The inspirations for this piece were my daughter Makaila, the graduate students completing their Action Research requirement at the University of San Diego (especially the 1st year students I have been blessed to engage this semester), and all of our next generation leaders.
A special Thank You to Dr. Nydia Sanchez and Jessica López for the encouragement to do what I do!
Feel free to share this poem with any graduate or person who is moving to the next level in their lives. Also, feel free to reframe the poem into the first person and use it as an affirmation for yourself!
The Future Is Waiting For You
Our world is calling you now to lead at a time when innovation must lock arms with compassion.
Call and response: The future is waiting for you.
When we have called for change Your brilliance, power and hope have responded unapologetically “We are here.”
Call and response: The future is waiting for you.
Your Ancestors stand proud as you represent a mosaic of possibilities and our community stands together as we see a loss of learning and the violent taking of lives. In the midst of it all, you have steadied your hearts with courage, power and purpose and have confidently continued your stride towards excelencia.
Call and response: The future is waiting for you (read 2 times).
The Future. Is waiting. For You.
May you all continue to thrive and keep moving towards liberation!
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:
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?!?
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.
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!):
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)?
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?
What role, if any, does my spirituality play in me stepping into and preparing for opportunities outside of my comfort zone?
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?
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?
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?
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 on Love, Peace and 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)!