Saturday, November 9, 2019

Another Way Home

Sometimes I take another way home
Down twisting, winding roads
Past homes with fences
Long driveways
And landscapers cleaning up the leaves
Sometimes I catch the smell from fireplaces
As I drive by
And I imagine that the bathtubs inside
Are surrounded by heated tiles
And could fit these long legs
In a way my own tub
never could.
Our floors and doors need to be replaced
And our deck has definitely seen better days
The roots of our trees have
cracked our driveway

And our branches don't hold up too well
In the wind
I grew up where there were more bricks
Than trees
Flowers were more plentiful at the
Botanical Gardens
Than in the neighborhood
So don't get me wrong.
I am grateful for what we have.
Sometimes, though,
I take another way home
And I wonder
What it would be like
To truly
The American

Saturday, June 1, 2019

What I've Learned from Game of Thrones

SPOILER ALERT!!! You've been warned.

 I don't like gore. I also don't like seeing explicit sex scenes, sexual violence, or excessive crude language. I'm a tender person, and harsh things stick with me for far too long, so I'm VERY careful with what I allow my eyes to see and my ears to hear. That's why I hadn't been watching Game of Thrones. I was intrigued, though, because I have enjoyed reading The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Harry Potter series seeing those movies. Actually, to say I enjoyed them is an understatement, and I couldn't help but wonder, What will happen when winter comes?

 I was visiting my family in New York City a few weeks ago when the final episode aired, and they seemed to have been pretty deeply impacted by the previous episode - something about how Daeneyrs reacted to a surprising beheading and what happened after she said Dracarys (had to look that up) to Drogon. I watched the final episode with them, fully prepared to have my hands in front of my eyes pretty much the whole time. That last episode wasn't too bad, though, so I was further intrigued by what came before all of that. Arya seemed pretty dope. I had seen folks posting about her on Twitter previously. Something about, "Not today," and since she was in the final episode, I figured she must have made some kind of impressive boss move and survived. I wondered how Bran ended up in that wheelchair, and where the dragons came from.

Thankfully, I discovered VidAngel - a tool that allows you to filter out what you don't want to see/hear in shows/movies. After just about a week of watching, I'm already on season 5, episode 4 (not because I've been aggressively bingeing [I think I'd rank my binge level as medium], but because my filters make the episodes a lot shorter). Here's what I've learned so far:

1. There's a such thing as siblings being too close.
2. Be careful climbing around and looking through windows. What you see can change your life.
3. Rats don't like being in a heated bucket.
4. If you promise to marry person X, and then you marry person Y, the father of person X may take it personally. If someone shows you who they are, believe them. If someone shows you how upset they are, believe that, too. #RedWedding
5. Serena and Cairo both brought back obsidian when they went to Western Canada with People to People as Student Ambassadors years ago. I just thought the stones were interesting, but it turns out that they can come in really handy.
6. Don't let creepy, glowy blue-eyed creatures from the woods hold your baby. 
7. I knew Rose Leslie as Gwen Dawson on Downton Abbey and Maia Rindell on The Good Fight. Turns out she was a really a wildling.
8. If you volunteer to be someone's champion, don't get all caught up trying to get your opponent to make a confession when you've already won. It could go really wrong.
9. Be careful near moon doors.
10. If you mistreat one of your children, you should be sure to lock the bathroom door when you're in there. That child might come in and find you when you're vulnerable and bad things can happen.

For those of you who have watched the whole series, winter has come and gone, but Winter is still coming for me!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dreaming of Reparations

Sometimes I think about reparations . . . like if the United States was to finally say, "For enslaving and brutalizing your ancestors, for stealing their labor and launching a continual assault against the Black family, for denying land, home ownership, for violating the promise of 40 Acres and a mule, for denying college admissions and employment, for lynchings, for church bombings, attack dogs, water hoses, for assassinations of leaders, for COINTELPRO, for police brutality, for the myriad injustices . . . we offer you reparations, and you get to decide what would be fair. What would that be like?

It would feel like relief. It would be like paying off our school loan debt and credit card debt that came from trying to make sure our children could enjoy a Montessori education, and so our cars (and now car) could keep running.

It would look like buying clothes, shoes and outerwear whenever we need them, not when we could afford them, or had room on credit cards.

It would be like affording to clean up the wooded lot we "own," paying for a fence, landscaping, a new deck, new doors, new floors, renovated bathrooms, another car . . .

It would look like simply paying our cell phone bills without trying to figure out which least maxed out credit card we'll put the payment on.

It would be like paying for driving school for our teens without having to try to figure out how. 

It would be like taking our children around the world, flying first class. Not having to worry about how to pay for passport fees, new luggage, nice hotels or fancy restaurants.

It would be like having them choose the colleges of their choice without worrying about how to pay their tuition, room and board or meal plan.

It would be getting Hamilton tickets for the four of us. Really good seats.

It would be our children coming home with the brochures about upcoming school trips to Spain and a musical tour of Europe - looking at our beautiful, brilliant, hard-working, focused, talented, deserving of every good thing in this world children and just saying yes.  

I wouldn't need to put medical payments on a payment plan, be scared of how to pay the high co-pay if this kidney stone doesn't stop growing and I end up needing another surgery, and I wouldn't have to be so concerned about the speed of work related travel reimbursements.

It would feel like freedom. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

America to Me

I am facilitating a discussion group at BetterLesson about the America to Me docu-series, 
and in preparation for our first meeting, our homework was to read Langston Hughes'   
Let America Be America Again and answer the following question: What is America to you? 
Here's what I wrote (with some additions based on recent events):

That's a tough question. When I consider whether or not there's another country in this world 
where I'd rather live, there isn't. I haven't traveled much, and my family, friends, and life are
all here. And at the same time - in this skin, with this hair, with this history, these experiences
 - it never quite feels like home to me. But I stay hopeful, even though I wonder if my husband, 
or my son, or my daughter or I will, one day, become a casualty of ignorance and hate (more 
than parts of us already are). 

As the Manager of Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning and an Instructional Coach 
with BetterLesson, and as a Consultant, I work diligently for equity and justice, because I believe
that progress is possible - reading, researching, and writing blog posts and content about race, 
culture, equity and ways to transform our instructional practices, contributing to podcasts, 
facilitating professional development and conference sessions - I love that I get to spend my time
working on something so important. I am constantly in search of others who are looking for the 
same thing, although sometimes the dark underbelly of this land . . . around the corner from me
 . . .  takes my breath away, as does the silence of those who watch and say it's awful, but do little 
to nothing to change things. 

The students at our town's high school (including our two children) are mostly Black and Brown 
students, and not too long ago, there were ads on our school district's new website on each of the 
six school's individual pages about a police tip line. Why was this? I wrote to the school committee 
to express my concern as a parent and educator, telling them why it was problematic, and highlighting
the connection to the school-to-prison pipeline and deficit mindset about our students. I received a 
response thanking me for sharing my concerns, assuring me that the matter would be investigated 
and that appropriate action would be taken. When the ad remained for weeks after I received this 
response, however, I was left to assume that the school committee believed that either it wasn't 
important enough to address, or the appropriate action in their minds was to continue running 
the ads. Maybe both. Thankfully the superintendent took immediate action when I shared my 
concerns with her. The ads are no longer there. At the same time, I'm looking at the school 
committee with a side eye. My babies are in that school, as are the precious children of hundreds 
of other families. The fragile trust I had has been further eroded. 

Not too long ago, in response to an incident at the high school, someone in our town proposed 
forming a lynch mob to kick in doors and do things to our children/community members that 
I will not repeat here. That was the more egregious of the comments on our town's "uncensored" 
Facebook page (hence my earlier reference to the dark underbelly). It appears that the page 
administrators didn't see fit to take immediate action to remove such a disgusting comment, 
even though there are tools on Facebook for reporting hate speech and threats, and page 
administrators can remove members . . . so many comments were left unchallenged, except, 
most notably by a student leader from the school who shared statements at the town council 
and school committee meetings. #SadeRatliff 💙

When our local paper ran an article about the success of the recent voter registration drive at the high 
school, one of the comments stated about the students, "I hope they're legal." Several of us who are all 
set with the unchecked loud underbelly reported the comment to Facebook and it was removed pretty 
quickly. I called the paper, and received a return call within an hour thanking me for bringing the 
comment to their attention, and asking me to reach out in the future should something like this happen 
again so they can remove comments and block individuals determined to spread ignorance and hate. 
With those reporting tools accessible to everyone, and with such quick responses, I have to wonder 
why more people aren't reporting hateful comments? And on that note, back to what America is 
to me . . .

I engaged in a crossing over activity last year as part of my experience with the Boston Educators 
for Equity, and became very aware of parts of my identity where I experience privilege that I hadn't 
previously considered. I have my home, my family, my work, my degrees, my experiences, my 
resources, my birth certificate, my social security card, my license, my car, my life, access to clean 
water . . . and it's a shadow of freedom/privilege that I wouldn't necessarily have anywhere else. 
But at any moment, I could be Sandra Bland. My husband could be Philando Castile. My son could 
be Trayvon Martin. My daughter could be Renisha McBride. And some people who don't look like me 
would cry, maybe protest, and write posts on social media about the tragedy of our senseless loss . . . 
and then go about their days. Shake my life like an Etch-a-Sketch drawing that was never really here. 
But the people who look like me? They'd wonder if they, one day would just be another 
Afrika Afeni Mills. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Little Me and Little You

Spending each day with you now makes me wonder what it would have been like to spend each day with you then. You know how in movies about kids hanging out with their best friends when they were little - they swing from tire swings on trees and fall into the lake, eyes closed, squealing, terrified and thrilled all at once? They run through the woods together, laughing. They hang out in tree houses for hours and hours, and they run through fields together catching lightning bugs just after sunset, put them in jars, and stare at the glow in wonder.

You were in New Jersey, and I was in Brooklyn. The only time I ever went to New Jersey was on field trips to Six Flags Great Adventure and Action Park that one time with Byrd (Yep - Officer Byrd from Judge Judy . . . My Uncle Byrd 😊). I didn't know you then, but if I did . . . if I lived in your neighborhood, you would have been my best friend just like you are now. I would have climbed out of my window after my parents thought I was asleep, and I would have run over to your house and tapped on your window. You would have looked up from your comic books, smiled, and come outside to meet me. We would've sat under a tree in your back yard, and I would ask you about your favorite colors and cartoons . . . I would have wanted to know all about your school and teachers and friends. I would have asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, and I would have shared my dreams with you. I would have figured out a way to come to see you when you were in Shenandoah. After you sang Why Am I Me? I would have been the one in the audience clapping the loudest.  

Even though there were no fields and tree houses and fireflies for us, I am so thankful that Anita invited me to come spend that weekend with her before she moved to New Mexico, and that you were speaking at church that youth day, and that you were also at her party . . . so charming, sweet, funny, engaging, alluring, even at 17. Now we get to create our own fields and tree houses. When I see you . . . when I hear your voice, I still get butterflies in my belly just like I'm sure kids do in the movies when they swing so high, eyes closed, letting go of the rope and flying through the air . . . feeling free. You make me feel free.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Intercession (Psalm 23)

You have created me to be a feeler, a nurturer . . . an empath. I love to embrace and share laughter. I love to connect and listen. Sometimes, though, the pain I see in the eyes of others and hear in their voices joins with my own and ricochets around my mind and heart. It takes shelter in that mysterious place inside of me where it feels almost impossible to shake - like there's no exit, only ache.  

But now I see that my mind and heart were never meant to be a permanent home for those things, but a way station on a journey leading to You. So today I will cup those things in my hands in intercession and offer them up to You where they belong.

I'm imagining holding the hands of each of the people You've placed on my heart, and leading them into Your presence to be showered by Your comfort, peace, rest, healing, clarity and guidance . . . to deeply know their worth and feel Your balm on their hurting places. I know the way to Your presence because in Your grace and mercy, You showed it to me.

I'm imagining sitting with them under Your tree surrounded by the aroma of Your flowers next to Your refreshing river. I am holding space, hearing their stories, and bringing their tears to You because You care for them. You are our compassionate High Priest, our Creator, and the Lover of our souls. You know the source of the pain they're carrying. You know it at the root.

And while we are there with You, they may not see You, but I do. You'll wink at me and I'll wink back and smile because You and I will know that You are there. I believe with my whole heart that they will feel Your love and be made whole, because that's what You've done for me. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Turning 44

From Friday, April 13th through Saturday, April 21st, Dishon and I took Serena and Cairo on a much anticipated family vacation, and it did not disappoint. Here are the highlights:

It's Hard to Leave Rabbit, But I'm So Strong:
We dropped Rabbit off with a new sitter this time, which was hard for me. She usually stays with a couple of different families, and this time we wanted to try leaving her with a sitter we found through who would offer her an opportunity to stay with several other dogs in a home near our town with a fenced in yard. Ever since we adopted Rabbit, we've wanted her to have a chance to be more socialized, but in a more reliable setting than a dog park. I took her for a meet and greet a while before our trip, and she did fine. Packing up all her things, though, and taking her over felt like such a betrayal! 😫 Dishon and I stayed with her for a while to make sure she was comfortable, and I was cool, but there were WAY more dogs there than when we went for the meet and greet (Rabbit, the sitter's dog and 8 other dogs mainly because of April vacation week). I didn't cry until I got into the car, which was big for me 😢. For the most part, she had a great time. There were a few incidents with another dog who kept dog profiling her, trying to dominate her and all that just because of her breed. Rabbit was patient for a while, but suffice it to say that Rabbit left the other dog with no doubt about how she rolls when pressed, and how she responds to other dogs being bullied. Enough said.

Really Good Food:
We had so much great food during our trip! We left on Friday, April 13th when Serena and Cairo got home from their early release day, and the trip down to New York was mostly good until we took the exit for the George Washington Bridge. We sat in traffic for HOURS! When we arrived at my parents' apartment on Staten Island, we were greeted by hugs, kisses, curried goat, beans and rice, cabbage, and BBQ chicken. We had a chance to hang out with family, get a good night's sleep, enjoy some legit bagels (yall know NYC bagels are the truth, right?), sausage and coffee for breakfast, and get back on the road.

We stopped in Aberdeen, Maryland for lunch. We intended to grab a quick lunch at Chick-Fil-A, but it was SO packed, so we went next door to The Olive Tree. I won't front. At first, I was thinking it was going to be a bootleg Olive Garden (especially when we got salad and bread sticks after we sat down), but the food was SO good! The bread sticks were SO much better than Olive Garden's (I feel like drooling right now as I'm reminiscing on the buttery goodness!), and the broiled crab sandwich I had? Out of this world good!

I'll say more about the National Museum of African American History and Culture later in the post, but here I must capture the food we had at the museum's Sweet Home Cafe. The food court pays tribute to the many types of food born out of the African American experience, and we enjoyed the fried chicken, mac and cheese, cornbread, BBQ brisket sandwich, baked beans, pecan and sweet potato pie.

We stayed in Arlington, VA from 4/14 - 4/17, and we enjoyed several good meals while there. There was one night, though, when Serena and Cai were good with their leftovers, so Dishon and I took the opportunity to enjoy a spontaneous date night at a restaurant in Shirlington called Carlyle. Yall! So much yummy goodness, from the deviled eggs with pecans and candied bacon appetizer, to the bubbly Sangria, to the Shrimp and Creamy Grit Cakes to the Warm White Chocolate Bread Pudding! I don't even know what to say about all that. It just makes me wanna holla! I was very, very happy with my food.

The night we arrived at Dishon's mom's house in Charlotte, she also had some stewed chicken, rice, broccoli, peas, and sweet potatoes waiting for us, as well as some yellow cake.

I'll also say more about my birthday later in the post, but here I must shout out the restaurant in Charlotte that my friend Romain picked out for my birthday dinner. At Cafe Monte, I enjoyed escargot, beef short ribs bourguignonne, a complimentary slice of chocolate cake, and creme brulee. It was special for many reasons - not only because Romain is from France, but also because several years ago, Dishon and I got to spend ten days in Paris, and it was one of the best times of my life. Cafe Monte reminded me of that time.

My nephew, Richard (Rajendra) and Dee Dee
Driving through Baltimore will always be hard: 
I won't say too much here, except to mention that although I figured that driving through Baltimore would be challenging (for those of you who don't know, my sister, Dee Dee, was murdered in her home in Baltimore almost four years ago), I wasn't prepared for how deeply sad I'd feel, even just passing through on the highway. Dishon was driving, and I Googled her name to see if the police ever identified her murderer. The case is still open, and my heart still breaks when I think of her.

Serena and Cairo are Incredible Young People: 

Before we left for our trip, Dishon, Serena and Cairo gave me early birthday presents and the kids gave me the most beautiful birthday letters. Our conversations over meals during our trip were fun, funny, enlightening, and pleasantly surprising. I'm aware of how observant, sharp, and witty they are, and it's always wonderful to learn more about their thoughts, opinions and ideas. They are so special to me, and I want to give them the world, always. In order to make this trip affordable, we had to make some frugal choices, and it was hard to get to our first hotel and find out that it was actually an updated motel. If I had my way, we'd stay in the fanciest places with all the best amenities, and I felt a little sad when I saw our accommodations. They weren't bad . . . just not exactly what I was expecting. One of the things that touched me most about Serena and Cairo? When we got there, they were so excited about where we were staying. It was their first time having a room all to themselves instead of having to stay in the same room with us, and their excitement and gratitude did my heart good.

Hard to Ride the DC Metro: 
On Sunday, April 15th, we were so excited to get to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. After the breakfast buffet at the hotel, we boarded the hotel shuttle that took us to the Pentagon City Metro station. It took a while for us to figure out how to purchase our SmarTrip cards. I'm used to taking public transportation in New York City and Boston where the fare is the same on all the trains. In DC, however, it matters where you're boarding, where you're getting off (you have to scan your pass both entering and exiting the stations), and whether you're riding during peak or off-peak hours. Thankfully, there are Metro staff at each station to help you figure things out.

The African-American Story Never Ceases to Amaze Me:

At a professional development session several years ago, the facilitator shared a video clip of Black children reciting a poem called What Makes You So Strong, Black People? It was an old video, and I haven't been able to find it since, unfortunately, but that's what kept coming to mind as we descended through time in the elevator, seeing the exhibits about the middle passage, reading the accounts of the enslaved Africans who jumped from the horrific ships to the sharks below, the inhumane conditions of those ships, how one woman scraped the dirt from a yam on the ship and ate the dirt to keep part of Africa inside her, ascending and seeing auction block, Harriet Tubman's shawl, Nat Turner's Bible, the words of the Declaration of Independence juxtaposed against all of the injustices my ancestors suffered, Marcus Garvey's hat, KKK hoods, the many, many names of lynching victims, Emmett Till's memorial (including his casket - Emmett was not much younger than Cairo when he was tortured to death), sitting at a lunch counter and choosing what I'd do if I were a Freedom Fighter, someone trying to integrate schools, or a civil rights worker training to sustain harm, reading the words of Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes . . . I, Too, Am America. Black is Beautiful, Strong, Resilient, Deep, Brilliant, Joyful, Contemplative, Creative, Analytical, Undaunted. It was really helpful to be reminded of all that in the midst of the Starbucks incident, the young man in Michigan, shot at for asking for directions, and the massive confederate flags flying over the highway on our way home.

The MLK Memorial Tops Them All:

After spending the day at the NMAAHC, we got tickets for the Hop On/Hop Off Red Tour Buses, and rode around to several DC monuments on a cold, rainy day. We stopped at the Jefferson Monument (I thought the statue of Jefferson at the NMAAHC was much more appropriate - behind him there was a stack of bricks with the names of the enslaved people he "owned," including many of him own children with Sally Hemings).  We also went to the MLK memorial - so powerful, and surrounded by many of his quotes - many of which we don't often hear recounted on the celebration of his birthday each year, interestingly enough. We stopped at the Lincoln Memorial as well before heading back to Union Station for lunch.

Storytelling and Laughter:

Aquiva, Jay, Taurean and Legaci
Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures while we were together, but the night we arrived in Charlotte, we got to spend time with Dishon's brother Jamie, his fiancee, Aquiva, and our nephew, Taurean (Aquiva's granddaughter and Taurean's niece, Legaci is pictured here, but we didn't get to see her that night). One of my most favorite things is being around Dishon and Jamie. Brothers. Jamie is 13 years older than Dishon. There were a couple of moments where I felt like we went back in time, listening to Jamie talk about his desire to protect Dishon - Dishon had a very cruel second grade teacher who made every day of that school year awful for him, and much to Jamie's chagrin, he didn't find out about this until years later. They had moved from Paterson, NJ, which was a mostly Black community, to East Rutherford, NJ, where there was, unfortunately, a lot of racism, Jamie talked about what that experience was like for him, and what he needed to do to take care of himself. My favorite part of the story? Jay called his friends in Paterson to let them know he needed help after someone tried to mess with him. He said it was like Harlem outside by the time school was over, and he didn't have any more problems after that. Dope! On that Vibranium/Wakanda level! Yes! Dishon and Jay are both such great storytellers, and there's always SO much laughter, and such great memories are both shared and created. . It won't make sense to you, but I'll just drop this right here . . . Let me get that smothered and covered . . . Cook Out style. 😂😂😂 I can't wait to see Jay, Aquiva and Taurean again at our niece's wedding in June! We'll definitely get some pictures then.

Your Birthday Can Remind You How Loved You Are:
On my birthday, I received over 140 Facebook messages (including one from Chris Emdin! What?!?! 😁), in addition to calls from family and Voxes and emails from my colleagues. I got to do everything I wanted to do that day, including eating good food, watching Netflix (finishing A Series of Unfortunate Events, and almost finishing Maya Angelou's And Still I Rise documentary), napping, and spending time with family and friends.

Good Friends Make Life So Extra Sweet!: 

Romain is such an amazing friend. Knowing that I was going down to Charlotte, and had yet to meet his wonderful wife and sons, we made arrangements to get our families together. Being good friends with me means getting to know some things that most people don't know . . . including my requirements for a perfect meal for my birthday. Romain took all of that information (and it's quite a bit!), and not only did he find the best restaurant for me to celebrate my birthday, but we got to spend it with him and his family. He made sure that it was extra special 💕. We even got to go to his house to hang out before going to the restaurant, enjoy an amazing meal, have a rousing Happy Birthday sung to me at the restaurant, enjoy some treats from the Amelie French bakery, and coffee back at his house while our kids played video games (more like Cai played video games with his boys and Serena fought off sleep 😂). Serena loves to sleep.
Bringing Dreams to Life:

My mom has been an amazing cook and baker for YEARS! I am so proud to see her business cards! If you're in the New York City area, and you find yourself in need of something sweet, like a carrot, chocolate, red velvet or Italian Cream cake, definitely let me know and I'll put you in touch with her. You will not be disappointed.


Dishon's mom absolutely has the gift of hospitality, and she made a big dinner to celebrate our visit on our last night there. We got to see Aunt Rita, Dishon's sister Deborah and her boyfriend Vance, our niece, Asha, and her fiance, Daniel, our niece Kelly (Ni'Jah), her daughter, Hayley, our nephews Jared and Micah, Micah's girlfriend, Elizabeth, her son Timmy and their son Zion and friends from Mama Shirley's church. Lots of stories and laughter that night, too!

Dishon and his mom, Shirley
Dishon and his sister, Deborah
Ley, Ni'Jah and Aunt Rita
Asha and her fiance, Daniel

Jared, Dishon and Micah
Dishon, Zion and Me

Runs in the Family:
When we sat and talked with Aunt Rita at Mama Shirley's house before everyone else showed up, she talked about how, even now that she's retired, she continues to facilitate diversity trainings.  Hmm . . . Familiar. See my account below of the big things for me in 2018.

It's Hard to Officiate in Virginia:

I won't say too much about this, except that Dishon will be officiating our niece's wedding in June, and in order for him to officiate this wedding, he had to present his license, ordination papers, a letter from his supervisor stating that he's a pastor in good standing, a fee, appear in person to swear an oath (which we were thankfully able to do on our way back home). Serena had to use the bathroom while we were there, and I was a bit scared to let her go into the building for fear that they might also ask to have her as our first born child. Sheesh. Oh, and did I mention that it's only good for one ceremony? 😒

I'm now scared of bridges:

I'm scared of heights. Very. So imagine how I felt approaching the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland. #NotSoNice #Terrified #WhySoSteep #NewPhobia

Playlists Make Road Trips Extra Good:
Being stuck in traffic drives me crazy, but good music makes it so much better. I made a road trip playlist when I went to Vermont with my friend Laura in February, 2017, and I haven't listened to it since then, so it was fun to listen to it on this trip. I forgot that I also made a playlist to serve as the soundtrack for when my novel is published and becomes a movie. Good stuff! I made the car into my own karaoke bar while I was driving 🎤. I'll resurrect those playlists again on our way back to Virginia in June.

And the celebration continues this month. . . my parents told me that they sent me something special in the mail 💖. There's going to be a cupcake with my name on it when I go into my office on Thursday, and I have a hangout coming up with my girl Laura next weekend. April is a big party all month long. And rightly so! 😉

Big Things in 2018!: 

This year has already been pretty incredible professionally. And I feel like it's only going to keep getting better. I feel like Harry Potter in The Half Blood Prince when he took the Felix Felicis. #Winning

In early March, my sistafriend and colleague, Monica Washington, and I co-facilitated our Required Reading Reconsidered session for the first time at the Kauffman Foundation's Amplify Conference for Kansas City Educators of Color. I won't front - when Chris Emdin dapped me up during his talk, that was EVERYTHING! I have video!

In late March, my little brother from another mother and colleague, Chuks Ekwelum, and I co-facilitated our Interrogating the Curriculum: When Are We Going to Learn about Us? session at The Power of Culturally Responsive Education in the 21st Century conference in New York City.

In April, Monica and I co-authored our Required Reading Reconsidered blog post, and I was featured on the Truth for Teachers podcast discussing the School to Prison Pipeline.

Gabourey Sidibe said my name and read my question on the Smollett Family Book Signing and Interview (check out minutes 15:30 - 17:35). What?!? Got to hear Jake, Jurnee, Jazz, and Jussie answer my question! 😳😁

By May 1st, I'll find out if I won a spot in Spotify's podcast contest. Fingers crossed!

At the end of May, Monica and I will co-facilitate our Required Reading Reconsidered session at the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) annual gathering in Boston.

In June, Dishon and I will go away for a pastor's retreat and we'll all travel back to Petersburg, where Dishon will officiate our niece, Esa's wedding. It'll be another family reunion, and I can't wait!

In July, Monica and I will co-facilitate our Required Reading Reconsidered session again at the National Teacher Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

In the fall, I'll be featured on the Truth for Teachers podcast again, discussing Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning.  

You know how on Seinfeld, there was the year of George? This is feeling like the year of Afrika, and it feels fine! God, I am so deeply grateful for your love, protection, provision, wisdom, patience, grace, mercy, favor, creativity, and how You share Your joy with me. Year 43 was pretty awesome. Here's to a great 44th.