“And I am whoever I say I am, ’cause if I wasn’t, then why would I say I am,” rapping in Eminem’s voice. When I was seven years old my father was tragically killed in a car accident as a passenger in my mother’s truck. He jumped out of the moving vehicle, slipped on a mat, and hit his head on a rock. Our strong healthy man, full-time student, present father, and hilarious human being who adored the Chicago Bulls was gone. I can make a long list of what I remember from this time. But the main takeaway is that I did not cry. In a recent conversation with my eldest brother, he told me of his memory of this time — I went inward.
To be honest, I remember feeling like my voice didn’t matter. Not because I come from a family that doesn’t love me, but because the devastation around me was so heavy. What room was there for my emotions and thoughts when the very people that always held it down were crumbling down? In my seven-year-old mind, it was my time to be strong, to hold us up. . . for us.
The notion of my voice not mattering was reinforced by my inner thoughts, I guess. I don’t ever remember my family telling me my voice didn’t matter. But I do remember not getting the constant attention a growing girl needed (the right attention). As time progressed, I became a big girl with a hard exterior and a Tempur-Pedic inside. I may have acted like I was impenetrable by Mom having to work long hours as a single mother, being bullied at school and on the school bus, getting molested and harassed by my next-door neighbor’s father, or boys I wanted to love treating me as expendable (and tbh, me treating my self as such). Regardless of my frontin’ of being strong, the imprints were felt and put a major dent in my foundation.
My voice did not matter. That was my truth.
Side note: I began writing poetry when my father passed away, I had binders full of poetry, and when I was around sixteen, the AC unit in my bedroom closet leaked all over my papers and bled my words. My heart for writing bled out with them. I felt like I lost the only voice I had. I stopped writing poetry.
Untilllllll dun dun dun daaaaaa!! THEE Alabama State University. In 2012, the Head of ASU’s Track & Field program, Coach Beene, listened to the call of The Most High and signed me on as a thrower with a full-ride scholarship.
When I arrived in Alabama, there was a brother, Mike Jackson, that took me to a spot called The Village Gallery and the venue took my breath away. A space that reminded me of what some call a hole-in-the-wall joint. The atmosphere was so welcoming with an entrance similar to a runway. Bar on the left, seats on the right, beautiful brown women immortalized on the walls by an artist’s eye, and straight ahead was a stage. I told the man behind the bar how much I admired the paintings, especially the larger woman in red positioned over the stage.
Frank Hardy was his name, the man, the painter, the owner of The Village Gallery. He spoke to me about an open mic that took place there every Wednesday. I told him I use to write poetry. He told me if I wrote a piece to one of his paintings he would publish it in his book. With a light blush, I told him we’ll see.
When I arrived back to Bibb Graves Hall, I thanked Brother Mike for showing me a place outside of campus. For showing me a piece of a city I didn’t know at the time I would later call home.
I thought about what Frank said about writing, and I was afraid. Fearful I would write and lose everything — again. I worried I may not have the talent or love to even write anymore. So, I called my Mommy. She firmly and with love asked/declared what did I have to lose? And with that, I wrote my first poem again, dedicated to the woman in red displayed at The Village Gallery. The piece was entitled Volumptous Woman.
Now, I give this detailed story so you understand that writing again took time. And took me getting into a place outside of my comfort zone. A place of forgiving myself and moving in faith.
Let me be clear, it was in Montgomery that I not only wrote again, but it was the first time I shared my poetry behind a microphone. Previously in high school, I gave my work for people to read, but not for me to speak.
I love Alabama State University because it was at my alma mater I found my voice.
In hindsight, it was an aggressive find. Perhaps because I spent so long not using my voice. You can ask anyone who knows “Poetic Puff” from State, I was powerful. But I Know, my power came from a place of pain. So much so, F*** boy poems and Black Power spoken word became my “stamp”. When I performed, I did not need a microphone. I was the microphone.
It wasn’t until I met my now-husband that I realized I was tired of being angry and I did not have to be angry and I could choose not to be angry. Terrence showed me a new way. A way of being heard in a vulnerable and soft state, in a fun and easy way. And that, family, was foreign to me in a man. Because it was a way I did not communicate or was, especially outside of my immediate family.
There was absolutely resistance to this renewed way of being. I believe my childhood self fought against Terrence and the pain I was trying to release… more often than I realized at the time.
What I did know is I didn’t want to write or perform poetry where I had to yell or be aggressive to be heard. My life was changing with him in it and I, subconsciously, took a step back to see what was happening to, with, and for me.
Related text: Our Love Story
Seven years later, here I am. A place where what was is important, but not critical. A place where I respect and own who I am. NOT what has happened to me or what may happen to me, but who I am now.
And family, I am wonderful. I am a strong individual full of thoughts of a better world for youth, full of playfulness with my corny dance moves and slow jokes. I am a bomb-ass writer that sees the world with the perspective of hope and “a teaspoon of truth”, a writer who honors her craft and the responsibility it has. I am a battling gourmandizer, who fasts to learn discipline, not just in food but in all The Most High has planned for me.
I am beautiful. I am no longer allowing stress a place in my space. I am supportive of those I love. I am a mother who knows The Most High is real. I am a daughter who sees light in her mother’s eyes. I am a sister who smiles at the wisdom her brothers and sisters possess. I am a friend that loves from a distance and up close as needed. I am a wife that prays and believes in all our Abba Yah has planned. I am a poet on paper and in living.
I am me.
And I am so thankful that The Most High has brought me through it all, so I can see that I am whoever I say I am. And I am for Him.
Shalom, Family. ❤
Eve’s Who’s That Girl just started playing in my head. Lol.
Random, gotta share this playlist I’ve been grooving to while editing this post lol