How Deep Is Our Love?

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
― Rumi

I spent my morning watching a re-run. Not my usual Sunday morning syndicated stuff.  You know, Law and Order, Roseanne, Fashion Police. I paused on C-SPAN for a panel discussion at the Harlem Book Fair from June 2012.  Entitled “Democracy 2012: The panel consisted of some serious heavy hitters to include Cornel West, poet Sonia Sanchez (a goddess as far as I’m concerned), Penial Joseph of Tufts University, and Khalil Muhammad, Director of the Schomberg Center. The discussion was rich, virtually stuffed to the gills with the sharp, biting wit of Dr. West, and the esoteric sweetness and disarming grace of Professor Sanchez. They covered everything from an analysis of President Obama’s administration thus far to examining the concept and role of democracy for contemporary Black America. One concept kept coming up over and over again. Regardless of the political terminology, historical references, and overall academic carriage of most of the panel, the concept of self-love was brought forth repeatedly. The absence of self-love and self-worth; as a barrier to educational and economic equity; as a missing ingredient in the establishment and maintenance of a Black political agenda; and as preventing out youth and 20-somethings from being a driving force in advocacy, activism, and policy change. While at first it may seem that self-love, self-image, self-worth and the like are far too existential to plug into the methodical and tedious constructs of the Black politic and our collective liberation, I quickly came to a different conclusion. The value, the very importance one attributes to his/herself, and his/her community is the spark that causes revolution to catch a fire.

Fundamental rights, not privileges.

Humans, not statistics.

Non-negotiables.

Entitlements, not perks.

What do we believe we deserve? More importantly, what are we willing accept? The space between the two is where we may be able to find a manifesto for Black people in the 21st, 22nd, 23rd century.  I use the word “may” because it is difficult for me to see the areas where we will mobilize for the collective.  Our subscription to individualism and assimilation has resulted in a survivor mentality. We kill our own, eat our own, and discount our past as quickly as we put those history books back on the shelf. I have to be very intentional in teaching my children the history of Black people; the history of us. Where we have been, what we have endured, and the struggles that still remain. And I am by no means an expert, or even a role model. However, I strongly believe it behooves us to do whatever we can, whenever we can to support the development of identity in our children. This is not a matter of names and dates, inventions and famous firsts.  It is a matter of pride, a matter of self-knoweldge, knowledge which if relayed with any sense of accuracy and integrity could result in nothing short of a chin up, chest out, serious strut of self-love.

I don’t believe our children know enough about our history.  Mainly because we don’t know enough about our history.  And unfortunately rather than learn it together, complacency seduces us into simply imbueing our babies with the very poison that sustains this inferiority complex. I’m not suggesting we aspire to be foremost authorities on the civil rights struggle or the Great Migration.  What I am urging us to consider is instilling pride in our kids based on models of courage and devotion to the collective vs. the attainment of stuff (shoes, phones, swag–whatever the fuck that involves)  I feel us starving, growing flimsier and flimisier. Threads to our identitiy as a driving, undeniable force have grown frayed and tattered.  We grow more and more isolated from our incredible truth and instead turn to the images presented on TV and internet.  And we all know that ain’t goin’ nowhere good.

Sonia Sanchez offered an amazing point. She suggests that we have forgotten that although we cannot control the images that prevail, we can reject them.  We can say, “No, I don’t accept that; I don’t own that as truth,” and we can push it back on the parties that tried to feed it to us, ask us to reflect upon it, tempt us to gossip about it, or pay money to see it.  I so appreciated this comment because it reminds me that we all have the individual power to make choices.  Choices that bring and sustain life to our dignity, or choices that push us toward more modern day minstrel shows.

While you may not initally be able to change policy, programming, or re-allocate funding, you can:

  • Change the channel
  • Ask questions vs. always answering them
  • Affirm your people vs. criticize or judge them
  • Cross the socioeconomic divide and build relationship with those who make less money, have been exposed to less experiences than you (go to the juke, speak to the borther on the corner, look that sister in the eye instead of avoiding her gaze, get to know some young folk)

I love being Black. I love being a woman. I love being a human in this precarious and unpredictable world.  But damn if that shit don’t hurt sometimes.  But with love comes risk, loss, lessons, but most importantly investment.  We must invest our hearts, minds, and money in a love movement; one that re-establishes the very real and perfect truth: WE MATTER. Like any other courtship, we must court ourselves into a blissful state of movement, of demands without apology, of unity without mutiny. I crave that homecoming. And although I’m barefoot on broken glass, stumbling over my own doubt, I will never stop trying to find my way home.

Black love lives in this cat here. Listen, and try not to fall in love:

Amazing, right? You’re welcome.

Check out the full panel discussion here.

Loving you madly,

BB

Because I Said So: Why Imagination Dictates Reality

I read a post on KPLU that, in the simplicity of its message, affirmed my spiritual and professional direction right now. These kids were asked to imagine what education would look like in 50  years, similar to an old school exercise done in the 60’s (I’m thinking they didn’t ask any kids of color). Some cute responses, yes. But even more than that, it was a clear and important demonstration of how the space and opportunity to imagine can result in innovations and transformation beyond our wild dreams.  For instance, two young girls offered the concept of classrooms across nations taking classes at the same time using a tool that provides language translation simultaneously.  They went on to say that they believed this mode of learning could decrease international conflict as leaders will be less likely to have disputes/disagreements with countries with which they have built educational relationships/learning communities.Somewhat simplistic? Maybe.  Without refute or complex points to consider? Nope.  However, what I want to stress is that when given a free pass to dream, to even consider what could be, young people are offering fresh, much needed strategies to age old problems.  I’m a firm believer in setting the bar high, and pushing students past restrictions (real or implied), and allowing them to ideate without judgement or criticisms.What happens, though, when we apply this new found liberation to grown folk?

I’ll offer a quote I read recently: “You owe reality nothing and truth about your feelings everything” -from “The Triggering Town” by Richard Hugo

The specific context of this little gem of advice was to encourage aspiring writers, specifically poets, to resist the temptation to let reality restrict your imagination. Its message caused me to marinate and pause for a minute. I believe that changes, the transformational, trail blazing, life altering, life giving, system shattering ones, are rooted in the will of one human being.  If this will is driven by the pure and true possibility of imagination, virtually any idea could be brought to fruition.Let’s go a step further.If any idea can be manifested, why do we deny most of them? Why do we consistently stifle our ideas?  Could be a fleeting thought, could be a series of ruminations that you toss around in your mind every time you have a stolen moment of solitude.

“Damn, we need a community space on this side of town.

“I’d love to show those rich bastards the real stories and potential of our people

“Wish somebody would pay me for my opinion.”

“She could sell those dinners they are so good.”

Any of these sound familiar?  What keeps the idea, the thought, the seed from being planted.  Too often, we allow uncertainty, and the weight of reality dictate our actions. Success, progress, transcendence, remains elusive because unfounded threats overshadow the desires of our hearts and spirits.My favorite counselor on Intervention says, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

How can we change our tendency to live under the radar, shy away from shining a light on our souls?I offer this suggestion: The restrictions of reality are self-imposed.  Yes, we have barriers.  Money, single parenthood, emotional scars, health challenges, body image, work schedule, debt, emotional support…I know I haven’t even put a dent in the abyss  of strongholds and obstacles we face. HOWEVER, I strongly believe this world will benefit greatly from your special gifts. The gift you are hiding is the very thing that a virtual stranger, either right next door or across the globe is starving for; why do you make them wait?Reality is cunning, manipulative, and entirely subjective.  Let your gut, intuition and passion drive and guide you through this world. Turn yourself inside out and you will be blown away at the rewards afforded to you.  Personally, I could use a partner in this path of commitment to cultivate the light  that lives in the corners of my mind.  How are you defying the limits of so called reality?  The universe is waiting.

Hell, I’m waiting, too.

A User’s Guide to Inadequate Women’s Syndrome

In our culture of categorization, there’s no shortage of diagnoses offered to a myriad of situations.  We’ve read about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, Battered Women’s Syndrome, and even Munchausen and Stockholm Syndromes.  I’m here to drop science on a new one: Inadequate Women’s Syndrome, or IWS for short.  This bullshit has tried to claim me as a victim.  I work. I mother. I drop off. I pick up.  I purchase. I mail. I arrange. I tidy. I sort. I write. I laugh. I lie. I sign. I meet. I groom. I read. I report.  I nurse. I fry, sear, simmer, scramble, stir, and strain.  This all, generally before 6 p.m.  I then move on to the demands of the evening: homework, laundry, the few friendships I’ve been able to maintain.  And the events, causes, campaigns, and headlines that keep me connected to the world around me.  This pool will never drain, people.  Nor should it.  There will always be more work, needs, tasks, terrors, surprises, and sales than one superwoman can handle.  And our pasts, as well as our present, feed us the lie that we must complete the list, cook the dinner, host the party, aspire to the promotion, attend the mixer, read the story, master the smoky eye, and of course, either snag, keep, and/or please your partner.

Really?!

Yes, really.

And the tragic part is we believe it.  We believe it, we chase it, and we literally get sick over it. Every day replaces the last as the stuff you didn’t get to.  Each project is completed only to begin planning the next. You are dumping your energy in a bottomless well.  The goal is never fulfilled.  There’s an ache, albeit dull and quite possibly tolerable, but something ain’t right.  These are the symptoms of IWS.  Feelings of inadequacy robbing you of the ability to treasure, celebrate, and more importantly, sit your gorgeous ass down and soak up your swag.

In the words of MC Lyte: Naw, I’m not havin’ it.

Here’s a little diddy that is the double-edged sword of empowerment vs. self-imposed neuroses:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE Chaka.  This is a classic female anthem.  But we take it too damn far. I am SO not every woman.  And it most definitely is NOT all in me.

To chip away at the stinky, smelly, stubborn, veil of inadequacy, I’m devoting the next month to strategies to overcome IWS.  We will look to cause, character and community to fight back and re-claim the joy of our everyday lives.   I solicit your engagement and your input.  I don’t claim expertise, but I do commit to passion and persistence.

My lovelies, as I alluded in Healing: Part 2, our best is the mutha f@c$in’ bomb.  However, our definition of best is where we get caught up in the game.  The fault lines in our hearts become filled with the doubt and self-destructive goo that fuel the fire of inadequacy.  I know so many women who are unconvinced of their successes.  They almost chronically refuse to celebrate themselves.

Brown Betty ain’t havin’ it.

We are flippin’ that shit.  Finna do it on ‘em.

Here are some teasers on inadequacy (and the havoc it wreaks) that run the gamut from funny to spiritual.  Chew on ‘em for a spell, and join me for a ride I hope will help you destroy IWS forever.

Brown Betty’s Healing Balms: Peace, Part 3

In our collective pursuit of inner peace, my intent is to share those things that have acted as healing balms in my life.  The list is by no means exhaustive, but it does vary in medium, scope, and source.  If life has taught me anything, it’s that blessings often disguise themselves as fears, and angels often look like the biggest pain in the ass. Here’s are some of the bricks that have helped me rebuild my heart:

Silence and Solitude

Being still used to be something I couldn’t do if you paid me.  I spun around non-stop like Sister Tsunami, working 12 hour days, being on call for every friend I had, sporting my little war torn Superwoman cape.  After allowing some  authentic women to truly speak into my life, I realized that all I was doing was ducking and dodging the issue at hand; the one thing that would build my bridge to healing: ME.  I set aside time to be alone, and I do it without guilt.  Reflection is so core to personal peace.  You cannot take care of yourself if you don’t know yourself.  Can you answer the question, “what do I need to find more happiness?” If not, discipline yourself to journal, reflect, and discern until you can come up with at least one response.  Be it closure, divorce, restful sleep, coming out, or a career change, reflection provides you to focus the blurr puzzle pieces and empowers you to make informed decisions to seek peace.

Jill Scott

Well, where do I begin? Her ability to put a generation of pain, lust, love, prayer, indescribable joy in a 4-minute track?  The miraculous slope of her hips, the unapologetic prowess in her smile?  The seed she has planted in the heart of virtual strangers?  You decide.  I never tire of her work; I anxiously await more; when I saw her live, I acted like a damn fool.  This was my anthem as I braved the process of divorce and creating a new normal:

Sunsets

Watching the sunset has always provided a sense of God’s presence for me.  It reminds me that this day, with all it’s misdirection, mistakes, and missed opportunities, is over.  Tomorrow, new mercies await.

The 2 C’s: Cocktails and Comedy

There is nothing like laughing.  There’s nothing like laughing with your homegirls.  Better still, laughing with your favorite people while stylishly caressing a snifter or lowball of your favorite libation has nursed the cracks in my soul’s foundation on MANY occasions.  Living Single is my favorite portrayal of Black women on TV.  Smart, authentic, and devoid of the caricatures that rob us of our depth and dignity.

I am so thrilled Oxygen started playing old episodes in the morning.  They make facing the morning a little easier.  Other pools of comedic healing:

Now let’s get to libations.  When you need a bang for your buck, go with the Long Island Iced Tea.  All the clear liquor dancing around in one glass with the refreshing kick of iced tea and lemon.  I can taste it right now.  Me likey.

Want a to rock a more sophisticated vibe? Martini all the way, baby.  I’m a vodka girl, and will sing the praises of Belvedere and Hangar One (don’t sleep on this one) until my dying day.

Words

Be it the Bible, poetry, nonfiction, magazines or novels, the written word feeds my soul in a way that can be defined as nothing short of holy.  To me, words are living, breathing extensions of the human spirit.  To read them, allows me the opportunity to submerge myself into the landscape of another, feed off of their energy and use it to color my otherwise dim day.  And to write words? Oh boy, to write, is my heart’s joy!  It allows me that discernment, creativity, and non-violent (yeah, I said it) outlet I need to process my pain and nurture my soul.

So there you have it, Brown Betty’s healing balms.  I return to them again and again, to chip away at the wall I have created around my heart, and promote my own healing, from the inside out.

What are your healing balms? What are doing to ensure you give yourself the space to reflect and grow healthy? Seize your peace without apology, without baby steps or a passive voice.  Pursue it vigilantly.  Unlike so many other material things, you do NEED this.