Grief & Love

My mother and me as a toddler wearing a birthday hat

Grief is so hard.

It comes out of nowhere and seems to be everywhere all at once.

I had a beautiful, wonderful day.

And then, it crept in.

Slowly at first, through inklings of self-doubt.

Then a bit more steadily, like a fog determined to roll in.

And now, it is here.

With me.


Sitting in my heart as I watch my sweet little girl coloring a rainbow.

Sitting in my throat, a stifled flood.

It’s been so long.

26 years on Wednesday.

But my love is deep.

And my grief is fed by the depth of that love.

It is here.

With me.

Sitting in my heart as I watch my sweet little girl coloring a rainbow.

Sitting in my heart as I watch my husband help my son take apart a pen and put it back together.

I wonder if they can take apart my heart and put it back together as easily.

Sitting in my throat, a stifled flood.

Spilling over, running down my face.

It’s been so long.

My love is deep.

It will sustain me.

But grief is so hard.

How do you hold it all?

hands holding a glass vase pouring water

How do you hold death and grief,

trauma and everyday drama,

joy and accomplishment,

productivity and pain,

all in one heart?

all in one head?

all in one body?

There is only space for it all in community.

Community heals.

It does not erase the pain, but I have been through erasure and it’s not healing.

It lightens the load.

It reminds me that there is light in the fog of the everyday

and in the dark of darkest night.

It reminds me that I grieve because I love deeply,

and I have joy because I love deeply.

It reminds me that some things can be let go,

and others will never let me go.

It reminds me that I am not holding it all in my heart, my head, my body.

It is not only mine.

We were not meant to walk in the world alone.

How do I hold it all?

In community.

Justice as Praxis in Education (Day 2): Bringing authenticity & ourselves to justice in research & praxis

Light shooting from a central spark

You are a light.

Your story is a gift that we can all learn from.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Today is day 2 of the Justice as Praxis in Education Conference.

We opened by watching Amanda Gorman’s beautiful “The Hill We Climb” and reflecting on her powerful words and what we took from day 1 of the conference and our time together.

We were then led by the amazing and beautiful Drs. Cati de los Rios & Leigh Patel, who spoke to us about Doing Methodological Justice in research. What a joy to watch these powerful women and scholars engaging in conversation about research that is deeply rooted in community, in long-standing work with communities, and in acknowledging that we tell our stories about communities and for particular audiences. It’s an important reminder for those of us who are academics. Are we doing research with and for communities? If so, then highly ranked peer-review journals may not understand the boundaries we push through centering stories and voice and refusing to decontextualize them and take them out of their fullness, richness and communities. But, this doesn’t mean those stories don’t belong in the academy. We can do our work in AND alongside communities. In fact, that is what we are called to do.

I got the privilege to speak as the lunch keynote for this beautiful event. I asked more questions than I gave answers, considering who we are, what our roles are and how we continue to move towards justice as praxis in education. My talk notes are here.  What blessed me most about giving this talk was being in community in a keynote. Was so grateful for those who came out and engaged in thoughtful ways in the talk.

We are closing out through writing out now.

I am reflecting on the blessings of doing this work.

I am reflecting on my light.

My light reflects your light.

Tell your stories, my friends.

Live, write, speak, teach your truth.

Be in community.

And be well.

Justice as Praxis in Education (Day 1): Preparing a Place, Holding Space & Creating Magic from the Margins

purple smoke

I have the privilege of being a part of a small community gathering of educators looking at what justice as praxis in education might look like, feel like, be like? How can we create spaces for theorizing justice & building pedagogies of justice? How can we reclaim justice as a fundamental right? How can we move away from our individual notions of winning and towards a collective healing that can only be realized when basic justice is a reality in education and in the world?

I want to share my privilege with those who may read these words because even in the past 8 hours, I feel an important shift, multiple important reminders of what the work of justice actually looks like, feels like, is, for me. And while there are certainly fundamentals of justice, as the powerful Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings reminded us in today’s open conference keynote, there is also a balance in finding one’s role in the work of justice, one’s place within a greater, beloved community.

The day began with a powerful restorative circle led by Dr. Maisha T. Winn, someone who is dear to me and my heart. Dr. Winn asked us first to consider and share who we are and why we are here in a virtual circle where everyone spoke in turn. These seem like simple questions, but they are profound. They ground my work in justice, in research, in education. She then asked us to consider the idea of pandemic as a portal, from the work of Arundhati Roy. If pandemic is a portal, what are we moving away from? What are we moving towards?

I am moving away from invisibility, fear, obligation, and a need to justify & prove my worth.

I am moving towards freedom, community & generosity.

From that grounding, the power of theorizing justice imperatives from Drs. Grace D. Player & Justin A. Coles. Dr. Player brought us first into a meditation on justice and challenged us (but it was a real challenge for me) to visually do work that heals, bringing creativity & artistic acts as a part of theory making.

people on a hill

Dr. Coles had us consider the outer-spaces and what it would look like to image our communities. What does it look like to radically dream and live abundantly? How do we speak back to a culture where darker people suffer most? How can be create alternative realities? 
My outer-space

Who comes into these spaces with us? Who is excluded from these spaces? What parts of ourselves show up & are held back?

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings was, as I mentioned, the lunch lecture, and everyone should just listen to and bask in her beautiful wisdom and brilliance. I live-tweeted her lecture, but here are some of the parts of her lecture that most profoundly impacted me:

In the afternoon, the second workshop session was led by Drs. Theda Gibbs Grey & Dywanna Smith on promoting pedagogical justice.

I was struck by the way Dr. Gibbs Grey began with the reminder that we are here because of our ancestors, our foremothers, a theme for me. How do we hold space for Black girls, in and beyond classroom spaces? How do we identify and address structures that render Black girls invisible, as pedagogy? Who do we give up on? Allow to fail? Provoke to disengage? And how do we transform this in our teaching and advocacy?

Dr. Smith then began with love letters to those who carried her, leading us through a journey from the damage of ingesting dominant ideologies to claiming the power of her voice. As educators, teacher educators, humans, we must constantly move beyond the damage dominant ideologies create to co-create sanctuary spaces for Black girls like she was, using writing as a tool for catharsis and justice to make magic. What good is gaining tenure if we lose our souls?

Before we broke for reflection, Dr. Gibbs Grey referred to “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo and the Biblical line, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

What places are we supporting teachers to create for students? What places do we create for students? How can we enact pedagogies of love that honor the full humanity of students we are blessed to have in our lives?

Stay tuned for what’s next…

Exploring Generosity

white lily on water

What does it mean to be generous with oneself in an environment built upon scarcity?

I love to give…

and to serve…

and to contribute.

In so many ways, giving gives me life and light, hope and joy, in my darkest moments.

But sometimes, giving turns from joy to responsibility to obligation.

Sometimes giving doesn’t feel free. It doesn’t make me feel free.

Instead, giving feels expected or required.

In those moments, giving feels disrespectful and exploitative.

What happens when giving takes away from that which is most precious in your life?

I am in a constant struggle with a scarcity of time, energy and resources. While I’m working towards moving beyond the need to prove my worth, I am wondering when I will be able to draw the boundaries I need to bring the joy back to generosity.

When I will feel abundance and joy.

Today, as I considered all of this in therapy, I realized that part of generosity is generosity to myself.

What would it mean to give to myself?

To do things in service of the self?

To contribute to myself?

How would this be a counter-story to the notion that love of the self is selfish?

What would it be like to choose to give to myself freely? How could it offer a freedom from the obligation to give to others?

How could I give myself the respect that I need and thereby resist exploitation and disrespect from the external?

What might happen if I gave back to myself, if I reclaimed what was most precious, if I gave back the sense of obligation I’ve carried from generations back to the ancestors so that I could actually create the space I so desperately need?

I don’t know.

But, I do know the dark of side of giving begrudgingly, instead of from natural generosity. I know what it feels like to give from scarcity rather than abundance.

And it’s worth exploring the other side.

Intention, Recognition, Action

person holding sparkler near grass

Sometimes, you have to set a clear intention, make space for it’s realization and watch it manifest.

No really.

Sometimes it really happens like that.

In real life.

Sometimes, you have to be seen. The power of having your potential recognized can allow you to grow in ways you never thought imaginable. It can allow you to ask for what you deserve. It can allow you to step into and embrace the force within you.

Rightfully so.

Sometimes, you take action to make room for the great things that are coming and you jump with both feet, knowing that you will be embraced by the community you’ve built. And that those that would let you fall were never your community anyways.

It is beautiful to know the difference.

It is such a hard time in the world right now, for so many reasons. Things are heavy and feel sometimes so overwhelming.

But there are still sparks of life.

There are still sparks of light.

Find your people.

Hold them as tight as you can for as long as you can.

Let them light your way.

Let them embrace you.

Let them remind you that you are worth more than a position or a dollar sign, that you are worth the risk, that you are worthy because you are.

Let them remind you that you are a blessing.

Let them bless you.

Be intentional.

Listen to the truth when it comes to you.

Show up for community and let them show up for you.

Act accordingly.

In love and justice always.