Friday, January 17, 2020

Playlist Project: Aaliyah

On January 16, we remember the late R&B singer Aaliyah (Houghton) on the date of her birth. This is a somewhat delicate choice as I am not revisiting her entire career, particularly since she was an early protege of R. Kelly. In other words, she was one of his original instead of highlighting that first album, I wanted to focus on her collaboration with ├╝ber producer Timbaland. (Not that he doesn't have his own baggage with respect to his inappropriate feelings towards her, but we'll address that at another time.)

At the time of her tragic death, Aaliyah was 22 years old, and possibly on the precipice of an extraordinary career. She had a string of hits and had even performed Journey to the Past from the movie Anastasia at the Academy Awards in 1998 (the youngest singer to do so), so for many of her fans, the what-ifs remain these many years later. While revisiting her catalog, her influence and legacy are evident in the work of her peers, most notably Ciara and Mya, as well as newcomers like Normani (who must have been all of five when Aaliyah died).

The late 90s was the high water mark for big name music collaborations, with Timbaland serving as the production Godfather for many of those hits. He produced Aaliyah's sophomore album, One in a Million in 1996, along with Missy Elliot (who has a cameo in the video for the title track). In fact, these two artists are inextricably linked as Best Friends, a song from Elliot's debut album, Supa Dupa Fly (1997). Their bond was fondly recalled in this remembrance of the late singer. Here are some of Aaliyah's notable hits:

One in a Million (1996)
If Your Girl Only Knew

Hot Like Fire

Up Jumps Da Boogie - Timbaland and Magoo (Welcome to Our World ~ 1997)

Are You That Somebody? - Dr. Doolittle (1998)

Try Again - Romeo Must Die (2000)

Aaliyah (2001)
More Than a Woman

Rock the Boat

And as we know, Aaliyah and eight members of her entourage died in a plane crash after she shot that video. Thinking back to the is hard to say. The music business is fickle and while solo women singers are again having a moment (with Ella Mai, H.E.R., Ari Lennox, and SZA holding it down), most of Aaliyah's contemporaries have reached that point in their careers where we are wondering what happened. It's hard to imagine how a 40-something Aaliyah would fare in Beyonce's music business. The fact that we remember her proves that her impact was significant, so it is fitting to end this tribute with a nod to her posthumous album, I Care 4 U released in 2002. In addition to this hot title track, it featured the single Miss You which I posted to the FB page back in 2011. Indeed we do.

Playlist Project: Sade

The work I do on this platform continues to evolve. On the Facebook page, I have been posting tributes to various artists to celebrate birthdays or other significant life events/transitions. The search function allows me to refer back to old posts, but it made sense that I would try to capture some of those external links in an index. Hence, the Playlist Project.

Our first artist is Sade (Helen Folasade Adu), whom we salute on her birthday, January 16.

Although I was pretty sure that I had posted a playlist in honor of her 60th Birthday last year, I had not; instead, I had posted this playlist last summer in honor of the 35th anniversary of her debut album, Diamond Life (1984). Therefore, to keep from reinventing the wheel, here is an index of all the songs that were posted to both lists, as well as those that were suggested for inclusion by RC, my music editor.

If there was one word that I would use to describe Sade, it would be timeless. Her iconic look hasn't changed in the 35+ years of her career, and which according to this article from Vogue, has had the somewhat mystical effect of making her appear ageless. And her music, which I have been listening to since middle school (not at all aware at the time that her lyrics were well beyond my understanding) is as smooth and comforting as a silk robe, a cozy lit fire, and a glass of wine. So as you enjoy this playlist, I hope you've poured a good one.

Diamond Life (1984)
Smooth Operator

Hang Onto Your Love

Your Love Is King

When Am I Going to Make a Living

Promise (1985)
The Sweetest Taboo

Is It A Crime

Jezebel (live)

Never As Good As the First Time

Stronger Than Pride (1988)
Stronger Than Pride

Nothing Can Come Between Us

Love Deluxe (1992)
Cherish The Day

No Ordinary Love

Pearls (live)

Like a Tattoo (live)

Lovers Rock (2000)
By Your Side

King of Sorrow

Soldier of Love (2010)
The Moon and The Sky

Flower of the Universe is a bonus from the A Wrinkle In Time (2018) soundtrack, which she wrote and recorded at the request of director, Ava DuVernay. Reportedly, Sade is back in the studio, so this nugget certainly has us eagerly anticipating her next project.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Sisterhood is a Verb

There are a lot of people who will come into your life, and as you try to figure out how to define them, I want to issue a few words of caution...

This meme came to my attention when one of my FB groups made it the profile picture. I downloaded it to my phone last month and have been waiting for just the right moment to share it. January 13, which marks Founders' Day for my sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. seemed as good a day as any, but to be honest, any day within the last couple of weeks would have been sufficient. This coming week as the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (January 15) and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (January 16) celebrate their Founders, it is entirely fitting as we recognize the illustrious women of those organizations. Back when I was all aglow while celebrating my 25th Reunion at Spelman or perhaps at some point in the coming months when I prepare to celebrate my 30th high school reunion, this meme is just as relevant as I commemorate my grounding in institutions that were founded to educate young women.

Sisterhood is an action. I know this in my bones and in my soul. I know it because for the past year, God has been showing me just how blessed I am to be called a sister/soror/friend by so many women. It is something that becomes clearer and more poignant in moments of grief, but it is similarly intense and beautiful in everyday moments. Sisterhood is the unexpected invitation. It is the out-of-the-blue phone call. It is the just because text or card in the mail. It is love, which is another action verb that we all need to learn when and how to use more appropriately.

And let me emphasize that part--sisterhood requires love. In spite of the coordinated colors and oaths and candle-lit ceremonies, without love most groups are only able to provide you with affiliation. Your political party is an affiliation. Your membership in most civic activities is an affiliation. Your job, your school, and even your church might be affiliations--places where you work, where you earned a degree, or where you show up to worship on special occasions. The transformation of these spaces depends a lot on the relationships you establish there.

Therefore, sisterhood is a choice. At a key moment last year, I am forever grateful to have realized the difference between what I was choosing and what I was obligated to do. I had invested a great deal of time and energy into an effort, but at a certain point it became evident that it was more draining than fulfilling. Walking away left me with mixed emotions, but ultimately it brought me peace of mind especially once it became clear that my presence would not be missed. I was not meant to find sisterhood amidst that group, and that has been just fine.

Sisterhood is showing up. It is standing up. It does not back down in the face of obstacles. Sisterhood is not symbolic, which is why some of us are dubious of safety pins, little black dresses, and co-opted slogans that only seem to work for those who are only invested in their own liberation. Sisterhood is hard work, not an adjective that can be applied to every group of seemingly like-minded women.

My sincere hope this week as thousands of my sorors and women from two other Black Greek-Lettered Organizations celebrate the establishment of our sororities, is that we take time to reflect more on what binds us in the larger purpose of serving our communities. I know why I chose Delta, but that choice does not preclude me from celebrating the work of my AKA sisters in their support of HBCUs. I have been anticipating the centennial celebrations of my Zeta sisters because I recall how exciting and overwhelming it was seven years ago for us. I am intrigued to see how my SGRho sisters will catch the spirit in preparation of their centennial by honoring their firsts. Enough of our Founders lived long enough to see the evolution of what they started blossom into something much more profound, so we honor that legacy by respecting and supporting each other.

Of course, this topic has emotional resonance for me in light of my friend's transition. She facilitated my membership into Delta, sat through my initiation, and was a model soror for others to emulate. Thus on Saturday for the first time ever, I experienced an emotional reaction during our ritual (also later while singing the Spelman Hymn) because in both moments, I had another epiphany about sisterhood. It lives...eternally. When we memorialize that connection, we aren't severing a bond--we are immortalizing it.

I recall a conversation I had with my now-adult nieces about the pitfalls of living with other young women, and it saddened me to learn that they were so wary of developing bonds with their peers. To them, the prospect of betrayal was too great a risk (as if other kinds of relationships aren't susceptible to the same fate). Of course, we've all learned that lesson the hard way--sisterhood can be imperfect, petty, and superficial. And? Get over any hang-ups and disappointments you have with individuals who are human and fallible, as if you haven't ever fallen short. Sisterhood begins in the space where you leave behind any expectations of proportionate reciprocation. All things may never be equal, but how many relationships in your life truly are? Heck, some of your relatives are just people you know.

Having grown up without biological sisters, it has been fortuitous to find myself in spaces where women gather. From the deaconesses who brought me into their circle as a teenager to the matrix of seasoned sorors who mentor me now to the crowds of eager young ladies I have recruited for Spelman, my life has been enriched by their presence. This is why I can attest that sisterhood is more than membership in a clique. Sisterhood is like the compound interest we earn on our investments. The deposits might be small, but over time the value increases. It deepens the more time you commit. Sure there are years that are better than others, but that is the natural ebb and flow of life. It flourishes, it might languish, but like a plant it can be revived with the right amount of care and attention.

Friday, January 10, 2020

I Hope You Dance

When daylight dies and o'er us calm is hovering
Come to us then and whisper words of peace...

Tomorrow will be one of those days when I will have to confront what I once considered unimaginable. I have to formally say goodbye to a dear friend, and if I am able to get through the day, then it will be the first of many unfortunate mid-life crises I will have to endure if I live long enough. Writing those words if I live long enough after having spent the last couple of weeks living in a haze doesn't bring clarity or comfort. It just allows me to express some of the emotions I have been holding inside since December 24.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that there are a few ride or die folks whom I call friends. These are a handful of people who have seen me at my best and my worst, and who still love me in spite of myself. Each of these people come from a specific time and place--family, Spelman, law school, Capitol Hill, Delta, church, or St. Mark's Dance.

Karen and I met as kids in dance. I've been wondering if I have been recalling my exact age correctly, but I was about eight or nine years old when I first met this very tall and aloof teacher's assistant at my first ballet class. The weird thing about memory is how some facts and details are inexact while others are crystal clear. In that vein, what is unforgettable about when we met is how I looked up to this nearly six-foot tall twelve year old. She had long legs, long hair, wore braces, and wore a black leotard, which in traditional ballet was indicative of maturity and skill level. As a late beginner, I wore a light blue leotard, so there was no way we could be friends even though we were only three years apart in age. She was already dancing en pointe with the teenagers in the Junior Company and with the adults in the Senior Company, so in hindsight, it is more accurate to say that I was a kid when we met.

By the time we were taking the same ballet classes and I had advanced to wearing a black leotard, she and the other Junior Company members were in high school. I was a nosy middle schooler who had to wait for my Mom or walk to my grandmother's house after class, so I only got to listen in for a few minutes while the older girls chatted and changed out of their toe shoes upstairs in the old dressing room between class and company rehearsal. I gleaned a few details about boys, hairstyles, and college applications, but I was still just an awkward kid who couldn't imagine that she and I could ever be friends. That belief didn't change much a few years later when we were students at Spelman together, only overlapping by a year because she graduated early.

Fast forward to us connecting at a local alumnae event and then again at the dance studio a few years later. By this time I was a young attorney; she was a college professor. I had been taking ballet classes off and on for about two years when it was suggested that I should join the Senior Dance Company. Again, the details might not be as exact, but when I was subsequently invited to a baby shower at the studio, we reconnected for real. We discovered that she had been one of my Dad's math mentees, which bound us closer. And over these past 15+ years, we became more than friends. We became sisters.

Crab Mallet from Karen's 40th Birthday Party

So tomorrow will be one of the hardest days of my life. I have attended the funerals of relatives, classmates, sorors, people from the dance community, folks who have worked with my Dad, and the parents of my friends. I have never experienced the heartbreak of losing a close friend, especially not the sister-friend whose life intersected with mine on all of those levels.

Hence, I don't know how I can say goodbye to the friend who was the preeminent storyteller. The friend who was good for talking a hole in my head while retelling stories that she had retold multiple times before. The friend who did everything right the first time while the rest of us stumbled and got sidetracked before eventually getting it together. The friend who was a prodigy who graduated high school, college, and earned her PhD all by the time she was 26. The friend who could be brutally candid and unconcerned about how her honesty might affect you personally. The friend who invented the word hangry. The friend who knew everybody I knew because they met randomly somewhere and became cool. The friend I referred to as my Dad's other daughter, the mathematician. The friend whom some people confused me for because we were both tall Black ballet dancers. The friend who taught me how to embrace my height. The friend who shares a godchild with my husband. The friend who could always pick up where we last left things, no matter how much time had transpired. The friend who tested me once...but it was all good. The friend who always had something going on, yet still managed to show up unexpectedly. The friend I admired so much because she lived on her own terms.

The friend whose living room I was in just a few months ago, trying to sort through the details of her sudden illness. The friend who assured me that she would be alright, before revealing the truth of her diagnosis, so I believed her because I know she thought she would survive this too. The friend who bore the painful loss of her father under similar unexpected circumstances just three years ago, so surely life couldn't be this fucking cruel.

The friend who was my Spelman Sister, my Soror, my dance partner, my three amusement parks in one day buddy, my co-conspirator, my girl-let-me-tell-you, my OG Busy Black supporter, my career sister whom I will miss for the rest of my life. So instead of goodbye, I hope you dance.

I swear I hope there is a Heaven. Since we won't get to grow into know it/seen it/done it all old ladies together, I hope that when my time comes, you are standing there at the gates waiting to welcome me with a scroll of stories. I hope that in the meantime, you will watch over me, shake your head as necessary at the various mistakes you would have avoided, and that some of the genius you shared with the world will blossom into some magnificent gift. I already believe my long-legged dancer-in-training inherited some of your confidence--my reminder that a woman who navigates this world with confidence and self-assurance can do anything she sets her mind to accomplish.

And when life's race is won,
Thy noble work is done,
Oh God, forever bind
Our hearts to thine.

Rest well, Sis.

Fried Chicken Wednesday: Tyler Perry

Y'all...(and yes, I know today isn't Wednesday)

For what it's worth, I appreciate every person who reads this because I do not take it for granted that in the grand scheme of things (seeing as how the DESPOTUS came thisclose to igniting World War III and still won't be removed from office), you have better things to do than to read another think-piece by a wish-I-was-a-published writer about Tyler Perry. Especially as I too, have better and more important things that I could be writing about; yet here were are. Eating a whole bucket of Nashville hot fried chicken barely a week into the new year.

You know the background details, but in case you missed it, Tyler Perry posted this to Instagram earlier this week and Black Twitter responded accordingly with the requisite high fives (from his fans), and then dragging (from his detractors), while the rest of us in the cheap seats contemplated the direction our lives could have taken. Either way, we all broke New Year resolutions to stop cussing, lying, hating, gossiping, eating/drinking too much, being snarky, comparing ourselves to others, selling ourselves short, boasting, bragging, coveting, cheating--whatever promises we made to live our best lives in 2020.

And all because Tyler Perry thought he would impart some timely wisdom from the Gospel of Self Reliance, narrated by Madea. I'm sure his intentions were good. He wants us to succeed, just like he did by pulling himself up by Jesus's bootstraps (otherwise known as that time he asked his Mama to let him borrow her house dress and one of her wigs). He once lived in his car, but now his name is on a highway exit in Atlanta! Hellurr???

So what we're not going to do in the year of our Lawd 2020 is hate on the man who has The Oprah and Uncle Joe Biden on speed dial, as well as a payroll of enough hard-working blue-collar Black people to rival the postal service. All of my fellow starving artists take note--Perry built an entire empire from those one-dimensional church skits that Sister Mary Jenkins plucked out the week before the Easter pageant on her old Remington typewriter (the one where some of the letters didn't work anymore, so she hand-wrote in the Rs,Ts, and Ys). While we're broke and hungry for a Popeye's fried chicken sandwich, Perry is eating chicken cordon bleu every night. Why? Because of his work ethic.

The kind of work ethic that doesn't involve writing and re-writing or editing, outlining and researching to create unique plots and authentic characters. He doesn't have time for that shit. I mean, how long do you think it took for him to pen A Madea Family Funeral?

The kind of work ethic that doesn't have time to negotiate with unions, which is why it isn't all that surprising that Perry doesn't employ a writers' room or that he's shamelessly enjoying the perks of Georgia being a right to work state. In technical terms, one of the benefits of establishing a foothold in Hollywood South is exploiting the advantages of cheap labor and production costs with favorable tax incentives.

That same cocksure work ethic has provided opportunities to many Black actors, some of whom can say that a Perry written, produced and directed film propelled them into the mainstream spotlight, most notably Idris Elba and Tessa Thompson. For veteran actresses like Cicely Tyson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Alfre Woodard, Gabrielle Union, Sanna Lathan, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Jenifer Lewis, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Angela Bassett, and Whoopi Goldberg (and I'm sure there are others), his films have provided solid in-between work. We're not mad...just relieved that none of them had to suffer the indignity of losing an NAACP Image Award to Madea.

Give the man credit for all he has accomplished and then recognize what he is and what he is not. Tyler Perry is a shrewd businessman, much like Byron Allen. He is a content creator, which is not a 21st century synonym for an artist, so his work product should never be compared to the brilliance of Kenny Leon, Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels, or Suzan Lori-Parks. His chosen lane is quantity, not quality, which in turn has earned him more money, power, and influence than most of us could imagine. Greatness and excellence are too elusive and subjective; whereas mediocrity is more lucrative work, if you can get it.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Busy Black Woman Holiday Gift Guide (2019)

One never knows how a seemingly random idea can turn into a major project. On Christmas morning last year, I decided to take a few photos of the gifts I had bought from some local and small businesses, just on a whim. I thought I had gotten some cool stuff, and wanted to share those finds with my friends and followers. Then I posted some photos and this index to the blog, with no real plan for any next steps.

Then at some point during the past year, I decided to make my personal support of small, Black, women-owned, and local businesses a theme of the blog and on its Instagram page. If you happen to follow me on either my personal or blog pages, then you know that I have a seemingly endless supply of tee shirts (not including the ones associated with this blog, but I digress). In addition to the usual randomness, I use the IG page to follow many entrepreneurs, and have been blessed to connect with several of them in real life.

So as the 2019 Holiday Season comes to a close, I wanted to take time again to provide an index of gifts and companies that were featured in the Busy Black Woman Holiday Giving Guide. As always, whenever I have big plans, life happens, but what else is new? However, this year I thought ahead...What would the Oprah do (#WWTOD)?

Well, without my own magazine, staff, or an unlimited budget, I began posting my finds in on my social media in November until I was done with my shopping. The fact that I didn't finish posting until Christmas Eve notwithstanding, my hope is that you will use this as a year-long reference to answer the elusive 'how-do-I-support-Black-businesses' question. .

Get Your Paper Together
At some point this year, the major retailers finally got the notice that families of color might like to see Santa rendered in our likeness. I know that probably annoys some folks (Meghan 'Santa-is-white-and-Jesus-too' Kelly), but check it, Santa is whomever dons the suit. If you were lucky enough to score a roll or two of mainstream retail Santa paper, that's great; otherwise, place your orders now with Copper and Brass Paper Goods or Midnight Reflections. You will note that both Santas made appearances throughout the Gift Guide this year. I plan to add Clarence Claus from Greentop Gifts to my stash for the sake of variety, and you can also check out Etsy to see a few other whimsical multicultural options.

You Get a Box!
I still roll with the Izzy and Liv Brown Sugar Box, which expanded this year to include two children's boxes and a men's box. I haven't signed up with any other subscriptions yet, but the Because of Them We Can Box is topping my list for my now tween Niece. If you are a sorority sister, there are the Ivy Storehouse Box, the Dear Delta Box, and the Finer Things Box...and now that this has become a thing, I'm sure you will find something therein to fit your needs accordingly.

Stylin' and Profilin'
I featured hometown shirts on the IG page since DC finally hit the big leagues by winning the Stanley Cup, the WNBA Championships, and the World Series this year. I have always been proud to showcase hometown pride, so here are a few of my favorites: Ask Me Tees, Bailiwick Clothing, Check It Enterprises, CrankRock, I'm So DC (the hardest working sister in the urrea), and On Us Tees. Get one (or more)!

I want to shout out my Spelman Sisters who helped me to *bling* it during my Reunion weekend: Ourglass Apparel, SpelHouse Swag, and DiviniCo (who designed our class tee).

Lighting the Way
Candles are the new thing in small business, so now that the Kid is a little older, I have been excited to discover new and unique scent combinations. On our holiday trip to NYC, I discovered the honey-rich scents of Lomar Farms made from beeswax. I received some incense from the Posh Candle Company in an Izzy and Liv box, so I decided to try the candles, and in addition to the intense scents, the names are most intriguing. I also shopped with KSM Candle Company in Baltimore and Isabis this year.

Books, Puzzles and Notes
After attending the East of the River Book Festival last year (so sad to miss it this time), I have been excited to collect books from new and emerging authors for the young people in my life. I also made a point of shopping at the independent bookstores, such as Mahogany Books in DC and Grandma's Place in Harlem, which yielded some offerings I might not have found otherwise. Some highlights include The Nutcracker in Harlem, The Undefeated, Hair Love, She Stood for Freedom, and A is for Ancestors.

I stocked up on some puzzles for the upcoming Winter birthday party season from Puzzle Huddle, but I also discovered Little Likes Kids, so I can change things up a bit with games now. For the preteen girls, I think these stickers and journals by Oh So Paper are cute. For the folks who are organized and like to plan things, might I recommend the Arrivista Planner, and my cousin who can teach you some techniques for using it.

Looking Good Girl
Continuing with the tradition that began with Madame C.J. Walker, the market for Black-owned hair care products has expanded from online retail and neighborhood beauty supply to the mainstream. I know that people feel some kind of way about the ethnic hair care aisle, but thanks to brands like Jane Carter, Oyin Handmade, Design Essentials, and Thank God I'm Natural, there are companies like The Lip Bar on the cosmetic aisle at Target. Mented Cosmetics is now available at the Herald Square Macy's and of course Fenty Beauty and Pat McGrath are available at Sephora.

Great products and tools are still available online, such as the Grace Eleyae sleep cap, the Felicia Leatherwood detangler brush (or one of the knock-offs), and the Puff Cuff. Of course, local stores and small pop ups are great for finding products such as Hunny Bunny, Play Pits, and Oasis Soul.

You Wear it Well
What is a pop up without jewelry? This year, I have been breaking out of my comfort zone to embrace new textures and bolder patterns, so Beaded Souls, Hair Free Girl, and Me Two Designs happen to be a few of the jewelry designers whose pieces I've added to my daily rotation. I just discovered Amber Poitier this holiday, so I will be looking to add a few of her pieces in the future.

Here is an index of the other businesses I patronized at some point in the year:
Anna + Pookie
Bags by Sistah PG
Bases Loaded Authentic Clothing and Kaps (B.L.A.C.K.) 
Brown Girl Beauty Co-op
BZB International 
Capital City Mambo Sauce
Chat's Liquors
Crowned Charms
Diggin Her Roots Boutique
Heeey SugaFoot! 
Here's the Scoop Ice Cream
Homemade Healing
Ivy's Tea Company
Jacq's Dolls
Jaida A Photography
Jazzabon Creations 
NiLu Gift Shop
Petals, Ribbons and Beyond
Sweet Mossie's Stew Pots
TruGlory Greetings
Unique Aksents
Vegan Skin by Paul Joseph 
Vintage Glam Tea Party & Co.
Yvonne Ex

The Nile List is an effort that was started by one of my Spelman Sisters this year to provide an online guide of Black Businesses, so you should assume that my list isn't nearly as comprehensive...but you get the point. Happy Shopping!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Only Life You Have

Nothing impacts your perspective on life like having a close friend or relative die. This year, I've lost one of each within weeks of each other. So I am ending this year in a place of emotional turmoil.

I will dedicate some time to write about my friend in a separate piece. I can say a little about my cousin here, and then expand on how all of this has left me reeling at a time when I feel like I am on the precipice of something big. I had hoped that for all of the unrealized promise of 2019 (projects that I started, but didn't complete), I could simply get back on track and take off. I could return to my #HBCUJustGive interview series and publish those articles in February. I could schedule the photo shoot that I kept rescheduling because I didn't have enough models or creative imagination. I could revisit the #BlackonBroadway series that I didn't finish last March. I could plan to go to my college Homecoming, right after I help plan my 30th high school reunion. I could make some progress on getting rid of the clutter that has engulfed my house.

I could get to everything because tomorrow is another day. So I thought.

My cousin used to be very close to my Mom because she was only a few years younger when she came up to DC to live with my grandmother and attend high school. Her son and I are six months apart in age. She came up from the country (Fredericksburg VA) to family gatherings and sang at my parents' 40th Anniversary Party. She was a prolific Facebook poster...much like the older people we joke about who unwittingly spread viruses by challenging us to share memes about Jesus. I never minded that though. She was the sweetest person, and I will miss her sense of eternal optimism.

When she passed the week before Thanksgiving, it was a shock, especially since I found out on social media. Sadly, that is how we announce tragic news these days. If you're lucky, someone might include you on a group text in advance. Which is how I found out about my girlfriend--no less shocking, even though I had been prepared to face the unimaginable with a 9th hour flu shot and a summons to her bedside while she was still conscious.

I am NOT okay. I have played the straight woman for days, stoically relating the news because doing so while bawling my eyes out seems unnecessarily dramatic. I hadn't allowed myself to cry because Black women know better...our tears don't influence judges, juries, police officers, public opinion polls, or Senate committee members. So we save them for the shower or for church when someone gets the spirit.

Instead, we indulge in destructive personal behaviors like emotional eating, solitary drinking, not talking, and excessive spending. Therefore, at this, the worst time of year, I am guilty of all four. I had ice cream earlier, and I just finished off a bag of chips. I am drinking whisky by myself while my family sleeps, and I don't know how much I spent on Christmas presents. I don't want to talk to anybody about how I feel, even though I know that I should. And for added TMI, I haven't showered. I'm sleeping too much. My solution for trying to find some form of consolation is to write a rambling piece about my grieving process, such as it is.

I am not okay. I am thinking about my cousin, whom I just lost last month and I am trying to wrap my head around what that means. What does it mean to lose someone who has known you since the day you were born, someone to whom you promised to post a picture of from your parents' hippie Afro-centric wedding but never got the chance to do so because you assumed that you had tomorrow...until you didn't. What does it mean to visit your friend on her deathbed, knowing the ultimate outcome of her situation, but not believing it because you just cannot bring yourself to accept the truth? What does it mean to have plans in your head to make sure that she wouldn't be alone for Christmas, then to learn that you were too late?

I will pull my shit together eventually, but right now, I AM NOT OKAY.

Yet, I am fortified by the faith that my grandmothers sang about from the old-school mourners bench and those never-ending prayer circles. My hope is built on nothing less. My all is on the altar. For every mountain, I will lift up mine eyes and shake myself out of this (sleep it off). I will reach out to my cousin's siblings and find the words that I have been searching for and maybe those will be comforting or incredibly awkward enough to be hilarious so that no one walks away feeling some kind of way. I will do whatever task I am given to honor my girl, because she was my sister, and not just someone I've known since I used to look up to her when we were kids. This ain't nothing more than I can bear.

But more importantly, I will tackle my undone or incomplete projects, not only because tomorrow is not promised, but because I don't want the world to know how messy I really am unless I have no other choice (that is my vanity expressed through my tipsiness). I got a world to conquer in this next decade. I am not sad about whatever I didn't get to do in the 20-aught-teens, because I accept those were the choices I made, and in some cases the cards I was dealt. Everything in its whether it is more traveling, cleaning my house, raising this headstrong girl-child, drinking more water/eating more salad, or really seeing this Busy Black Woman project become a profitable business venture, I pray that I am blessed with more time.

This is it y'all. My cousin's gift was singing, which she got to do in different parts of the world. My girl's gift was being a badass and brilliant and bossy (I've got stories). But we've only been given a lifetime to share ourselves with the world, so what are YOU waiting for?