I found this when I was cleaning up today. Its the "I Am Poem" I wrote when I was in Tulsa for my TFA institute. We used the poem as an exercise to get to know the students, so I made one as an example. #memories. I miss my Tulsa kids! My first class :)
I am from scowering pads. From crisco and chicken grease.
I am from The Soul of Chicago. From hoopin’ and double dutch on the side of the curb.
I am from the soil of my ancestors. The apple tree that pops planted in the backyard, that stopped bearing fruit long before I came along, who’s long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.
I am from backyard BBQ’s and holiday brawls.
From Anthony’s intellect and Stacy’s street smarts.
From scratching throats and popping gum.
I am from, “stay out of grown folks business” and "don’t make me tell you twice" and “B! Believe in yourself.”
From Sam Cooke Live! At the Copa Cabana…on repeat…every Sunday like a gospel album. I am from the south of all things…subversive. From the original homeland.
Spaghetti with a pinch of sugar and pork chops, fried hard. From JD hustling out of the back of a mattress shop to save enough cash for the move up North. From my grandmother’s dress that I can only hope to fit into; A photo from the happiest day of her life. Her smile etched eternally in my heart.
I am the definition of a visual learner. If I can’t see it, it won’t get done. My learning style is a big reason why I find writing as the best medium of self-expression. It is also why I create vision boards as a constant reminder that I need to get (and keep) my ish together.
I made my first vision board last year to frame how I wanted 2012 to turn out personally and professionally. In the past, I’ve done New Year’s Resolutions. I’d make verbal promises to myself, which eventually turned in to Facebook declarations to the world, that I was going to “Do it Big in 20XX.” After about a month or so, those goals would be thrown out the window or forgotten altogether. I decided 2012 would be different, instead of simply speaking what I wanted to change about myself, I would create a visual representation. My vision board would be the first thing I see when I get up in the morning, so I would not forget the path I’d set for myself as the year raged on.
My vision was simple in 2012. I wanted to get a job that I was passionate about that would pay me enough money to get me off of the bus (if you had the unfortunate experience of getting around in Miami-Dade via public transportation, you would understand why this goal was critical to my sanity.) I also wanted to focus more on my appearance and personal grooming. In college, it didn’t phase me much, (a good amount of people I at Oberlin didn’t wear shoes, let alone get fly to go to class) but I decided to step my game up a little bit. At the very least, no more headwraps! My health and well-being needed to be a priority, so cheers to working out and eating healthier. It was time to break my dependence on convenience foods and spend more time in the kitchen. Finally, I would commit to making my blog epic and contribute to it on a consistent basis. Since I was no longer in undergrad, my blog is a place to engage in my academic passions and keep my writing sharp.
I was able to make significant gains towards my 2012 goals. I got into Teach For America and I now work as a high school English teacher; I traded in my bus pass for a 2011 Chevy Malibu; I can count on one hand the number of times I wore a head wrap in 2012 (although it is making a resurgence in my life as of late while I grow out my new locs;) and I lost 10 pounds through cooking healthy meals, exercising, and stress (shout out to my 7th period class!) Unfortunately, given all the rapid and consistent changes in my life, I was not able to fulfill the commitment I made to my blog.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to say that this year will be different. Obviously procrastination is STILL an issue for me because its damn near August and I just got around to making my 2013 vision board. Fortunately, I moonlight as a bullsh*t artist so I crafted this edition as “My Personal and Professional Goals for the 2013-2014 School Year.” Some highlights:
The Title: I’ve adopted “Girl on Fire” as my mantra. I’m going to get it in the best way possible this school year. I’ll wake up to Alicia Keys. Whatever I have to do to remind myself that I am capable of greatness. I got it tattooed on me!
Elevating my Swag: I got a little bit better over the last year, but I still want to continue building my sense of style…on my modest teacher budget.
Professional Development: Working on becoming a better teacher took up a significant amount of my board. I want my kids to get the education they deserve. I want to “work relentlessly” and “continuously increase my effectiveness” (shout out to my TFA folks who get the mantra) so my students can have a reason to come to class. I also want to make sure I have balance in my life, so while I work hard, I take the time to invest in my mental and physical health. In order for me to give them my best in the classroom, I have to be happy and healthy.
Getting Back to the Basics: This section is particularly important to me. Being a visual learner has its setbacks. As much as I can succeed if I am constantly reminded of my goals, if something is out of sight it is usually out of mind. I’m disconnected from people I care about because of distance and lack of communication on my part. I want to ensure that I prioritize those relationships because, at the end of the day, the people that nurtured me are the shoulders that I stand on. I’m also want to work on my commitment. I want to be a reliable and consistent person so people can put their trust in me. Both traits are critical to my success as a friend, a daughter, a sister, and a teacher. Finally, its important to me to be in tip-top shape. Before my fellow feminists jump down my throat for this one, hear me out. I’m 24. I’m childless. There is NO reason (besides my lack of discipline) that I’m not right and tight. I can’t blame it on health or genetics…I’m just mad lazy sometimes. I am not trying to subscribe to a set of beauty ideals or fit into a box (my blog is the antithesis of that.) I just want to continue to exercise regularly and eat reasonably so I can achieve the results I want. I’m 10 pounds away from my goal and this is the time to get it done!
Spiritual Growth: I’ve found a church in Miami that I love and I want to get more involved. This weekend I was pondering joining the creative team. The pastor shouted out the team this past Sunday and invited anyone in the congregation who was interested in the team to their next meeting on Wednesday. Time to put my money where my mouth is…
The Power of Text: I see writing as my therapy. I’ve kept a journal since middle school and I want to continue to grow as a writer and scholar. I am a believer in evolution over time. I am blessed to be able to connect with myself at various points in my life because I’ve kept a written record. My 20s are a time for change and I want to be able to go back and remember what I was going through and how I responded to it. It would also be nice to show my kids how baller I was when I was their age! In addition to journaling, I want to expand my blog given my love of writing and the positive reception I’ve gotten from folks who take the time to read my words. Prayfully this little blog can grow into a career for me one day…we will see.
Anyone else vision board?! Share it with me!
*TRIGGER WARNING: IMAGE(S) MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME VIEWERS.
I grew up on the Southside of Chicago, right off 71st street. Taking the journey down this iconic city thoroughfare, I’d notice the brown street sign situated slightly below the one labeled “71st Street”: Emmett Till Road.
As a youngster, I always wondered who Emmett Till was, and would ask my great grandfather, the family historian, about his story. He told me Till was a young boy who grew up in our neighborhood who was killed in Mississippi for whistling at a White woman. Till’s experience impacted my great-grandfather, and he often pointed to it as an example of why Black people had limited protection in Mississippi, his home state. My great-grandparents moved to Chicago in the mid 1930’s for better opportunities for themselves and their children.
While my great-grandfather would intersperse his cautionary tales with nostalgic musings of growing up in the south, his wife had a slightly different perspective on growing up girl in Mississippi. She passed away in 2007 and had not once returned to her home since leaving it over seventy years before. I did not know much about her child hood, but I do know that she felt moving to Chicago was one of the best decisions she ever made. I would not fully understand the pain surrounding her experience with the Magnolia State until a few years later, when I learned a bit more about Emmett Till and his legacy.
I remember this day vividly, partially because it served as a catalyst for my love for African Diasporic history, but mostly because the image of Till’s mutilated body became permanently seared in my memory. I was in my sixth grade science class. My teacher, Ms. Lake, notoriously known for her larger-than-life personality and commitment to the intellectual and social education of her students, decided she would use her class to show us a documentary about the history of African Americans in the United States. A segment of this documentary focused on the story of Emmett Till, and how his death and the subsequent acquittal of his murderers led to the Civil Rights movement.
Unapologetically, the film displayed an image of Emmett Till’s mother, her faced gripped in grief, looking over the body of her fourteen-year-old son. The class let out a collective gasp. The film had done what countless teachers attempt to do on a daily basis: capture the undivided attention of their students.
I couldn’t shake the image from my head. I was angry and terrified at the same time. I couldn’t sleep alone for days. Emmett showed up in my dreams for weeks after that. I had to know more about him…about the movement that he started. This young man and his story set me on fire. In eighth grade, when my class read “A Lesson Before Dying,” I used Till’s narrative as a lens to examine race relations in the United States during the Jim Crow Era. By that time, I’d transitioned from being afraid of Till’s image to being a warrior for his narrative. His mother, Mrs. Mamie Till-Mobley, demanded that Emmett have an open-casket funeral so that everyone could see what happened to her son. I rationalized to myself if this woman was strong and brave enough to take on that injustice head-on, the least I could do was honor her by bearing witness.
Today would have been Emmett Till’s 72nd birthday. He was murdered in 1955 and his killers were allowed to walk away free men (despite later confessing to the crime.) It pains me that in 2013 we live in a country that still allows the death of a young, Black, boy to go unpunished. I cannot help but make a comparison between Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. Just like Mrs. Till-Mobley, I am sure Trayvon Martin’s parents will not allow the death of their son to be in vain. Never underestimate the power of a Black woman’s grief.
Ms Walker it with the sincerest thanks that I post this. Thank you for articulating what should be the concerns of every parent, grandparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, friend, neighbor, and fellow citizen of any black male in these Ununited States of North America. Without question live in a society that devalues men of color from the womb to the tumb and give lettle hope that this will change as long as the current, controlling majority can manipulate the broken justice system as it has done in Florida. But, let me hasten to say, tho Florid is one of the worst, it is simply a macrocosism of the each and every state in this supposed union.
Oh! and to those who will say I have no right to this openion, I say, when I was no older(but by a few months) than Trayvon Martin I paid for this right with a year of my life in service to this nation in Viet-Nam and many other years before and after that in both the Army and Airforce where I experienced profiling, and tight-rope-walking as a black man in all the above areas.
Again sister, Ms Walker, my thanks for your putting into words what should and indeed must be on the hearts of all who love black men, young and older, for all males of color are treated as one in this country, even those who feel they have “made it.” We must warn the young and the old must take warning; the Zimmermens of the nation have just been given a hunting permit and it is now open season on Us black men!
With the greatest respect my sister,
I love you already more than you’ll ever know, and you’re not even here yet. At the same time, I’m terrified to bring you into this world. Today, as generations before me have done, I will continue to hold on to hope. I will continue to believe that we can and will survive this blatant assault to our identity.
My sons. A bounty has been placed on your head. Your price: Worthless.
I should not weep for children who are not born yet, but I am afraid I can’t protect you. Its 2013, but I know I will have to teach you to divert your eyes. I know I will have to teach you how to take the natural bass out of your voice. I know I will have to teach you how to temper your passion…to box up your genuine outrage. I’d hoped by the time you came around Audre Lorde’s quote, “We were never meant to survive” would not frame your existence. Unfortunately, after tonight, someone will still have to school you.
I am confident of your beautiful spirits. If you have even an ounce of me in you, you’ll naturally be inclined to be vocal. I just don’t want it to cost you your life. Even as a Black woman, it has been tricky for me to find that balance between maintaining my authenticity of self and “social respectability.” I’m still trying to rationalize and reconcile how I will tell you that you have the capabilities to be ABSOLUTELY anything you want to be, while simultaneously schooling you about what it means to exist as an outsider, bound within the walls of a country that despises your presence.
MY BEAUTIFUL, BLACK BOYS!!! I love you already more than you’ll ever know, and you’re not even here yet. At the same time, I’m terrified to bring you into this world. I don’t want to believe that you are better off where you are.
Rest in Peace Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m reflective (read: indecisive) when it comes to making a decision. Like many Black women, especially those with natural hair, I go back and forth between absolutely loving my coiled tresses and wanting to cut it all off, glue on a lace front and call it a day (I hope you all know I’m just kidding about the lace front part.)
Its been almost eight years since I started my first set of locs. Going into my junior year of high school I was rebellious, I wanted to challenge the “conventional, European standards of beauty” so I did the most radical thing I could think of: I cut off all of my processed hair and allowed my new growth to be transformed into 84 (yes, I counted) dark brown cannons, adorned haphazardly atop my head, waiting to shoot down oppression in every direction.
To me, the locs were more than a hairstyle, they had a spiritual meaning. I saw them as snapshots of my life, holding onto the narrative of my late teens. As my locs expanded, so did my consciousness, experiences, and perceptions of the world. They were with me during some of my most formative moments as a young adult and I appreciate their walk with me on my journey. They held energy, and at the time in my life when I was faced with the most adversity, they thinned and eventually began breaking off. It was hard, but I knew it was time to let them go, they ran their course and the new memories were too painful to hold on to.
So I cut my hair in January 2009 to celebrate my liberation from the rough patch. Despite the grand gesture, we all know that life is a collage of good times and bad, and a hair style was not going to protect me from harm. I was full of regret the moment I saw my tresses in a clump on the salon floor. I couldn’t find it in my heart to let them go, so I held on, much to the chagrin of my mother. I think they are in a closet in her house, which I’m sure still creeps her out (sorry ma, if you find them, you can throw them away.)
I rocked my ‘fro for four and a half years. It was A STRUGGLE! This 4C hair is no joke. I can admit that I never really gave it much of a chance because I missed my locs so much. I played around with it, but I was never really invested. On the eve of the eve of my 24th birthday I decided to turn the page and begin my second set of locs. Yeah, it took me four and a half years to finally do what I wanted to do, but (as I said in the beginning) I’m reflective.
THEN (SEPT 2005)
NOW (JUNE 2013)
Solo road trips are a great time for introspection. Having six and a half hours to be alone with your thoughts can run the spectrum of being anywhere from incredibly refreshing to astonishingly dangerous. As a Gemini I tend to play with the extremes. This ride from Tallahassee to Miami was no different.
I occupied the mundane nature of I-10 with an audio-book called How To Make Friends and Influence People. It’s a classic (I’m usually late when it comes to these things) that can offer some advise for awkward, slightly abrasive people, like yours truly. The author, Dale Carnegie, engages his readers with some interesting tidbits on how to be more personable. To Carnegie, being an authentic and genuinely compassionate person are the keys to building successful relationships. Granted, it’s not rocket science, but his anecdotes really hit home for me!
Lately, I’ve been a little stressed out because I feel disconnected and I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why…
Maybe it is just a symptom of my twenties. The majority of people I know are occupied with work, graduate school, relationships, babies, creative endeavors, or some combination of the list. Picking up the phone, shooting a text, or sending an email could be too much of a demand. An inordinate amount of time goes by before I even think about myself because I always feel so overwhelmed with work. I am sure my experience is not unique.
Maybe it is living in Miami. I’m hundreds of miles away from anyone that I knew pre-2011. I haven’t seen my mama since New Years Eve 2011 (yeah, I am kind of a horrible daughter.) Miami is a very transient city and I cannot sit still for more than five minutes. The majority of folks I knew the first year I moved here as a national service volunteer have moved on, replaced by a new cohort of people in my new affiliate group (jargon has been dropped to protect the innocent.) Its difficult to form authentic and lasting bonds with folks who may see your existence in their lives as temporary.
Maybe I’m just not good at creating or sustaining relationships. I tend to have an off-putting disposition. My face at rest is oftentimes mistaken as an “angry Black woman” scowl and I am sure my afro makes more than a couple of people uncomfortable. I have a tendency to miss, overlook, or forget major and important events in the lives of people I care about (ie: birthdays, graduations, weddings.) Let’s not even begin to talk about how self-righteous and narcissistic I can be (which Carnegie points out is the number one thing you should NOT be if you want to make friends and influence people.) I’ve heard these things on several occasions from a multitude of folks. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that reality that some things about who you are just might suck.
Regardless of the reasons one thing is for sure: I want to be more connected to the people I care about who are far away and I want to build lasting friendships with the folks I encounter on my journey in Miami. During my road trip and throughout the weekend I extended the olive branch. I called to catch up with a lot of folks and it amazing me how I was able to pick up where I left off with them. From now on, I plan to be more intentional with my relationship building. I’ll call to say hello more often, I’ll try standing without my hands on my hips or my arms across my chest. I’ll smile at work (even if I don’t feel like it.) The little things can make all the difference in a friendship.
Happy Birthday to my Godsister, Crystal!
Good luck on your recital on Wednesday Julian!
Recently, I joined a CSA (community sponsored agriculture). With a CSA, a member purchases a “share” of a local farm and is entitled to a batch of produce and herbs. I’ve received seven deliveries so far and came to the realization that I was wasting money.
One of my commitments for the month is to go through the majority of my produce. My first experiment, Roasted Egg Plant and Feta Dip, turned out pretty well. I put it on top of grilled salmon (on the Foreman, of course) and ate it with a side of salad greens.
Roasted Egg Plant and Feta Dip