Mother’s Day

—an excerpt of a non-fiction something I’m writing about being the child of someone who has suffered a massive stroke, and how it morphs one’s relationship to parents, grief, and mourning. I am thinking about my Mama for Mother’s day, as hard as it is, has been.

*

I know what grief is, how to comprehend a loved one that is full gone: I go to the funeral. I read the obituary. I go to the gravesite. Run my fingers through the crevices of the engraved letters on the headstone. Place flowers at the grave, say I should probably visit more often. Say the name. Say a prayer. Visit the house, bring ice and sweet tea and sweet rolls. Sit with family and friends. Cry. Laugh. Put the obituary in the curio with the fancy china. Take bereavement time from work. I get six days and a sympathy card mailed to my house waiting for me when I return from burying my gone.

When someone dies, there is a universal expectation, understanding even, that the still-living will go into a deep, dark sadness, and eventually emerge on the other side, into the light. A universal wait to return to the living. An incubation time that is generally agreed upon at which your outward self should be “back to normal” after you have traveled through the stages of grief and returned to the world.

Everyone, everywhere knows what it is like to lose a loved one to death. At times, I believed I had advanced degrees in it. A Master of Fine Art in grief. A Master of Fine Art in knowing that eventually I won’t want to cry at the mention of someone’s name, that at some point the piercing pain will be more like a dull ache, and then, nothing. I would say, “Everyone I have ever been truly close to has died.” I said it with pride. I had overcome. Look, I was a functioning human in the world.

The first time I recognized grief was like a mountain I could climb over, it was when my best friend Gloria died. I was in class with her older Irish-twin sister, and still on the track team with many of our mutual friends. Because I went to watch her play JV basketball and then we’d sit together and watch the varsity games, I knew her basketball friends. I am positive she had closer friends than me, but she was my closest friend. We’d talk about God and sing Christian and Gospel songs together. Then we’d sing R & B songs and pretend to be in a girl group. Because she was one of the fastest young runners on the track team and because I was one of the strongest in the throws, we were the young ones who went on the out of state meets together. Everyone knew us. Together. And then she was gone.

When I got the news, I screamed and cried and fell out on the floor and Mama came running to me and held me. Rocked me. Prayed for peace and understanding. I just cried and cried.

At school, because I now had to navigate grief in the public and private space, teachers and coaches asked if I was OK? I shrugged. Friends who saw me leave the funeral early kept checking in here and there. Everyone would do this for a few weeks—i guess an appropriate amount of time past the funeral—and then they stopped.

I promised myself that I would never forget Gloria, the way she called my name, the timbre of her voice. I promised myself in the early throws of grief that I would never approach a day that I didn’t think about her, or forget.  And then I did. And then her birthday would pass and I would forget. The anniversary of her death would pass, and then I’d forget. No one asked me about her anymore, and I guess I had gotten over that mountainous grief obstacle and started living again.

No one really knows what to do with a stroke victim. Mattie, my grandmother’s neighbor and great family friend, picked up a notebook and put it on the table next to my mother’s bed. The notebook became her sympathy? Get well? What kind of cards do you get?—trophy stand. Her idea was probably that maybe, when Mama was better (this was when we all believed in a “better”, a “get well”), she could see who visited and left little notes. The notes were a mix between the guest book at funerals and wakes, high school year books, and visitors’ guest books at Bed & Breakfasts: attendance tracking; for the family of the gone; remember the good times. Maybe I read some of the notes to Mama in that first week I went home, the first week after the stroke. Maybe Mattie did.

Eventually, it became a place I took notes of the Doctors’ flash-quick assessment of Mama’s current state.

“Wait,” I’d say. “Say that slower and spell it out so that I can write it down.”

I had started keeping track of their assessments when the rehab facility looked at my mother and then looked at us and asked quite frankly why she was here.

“We don’t take sub-acute stroke patients,” the doctor said, as if we should know that there were levels of degrees of strokes and levels of degrees of rehab. There was stroke, and there was rehab. We simply told him what the doctors in the hospitals told us, and let them review the charts, which all suggested Mama was an acute stroke victim and was in fact in the right place. So they treated her as such, according to the charts, and not according to her presenting symptoms / abilities / disabilities.

Workers in the center would swing in and drop off a plate of food for breakfast. Mama would look at it, study it, then close her eyes and go to sleep.

Workers in the center would swing in and switch out the breakfast tray for the lunch tray. Mama would look at the new tray, lift her left hand, study the spoon like a specimen. Then go to sleep.

Because the worker delivering and clearing food was not the person checking vitals, when the vitals-checking woman came and checked Mama’s sugar (because yes, she had late onset diabetes like her mother and her grandmother) it was so low the woman remarked, “No wonder she is sleeping so much. She hasn’t eaten.” I would say from the guest chair where I had sat most of the day with my laptop doing remote work that “No one even stopped to feed her.”

The woman looked at me and looked at Mama who nodded her head. I probably could have / should have picked up the spoon and fed her, but too, I was watching to see how the nurses and staff cared or didn’t for her, because Mama couldn’t speak for herself. I wrote down in the notebook: “Mama didn’t eat until dinner. Chicken tetrazini. I fed her. And Ensure.”

I tell Daddy we need to make sure someone feeds Mama if family isn’t there because I saw what happened. Daddy tells me that he doesn’t want to make a fuss and get the nurses upset “because they are caring for her right now.” I tell him this is part of care, and that if Mama can’t feed herself then they need to step in and do that to make sure her blood sugar is regulated. “Or else—” I say and trail off.

“OK,” Daddy says in a way that means he wants to end the conversation. There is precedent, I know. A haunting precedent. Three years prior, when Grandma was in a similar facility, she complained often—because she could speak and was clear of mind—about how she was mistreated in there. She cycled through bouts of UTI and yeast infections which she never had before and we attributed it to the ‘schedule’ of diaper change, and not one that fit when she needed because she had soiled herself and did so more than usual because she was on fluid pills, meant to extract fluid from the body. Once, because her health insurance dictated she spend time at home before issuing approval for another stay at the care center, she came home to us with what was effectively diaper rash and bed sores.

“I don’t want them to do anything wrong to your mother,” Daddy said.

“Daddy, they are doing her wrong by not feeding her,” I countered. He asked me to just drop it.

I spoke to the nurses when I got there—on her birthday—to make sure she ate today, because no one did yesterday, and I used my New York language, not my Southern one, and let them know “And that is unacceptable.” I knew not to say it to the women who did hand-to-hand combat with the patients, the black ones who looked like they could be my cousins, Mama’s nieces, my aunts, and so on. Yes, they could use their hands for good or evil—the ones who turned the bedsheets and changed the diapers. The women who picked her up and washed her. No. I dared not make them upset lest history continue to repeat and cycle its way onto and through Mama’s body.

Instead, I found the white woman with the clipboard. I lodged my complaints, and read directly from my Mama’s notebook, which was now my activity log and asked her to tell me how “we can be assured my mother actually eats all her meals while she is a resident in your care?”

I look the woman straight in the eye. I didn’t flinch. I played the incorrigible New Yorker my family had grown to despise in their own small ways and probably not the expected ‘thankful’ black girl (she was a woman who, I’m sure, in the retelling of this story to other white folks will call me ‘girl’), happy just to have Mama in the proximity of receipt of services.

I left to pick up a coffee and lunch. When I came back, Crystal was putting a napkin in the collar of Mama’s sweatshirt and cutting up the Salisbury steak into bite sized pieces and waiting while Mama chewed before putting the spoon back to her lips. I picked up the notebook.

“12:30pm: lunch. Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. Chocolate Milk. Crystal fed her.”

Reader, I swear to you Mama smiled at me. She knew.

Winter Poetry Workshop!

In 2017, I had the distinct pleasure of building three communities around poetry reading + writing.

At Poet’s House, over six weeks, writers and I discussed the Poetic Narrative: Writing the whole and varied story. We read linked poem series by writers Nikky Finney, Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, Sharon Olds, and Cornelius Eady, and they wrote their own linked story through poems.

At Bailey’s Cafe, poets wrote epistles to their former selves, to their childhood toys, and everything in between, and discovered their own voice in the process.

For Cave Canem, we read Gwendolyn Brooks’ work from her first collection to her last, spanning more than 50 years of work, and wrote our own poems of our landscapes, of communities, of ourselves.

NEW COMMUNITY WORKSHOP

Beginning February 20, and for six weeks, at Bailey’s Cafe (thanks for sponsoring / hosting us!) we’ll be doing: THE WAR WORKS HARD: writing a poetry of resistance. We’ll read poems by Dunya Mikhail, June Jordan, Amiri Baraka, Mahmoud Darwish, Brian Turner, and more! We will write our own poems, and discuss the importance of being in a present environment while also considering the poetry of resistance: writing the future we want to inhabit.All levels welcome.

 

CLAIM YOUR SEAT

$275, to include one (1) 30 minute skype or in person meeting about your work. If you need a payment plan, please reach out to info.delanawrites@gmail.com Registration is open! 

See you soon,

DéLana

10 years in NYC!

July 27 I turned New York City 10 years old, which is to say I am amazed I have lived this long in one city. Amazed. When I made it up in my mind to stay here, it was also with the goal of to thrive here. Coincidentally, July 27 is also exactly one month since I quit my full time job and stepped out into the unknown.

Whether or not I’ve thrived is probably up for debate, but, the photo above of my most recent reading with Jayson P. Smith (please y’all read & listen to this poem of his!) really drives home to me what it means to have community: when you are about to step out on a limb, out into the world with its weather, its unpredictability, you survive (and thrive) because of the folks around you, those who are both with you, and protecting you, and shielding you. I strive to be a shield and a running partner and more to each of you.

So what’s good? 
Last week, poet and sister-friend Jennifer Bartell published this conversation with me about Black Southern (woman) poetry & poetics in The Conversant.

This Thursday, August 3 (how is it August already?!!?) I will be reading at Poet’s House as part of their Poetry Showcase. It’ll be my last NYC reading for a bit, I think. Then a few weeks later I’m on the road to launch, officially, my book in my hometown, Columbia, SC at the Columbia Museum of Art on Aug 19, and to read during the historic Solar Eclipse on Aug 21.

After 6 years in the biz, I launched my consulting website: Red Olive Creative Consulting!  This is my new full-time venture, when I’m not writing or teaching poetry classes, so if you have a creative project/organization that needs funding–let’s chat! 

Art + Culture Plugs: 
Please check out this important feature: A New Colossus; Last month in SF, I got to see this amazing exhibit of African American Southern artists.; If you’re looking for a sound-oasis in the middle of NYC, go to Rubin for The World is Sound exhibition; my fly fly friends just started a new low-res MFA program, and the Furious Flower Poetry Center just started an online journal. 

May you find respite, and also beauty, in these days.

Your Girl is Alright

(I’m posting my 2014 marathon finish photo to remind me that I can do literally anything…)

Nearly a month after my last day as a full-time arts administrator, and I’m still 100% sure that I am walking in a new purpose, which is to say, that I feel in alignment with who I am right now, and who I see myself journeying towards.

Last night I got to host a sister-friend Maya Marshall in NYC after an amazing reading, NOMAD Reading Series, with poets Charleen McClure, Hala Alyan, and Kaveh Akbar. I mention Maya, and our dinner, because for the past year an a half she has held me down so strongly whenever I went to South Carolina to visit my mother. In fact, we met at a reading, which was also on my mother’s birthday in 2016, and have been fast sisters since. What I’ve appreciated most about our friendship is that it started on such a ground of vulnerability–I was two days into my new life with my mother post-stroke–that there’s little else to hide/reveal/ of myself. She is certainly someone I check in with when I go down, and so it was great to be able to check-in with her when she was traveling through NYC/Brooklyn.

At dinner, sharing our insecurities about life-in-transition (she thinking about life after graduate school, me thinking about this new life I’m in now), someone came to me, and I was able to share it with her, and I’m bringing it to this blog post now to echo + remember: You do not have to do it alone.

This is a lesson I learned during marathon training, and I am learning more and more the gifts that experience gave me. Mostly, I learned that when there is an endurance project–a long-term goal post–that will take up so much mental and emotional energy (that is really all marathon training is!), you’ll need to enlist team members to help ease your mind off of all of the little niggly things that keep you from focusing and zeroing in on your goal: crossing the finish line. For marathon training, that looked like: working with a nutritionist to know what to eat, and when, and a running coach to know what to run and when. So then, mostly all I had to do was wake up, put on my running shoes, and go. I don’t think I could have made it to that 2014 NYC Marathon finish line without having my team.

This last job, what I found most helpful, even in the endurance project (getting to the finish line of quitting, haha!), I realized that I could not have gotten to that finish line without my team. This was both external and internal. Friends who listened and guided and supported. My employees on my team at the museum.

I didn’t have to do it alone.

That I am writing this post saying “I’m all right” is a direct result of me reaching out to my team and saying, team: let’s build together 🙂 and we did! And I’m so blessed to report that I have two fundraising/development clients that will carry me into the next year. *praise hands!!*

What does this mean?

I’m trying not to do this alone. I am actually in a place to hire someone to work with me  towards building capacity for cultural institutions, and steady my writing life/self (If you know of someone looking for some pt work, hit me up!). I never would have imagined myself being in this position, much less so soon, or so soon after leaving the place that was trying to destroy me.

But that’s it, isn’t it? Give yourself a door, and then walk through it. But you have to give yourself that door. Do the thing that scares you. Be open to the possibilities and uncertainties, and then, and then—let the universe do the rest.

I’m thrilled and excited and scared and all of the above to see what this next room of my life holds for me. I wish the same for you.

Do The Thing That Scares You

This adage is nothing new. But here it is with new meaning for me. Once, in 2010 I set my intention for the year to be the “Year of Courageous Acts”. That was the year I asked my friend if he liked me and why we weren’t dating (we are now married LOL), the year I shifted some words around on my resume and made a case for a career change, the year I traveled almost every week for two months for poetry related things. The year I cut off my 5-year-old locks, which had grown down to my waist. All of these things I thought were freeing me. One of these things is decidedly not like the other. 

This year, 2017, I made an important decision, a decision that I have wanted to make but one that scared the life out of me: I would be leaving full time work. The thing I thought I needed to do 7 years ago is the thing that is holding me back.

I think we all knew it was coming but I couldn’t quite see it. I was too busy running from one place to the next, too busy trying to solve this problem with the new problem. I am very persuasive and so of course I convinced even myself that it wasn’t the right time yet, that I didn’t have xyz yet, and perhaps–perhaps the extra time and yearning made me make different moves and gather new and useful resources. Certainly it has allowed me to store up some savings. But mostly, delaying listening to my heart, or staying some place well beyond your limit, has shown me that anxiety can and will manifest itself physically. Most exciting about this move is that I am ready to get my body back. & explore and write and live.

I’ll spare you the agonizing questions, though I’m sure you know them all. Instead of wallowing in it, I am choosing to lean on my 10 years NYC suaveness and believe that what will be will be. What is meant for me will come. I’ll be on the look out for that as of July 1 and let you know what I find or what finds me.

Thankfully I have a husband who supports me, who has in fact encouraged this move well before I believed it myself.

This picture is a picture of when I cut my locks in 2010. I’ve been feeling the urge to do something(s) scary, life-fulfilling, edgy, different. I want to see the world differently. I want to see myself differently. I want to live and love with you all, differently. All of these things can’t happen with the way my life had been set up: constantly grinding and climbing a professional full-time ladder (no shade to folks who do it, but I realized I was not living my authentic self)…in search of what? security? happiness? some semblance of self-worth against an environment that demands you make yourself smaller, quieter, and–maybe it’s a black woman thing?–less assertive and aggressive in order to “fit in”?

I was going to wait until the “next thing” showed up, so that I could prepare a post that says: I’m leaving and on to the next, but then that would be a disservice to this beautiful, uncomfortable, peaceful moment in which I find myself: not sure what is out there for me, but knowing there is a horizon, with sun, and that is certainly the direction in which I am moving.

Here’s to…..well, I don’t know. I am OK with that. Let’s hang out this summer? & beyond.

Returning to a Lit Life :)

And then I woke up and had become an author to two books of poetry.

My life is an intricate journey of backroads, reversals, detours. If you had met me oh, 4 years ago, I might have only introduced myself as a non-profit manager. For my friends who had known me before this switch, I remember giving strict instructions: Do not refer to me as a writer; I’m no longer really a poet; I’m choosing to focus on the other aspects of my professional self.

About 4 years ago, too, I read Octavia Butler’s Kindred for the first time. In addition to it being a great work of literary art, a core piece of it now helps me to understand who I am and how I am moving in the world right now. In Kindred, Dana, having learned that at any moment she could be snatched back in time, decided to pack a bag with necessary tools for whatever awaits her on the other side. My self in 2008, 2009, 2010, maybe pieces of 2011, before I entered the full-time work life, wrote everything, and read everything, and made notes, and sketches, and drafts of things. I was packing my literary bag for some future self. 

Weary Kingdom is out in the world now, its official release date April 25, 2017. I remember when I was in college in the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and my colleagues would talk about it taking 10 years to write/finish/find a publisher/find the right time to publish a book. Being the quasi-millenial that I am, and being the young woman that I was, I scoffed at that timeline, and thought: who needs that much time? Of course, I understand it better now. Not that it took me 10 years, but some of those poems are easily 8 or 9 years old, written almost immediately after How God Ends Us (8 years old this month as well) and well, I needed the time to be ready for another book in the world, and the time to be ready to be the person I needed to be in order to support it. But what has emerged, in that time difference, is a time capsule.

I resisted the urge to “update” Weary Kingdom into the 2016-2017 DéLana, even though I had the time. I learned that it would be published on my mother’s birthday: March 3, 2016. I had been in South Carolina because she had suffered a massive stroke, and I needed to see about her. So I went to a reading, and the director of the press informed me of the news in person, and I went back to the rehabilitation center and told my mother. Her stroke was still new, and her brain still holding tight to normalcy in any way it could, so it was quite possibly the last time I was sure she understood every word I told her. That–the thing she kept asking me about: “what about your writing, Lana?” and I would say, “Mama, don’t ask me about that”, was coming back into my life, right at the moment that my life was drastically changing.

The process from publication announcement to book in hand can take a year or more. It was just over a year for me, and still had so many times to change some things, to push poems in at the last minute, to update. But I love the idea of a time capsule. I love that in my hands is a little thing that tells of a time: namely, I do not call out the word, “husband”, and, in it, my grandmother Louise B. Melvin is still alive, my mother is still speaking to me over the phone, Harlem is still very black, and I have my own studio apartment called The Perch, and I am still trying to figure out who I am in spite of all of the movement around me.

The other thing my writer self then packed away for my writer self now is a novel. So, while I am working to get Weary Kingdom out into as many hands as possible, and to do readings in front of as many folks as possible, I am editing and re-writing and re-visiting and re-living the way my body felt while existing in the world of my novel. Earlier this year, I signed with a literary agent, and I was sure that we would work together on a book of essays (also with more recent works, and with things I want to write about, like the last year), which I imagined would come first, but she insisted I think about doing fiction first, and so here I am, thinking in multiple genres, about to launch into my national book tour with Weary Kingdom, and quite frankly, getting closer and closer to the life I thought I’d have (being a “full time writer”; having multiple books in multiple genres; reading and talking and doing workshops with audiences all over the world) when I was dreaming up what I’d be doing after college. The long, windy road it took to get here, but I am still very thankful for some wise words from a friend of mine who reminded me, when I learned that How God Ends Us would be published when I was 23, that I could have a long career, and to think of the long-arc of one’s writing career, and that I could take my time, and I could step away (I wasn’t hearing that part when he told me, but it stuck) and come back 10 years later, and still be a young writer, and still have so much ahead of me.

But how the literary world has changed between How God Ends Us and Weary Kingdom. It’s been interesting, also, learning to navigating this. At drinks one night with Morgan Parker, I said: “I feel like folks are looking at me like who are you? where did you come from” and she said–in Morgan’s way and I love her and our friendship because of it–, “Bitch, act like you never left!”

So here I am. (also back on my blog) Like I never left. Two poetry books in hand. Novel on deck, an essay collection swimming behind. And, I just told Curtis last night, and my sis Jessica Lynne that I believe a short story collection is brewing inside of me.

#litlife

Beyoncé & Black Philanthropy

So, as they say in church, the spirit moved me to wake up at 3:00 this morning and write my one and only “think piece” about Beyoncé. I tried to go to bed and get up early to write it. But it wouldn’t go away until I got it out. Here goes.

I loved being in education and working with youth, because they kept me current. I just had to overhear a conversation to know the latest slang: on fleek. Janky. And so on. And continue to be a contributing member and consumer of pop culture. I learned who I should download on iTunes (Adele, a few Drake songs, Beyoncé, of course), and that even those of us coming from the most meager means, will find it hard to purchasenecessities but will find it among their purse strings to purchase a ticket to enter a cultural conversation, to share in an experience of seeing an artist perform live.

Quite literally. Let me explain where I’m coming to this conversation from: I have spent the last nine years in the non profit world in New York City. Primarily in education. Concomitant to my work in the supplementary educational classroom where I taught in Saturday’s and after school to high school or adult learners of color of varying degrees of ability, I began to think about switching to working in development in the cultural sector. I had come to education by happenstance, but my heart was in arts and culture and I had understood that there existed a very real ceiling if I were to attempt to cling the program management ladder. Besides, I had (have) dreams of running a non-profit of my own, and so I knew in addition to working on my program development and management experience, I had to get my hands into fundraising.

It started with institutional giving. I started writing the grants for the programs that I was running and began to see the direct correlation between what I was doing with the students one on one and how that translated into metrics that might attract five and six-figure support from major donors. I leaned on the strength of my writing background to settle into my strengths as an institutional giving manager and started outsourcing my skills to small niche culturals in Brooklyn, where I had ultimately wanted to settle.

http://architypereview.com/wp-content/themes/architype-review/includes/image.php?w=1000&h=644&m=1&i=%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F11%2F13.jpg

Fast forward to being the Director of Strategic Development at Weeksville Heritage Center. One day I’ll tell you the full story of how it went from vision board to office space in four years, but I’m sure you’re wondering what all of this has to do with Beyoncé?

Having only been officially in seat since January 4, 2016, it wasn’t much longer into the new year or into my tenure of my vision-board job that Beyoncé dropped her Formation video–of course I heard about it from my students, who decided it was OK to be friends with me on social media since my departure–and Black Twitter and the world went insane.

Of course I watched the YouTube video. Several times. I, too, read think piece and think piece. And defense of. And in praise of. And in critique of this black woman creating a world through song and dance. And when she opens her mouth, we move.

beyonceformationlyrics-670x414.jpg

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, probably because I was writing a grant for Weeksville. I want so badly for this organization, this history, to survive. For the story to reach the worlds psyche. Imagine: there was a place created by free blacks just 11 years after slavery ended in NYC (but not the rest of the U.S.) in Central Brooklyn. Imagine there was a place where people went to live. There was a place where people–black people–went to get free. And they invested in that dream. They put their hard earned dollars on the table so that they could have and investors put their dollars on the table so that others could have and centuries later the organizational founders put money on the table so that we could have the historic houses. So that we could have these structures to tell the story of a life we lived once. In our own communities. When we were thriving. And building and supporting and maintaining the institutions we built by our own hands.

So I want to make sure that Weeksville Heritage Center exists not only for any future children I may have, but for the students today. So I wrote a grant and waited to watch the half time show on YouTube the next day: Wherein Beyoncé had captured the entertainment imagination (and white fury) of a country for her references to black political and radical organizations during her performance. Wherein Beyoncé had my whole timeline of friends proclaiming they don’t have money for anything but they will purchase a ticket to the Formation tour. Wherein.

Weeks later I’m watching my feed and seeing an article passed around about Chicago State University. This is another old story I’m about to tell, but here it is: an institution built to service and serve black students is facing shut down because of lack of funding–at the state level, sure. But also at the individual Giving level. Where are the black philanthropist to save it?

My connection to CSU is personal. And institutional. The first reading I gave out of state as a fledgling poet was at CSU in the Gwendolyn Brooks Center, a beautiful facility named after this beautiful dark skinned poet (not unlike myself) who had become the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize (and let me tell you there have only been a total of 5! Ever). CSU was also home at the time to Haki Madubuthi who started Third World Press, another black owned institution wherein Gwendolyn brooks could have had her poems published by any other mainstream (read: white) press but she chose Third World Press. Some would argue to the detriment to her career. But no matter. We have her collected poems because of that press. And many other writers of color. But I think it might be gone. And now, this University could be gone.

But Beyoncé. She is going on a world tour.

This is our inheritance: We give to church. We give to entertainment.

Not even 8 weeks into my new post and already I tire of community members approaching me, telling me their dreams for Weeksville and what the organization should be doing and for whom and how and so on. Being the person in charge of developing strategies for raising funds for the organization, I have access to years of giving data. Immediately leaving the meeting wherein I’m instructed on what Weeksville needs to do to “be better” to “ensure its survival”, I look back at the records. Never a gift. The classic story of chicken and egg I like to say. Where is the egg? Your dollar on the table?

But I see the Formation World Tour tickets flash across my newsfeed.

What if we gave to the institutions a fraction of what we give (or consider giving) Beyoncé? It really is that simple. And I don’t mean to target Beyoncé only, except the quick succession of all of the recent events begs me to put the two ideas into conversation.

At Weeksville, in addition to preaching and working to instill a culture of philanthropy among my colleagues (that they think one person can and should do the job of raising 1.5+M is cray), I teach that philanthropy is and should and can be for everyone. Philanthropy is for everyone. Even the least among us, as they say on Sundays when the ushers bring down the offering plate, even the least among us can have an exponential impact on the future of the institutions that we love to watch and instruct from the sidelines.

Everyday people build empires. I watch my everyday friends contribute to the empire of entertainers. But what about our schools?What about our small museums in under resourced neighborhoods looking to tell a young black girl that she had a history beyond slavery and one that thrived. That small museum saying your history deserves to be preserved as any other white man. Our founding Executive Director, Joan Maynard, said it best: “every place has a Weeksville. Where ordinary people came together…” To insist on a better life for themselves, for their children, and for the future. We have to get into a philanthropic formation. (My students will probably kill me for that reference. Shane, Lisa, Kristen: did I use the phrase right?).

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 7.51.09 AM
Joan Maynard + Children at archeological site–Weeksville dig.

And sure. When disaster strikes, there is a response. And sure we should continue to support life-saving organizations that save small children and support medical research. But I am still thinking of the convening spaces, the places where culture is made and exhibited and talked about. The places where a safe space is provided for you to bring your children and celebrate what it is to be human and black and alive. That deserves love and support and I’ll say it: dollars on the table.

And there are a growing number of us who are taking up the charge. Weeksville Ambassadors for one. It is a great move, and a great gesture by young professionals who have gathered together and said: I want to keep Weeksville Alive, I want to be a part of its today, and it’s tomorrow.

I’ll just say it plain: $15 a month could change world of a small cultural organization insisting we invest and preserve and document our history. We have to invest in the world we want to exist for our children. I hope you’ll choose Weeksville.

unnamed

Week 6 BK Half Training: Crazy In Love (LIVE)

This version of Crazy In Love kept my feet moving this week. I’m sad how long it took me to discover it, but I am happy to have it on rotation.

In other news: I need new songs–help?

Let’s review last week’s training:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 5.23.37 PM

I failed at cross training last week :(. I hope to get some in this week, somewhere. Stats:

  • 23 miles
  • Longest run: 10 miles
  • Fastest Pace 12:30

What is there to tell you? Tuesday’s run was speed + hill work. I managed to get it done, and finish at a decent pace. Knowing that Brooklyn Half has a few good hills at the beginning of the run, and hills are my weakness in general, so, since I’m not battling much else (like a bum hip, though my knee is cranky at the beginnings of runs…) right now, I’ve asked Coach to give me some hill work. I asked for it, yall. That’s growth and progress.

Thursday was 5 easy miles, and I delivered. No struggle, no pain. Just 5 miles 🙂 Howeverrr, I think the cumulation of my work life being busier, and Tuesday night I went to a show on a week night thinking I was still 21 or 22 and that exhaustion carried through for the rest of the week.

Friday came and i barely made it to the grocery store and home. I made dinner, and kissed C goodnight and went to bed. He was doing Prospect Park’s 12 mile (really 11.2) training run, and the plan was to meet up somewhere. Right now, I’m too slow to run with them (slowest pace was 12:00), and too fast for the walk/run group, and they weren’t doing the mileage I needed to do, so I was going to be on my own. I can’t wait until the day I can join a pace group….and really understand what that feels like. Anyways. I was too tired to get up anyhow. And just let my body get the sleep that it so desperately needed (I need to evaluate my vitamin intake), and by the time I got up and moving, and ran to the park (about 2 miles in), C was finishing up. But he was a doll, and waited for me! & I ran some of my fastest miles with him!

Some photos from the run!

This was a great reminder.
This was a great reminder.
True story: I run on Saturdays so I can fuel with Apple Cider Donuts :)
True story: I run on Saturdays so I can fuel with Apple Cider Donuts 🙂

photo 4 (14)

And then me and my main squeeze:

photo 5 (12)

All told, I felt GREAT after the 10 miles. Like, it didn’t feel like 10 miles. I massaged out my calves and quads before I went to bed to keep it that way, and went into Sunday’s 3 miles with almost fresh legs and ready to go! I had some wardrobe issues (not enough Aquaphor—eek! I look like I’ve been to war) which, I guess I’ll take as a badge of running faster, running harder.

Monday, Old Navy was having a sale so I treated myself to some new gear for such a great training week. I hope this high continues. On deck Saturday: 11 miles!

Run for the Parks 4Miler Race Recap

This happened last week, but I didn’t want this week to pass without me telling you about my most-recent amazing race: The Run for the Parks race in Central Park.

During my fall training, I use races to break up my long runs. This race was on a Sunday and I’ve been trying to keep to my long run being on Saturday, so that meant that I would run 9 (really 8.5 miles) on Saturday and then 4 (usually it’s 3) miles on Sunday. I was fine with that. I wanted to have a race that was just a race. Not a race but 5 miles LOL. Because I ran those miles the day before Coach said to just take it easy, but later gave me permission “if you’re feeling great, then push it!” So really, I came to this race with no preconceived notions, just an opportunity to get some hill work in, and run a few miles before regularly scheduled breakfast.

I didn’t pick up my bib for this race prior to race day so I needed to leave a little earlier than usual. I remembered I didn’t grab breakfast things, so I just put a handful of cheerios in a bag and grabbed a granola bar, and then set off on my way. I stopped for coffee (only thing open that early was McDonalds 🙁 ) and was as good to go as I was going to get.

After I picked up my race material, I waited in line for the port-a-potties, and then made my way to the MASSIVE START area. I mean, I thought to myself, oh, it’s just a little 4 miler, it won’t be that bad. Somehow, they managed to let 10,000 people register for this. So, it took us 15 minutes to cross the start line. Before I joined the group, I stretched and got my life together and ate my breakfast. &, you know, took a picture.

photo 3 (18)

Anyways, I put in my music, and let the people weave in and around me, because I was just here to have fun and run. First up: Cat Hill. It was so early in the race that I powered up the hill, passing people, really feeling like I was in a video game–that each person I passed gave me a coin or extra power, haha, and so I kept going & going. I walked at the top for a few seconds, but still basked in my accomplishment. I was going at a decent pace, and I thought, then, that I only have to keep that pace to be OK with myself for the rest of the race, so I just held steady for a bit until the straight away on the east side, and I found a different rhythm. I was finally “in the middle” of the race enough to have runners around me and feel like a pack. It has been a while since I felt that. I kept finding people to pace behind–just fall in step with their steps and lose myself for a few minutes. But yall, there were these two ladies (they were at Scotland, I didn’t mention them) who were race walking at a pace I was *trying to get to*! I kept leap frogging them, and finally decided to mentally attach a rope around them and let them “pull me” through the 102 transverse and up the first hill on the West Side. I swear they were using me as a target, though, as I was. As soon as the down hill came, I zipped past to catch up some time & pace, and then the uphill came again, and I “latched on” to another person to get me up the hill (pace me) and here they came, LOLOL. I got to the top of the hill and zipped past. Finding a few runners who run up the hill also helps you collect those coins and powers!

So then I go to the base of the last big hill before the finish line, and they came and I said, OK ladies, you’re going to get me up this hill. I’m sure they felt me breathing on their neck. Oh well. I wasn’t going to pass them yet. I knew the long downhill was coming and I could finally put them behind me. So I let them pull me up the long, windy hill, and then zipped past and literally flew down the hill (I’m talking paces I haven’t seen in a very long time!) and never saw them again! LOL.

What was great about this race was that, once I got to the flat part of the race, nearing the end, I had gained such speed, I was 11:3X pace! I kept that pace through the flat part, around the last bend, and used the slight down hill to sprint into the finish (with an 8:xx pace!)!! I had just a little bit in the tank, but, I was so proud of my efforts! I ran all the hills, I walked minimally, and I “raced smart” by letting other people do the hard work, per se.

& it paid off. I “live tracked” myself to see what my race time was & then immediately texted my coach & husband!

photo 4 (1)

12:26! I haven’t seen that in a race since I started back! & My last mile was 11:36! & it was just a great race all around. I brought that victory into this past week’s training, and it’s paying off, yall. #ihavegoals. I still don’t know what Brooklyn Half is going to bring, but I’m getting excited and happy!