Spaciousness is a word that has come up again and again in recent weeks. I have been thinking how I need to be more “spacious” in my relationships with others and with me, like the sky is with clouds that pass through. Giving them lots of room, without constricting their nature or pouncing on them. Staying its’ vastness. A metaphor that lives in meditation language — letting thoughts and feelings pass through you.

Spaciousness in my relationships amounts to giving people the room to be themselves, to accept them as they are, not trying to rope them into being who we think they should be or would like them to be.  We can let them know how their behavior affects us, be open to how we may have a role in that, and choose to change or not.  The other has the space to choose change too.  But taking on the mission of changing another is to crowd your own and the other’s spaciousness with little chance of succeeding.  

I was raised within a closet of what is appropriate and acceptable. That’s how Black people lived for centuries, in tight boxes of expression and behavior. Stepping outside of them risked torture and death.  So in private, we created music, art, sing-song speech and loving community. We mourned and danced, freed ourselves.   We created space. I created space by rebelling.

How else can we give ourselves space? For those of us who pack it in, not an easy task.  Our hours stacked with things to do, meager time to freestyle or just be. To breathe.  Unscheduled, task-less time feels wasteful or scary, so we sew it up. And we miss so much.  Sitting with the new moon in the sky, being present for the shower jets beating heat against our skin, the comfort of silence, aimlessness and being. Getting in touch with pain that needs our attention.  We cannot depend on others to create space for us.  That is our job.  

In recent months, the words of Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams ring in my ears, “Rest is radical for the Black body,” for which rest was never envisioned.  Rest is space.

We also give ourselves space by not being our own jailers.  By granting ourselves compassion, room to be human and imperfect, and to learn over time.  To be vulnerable to self-doubt, unraveling, and hurt, to be honest with ourselves and others. By loving ourselves through the mud and starlight.

The amount of space we each need varies.  In relationships, it can be a crucial negotiation to honor differences in the need for space, and to cultivate a togetherness that can support that.

Spaciousness is where love breathes, where bluejays fly.  

Self-care: An Act of Liberation

We are flooded.  We have been flooded. The question comes up in me, how can my body absorb, hold, process yet another round of recurring atrocities and assaults against Black bodies, Black people?  Breonna Taylor, then we learn late of Ahmaud Arbery, occurring a month before Breonna, George Floyd then Rayshard Brooks, now Elijah McClain, we learn of, killed before all of them. More to come, for sure. The only hope — that there will be far fewer until none are strung together in the future, in contrast to the graves under the sea and earth that mark the trail to the present.

I am grateful that my grief spills in loud sobs now or rants. There was an earlier period of months of murdered Black men, women and perhaps gender-fluid people when I fell numb. Like my feelings had burned to ash. I could not feel or express the loss, the rage. It just seemed too long, too big. It was emotionally protective. And yet, the body takes no fakes. It always knows and holds the deal, even when I am/we are cut off emotionally or doing a cognitive thing to distract from the pain. I wonder if my lungs suffered during that period.  My Jin Shin Do massage therapist and friend Debby says that in Chinese medicine, the lungs are vulnerable to grief. I remember the first time she pressed a certain point near my armpit, and suddenly a spell of tears rushed out of me.  From where I could not say. Louise Hays, who published on the relationship between health conditions, organs, and emotional themes, said that as well about the lungs (note: her work is not without criticism).  I’ve recently wondered whether respiratory affliction is another one of the health conditions that Black people suffer from disproportionately. Loss has long slept uninvited in our beds, and those of other oppressed people.

While there is risk in the lack of social distancing among protestors there is also self-care in being there, in acting on the demands for justice, conveying dissent day after day in the moving of their bodies, insisting that they will not “suck it up.” Their bodies refusing to be simply a receptacle.

In another time and space, I likely would have risked being on the streets.  I may still.  But in the meantime, like so many who have chosen to continue social distancing, I have upped the care for my body and spirit.  We each need to find the particular resources that speak to us, that nurture our body-mind-spirit and empower us.  I recently attended a “blacksit” with Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, a Zen Buddhist and co-author of Radical Dharma, Talking Race, Love, and Liberation.  These words of hers still ring out like the long-running sound and vibration of a large Tibetan bowl I recently brought into my home.

“Rest is radical. Rest is resistance.  It was never dreamed of for Black bodies.”

So I’ve become focused on getting more sleep, along with my other restorative practices and social justice actions.  It’s good to see rest as one of them.

I hope you will too!

Dedicate the Rage, the Grief

I begin with gratitude.  Today, it is for discovering the sound that cardinals make, the scarlet red male ones.  I’ve never known the particular call of any bird. But today, I watched him sing on the edge of a roof, alone, a short, high pitched arc, again and again, blessing me.

Years ago, I coined the expression “Dedicate the Rage” to signify a constructive way of dealing with this intense emotion, a fire ignited by recurrent acts of injustice in bald and wig-covered ways. I advocated for the practice of dedicating the energy of that fire to an act of liberation or healing. Rather than exacerbate our suffering with flames of destruction and death, make that fuel work for us.  And by ‘us’, I mean those systemically targeted for exploitation and dehumanization. Those whose breath is constricted, rendered shallower day by day, or cut off in seconds, our necks in the clench of determined hands. 

Today, I add grief. I could have added it before, but I don’t think I had crystallized back then how tied hurt, grief, and rage are.

In this time of a pandemic, I, like many others, implode with grief and outrage. The tears, the outbursts that come pale to the magnitude of feelings. How can we not mourn the loss of so many who’ve suffocated, with no family at their bedside to ease the irrevocable separation with reminders of having loved well and been loved? How can we not feel the poignancy of the nurses, doctors, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, and janitorial staff who risk their own mental and physical health to fight off germs and the arms of death from clutching the ill? Those who stand in as much as they can for the patients’ families, who wear tomorrow the gowns and masks they wore today, who separate from their own families within their homes or give up going home altogether.  

And in contrast to these vessels of generosity, competence, and kindness, some coming from far away to help, stands the head sociopath in charge, gazing at himself, accusing healthcare workers of stealing equipment they plead for, lying by the minute, and failing to initiate any national efforts to help. Willing to step over fields of bodies extending as far as he and his cronies find necessary to hold on to domination, feed their greed, and mask their emptiness. Killing off any remaining bodies of honesty and accountability around them, preparing for more thievery in the holiness of daylight.

 The election at the top of their list.

This is a traumatic and transformational time, a reckoning. Who can we depend on to rid the federal government of this spreading malignancy?  We are the ones. We have power, if we dedicate our grief and rage, come together and organize.  We people with a collective consciousness, those who suffer and those who ache when witnessing others suffer, can figure it out.  We who value integrity, equity, and the well being of our planet, must begin to heat up a giant cauldron with our rage and grief, to get it bubbling with ideas of how.  It is part of our healing to take action. Our survival, our thriving depend on it.


The Value of Touch

My heart and prayers extend to all of us at this time of major risk and transformation.  May we act with the consciousness that we all need to constrict our movement in the physical world and increase our inseparable self- and collective care.  May we use this time to delve more deeply within, to be more present, and to do what we can to be a resource to others.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about in recent days is touch. Specifically, the kind that is not initiated as a prelude to sex. The latter gets mega play in the media of all genres and in our conversations, and I’d like to highlight the balm of affectionate touch in this piece.  I arrived here after listening to some of my family, friends and clients express sadness and a sense of loss in no longer being able to hug friends, cared-for colleagues and in some cases, family.  Governor Cuomo of New York mentioned it today in his press conference, “It is not natural,”  he said, referring to the way he greeted his adult daughter, who has recently come home temporarily. It was not the way he usually does.  I’m glad he validated this aspect of the adjustments we are having to make, sharing his own experience.

Hugs, massages, a hand around a shoulder or the back of the neck. a kiss on the cheek, temple or forehead or a gentle repetitive stroke across the back. These are some of the powerful ways we connect, console, love and heal others through physical touch. We are sensual beings, our skin filled with receptors to take in the feel and energy of touch.  When someone I know has suffered the loss of a loved one, I use my hands and arms more than words, which feel so hollow at these times.  Some of us are more at ease and desirous of touch and touching than others, akin to other individual differences we have.  There is also the matter of the quality of the touch, and certainly, those whose bodies have been violated may have an ambivalent or triggering response to touch.  We cannot presume to touch people willy nilly, even in ‘regular’ times. Touch can also lie. Same as words.  Be a pretense. Nor is touch the only way to convey affection or connect to others, but it is one whose value is often overlooked.

The provisos notwithstanding, touch, as a genuine expression of affection, is magnificent.

I do not know the state of research in regard to adults on this, but I believe we need it to thrive.  In the case of infants and young children, it is well-documented that touch is crucial for their development and for forming attachments.  Skin to skin contact between mothers and newborns has long been shown to have benefits for both infants and mothers and is reflected in practices of OB delivery rooms and neonatal pediatric units.

Shortly after my son was delivered by an emergency Caesarean section, back in the ’80s, my body began to shake uncontrollably. I had no control over it. Nor did the comforting efforts of my husband at the time.  After doctors assessed my son and cleaned away the fluids on his body, they brought him back. Laid him on my upper abdomen and chest.  My body calmed almost immediately.  Pure magic, the shaking stopped entirely.

We all live in different circumstances — alone, with and without partners, children or parents; in our own homes or those of others, and some live in shelters. Those of us living with others are likely as affectionate with them as we’ve been before COVID19 unless they’ve been diagnosed with it or are symptomatic.  I imagine this to be true even in shelters, excluding the strangers who may share the space.  I’m unaware of any guidelines on this.  There may be others, who in their own homes with family, may do as Gov. Cuomo did.  For those who are living alone and avoiding in-person contact with family members and friends, or those limiting touch with family inside our homes out of great caution, the experience of touch, giving and receiving it, has plummeted.  The absence may be subtle, slow to build, and hard to pinpoint. There is no thermometer to register it. It may show up as part of feelings of isolation, loneliness or irritability.

Perhaps this is a time to consider self-touch, a word that likely brings forward the words self-pleasuring or masturbation, terms that still give off uncomfortable vibrations to many of us, despite all the efforts to normalize them.  As I said earlier, I feel no need to advocate for sexual pleasure, well-covered as it is, whether it occurs singularly or with others. But perhaps stroking our own shoulders, rubbing or massaging our faces, feet, and arms, and crossing them over our chest, grabbing our shoulders or back and squeezing them tight with our hands,  can be included in our self-care rituals of breathwork, yoga, dancing, and others. Self-care, self-touch does not replace anything. It is a thing unto itself, an affirmation all its own.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this!





Seeds We Plant, Legacies We Hand Down:  Kwanzaa Among Them

One of the things I’ve learned on my journey as a parent is to have faith in the seeds planted in my children, especially if they’ve been well sown and nurtured. I’ve learned too, that children plant seeds in us, but that is not the focus of this piece.

Some seeds grow and manifest in a short time.  For example, a child who frequently witnesses empathy from a caregiver towards him/her/them and/or others will show empathy.  It will not take years.

Other seeds take longer. Years can go by without evidence that what we planted in our children, what we held precious, actually rooted and grew.  We are left in doubt and feeling defeated, especially when the flower we want to blossom is contrary to what blooms in gardens paraded before us as the grandest blooms on Earth.  For a long time, I felt this way about my daughter, who in 4th grade began to press to straighten her hair.  I had been so determined, given my own childhood trauma around hair, that she experience beauty in her naturally tight-coiled hair.  I had learned to cornrow her prolific hair, sew or tie colorful beads in braids and create style after style.  But when I finally conceded, with middle school on the horizon, I felt like racism had run its tanks over my efforts and won.  It was not until the summer on the heels of her college graduation that she unveiled a ritual she and her girlfriend had crafted, a light Caesar hair cut.  I cried, seeing it. Flooded by feeling that my efforts and determination had not been in vain and by how bold beautiful she looked.

During the past few days of Kwanzaa I’ve had a similar heart full experience.

Young Drummers at Kwanzaa, Cary, N.C.


I witnessed a legacy that my children’s father and I passed on to them, being seeded in my five-year-old grandson.  The honoring legacy of Kwanzaa and its principles; a time of celebrating African and African-descended people, our culture and ancestors.

I witnessed his enthusiasm for the nightly, family ritual of Kwanzaa. Talking about the principal of the day, lighting the candle of that day plus the ones symbolizing the prior days’ principles, and concluding with our holding hands, raising them over our heads to the chant of “Harambee.” In Swahili, it means pulling together, and we say it seven times.  On the last one, we hold it as long as we can.

I witnessed my grandson say “Kujichagulia,” unencumbered by the idea that it is too much, too different or difficult to say.  The same with its meaning, “self-determination.”  I listened to his example of  “deciding to do or say something that he thought would be good for him or someone else,” the way I defined it for him.

“When I decided to go see Lucy, because she fell and I wanted to see if she was alright”  (She had fallen while climbing at his birthday party and broken her arm. He insisted to his mother that he go see her a couple days later).

I witnessed him go on stage with other children under twelve, when called up by the African-American Dance Ensemble and dance to the African drums beating in fierce, got to move rhythm.

I witnessed a loving legacy passing down. Kwanzaa, an offering of time to reflect on the legacy we have inherited from our ancestors and on the quality of the one we are handing down.



Envy, a Human Feeling: A Bit Longer than Usual Blog

Envy is one of those feelings seen by some as a “negative feeling,” like anger or sadness. The Bible includes envy or coveting among the Ten Commandments of things not to do, in obeyance to God.

As a therapist, however, I do not subscribe to the idea of positive/good or negative/bad feelings. Feelings simply are. They are part of the human experience, the range of emotions we experience in life. Envy is no different. It is human to wish we had the advantages, accomplishments or relationships that another or others may have. For example, trustworthy friends, children, good health, a high-paying job, a slimmer body or a partner.  We feel envious. When a woman with no children has a miscarriage she is likely to find it hard, soon after, to see women pushing a newborn or toddler in a stroller, harder still a friend with a child. She is envious, wishes she too had a child, and the pain of her recent loss is exacerbated by being around a friend and her child. She may want to limit time around them until it isn’t so painful.  If she and her friend are close and confide in each other, she may be able to share her feelings and need to limit their contact for a period of time. A true friend will understand. S/he/they may inquire if there might be any contact or action that the friend would find supportive, and if not, accept the friend’s need as part of their friendship.

It is possible to feel both envy and happy for someone we have a mutually caring relationship with who gets something we desire, say an article published, a Ted-X talk or a better job. We may be able to acknowledge it with them and have it absorbed. We may be able to laugh about it. We may hear from that person about a time or times s/he/they may have envied us. There is no venom, and that is what makes it possible. I am blessed to have a dear friendship with this capacity.

There’s another practice I’ve found helpful when I’m envious of someone in regard to a particular attribute or gain they have. I remind myself that I don’t get to extract a particular thing(s) from that person’s life, that it comes as a package of the person’s entire life.  Often, it’s clear to me that trading the entirety of my life with that of another is not desirable to me and the air in envy deflates.

Where things can get funky is when resentment, anger, worthlessness and devaluation get triggered with the envy. The latter is reflected in the phrase, “You think you’re better than me,” or another common one in our community, “She thinks she’s all that.”  It is hard to be happy for someone when their gain has triggered a sense of worthlessness and devaluation in us, one that for marginalized populations has been planted and well-nurtured. Sadness, anger, even rage can rush in. But rather than judge such feelings as “bad,” I suggest we accept them when they arise, and hold ourselves compassionately with them, that we have this pain. This is part of what I understand as self-love.

It is also important that we reflect on them, rather than let anger rip.  Has the source of our envy devalued us or treated us like we are worthless?  If so, is the devaluation persistent or a rare mistake that has been/or can be repaired?  If it’s been persistent, we can ask ourselves what has allowed us to be in such a relationship and if we want to continue. Does some part of us feel we don’t deserve better or is afraid of better?  Are we constrained financially to stay?  It is also important to consider whether we are projecting a sense of devaluation on the other, an expectation of such, rather than it being a reality. Sometimes people are thinking and acting like they are better than another, and sometimes, we are seeing them that way or expecting them to be that way because of other experiences we’ve had. Sometimes, both can be true.

In other words, we can allow our sadness or anger to help us look inward to explore what is going on and what our options are for dealing with these feelings.

If upon reflecting we see that the person we’re envying has not treated us badly, then other questions can arise. Does s/he/they deserve our anger or resentment? Who or what has nurtured a sense of devaluation and worthlessness in us?  It could be family member(s), teacher(s), other so-called friends or the many tentacles of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism infused in our systems of thought, language, imagery, behavior and institutional practices.  Anger, rage, and grief are all appropriate feelings for such practices, as well as how devaluation lives in us. So often, those closest to us become the target for this anger or rage, beyond what they are accountable for.  This exacerbates the pain in our communities of friendship, family, and neighborhood.  Anger does indeed need to be expressed, but how it is done is critical. Though we may be vulnerable to blasting another in the throes of our rage-pain, it has its limits as a general and singular response.

If we have trusted friends who are not the source of our envy and resentment, and who will not judge our feelings or fan the flames for us to take rash action, it can be helpful to share our feelings with them, both the anger and the hurt. They can help validate our reaction, raise questions and brainstorm possible actions to take, and when.

Envy combined with anger/rage is high octane fuel.

That is why it is valuable to hold them compassionately, learn from them, and use them thoughtfully. The mission we put them to matters. I for one believe in dedicating the rage to actions of healing and social justice.



Want a therapist or group of color? No Apologies Needed

It is more common these days for African-Americans and other POC (people of color) to make it known that they prefer a therapist whose racial identity is similar to theirs or who is from an oppressed racial group. But I also encounter clients who feel they must apologize for such a desire and/or request.

There is no need to do so.

Desiring a therapist who shares the experience of racial oppression is not racist or anything to feel shame or embarrassment about.  It has nothing to do with asserting that White people are inferior, and everything to do with wanting to talk about experiences of racism and perhaps internalized racism with someone who is likely to relate to this on an experiential level and be more comfortable than many White therapists in hearing about and working with it.  It’s about self-care and getting help as a person or family with a legacy and present of being devalued and structurally subject to constrained opportunities, and at high risk for debilitation and/or death through illnesses, inferior services, and murder.

Of course, there’s no absolute guarantee that a therapist of similar race will have experienced the same degree of racial oppression, because of factors of social class and where the therapist grew up. And the therapist’s particular training and social justice awareness will play a role in how available s/he/they are to recognize and address the influence of racism within an individual and in relationships.  It is also true that some institutions that train therapists incorporate a lens of how racial, gender and sexual orientation oppression, among others, is a source of relational pain and distress that needs to be attended to in therapy.

Nonetheless, the odds of a person of color locating a White therapist with this orientation are not in his/her/they favor. White clients, on the other hand, are not dealing with racial subjugation, unless their family is interracial.  And because there’s no scarcity of White therapists, the issue of shared racial identity with therapists is not an issue or likely a thought, unless presented with a professional of color.  There is no parity here between Black and White clients.

If you are a POC and feel/think that having a therapist of color is not relevant to “a good fit” between you and the therapist or to get your needs met, no problem. You have the world of therapists to choose from.  But if it is important, ask for it.  And feel good that you are showing up for your well-being.




Wild Things

In March of this year, I was in Capetown on a long-desired trip to South Africa. My daughter texted me. “Stevie Wonder is going to be in concert in London in July,” she said. “It might be my last chance to see him live (her first too).” I’m not sure why she thought that, but it didn’t seem strange to me at the time. Maybe because I’d lost several people I was attached to in the preceding months. “Do you want to go?” “Shall I get tickets?”  

It struck me as such a wild idea. “Yes,” I said.

Every part of me fired thrilling at such a spontaneous leap. Her brother signed on too, and she planned to take her four-year-old son, who inspired the idea.  He’d come home from school with a harmonica, excited to play it for her. She, in turn, introduced him to Stevie Wonder’s music, including Fingertips, to which he danced his heart out, then pleaded “Take me to see him, mommy. Please.” There began her search for Stevie’s concerts. But moments after my sign on, she and I realized that massive bodies in Hyde Park and prolonged standing would not work for my grandson. Days later, my daughter invited her godmother, my dear friend, unaware at the time that the concert was on my girlfriend’s birthday.  My daughter wanted to share the joy of this wild, beautiful thing we were going to do because of the major challenges my girlfriend had faced in recent months. Spending time with my adult children, one in her 40’s the other in his 30’s, both leading busy lives, along with my girlfriend, held appreciable space in the sparkle of this untamed thing.

And then there was Stevie, accompanied on stage by two of his back up sistah singers, his body hefty now.

I experienced a flash of unsteadiness about him but it left me, not to return. There I stood, privileged to be with three of my beloved family members amidst a swelling of humanity, 65,000 strong, the kind of setting I usually avoid. Sweet Honey and the Rock, and Regina Carter, the exceptions before Stevie, and still, far from this scale. My girlfriend had tied up her African locks after I complained about being hit in the face with them as she turned her head side to side her arm in the air, her hand circling as she sang with abandon the lyrics to nearly every song the D.J. played between Lionel Richie, special guest, and Stevie.

But there is nothing like beholding an artist perform live.

Feeling and taking in Stevie’s tenderness, his musical genius and loving spirit, his voice clipped at the edges but still his, his slamming band and back up singers — all moving through me, poignant as the touch of Grace. Moving through us. I turned to look at my daughter, moving her head, her eyes closed, her lips in a sublime smile. My son’s eyes were fixed straight ahead, his pleasure revealed in the upturned edges of his lips. At one point, a Black woman Brit standing near me said, “He doesn’t look well,” referring to Stevie. I did not doubt her, though I didn’t see what she saw.  Stevie just kept giving, song after song for two hours, moving on his own from piano to keyboard to slide guitar, with one short DJ break, Stevie remaining on stage. He even validated “the bullshit” in our world, the need for change. Then, as we stood undaunted in the drizzle that had begun, he shared that he needs a kidney, that he has a donor, and will do three more concerts then “take a break.” Worry rolled up, how long will it take for him to do the three concerts? Should they come first?

As Stevie said at one point, “I can’t do all these songs,” reminding me of just how prolific he’s been.  I hoped he’d sing Ribbon in the Sky.  But as we eased out of Hyde Park that night I realized Stevie is a Ribbon in the Sky, and that going with wild things, near or far from home, can be so nourishing of the soul.

Pilgrimage to Montgomery, Alabama

I walk from my hotel to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, what I most often call the Lynching Memorial.  It is a few blocks and turns uphill on a mid-afternoon weekday.  It seems like Indian summer, as the sun fires down, but maybe it’s an ordinary deep South, mid-October day. Flowers line the walkway into what reveals itself to be the size of a park encircling the actual exhibit. There is great care evident in the ardent green grass, the manicure of the grounds, the clean uncluttered space, and the quiet.  I know almost instantly that I have entered sacred space.

I did not bring my weighty Nikon 35 mm as I planned.  I have my eye and my cell phone camera.

My eyes behold slab after slab hanging above me, organized by State, by counties, engraved with names and dates of death.  Columns and rows stretch ahead of me, suspended from on high the length of the four, open sides of the structure.  The list of names on some slabs is very long, telling me the terror in those counties moved especially thick through the lungs of my People there.  Even sadder than seeing that multiple family members were hanged in a county is the unknown appearing again and again sandwiched between those named.  It’s as though they have been doubly disappeared from the face of the earth.

I stand still, acknowledging the lives, the fault lines cut through families and communities by this macabre murdering.  I stand in a mud of sorrow and a rain of gratitude, the Memorial and my presence a testimony that these lives mattered.  When I eventually turn right along the next section, there is a wall of water flowing down, the strength of its softness holding me alongside the hanging rectangles that continue.

College age-looking Black males and females at the Memorial and the Legacy Museum stand ready to provide information.  They are well informed and friendly. I take joy in their presence and knowledge, and that EJI has seen to provide employment and historical awareness to them.

EJI is institution building and witnessing the atrocities of racism that go denied and hushed. On this last day of Kwanzaa, of Imani (Faith), I wish us all more Imani in what we and our communities can do. A pilgrimage to Montgomery, for one.  Ashe.


Headed South, Roots That Will Always Be

I’m headed south this weekend, to the deep south of Atlanta and Tuskegee, where I spent the first thirteen years of my life.  It is Tuskegee’s homecoming and I’m going. Skegee we love you love you Skegee we love you love you, love you in the springtime and the fall.  Skeegee we love you love you Skegee we love you love you, love you best of all.

You do not forget such words, such times in the football stadium stands, rocking forward and back in rows, side to side.  A-men, A-men, A-men, Amen Amen. And staccato, this is section #1 #1 #1, this is section #1 #1 #1 where the hell is #2?  (another group) This is section #2 #2 #2, this is section #2 #2 #2 where the hell is #3? And on. You do not forget the floats, the band, the drum major of the parade preceding the game.  You do not lose your roots unless visited by brain injury. You may deny or abandon them, but I for one will always cherish the southern Blackness of mine.

Except for one of my good male friends, I have not seen any of my Tuskegee classmates since high school days. My mom decided to move us north, the summer of my graduation from 8th grade. It was like social death. So those first years I negotiated my way back to Tuskegee at Christmas and in the summer to see and party with my friends. Over the years, my close male friend has stayed in touch with all of us who graduated Chambliss Children’s House together. He returns for Tuskegee’s homecoming every year, though he lives in California.  He’s never failed to let me know what weekend it is, keeping hope alive that I’d make it. And now I am.

Joy. Joy.

But there will be pain too.  I am also going to see the Lynching Memorial and The Legacy Museum:  From Enslavement to Incarceration, both in Montgomery, Alabama.  When I was growing up, my Mom and I took a 30 minute drive to Montgomery from time to time to shop for clothes, boycotting the White stores in Tuskegee.  Not that they had any clothing retail worth walking into. But there in Montgomery, we encountered the Colored and White water faucets and the saleswoman with the drawl who said “Thank you Johnnie” to my mother, a familiarity that served up White supremacy.

I will bear witness now. To the magnitude of the suffering, the sacrificed, the funnels of loss, that I already cannot hold, that we have survived.  My ancestors are not forgotten, the road is not forsaken.  I will give thanks for them and Bryan Stevenson, the founder of EJI, which has institutionalized these remembrances.  They will sear.

In the blue-black of that fire, my heart will raise a river, then deliver me back to the work.