2018 Best Reads

Spirituality & Healing

So how do you turnaways from negativity? By becoming a watch person at your mind’s door. Close the door on each negative imagining and consiouly replace it with a positive one that you would like to take root in your life”
-Susan Taylor, Previous editor and chief of Essense Magazine, Author of “In the Spirit”

This year I wanted to feel my emotions- all of them. To often, I notice my emotions preventing me from being fully present with the people I love and the people I serve. It was time to change that. Growing my emotional intelligence turned into a meditation regimen, an affirmation oath, and as always a list of books.

Journey with me. Pick up a book.

  • The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba
  • Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Happy Teachers Change the World by Thich Nhat Hanh and Katherine Weare
  • I’ve been thinking by Maria Shiver
  • In the Spirit by Susan Taylor
  • Wouldnt take anthing for my jorney now by Maya Angelou
  • Best Blogs:
    • AlexElle
    • Therapy for Black Girls

Poetry

“You will come away bruised, but this will give you poetry”
-Yrsa Daley Ward, Bone

Poetry, a space of risk and safety at once. Poetry, a place of possibilites and ancestors. Poetry, thank you. Thank you to all those who have the courage to be honest with themselves, with the world. Thank you for writing authentically– not just about your healing but about your pains. Sometimes we write about the healing that never came. Overwhelmed with gratitude, you have helped to know my humanness.

  • Bone by Yrsa Daley Ward
  • Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
  • Counting Descent by Clint Smith

Critical Theory & Cultural Studies

“Education is the practice of freedom”
– Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress

We are the makers of meaning. We decide what our experiences mean in the world. Its about time we become intensional about spreading ideas that serve us, about buidling theories that allow all people to be whole. Bell hooks is taking critical theory by storm, prompting us to return to the radicial love of the 60s with a new call to action. She teachs the masses about what love is, why it matters politically, and how loving well is a radicial assertion of the glory our humaness.

Listen and Learn.

  • All About Love by Bell Hooks
  • Teaching to Transgress by Bell Hooks
  • Blogs:
    • TheAfrolegalise
    • Sistah Vegan

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Lifestyle

“When we chase the high of instant gratification, we make choices that for many reasons are irresponsible and based on poor reasoning . . . or no reasoning at all. It takes time and self-control to take in information, let people reveal their true character, be consistent and disciplined, and give conflicts time to work themselves out. Delaying gratification means working at becoming more self-aware and humble enough to admit that our first impulses aren’t always smart ones. ”
― DeVon Franklin, The Wait: A Powerful Practice for Finding the Love of Your Life and the Life You Love

I want to live a life full of love and free of everything else. For some reason, I often feel my life is jam packed with “everything else” and love comes and goes. For me, that meant things needed to change. How do I create a life that brings in love and leaves out the clutter? Engaging with pages regarding how to make space for what we hope for and declutter our homes- but also our hearts and minds.

Always reading.

  • The Wait by Devon Franklin and Meagan Good
  • The Joy of Less by Francine Jay
  • The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo
  • Feng Shui by Davina Mackail
  • Simple Matters by Erin Boyle
  • Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki
  • Essential Oils for a Clean and Healthy Home by Kasey Schwartz
  • BLOGS:
    • TheTinyCloset

Sustainability & Ethical Consumption

“…we in the West constitute a society based on violence, oppression, misery, and domination that has led to an ongoing societal trauma from the microscale to the macroscale for all of us–whether we are the oppressors, the oppressed, or both. I see this clearly in how we collectively consume and how we rationalize why it is okay if our products come from a place of suffering, violence, and inequality.”
― Dr. A. Breeze Harper, Sistah Vegan

Our choices have impact. When we really pay attention, we notice that we make unconscious decisions in the way that we consume. How we consume has impact. When we decide we will live in love and nonviolence, we must also decide to align our choices with that mission. Its time to choose to consume in ways that are better for our communities. Its time to see our communities as inclusive of not just neighbors and grocery stores, but of the people who work to grow our food, make our clothes. Our community is global, full of people we have never met and air that travels.

Lets be more respectful, more responsible, & more intentional.

  • Plastic Purge by Michael San Clements
  • Blogs:
    • SistahVegan

Dear Feminism

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Dear Feminism,

I am thankful for you.

You have compassionately listened to my suffering. You have set me free from pain. You have transformed me in love and helped me to develop the courage to try to transform the world in love. You have given me a community of souls to travel with, cry with, and eat with. You have helped me become myself., understand the world, and make decisions. You have helped me create and find language to honor my thoughts and emotions.  I am grateful.

It is because I care so deeply that I am concerned, I have seen you be mistreated by media and materialism. I am afraid you are becoming like Hip Hop, another love of mine, corrupted by the suffering of lovelessness and the allure of money, power, image, and status. I see hope for you in thinkers like Bell Hooks. I see hope in community, matriarchy, and sisterhood. I see your demise in business ventures, corporate contract,s, and marketing.

I write to warn you.

Rember that we must battle as we build. We must deconstruct as we reimagine. Sometimes we deconstruct so much that it leaves a rotting emptiness in our souls that we try to fill with the world. We must remember to always see this emptiness as a canvas; to create instead what makes us fill human- free from anger despair, or other poison. We must stay soft, stay people of service, stay sisterly, and keep laughing.

Love,

 

WomYn Of God

 

 

P.S. Curious about what happened to Hip Hop? Click Here and Listen.

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“I used to love H.E.R” by Common

Song Review:

Common tells a metaphorical story that tells the history of Hip Hop. The woman Common loves is from New York’s ghettos. She is lead by men in the community who teach her about love, about using one’s voice for expession and activism. But soon, She becomes widely popular and shifts her values from love, expression, and activism to image, power, money, materialism, and consumerism. The change in the woman represents the shift from the origins of Hip Hop as communal to Hip-Hop and a national and now global phenomenon. Common talks about how these shifts have changed his relationship to his art as a Hip-Hop artist himself. He speaks of reclaiming Hip Hop for its original Afrocentric values, reuniting with the original woman in the story.

 

Education & Peace Keeping

SAYS thank you card

WAR&PEACE

“You must prepare for war if you want peace”

My first thoughts are political.
War is a historical issue of power and conflict that necessitates violence. War is often a political manifestation of ignorance, prejudice, greed, and domination. It is a place of the most poisonous aspects of the human condition.

Peace is a historical movement of love and community. It necessitates nonviolence. Peace is a political manifestation of knowledge, diversity, humility, and mutualism. It is a place of the most divine aspects of the human condition.

The relationship between the two appears dualistic but is not.

Indeed, the bringing of peace, of nonviolence, requires a fight.
The escort of knowledge defeats ignorance.
The valuing of diversity deflates prejudice
The cultivation of humility disempowers greed
And mutualism makes domination obsolete.

Peace defeats War.
by fighting to surrender the will to worldly power, and therefore empowering love.
It is not the absence of war. But a active fighting against our worst selves. A reach for enlightenment.
This is a paradox. This is nonduality. This is Godly.

In the quest for peace, we must realize that the goal is not to rid ourselves of war but to use war to create peace. War is mud to the lotus. War is compost to the flower. There is insight in war if we practice peace consistently.

This applies to all human relations. Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Familial/Communal, and political. This is a great sign that it is divine wisdom.
This is not a new idea, indeed, it is ancient. Many peoples, cultures, and societies have discovered this and used to create tools of peace.

Aikido. Ta Chi. Meditation. Warrior Dance. African Drumming. Locking one’s hair. The game of chess. Etc.

Hidden in the relationship of “opposites” is the insight of interbeing and the practice of actively creating our best selves.

PEACE&EDUCATION

Education is peace work.

It is the nonviolent fight against the ignorance that deflates prejudice and cultivates humility. Education is the work of love, an exertion of communal effort, that makes domination obsolete.

In the journey for peace in one’s self, one must be educated in the process.

Our classrooms may be at universities but they also may be in our parent’s living room, in the forest, or underwater.

Indeed, Pushing the institution of schooling to align more precisely with the journey for peace in one’s self is the work of the educator.

The purpose of school is to create peace in society.

An educator is a guide. An educator is someone who has mastered the processes of peacemaking enough to help other’s journey with less suffering. An educator can do this through diverse subject matters. They may teach language, or a sport, or religion. We may call them “professor”, or “coach”, or “pastor”. It is important that we acknowledge that the subject matter is only the medium for the true of an educator. Indeed, the student matters the subject matter when they master themselves. Students possess all they need to understand subject matter; what they are truly learning is a practice of how to find it, use it, manifest it. This is self-refinement. This is education.

The struggle that we endure along the way to self-refinement requires a nonviolent fight. We must realize that our pains, failures, and mistakes, are the substance that is necessary for success. The War makes Peace.

“No mud, No Lotus” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Gratitude for Grown Ups

 

I’m grateful for thoughtful gifts, spare time, and old memories.

Grateful for my personal boundaries, my mother’s voice, warm showers and wine

I’m grateful for courage and second chances.

I’ve started to repeat these things to myself because I’ve noticed I forget.

I become forgetful of all the little joys I know when I wander down the roads of “why”.

Why do I have over a thousand Facebook friends but struggle with loneliness?

Why does paperwork hold more weight than the truth in court?

Why are aluminum cans lined with plastic that causes cancer?

Why doesn’t minimum wage cover rent in any state?

Why do restaurants throw out food when people starve daily?

and with every why, it feels like joy erodes.

Makes us want to lie to ourselves, to tuck it all away and buy a new shirt or go out to dinner with someone who loves us ,because these whys do nothing but remind us that we have no kind of autonomy that would make the whys sting less.

But hey, we are adults, we know how to handle this.

Endure the pain and sell our children the american dream, until they are too old to dream. At some age, we tell them “get a job that can feed you” and forget to whisper “I’m sorry” when their inner child suffocates.

The least we can do is try to tolerate our lives ’til the weekend and collectively bond over our hate of Mondays.

We loathe what we settle for.

Have you forgotten the good in the world yet? Gratitude seems to fade away when you get a bit more intimate with reality, a bit more honest.

We should be gentle with those who are numbing themselves with television, or food, or cocktails; We all understand.

Some of us let our dreams be deferred to make ends meet, to feed our families, or maybe because its just too damn hard and God ain’t finished with us yet.

Can you blame us? We just want to find some way to honor our inner child. To live simpler. To worry less and create more. To have more good memories that debt. We want more opportunities than bills. More affirmations than criticisms and more love than loneliness.

We are just people.

Lately, I’ve become more grateful for the people who make a way out of no way, the people who wont take depression for an answer, the people who know the end is near and keep going.

These are the people who remind me to pay attention to gratitude. my blessings. These people are my blessings. They are my neighbors, students, parents, lover, friends, and ancestors.

To the people who have make me laugh through the “whys” and who have called me on Monday mornings to make sure I’m up.

To the student that wrote on their homework “Your a good teacher, you inspire me” and the ancestor who danced to bring rain to the land that knew drought and famine.

Thank you.

You have saved my life many times over. 

You have been the one who brings me sunflowers and new mornings. 

Ashe. 

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Woman. Womyn. Womxn.

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When we are young, we spend our time imagining ourselves into existence. We say I want to be an artist like Basquiat, a writer like Lorde, or an astronaut like Jemison. We know that Because of them we can. We grow up looking through the world for images, models, and examples of what it means to be a person, to have a soul, to have a body.

Not everyone has grown up with the same access in the world. This means that their are kids who are artist inside that don’t meet that part of their soul until they’ve aged. And the same for our writers, astronauts, engineers, and educators. We discover ourselves as we go and it is indeed a glorious process. As we age, we should not only continue this process, but refine it.

Refine the process of becoming by being intentional. Upgrade childhood wanderings to adult vision-boarding and financial planning. What if we became ourselves on purpose? Put our minds and visions into manifesting our outer lives to match what we know we are on the inside?

Lets leave nothing off limits.

Let be intentional about our names, our furniture, our diets, our sex lives, our exercise, and our families. Lets be intentional about our bodies- how we regulate them, how we call them, how we allow them, how we cherish them, how we honor them, how we nourish them, how we bury them.

I am a womyn.

Intentional about my name indeed. I must inform you, that the spelling of words is not commonly random. The spelling of a word has a history and that history often serves as a track record of politics and paradigm. To explain…

The traditional spelling “woman” is rooted in the idea that women are biological deviants of men, essentially accepting ancient stories like that in genesis, to detail the creation of humankind. These stories habitually narrate that the body of a woman as a inflated fraction of the body of a man. In Genesis, Eve is from the rid of Adam. The word “woman” is spelled purposely to include the word “man” to hold the politicized belief that women are inextricably linked, by flesh and by spelling, to the bodies and will of men.

We can imagine that this sat well with the religious, the married, and the traditional but may not have been accepted by the secular, the single female, and the modern. Indeed, second wave feminists found themselves in a predicament when arguing for the autonomy of those born female. They understood, if we are to re-imagine what is possible we must be like the children and reach beyond the social, the acceptable, and the political, and be intentional about the identity we want to make.

We, women, we want to be artist, writers, astronauts, engineers too in our childhood.

Can women be artist, astronauts, engineers, writers? Yes.

Can they do it with or without the approval of men? Yes.

Can they do it with bodies of their own, with no markings of the importance of men? Yes.

WomYn.

The spelling of the word “Woman” that was born of the need to create an alternative spelling for an alternative paradigm- women belong to themselves. Not the body of Adam, not a genesis story, not any story at all, but they are free to dream up the origins of themselves, their bodies. We deserve to write their own stories.

If the story they dream is the one in Genesis, to God be the glory and if the story they dream is one all their own we will still say Ashe, Ashe, and Ashe!

WomXn.

The 3rd alternative spelling.

Lets discuss the body. When we are in the womb, when we are floating in dark wet imagination, moving from theory to physicality, we go through a process. In this process, we develop what scientist cal chromosomes. Some of such chromosomes determine the sex to which we are born. Although there are many chromosomal combinations and situations that create healthy human beings, our species produces high numbers of two specific chromosomal combinations- XX and XY. When humans are born with chromosomes that align with XX, we habitually call them female and call XY, male. Because we name chromosomes with letters, X and Y. Scientist associate the X chromosomes with femaleness and the Y with maleness. Notice that both males and females are born with the X, but the male is specifically born with the differentiating chromosome Y.  It would then follow that we all have femaleness, but few have maleness, chromosomal, creating what we call the sexes.

Many feminist didn’t like the fact that the single letter chosen to interrupt the word “man” within the word “woman” was a Y, the only letter in the alphabet associated with biological maleness.

And so some, went back to the drawing board, to re-imagine their identity once again.

WomYn was changed to WomXn but late second wave, early third wave feminist theorist and thinkers.

Woman.Womyn.Womxn.

Even among feminist none of these spellings singularly encompasses the diversity of womankind as we know it today. The women who are of Adam and genesis are still women. The Womyn who are creating their own stories of origin and body are still Womyn. The Womxn who are battling with the sciences of chromosomes and born sex are still women.

There is not a singular way to be a woman.

The millions of women who find ways to declare themselves and value their difference everyday have taught us of the power of multiplicity, diversion, diversity, and culture. We will sacrifice not one of them. We will exclude none of them, beauty or pain, from our spellings, our paradigm, our histories, or our possibilities.

There is singular way to be a human.

We know this by the children who teach us different ways to imagine themselves. Watch them fluidly decide they will be a doctor one day and maybe a writer the next or maybe both. How glorious! When will be accept the ways they inspire us? Indeed, when will we refine the ways they inspire us? When will we begin to be intentional about who we want to become, right down to the very spelling?

That will be the moment where we start to grow up. The moment where we begin to decide who we are and what we will bring into our space. What we will allow, how we will love our bodies, maybe we can get so good at it that we can begin to decide what we will dream about when we lay our heads at night. #LucidDreaming

Anything is possible?

 

#AnotherBlackBody

Philly 2016

Philadelpha Summer 2016; Photo Credit: Felipe Silva

In 2016, Me and a group of educators protested in the streets of Philly because another black body was killed .

Today, I attended a vigil for another black body that was killed .

Between then and now, I have seen a growing number of hashtags that represent the black bodies killed.

I must tell you I don’t remember there names; Sometimes, I can recall a couple at a time when I think hard.

I can not remember their names

and I get their stories confused.

Is this the one who said “I can’t breathe” or the one killed on bart or the one shot at the waffle house or the one killed on the auction block or the one put in the cotton gin or the one thrown off the slave ship.

a blurr of blood

Sometimes, I wonder …do I have too many ancestors?

…too many people who have died for this. Its too much on my shoulders, I’m just a person. I just got to the point where I like the hair that grows out of my head, after 23 years, how am I suppose to deal with the death that pollutes the air.

How many vigils? How many protests? How many marches? How many police reports? How many mug shots? How many times will I have to go to the bottom of the ocean to find the remnants of my humanity?

I often wonder, when pregnant women were thrown overboard, did the baby die in peace?

The baby floating in there mother with nothing to remember but the womb and the water.

and when we pour libations and we shout the names of our ancestors, I want to shout this baby, the one who only remembers womb and water. The ones that died in the baracks. The ones that have no birth certificates. The ones that died walking from Mississippi to the promise land in the great migration. The ones who got no hashtag. The ones that died of starvation yesterday.

The ones that are dead inside and still walking.

Black death is the reason I take care of myself. The reason I know that my body must have fresh fruits, clean air, dance to the drums, and swim. Because I know what it means to live in the space enclosed by dark skin.

It means that time is not promised, murder is around the corner, at the waffle house, in the ocean, and at the bart. It means that this cocoa butter I rub on my elbows is the closest thing I’ve got to holy water and the necklace I chose to wear around my neck is a peace offering.

I am alive.

Ha, yes I laugh.
I am alive and healthy and walking. I am the descendant of the the survivors of the African Holocaust, the womyn you could not sterilize, the family you could not split, the love you could not understand.

Yes, I am that. I am #AnotherBlackBody

“I am the hope and the dream of the slave”- Maya Angelou

Well Raised & Well Read

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“Love your parents. While we are busy growing up, we often forget they are also growing old.” -Unknown

I am 23 years old.

I think about who I want to be when I grow up more now than I did when I was a child. I think about what its like to be old.

When I’m old, will I care about the last TV shows? No.

Will I remember the stressful thing that happened with the copy machine at work when I was 31? No.

Instead, I will be too busy counting my blessings- maybe I will be chatting with my partner about how we managed to stay alive together for 30 years; or maybe I will be laughing at my toddler grand kids mispronounce their own names; maybe I will be writing my life story in retirement to hand to my family; or maybe I will be choosing which memories deserve to decorate my walls.

After awhile of imagining, of trying to be creative about what I will do when I’m older. I realize that even my most creative ideas are not original. In fact, I have seen them lived in the lives that have surrounded mine since I was born. Most of who I want to become originated as a childhood memory of my grandma, or my dad, or my aunts.

I know that one day, in the days before I am old, I may see my loved ones leave earth. and I will wonder, did I cherish them? Have I allowed them to live within me? Where in my life do I dedicate space to the ways, traditions, pains, and laugh of the people who taught me everything that has carried me through time?

I think I started growing up when I decided that I would honor my family while they could watch me from their window and not from the clouds. We deserve our flowers while we are in the flesh just as much as we deserve them when we are not. Those flowers that they deserve, they are in my blood and my hair and my laugh and my tears.

And, If I love my family, I should take care of myself enough that I can take care of them. One day, I will be their caregiver and they will depend on me for support. I know that I must be prepared for this day as it may be my greatest chance at reciprocity; The truth is I can not play them back, but I can show respect and gratitude and try my best to love well.

I imagine my future in my family.

I consider what I will do because of them, because of me.  The more I reach towards my own future, the more I try to be intentional about who I will become, the more I consider where I come from. How else should I create meaning for the future than by looking at the past?  Word: Sankofa

Sankofa

Translation: “To go back and get it”

Meaning: In order to move to the future, we must consider our past

Reaching farer, imagining without bounds, and rebuilding the depth of who I am, beyond my days, and my family, farther and deeper in the past and the lineage and the stories. Ancestors.

 “I am the hope and dream of the slave” -Maya Angelou

Yes, I am from the people who survived the slave ships filled with racks of people ill, pregnant, self-decating, cold.

Yes, I am from the people whose spirit invented music and evolved sound from drums and hums to jazz, hip hop, rock and roll, and soul.

Yes, I am from the people who created phonics, architecture, agriculture, and more predating the english language.

Yes, they too are in my blood and hair and laughs and tears. Indeed my person is a miracle and my existence a story of endurance and joy from those who paid the price of hope.

I have read this story of endurance and joy from the words of Morrison, Angelou, Hughes, and many more. “I wouldn’t take anything for my journey now” -Maya Angelou

Thank God, I can read; the greatest ways I have come to know myself are with my family and with a book.

#WellRaisedAndWellRead

Open Mics& Sanctuaries

 

R and P

Church is not a building…

…a structure with high ceilings, stained glass, pews, and offering baskets. Church is a fellowship of people who have decided to be honest with the state of their spirit. Church is when people get together and connect about the things that matter the most to them.

I first found “church” in the more traditional house of God, with pews and stained glass. But, as I grew, I found fellowships outside of that building that we more whole and more honest. I grew into learning to build a personal relationship with God and fellowship about it honestly more so when I left the traditional building of Church.

For me,

poetry has housed my deepest prayers and open mics have aroused my strongest courage. Open mics have been a space where I have come to know the spirit of God in myself by sharing my experience of divinity, a place where I have listened to others share, and a place where I can laugh, cry and make friends.

So grateful for the community &…

…the griots that maintain the open mics that have become sanctuaries for me.

Sacramento, CA

POETRY 

Mahogany Urban Poetry Series

Hosts: Varies by night- Khiry Malik, NSAA

Every Wednesday Night @9pm til 1am @QueenOfSheba Restaurant

Cost: 5$

Rhythm and Poetry

Hosts: Graffiti Bleu and Dyva Cat Tina Cates

Ever Thursday Night @7:45-10:30 @The Brazilian Cultural Center

Cost: 7$

PLUGGED

Host: ZFG Promotions, Sol Collective

2nd Sundays @8pm @Sol Collective

Cost: 5$

Davis, CA

  • SickSpits Spoken Word Collective
  • Andy Jones Poetry Series
  • UCDavis’s SoulSpeaks

 

 

Honey& Miracles

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Sisterly,

A giant sisterhood spends every spring covering their bodies in flower dust to fuel their home. They spend summer and fall inspiring jesus to turn water to wine by turning nectar to honey. They use their bodies and each other to make this miracle as sweet and sticky as possible. In the winter, they eat their own creation and shiver inplace to generate enough heat to save the lives of their community, their only priority. People rob them of their glory and they just go right on being themselves and making the miracles no one could possibly imitate- for themselves, their sisters, their futures, and the flowers.

We are the bees,

Miracles