It’s May! Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
So, this is the first post (I believe) where I start off with the 7 Questions. Given EVERYTHING that is going on around us, the idea of healing and thriving have been center-stage for me. I asked Yolanda the “thriving” question during our conversation (Timestamp 7:26 – 11:03) and now I am digging deeper. I would love for you to dig deep with me and ask yourself these questions:
How do I define “Thriving?” Do I know what thriving is for myself? Others?
Have I ever seen people thriving, i.e. do I recognize what thriving looks like (No, not InstaThriving/social media-esque thriving, the real thing)?
As I continue to interrogate myself (Cornel West via A. Rafik Mohamed Ep. 12 timestamp 31:22 – 32:11) and exorcize the internalized messages of oppression – stereotype threat, impostor syndrome, etc.), what hard truths do I need to hear in order to embrace what it means to thrive?
Who do I trust in my Circle of Support who will tell me these hard truths in order to help me/us move forward?
If thriving is new to me, what can I do to not self-sabotage out of fear of experiencing something outside of the toxic, trauma-filled norm?
What are ways I can support the thriving of those dearest to me?
How am I celebrating with those who are thriving and not letting my Inner Critic dampen the moment out of fear or questioning my worthiness to thrive?
Last week, my clients and students reminded me what thriving in spite and despite the oppressive conditions surrounding us looks like. My students found a way to enjoy each others joy and brilliance in a socially distant way and reflected on what it means to be Scholars of Color. My clients are confidently redefining what success and wealth building look like to them, and my daughter is finding great joy in making her racist teacher more upset as she is progressing in her schoolwork (Hey, motivation is motivation).
However you define your “win,” let it empower you to dream bigger and dream in honor of those who are thriving through you:
Ma’Khia Bryant, Jacqueline Polk, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Andrew Brown, Jr., Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Adam Toledo, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and way too many/too painful to list.
As Beyoncé said in her beautiful song Bigger “life is your birthright they hid that in the fine print.”
Not only is living your birthright, but so is the audacity to radically love, thrive and liberate while being liberated.
Hold fast to your Birthright.
P.s. For anyone in the mood for a little poetry, take a look at one of my latest pieces for my 4th book “Emancipation Papers.” The poem is titled “The Road Home.”
I feel your heavy heart. I see you are trying. You are not casco. You matter. You will find joy again.
I welcome you home.
You have tried to be what others have wanted you to be. You are still discovering who you are, truly. Let their construction of you crumble.
We welcome you home.
Your heart and spirit know you fully and are aching for you to be what you are destined to be. Let the lies disintegrate into fine particles of dust and stand fully in your truth. Your Ancestors applaud your courage and dance to celebrate your deliverance.
I hope my post finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.
Last week had many emotional moving parts for us to feel and learn from as we move forward on our love, liberation and thriving journey. Here are my reflections along with my beloved 7 Questions (and by “beloved” I mean loved by me). Please be aware that all of the headings today are a nod to songs by the late great artist Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016):
I believe it was Prince who supposedly said that “Hate is an upset love.” If that is true, we are surely seeing an inordinate amount of “upset love” being displayed around us. As I contemplate what is going on nationally and internationally; I am reflecting on how acts of hate and abuse hit closer to home. While using this time of hyper-awareness of State violence against my community and other oppressed communities, I am also actively interrogating the abuser within. I know I/we did not start out this way. Neither did the people I love, both past and presently.
Abuse is about power, especially for those who have felt powerless in some area(s) of their life. Whether we are talking about family and community members who are causing harm, or power craving colleagues in the workplace. When we are taught/indoctrinated in the rhetoric of exclusion and dehumanization (via white supremacy) and told the only way to have power is to steal, destroy, and exact harm on those we feel hold less power and “matter less” than we do; we end up with a growing list of dead Black people under the age of 50. If we step out of the convenience of othering, the growing list of murdered Black Women, Femmes, Men, Children, Gender Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming and Trans Folx at the hands of police officers would have us all screaming in horror and fighting for change, not just a subset of us.
Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)
As I have been engaged in selfwork related to Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz’s work Archaeology of the Self, I have been actively interrogating the abused and abuser in me. Whether unpacking some of the generational messages from well-intentioned, loving, disenfranchised, oppressed loved ones in my family (see the coexistence of love and destruction?) or “Know your place messages” within the workplace. Along the same lines as the previous messages are degrading messages in the form of emotional abuse from lovers who see themselves as powerless in a world that hate them for any of the identities they hold/claim. I am in a place of heightened awareness that those messages and behaviors have been well-recorded and live in my mind and body. My work, and I choose to accept it, is to examine and exorcize these ways of thinking and acting to disrupt the systems of white violence in my life and in the lives of those I love.
Those who know me well, know that I am a big fan of DC/Marvel movies. However, what those same folx don’t know is that I spend the entire movie identifying with both the heroes and villains (that’s what happens when you have a degree in Psychology). One of my favorite characters in The Avenger films is the Hulk (She-Hulk is supposed to be coming out on Disney+! Wait for it!).
One of my favorite scenes that I identified with right away was in The Avengers when Captain America turned to Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk out of desperation for help in order to fight off the ugliness that surrounded them and quickly coming towards them. You hear Captain say “Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry.” To which Dr. Banner replies, “That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry.” Then, in cinematic brilliance, he transforms instantaneously into the Hulk:
As epic as this scene is, there is a painful familiarity I have as it is indicative of my experience as a Black woman.
As a Black woman existing in a number of intersecting identities I, like my green friend the Hulk, am always angry. What is even more infuriating is when people who do not share my identities try to rob me of the very natural emotion of anger by calling me angry, as if to question the legitimacy of my anger (or my mental wellbeing or both). Because of my past propensity for people-pleasing, I would lie (knowing good and well I was lying) and say I was not angry to put them at ease. Meanwhile, my inner Hulk was serving me internal body blows.
So, here it is. I am angry. I am pissed off to the highest levels of pisstivity.
I am enraged by social injustice we have collectively experienced, as well as those intimate experiences that have caused and taught me to harm. I am particularly aware of this latter point as I am transforming my relationship with my daughter. Since my ex-husband and I have not quite learned how to be “People” to one another, becoming “Co-Parents” is taking a bit more time. It’s almost like we are operating in similar forms of destruction, but in different franchises: He is Lex Luthor and I am operating more like Erik Killmonger. We have realized once again that the anger, resentment, and toxicity we exact on each other is having a direct effect on the one person that matters the most to us: Our daughter. This realization has forced us to stop everything in the midst of all the anger we both feel about the world around us and the world we created together.
I Feel For You
As I reflect on the world I am creating for myself and my daughter, I am having to be compassionately honest versus brutally honest (there’s enough brutality in this world) about ways my “Harm Training” has/is showing up. While listening to my sisterfriend, Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz talk in our upcoming More Than Metaphors episode “Love & Liberation Beyond the Vortex,” I recall what she says about how to liberate ourselves from the ways of pain and trauma we have been taught:
The Question of You
As I continue my critical self-reflection and engaging in new practices towards being a more conscious and compassionate parent to a Black/Biracial Girl, while dislodging all of the destructive messages and behaviors hurled at us Black/Brown Women and Girls, AND simultaneously embracing my rage around the murder of a Black Girl: Ma’Khia Bryant, 16 #sayhername; my selfwork consists of these 7 Questions (and many more):
What historic and/or personal traumas am I carrying and/or find myself passing on to my daughter or other Black Women/ Women of Color in my life?
In addition to therapy, what nurturing practices can I engage in to interrupt the passing on of historic and/or personal trauma to my daughter or other Black Women/ Women of Color in my life?
How or in what ways can I understand, value and embrace my anger, while harnessing that angry energy towards constructive work?
How will I disrupt and dismantle internalized white supremacist notions in myself and in those I care about, with a focus on addressing misogynoir in the Men of Color I love in my life?
What are some of the cultural scripts I need to revise and act out differently that better fit with the Love and Liberation I crave to embody for myself, my daughter, and my work?
How will I go about developing boundaries that are compassion-centered vs. boundaries rooted from a “This is what you’re not gonna do” stance, which is born from a place of self-preservation stemming from fear of a loss of self?
How will I utilize the collective wisdom, imagination, power and spirituality of my ancestors to focus my gaze and actions towards what Robin D.G. Kelley writes about in Freedom Dreams into my home, work, community, and in the world (both the external and my internal world)?
While we are fighting for substantive change in the world, we cannot forget what I am constantly saying to myself and people around me: Justice starts at home. Let’s continue creating/re-creating environments where we feel loved, liberated and where we can continue to thrive. Looking forward to continuing to walk this road together!
20 year-old Daunte Wright and his son, Daunte Jr. Daunte Wright, Sr. was killed by an officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo should be alive today. They are not. Their lives were taken from them by those who are supposed to “protect and serve” the communities for which they are paid to serve.
For my international readers/listeners, last week was another week of trying to balance trauma with hope here in the U.S. As an educator, it is growing more difficult to shore up an inspirational message for our next generation leaders.
However, I am fortunate that I have a community of leaders to engage in these conversations who can provide empowering words in those times when my motivational reserves are low. Feel free to watch or listen to the following episodes of the “More Than Metaphors” podcast to start your week off on a good note:
Episode 12 Part 1: Politics, Hip Hop and Re-Membering Home
Sociologist, Author and Higher Education Leader, Dr. A. Rafik Mohamed reflects on the intersections of storytelling and politics in remembering (recalling) his journey from D.C. to California, while re-membering (putting together again) a feeling of home. He and Dr. Kecia also square off on a hip hop trivia challenge to (possibly) end their 20+ year East Coast/West Coast beef [Timestamp: 53:45-1:04]! P.s. Ms. Lauryn Hill has more than one album, Dr. Mohamed!!!
Rafik’s More Than Metaphors Playlist contributions:
Episode 11 – Part 1: Being All the Things: Beyond Expectations and “Instagram Ash”
This is the first part of a conversation with one of the co-hosts of the “The Adjacent Self” podcast and Principal of Kendra Dorlenda Coaching & Consulting. Kendra Stewart reflects on her evolution into supporting the personal development of others. She also talks about the importance of re-connecting to the world around us while keeping “Instagram Ash” at bay.
Are you “Instagram Ashy?” Listen to this episode and find out!
Kendra’s More Than Metaphors Playlist contribution: Alive by Sia
Episode 10 – A Poetic Love “After the Snap”
Our very first More than Metaphors interview is with Author, Poet and Inglewood’s Mahogany Son, Kian A. Furnace and his amazing wife, ReShockie Furnace! This lively and thought-provoking conversation looks at what and how we can learn to love ourselves and others after experiencing divorce.
Kian and ReShockie share their truths (and lots of laughter) as they discuss how they went about their healing process and eventually found their way back to each other. They also share their musical choices for the brand new More Than Metaphors Playlist.
Kian and ReShockie’s More Than Metaphors Playlist contributions:
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.
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?
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:
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).
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:
Who was around them and what level of support did they have versus what kind of support did they need?
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?
In their moments of decision, what added support would have helped them make a decision that would have supported their mental health and wellbeing?
If they could rewrite their Liberation stance based on what they know now, what would it be?
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?
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)?
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.
Find my posts amusing, the 7 Questions thought-provoking, or just want to help someone close to you read something new? Feel free to forward this post (or any of my posts) to anyone who may find it/them useful.
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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 & review, 12(2), 126–146. https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12376.
Welcome back! I pray you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. I also hope that you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day week! Some of you read my impromptu gift I sent out to everyone on Valentine’s Day. Like Love itself, that inspiring post is still available to you whenever you need it (I have read it a few times myself to get a little additional motivation).
Speaking of love, we are sending love and resources to those in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and other states that have been hit by winter storm Uri. There are a number of mutual aid fund platforms collecting donations to support the hardest hit communities in these areas. Personally, I have donated to Feed The People DFW, led by Black & LatinX women. If you feel compelled to help out in some way, make sure you learn as much as you can before making a donation of any kind.
Now, I would like to share with you my latest learnings which involve me ending my “entanglement” with Will Smith…in my imagination.
I had a dream about Will Smith. I have to be honest, me and Will have had a love thing going on in my dreams for decades. Not consistently. He only shows up when I am utterly disenchanted with my current, or in this case, future prospects. In this dream though, something had changed. He was not the usual fun-loving, daring, and sensual character he had always been in my dreams. Will had been through some things: Enter Jada. No actual shade to Mrs. Pinkett Smith (only nocturnal disrespect), but she never showed up in my dreams with Will.
Regardless, in this dream she and I were talking about what they had lived through in recent years. At some point, Will walked in looking worn and gave me the weakest ass hug: A hug that no one wants and only the jankiest of humans deserve. You have seen it before; The hug where the person thrusts their hip forward to serve as a block to their full being (maybe I am the only one that does it)? Yes, that hug. Plus, he gave me the pat-pat…patted me lightly on my shoulders to communicate to me, “There, there, Little Mama. You will get over us eventually. You have to move on because I’m not the same anymore.”
How dare you Will Smith!
I have finally realized that Will is the surrogate for an actual person in my life. That person had essentially given me that weak send off virtually. He is both my forever and never at the same time. At some point, I have to let him go in my head. He is not available to me now. What is available and sustaining to me is my daughter’s love, our dog’s love, my family’s love and my love for myself. There is enough love around me to sustain and teach me how to love in healthy and restorative ways.
I am learning more each day to embrace that love and how best to turn it towards those who mean the most to me. So yes, I have to say goodbye to the Will in my life and that’s okay. I wish that person all the joy and laughter and sensual experiences that his dreams and real life can hold. It’s time for me to embrace what is really real. No more fantasies about what I wish and imposing those dreams on what is in order to make my actual relationships seem better than they actually are. That was one of the many dynamics that showed up in my relationship with my ex even before we were married.
No Good Will
The man in my head and the man in our home were two very different people. There was always the possibility (and expectation) for change with the person in my head. The person in our home never got the memo and because I outwardly acted like the person in our home was in fact the person in my head (or some would say the person of my dreams), then he reaped some of those benefits…along with the frustrations when reality would set in. “These actions of yours are not inline with who you are in my head!” I would think, loudly. And so, I would act accordingly. I’ll just give this sage advice: Do not ever give someone you are dating your login credentials for your email account, then ask them to check your email for you. It is a really, really, REALLY bad idea (what were you thinking, 2Ex?).
It became very clear that I was in an unhealthy relationship, I finally had the courage to move on in the summer of 2008. I literally called Tyrone and moved all my stuff into my dearest little brother/friend’s home and lived with him in New Jersey as I worked on my plans. I began to plan how I would move back to California, acknowledging that I gave my long-distance relationship a shot, but it did not work out. Just as I was preparing to move back home, my ex-boyfriend/now ex-husband’s father died.
My ex’s father was very dear to me: A gruff working class older man of Irish ancestry, who valued hard work and hard working people more than anything in the world. Contrary to popular belief, I was closer to him than I was his son! He was the one that told 2Ex (my new name for my ex-husband) that “if you don’t marry her, you’re an idiot.” Yes, that was what fatherly advice from his generation sounded like. whenever 2Ex would upset me and I would question my better judgment, I would call and chat with his father to regain a glimmer of hope.
That glimmer of hope died in September of 2008.
This man became like a father figure to me and having lost my own father at the age of 7 to stomach cancer, 2Ex’s father’s untimely passing was hard to take in. Even though 2Ex and I were in the process of going our separate ways, we had this weird dynamic (still do) of if the other person was in need, the other would always be there to help in some way, while still filled with all of the anger, disgust, distrust and jealousy of any normal high functioning toxic relationship.
He told me he needed me, so I went back.
We got married in 2009. We worked on getting a whole house built from 2008-2012, gave birth to a whole amazing child in 2010, made sure we got his mother in her dream home by 2012, the place where she died in January 2019. Earned a doctorate in 2012, built two businesses in 2013…all of it on the shoulders of two brokenhearted people who kept it all together when they should have been apart. And, we did it all with a smile on our faces and moments of laughter to conceal what we felt every waking morning. I am telling this story now because this is the hidden truth, not my having an emotional relationship with someone as my marriage was ending. No, I am telling this story because many people are having to create entire lives built on a foundation of pain, destructive tendencies, emotional abuse, self-deception, and self-abandonment, especially if kids or dependent others are involved.
What happens when death reminds you that tomorrow is not promised?
Who have you shared your love with and why? Was it love or was it a love imposter: Toxic bond, obligation, dependency, fear of being alone, etc.?
What unresolved resentments choke out any goodwill in your relationships faster than Deebo in the movie Friday (R.I.P. Thomas Duane “Tiny” Lister)? Name them.
What self-crafted lies are you committed to upholding in order to save face in front of people who seem more invested in your unhappiness than your wellbeing?
What impact, if any, does historical trauma play in your sustaining oppressive structures and ways of engaging in your relationships?
If you were able to love fully (and we are all capable of doing so), how would that love be demonstrated to yourself and others around you?
Who do you need to let go of in your mind and heart in order to make room for a healthy relationship with yourself and others?
Even during these times of distress, uncertainty, trauma, pain and loss, we can still uphold love in our lives.
Sis, those incense fumes and all that lemon ginger tea has you all the way messed up! We are losing our minds out here*!?@#!
Whether personal or professional, whether long-distance via Zoom, in our physical living spaces, or even during disasters–Love fuels Liberation. And those two together can help fuel our possibilities.
And to my very dear Fresh Prince I say: It is well. Go in good health, Will Smith.
I look forward to checking in with you again in 2 weeks! In the meantime, keep learning, keep thriving and keep moving towards liberation!
Peace & Blessings,
Find my posts amusing, the 7 Questions thought-provoking, or just want to help someone close to you read something new? Feel free to forward this post (or any of my posts) to anyone who may find it/them useful.
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Coming in hot to you out of today’s journal entry!
May we reclaim this day set aside to celebrate romantic love, as a day to celebrate how much we have overcome in the face of everything that has attempted to destroy our ability to love. All of the hate, delusion, cowardice, complacency, nihilation, corruption, psychosis, neurosis, hypocrisy, rejection, micro and macro aggressions, and plain old unkindness and disrespect. You are still here! Despite and in spite of decisions that could have destroyed you or even the selection of partners that were (or are) undeserving of the exceptional love you / we have to give, you are still here and you are still loved. Regardless of who has tried to use you in the past or who may be plotting to use you in the future, you are still loved.
Now is the time to own your love. All that “in spite of” love. That enduring love. That “I-waited-20-years-for-you-because-you-are-that” kind of love. Own your “I-have-been-through-the-gauntlet-of-attacks-and-got-my-mind-back” kind of love. Show out because you’re standing up to injustice with every fiber of your being with that love. You…up here representing those that others have tried to kill mentally, physically and spiritually; yet you are up here still standing like an Elton John remix. Look at you, you and your magnificence! Your power! Your resilience exists even when you don’t feel resilient at all! You are the most amazing being we h ave ever encountered and we love everything about you!
You have so much ahead of you. Don’t get sidetracked by the naysayers or those who wish you and themselves the worst. See yourself fully even on those days when you wish you were never born. Yes, we all have those days; I know I have had them as an adult. Then, at that precise moment when I’m questioning the reason for my existence, the Lover and Creator of my life reminds me of my purpose by sending me you: My loved ones, my students, my clients, my neighbors, my Ministry.
And so, on this Valentine’s Day in the year after a year like no other, I wish you the love that you deserve. I wish you the love that you conjure in your mind and spirit that you dare not speak aloud. I wish you the love that continues to endure time, circumstance and space. May the love that brings you joy in the secret recesses of your mind and that reminds you that you are so much more than your titles, degrees, or other accolades could ever detail, continue to abide and give you strength. You are blessedly you… and that has always been enough!
May you continue learning, thriving and moving towards liberation!
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.
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.
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:
Critical assessment of role assumptions
Recognizing that you are not alone
Exploring options for new ways of acting
Building competency in new role(s)
Planning a course of action
Acquiring knowledge and skills for new role
Trying out new roles and assessing feedback
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…
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)!
The past couple of weeks have been filled with moments of permission granting for me, which led up to a virtual event that I attended yesterday that provided new insights on liberation. The event was called “The Permission to Reimagine Radical Love and Pleasure.” This was not a conversation that centered white supremacy, racism or the other forms of hate and destruction structured against those communities that have been marginalized. No. This conversation was focused on what it means to love ourselves and to re-imagine joy in all of its forms.
At this time of doomscrolling (which happened to be the word of the day on Dictionary.com last Thursday), our minds aren’t allowed to venture off into places where we can imagine anything lifegiving–where we can laugh, where we can create. However, it is critical to our wellbeing and for the wellbeing of those around us to engage in those things that remind us of our humanity. I did exactly that the past few weeks:
Thanksgiving Makeover 2.0
For Thanksgiving, I broke from the traditional turkey dinner again this year and cooked the foods that reminded me of my heritage, childhood or times in my life when I experienced great joy. So instead of an oppression adjacent turkey (shout out to my Black Indigenous fam), I baked chicken and slow cooked gumbo and oxtail stew, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, baked cornbread and fresh sweet potatoes.
I enjoyed that meal with my daughter. I found such pleasure watching her enjoy bowls of gumbo, her new favorite.
I took great pleasure in prepping the food the day before. I played some of my favorite songs nice and loud while I chopped, danced and sang. It was fun watching my daughter and her friends bake cookies that Wednesday (Don’t worry. Each child had their own baking kit and all the other COVID regulations were in play. Plus, I had the kids take their germ filled cookies to their own home to be enjoyed by their respective families).
Hearing Me, Learning Me
Something else that I gave myself permission to do was to tell my story. One of my clients asked to do an informational interview with me and I agreed. It was cathartic to share my journey as I am still making sense of it: The good, the bad, the ugly twists and turns into how I have come to do the work I am currently. I also provided a few words of advice based on reflections from my past.
Making Space for Friends
Allowing myself ample time to have a conversation with a college friend over the phone was another form of pleasure I allowed space for last week. For those who know me, I’m not a huge fan of phone calls. I try to make them as quick as possible. because it always seems like when I am on the phone, I am discussing business, so I’m just trying to get to the facts. It has been a while since I just enjoyed a leisurely conversation with a friend just to catch up. This surprise call was definitely a Liberation call. A dear friend of mine came out to me after we’ve been friends for almost 30 years. I could sense this person’s relief in knowing that who they love did not change the foundation of our friendship at all. We continued to talk as if we were sitting in the lounge of our res hall, eating take-out food while watching the show “A Different World.”
Makkie’s Liberation Day
Another place where liberation showed up was with my daughter and her schedule. For those of you who have children who are experiencing distance learning given this pandemic, you know that right now our kids are navigating schedules that are rigid and fluid at the same time. And while there is a lot of content being covered, it is a challenge to support our Young Learners in a sustained understanding of the content given the added stressors. That said, my daughter was over it. Her entire week is scheduled from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. And because of this she asked if she could have a day where she had full control.
Sis, did you ACTUALLY say yes?!? Girl, how long was it before the fire department showed up?
No, Makkie did not set the apartment on fire. From start to finish, Saturday (and a portion of today) have been Liberation Day. I paused to think about what she was asking and it was such an innocent but profound request. So yesterday she enjoyed a virtual sleepover with her sisterfriends and ate junk food (can’t blame her…I already had it in the pantry). She did not make her bed, but she danced, sang, played her video games until the wee hours of the night. She was free to do and be whatever she wanted. She escaped the matrix for the entire day.
Freedom. Liberation. The freedom to not have to play a part in what we did not create and the liberation to create what is uniquely ours: love, joy, peace, pleasure, hope.
If you are interested in engaging in this re-imagining process, here are a few guiding questions for us to contemplate this week and beyond:
When was the last time I experienced extreme joy? Who was present and who was not present?
What brings me pleasure? What foods, songs, smells, sensations, etc. re-ignite a sense of aliveness in me?
Some of us have stories of doing the ugly cry a few times during this pandemic. Yet, when was the last time I ugly laughed: Where I snorted, coughed, drooled, fell over, gasped for breath, with tears rolling down my face because I couldn’t control myself?
When was the last time I felt loved? What does love feel like, sound like, look like to me now given what I have experienced during this pandemic?
What are some of the ways that I am now re-imagining how love is displayed amongst my friends, significant others, members of my family?
Given my responses to the questions above, what do I want to re-assemble this week and the weeks to come that will center the beautiful parts of myself and support the same reassembly in those around me?
This week, give yourself permission to re-imagine wellness and wellbeing. For some of us, that means giving ourselves and the people around us space to say “No.” For others, that may mean giving ourselves and those around us space to say “Yes.” Whatever your situation may be, know that your Creator, your ancestors, and those of us who love and support you encourage you to give yourself permission to do and be All. That. You. Are.