Finding My Space

For the last two days, I’ve been part of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice.  It is an inspiring space, a challenging space, an authentic space.  But, I always worry about my legitimacy in such a space, even when I’m told that I do indeed belong there and even when my whole heart tells me that I am among my people.  It’s been a moving 48 hours.  I was particularly moved by the keynote address yesterday afternoon by Dr. Cynthia B. Dillard, an amazing teacher-scholar, author, queen mother, which I was tweeting from, diligently.

Dr. Dillard responded to one of my tweets with a tweet of her own that said, “Your work and your life is REAL. Never forget. #iseeyouandyouareablessingtome” And there is no way that she could have known, except in the way that we, as humans know one another, to what degree her tweet was healing to me.  A mothering moment that has been so rare to me in the last 20 years since I lost my mother.

So, I wrote this poem, to reflect, because it has been so long since I’ve found space for this particular voice–the voice of my heart.  This is a poem of remembering, inspired by Dr. Dillard’s words to all of us, and to me:


It is silent around me, but the voices inside of me are loud

I was once loud too, as a child

When my laugh was loud and free, my voice, loud and clear

When I was unapologetic

Before I learned that loud was disrespectful

That it was better to be silent

That silent meant grateful

And I didn’t want to be ungrateful


Looked down upon

Speaking out of turn, being out of place

And I began to struggle to know myself

And I began to forget myself

And I began to be silent



I knew for a long time that I didn’t belong

Didn’t belong in an environment where poverty was attributed to individual flaws

Didn’t belong in a place where almost no one looked like me and even fewer thought like me

Didn’t belong in a space where no matter how high achieving I was and how many awards I got, I still felt like a constant foreigner

Where was I from?

But if I didn’t belong there, then where?

Neither did I belong among the free radicals

Those who spoke their minds and lived with their hearts

Because there I was, silent

Crying out from within, but

Crying silent tears within

Because there I was, alone

Apologetic when they called for me to be unapologetic

Because I didn’t want to be ungrateful


Looked down upon

Speaking out of turn,

Being out of place

But there was no place

For me to be




On me

On my shoulders

In my heart

Because I was too afraid

Too afraid to be me

Too afraid to stand up for me

But for others, I would fight

Lift my voice






But I didn’t know why I felt so lost in the fight

Because I was alone

I felt invisible

Until I was seen



The way home

Has always been with me

Calling me loud from within

Buried beneath the sea of forgetting

Until I remembered who I was before I forgot

Because you saw me

And called me

To do what it was that I was born to do

To be joyful in the struggle

To laugh loud and proud

To be unapologetic in my fight

Not just for those I love

But also for me

Because I am worthy

Because I am seen

Because my struggle is real

As real as I am

But I can find joy

And I can be free