So, I know this one will bring me joy that makes me tear up. This one right here, y’all. You know those women in your life that heal you just by being around? The sistas who make wisdom look effortless. They are divine cool, and every time you speak with them, you are left with a recipe for life?Well, that’s our Betty of the Month for December: Ms. Rena Bird. I first met Rena back in 2012. We both participated in Broadway Center’s Voices of the City a workshop providing training and development for local artists. At first glance, I was fall down grateful to see Rena roll in like an onyx breeze. She wore knowing silver jewelry and her eyes made you straighten your spine when you saw her. All this swag aside, I was also so happy to see another Black woman there. We can’t help but to scan the room for our tribe when we enter new spaces. She ended up being so much more than a familiar face. She is my kindred spirit.
Moving through the classes, I learned the Rena was battling cancer, that she was talented in several mediums (sculpture, poetry, the art of not giving a fuck), and that I needed to make her like me. Yep, she had it like that.
Check out this beautiful piece she created. I’ve hurt my children’s feelings trying to keep it safe in my house.
Although the project ended, we stayed in contact. We had a mutual fondness and a fire to love our people. Even quick conversations made me a groupie all over again.
Rena was born in Ohio to a mother with creativity, style and the familiar sting of Black mom with no time to waste.
I’m jealous of the men she’s committed to, giving 2 full decades to her first husband and devoting 17 to her current relationship. I’m certain her house always smells good and that comfort is served daily. Yes I am enamored with Ms. Rena. I ain’t ashamed.
I’m featuring Rena because the BOTM is about sharing stories of our exceptional sisters in Tacoma, and to peel back the layers that reveal our interdependence and common ground. She is a force and I know you’re going to love her.
We met up at Olive Branch to catch up and do the interview. If I could have jumped my grown ass into her arms when I saw her I would have. When I enter a room where she’s already there, I am certain she is holding the roof up with her will and . We gave our mutual updates, sipped our tea and noshed on tea sandwiches and delectable treats (seriously, get your but to Olive Branch). It was stolen, special fun and here’s the tea:
How did you get to Tacoma?
I’m originally from Delaware, Ohio. I met my first husband in Cincinnati and, because he was in the military we traveled all over – New York, Rhode Island, California, Virginia, Italy. We divorced after 20 years; it was toxic relationship and I had to walk away. I met my current husband who was stationed in Fort Lewis and that’s how I first came to the area
What is your greatest joy?
It would have to be the life and love I have been able to create at home. WE have built a family of choice, and they are my life preservers and a core of light that keeps me alive.
What is your deepest pain?
Watching my children’s struggles with addiction and mental illness, and being unable to own the part I played in those struggles. By that I mean, I didn’t deal with my own crap early enough. We think we won’t pass our troubles on to our kids, but generational trauma is so real.
Who is your personal hero(es)?
While in Florida, I met the formidable Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley. She was an incredible spiritual leader with the Unitarian Universalist Church. I remember she had this incredible, stately presence. She is my hero because she gave me permission to pursue my spirituality. I had the honor of caring for her when she was battling cancer, and she taught me how to not be afraid of myself. From her, I learned to be ok with my feelings, that I’m wired in my own unique way, and that I connect with my Creator differently than others. It was such a powerful gift.
I also admire and respect our First Lady, Michelle Obama. She leads her family with such integrity and grace. And I love that she moved her mother in to the White House and the message that sends to others about the importance of maintaining presence and connections between the generations – even in the White House.
Who are your musical Messiahs? Like, what is your jam?
There’s so many. Angie Stone, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott. I have a playlist that I listen to, and Earth Wind and Fire’s System of Survival is one of my favorites.
What will you do if Trump becomes president?
I will join the Black Panther Party and care for those on the front line; cook the meals, keep the fires burning ya know?
Let’s play Kiss, Marry, Kill. I’m gonna give 3 people, and you tell me who you would kiss, marry, or kill.
President Obama, Oprah, and Donald Trump.
You Trump’s gotta go. I’ll kill President Obama because I’m too evil to be First Lady. And I’d marry Oprah because she’s really independent and I could do my own thing.
Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, and The Roadrunner.
I would kill Yosemite Sam because he’s always so upset and going off. I’d kiss the Roadrunner. I would marry Bugs Bunny because he’s always into something and having fun. He would keep me laughing.
I wrote this about Rena during our 2nd class together during a free write exercise. It’s crazy the immediate impression she made on me. Three years later every word is still true.
Strength from above.
Connected to those on high
And fused to those below.
She’s the rests in the middle of the road,
answering every question with
an even better one.
Scary and centered,
loves with open hand
and steel heart.
Not cold but solid,
Never fleeting because
she’s been everywhere anyway.
Her thumbprint’s in every corner in the city.
She’s magic rooted in the real,
Making miracles out of rubbish.
Love you Gaian Bird. Please continue to share your peaceful power with us.