The challenge has been most of this getting in the dirt, digging up rocks, preparing soul for living- has been for others-not for me. I do not say this for you to pity me. I say this in knowing the truth about myself.
I love people. I love to give and share my life with others. In these spaces of family and community I have done some of my most deepest and hardest work. I love the possibility we each hold as we hold each other capable and able to be our best selves.
I am particularly interested in the story of those who didn’t get the fair start or the silver spoon. My eyes and heart search quickly for the heart that has the most holes-the most fractions-the most brokenness-because vulnerability is beautiful to me. It is also because in the struggle of others, I have found pieces of me. Pieces of me still worth fighting for. Pieces of resilience, overcoming and victory. And there are also pieces of bitterness, loss and insecurity. Pieces that need to be glued back together and others that seriously -should have been gone a long time ago.
A few years back, my Big Sis Meg came to my home and planted bulbs in the Fall. I thought her gesture was kind but gently tried to pursued her that it wasn’t worth her time and effort. The ground she was preparing to toil had already seen it’s better days. She smiled back with a confidence and certainty that only spiritual big sisters tend to have and kept to the task before her.
You see this was a time in my life when my spirit reflected the season. My mind was full of the gray and the cloudy. Chilled winds of loss and depression had stripped away my confidence and joy. The life I had imagined for myself and my very young family had not yet been realized. The weight of too many bills and too much month had depleted me. The dream of becoming the speaker and author I thought God had called me to be- seemed like a cruel prank-a mean joke.
Watching her passionately hit the hard, flat soil-struck something I thought I had lost deep down inside-it was hope. Witnessing the unearthing of “a thing “you thought was already cemented-already done-be turned over into something still new, still living is the picture of “redemption”.
The new dark soil looked so tender and vulnerable next to the still hardened pieces-yet progress had been made. This is my life. This is our country. The callous and the tender-the dead and the living-the failure and the hope.
It’s been months since I’ve last written. If I were to be honest- two years since I have had a steady rhythm in this space. Yet so much “re”planting, “re”shaping and “re”doing has happened because of and underneath this blog. My place of humble beginnings-my safe place to wrestle and wonder.
This is the story of seasons-this is the story of life. There are big starts and long stops. There are successes and there are failures. There are summers of drought and winters with no snow-yet there is still the turning. There are people who stay and people who go.
For the past 10 years I had my garden mapped out. I set plots to harvest certain things in a certain way. Some dreams have expanded and bloomed others dried up and have faded away.
Disappointments tangled with blessings-crashing stops and indescribable new beginnings-life keeps turning.
Obama to Trump-reconciliation to rejection-hope to rage-Lord keep it all turning. Until the hardened places are made soft again, until the root becomes the flower, until the dream becomes reality. May He keep it turning for you-may he keep it turning for me.
What if you were the only one left to tell their story?
Present and younger generations depending on you to help ground their tender roots of promise, hope and identity.
Elders weary and worn tell you, “it’s now time for you to lead the way.”
What if the place you knew as “home” was instantly blown away?
Every personal item used to clothe your dignity, every sacred treasure stolen and sold by white men in long beards- carrying $5.00 mochas in papered cups.
How would you begin putting back the pieces?
Gentrification is tearing a part limbs and legacies. It’s not pretty and I can no longer stay silent.
Stop by and hear how a Brotha from CNN, my Daddy and our community are trying to make our way through the rubble-trying to keep alive the remnant of our people.
(Click the link below to hear the full the video behind me)
One word, large enough
To be inked in Gold Letters
Bond Tightly Together
His timeless Love Letter.
Drips off Angels Lips
Like morning dew
Purified, uncontaminated praise
Collected in chorus being raised
24 Hours-365 days
That’s what it be
When Heavenly Hosts
Bow heads and lift wings
To the King of Kings.
You say we can be
So if this is true
Can I have a word with you
Cause I got a lot on my heart
I need to get right-Right now.
Help me some how
Keep my gaze on You.
Before I speak,
purge me hyssop deep
wash me-Clorox Bleach
whatever you need
to make my inside pure enough
to stand before you.
Heavenly Father it’s me
Your Black Daughter
Trying to make sense of the mess
that got left down here
It seems as though just a few of us are trying to clean it up.
Is looking more like hell on Earth
Rather than the Garden of Eden
Broken limbs, On Blooded lawns
Dark Jail Cells and Local Street Corners
Are soaking up death instead of reproducing life-abundantly.
You must be angry
That those who call themselves “the Light”
Are glowing in the darkness of hate-PURE EVIL
The “One’s you created, are taken up the right to call themselves “Creator”
Positioning themselves to be the “givers” and “takers” of life
Your Wrath must burn
From YouTube clippings resembling
Yesterday’s- 400-years of oppression
That breed strange orchards of human fruit
I thought we chopped-down
Those sick trees of slavery-a long time ago
Instead I realize that it’s just been a mockery
And the seedlings of bigotry
Managed to survive-even thrive
Under Sins Petri Dish of
Indifference and Privilege
Mocking the Legacy
Of a people who gave liberty and justice-their all…
“Jesus”….. I call….
“Jesus”…. I call…..?
Can you absorb some of this hits-these lashes
Me trust in you?
What are we suppose to do
who turned black and blue -like You
But didn’t rise on the third day.
Generations still swimming upstream
In hopes of a new dream
But I’ve been awaken to the situation
Right now all I see
Is the majority
Carrying silence-instead of the Cross
I’m tired of lives being lost.
Where are the Holy One’s?
Is it that your Kingdom Sons-And-Kingdom Daughters
Have exchanged calling for comfort
Desiring to stay Master’s instead of servants?
Invisible chains of privilege they chose to hold onto
As they say they don’t know what to do?
Where are the Holy Ones?
God this must displease you
That we aren’t doing the work you charged us to do.
Down here tearing apart the Body
The one you laid down your life and died for.
And maybe your just more …
patient than me
Sometimes I just can’t remember to see
That every wicked deed and blow you took
And placed upon your Son
From death to rise again.
to be one day redeemed
Embodied through the HOLY ONE.
(Performed:Imago Dei Church-Good Friday Service, March 25 2016)
Just haven’t …been here…
I’ve been chasing down my summer-(is it really over) and winking at Fall. Changing seasons has always been hard for me. I know it’s October, but I’m still flip-flopping through my memories of summer-trying to contain them all like grains of sand in my hand.
There have been at least 100 million things I’ve been wanting to write about, connect the dots to and celebrate with you-but I couldn’t.
Got stuck trying to choose the “most important lessons”, “deeply moving thoughts”, “life changing quotes” to share-that I didn’t share at all.
I do that a lot.
Fearful of getting it wrong- I freeze. Ready to win at the finish line I take for granted the breathe I just exhaled. It took awhile for me to realize-slowly it pieced together, that instead of blogging this summer-I needed to “be”.
Instead of building my own tribe, I needed to love on my village.
Instead of sharing my opinions, I needed to listen to my heart.
Maybe you too get stuck. Maybe you need a reason to start again. Before you pull up your sleeves and dig a little deeper-maybe you first need to give yourself permission to just “be”.
Bye Bye Summer, You left here fast
Didn’t get a chance to reach and grasp
Full ripe peaches and unscheduled days
Instead I found myself lost in a daze
Of dried out worries and sun-scorched dreams
Until I took in that moment, to embrace your warm breeze
That whispered the secret to this world’s ever striving quest
Wisdom of grace
Wisdom of rest
It’s not what you do, it’s not who you see
It’s learning to trust-it’s learning to be
Right here first-beside Me.
Tonight is our final performance of Vanport, the Musical, written and directed by (my best friend and soul-sistah) Shalanda Sims. And I am feeling some kinda way because I still have problems with “good-byes”.
For the past three decades we the descendants of Vanport have had to say our good-bye’s. We have had to say “good-bye” to Ma and Pop restaurants, school buildings and parks. We have had to say “farewell” to Grandmother’s house, beauty salons and the unspoken hangouts like Walnut Park Fred Meyers and corner stops like 15th in Alberta. We have said “see you on the other side” of church buildings and funeral homes. We have grieved and recovered, grieved and recovered until our tear ducts have dried and there is nothing left to hold on to.
So I return weekly to Woodlawn Bakery the place that use to be Sis. Ransons dry-cleaners. I slowly drive down Prescott and I beg my mind to recall every memory of Granny’s house, Mt. Sinai Baptist Church and Marantha musicals. I sit in front of 3207 NE 11th and count every family member in place on the porch. I can see my neighborhood still in tact and all of my family members vivid in my head-however these cherished visions are not the reality of what is staring back. And I feel lost all over again. Forgive the cliche-but I am -“we are -Vanport descendants and we are lost (again)-without a home”.
But for three little months-we felt found.
My family and I have had the privilege to dive deep into the sights, sounds and spirit of a “once upon a time” place created by The Sims. Our special place, free of princesses and castles has a foundation built on cultural traditions, oral histories, everyday legends, hard work and beauty of soul and art. It is a place Shalanda wrote about to honor not only her family journey but so many other’s-including my own.
As gentrification jungles continued to swing and expand on Williams,Vancouver and Martin Luther Kings Blvd we built our set, our spirits and our community-alive again. Long meetings, late practices and lingering meals centered around representing our people strong, stabilizing our voices and re-connecting our youth to their history and who they really are- left us satisfied and recommitted to “the struggle”. The struggle being the very hard work of preserving the remnant of a people who have been flooded, pushed out and gentrified with not only one wave of loss, but three in the last three decades.
But we are still here. Deeply grieved we are no longer in a centralized neighborhood but we are centered strong in no longer keeping quiet, watering down or allowing others to speak for us about our story.
My parents and Aunt Jean, now a vibrant 70+ years of age (who was only six years when the flood hit Vanport) gave big hugs and proud knods of approval and praise for the hard work our cast took in preserving the integrity of Vanport last night.
“You made us so proud. You all keep telling our stories.” Aunt Jean beamed with pride.
With those words, I was instantly transmitted to the living room carpeted floor of my Granddaddy’s house. I was nine years old again and I was smiling back with pride in hearing the accounts of my grandparents life in Vanport. My whole life I wanted to know what it felt like to live deep in community with people who treat you like family and will be there for you in times of trouble-the way Granddaddy had. And we had done just that!
So as the curtain falls tonight and my three children and I take our bows and hang our costumes for the last time-I will take the “spirit of Vanport” with me. My prayer is my children-our children have caught what was taught through the lives and the legacy of those who trailblazed before us. Here are a few survivor lessons that have weathered time, space and loss:
1. No matter what is taken from you- you can always rebuild.
2. You are only as strong as the respect you give to your elders-honor them always.
3. Long prayers, a song in your heart and good fried chicken can ALWAYS make everything instantly alright.
4. Love and longing is the only way to survive “the storms of life”.
5. A consistent hard work ethic will always set you high above the rest.
6. Always remember where and who you come from.
7. Live today as if tomorrow was never promised.
These are the ways we will once again piece ourselves back together.
These are the ways we will find peace and move on.
These are the ways we will honor those who blazed the trail for us to follow.
These are the ways we will keep telling our stories strong.
Bye bye Vanport…
(Please excuse any and all typos-Conference starts in 30 minutes and I am still in PJ’s across the street!-more to come)
I only had 24 hours left before I needed to get on the plane. Unbeknown to me God had two lessons to teach me before touching down in Chi-Town.
And I still needed to get back home to properly say “good-bye” before leaving Brown Sugar Inc. Our last supper together ended up being the sharing a carton of our absolute favorite ice cream at 9:45pm. I already know, way too late on a school night. But I needed to look my people in their eye and hear about their “highs” and “lows” before take off.
Some kinda way instead of checking things off my list I kept adding addendum’s to each item. They looked something like this:
√ Clean The (Whole) House. I only got to my living room and bedroom-family room and kitchen looked a hot mess when I left and most likely will be a hot mess when I get back
√ Cook Meals and Pantry Snacks In my domestic imagination I dreamed I had cooked up and froze five healthy and delicious meals for each day I would be gone-instead Chef Costco did the job-spent way too much money-you’d thought I was stocking up for the return of another Y2K or something. Lol!
√ Finish Braiding Baby Girls Hair It took me 10 hours over the last 4 days to complete her singles-and I still had 1/4 of her hair still unfinished. This is only my second time teaching myself through YouTube how to braid with extension and it looks like! Lol. I also bought the wrong kinda hair extension. (Sally’s Beauty Supply I really appreciate that you are you trying to reach the African-American market in the Pacific Northwest-but you gotta do better.)
√ Finish All MUST DO’s At Work. Well unfortunately everything feels like a “MUST DO” when you are a small non-profit, so that didn’t happen, I still left work too late and had to bring work on the plane anyways.
√ Record my first Whole Mama Video. I’ll share more about that goodness later- but here’s a little bit about this new, fun project from my girl Esther Emery-check it out. http://www.estheremery.com/wholemama/
√ Call Parents and In-Loves (Laws). And act like you have all the time in the world as you answer all their questions and catch them up on each of their grandchildren -because that’s just what you do in a Black family before you go out of town. You just gotta make sure everything is right
√ Grab A New Outfit At The Mall. I wanted some thing a little fun-not frumpy and overstretched. My mid-life, mid-section keeps spreading like butter and this Momma here got plenty of bread she can’t get in her back pockets these days.
√ Finish Justice Conference Poetry Slam Poem. Half of it was already done. I just needed to broaden and clarify a few themes, tighten what was loose and memorize each verse. No problem right? Wrong! Oh so very wrong…
1. You can have both
Instead of the mall I settled on JC Penny’s, the closest department store from my house. I was trying to keep it simple but had to text a few of My Girls to decide on a final selection. I found two shrugs on the clearance rack. I sent them the picture below. with the message- “Shrug 1. Shrug 2?”
While their votes were coming in, I waited, perplexed in front of a long mirror. I was starting to unravel a bit. I hadn’t finished most of the things on the list above and a subtle anxiety attack was beginning to grow. I started sweating and I could hear my heart beating loud.
A nice woman smiled at me and locked eyes. I loved her curly blonde hair-it kinda reminded me of my own golden locks. Before you knew it we were exchanging Momma and blogging journey. We ended up talking about embracing our natural curly hair and empowering our girls in this flat-iron-straight-hair-only-culture to do the same. We also ended up sharing about the same God we both love and serve.
“I knew you were a Christian!” My new friend Angela, smiled with ease and a deep knowing.
We were chatting away like reunited school mates until the guilt of taking away time to have this conversation hit me.
“It was so nice meeting you, I gotta get home to My Babies-you know I feel so guilty for leaving them.”
With a big warm smile she said. “Well, you shouldn’t. Our children need to see us modeling our calling before them. They need to know that we have our own faith walk to honor and that it is full of adventure and beauty. Go have fun. They will be fine.”
The tears started dripping and all I could say was, “Thank you, Sis.”
Just like my two shrugs-God was not making me chose one over the other-I could have both.
2. But you can do neither well without abiding in Me
I made it to the airport in one piece-but still with no finished poem. After getting through security and the Coffee People line it finally hit me-I’m actually going to Chicago! Unfortunate my seat was the middle-but my neighbors were chill. A family man going to visit his parents in Turkey on my left and a native Chicagoan wife and mother to my right .
I got nested in quickly with laptop, journal and pen.
Pulling out my last draft I pray and waited.
Prayed and waited again.
Prayed and waited again-again.
An hour had already breezed by. All I had to show for it were four verses-but I had three pages of scribbled down half thoughts and half truths.
Come on Jesus, don’t leave me hanging like this. I prayed desperately.
Poetry has always come quickly to me. My soul takes a snapshot of an issue-a burden-an emotion and my heart and mind race to see who will get there first. But. Not. This. Time.
Come on God, don’t go quiet on me.I begged with abandon.
Completely undone I turned to my scripture of the day.
The Vine and the Branches
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Never has this ever happened to me. I always have something to pull up. I always a verse, a song, a word in my heart to share. It may not be prophetic or always deep-but there is always something to start with. I tried for the three whole hours for a jump-start and still nothing.
Bowed down head, humble heart I stepped off the plane with no poem to slam.
Instead God gave me His verses from John 15 to recite and a few lines to recall.
Nothing. (without Me)