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.

Reflections: Endings, Beginnings and Gentleness

Before I begin, I would like to say Happy Pride Month to all of the LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving readers/listeners in the 30+ countries my blog/podcast has reached thus far! I am deeply grateful and appreciate you for letting me encourage and amuse you with my reflections during my healing journey. 

Now that we are filled with so much gratitude, let’s dive into the reflections for this week:

ENDINGS & BEGINNINGS

The past two weeks have been filled with lessons on Endings and Beginnings. So much so that one of the videos that is now in heavy rotation with my colleagues and clients is one entitled A Meditation on Endings. Check it out if you are in the midst of a transition of any kind.

Whether we are talking about endings/beginnings related to a job/project, health or relationships; endings and beginnings require our attention. However with the constant distractions, we may not give the proper time to acknowledge, celebrate, or mourn situations that end, begin or that we expect to happen but do not (Nancy Schlossberg calls this a “nonevent”). Examples of a nonevent are the job offers we expect, but do not occur; the child that was expected to be born, but is not; or waiting to be asked out on a date, but they ask Marcia instead (Brady Bunch reference).

What I am also reflecting on is the very human response to harden from these experiences. We can become guarded, if you will: Protecting our mind, heart and resources.

Can you relate? 

Yes! The situation ended! Whether it was an unhealthy relationship, moving from one state to another, or the end of cancer treatment. However, there is always a tiny voice in our heads that asks: 

What if this move was a bad idea? 

What if this relationship is like the one before it or worse? 

What if the cancer returns? 

I don’t know about you, but even as I give praise for all of the blessings I have experienced, there’s a part of me that says, “I don’t care what happens, I am not going through THAT again!”

And it is in those moments when I begin my job as a bricklayer and begin building walls around my heart, my health, my family and my business. 

Whether we are talking about endings/beginnings related to a job/project, health or relationships; endings and beginnings require our attention. However with the constant distractions, we may not give the proper time to acknowledge, celebrate, or mourn situations that end, begin or that we expect to happen but do not.

Taking refuge behind walls has become commonplace during this pandemic. Clearly, there are times when it is wise to have healthy boundaries (BTW, I am still giving folks air hugs…stay away from me!). In addition to healthy boundaries that could be developed, sometimes our hearts harden a bit and we lose our ability to be gentle with ourselves and others. I would like to share a recent experience of my (re)learning to connect to my gentleness for your consideration:

TRY A LITTLE GENTLENESS

During our family therapy session, my daughter and I re-learned how important gentleness is to us in our ability to end difficult conversations and begin to transition to a point of psychological safety. After a difficult conversation, our therapist gave me a small tube of lotion and asked me to lotion my daughter’s hands. 

Sounds easy enough right? 

So I, being a Black mother who has navigated personal and historical trauma; having been raised by a Black mother who navigated personal and historical trauma (and so on), went about my task. I proceeded to apply the lotion to my daughter’s hands with such vigor and purpose that the top two layers of her skin were likely being rubbed off. Our therapist, seeing me go into exfoliating mode, said one word to redirect me: “Gently.”

At that moment I thought “What? This is how I’ve always…ohhh. Got it.”

My daughter of course looked at me in that moment to telepathically communicate “See, this is EXACTLY why we need to be here!”

My eyes softened and so did my grasp. I focused on rubbing my daughter’s hands gently and communicating, without words, that everything was ok. The hard part was over and healing begins with acts of gentleness.

I am sharing this experience with you because we live in a world that is constantly training us away from our gentleness. Think about the last time you heard one of these (or similar) sayings:

  • “You need to develop a thicker skin!”
    • “You have to be ruthless in this field/role!”
    • “We go for the jugular in this family! You better get used to it if you want to be successful in life!”
    • “Mama said knock you out!” 

Ok, so the reference to LL Cool J’s 1990 album was a bit much, but you get the point. 

As you reflect on the previous messages, how many times have you been told to be gentle with yourself or with others? Have you ever been told to be gentle in relation to ending/beginning experiences in your life? 

Whether you are a graduate who is transitioning from one learning environment to another; someone with a new work opportunity (even if you are newly “liberated” to explore other endeavors); or a shift in a relationship with a family member or intimate partner, how might you be able to add gentleness to your ways of engaging in the world?

No matter what we have heard or what we have experienced, let’s not let anyone or anything rob us of our ability to be humane to one another. AND,  even if we have hardened our hearts or ways of engaging with others in order to navigate our circumstances, we can find our way back to being intentionally gentle to those who matter to us while creating rest for our souls. 

I thank God for your healing, thriving, loving and liberation! Looking forward to continuing on this journey with you!

In Solidarity,

Poem: 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.

You are home
and home has always existed in you.

Reflections from Episode 13: Love and Liberation Beyond the Vortex

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):


Colonized Mind

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.

Fury

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:

TRIGGER WARNING: VIOLENT CONTENT. View Timestamp 1:10-2:03 only.

As epic as this scene is, there is a painful familiarity I have as it is indicative of my experience as a Black woman. 

Black Sweat

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. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CN6clpPjRle/?igshid=1c8i6sbt1x5i6

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:

Clip from the upcoming More Than Metaphors Ep. 13: “Love & Liberation Beyond the Vortex” with Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz

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):

7 QUESTIONS

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. How or in what ways can I understand, value and embrace my anger, while harnessing that angry energy towards constructive work?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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!

In Solidarity,

P.s. #justiceforMakhiaBryant #sayhername #untiljusticejustis