The Gift of Acceptance

Thank you for the kind responses to my last reflections on my mother’s life. I greatly appreciate each of you for being a part of this virtual transformative learning circle wherever you may be in the world. My hope is that by sharing my learnings (and unlearnings) I am supporting the reflective process of our beloved community. To quote the late author, scholar and Black Feminist bell hooks “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” I am grateful for the gift of our community and look forward to what we will learn together in 2022.

In today’s reflection, I would like us to consider the Gift of Acceptance.

The Gift of Acceptance

There are certain things we learn solely for the sake of survival. Yet, we reach a point when we will have to acknowledge that we survived it. All of it. And then, we look around to ask “What’s next? What is the gift I give as I continue to live [bars]? However, before we can give anything, we must accept everything.

Acceptance is one of the final stage of the grieving/mourning process for a reason. According to grief.com, when we engage in acceptance we:

…see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.

The 5 Stages of Grief – Grief.com

Personally and professionally, I have had to learn that it does not matter if other people do not understand my grief or what I am mourning. It is my job to fully acknowledge what I am feeling because only I know every nook and cranny of my experiences…from my point of view. That point of view may be skewed for a whole host of reasons, but acceptance— pure acceptance, doesn’t require accuracy.

Acceptance is simply compassionate acknowledgment. It doesn’t mean giving up or giving in. Acceptance is a part of nature. It’s breath. It’s blinking. It’s cool air brushing over our skin. It is a different kind of O.K., an Omnipresent Knowing of what is and was at the time, before envisioning something new for the future.

There is no regret in acceptance. No hatred or confusion. Anxiety cannot exist in the presence of acceptance. Acceptance is not powerless, it is power-filled.

As we come to the close of 2021, I would like to humbly request that you give yourself the Gift of Acceptance: Accept all of who you are, what you have and have not done and why you did or did not do it. Accept your quirks. Accept the changes in your body. Accept your survival. Accept the unspeakable. Accept your gifts. Accept your shortcomings. Accept what was once unacceptable. Accept that you are loved and lovable. Accept the Gift of Acceptance.

I pray that you accept your purpose. Then when you are ready, accept the challenge to create something far more acceptable in your eyes (while creating it from your heart and soul).

Wishing you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season and I look forward to reconnecting with you in 2022!!!

In Solidarity.

Are You Tired of Wearing a Mask?

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

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


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

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

The Greatness of “Mother Maya”

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

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

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

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

Masked @ Birth

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

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

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

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

7-Questions

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


7-Questions:
Unraveling the Other Mask

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

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

Have a wonderful week! 

In Solidarity.

Do you know how much power your story holds?

Happy Sunday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Stories Are Powerful. Period.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe that person is you.

Sending you thoughts of love, justice and liberation!

In Solidarity.

Do You Have A “Love Space?”

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

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

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

Love and Change

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

What is a”Love Space?”

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Have A “Love Space?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Solidarity,

A Word of Gratitude: From You to You

Can you believe that July is almost over! Before you know it, it will be 2022 (hopefully it won’t take any notes from 2020 & 2021)!

So before there are any more surprises, let me jump into my reflections for this week:

I have been thinking about what I learned  from my three-part conversation with educator, entrepreneur, and “space curator,” Alisa France. During her interview, Alisa reflected not only on the professional decision made by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones; she also talked about a workplace trauma that showed up in how she engaged and performed in future roles (career trauma) and how she has made peace with it.

Your Majesty: Nikole Hannah-Jones pictured here. Image Credit: nikolehannahjones.com | John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation | Copyright: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

It has been a few weeks since we recorded Episode 19 and I am still reflecting on what Alisa’s story has inspired in me on a personal level. Something that immediately comes to mind is that we can (and often do) continue to make great strides while still making sense of painful situations that happened in our past. 

As functioning adults with families and other responsibilities, we don’t always get the opportunity to sit, reflect, process, gain support, question our thoughts and destructive patterns, etc. We just keep on going like the Energizer Bunny (even that rabbit ran out of energy at some point). 

Processing past traumas takes time. Whether we are talking about personal  trauma, professional trauma or both. Here is a personal example of how better understanding our experiences can provide an opportunity for us to become better advocates for ourselves (and others).


I recently had a great session with a therapist that afforded me an opportunity to pause as I move forward in this next phase of my personal development journey. The therapist asked me about my earliest recollection of a particular trauma I want to dismantle in my family (and for the generations to come). I could not recall the origin of the trauma at that moment, so I interrogated myself as I drove home from my session. Not only did thinking back to the first time I experienced that specific trauma help me see the patterns created from that experience; it also helped me uncover an aversion and consequently, my reaction when people have something difficult to tell me (or even an otherwise pleasant surprise) and are working out how to say it to me while I am in front of them (I am sure most people feel weirded out in those moments, but I digress). To this day, I cannot stand when someone has something difficult to share with me and they do that awful pregnant pause as they gather their words.

“Oh dear God! Spit it out, will you? Rip the damn bandage off already!”

Yes, Nicey Nash! Hurry up and cut to the chase, please!

I realized that my reaction stems from my childhood and the day I was told my father had died. Understandably, my mother was searching for the right words to explain to a seven-year-old child that her father had died. However, while she searched her head and her heart for the right words to say, I was just standing there for what felt like hours. Finally, my mother’s best friend broke the news to me.

Had I not been asked about and had the willingness to think back to my earliest memory, I would not have 1) learned the source of an area of emotional discomfort that shows up for me now and how I respond to others; thus 2)  allowing me to communicate with others what I need in order to respond best to them in similar situations (self-advocacy). 


I share this story as an example of challenging our taken for granted assumptions and ways of engaging in order to have you think about an area of your life (personal, professional or both) where you may hold additional angst or anxiety (be reminded of what Anthony Parham explained during our episode about anxiety triggers being a part of society long before we were born). Here is a selfwork exercise that I often use with my clients that may be a useful tool for you: 

  • Think back to a time when a personal or professional trauma took place and the stories that you created about the experience.
  • Write down the various meanings/stories created from the experience and their impact (if any) on you now.
  • After reviewing the list of stories you have created to keep yourself safe (physically, psychologically, spiritually, etc.), consider any healthy/helpful lessons that can be derived from the incident (even if it is simply learning how to spot red flags).
  • Last, write a letter of gratitude to your past self (the one that experienced the traumatic incident) from the space of where you are now (who you became post-incident), then switch and have your past self write a letter of gratitude to who you are now.

Disclaimer: For some people, reviewing these origin stories may cause additional distress or trauma. I strongly encourage you to seek out a licensed counselor / therapist who can support you in this process. 

I hope this exercise is useful and helps you as you continue to move towards love, justice and liberation in your life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry. I look forward to hearing from you regarding any Aha’s that come to you after watching/listening to this 3-part episode with Alisa France entitled: The Nikole Hannah-Jones Effect: The Black Woman’s Artistry in Flipping Scripts and Tables. Feel free to listen on your favorite podcasting platform or watch all three parts on YouTube.

In closing, to anyone who needs to have a difficult conversation with me OR if you have a surprise you want to share with me, please do so expeditiously. I’d greatly appreciate it! 🙂

Sending you all love and blessings.

In Solidarity,

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Poem: The I Am Within

I am more than my feelings.
I am more than resentment and bitterness.
My timeless smile and unreserved laughter reminds me of that fact.

I am every “No” my Mother Ancestors were robbed of uttering.

I am an electric spirit.
I am love and courage.
I am passion and joy.
I am the force behind the waves of the deepest oceans.

I am contradictions and compliments.
I am impenetrable and porous.
I am the creator of Daughters of the Moon 
and Sons of the Sun.
I am distantly present and
present in my aloofness.

I am the bittersweetness that lies
at the very moment of impact 
between Agony and Ecstasy.

I am the quintessence of creating more with less.

I 
Am 
More.

Nothing less.

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,

7 Questions: Thriving

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:

  1. How do I define “Thriving?” Do I know what thriving is for myself? Others? 
  2. 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)? 
  3. 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? 
  4. Who do I trust in my Circle of Support who will tell me these hard truths in order to help me/us move forward?
  5. 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?
  6. What are ways I can support the thriving of those dearest to me? 
  7. 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.”

Because it’s Beyoncé

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.

In Solidarity,

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.”

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

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.