Ngala-Najla

I Celebrate Myself…


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To Mama Maya Angelou, With Love

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I am not sure if I can articulate, in words, my emotions correctly today…but here goes:

 

This morning as I stood on the escalators of Broadway Junction, I looked down at my phone, which was just receiving reception. What flashed across the phone’s screen was a New York Times alert, ” Maya Angelou…dead at 86.” I gasped and looked around to see if anyone else knew. I wanted to share it with someone but others continued and their faces gave nothing away. When I got home after work, I lit a white candle (a suggestion by Iyanla Vazant that rang true for me) to bid Maya Angelou a safe transition…

I am not sure how I was introduced to the works of Maya Angelou. I would beg to say, she has been a part of my life for a very long time. Now reflecting on her life and what it means to be, like so many others are doing today, a few events are replaying in my mind:

1. Her poem, “Still I Rise” was recited in my voice at my church as a teenager. I told a friend today that I remember finding the poem and reading it for my church’s Black History Month celebration. In the middle of reciting the poem I forgot the words and sat down disappointed…moments after I went back up and told the MC that I wanted to finish the poem. To me it deserved that reverence. “I am the hope and the dream of the slave!” I proclaimed, feeling the power of those words but not really understanding it completely at that time.

2. I have never seen my mom connect to a book like she did to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I would assumed that the words of the book spoke to her in a way she has never shared with me or my sister. She was the first person I called when I found out.

3. “Phenomenal Woman” I presented to my English class in college and as I read the words, they and I became one. I remember clasping the book in my hands and reading it and when I was finished I hugged the book, so proud of myself…. because I found words that really got me.

 

Maya Angelou gave me words that my spirit understood before my mind could comprehend their power. She has always been present for me and always will.

 


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My Concerns About the “Bring Back Our Girls” Campaign

So…I have been conflicted about this BringBackOur Girls Campaign. You might have heard about it by now. Close to 250 schoolgirls were taken by the Boko Haram group from a school in Nigeria. Even though I forwarded on Facebook, Malala Yousafzai holding a sign that reads #bringbackourgirls, I was conflicted. Truthfully, looking back, forwarding the picture was more about Malala being alive and looking powerful…with the message than it was about the message (if that makes any sense). I have been thinking, ” what is it about the campaign that doesn’t sit right with me?” And even though I am still not 100% clear, there is something about the campaign that teeters on First World privilege that I am not too comfortable about. Also, I have a problem with it only highlighting what happened in Nigeria…when the reality is woman and girls are not safe in other countries, as well. They are bought and sold, enslaved, raped, killed all the time all around the world every day. My intention is not to lessen the reality of this horrible situation that occurred in Nigeria, but my hope is if we’re going to rally around this one issue, it should used as an unfortunate example of what’s happening to women and girls everywhere. The questions that I am posing is, how we can use this issue and similar issues (like what happened and is still happening in India,  and other countries in the world…including the United States) to really hold our local governments and world leaders accountable in bringing back all our girls? Also, how we can not take the lead and be the “saviors” but stand behind our sisters (and brothers in the struggle… there are fathers who are being affected too by these acts), supporting them?


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To Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“Be calm. God awaits you at the door.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

“Love in the time of Cholera” was a book that was written so vividly that it made me feel as if I was living with the characters. I litterally saw each scene in my mind.  That’s one of the indicators that you’re experiencing a good book, you’ve been transported to another time and another place.

For the past three weeks I found myself searching for Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, aiming to find it in a bookstore and not just order it online. I wanted to experience the old feeling of searching high and low for a book in multiple bookstores, perusing shelves, eventually finding and then holding it my hands… that’s the book I chose for the adventure.

When the alert of Marquez’s death came across my iphone today and after the quiet shock subsided (I know he was 87 but for some reason I was still surprised) I thought how fitting that I chose that book, with that name, with that author who wrote of the illusion of time so eloquently. And just like Chinua Achebe‘s death, it felt like a distant uncle died…feeling strangely connected to him because of his work.

Thank you for your work Sir. Like so many around the word, who may not share the same language but were connected due to your amazing work, I honor your life.

 

 

 


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Nelson Mandela

It took me some time to write about Nelson Mandela…because I had to take the time to in some way “deal” with him passing. When I say “deal with his passing”, it is not about his death per se — he was 95 years old.  For me it was more about his life and what it meant to me, so maybe I had to take the time to deal with his legacy…and also the legacy of the people who will not be and were not elevated like Mandela. People like Stephen Biko, Ahmed Kathrada, all the countless students  and people who marched, were jailed and killed fighting for freedom and equality during the Anti-Apartheid Movement. So for me Mandela is a symbol of a movement that is so massive that upon reflection I am humbled. 


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Life Carries On …

If there was any day to remind us (Americans) that we must never take a moment for granted, it is this day. The truth is that war and death is the reality for many of communities of the world and September 11th, as a day of reflection, is not owned by Americans as a horrible day. Unfortunately, other places in the world have experienced the very bad side of humanity on this day, as well. However, for me, September 11th will always be the day when the  worst ( the attacks) and best (strangers helping out each other) of humanity occurred in New York City, Virginia and Pennsylvania in one day.

I really didn’t know what I was going to do on this day, especially since it is the 10th anniversary. In the end, I went on with my day, a little bit more reflective, but I went on. The best way to celebrate those who have passed is to live life completely. The song “I grieve” by Peter Gabriel sums up my feeling very well.

My heart goes out to the families who are mourning their loved ones right now.


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My Body,My World

Last night I watched, on TED, a speech by Eve Ensler where she talked about living detached from her body for long time. It was very powerful…and honest. I believe most of us live detached from our bodies and because of this we are detached from the world. Eve talked about this separation, too, in her speech.

However, today, I will not let my words live behind Eve’s words or use “we”; I will use “I” or “me”. I have lived detached from my body for some time and even in the past when I thought I was connected to my body, it was based on pride — wanting to look a certain way, to be accepted a certain way. (For those times, for this moment, I recognize the compassion that I must have towards myself  — body and mind.)

This morning I recognized so much of what Eve said was true for me and I started crying. They were tears of pain, regret and recognizing that this separation from my body allowed me to do NOTHING with what is currently happening in the Horn of Africa. The tears came after I heard another coverage on NPR about what’s happening in Somalia. Although I have been hearing about the famine and the death and even inquired about what can be done, I did nothing. So, the tears were probably tears of shame, as well.

For a few minutes after the tears ended, I realized this truth: How can I be connected, truly connected to my world, if I am so disconnected to my body, my self? What I eat, how I spend my time are evidences of this detachment. Just like my inquiry about what can be done about Somalia, I have inquired about what to do about my body: What do I eat? I have inquired about seeking personal balance: How do I spend less time at work? However, I have not really acted upon my inquiries.

There it is.

Today, I seek true connection to my self and to my world. I know it will be a gradual process, which will take compassion and self-love.  Life is too beautiful and too real  for me NOT to be connected. I took a break from work — vacation — because I recognized this truth, I could not articulate this until now but what I have been experiencing for some time is detachment. I want to experience connection. I want to live connected. I want to be connected. I want to feel connected.


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Thank You Oprah

For the past three days I found myself rushing home to make sure that I caught the last 3 episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show. For the entire time since she made the announcement that this year would be her last year, I made every effort to see her shows, including the behind the scenes footage of  the show and Master Class. (To be clear I have been watching Oprah since I was a little girl –constantly.)

I, who am not a big fan of change ( more so because growing up my life was so inconsistent and change was constant) had to take the year to say goodbye to her, this constant presence in my life ( through her show that is) for so long. While people who were suppose to protect me didn’t, when friends betrayed me or I betrayed them, when I fell in and out of love  — Oprah was my constant.

Now, let me just say, this is not an “Oprah is God” thing. I recognise her for who she is, a human being that is flawed like all of us. What I do believe though is that she tapped into being amazing like all of us can do…but few ever do it. She shared so much of herself, especially her vulnerability. 

Why I love her, why I like her, is so multi-layered. This is first time I am even putting my feelings into words. Let me just say this: I have been abused as a child physically and emotionally and often I felt as if no one loved me and understood me, but when I read a book about Oprah’s life at 13 years old and saw her face, that looked a lot like mine, I continued to have hope. I believed that there was a better even when people told me that there wasn’t and that I wasn’t worthy of it. I beleived even when I didn’t know that there was a name for it but I was hopeful that there was a better.

With all that said, I have never sent a letter, an email, or a tweet and I am not sure why. My sister always thought that to be ridiculous. My family knows how much  I value her and never quite understood why I never made it up to Chicago. While writing this (like seriously, I  just figured this out!) I realized that maybe, maybe I was afraid that if I even uttered my true feelings that it would in some way cheapen it. Also, I now understand that she is another great teacher that the universe has sent us like others, just to let us know how worthy we are. I adore Oprah like I adore Rilke, Whitman, Maria Shriver, Malcolm X and so many more people. However, for her to be “a colored girl from the back woods of Mississippi” as she often puts it,  moved around and not often loved as a child, and for me, a little girl growing up in Jamaica, moved around often feeling unwanted and separate, reading about someone whose story seemed a lot like mine for the first time… nothing can  be compared to that feeling.  (Since then I’ve read about other people’s  lives and saw how we all connect that we ALL just want to be loved and we declare that need in so many ways.) 

With all this emotion occuring in this moment, I wanted to make my OWN proclamation and acknowledge the difference that Oprah Winfrey has made in my life. I am not sure if I will write her or if she will ever see this but I know she knows it — that there are people out there that love her so much that she may never meet…