“If you don’t have a vision, you’re going to be stuck in what you already know. And the only thing you know is what you’ve already seen.” – Iyanla Vanzant (a Black woman who be knowing)
This episode has been edited for clarity and brevity. You can also listen on the link above and on Soundcloud for the full episode. There’s always dope things spoken that’s not included in the written post so check it out.
Black Women Be Knowing, Episode 9, the last episode of the year. This is a slightly different episode because I’m usually accompanied by a guest- usually one of my friends- but this time I’m riding solo. I’m riding solo because like most of you, this is a really big time for reflection and it’s no different for me.
2019 was DOPE.
So today’s episode is “Black Women Be Looking Back At It” and I’m looking back in the literal and metaphoric sense. I really wanna look at where I’ve [been] in the past year and where I’m headed.
I typically [reflect] privately around my birthday, which for those of you who read and listen, know that I just celebrated a birthday last month. So as I continue in my 35th year, I’m just trying to answer the question, What’s next for me? Before I can determine what’s next, I gotta look at what has been.
I’ve been looking at a lot of memes on social media because that’s what I do in my spare time, and let people tell it, 2019 has been crazy. It has not been like that for me. I feel like 2019 has been my dopest year yet.
Seriously, while everybody else was going through the shits, I was literally doing the wop this whole fucking year. I think this was a great year in terms of money, both making it and saving it; travel was amazing and professionally I think my vision [came and continues to come] through in all the work that I do. I’ve definitely had a chance to build community in ways I didn’t even think were possible.
Shout out to the Black Excellence crew!
And lastly, I’m just living my values which is so important in this [personal, spiritual and professional] work.
Black Women Be Knowing and My WHY.
One of the things that I wanted to talk about [and highlight] in this episode is the fact that I started a blog. I started this platform one year ago and it has been an amazing journey and the most important thing people need to understand is, “Why?” (Shout out to Ann from Black Excellence. She always says you need to be clear on your why.) I feel like I really got clear on that before I started this blog.
Rewind: I used to blog for CREAD- Culturally Responsive Educators of the African Diaspora. Shout out to my CREAD family! Khalilah ‘Soul Sistah’ Brann was the creator and she was everything. She was a mentor of mine and I met her at a Racial Equity/Culturally Responsive Teaching series that was given by NYU.
I just remember her being a light. She knew who she was, why she was doing what she was doing and she was a former NYC public school teacher. I knew that whatever she was doing I had to be a part of it.
She definitely left this earth before her time. She transitioned less than two years ago. It was difficult for me because she was the first person to tell me to stop writing like an Academic. She wanted me to write things the way I would say them to my homegirls. She really helped me find my voice and made sure that who I was showed up in the work.
When she passed, I didn’t write for a little while, maybe about six months. I wrote a couple of pieces for 21Ninety but I started thinking, I wanna write shit on my own terms. I don’t wanna wait for someone to approve my thinking. I wanted to say the things that were on my mind.
I remember saying to Cynthia that I wanted to start this blog. So for my 34th birthday, I bought my domain name and I decided that I was gonna drop the blog by Jan 1, 2019. I dropped the first post on New Year’s Eve and at first it was just me writing about Black popular culture, films and documentaries and just funny shit. And then it evolved, as things do.
One of the things that I’m super, super proud of is that I let the blog and the platform take me where it needed to go. Black Women Be Knowing started with just writing and then I thought about including some of the dope ass conversations I have with my friends on a regular basis.
We were having grown women conversations that I thought was amazing content and I wanted to archive those conversations. In this case, I really had to trust the process and know that what we discussed was worth being put out in the world. And that’s where I am now.
The Million Dollar Question
On the podcast, I typically ask people to describe themselves in 5 words/phrases, but if you were paying attention, you know that I described myself on Episode 4. Instead, I’m gonna describe 2019 in 5 words/phrases and the catch for this one is I’m gonna use words that are named after albums by Black women.
The five words/phrases that I would use to describe 2019 would be
- Lemonade– No, my man did not cheat on me but we have been through a lot of stuff and this year, it’s been really cool to see how we’ve loved on each other. We’ve done a good job of really hearing one another/actually listening to each other and coming out on the other side and conquering shit together. And we ended up getting engaged as a result of the work we put in.
- A Seat at The Table– I brought the seat, the table, the table cloths, the knives, forks and the roast chicken this year. I brought everything that I could to 2019. I feel confident and solid about my thoughts, ideas and what I’m putting out in the world. I am doing the things that I feel need to get done and saying the things that need to be said. So I brought my own seat- actually I brought my throne.
- Control– This ties into the second one in that I feel like I have autonomy over my life and my choices. I’m very aligned in terms of the things I say, do, want and act upon. I don’t feel like others are in control of me and that’s a liberating feeling. I am living according to my values.
- Beautifully Human– This takes time because we are conditioned not to really like ourselves. It’s difficult to accept our flaws and make mistakes. I’m still working on that shit because I like to be right because I’m a Scorpio. Accepting my flaws is what has made me beautifully human.
- It is Finished- I am looking forward to what is ahead. This part of the journey (2019) is finished and I’m excited for what is coming.
What Time is It? Time for Black Excellence to get at me.
I like feeling like my people are with me so I asked Black Excellence to send me some questions and I’ll answer them.
The first question is from Melida, who was on episode 7. She asks, What are some of your self-reflection practices? Which ones did you find edifying? Which ones are you leaving behind? Which ones are you trying out for 2020?
BWBK: I carve out at least 20-30 minutes [daily] to think through my intention for the day. I write a motivational quote, read Iyanla Vanzant’s Acts of Faith– whatever the message is for that specific day- and I pluck three of my Goddess affirmation cards. I wanna keep those things but I also wanna add Pema Chodron’s compassion cards in 2020 as part of my morning ritual.
Mama Iris asked, What challenged you the most in 2019 and what have you learned about yourself as a result of those challenges?
BWBK: Two things that I think are always gonna be a challenge are parenting and White folks. My daughter is an adult and she has her own mind and she does things sometimes that I don’t agree with so I’ve learned the key word my father used to say to me all the time: PATIENCE.
White folks just do white people things. They have a tendency to wanna center themselves. They think their grief is the only grief that matters even if it ain’t really grief. If they broke a fingernail, everyone gotta stop what they’re doing to listen to the saga of the fingernail and it’s exhausting. So again, patience is what I learned this year.
Cynthia asked, Where does your humor come from?
BWBK: A lot of times I just be fucking talking so I’m not [always] aware that I’m even being funny. I was raised by my father’s side of the family and that was a requirement. My dad was a very funny man. He had a serious demeanor (as do I) but he was funny.
One important thing in our family is storytelling. You don’t get to stand in front of the congregation and tell a story if it’s not gon’ be funny. If you’re gonna reenact something, you better change your voice; do the full impressions. There better not be four different characters and you sounding like yourself the whole time cause that’s a bad story.
My humor comes from my family, reading a lot, watching a lot of standup. I love Moms Mabley, Richard Pryor, [Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock] and just people who are witty and take real shit and put a funny spin on it. Black people, in my opinion, don’t get that funny without experiencing some level of hardship or pain. Kevin Hart made a whole special named after that- Laugh at My Pain.
Last but not least, I trust what I say and the crazy shit that comes out of my mouth.
Felicia asked me, How do you maintain your energy? Your energy flows, connects, nurtures, educates, loves, lives and is happy. How do you keep the flow going?
BWBK: I think that is maintained through my values and my intentions. I always say, I’m choosing to have a specific kind of day. I’m choosing to be around certain kinds of energy and people. I don’t wanna be around people who aren’t solutions-oriented. Don’t come around with your list of fuck shit [especially if it’s not funny.] I don’t wanna be bombarded with other people’s shit.
I also don’t spend time doing things that I don’t wanna do so that keeps my energy in a good space cause I’m just filtering out the nonsense. That’s some advice for y’all in 2020.
Jerome says that he’s been reading [bell] hooks who says, Hope is essential to any political struggle for radical change when the overall social climate promotes disillusionment and despair- How do you keep hope in these times?
BWBK: So the Orange Man is in the White House and even though he’s been impeached, he still has to go through his bros which means we’ll still have to deal with his baby hands for Goddess knows how long…Again, although we’re in the world and have to deal with what comes with that, we still have control over some things.
I keep hope by writing, expanding my platform and being around people who challenge me but still want the same things- which is for everyone to be liberated and live their best lives. Sometimes I forget there’s shit going on cause I just be in my happy place. I don’t want the outside to come inside too often because I fear I’ll become part of the problem and not the solution. So I stay hopeful by staying focused on the work I’ve been called to do.
Ann kind of threw me a curve ball. I’m gonna simplify her question because I don’t wanna be disingenuous in my response. How do you come up with the topics for your podcast?
BWBK: The podcast has organically happened. I know why I love each and every person in my life and I wanted to highlight that in my podcast because each of my friends/family members brings something unique to my life. I am very thoughtful about every topic and which of my friends will be featured on an episode.
I think about my friends, what they offer and make sure that their voices are uplifted. I wanna do the topic justice and I wanna do my friends justice.
Finally, damn Kristina giving me the hard question: What character from a book you have read in 2019 made you re-examine who you are and what you believe?
BWBK: Kristina knows I’m an avid reader. This was actually a really good reading year- I read 62 books this year. I didn’t choose a character from a novel. It’s Bassey Ikpi in her memoir, I’m Telling The Truth But I’m Lying and that book put me in a zone.
Bassey talks about her battle with her mental health and her journey to discovering that she has Bipolar Disorder. I think it really hit home for me because I have friends who have Bipolar Disorder and one of the things that she writes about really beautifully are the moments when her friends would just hug or hold her on a dressing room floor or in the middle of 14th Street- Union Square when she was having a breakdown. Those moments of humanity and friendship made me reflect. I thought, Khalya, you needed to be a better friend when your friends were experiencing moments like those.
I am one of those Black folks that held the belief that we don’t go to therapy. That’s shit White folks do who got a lot of money and no real problems. I had to rethink some of that when my friends were going through some difficult times. There were times when my friends needed a hug and I wasn’t the one who could give it to them and that bothered me.
It made me reexamine what it means to be a friend and what it means to show up for my friends.
Lightning Round Questions: I’m gonna try to answer these in a more concise manner but don’t hold me to that.
What book would you consider your best read this year? What are you looking forward to reading in 2020 and why?
BWBK: Again, I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying, The Training School for Colored Girls and The Water Dancer. Adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism and Emergent Strategy are making me rethink some things that are still considered taboo in our society. I’m looking forward to reading Zora Neale Hurston’s book, Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Virtue and Vengeance. If you wanna know why, listen to the episode.
What’s been in heavy rotation this year (in terms of music) and what is your old school go to?
BWBK: I love Solange. She has been fucking coming through with these last two albums, A Seat at the Table and When I Get Home. The song, “Almeda” is my favorite track on the recent album. I also like Summer Walker’s new album and I definitely like ignorant shit that I can twerk to so Da Baby is on the playlist. Old school shit…when I’m cleaning, I have to listen to Prince and Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl.”
What place have you traveled to in 2019 that you would like to visit again?
BWBK: Amsterdam and not for the weed. I’m too cheap to smoke. I’m a city girl and I love that it’s a walkable city. Looking at all of the canals as I walked around was [beautiful]. The food was dope- the Dutch pancakes were fuckin’ amazing. And just going out at night and seeing people out and just being lively is really important to me as a New Yorker.
My daughter, Kaori and Iris asked, what’s your word for 2020?
BWBK: My word is alignment. Last year was ‘reflection’ and that’s still the word and that’s always gonna be the word but I think alignment is what happens after you reflect and figure out where to make the tweaks. I wanna make sure that what I say and do are always in alignment with my values. I don’t wanna feel like I betrayed myself.
What was your 2019 “for the culture” moment?
BWBK: The Miss Universe, Miss Teen USA, Miss World, all the Misses that were Black and Beautiful and recognized for that. But of course, because I’m a critic to a certain extent, while I love the range of hues and colors, we are still not seeing a range of bodies represented in these pageants. How do we honor the different bodies who represent a lot of the viewer-ship and bodies in the world? We need to do better in that area.
What was the biggest “Black woman be knowing” loss this year?
BWBK: Definitely Toni Morrison. She was a thinker and writer and tackled race in a way that no one has ever done since. Cynthia, Kristina and I reread Sula and that was so necessary. I’m not a crier but the first time I cried over a character was after reading The Bluest Eye because I really felt for Pecola.
Diahann Carroll was also a huge loss. She was so fucking dope. She was classy and gorgeous and had throwing shade down packed. I’m a huge fan of A Different World and she played Whitely’s mother. She stole every fucking scene she was in.
Rest in Power, Queens!
Who’s the Black Woman who be Knowing of 2019?
BWBK: I would have to say Nikole Hannah Jones. She is a writer for the New York Times Magazine. She writes about race, housing and school segregation and she created the 1619 Project. I have incorporated the 1619 Project into my Professional Learning Offerings this year; I listen to the podcast and I think it’s been great for Black folks as well as a great educational tool in general.
And of course, a Black woman who be knowing is ME. I’m gonna big me up.
I’m grateful and thankful to be here. I’m looking forward to more conversations and where this platform takes me in 2020.
With that being said, I’m wishing everyone a dope ass 2020! I’m optimistic. I’m happy.
Leave comments letting me know if you identified the albums mentioned.
Comment with your word for 2020.
Comment with your highs of 2020 and the ways you are overcoming your not-so-highs.
Comment with words of encouragement and whatever the spirit moves you to say.
Follow on IG @ Blackwomenbeknowing and on Twitter @ BWBK_
Black women be having 20/20 vision.
Black women be planning for 2020.
Black women be making moves in 2020.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.