Grief: A Shady Tree

This past week I was having a very light hearted conversation with a friend of mine and the topic of grief came up. We talked about therapy and the length of the process. Then I realized that the process is ongoing and doesn’t always end. In fact maybe it never really ends. It will always be a spot we visit. Like a patch of grass under the shade of a tree. It is beautiful and alive but cold and lonely. Sometimes we invite people under the tree with us and other times we close our eyes, put our hands over our ears, and force everyone out. Or maybe that tree is in a park surround by people riding bikes and rollerblading but you are just sitting there watching all the happy go by. And unbeknownst to everyone else you are screaming on the inside.

The thing about grief or grieving is, you eventually get out of the hole. You start to really live because you know what it’s like to see someone ripped away. You live loud and in the brightest of colors. You laugh again. You are joy again. The memories are no longer burdens tied to you like weights. They’re light and airy. They bring you happiness. Here is what they don’t tell you. Every now and then you will be triggered. You’ll inhale a smell, see an image, or have a flashback and suddenly there you are under that tree again. It’s inevitable. The thing to remember is this; you can not stay under the tree. You can not stay down. You can NOT stay down. You don’t get to die under that tree. You don’t get to watch the world go by. You must live because that is why we are here.

So get up. Dust the dirt and grass off your pants. Breathe in that air. Look up to the sky. Wipe the tear. Shake away the anger. And take one step out of the shade. That tree is a place you can visit. But it is not a place you can stay.

Dreamers and Believers



Love and Lost or Not At All

“It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” This has to be one of the most cliché quotes of all time reverberated from generation to generation. For the longest I thought, sure having love is everything. And I still believe that. There’s nothing like love or like falling in love. That unhindered banter like old friends seeing each other after the longest time. Rooting for someone more than they root for themselves. Two people coming together to walk their paths simultaneously. It’s one of the things we should strive for in our lives. Love makes life better.

But what happens when we lose that love. We’ve all been through breakups right? Some don’t matter that much but when you truly lose the one you loved is the pain worth the pleasure. I’ve often times thought no, I would rather trade all the mushy lovey moments to not have to grieve that lost. That is especially true if the hurt outweighs the good. Maybe I’m nuts but even though I think some hurt is expected through life, I’d like to get through life with the least amount of blemishes as possible. One less crack. One less break. Funny thing about love though, is it makes you blind and forgetful. That’s why we so willingly hurl ourselves into the unknown time after time.

But that’s not the only love we hold through our lifetime. There’s the undeniable love for a child or parent. Losing your love by way of death has to be the worst way to have someone ripped from you. Because they didn’t walk away, they were taken. The anger and hurt you feel isn’t towards them. The love and those memories become the comfort that keeps you going on. It becomes their manifestation in the future. That is the exception. So is it really better to have loved and lost? Only you can examine your love list and decide but what I will say is whether it was worth it or not still do it. Jump blindly and empathetically into the open abyss. Jump wildly and don’t look back because even with the hurt love is worth experiencing.

Dreamers and Believers


Run Hard: When To Take Your Shot

I had a thought the other day. It stemmed from a line in the show that I’m in that closes this weekend but I couldn’t help but wonder. The line goes, “You can have all the talent in the world but if someone doesn’t let you in…”. How true is that statement? I think about the parallel to the actor world and how true that statement is. There are so many actors with not just talent but who have the drive and could be stars if just given the chance. It’s the reason we hear people talk about being discovered. They got picked. They weren’t more capable. Someone let them in.

Is this to say that every person on our screen or the big stage was simply handed their shot? No. But I can’t help to wonder if some of these actors happened to be in the right place at the right time? Did they pick the right school with the right scout? Did they make the right connections or knew a friend of a friend? Or did they just hustle and hit the pavement until they reached their dream? I wonder these things as I hustle to reach my own dream. Am I hustling hard enough? Is it the right hustle with the correct steps? Who has these answers?

Then I think about our good friend Hamilton. Yes, that Hamilton. CD 1, Track 2 My Shot speaks to me on so many levels. In fact it’s my preshow song for the show. It seems that everything and anything can be at least perceived as a shot. When you find something that can uplift you and your gift you have to give it 100%. I guess that’s the answer. You have to look at every opportunity as a chance to get further. It doesn’t matter who tripped and landed into fame or who got there before you. You are racing against yourself and your own will to succeed. Run hard, run smart, and run often. So in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “I’m not throwing away my shot”.

Dreamers and Believers


Black Panther: A Hero For All

I had the pleasure of seeing the Black Panther movie, not once but twice. Frankly, I’d see it a third time if I had the chance. The hype around it was overwhelming which furthered my anticipation but left me concerned as well. What if it wasn’t that good? What if it’s all hype? We’ve all been there. People hype something up so much that by the time you see it you’re expectations are so high that everything falls short. I can truly say that did not and will not happen with Black Panther.

To start, the costumes were gorgeous. If you have ever observed different African cultures you would be able to pinpoint how they incorporated the tribal dress of different people on the continent into the film. There were also elements of Asian culture and beading as well. The colors and futuristic traditions are beautiful. The action was quick and captivating. The music was an underlying force driving the action and emotions forward. A perfect blend of classical and hip hop. The actors were the best and the brightest. A powerhouse of undeniable talent.

But the movie goes beyond just cinema gold. This movie shouts into the open abyss that YOU too are included. That black artists aren’t merely  enemies or drug dealers. That they can be kings and have integrity. It was uplifting for me as an adult to see the excellence being portrayed on the screen but I couldn’t even imagine what it was like for little black boys and girls to see a hero for them. What it would have felt like for me as a kid to see this portrayal. Strip away all the money & glitz, the acting & artistry, and you are still left with a story finally told. It empowers children of color, little girls to know they too can be warriors, and shows that Black Panther can still be a hero to anyone of any color. That is power. That is Black Panther.

Dreamers and Believers



Nefertiti: A Brief Lesson

Hello and welcome back to Kellz U my friends. It is time to start the lesson. I think it is safe to say that people of color are quite tired of being erased or written out of their own history. It has become almost comical at this point. I’m sure many of you saw or heard about the unveiling of Nefertiti on The Today Show by Josh Gates. He proudly pulled off the sheet and millions of jaws dropped around the nation. I was stunned. They thought they had really nailed it. Like they had done an A plus job when in fact he missed the marked.

Can we first recognize that Egypt is in AFRICA. Pick up a map and right there in the north east sector is Egypt. Just across the water from Greece. But beyond that, Egypt is naturally a hot place. Beaming sun and heavy heat. Biologically speaking anyone native to a region will have certain qualities that are conducive to that region. Darker eyes to protect against the sun, melanated skin to keep from burning, etc. This Nefertiti resembled a lightly tanned woman with tight pursed lips. Now I’m not saying that she should have been a deep dark chocolate woman but what was presented was far from reality.

It really kills me how some people can be so oblivious to their decisions in the world and how they affect others. This moment was supposed to be one of uplifting. And instead it became just another moment of being ignored and put to the side by those in charge. I don’t know what will happen to this very laughable reconstruction of Queen Nefertiti but it is my sincerest hope that they go back and start again. Put pride aside, realize the wrong, and do the right thing. We cannot turn a blind eye. We must demand better from those who will tell our story.

Dreamers and Believers


Black History Month: Friend or Foe

Happy Black History Month everyone!! It’s that time again when we gather for 28 days and talk about MLK and Rosa Parks. Where the history begins with slavery and now ends with Barak Obama. That is the legacy. From slave to president. And though that is impressive, even if it took hundreds of years, it has become a point of contention for many. I personally waver back and forth on the importance or lack there for a month of black history.

It seems to me that having a month devoted to the rich history of black people is greatly needed and beneficial since it is so very neglected in the core curriculum of the majority of schools. In the month we get to learn about black inventors, artists, and revolutionaries. It’s a time of immense pride that exuberates from sea to shining sea. We get to bask in the beauty that is black. I love it but it does feel like a handout. A bone being tossed to pacify the cries of black people. But until black history becomes American history we need an identified space where everyone acknowledges our place and accomplishments in the world.

But here is part of the problem. Why is it that black history begins with slavery? Did black people not exit until slavery became a profitable enterprise? And when we say black history do we mean in accordance with America or black people all over the world? That’s the thing, in America “Black History” is in direct relation to the foundation of America and since the country was built on the backs of slaves it makes sense that, that is where the book begins. That doesn’t make it the end all be all for black people but in America that is the start. I do find it comical though, that every February we start with slavery and slaves yet much of America wants black people to “get over it”. Oh America.

If we could expand the learning a bit more from slaves and MLK to leaders who are not as well known, freedom riders, or the four girls who died in that church as little champions then the month could be more beneficial and less blasé. Let’s try the Harlem Renaissance! I can not tell you how many people have never heard of the Harlem Renaissance. It pains me. If I could be even more frank, if we could sprinkle in some colored folks into the general lesson we could get rid of the borders that hold us in. We could be free to be unapologetic. We wouldn’t need a month. I do celebrate black history month but to be honest I try all year long to spread knowledge, awareness and joy around black people and their accomplishments. To break the barriers. To make black history just history. People say they want to end racism but maybe the way to do that is to be more inclusive.

Dreamers and Believers


For your studying pleasures below is a list from me to you:

Robert Abbott, Ella Baker, Benjamin O Davis Sr., Dr. Charles Drew, Katherine Johnson, Henrietta Lacks, August Wilson, Marie Van Brittan Brown, Marian Croak, and Amiri Baraka.

Colorism: A Dark Shadow

Welcome back to Kellz U. In this very progressive day and age it seems that there are still basic things that people don’t know. And not for lack of being told but for lack of understanding. I came across a video of an Afro Latina artist explaining to a trio of interviewers the struggle of becoming mainstream because lighter skinned girls are picked first. Watching their reactions and accusations of it all “being in her head” was unbelievable. What made it even more disheartening was that the two giving her the most opposition were men of color. Let’s start at the top.

What is colorism? According to the Oxford Dictionary, colorism is “Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group”. Meaning when groups in Asia go to the beach covered head to toe so they won’t get darker, that is colorism as being darker is looked at as not beautiful. Millions of  people bleaching their skin because being lighter is more desirable is another example. But where does this idea of being lighter is better come from?

Well, it goes back pretty far. In the Bible everything that is white/light is good, prosperous, and right whereas everything that is dark/black is evil, wrong, and bad. Moving forward during slavery, black people specifically, were treated different based on the lightness of their skin. The darker skin people were out in the fields and the lighter and thus closer to white, where kept in the house. This was seen as some sort of favoritism though being in the house was no sanctuary. And now even until this day lighter skin is preferential. When shows, music videos, or movies are looking for “girlfriend” material or the star of the shoot they’re usually racial ambiguous. Long wavy hair, light skin and light eyes. Even in dating, men look for similar things.

We’ve been indoctrinated into this ideology that darker skinned women are uglier. Therefore when we, darker women, try to reach career goals, life goals, etc it is difficult as we become overlooked or picked last to those who are lighter. For example, when the tv show Empire was in it’s beginning stages of casting the “A girls” were to be pretty, light, wavy to curly hair, and girlfriend material where as the “C girls” were dark, nappy hair, and ratchet. And this was printed for an open casting call. It’s one thing for people to look down on you because you look different but when those people have the same skin it’s a different more hurtful beast.

So there you have it. You know what colorism is, where it stems from, and how it affects those on the receiving end. It is real and casts an ugly shadow on the darker sisters of the world. So be mindful of not just your words but your ideologies and their affects on those around you. All shades of all races are a beautiful art piece. A lovely rainbow delicately formulated. Let’s not forget that. Step out of the shadow.

Dreamers and Believers