Sunday, December 4, 2016

In the Space that Silence Holds

I have been silent of late.  The events taking place in my life and in my country have demanded it.  Silence and contemplation have always been my go-to's in times of deep conflict.  Its important to me that I know my own mind on a matter, and I find my own mind in silence and solitude.  The year 2017 marks not only profound changes for my country but for my personal life as well.  I spent several hours yesterday morning with my 'brain trust' (my group of woman who hold me accountable) mapping out what the coming year will look like, what I hope to accomplish and how.  I have tried not to fear change but rather embrace it, as a lifestyle choice.  Now is my time to put this philosophy into practice. 
  • I left my husband and have moved into Uzazi House.   My husband is an ardent supporter of the President-Elect, however I did not leave because of who he voted for, I left because our journeys no longer converge.  I am connected to my husband, but we no longer share the same life.  He has no understanding of my life mission, and remains unsupportive of my work, which he views as divisive and seperatist.  My life at Uzazi House is frankly a dream come true.  It is my quiet refuge in the storms of life. It is a three story, four bedroom house that I am converting into an AirBNB.  I want to stop teaching and make my income more passive so I can concentrate on getting the midwifery school up and going- and complete my midwifery apprenceship, and keep moving toward my doctorate.  I have no money, no assets to speak of, so the process is slow.  I teach adjunct for local nursing schools and use this income to live off of and fix up the house.  I spend as much time at Uzazi Village as I can, but my volunteers have blessedly filled the gap in my frequent absences.  My children (all of whom are adults except the youngest one) are not happy that I have left but they have adjusted with ease to going back and forth between our houses (as have I- I still do my laundry at my husband's house).  For now, things will continue as they are as we support one another and co-parent our children.
  • I am now two years into my midwifery apprenticeship and frankly I have not done a good job.  I have been distracted and indifferent, but that is about to change.  With the midwifery school on its way to me (the universe is making it happen without any volition on my part at all), I have to be ready when it arrives.  There is so much work to be done, but the universe has delivered on my most fervent prayers- a building to house the school (and Uzazi Village).  The commercial realty agent called me last week to inform me that she had found the perfect building for us.  She is not given to hyperbole, so I was immediately intrigued.  She gave me the address and as soon as I hung up the phone, I drove over to have a look at it.  It was none other than the very building I had prayed to the heavens four years earlier for.  I didn't have to see the inside.  I already knew this was our building.  There is still convincing the board that this is so, but that is a task I can handle.  It turns out= when the broker did arrange a tour- that the new owner has gutted the building and will rebuild according to leasee specifications.  We can get the build out to suit our specific needs!  This excites me more than you know, Dear Reader.  We can have a dedicated room for our Lactation Clinic and a modest exam room to jump start the Ida Mae (prenatal) Clinic.  The second floor will house the midwifery school. There will be a commercial kitchen for cooking classes and a community garden just out back.  It is just what we needed and all that I have hoped for. The vision continues to be manifested.  We will have several months to plan and fund raise, while the owner rebuilds the interior of our building.  My community is in the deep and demonic throes of gentrification.  How has it happened that I should find a landlord (wealthy white male) who is community minded and wants to support nonprofits that benefit the community (rather than tenants who merely enrich themselves)?  We currently have a wonderful landlord who is timely and attentive to our every need.  I did not think we would be so fortunate as to find another like him, but we have.  My community right now is crawling with the opportunistic who see a fast buck to be made if they have the money to invest.  This man actually wants to invest in long term growth and improvement for the community and will support  my vision in the process.  I hardly know him, but I feel a profound gratitude for him.  I feel that same profound gratitude for my preceptor.  She has been patient and shown great forebearance.  I will become a CPM, God willing, by this time next year.
  • The individuals I am meeting and getting to know as I invest in them, and they invest in me, has been phenomenal. They are salve to my wounded soul.  Tru in St. Louis, Aza in DC, Danielle in Oklahoma, Qua Tia in Rhode Island, Darline in Austin, Justice and Ameena at Uzazi, the list goes on and on- these women are PHENOMENAL- and they are putting in the work, and getting the job done.   My hope for the future is in individuals like these.  They are bright, innovative, creative and passionate!  They restore my hope in humanity while so much happening in my country right now diminishes it. I see my role as investing in individuals like these.  I am hosting a ten week class free of charge starting in January for Birthworkers of Color.  I have been given so much- time to give back.  I am inviting those for whom the class would help into the next phase of their journey.  We have got to start grooming our next generation of leaders.  I call upon Leaders of Color across the US to do the same.  Look amongst your ranks and pull others forward toward the next leg of their journey.  Be a mentor, a teacher, a cheerleader, a preceptor, a friend to those just starting out, or somewhere in the middle of this vast and lonely journey toward health equity in our community.  I am working with groups of others on several projects that I hope will have national impact.  I am working locally and globally with a future orientation so that what we need will be there when we  need it.  We cannot depend on others to be attentive to our sufferings.  Uzazi Village will be a beacon and all that come with a heart to learn, will be welcomed.
  • The political events of the past month have left me stunned and disoriented.  I hardly know what to think, do, or say.  Our country needs voices like mine more than ever.  I'll press on to become the leader my community needs, to speak truth to power, to be unbending in the face of oppression and tyranny.  To do this, I need more time of reflection, more silence and solitude, more filling of my own cup, more self care and self investment.  (I also need a cat.  I am an undeniable cat person, who has never lived [in adulthood] without a cat.)  Uzazi House is in need of a warm and fuzzy feline presence to welcome those who come from far and wide to study at Uzazi Academie or have internships at Uzazi Village.  I have no words of comfort concerning political outcomes.  I do not know what this means for our country or what the future may hold.  I do believe that we get the leaders we deserve, and for some reason we must live through whatever the near future holds.  I do believe that if the national leadership does not embody the principles we hold dear, WE must embody them all the more.  I will confess that a a part of me wants to close ranks- delve deeper into the Black community and make greater investment in that= and I will.  However I will also continue to embrace those that I see as true allies (by my determination, not their's) and invite their contribution to the work.  White people will have to be willing to earn any trust that comes their way.  It does not surprise me that we are at a crossroads in our country.  White people needed to know that racism is alive and well in America and now they know it.  Let them grieve their new discovery.  We will just get on with the work as we always have.  I do see opportunity, once all the hubris is dispensed with to finally advance real dialog in this country about racial equity and equality.  Make no mistake about it, Birth Work is racial justice work.  Fighting for the sovereignty of birth, the health of women of color in birth, the right of Black babies to survive birth and infancy- that is social justice work.  If political expediency and  punitive policies abandons our communities, we will be there as a stop gap. We will train our own midwives, catch our own babies, create our own infrastructures if need be.  I am a pragmatist, and will work with whatever systems are in place, but I also understand the role of the informal economy that undergirds the health and well being of my community.  I will work for the health of Black families no matter what barriers are placed in the way.
  • Two and a half years ago I met a couple who inspired me to rethink what life partnership looked like. Their friendship has offered me an opportunity to consider what a life partnership with me has to offer.  It would be difficult.  Whomever I might be joined with in the future must not only understand or tolerate my work, but participate in it.  My life is grounded in specific place and pursuits.  This is a chance to reset my expectations both of myself and any future partner.  What I find is that my expectations are high.  I will be happily alone rather than ever be unequally yoked.  I will only be with someone who is my equal and who is worthy of me. There will be no compromises made.