It was a few weeks ago on October 14th that I was afforded the privilege of marking one more year with my husband and soulmate, James A. Lacy. The celebration and acknowledgement of his birthday took on a new form for me this year!
It was not about how early in the day I could get a social media posting going to alert friends about his birthday. No, that was not on the agenda this year. Besides, I know of at least one portal that generates birthday alerts that gives well-wishers the opportunity to acknowledge birthdays. Some did make good use of that to express birthday sentiments, and I thank them for that. Others celebrated him by sending him text messages, making phone calls, and in the old-fashioned way- – -by being physically present and taking charge of what turned out to be a rather meaningful and unique surprise informal gathering which underscored a variety of themes aimed at celebrating and sincerely acknowledging his sweet spirit from a close vantage point.
It is not surprising that the celebration did not end on the day of his birthday as more extended family members have since stopped by to show him some love!
My heartfelt gratitude goes to all who contributed to making Birthday 2017 ever so exciting for him.
As I mark my own birthday in the hospital waiting room today, with much anticipation of the answers to questions that have cropped up of late, I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than to write this open letter for all to understand what my husband means to me. I hope by doing this, more people would open up and subscribe to a culture that accommodates the celebration of humankind in a grand way – as the default modus operandi – be it in celebration of the spouse, the offspring, the neighbor, the boss or Joe Blow! Here goes!
Love, respect and reciprocity engender credit for the role our partners play in empowering us. I invite you to share your story.
My dearest Darling Jim:
In addition to being grateful for “One More Year”, my position with regards to celebrating you is one which takes the form of daily in-the-moment meaningful interactions that bear as much significance as the birthday milestone itself. Giving credit where credit is due, I thank God for using Rev. Dr. & Mrs. Thomas Lacy to manifest his handiwork in the form of the kind, gentle, courageous and selfless human being that I know you to be. As I celebrate you, I thank God for blessing me with a partner of such courage, resilience, stamina, caliber, and integrity, …and for heeding to my prayer that if there was ever to be a second time around, it was going to have to be with a man (an earthly Angel) who possessed the qualities you possess, my darling.
Even though you have- – – along with me- – -subscribed to a real life demonstration of what happens when we ask for what we want—knowing that once we play our own part, our wishes do stand the chance of coming true—I cannot in good conscience embrace this “ask-do-believe concept”, without doing the same for our resolve to navigate to the best of our abilities, the unwelcome guests that come in the form of serious health challenges we are currently navigating. Your propensity for grace to precede all – – -while under fire- – -is second to none! You have effectively subscribed to a new definition of what it means to gracefully navigate life-altering challenges. I thank you for making it so much easier for me to keep my composure and focus on the important lessons of our journey. I am proud to say that you and I are card-carrying members of a breed that embraces emotional and spiritual growth in the midst of life’s calamities and its resulting side shows as its status quo. How wonderful!
Come Hell or High Water!
You know what is so special about our partnership? It is the unwavering awareness of our role on this earth – our unshakable raison d’être that brings and maintains meaning to our collective lives. Thank you for being the perfect “accomplice” to a mindset which effortlessly dictates that even as we go through our own trials and tribulations, if we could “help somebody along the way”, our “living shall not be in vain”!
You are truly a Class Act…and a Half!
I will continue to smile for you, knowing that you are right for me, and I am right for you, my darling…in sickness and in health! You are the best birthday gift I can wish for today! I suspect Mama, Samuel and Madona understand why they have to play second fiddle at this time. 🙂
When was the last time you did something that was work-related and felt so satisfied from that experience that you actually thanked yourself for having made the choice to follow that career path? That high level of satisfaction was all mine as I worked with a group of ladies at the Wyandanch public library who for the first time last week, had a go at textile designing and fabric stamping…on silk fabric, no less !
It was not the resulting designs that each participant executed that caused this level of excitement and satisfaction. It was the way they each looked inwardly to draw strength and determination to get there. It was the intense nature of their interaction with the tools, their determination to master tools they were unfamiliar with, the ease with which they connected with me as their facilitator, the presence of great camaraderie, and last but by no means least, the sense of pride they each exuded as they modeled their final product. Enough said, see for yourself by watching the presentation below.
I invite your comments and the sharing of your latest experience on the Joy of Self-Actualization.
Libraries, schools and community organizations can request this and other social and cultural art-related workshops that can be tailored to their needs or desires.
The following is a social media posting I woke up to on the morning after the 2016 Election Day
“Accurate description of how I feel right now:
In the sixth grade, I found out that the KKK still exists…that it wasn’t an entity that solely existed in my history books like the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and outright literal slavery in the US, but that it was an organization that still exists to this day.
My first reaction wasn’t irritation, rage or frustration. It was fear. Deep, bone-chilling fear that produced sobs that wracked my 12 year old body. And I only had one concern in response: will they kill me? Can I be killed for no reason?
If I try to fit in and I don’t talk slang, and I tell everyone I don’t like fried chicken or grape drink, if I cringe along with the white people in my class when slavery is brought up in history class…IF I DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, EVERYTHING TO ERASE MY BLACKNESS, WILL THEY KILL ME ANYWAY BECAUSE OF MY SKIN?
And of course, those sobs were hysterical. I realized that I could not totally protect myself. If someone was out to kill black people, they need not wait until I open my mouth. They need only look at the skin I was born in and can’t change.
It was the moment I remember feeling the most afraid and impotent. That is how I feel now. I can’t move past this question that it’s a shame I have to ask: will they kill me? Will I survive to see the next president elect in 2020?
Way back in middle school, I eventually concluded that I was overreacting and my life wasn’t truly in danger. I was overly emotional and easily frightened.
Over ten years have passed since then and I’m struggling to stay rational, to not give in to fear… But I heard how he spoke at rallies and the debates, I heard his soundbytes, I heard how his supporters spoke and how they behaved…and I can’t tell if I’m overreacting this time.
And that’s what terrifies me the most.”
My dear daughter, Madona Ayorinde,
As the mother of that middle schooler and 10 years later, a young adult who is trying to make sense of life on her own terms, I want you to know that it is at times like these that you work at unleashing qualities of the firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
The seeds of sensitivity, high self-esteem, love and appreciation of the humanity of mankind, empathy and much more that have been embedded in you are now yours to use.
I wish I could make you a promise that moments like these will be few and far between as you blossom into full adulthood, but I can’t, as the reality of life as I know it dictates otherwise. The trick is to use the tools that are available to you in a manner that will bring about self-preservation in the physical and mental health sense of the term, with little or no chance of feeling victimized by the shenanigans of this sometimes cruel adult world. I implore you to always operate from the mindset that: it is not the hand that life deals you that defines you, but it is the way you handle what is thrown at you that defines the essence of life for you.
I am sorry that for you there were no satisfactory explantions that could have protected your 6th grade mind set from what you discribe as bone-chilling fear when you learnt that the KKK was not merely a group that once existed, but one that was and is now alive and well.
I am sorry that current events have taken you back to reliving the nightmare that no child should have to experience, as adults around them espouse hatred, racism, bigotry, insensitivity, ignorance, lewdness as the status quo.
I am sorry you once entertained making changes to the essence of your being and or buying into the stereotypes that a cross-section of white America has in place for its black counterparts, in order to fit in and escape the wrath of the KKK.
I am particularly sorry I did not read between the lines at that time to identify the emotional trauma you experienced, for you know my parent-school alliance initiative would have been stepped up to include tools that the school would have had to put in place to address this important issue in a manner that would have been of benefit to not just you, but to the rest of the school. Surely, you recall from experience how important it was to me that the school reinforced the basic universal personal development values I taught you at home.
Having said this, my daughter, I want you to know that one cannot be adequately prepared for the complexities of life. We know not when and in what form societal ugliness may come our way. It is for this reason that I will again stress the importance of readiness through the implementation of self-improvement tools.
I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you. I ask you to do this bearing in mind that the only competition you have to contend with is YOURSELF. Allow me to draw upon the gift of Grandpa’s wisdom, as I say to you: “Festine Lente.” Hasten slowly, as in act decisively, yet thoughtfully! I ask you to take your time to figure out how you can tap into the academic discipline, life-skills and orientation you have received thus far, to turn around what you perceive as an eminent license for nationwide ugliness, danger, and unsettling behavior. If I know of anyone with the capability to do so, it is you. “Let your light so shine…”. You know Dad and I have your back, and that we are here for you.
A Mommy Disclosure
What you may not fully realize is that, as a United States Citizen and Citizen of the World – with deep community and family values that were instilled in me at an early age in my country of birth- I am automatically a good candidate for some form of discrimination, rejection, and the issue of fitting in – more often than I care to recount. This, my child, is in no way to be confused with the occasional misunderstandings that occur in the normal discord of life! It is the waging of all-out war in the…just because.. department!
The ‘God News’ is that even though the scale may tip more to the side of the undesirable, it is not everyone that I know or encounter that is this lacking or needy in character and spirit. I suspect by now, you are asking how I manage to appear so ‘sane and composed – most of the time.’ I can tell you what I do not consider to be viable options: withdrawing into isolation, cutting ‘these people’ off (this is not possible as they are all over the place), a tit-for-tat stance, a feeling sorry for self response or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. How I deal with this is to position myself to continually search for positive ways to prevent this phenomenon from overshadowing my sense of self. Maintaining a sense of self mindset in each unique encounter helps me emerge from the lion’s den emotionally, socially and culturally intact. Also, please note that if I were to internalize the negative effects of this dynamic and allow said perpetrators to take control of my life, I doubt that those touching sentiments you and your brother, Samuel, recently expressed to me on my birthday would have ever found their way to me in a hurry.
I will now summarize the personal development tools of my response in easy-to- read quotes I have formulated:
Personal Development Madonarisms by Madona Cole-Lacy
1. Since there is no patent on societal ugliness and propensity to minimize humanity, do not assume there is one to prevent you from unleashing the qualities of a firm foundation which has been laid in you over the years.
2. Use fear and anxiety as tools to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that you can be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not mean well for you.
3. Those of us who have lived long enough know that bigotry, racism, and many more “isms” that are in place to suppress and diminish others are alive and well in all shapes and sizes.
4. Whenever we consider directing our attention toward the avoidance of stereotypes meted out to us by others, we unwittingly position ourselves to accepting the hate they espouse. Hatred for self is as unlikely to cause the unenlightened, unfeeling and uncaring to love us more, as self-empowerment is as likely to chase these characters away from us -each time! You know which one to go for!
5. I implore you to focus your energies on building yourself up in ways that give you joy and satisfaction in knowing that you can indeed be a blessing, not just to your family and friends, but also to those who do not necessarily mean well for you.
6. We must approach life knowing that the path to being an Agent of Change begins and ends with us. This change is only accomplished when we operate from a place of understanding that the change we desire is the change we want to be …and the first step to this long and sometimes arduous haul begins with us.
God Bless You, My Daughter.
Mom, Momeeeee, Mother, Madona Catherine
As I take stock of all that I have learned about the rich history and culture of Black Americans, and Black pioneers around the world as a whole, during the month of February that has been officially designated for the observance of Black History, I cannot help but ask myself how that knowledge and the accompanying mindset can be translated into respect and regard for self and others. My hope is that a large number of us have made a worthwhile contribution to lifting up and keeping Black History alive by engaging in activities and participating in events that can only help people of the human race understand that there is indeed a common denominator inherent in all citizens of the world that is anything but common. For there is so much more to this “common” denominator. It is binding, it is healing, and possesses the ability to forgive and assuage fear and ignorance…and yes, it can quite easily yield the opposite result when it is not given the attention it needs to flourish.
In addition to my contribution to the Black History Month enrichment process, I was blessed with knowledge that I otherwise would not have received had it not been for those who made major contributions by sharing so many “Firsts” by Blacks that were virtually unknown to the masses before now. I was elated to see establishments make a move towards spotlighting people of African descent here on Long Island – a move whose time had come, in light of the unsettling racial climate in this country.
I invite fellow Americans and African Americans to join me in enjoying this sense of pride and desire to understand the rich legacy of people around us, in a manner that will stay with us way beyond the last day of February.
As America welcomes Women’s History Month; followed by Asian Pacific American Heritage, Older Americans Month and Jewish American Heritage Month in May; I want to take it upon myself to ask everyone who understands the need for these special observances, to plan on making some move toward gaining a little bit more knowledge of and appreciation for the spotlighted groups.I hope that those who do not understand will be open to a briefing from those who do. This, of course, is only a sampling of other significant upcoming observances of various ethnic and special interest groups that make up the diverse fabric of the American culture!
Let it be known that as I make this request, it would not surprise me in the least to learn that some would say, “Why should I care about this or that group?” My response to that question is as follows: If for no other reason that is remotely obvious to you, you should care because the bliss of ignorance must be superseded by the folly of wisdom if we expect to be treated with respect, empathy and even sympathy when it is our turn. We cannot allow the unwillingness to make wholesome connections to lead us down the path of ignorance.
Newsday Jan 24 2016 (‘Dynamic, multi-ethnic art’- page E6)
The tone has been set with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Black History Month Cultural Enrichment activities leading the way to more opportunities for Americans to find that common thread that runs through the fabric of mankind. Let us not miss out on the power of cultural enrichment and social enlightenment that will subscribe to the greatness and security of our neighborhoods and country. What we do with this opportunity will augment the process through which we can make the world a more congenial place in which we can all proudly take on the responsibility of healthy engagement, and build a firmer foundation on which the next generation of the human race can stand. This mindset, by the way, is race, ethnic and gender neutral; and calls for those who are now referred to as “those people” to be equally engaged and appreciated by those who may not have given this a thought in the past.
In conclusion, I would like to offer executable tips on ways we can go about obtaining and maintaining a much-needed cultural enrichment, social enlightenment and racial harmony.
The following starter ideas can, in part, be attributed to my observations last month
- Don’t exclude yourself from discussions that are meant to uplift, empower and educate-in person, on LinkedIn, on Facebook or other social media portals-simply because you can’t see yourself relating to “those people”.“Those people” exist in all neighborhoods on all corners of the world, and could use some refreshing input laced with sensitivity and a desire to connect in a healthy way with them.
- Make it a point to converse with an associate or co-worker whose race, ethnicity or social group is being celebrated at the time. This would work well within group settings of professional and community organizations where, more often than not, people are brutally prejudged.
- If you have young children or teenagers in your life, hold a discussion with them to find out their opinion on, or knowledge of the culture or history of the highlighted group for that month. Don’t forget to share helpful resources with them. Encourage them to hold discussions with seniors in the community. This can be arranged with Senior Centers, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques etc.
- Go on a themed exploratory trip to the library, utilize google, see what Wikipedia has to say and visit museums, art galleries and other places that can assist you with a horizon-broadening experience. Write a poem on your impression, do a painting or come up with your own creative form of self-expression that would suggest growth.
- Remember that you can neither be held responsible for the atrocities your ancestors might have perpetrated on others nor be pigeonholed as the ultimate helpless victim of circumstance, if you don’t conduct yourself in ways that bring to life the negativity of past experiences or support the perpetuation of the selfless victim syndrome. We cannot wish away the mistakes of the past, but we can surely work toward improving the present climate that we have inherited by acknowledging the resulting pain, hurt and confusion; and formulating a language that will generate camaraderie and healing instead of stone-throwing, name-calling and worse!
- When in doubt, show LOVE, connect with EMPATHY and unleash KINDNESS. These three tools are versatile enough and come in color schemes that do not ever lose their luster without much effort on the part of mankind.
- Cast aside the built-in suspicion which invariably leads to defense mechanisms that keep your radar up in the company of people you are meeting for the first time. Be open to interacting with people from whom you may potentially learn something new.
- Be genuine in your interactions with others. People tend to switch off when they realize that they are dealing with the disingenuous.
West African Surface Design Workshop conducted in observance of Black History Month. Wear Your Art: An African-Inspired textile designing workshop.
Atlanta schools cheating scandal: 11 educators convicted of racketeering
One of the largest school cheating trials in U.S. history drew to a dramatic close Wednesday with a jury finding 11 Atlanta elementary school teachers and administrators guilty of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy to illegally boost….” latimes.com
There are many angles to this unfortunate story that must be addressed if a lesson is to be learned by all from it. When we compromise our integrity and willingly choose to participate in a scheme such as this, we have contributed to the ACADEMIC and SOCIAL DEATH of our children – children who are obviously in dire need of help from a system that appears to be broken beyond measure. This, right up front, is my response to comments and questions as to whether the punishment is too harsh for a crime that was not murder.
It seems to me that these administrators and teachers did not see the need to improve their instructional effectiveness in a manner that would be of benefit to the students they are charged with educating, when faced with the possibility of making money through illegitimate means. They appear to have disconnected themselves from that special relationship dedicated teachers, all around the globe, are known to have with their students. Teachers who belong in the classroom develop and maintain a special bond, not unlike that which parents have with their OWN biological children! These professionals did not only operate with complete disregard for professionalism, they taught their students the most conflicting lesson a teacher can ever teach, when they chose to have their students’ test answers doctored.
There are grumblings in certain quarters about the Judge’s lack of sensitivity that does not correspond with the usual pre-incarceration courtesy that is afforded to ‘white people’. Rather than waste precious time on that trend of thought, I would opt for the lesson inherent in the case that I believe is worth taking into consideration. When we commit a crime, we automatically reduce or even forfeit our chances to negotiate with the mentality or the authority of a sentencing Judge on how the punishment should be meted. To spend time debating this in terms of the racial makeup of the perpetrators, is to further do a disservice to children who, perhaps, may benefit from knowing that when one is found guilty of a crime, they are literally at the mercy of the court, and they may not get a chance “to go home and take care of business before incarceration”. This goes for people of all race and ethnicity who have to deal with Judges who are not all necessarily mono-racial, and have received a vote of confidence from their constituents.
In conclusion, I feel the need to disclose the fact that; even though, I was not brought up in a society or community in which people considered themselves “perfect”, the one undisputed fact I remember quite vividly, is the emphasis on high expectations for the children in the community, coupled with the desire to model good behavior for the children in the community. It was not unusual for children to hear the following rebuke from a random community member: “Act your age”, “Do you see anyone in your household comporting themselves in this manner?” I must add that it was also not unusual for community members to take in and nurture children who were victims of their family circumstance. What I am attempting to leave everyone who reads this with, is that we must resist the temptation to direct our focus on fragments of a bigger picture, and instead, look for ways we can address the need for personal and community development when we or those around us fall short. The true victims of this travesty are the faceless students whose test sheets were tampered with, and the children in the lives of this group of adults who left their thinking caps at home.
Please accept my sincerest wishes for an eventful, productive and meaningful 2015. I wish you all the health and prosperity that you may wish for yourself. It is also my hope that as you reach out for a brand new canvas of life’s experiences in 2015, you will not neglect to include in your supplies box, the tools of 2014 that you used to positively affect your life and that of the people around you.
Along with the aforementioned tools of healthy engagement, we must employ the all-too-often evasive tools of self-examination and self-engagement! This honest conversation we hold with ourselves will, undoubtedly, help us examine our missteps, our misspeaks and our follies which we sometimes unwittingly have used to damage, or outright kill, the spirit of people who have looked up to us for guidance, support, leadership, emotional security, or even a simple connection in times of emotional need.
If this is beginning to look like a list of tools in its own right, it is because it certainly is. I suspect there are as many who would willingly take on this self-examination, as there are those who are not quite prepared to take this journey as yet. For those of us who are not quite there yet, the good news is that when we are ready, this process will cost us nothing. Thankfully, it begins and ends with us, and can be turned on when we are truly ready to take the leap.
Another related move that is necessary for the actualization of all the wonderful wishes that have been sent our way, is for us to develop heightened and renewed awareness of how to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Allow me to share some suggestions that might help this process along.
Let us aspire …
1. To eliminate the tendency to bully, arm-wrestle or indoctrinate those we regard as highly susceptible to our manipulative ways. This insecurity-based modality makes us a perpetual target, robs others of the joy of celebrating us and sends the wrong message to our children.
2. To refrain from being dismissive of people we believe have “nothing of consequence” to offer us. For this says more about our ineptness and our inability to grasp the concept that everyone matters, and that people are placed in our lives to help us grow and see life from a fresh and healthy perspective. This gift is simply priceless – everyone grows, and everyone wins!
3. To operate in a manner devoid of the mind games vindictive people play to get “even”. There are other effective ways to make our feelings known that will earn us much respect – even in the eyes of our enemies. Out with the ugliness of organizational, institutional, community and family thuggery! Civility always wins!
4. To refrain from the thinking that racism and discrimination will go away without any effort on our part. We must try to avoid sending poison darts at anyone – our own kind included. It cannot be disputed that some of us project hatred and resentment toward others because we can’t be bothered to relate to the common thread that runs through the fabric of mankind. In some instances, all will be well as long as “they know their place” in the restrictive mould we have crafted for them. Also, have you heard? Tokenism is on its last leg. Let us be the first to eradicate this poisonous self-esteem buster, and make sincerity-in-engagement the new normal, replacing tokenism with full inclusion based on equal opportunity.
5. To gain a full understanding of why staying on the ground when “life” knocks us down, is not and never will be a viable option. Let us not take our innate ability to pick ourselves up off the ground lightly, for we must remind ourselves that there would be no talk of “knocking us down” if we were naturally meant to stay on the ground.
6. To operate with the awareness that there is no justification for the perpetration or tolerance of insensitivity and rudeness. We can always take the high road and find a way to say or do something that makes a positive contribution to our legacy.
7. To seek professional help if all this looks like jargon to us. Otherwise, let us strive towards defining and re-defining ourselves with a promise to touch the life of someone – anyone – we believe has “nothing of consequence” to offer us in return. We can make this a positive move towards receptivity, which should open our hearts and minds wide enough to allow for the manifestation of all the fantastic wishes and prayers we have been showered with this new year.
I conclude with a prayer that people from around the world will keep in the forefront of their minds the thinking that true legacy-building has more to do with the exceptional ways we have related to humanity, and less to do with the material wealth we leave behind. Material wealth is disposable. Unhealthy family, institutional and community dynamics can only result in destructive and unwholesome legacies!
The legacy I speak of consoles us and give us strength to go on when our loved ones depart from this world. It compels us to follow the footsteps of those who have touched hearts and minds in their quest for excellence and altruism. As my father’s soul rests in peace (1921-2014), I promise to do my utmost to uphold his rich and admirable legacy. Even as I miss him so much, I am consoled by the major contribution he has made to the lessons of my life!
Again, I wish you a Happy New Year. Please do not hesitate to share with me the details of how you incorporate these tools and those of your own into your life’s journey. I would like to hear how you have chosen to receive the warm sentiments you have received.