dedication to our matriarch

February is a month most noted for celebrating Black history and love.

I dedicate this particular post to the matriarch of my family, Nelly Mercier Rigaud, my grandmother who was born on February 20, 1919, and was an unwavering example of what it means to love, have fortitude, resiliency, and determination to make sure everyone eats – literally.

Over the years, I learned that she always made sure the men had enough food on their plate (patriarchy apparently is real in the West Indies too), she held down the movie theaters our family rented in Haiti while her husband was being an entrepreneur in the U.S.,  and passed down her greatest recipes to the best cook in the family – my mom.

Hearing stories of her years after her departure from the world only makes me wish I talked to her more often and asked her more questions when she was alive. There was a bit of a language barrier between her and me,  yet she still enforced discipline and love in a way only I could sense. Maybe it’s part of the fear that my elders instilled in me, but nonetheless, I respected her off the premise of her presence.

I don’t know how she did all the things she did while maintaining an angelic presence. An angel in disguise, I suppose.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m learning the importance of traditions and family values, and I have her to thank for this.

 

realism mixed with pessimism

I’d consider myself an optimistic person, even during our current shifts in power. Although, recently when I heard Chimamanda speak, she described that activism in this moment should be realism mixed with pessimism.

I still have grand visions to live in a better world that almost feels like a utopia and create opportunities for my future kid(s), and understandably so, often times it feels that’s a heavy burden to carry.

What keeps me sane and hopeful, yet confronted with reality, is putting myself in positions that challenge my thinking and the way I see the world. This means if I want to work with kids, I have to understand how the education system works, by getting involved with local schools. If I want to bridge gaps I see from a public health lens, I have to understand who the policy makers are and the communities that they are looking to serve. If I want to create a business that has yet to exist, I have to educate myself on how to monetize this idea.

Digging deep into these areas isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary. And some of this work won’t be published or noticed or praised, but that’s not the point.

 

ready for blessings

I was caught off guard. In between finishing some paperwork for a job, doing recon for an upcoming event, catching up on articles, news and upcoming events, I saw an email that caught my eye.

Reading the subject line and without even opening the email fully, tears welled up in my eyes, and as cliché as it sounds I felt incredibly loved and filled with gratitude at that moment.

I should’ve known something like this was coming, yet I was still floored.

It’s almost as if these last few months of practicing generosity, reciting daily affirmations and listening to Chance has actually paid off. 🤔

A cabin in the woods

 

I spent the weekend with 16 incredibly hilarious and gifted humans playing games, dancing, skiing, and snowboarding. The best part about this group is that most of us had never met each other before this trip. We’re all part of a young professionals group in Baltimore (+/- a few significant others), and some of us have been to various happy hours or other events around the city, but never under one roof and all together. What we all have in common is our spontaneity and openness to not only meeting new people but having a damn good time.

We couldn’t have predicted the depth of what transpired over this weekend – the inside jokes, the cooking skills some of us have, the pure joy and release that happens when we step outside our “9-5.” My stomach still hurts from laughing so much, and what happens at the cabin, stays in the cabin. However, let this be your quarterly reminder to grab some friends and head out of town for a weekend.

It’ll be good for your soul.

on collaboration

I’ve always been inspired by people’s stories. When I first started using ride-sharing services like Uber, I was intrigued by learning about my drivers and it felt as if every single person that chauffeured me to my destination had something incredible to share. I remember telling a friend that I wanted to work for Uber, but only to write about the drivers and share it with the world, but that idea was quickly shot down. Seems as if everyone had that idea.

My point is that I honestly feel that I have met some fascinating people on the planet, just in my everyday occurrences.  As much as I don’t necessarily enjoy small talk, I often get a sense that someone has an interesting story just by looking at them. One example is from last spring. I was walking my usual trail at a park near my house, I saw a black man swimming in the park lake in a full-on scuba outfit with a camera in hand, underwater.

I was walking my usual trail at a park near my house, I saw a black man swimming in the park lake in a full-on scuba outfit with a camera in hand, underwater. That doesn’t happen everyday – at least to me. I started to walk the trail but turned around because I wanted to find out who this guy was. Turns out he’s a local Baltimore photographer and was taking some initial shots for a future photoshoot. We exchanged numbers and are still friends to this day.

Fast forward to present day,  I’ve been working on a couple projects related to collaboration and amplifying the work of people who look like me. Speaking to friends, writing for various publications and throwing out ideas to my trusted circle, people like Kyle, Karlene, and Dorien (pictured below) have come into my life at the right time. Each of their stories is inspiring, impactful and I’m grateful that people like them exist in this world. We recently met to go over ideas for an upcoming event, I’m still in awe from how our visions have turned into something tangible.

More details soon :)

Oh, Baltimore

My love for Baltimore grows stronger as the days go by.

I remember when I first moved back home in 2013, after a stint in NYC, feeling devastated and defeated. Unsure how to rebuild my life in a somewhat familiar place, the same reasons why I left (2002) in the first place were still ingrained in the back of my mind.

“I don’t see myself in this city. It’s too slow paced. It’s too Black and White. Where are the Haitians that I’m not related to? Where are my Caribbean folks at?!”

It took some time for me to adjust to the pace, the shift in cultures in the neighborhood I grew up (hello Nigerians!) and the fact that there are some like-minded people that I can learn from.

Integrating myself into the different niche communities and cultures that Baltimore consists of has been my saving grace. I’ve gained perspective and have learned the complexities that are often overlooked by the media and even people who live in the surrounding counties.

I’ve pushed myself to learn and surround myself with people of different backgrounds, and by coincidence or serendipitously, I’ve met some of the most brilliant and ridiculously talented people.  The game-changers, the influencers, community organizers, the builders, activists, and entrepreneurs. The types of people who care about making this city shine.

And right now, that’s precisely what we need.

stimulate conversation

To me, the point of writing to publish is to clear up thoughts in my head and transform them into something tangible that one person can walk away with. Whether it’s a thought, an idea or a conversation.

If everything is kept behind closed doors, there’s little opportunity for others to be inspired or provide feedback.

No one needs to know about every single thought I have. However, what I’ve found is that writing on this platform has proven to be worth the effort of sitting in front of a blank screen, formulating cohesive sentences and clicking publish.

The only way I can improve as a writer, as a friend, and as a mentor is to share how I think about the world and everyone and thing in it, publicly.

I’ll get you a new one

Cleaning out my drafts, and came across this post dated from July 2016.


Wednesday 7.6.16
22:15

A Black man was shot and killed by a cop on camera yesterday in Baton Rouge – another, on camera – streamed on Facebook Live, which was filmed by the girlfriend of the now deceased young man. I haven’t (nor do I want to) watched the videos. I know what happens.

I can’t tell if I’m desensitized or just haven’t felt the anger yet. I’m terrified for my friends and family. Not just from the cops, but from what happens when you try to process what actions to take next.

There are millions of people suffering all over the world. How do you cope? How do you make sure if someone is getting the help they need?  All of my friends and their friends, people who suffer from depression, people who have contemplated and attempted suicide…

I think about the people who don’t even see the injustice. What can I do to help? I can’t ignore this. I can’t pretend as if this never will happen again.

I’m not angry. I don’t know if I ever have been. Just in a constant state of sadness. I’m scared for my brother and Emmett (4 years old) and Chloe (10 months). I’m scared for them for living in Phoenix, Arizona, a state with an open carry law.

When do you teach kids about guns and racism?

My soul hurts. My heart hurts.


The other day I was having a discussion with a friend on this very topic – when do you bring up racism, race and the crazy world we live in – to kids? I posed this question to my brother and he replied with anytime, followed by this:

I imagine my nephew saying this to his mom while skipping away – brushing off the complexity of politics – by just replacing DT as if he were one of his broken toys.

If it were only that easy.

share your gifts

There’s no use in hiding your talents or your expertise on a subject unless your goal is to be a hoarder of ideas.

Every piece of technology you use, clothes you wear and the knowledge you gain from reading an article or book has all been because someone decided to ship and share their thoughts.

Don’t rob the world of your gifts. We need you.