial and political division paired with a pandemic that is generating more variants than the roles played by Eddie Murphy in any of his films (Coming Soon: Coming to America 2).

Part of my reflections on regret stem from the death of legendary actor and trailblazer, Ms. Cicely Tyson. I, like so many others have long admired the majestic ways of Ms. Tyson and her awareness of her power as a Black woman in an industry that is known for misogynoir both in front of and behind the camera.

The sadness I felt upon her passing was compounded by the fact that I missed an opportunity to work with Ms. Tyson due to my own self-doubt.

FEAR OF SUCCESS & FEAR OF FAILURE AT PLAY

In the early months of 2020, I spoke with an old friend about wanting to broaden the impact of my children’s book, The Love of 10,000. I remember telling him how powerful it would be to have THE Cicely Tyson narrate the poem with her divine precision. My friend, who happens to be in the entertainment industry not only gave me advice on how best to approach Ms. Tyson’s manager, he also gave me her manager’s email address. I had the golden egg right there in my WhatsApp account! That was in March. Two months later, my friend emailed me to follow up on my progress:

Receipts can be a painful reminder of self-sabotage.

I choked. Fear of Success and Fear of Failure came for me and I relented. Who was I to approach a woman of Ms. Tyson’s caliber? Even worse, what if she agreed to my project? Am I prepared for that kind of success given all of the transition I am just now settling into? I needed time to get my stuff together before I could approach Ms. Tyson. 

Sis, Ms. Cicely was well into her 90’s. How much time were you banking on here?!? 

Even Tami Roman couldn’t make sense of me dragging my feet. Image Source: VH1

What made my reflections on the situation even harder to stomach was listening to the interview she did with Gayle King. When Ms. Tyson mentioned that she felt like she still had work to do and that is why she was still here, I placed my hands over my face. 

Ms. Cicely Tyson’s final interview with Gayle King. Rest well, Queen. Source: Gayle King/CBS.

REGRET: A FORMIDABLE TEACHER

Please understand, I am not delusional in my thinking that this remarkable woman was tied to this plain because of my children’s book. I am sure Tyler Perry had at least five more projects slated for her. However, what if I had stepped forward into the dream I allowed myself to speak to someone who just happened to have a key to unlock a door?

Do you have any stories of regret versus risk and what have you learned from them? For me, I can recount situations where I truly regretted the outcomes (clearly not reaching out to Ms. Tyson is pretty high on my list). I also can relive those times I have taken a risk and was better for it. What I am going to encourage myself to do moving forward (and would love for you to try it out with me), is to use regret in a more concrete way in order to actualize my liberation and further embrace my purpose. Here are a few questions I would like for us to play with (you know you missed my 7 Questions!): 


  1. What are the stories I am telling myself about stepping into this opportunity? Are they my stories or stories passed on to me for safety’s sake (physical, psychological or both)? 
  2. Who do I have in my circle of support that can talk me off the Fear of Failure/Success ledge in the moments where my Inner Critic seems to be most convincing?
  3. What role, if any, does my spirituality play in me stepping into and preparing for opportunities outside of my comfort zone?
  4. Speaking of preparation, what role, if any, does perfectionism have in the emotional paralysis that occurs when I am preparing for a large-scaled opportunity?
  5. What have I learned, embodied and enabled in myself and those around me about taking risks and what needs to change/be dismantled (if anything) to accommodate opportunities that align with what I see as my purpose?
  6.  What are examples of living a life of regret that I can visualize in those moments of making the commitment to follow through on my goals that will shake me out of complacency?
  7. How can I use my story of regret to inspire others to have the courage to step out of their comfort zones (while relinquishing the shame associated with the experience)? 

In closing, I would like to leave you with the words of Ms. Cicely Tyson as she talks about the journey to writing her autobiography, Just As I Am:

Thank you Ms. Cicely for your lessons, spoken and unspoken.

Thank you Ms. Cicely for your lessons on Love, Peace and Liberation!

A New-ish Day

Happy 2021 to you! I pray that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.

Whew! Am I glad I took a few weeks off to process 2020, because it was starting to look like 2021 was coming through with some of that “hold my coat” energy! The Georgia Dream followed immediately by the Capitol Conundrum were so disorienting that it made this amazing artist turn her songwriting gift to a plea for the extraterrestrials to do a fly-by and take her away from this planet that we are destroying 

You have to admit, it is a catchy tune.

Processing the Destruction

After a number of social media posts, and conversations with friends, families and colleagues processing the insurrection, I began to resist the urge to blame Time for the chaos we humans have created. Yes, people are responsible for the decisions that have led to the destructive, chaotic, psychotic, oppressive conditions we are living in. The Earth and Time are not responsible for the lies we tell ourselves and others to create systems of mental, physical, spiritual, and economic destruction. We all have played a part in the destruction we are seeing–and yes, some of us are much more responsible for the destruction than others.

I am not going to delve into the destruction of January 6th. There has been and continues to be enough commentary and indoctrination that the news cycles are carefully disseminating. Plus, as someone who intimately understands the inverse relationship of Black joy to White rage/disenchantment that exists in dysfunctional relationships, I made a conscious decision to stay firmly planted in the joy of celebrating the wins in Georgia and preparing for the Inauguration. 

“She Leads, She Inspires, She Slays” Meredith Koop, Stylist for Forever First Lady Michelle Obama

Maybe you have seen this inverse relationship play out at work, in the community or even in families: Whenever one person is living their best life, the other person seems to be on the brink of ruin? Yes, that is one of the dynamics that play out in dysfunctional/delusional dependent relationships. We had a chance to watch it play out while a group of adults worked towards their Spider-Man club badges scaling up the side of the nation’s Capitol, while others were finding ways to hold virtual galas.

Leading Ourselves In Order to Dismantle Delusion

As I reflect on these events, I have been focusing on how, or in what ways leadership can play a part in moving our country forward, specifically Conscious Leadership, Self-Leadership and Transformational Leadership.

I had the pleasure of being a part of a podcast discussion recently (Available on Apple podcast and Spotify) where I talked about…well, everything. However I mostly elucidated on some of what I meant in my last post around reclamation resistance. I also talked about how white supremacist delusion is antithetical (or at least it should be) to conscious leadership.

If we are truly focused on being spiritual and spirited leaders, we cannot concurrently champion those ways of being and doing that are spiritually destructive. Essentially what I am saying is if we are going to be followers of [insert a spiritual Teacher, or practice], then we cannot be followers and agents of oppression. Said another way: If we are clear that the flesh is “temporal and the spirit is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18), then divesting from systems of oppression would be an active part of our practice. 

The Battle (Fatigue) is Real

As for those who are knowingly or unknowingly (with a wink) contributing to racial/oppression battle fatigue, they need to focus on cultivating authentic and meaningful relationships and stop making “The Work” they need to be doing so transactional. An example I gave is when you are in an intimate, loving, nurturing and mutual relationship (so reciprocity has to be actualized in the relationship), you care about how that person is doing. You are tuned into their needs AND what they have in their reserve. You have a sense of when they are depleted and that depletion matters to you and vice versa. Again, that is when you are tuned in. 

Part of the problem is The Work has become traumatically transactional. Those of the dominant culture are not tuned in and have allowed themselves to be tuned out for more than 400. Now that white sisters and brothers are seeing that their survival is dependent on those people forced into the margins, they want a Cliff Notes-like summary on the experiences of marginalized communities. They give the perception that they are only working to understand others and their experiences to earn their “Certificate of Wokeness” and they want to earn it now, “chop-chop!

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

So please, don’t engage with others with your transactional need to know about what it is like to be a Black Woman from the ‘hood, when you already know the atrocities Black people have faced in this world. If you come to me with your NEED to know in order to check off your Woke Box, I’m going to quote blessed brother James Baldwin and tell you quite simply “I am not your negro” and finish sipping on my homemade Decaf Vanilla Chai. I am not at your service. I am here to serve my Creator and love on others and receive love in return. Periodt.

Oppressed people do not have to ask about what it is like to be part of the dominant culture. Our study of whiteness came and comes as part of our survival of the traumatically interdependent nature of our relationship(s)…and of course colonization. I recommend reading any of the works by Psychoanalyst and Political Philosopher, Frantz Fanon to gain a better understanding of these dynamics. 

Analogy: Power and Abuse

To use an analogy that may illustrate the sociopolitical dynamics, I have heard the relationship of the dominant culture and exploited communities being likened to that of the abuser-abused. I think it is important to think critically about that comparison for its applicability. For instance, those who have been abused learn to anticipate the ways of their abuser, because forecasting the ways of the abuser is a trauma response and doing so keeps them safe (or safe-ish). Sounds familiar?

Considering the abuser, in order for them to end their dependence on the power gained from abusing others, they will need to live through some disorienting dilemmas. They will need to realize they are not alone in their identity as an abuser, critically examine the identity built (and awarded) for abusing others, and so on. If what I am listing sounds a bit like the work done in Alcoholics Anonymous, great. That connection is intentional. I am also directly connecting the journey towards becoming more aware, more humane and more just (what I believe the real Work should be) to what we in the adult learning and leadership community refer to as Transformative Learning theory developed by the late scholar, Jack Mezirow. Along with the video I have shared with you, here are Mezirow’s 10 Phases of Perspective Transformation:

  1. Disorienting dilemma
  2. Self Examination
  3. Critical assessment of role assumptions
  4. Recognizing that you are not alone
  5. Exploring options for new ways of acting
  6. Building competency in new role(s)
  7. Planning a course of action
  8. Acquiring knowledge and skills for new role
  9. Trying out new roles and assessing feedback
  10. Reintegration

Take some time when you can to research Transformative Learning theory online. It is a pragmatic theory and may prove useful as you are navigating the various realities you are experiencing.

Back to the lecture at hand…” (To quote the misogynoir of “Ain’t Nuthin’ But a G Thang” by Snoop and Dr. Dre)

Back to dismantling white supremacist delusion…

Bernie and those mittens have shown up everywhere!

If we are going to move forward as a nation, The Work needs to be done to dismantle our relationship, dependency and identities formed through white supremacist delusion as well as:

  • oppression of women birthed from delusion 
  • oppression based on SES birthed from delusion 
  • oppression of those persons with disabilities birthed from delusion 
  • oppression of people in the LGBTQIA+ community birthed from delusion 
  • oppression of people who are gender nonconforming/gender expansive birthed from delusion 
  • oppression based on religion birthed from delusion 
  • oppression based on language birthed from delusion 
  • oppression based on immigration status birthed from delusion 

You get the picture. Add any group of people who have been oppressed as a way to sustain the destructive, delusional dependence of the superiority narrative to maintain power. 

Opportunity Knocks Hard

We have an opportunity for transformative learning of epic proportion in this country. January 20, 2021 is proof of that opportunity:

As I took this time of rest to reflect and prepare for the road ahead, I am inspired by the possibilities and the power that are bubbling up around the country. I am not naive or ignoring the undercurrent of rage and fear that exists. To the contrary, what I am choosing is to not go into caretaking or placating mode, thus hindering this opportunity for a transformative learning experience.  

Plus, I have canceled my subscription to enable destructive behaviors in others. I am not your enabler, nor am I your “Lives of the Oppressed” tour guide. Like Vanessa Williams sang, we all have “work to do” (slurps tea unapologetically). Mmmmm, tastes like joy!

Love, Justice and Liberation (With extra caramel)!