Wednesday, September 7, 2022

In the Time Since

 A year ago, after a difficult summer, I made the choice to center my voice, myself, and not stay in the shadow of networks that stifled life and creativity.

I inhaled deeply, said, "I will be a collector of me, and put meat on my soul." And loosed the chokehold.

Once free, I discovered and reclaimed my pens.

I pulled up on my intellectual and scholarly work.

Ministry focus changed from one state to another to embrace this particular calling

My health truly became my wealth and justice 

The youngest daughter had the fullness of me and not the silenced stressed me with my eyes glossed over from the blue light scream of a screen

Creativity sparked a new literary conversation across lines of being

Suitcases were packed and cars on roads went to new places and met new people and ate new foods

And in it all, I found some things about myself

That I am worth my ask

That I am one of 100 WOC making change but honestly, I am one of a kind being me

That being an empath is a strength and being observant is a gift but being unapologetically willing to speak up for others is a treasure

That ideas flow like the oceans surrounding me when their current is uninhibited 

That there are multiple ways of being and pressing in the stressing just to say one is relevant is not a way to live

That there are really truly so many more

That ethics and. morals mean something

That we ate anyway

That he bought me a house anyway

That we did life anyway

In the time since and in the space between asking myself why I cared so much for spaces that cared so little, I decided to not chasten myself but to remind myself that my loyalty, my giving, my presence was just misplaced, not where it was appreciated, and to take the lessons from it 

So my lessons are that I can always trust my gut, that staying silent isn't worth it, that advocacy will cost you but it is so worth it and in the end, what my father taught me still holds - do good and good will come to you and to cast my bread upon the waters, anyway.

In new phases and new intentions and new beings

I still cherish and affirm and recognize that woman who dared to lift her voice.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Reaching for the Wind

 I woke up this beautiful first day of September with my daughters on my mind.

Not surprising since I am learning to navigate my life without their schedules being the guide for the day.

They are amazing women.

My eyes closed and I tried to imagine their day, what they were planning to do, who was speaking to them. Not in a way of creeping into their lives, I raised them to be a independent, but in a "wow" kinda way.

The youngest is the bubbliest one, she was always ready to see the world and as an extrovert, always had a crew of friends. She is running for Senate as a freshman.

Her older sister is probably more like me, a bit reserved, definitely an introvert, but with her heart on her sleeve and a bit of stubborn determination, is fiercely independent and focused. She is a junior trying to figure out how to celebrate her upcoming milestone birthday and help out in the water crisis in Jackson.

What captured my thoughts this morning is that I accomplished my goal when I had them. After having son after son, I never thought I would have daughters or even have the capacity for the enormous responsibility of guiding these human beings to adulthood in a world that did not see them.

But I made sure they saw themselves and knew that their reflection held promise and hope, inspiration and intention, that they were beyond brilliant, beautiful, and bold. I wanted them to know that they know that they were wanted, loved, affirmed, and supported.

My husband's career enabled me to wrap my career around the girls, to be wholly accessible to them, to be hybrid long before the pandemic made it possible. Yes, there are parts of me that I gave up so that they could have all the parts of themselves, but what I learned through it all was that I needed to be precisely where I was during the time they were coming of age.

The shift from my very demanding brand and product marketing career to being a consultant, writer, and activist/minister, was not as hard as one may think. It was a natural fit for me and piggybacked off the volunteer work I did on the weekends when I was in that very demanding brand and product marketing life. I think all my roads led to me being a GirlMom by the time these young women came into my life.

So to be on the cusp of one of them becoming a legal adult, I just turned around, looked back in time and wondered about all that we accomplished.

They experienced their share of micro-aggression growing up in a predominately white suburb. We workshopped the situation, I kept them in opportunities to learn more about themselves and their history, my home was a library of Black excellence. They gained understanding and decidedly walked in their brilliance. Both of them were honor students.

When they chose HBCUs as their next stop on the way to life, I was overjoyed. 

They would be in an environment were they were just themselves, as part of the global majority, they could just be iron-sharpening-iron without the weight of the yt gaze or curiosity. And they are thriving, even the freshman who proudly had a mini United Nations friend group, has exhaled deeply in the two weeks she has been on campus.

I am content. Happy that I had a tiny part in forming them.


Monday, August 29, 2022

Road Trips of Living

 When was the last time you just wandered? 

Let the road take you and your spirit guide you?

My husband and I did that this past Sunday.

We live in the Northeast and as still newbies up here, have places yet to discover.  

So we got up early on Sunday morning, got ready, even skipping. my usual coffee-making-routine, and hit the highway while it was still dawning.

The birds were chirping, the trees were swaying their hello, and best of all, it was mostly still.

After making it down to the New York boarder and pretty much through what would normally be the snared traffic over the George Washington Bridge, we turned right to Long Island instead of left to Manhattan, and let the adventure begin.

So unlike my husband, we didn't really have a destination, just said, where do you want to eat breakfast? We put in a spot in Glen Cove, and when we got there, my husband went inside and said, "nah." So we did my thing and put in a coffee shop and found the most delightful one called South Down Coffee. 

Since I was in virtual church and had some ministry duties, he went inside to take care of the order. When church was over, I popped in to see this beautifully arranged former garage, complete with concrete as the tables. They roasted the coffee on site! It would definitely be my go-to-place.

Now, coffee is my thing, not his, so we hit the highway again in search of breakfast/brunch (me) and lunch (him) and found ourselves in Huntington at The Shed. Let me tell you! This former vegetarian was giddy with the thick sliced bacon, farm greens, and spinach mushroom frittata. Since I already had coffee, I tried a non-alcoholic version of their Revenge of the Pink Panther. Let me just say, grapefruit is on my list now.

We enjoyed dining al fresco and then walked around the quaint village, stumbling upon a pop-up bookshop -we are literary nerds!

He knows I wanted the water, that is always my scene, so by that afternoon, we set out on a quest around the sound, literally just letting the road lead us. We ended up back down in Port Jefferson and thought we would be able to just load the car and take the ferry back. It was about 5 o'clock by then and as much as we enjoyed our Sunday adventure, we were not about to stay until 8 o'clock for a maybe spot on the sold out boat. It was the Greek Festival!

What did these two empty nesting adventurers do? We turned the car around back up toward Stony Brook and all points leading to New York City, stopping at a Farmer's Market along the way, and honestly, just enjoying the villages, the quiet, and life.

I always share with people the joy in travel, even if it is a day trip. Where we went was at the most two hours from our home, accounting for some traffic on the way back. We ventured off the interstates, preferring the state highways that take us through towns and villages.

As he was driving and the radio was serenading us with 60s and 70s R&B, we both talked about how pleasant it was to just be, to live, to see this time in our lives. We laughed a bit that our kids are now "all over the country" and at the adventures we hoped they were having.

Throughout the journey of raising them and becoming ourselves, we have always included getting out and seeing the world, of taking on new challenges, and of adventure.  It invites discovery and helps your worldview to be more expansive.

Perhaps that is what is missing, seeing each other, seeing people as valuable gifts waiting to be met along the way with a hello and a smile. 

I hope curiosity will always be a part of my next phase of life. There is still and yet more to experience. Get out and enjoy this thing!

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Writing as Tayé Foster Bradshaw, she is always ready to discover new places, drink great coffee, and pop up at a book, art, or craft fair! She and her husband are new empty nesters living in Connecticut.












Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Empty Nester

 I'm adding a new title to my name, The Empty Nester.

My husband just finished up an epic whirlwind trip down south to get our daughters settled into their futures.

The older one is a rising junior at Thee Jackson State University. We spent about three full days driving around finding her bed and items for her shared apartment. Move-in was Friday.

We zipped down to New Orleans to get our youngest settled into her dorm at Xavier University of New Orleans. Another non-stop few days. She moved in on Saturday.

When my husband and I sat down on the plane on Monday, we looked at each other.


This is it, we are not raising kids anymore.

Now, we know and they know that we are not finished with them. They will be home for Christmas and still line items on our budgets. 

But it is new.

Their day-to-day is not our's to plan or manage or keep track of.

This is when we pray that all we instilled in them has prepared them for this new world.


I spent thirty-five straight years with every waking moment, every decision, every thought being centered on how it would impact my sons and daughters. From where we lived to where they went to school to what activities I could put them in that would challenge their creativity, everything was about them.

So when we did the final hugs with our youngest, tears streaming down, there was a finality to it in some ways.

When we made it back to our home in Connecticut, we noticed how quiet it was.

The girls were not loud, but their presence was heard all summer.

I walked to their rooms as I was refreshing the house from our ten day absence, spraying it, looking at the empty beds. They cleaned their rooms before they left. I closed the doors and have no plans of going back in there for a while.

Transitions are journeys that can feel numbing at times, heavy at others, and finally, really light, enjoyable, exciting.

While we will all miss each other and look forward to our reunion, we are all anticipating what the next chapter in our lives will bring.



                                                                                                                                                                      

©2022 Antona B. Smith. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, July 11, 2022

The Abusive Partner

 It dawned on me this morning that the country is in the vice grip of an abusive partner.

It is almost paralyzing, numbing, defeating.

Who will believe when oppression seeks redress?

The abusive partner is a charmer, is charismatic, is connected.

So of course no one will come to the aid of those most harmed by the one who claims to have all this power.

In some sense, they are right.

We have 500 years of those siding with that control.

But here is the thing.

They only have that ability because of fear.

What will they do if?

How much can they harm us if?

Where will we go if?

The paranoia is what has created this massive syndrome of this mindlessness, helplessness, just barely breathing state we are observing in the country.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Like most bully's, they are petrified, so they bolster and booster and blow hot air hoping that the force of their wind is enough to knock you down.

Get up.

Turn around.

In an almost whisper, say No. Enough. Not anymore.

And take your life back.

It may be as little as contacting an official to alert them to the situation.

It may be preparing your escape to a safer place.

It may be bringing reinforcements to protect you in the leaving.

It is not helplessness.

It doesn't have to be.

That is what they thrive on.

For the past few months, I've been trying to make sense of what is happening around me and realized, America very much is like an abusive partner.

And the leaving partner, the awakening partner, the vocal partner is in the most harmful way when they wake up.

But it is only temporary.

It is an illusion.

They are only supported in this because they have us collectively thinking about what they might do.

We know what they might do.

So move anyway.

Speak anyway.

Prepare anyway.

I have no idea what the next few months will entail, but what I do know is if we don't stand up and resist, it will never change.

So use your voice.

It may quake.

It may quiver.

But use it.

We may not know what life will be on the other side of that grip on the soul, but what we do know is that it holds possibilities.

Possibilities of being unafraid, unencumbered, untethered.

To wake up and breathe freely.

To walk freely.

To speak freely.

To love freely.

To exist as the universe intended when. your being took that first breath.

There is still a way.

You, me, we, just have to take it.

                                                                                                                                                                    


Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Woman at the Well as Womanist Warrior

 I've been thinking a lot about the unnamed "Woman at the Well" of John 4.

In my theological studies, I always contended with her story.

Growing up in the Black church, the Black Baptist church, particularly, she was always presented as a wanton woman, held up as someone to avoid becoming.

Being a young woman in ministry, she was held up again as the cautionary tale.

But it was when I entered seminary that I wanted to give her some more thought.

She was more than what society said about her.

In the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned and the American Taliban instituting their own versions of Sharia Law, I thought more of her liberating actions in the face of so much conformity to overreaching power.

Back then, like now, women did not have a lot of rights.

Rights over one's body was definitely not one that was common place.

But she claimed her right to her own identity.

After the systems that were supposed to take care of and support her failed over and over, she finally had to look to herself for her worth and survival.

It was in this, "claiming her space" as my daughter declared in her graduation speech, that this "Woman at the Well" did when everyone else around her was just going along to get along.

The men talked about her like a dog and shunned her.

The women talked about her like a dog and shunned her because that is what the men did and they wanted the protection they thought came from conformity.

So she set out alone to ponder the questions of her life, the calling on her life, and what she wanted yet to do with her life.

This was not an old woman, not a woman ready to go quietly into that good night.

In my theological imagination, she was a teacher, an intellectual unafraid to turn over the questions of the day. She was the first real professor of that young man who revolutionized the world.  I believe it is because of this encounter very early in his work, that led to him becoming such a strong women's rights advocate.

We need someone like them both today.

I've thought a lot of how much the overturning of Roe had to do with keeping men in power, particularly white men.

It was never about life.

For if it was, now as then, the things women need to have a fully actualized life would already be a part of the public conversation.

But it is not.

It was about control then and is about control now.

And power.

But this woman made a decision to take back what belonged to her. 

Women were counting on her to do so. Even if they didn't know it. They were watching her, she was brave enough to defy convention and speak to that young man who asked something of her. She was not about to just jump because another man said so.

When women make moves to empower themselves, they empower others.

When women understand the interconnectedness of our liberation reaches beyond the limitations of race, they empower others.

When women are brave enough to say no more to the many men who only want to use their bodies, they empower others.

There is strength in numbers.

There is courage in being the first.

She was the first of many who proclaimed after her.

I keep thinking of her, taking my lessons from her and giving them to my daughters. 

No matter what anything thinks of me, of her, she is still a beloved woman, a remembered woman, a woman who made a difference.

That only happened because she was free to make some declarations for herself, even if that freedom came with a social cost.

I wonder how many are willing to truly stop and say no more?

Conformity, complacency, and compliance will only keep us in chains.

Truly, now, we have nothing more to lose.

Like that woman, that warrior for freedom and liberation, so many have dared to stand up and speak.

There is a rally for women's rights in DC.

There are women that have taken to their platforms to denounce reducing women to what their body parts can do for someone else.

There have been women demanding that the Executive Branch do something the Legislative Branch has clearly indicated it is unwilling to do.

As I continue to ponder and process the future for my own Gen Z daughters, I look to this woman of another time for her courage and strength.

She dared.

Just like the newly sworn in 116th Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, dared to be present in a world that wanted to erase her, this woman refused to be silent. She knew she could make a difference, so she persevered.

She resisted.

She insisted.

She persisted.

It will take all of that for us to get past this dark night.



All Rights Reserved. ©2022 by Antona B. Smith.

Under her pseudonym, Writing as Taye Foster Bradshaw, this writer holds a Master of Divinity with deep study in the Prophets, Proverbs, and Psalms through a Womanist theological lens focusing on the power of story to transform lives. She and her family live in Connecticut. She is a Certified Deacon in the United Methodist Church.




Monday, June 27, 2022

The Day After The Day After the Day After The World Came Crashing Down

I do what I always do when I need to renew myself - I went to the water.

My soul felt the weight of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Overturn Roe V. Wade. She felt it in ways I hadn't expected.

Age and menopause has me well past the age of this impacting me.

But my daughters are just beginning their life.

At ages twenty and eighteen, respectively, their rights to themselves were wiped away by justices who lied under oath, one who has always tried to destroy freedoms for Black people, and a handmaid.

Both of them will be in college in states that say a woman has no rights. Those same states where human beings were chattel and in another life, their wombs would have been used for commodity. 

I felt the enormity of what happened.

And as I mentioned during our times of Joys and Concerns at church on Sunday, if white women were just now concerned, they were not paying attention. This was never really about Roe. Roe was just the way to get the evangelical christians on board with the evil schemes of white men in power.

Call a thing a thing.

So I did.

I did after I spent Saturday in the bed.

Something about we Empaths feeling and absorbing all the energy around us, from deep anger and sadness, and my body could no longer gain the strength to go out.

So I rested.

Sometimes, we have to rest so we can calm our spirits and think of what to do next.

The day before the decision, I had been at the opera, The Parable of the Sower, an experience conceived and directed by the brilliant Toshi Reagon. Like Octavia Butler's 1993 book Toshi's folk song and commentary were prophetic.

What will we do?

How will we be in relationship with each other?

We do not have to just sit back and take the numbing anesthesia of placated religion to soothe the masses. That is what dulled the senses and critical thinking of so many since 1980 when the Moral Majority emerged on the scene.  Right along with cable news and a non-stop drumbeat of fear.

Well here we are.

What we feared has come to pass.

Freedoms of the last fifty years are being eroded away.

Roe was just the first.

Resist.Resist.Organize.Strategize.

That was the mantra of the opera

We do not have to quietly accept this.

So while I have some disdain for the finally-waking-up-white-women, I can at least appreciate that they somewhat got it. That their whiteness was not going to save them this time. That it was not just what they were doing to those people over there.

It has come knocking at their door.

Slowly and methodically this evil has grown and pecked away at the life we hoped would be.

They distracted folks with attacks on The 1619 Project and bused in schoolmarm protests about masks, all the while, legislating their way into a woman's body parts. 

Of course, not all who can give birth are women - I'm not not with that news - but only those with a vagina-uterus-fallopian tubes-and ovaries had their rights taken away. Transwomen may identify as women, but with male genitalia and internal body parts, they will never know the terror of an unwanted or unplanned seed brewing inside them.  They will never know the dashed hopes and dreams that were shattered when those two lines came up at a time when one did not want that to happen.

They are the enemy who came to steal, kill, and destroy.

But their marketing game was strong.

They twisted around a few ancient lines to tell these women that their only way to heaven was succumbing to the whims of a pen&$.

1998 scared them.

When the pre-2000 census indicated more Black and Brown people would be in this country than White, that it was way off in the far away future of 2050.

Until 2007 happened when more Black and Brown, mostly Brown babies were born than white.

Until 2008 when a Black man became President.

Until 2014 when Black people took to the streets after three lynchings of Black boys under legal age.

So they responded.

2000 was a stolen election - U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.

2001 was a fabricated war on terror to replace the war on drugs

2003 was a market crash

2008 was a housing crash

2008-2016 they obstructed every move

2013 they killed an innocent child in three seconds

2014 they killed a recent high school graduate and left his body to bake in the hot sun

2016 they elected a megalomaniac

2016-2020 they put a rapingdrunkblubbering idiot and a couple lying folks on the bench

2020 they lynched a Black man in the middle of a pandemic

2020 they put a handmaid on the court in the 11th hour

2021 they stormed the Capitol in an insurrection

2022 they took away bodily autonomy

All their actions have been about power and control.

White men in power and white women who benefit from it.

The world came crashing down.

Some of us already knew it was coming and said so as far back as 2008 when we tried to implore folks to do something.

Now we were here and the monsters are beyond the gate, they are in the most private parts.

They want to be able to rape little girls again, they way they did during enslavement.

They are sick.

But we do not have to quietly sit back and take it.

When I gave the benediction at church on Sunday, I asked them to look at their hands. It was a church of mostly Boomer white folks who consider themselves liberal.

They have money and resources. 

Stop being complicit and silent. 

Stop being afraid of their country club set.

Stop being instruments of terror.

Do something,

That is what I implored them as I asked them to look at their hands, that there was something they could do.

It did not have to come to this and now that it is here and the world has crashed at our feet, we have to sift through the rubble and try to find life again.

Some states are sanctuaries.

Some homes are sanctuaries.

Some healers are sanctuaries.

There is a way through this terror.

But we must be brave and go together.

The only constant is change and what we knew has changed drastically.

So we must change.

Wake up from our collective slumber and assumption about the good of man.

They have shown us who they are.

Resist.Resist.Organize.Strategize.



Friday, June 24, 2022

As I See It

 UPDATE: 

They Just Overturned Roe V. Wade!

They are the evil we knew them to be

The handmaid did her job and in one fail swoop they eroded fifty years of the rights of women to have autonomy. 

My daughers

your daughters

We are more than just a womb

But that is what the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled.

But yt boys with teenytinytimmies get to walk around with their rights on full display.

                                                                                                                                                           

I intentionally tried to guard my mind, heart, soul, and spirit over the course of the weeks of the January 6 Insurrection Hearings.

Perhaps it was because I didn't want that level of intensity from the evil I witnessed on my big screen TV back in 2021 to become center stage during our family celebrations.

My last child, second daughter, graduated high school on June 10.

Leading up to her big day was filled with honor programs and graduation activities.

She deserved to not have our home filled with the terrifying testimony.

Like me, she, too, had witnessed it.

But I did read.

I read the recaps and for a few instances, watched the testimony replay.

There was something gut wrenching that I could not listen to my sisters, the Black women, talk about being targeted by the President of the United States.

Black women are already the most unprotected,  unloved, unwanted, undesired, un of all un in this country. To add this to it was deeper than a slight or an insult. It was down right beyond criminal.

But I saw her face.

And read the transcript.

Because she would not be a pawn in their criminal enterprise of trying to keep a petulant sullen overlyindulgedandspoiledmanchild in office.

Of course, we all know, as history tells us, that he is just the face, not the mastermind, we know the, but his megalomaniac personality and cult following made him especially dangerous.

We are in trouble.

We have always been in trouble.

We are imploding.

What worries and bothers me are the so many people who don't seem to think it will impact them.

Mama Fannie Lou Hamer famously wrote that until she was free, none of us are free.

This country was founded on genocide and profited from human and sexual trafficking. The especially evil system of chattel slavery that dehumanized those of African descent, makes this soil tainted with the blood of the original sin.

Maybe that is why they keep trying to get rid of African Americans.

From the 12MM ancestors and the descendants of those whose name, language, customs, culture, and origin was attempted to be stripped from them, we persevered and we remained. We did not let them "Break Our Spirit" as sis Beyoncé dropped her lyric the other day. We kept on living and will indeed.

But the nation is deeply flawed, cracked, the foundation is about to be like a house dropping off the side of a muddy mountain.  It was never solid.

When you try to build a premise on a few yt men in charge of everything, it is never sustainable. Those who wanted to become the master of the system ended up being enslaved themselves.

You can not dehumanize someone without losing your own humanity.

So they fought tooth and nail to be relevant.

From convincing their women that their only worth was their womb and they had a duty to replenish what they think they lost as 2040 is not some distant memory. They know they are not the majority and never were. 

It is why they have that seething desire to be controlled, the U.S. Supreme Court with a 6-3 majority is poised to take away every liberty we have enjoyed.

All for yt men.

And men who think they are yt, but they are delusional.

It is not sustainable.

I went to see the Opera, Parable of the Sower, the other day at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  Toshi Reagon opened with a monologue about our relationships and how do we care for each other.

Throughout this play, based on Octavia Butler's then apolycaptic, we were reminded that we are living in these scary times. Corporations already control the water, the food, even the babies can't eat and the latest news is that women will be unable to get the feminine hygiene products they need.

We are in trouble.

But that same U.S. Supreme Court made it ok for every backwoods and suburban JohnnyJimBiff to have his phyllic symbol to make himself feel big and important. They struck down the New York law. At least the congress voted to take some control back from those assault weapons.

Humans being inhuman and do we have to have more babies slaughtered for the sake of a flawed ideal of whiteness being superior?

I don't know how we get out of this except to all stand up and say enough.

In the closing talk back of the Opera, Toshi Reagon told us to "divest from people who are trying to kill you, divest the best way you can."

There are calls for the expansion of the court and that is past time to happen.

There are calls for impeachment of at least three of the justices, two for their lying during their confirmation hearings and one because the spouse was connected to the insurrection. Two of them appointed by the orangemenacecriminal so perhaps their very seat is invalid?

What I do know, as a seminary trained woman who has read all thirty-three Bibles, is that we do not get out of this without connection to each other, without realizing there is a deep reckoning coming, and without knowing that no amount of man-made religious dogma is going to make white people feel safe as long as they see everyone else as other.

I don't have an answer this foggy morning in New England, sipping my rosemary vanilla latte sitting in my sunroom with my Moleskins and Lamy pens at my side pondering the world, I don't have answers.

What I do know is that we are in trouble.

Trouble I wrote about and talked about back during the election of that Black man that terrified the existence of so many white people.

No one really wanted to listen to me back then.

Who was I to say?

I wasn't a big name preacher or prophet. Social media was just ramping up and who was following this work-at-home mom writer sipping her lattes and putting together the pieces of the world.

But I was right.

It is not too late, though.

Toshi Reagon mentioned that the Earth, she will do what she needs to do to replenish herself, even if it means letting go of those who ruined her in the first place. She made the point of how we are connected to all living species and we, human beings, need to step off our self-destructive agenda and realize that we do not get out of this alive - alone. We need each other. She said we are in "ecological relationships to others on this planet." 

She asked us to know who we can connect with because we will need that. Then the folk singer gave us that hook, "fight, fight, strategize, stay together, equal rights." Of course, we all should have done more to protect those precious rights to exist that some thought they could horde and not impact everyone around them.

We could have done more, all of us. 

To say no to those who were exploiting the fears of the vulnerable that created eighteen year old monstermurders who slaughter innocents. 

More than just tell them that their manhood was connected to an AK-47 when they can't even get an apartment or buy a drink for themselves, but they can destroy tomorrows.

Beyond these devices that created so many keyboard warriors over the past decade, but eroded any sense of human decency.

We are in trouble, but it is not too late.

"God is Change. The only lasting truth is change." - Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

                                                                                                                                                                      

©2022 by Antona B. Smith. All Rights Reserved. Taye Foster Bradshaw Group, LLC

Monday, June 20, 2022

Morning Whispers My Name

 there is always something promising when the dawning streams through my bedroom windows, beckoning me to nice her her.

it is the bird chirping and when I reach over to grab my phone and notice the time

it is 4:58am

I remain nestled under the covers, looking out at the awakening unfolding in my backyard and ponder if I should slumber and rise

As has been my nature since I was a young woman, I eventually rise, attend to the morning refreshing, and begin my fifteen minutes of stretching, attending to the sleeping parts of my body, waking her for the day.

When I go downstairs, walking through my foyer to the dining room to the kitchen, I just listen.

It is so silent, quiet.

The entire house is asleep.

The noise of my coffee grinder doesn't stir the summer slumber, neither does the banging of pots for my morning nourishment of fruit and boiled egg, my citrus mint water waiting on my consumption, and all the while, the birds singing their hello song.

Long before most are awake in the beginning of this day, I've already done the tasks of living. I guess it started in earnest when I was raising my children and no longer on the corporate grind, I still rose early to attend to my household so that I could have the rest of the day to simply be.

I read and meditated, leisurely ate my breakfast with the sunroom to my side, watching grass grow and life emerge. 

Something whispered to me that this was my gift to me.

The grinding of this American culture is always that we are not productive if we are just sitting, if we are listening to the universe, if we are nourishing our bodies, if we are just existing. We must be producing, performing, or perfecting for the benefit of others.

But I stepped off that grind a long time ago and as I am about to send my last child to college in a few months, just refuse to embrace that that is the only way to be.

You miss things when you rush past them.

You miss the colors of the wild flowers that have white tops and wonder about their names.

Or the pass that is taller than the other grass and know that it has a purpose of being.

Or the ways the different birds speak to each other and sing a morning song, free in their wooded universe, unencumbered by human action.

There is a reason the morning is the best time, not to sleep it away, and not to jumble it up with what one should do or could do.

Being is enough.

I am entering a new phase of life and just want to wonder what it is like.

Simply living is the reason in itself.

Perhaps it is the creative, the poet, the writer, the artist who notices those subtle changes and the opportunity it brings.

Whatever it is, it is lovely.

I glance at my kitchen clock and hear the stirrings of the day, it is 8:27am, when they are waking up to begin. I quietly lament the wakening, having relished these hours alone, and then smile at myself.

Tomorrow, the dawn will whisper my name and beckon me to come.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Freeing Me: Juneteenth Edition 2022

 I often wake up very early in the morning.

This Saturday is no different.

When the curtains are open, that early morning New England dawn comes at five o'clock when the rest of the world is slumbering. Maybe it is the signal for the farms near me or the chirping birds, or that still-and-yet-not part of the day when givers, servers, writers, artists, and Mothers, can have a moment to just be in the serene without the demands that will surely fill the day.

One of the things I have been battling with leading up to and now, one week out, since my youngest daughter and last child graduated high school, is what do I do now?

Eighteen years ago, I was relishing my first real summer as a "stay-at-home-mom." By then, my children were 17, 15, 10, and 2, and one baking. I had been living a high intensity corporate life since my first full-time job in 1984 when I was also going to college full-time.  

Back then, a moment to just be in my big house with my big family was a welcome relief.

I had to find ways of beginning and often found myself thinking of how productive I was.

My home was already on a regimented cleaning schedule. My sons were required to do their laundry on specific days of the week and on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, they were to clean their bathrooms. They mowed the lawn, vacuumed, and took turns on "dishes week." My toddler daughter was too young to do anything but fuss, but even she had to engage in at least picking up her toys.

That year ended with the birth of my last daughter and me well settled into my life with my new mom group, The Mocha Moms of Johnson County. I felt like I was hitting a rhythm. We had even adjusted to the loss of income when for the first time in my adult life, I wasn't working. I was one of the many marketers of a large, private midwest company that were on the "let go" box when the economy started to turn just before the housing burst.  

I didn't worry economically. 

We had always lived on one income, so with savings in the bank and my educator husband covering expenses, I shifted my attention.

Yet, the pull to "do something" or to "be productive" kept whispering in my ear that I was "making that man do all that hard work and I had all those degrees." Well, someone in the family actually said that last part. I had to quiet that down.

But, I felt the tug.

I am a Creole woman, an African American, born in a country that says rest is not the privilege of Black people.

Even my degree in Management has direct ties to the ways that enslaved individuals were studied for how much can be extracted from the human body in a day. I learned that when I followed the mother and father of the field and the ways that they would clock warehouse workers. The productivity for profit is unrelenting.

In this America, vacation days are supposed to just sit there, as a badge of what is built up, but never taken lest you be seen as not committed to the cause of capitalism. If you take a week or heaven forbid, got sick and needed to take vacation days,  you professionalism was questioned. I remember those times.

So in a lot of ways, I was fortunate to have been laid off while I was still pregnant because when my youngest daughter and last child turned a year old, she started heavily presenting with the debilitating symptoms of her rare illness. Actually as a newborn, she started but as a nursed baby, that wasn't what was showing up. It was her skin, at first, eczema is an allergic reaction It wasn't until she was fifteen months old and her first of many surgeries, that all the diagnosis started to spill out and whatever I thought would be, began to fade.

My mission, then, became how I could keep her alive and striving without a life of feeding tubes.

I wanted her to be more, so much more than worrying about what she could eat and even if she did eat, would she be able to swallow.

Before I knew it, the years rolled by and I was still in my tending mode while trying to wrap meaningful freelance projects and work around their school schedule. I still needed to be on beck-and-call with her, so I adjusted how I viewed myself and eventually gave away all those high powered corporate suits.

Here I am now, with an eighteen year old relatively healthy high school graduate who has her first real job. She doesn't need my day-to-day and honestly, hasn't since we moved across the country and she was sixteen navigating through a pandemic, Zoom school, and a new environment. I had done my job well, she was independent, assured, and well equipped to handle herself. I was always available and another degree down and a remote position with a non-profit, she could test her wings with confidence.

All the events of the past eighteen years and this being Juneteenth weekend, the first one where it is finally a national holiday due to the forty year work of Mama Opal Lee, has me wondering about what freeing me and liberation will look like.

I have a full weekend planned of graduation parties and a concert with my husband and since Juneteenth is also Father's Day and as a minister, I'm reading Scriptures in church, there won't be much time sitting down to commemorate the African Americans who had to wait two-and-a-half years for their freedom. We did a lot of that last weekend at the Juneteenth parade and I won't be making my favorite Black bookstores work by serving my need for that luxury item called hardback books, so with a full calendar, I am still wondering what it will mean.

Both my daughters have jobs now.

The college one wants her own apartment and made sure she had interviews lined up for when she flew home from college last month. She started working two days after she flew home. She has goals.

The younger one who graduated high school last week started her new job two days ago and loves it.

They have to work the weekend.

This weekend.

Juneteenth and Father's Day, they will both be working.

My oldest wants the overtime pay and since she will be off all of next week for her college friends flying up here, isn't too upset about it.

The youngest hasn't gained time or voice to protest being only a few Black faces that have to work.

What does it mean to be free?

Definitely that we don't have to give our time without compensation, not even to entertain or inform those who are willfully uninformed but get to enjoy the time off anyway.

Will it just be another capitalist day of a sale with that name on it? We marketers have already figured that out and even with the ice cream fiasco, even some Black owned entrepreneurs are turning it into a buying moment.

And I am having feelings about it.

I guess it is not so pure and simple in this week that has had non-stop news about the January 6 hearings that I have refused to watch. I didn't want to taint her graduation week when the hearing began and have given myself grace to just read the highlights. I will tune in when they go after the big buys and the big money that financed it.

Perhaps it will  be reparations for those of us who are descended from the human trafficking institution of enslavement in this country. I know my husband and I have deep ties to Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri - all places where our ancestors were enslaved and their bodies commodified. 

Perhaps this before-the-house-wakes up musing is just that. A bit of thinking, even that ability to sit and think was denied the would-be poets, writers, artists, sculptors, painters, and other creatives who instead of utilizing their right brain gifts, had to be hands on the plow so missyannandmisterjohnny could sip their mint juleps and life on labor not their own.

For the first time in thirty-five years, I'm not technically responsible for the day-to-day decisions of someone else's life. They are technically adults now at 18, 20, 28, 33, and 35. I am also a grandmother. I don't have to spend every minute of every day wondering about their needs, even though I will never stop in some ways, I don't have to be hands on, I can just be me.

And I felt the nagging voice of what will I do now.

My husband is in his retirement bliss of work he enjoys, he no longer has the stress of the previous administrative work in our former state. He is loving this. 

I am discovering me again.

What does it mean?

In some ways, the message is that I am limited on what I have left to give, oh that nagging sexism and patriarchy that says a woman is past her worth when she is not caring for someone else or producing more of someone else to care for. 

The same is not true for me.

My husband is older than me and is in an exciting-for-him second career that compensates him well and utilizes all his gifts.

I have been the trailing spouse for the last fifteen years of our lives.

Free to have my lattes at the local coffee shop, free to be fully vested in my children's needs, free to take on contract projects and work remotely. 

Free, free-er than a lot of others.

In accepting and recognizing that, I have decided that in this new and emerging season of myself, I am just thankful. My ancestors toiled so I could sit.  Coming from a long line of right brains, I get to explore what inspires and still eat every day. I could be living on that prayers that one of my foremothers whispered.

I think that is what I will honor and celebrate on this Juneteenth.

All the ways and in all the ways the last few years have allowed me to get to this place and all the ways I have seen others who look like me decide to put down the plow, to not be creators, content makers, influencers, or otherwise tools in the capitalist system that steals their ideas, just put it down, close up shop, and go sit outside and watch the sunrise.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Claim Your Space™

 My last child, second daughter, graduated high school on Friday.

New state, new school, moved at the height of her notariety at her former school were she was a varsity cheerleader, a friend of many, a cellist, and a scholar. She was going to graduate almost to the day, a decade after her big brother walked in that signature robe

But we moved in August 2020 and she started again.

Watching her over the past two years has been a wonder to me.

She not only embraced the move, but walked in and indeed followed her father's advice to "Claim Your Space™

In her former school, she had her "Haitian Trifecta" of fellow Smart Black Girls™ who were in the AP classes, either as the only or one of two or three who had to remind the anglophiles in the room that their privilege did not give them the monopoly on understanding history or calculus.

When we moved, she started school online.  

It wasn't until they were finally able to walk back into the building - masked of course - that we she was able to evaluate her new space and begin the process of making new friends.

She did it.

With gusto.

It is something about her magnetic personality, her sharp wit, and her nearly unmatched intelligence that drew people in. She made the varsity cheer squad, was again the only Black girl in her AP classes and proved to the 'wannaberulersoftheworld' that she, too, was able to get into that top PWI on her merit and in fact, was awarded Honor status and merit scholarships. She followed her father's advice and in the short 1 1/2 years that they were in-person, left and inedible mark on that environment.

My daughter was accepted into all the schools she applied to except two where she was waitlisted. In all her acceptances, she was accepted into the Honor College and awarded merit scholarships. We didn't play the game of "she received over $XX million in scholarship offers" because it can be misleading. Those offers are only that high if someone applied to dozens and dozens of schools. She worked a strategy based on her major and where she would really be interested in attending.

When it came down to decision week, I was still in the dark. 

I knew the top three, but did not know what she was thinking.

Again, her father's advice was ringing in her ears and she was weighing her options as a future force in policy and law. She had attended PWI schools her entire life and while she celebrated her friend group that looked literally like the United Nations, there was something deep within her that wanted to not be the only Smart Black Girl™ in the room.

She chose an HBCU - Xavier University of New Orleans - to begin her studies as a Political Science major and Psychology and Creative Writing minor. She will play the cello and while the coach reached out, decided the top competitive collegiate cheer squad was not what she wanted to do in college. 



My daughter graduated on Friday. She received standing ovations for her graduation speech. Her phrase has inspired her classmates and with her entrepreneurial mother and big brother, already has her product line in the works. 

I'm not sure what the future will hold, none of us do, what I do know is that with her in it, it is only going to be sunny and bright.

                                                                                                                                                                  

All Rights Reserved. ©2022 Antona B. Smith Taye Foster Bradshaw Group LLC

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