Pour sip swallow and feel. Feel the rivers inching over the mountainous flat rocky terrain flowing in all directions trickling into all the crevices releasing energy from one source through all mediums just to feed You
nourishing fulfilling satisfying refreshing: water
Pour sip swallow and taste. Taste Earth’s scientifically engineered purity the root of everything that taste like nothing
a lotus blossoming in a lily pond gazelles gracefully galloping through the green sea fans gently waving with the current: water
Pour sip swallow and see. See through the translucent substance to the bottom of your cup looks empty look again close your eyes open see it’s full and was full when you saw empty
Unpopular opinion: Braiding someone’s hair is a truly intimate experience.
I remember when I learned how to braid. After years of watching Kisha and Megan braid mine, I figured it was time to learn how to do it myself. Youtube videos and a video call with Meg later, my scraggly cornrows were born. So when he asked me to braid his locs I said yes without hesitating, even though I knew it would be hard. The difficulty would arise not only because his stubborn hair would defy my push but also since I had an unwarranted crush on him. I respected him and his entanglement too much to admit it to him, so instead I silently marveled at the opportunity that stood before me: to get to know his roots.
There weren’t perfect though. But whose is? I took my time anyway as I intimately felt each strand, each loc. I gently and firmly stitched them together, melding them together row by row. I remember he was initially hesitant to sit between my legs but, with an intentional pull into me, I insinuated that he get comfortable. He had a big head, and I’m a perfectionist so it took a while — but I didn’t mind. He let me know his roots so even if nothing else ever happens between us consider me satisfied.
Hi Nu life family, I’m here today offering a suggestion for anyone looking to understand themselves and ground themselves: go home.
Home for me is Marksville, Louisiana. Since growing up there, I’ve been blessed to live away from home and travel since high school. I first moved from home when I was 14, attending a residential high school called the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. Next I moved to Richmond, Virginia for college. During college, I’ve been able to travel (and the school paid for it!) to France for a summer, to Belize for a week, and finally to Senegal and Ghana for 5 months each.
Visiting the Motherland
As much I as I romanticize my time in Senegal and Ghana, the truth is I wanted to forget part of myself when I was there –this “American” part. I’m a history nut, and being in the classes I take (and took) in school, I know the details about slavery and specifically my own ancestors’ enslavement. I know that my people never belonged to the country America, rather they were forced to be there. Going back to the Motherland, then, meant a lot for me spiritually and historically.
When I got there I wanted to fit in, while learning as much as possible about my “African” self. I tried my hardest to get ahold of both Wolof and Twi, picking up cultural cues and phrases. I limited how much “American” clothes I wore, getting clothes made with beautiful and meaningful fabrics. I got excited when people would mistake me for being native rather than foreign, and (whether I would admit it or not) I would be disappointed when the passerby called my foreignness out.
This is that double consciousness that W.E.B. Dubois was talking about. Here in a land that only my distant ancestors saw, I wanted badly to fit in and to claim the culture. Knowing and feeling the centuries of violence lashed out onto my people, I knew claiming “American” culture is the last thing I wanted to do. So here’s the place when I vouch for a healthy middle ground. No, we are not simply “American” we are Black Americans. It is important to recognize the raw connection we have to the Motherland; it is impossible to dismiss. At Cape Coast, I literally felt the weight of my ancestors. I could feel the screams and cries of my people as manifested in the raging ocean waters. I also felt, though, that they were proud of who we became. Yes, we were ripped away from our home, but then in the face of murder, rape, and other forms of torture we still managed to create a home for ourselves in America. We developed our own subset of a culture, influenced both my our African roots and European imposition. No matter, how much I wanted to dismiss the latter, I can’t. It’s equally a part of me, and I know that with this mixture of culture Black Americans have made something beautiful.
The culture that I grew up in means red beans & rice with cornbread and cabbage. It means the smell of a bubbling pot of gumbo on a frosty day. It means walking down the street with a dixie cup flipped upside down on a hot, humid day. I means helping my dad stir his pot of pecan candy until my wrist started hurting because it was so thick. It meant watching my aunties, uncles, and parents swing to the likes of Tucka and TK Soul until the sunlight turned to moonlight. It meant helping my grandpa record gospel concerts on his cameo and then helping him serve fish plates when the concert was over. It meant waking up early on Christmas Day and running to see what was under the tree for me. It meant going to my auntie’s on Thanksgiving Day and just hoping the food would be ready soon because my stomach was touching my back. It was piling my plate high with macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, rice dressing, mustard greens, and ham and eating until I had the itis. It meant walking around my backyard looking to find the little holes that I knew crawfish dug. It was bringing my dad a cold towel as he sweated bullets mowing the lawn. It was playing the Sims on our desktop in the kitchen until my eyes burned. It meant standing on my tippy-toes as the cashier at our family restaurant “Nanna’s”. It was going to my Papa’s church and being rewarding in cash because I got all A’s on my report card. It was going to my second mom’s house and talking about space, scary movies, suspenseful novels, vision boards, and playing with Bratz dolls until it was time for me to go back home.
A small town, with one high school and two grocery stores. It’s easy for me to say “Yea, I’m from Marksville, but there’s not much there.” But the Truth, as illustrated above, says the complete opposite. Marksville is also a place where slavery existed, like just about every place in the American South. With everything that happened to my ancestors (murder, rape, lynchings, employment & education discrimination) and the continued invisible and visible racial tensions that exist, my family still gets together to this day and continues to create memories like these.
Claim where you are from– in it’s entirety (the good, bad, ugly, and everything in between).
At this moment, I’m sitting at an Oceanside cafe in Toubab Dialaw about to drink some honey ginger tea. I hear the ocean rippling; I watch the waves run after each other, catching themselves before they fall.
White birds elevate themselves in the sky. I’m sure they have the best view – perhaps without even knowing it.
The oshun heals. The ocean. A place of death -people die, fish die, creatures die in the ocean day in and day out. But life still happens there. In fact, life is reinvented there everyday.
The changing tides lick the oceans wounds and life carries on. Saltwater heals. Saltwater cleanses.
So I guess I should drink saltwater everyday. Is that how I will be healed? Because I still feel some type of way when I see white women from Amerikkka wearing braids. I still feel a way when white saviors continue to dominate my space.
Even the coolest waters aren’t calm all the time. We mustn’t forget that the most reckless of hurricanes are born in the same waters. .. I guess we all have our moments.
September 1st marked the day that I saw Gorée Island with my own eyes.
I didn’t realize the history of the island until after I chose Dakar as my study abroad destination about a year ago. After doing some research on the island, I knew it would be a pinnacle landmark for me: a citizen of the African Diaspora and a descendant of the same enslaved Africans who stood, starved, and died on that land.
Fast-forward to the day before the group’s visit, we had a lecture on the history from a history professor of Dakar’s most well-known University. He warned us of the lack of respect held for the sacred site by Senegalese vendors and other tourists –that vendors would be pressing us upon our arrival and around the Slave House and that tourists would be snapping photos everywhere.
An image stuck in my head of everyone having their phones out taking pictures and videos inside the Slave House. My stomach started hurting. I couldn’t wrap my head around how people could enter a sacred space so disrespectfully. No one goes to a funeral or to a cemetery taking pictures of those who’ve past. Thousands of people have been smashed into the rooms there without food or water or security or any clue for what would happen next. In the same house where we would be standing, on the same rooms we would have the privilege of peering into. I felt a mixture of nervous anxiety and anger for what lied ahead.
I didn’t want to enter the already emotional space with so much negative energy already attached to me, so I redirected that energy into a realization. I can’t control or be responsible for what other people do; I can only control my own actions and my own attitude. I can react to others’ actions and I can place preventative measures, but I cannot control anyone. I still felt uneasy, but not on defense mode. I decided to leave my smartphone at my home for the trip, because I knew I wouldn’t be taking any photos.
We made it to the island and it was worse than I imagined in every aspect. I almost felt like I saw more cameras than faces. I even saw one person posing in one of the rooms for her cameo moment. The cognitive dissonance it takes for someone to smile for a photo where thousands of people died fosters the same mindset of the French slave-owners who lived on the second floor of the Slave House. The size of the closet upstairs was the same size of the room downstairs used for infants and children. Read that sentence again.
Enter the balcony and they had the perfect space to host guests overlooking the same ocean where they killed thousands of enslaved Africans who didn’t meet their standard of healthy. It’s the same ocean where people took their owns lives for liberation. The same ocean that separated families and replaced names with “slave.”
“It’s such a nice view up here.” “Beautiful.” “This one is better than the Slave House in Ghana!!”
I was triggered. These were things said by my PEERS, who are in the same academic program as me. To top it all off, they took a group photo!! Can you imagine my disgust at this moment? I wanted to yell, cry, and vomit all at the same time.
I redirected my energy into a question: How can I work towards preventing this disrespect?
Professor Deme, who gave us the lecture, told me that there is no collaboration between the Africans of the Diaspora and the Senegalese government concerning the historical landmark. He and I agreed that our voice is necessary in deciding the rules/ regulations or anything else relating to the Slave House. Being a part of a cultural preservation effort is something I definitely want to do for the ease of my ancestors’ rest and for my own healing.
After visiting the Slave House, it was important for me to realize that Goree Island is more than it’s history. While the Island was a place of death for thousands, it is a place of life for thousands more. I still have a lot of healing to do, but I think having these realizations is a big part of the process.
The semester has begun, which means we’ve made it to another scholastic year — yessss. *pats self on the back* However, there are things physiologically that demand maturation.
As you may or may not know, I’m currently studying aboard in Dakar, Senegal 🙂 I live with a host family in their four-story, Mediterranean-style home (believe me when I say it is b-e-a-u-tiful). Anyway, I took the liberty of doing some exercise on the terrace where I realized something about myself. I really don’t like gyms and prefer isolation when working out. This preference doesn’t really fly with visible campus culture, which prescribes fitness as a result of going to the gym.
I’m using this as an ode to all people who ever feel pressed to do something because others are doing it. If you don’t want to do something, you’re worthy of saying no.
One thing about college campus culture is that we’re always talking about how we should go to the gym, especially when we see our friends going. But if it’s not for you sis don’t go!! We need to stop feeling obligated to do things to match the status quo.
Realize that you make your own standards of fitness, beauty, appearance, education, and so on. There’s no need to adhere to anyone else’s standards, because we only gain temporary happiness from playing that game. Genuine, care-free, and unwavering happiness happens when you do things for you.
So no it’s ok I prefer not to go to the gym, I’ll do my thing here — but I’m sending prosperous energies to you.
You haven’t met yourself yet, but the advantage to meeting others in the meantime.. it is that one of them may present you to yourself.
Use these interactions as opportunities to learn yourself, to figure out what aligns with your desires. This type of clarity will bring you closer to fulfilling your purpose on Earth.
I’m setting an expectation for myself to address as many situations as I can with this mindset. Feel like joining the self-love challenge with me?
Trees, shrubs, and leaves
they rub up so close to one another
I wonder if they speak the same language
I know my ancestors didn’t
Uprooted and transplanted uprooted and transplanted uprooted and transplanted uprooted and transplanted uprooted and transplanted uprooted and transplanted
uprooted and transplanted
My ancestors still understood each other’s pain and anger
They sought the same spiritual and physical liberation
They rubbed shoulders and swayed to the beats of their own language despite their oppressors’ deliberate impositions.
As I sit here, the descendants of those greats, those royal resilient beings
I listen to the rustle of those leaves, the silent transformative radiation of those trees and
I remember who I am
uprooted and transplanted
we still know our roots and with them we’ve created a multitude of languages
rooted and planting my garden continues to flourish nourishing my mind body and soul
just some food for thought
Your feelings and emotions –valid.
Your intuition, actions, and reactions –valid.
Your thoughts –valid.
Your examinations, observations, hesitations, and limitations –valid, valid, valid.
You are not crazy, and you are not mistaken.
Your divinity makes no mistakes.
Say your words with confidence.
& walk your walk with purpose.
But don’t forget to trust yourself.
YOU are important
YOU are inspiring
YOU are valid