The Calm and The Storm

I grew up on Huntingdon Street, an average-sized block off of 22nd and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia. It was in a working class Black neighborhood with a playground, recreation center, swimming pool and quite a few Black-owned businesses. A staple was Mr. Herman’s – or Boogie Herm’s – as us kids called it.

Mr. Herman owned a corner store, and rumor had it that he picked his nose. But for a mere dollar you could get the best frozen burger in the neighborhood. I’m still not sure how true that rumor was, but it never hindered his burger sales. The grill was always clean so that was good enough for us. (No judging. LOL!) There were two video games that we were allowed to play each morning until 8:00 sharp. At 7:55 he gave a last call; at 8:00, he yanked the plug from the wall. If you had a quarter in the machine because you were up next, that was your lost. Then, we weren’t allowed back in until after 3:00.

For us, penny candy actually cost a penny, and instead of petty brawls ending in death, they were often the beginning of long friendships. We were part of a community where we were watched over, prayed over, reprimanded (hard when needed), and loved. Although, many of us have since moved away, life and Facebook have kept us connected.

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Lorraine, or Peaches as we call her, is part of that experience. She’s just a few years older and lived around the corner and two blocks up on 22nd Street. You often saw her with her mother, Ms. Lena, a kind and dignified woman, or her constants to this day – Jackie, Tiffany and Dawn.

Time passed and a simple Facebook request connected us again. In a space that can feel overwhelmingly angry and depressing, Peaches’ page of warm posts is like sifting through a family album. At a time when many women wear their independence like a Purple Heart, she revels in a life that many thought only existed for our grandparents. She’s married to a man whom she adores even all these years later. Three cooked meals a day is her proud norm, and she’s delighted to have her children and grandchildren with or near her.  Even as she journeyed through school earning all A’s, or when she put in full days in a career that that she thoroughly enjoyed, nothing was, or is, as precious to her as her family and friends. She never claims nor tries to present perfection, but she boldly radiates happiness, thankfulness and love. She’s genuine, and that energy is infectious.

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 In March, Peaches revealed it to me. With the precision of a veteran oncologist speaking with a new patient, she explained the symptoms that lead to the diagnoses of a disease suffered by far too many. Treatment would begin almost immediately, and it wouldn’t be easy. “It’s a hard pill to swallow and it’s going to take some time to process,” she had said, “but I’m going to fight!” She’s been true to her word.

At a time when most would have cocooned into their most intimate circle and bid Facebook farewell (and rightfully so), Peaches let others in. She declared her strength – I am the storm – and committed to transparency. Since then, we’ve witnessed her shoulder length locs vanish, less pictures of her proud home-cooked meals, the effects of grueling treatments, and her truth about harsh moments. But what always follows is: But I’m still fighting or I’m standing strong or I’m not complaining.

Nothing has altered Peaches’ beauty or her heart. Her page still reads and feels like a cozy family album, now with a little more extended family added. She’s thankful for prayers and small reminders of how brave and amazing she is. She beams delightfully when someone surprises her with her favorite candy, or a card, cute pajamas or a head wrap. And when she posts her picture, her smile is never absent. Through it all she has remained grateful and full of love.

Peaches is my reminder of the beauty of creating the life that you sincerely want. She’s an echo of the value of committed love and human connection. She’s proof that while you can’t control life, it’s in your power to choose how you respond to it. And everyday, she reminds me that the simple things are amazingly beautiful and that they matter just as much.

Peaches is the storm, and I’m honored to be in her path.

So long for now.  Until the next time, live each day to your fullest!

Truly yours,

Mo~

P.S.: Peaches, thanks for sharing your journey with me. And, yes, fuck cancer!

You can reach me via Facebook@Monique Danielle; Twitter @MoDanielle_08; Instagram @Mo_Danielle8; and email @ modanielle8@gmail.com.

Truths About Activism

This is our reality: Daily we are bombarded by loops of violence, threads of national chaos, and far too many hyperlinks to political debauchery. Millions are addicted to drugs, alcohol, social media, and lies. Death sentences like poverty, racism, and inequality continue to plague people of color and the poor, while worthwhile solutions evade even the best experts.

Yet, through all of the mire, strength is emerging. Many have been forced out of denial and recognize that by standing alone and disconnected from one another, we are destructive. Countless of Team Me or Army of One advocates, or those suffering from unrequited love from political affiliations, have found themselves throwing in the white flag and opting for something greater.

A call to action has been sounded, in great part, for self-preservation. Serve or do or resist are refrains that continually ring through our ears like a catchy hook in our favorite song. It all makes sense; the longing to live is natural, even though we know that death is always imminent. This basic desire to do better, to have a part in cleaning up the rubbish and to rebuild, has led to an increase in activism. Many are snug in their roles and are earnestly and boldly doing their work. Others are being planted and are growing in their particular positions. Then, there are those who are trying to determine where they fit in and what they have to offer. Kudos to all!

But here are some truths about activism.

Activism is brutal and not for the faint-hearted. It’s a huge act of faith, and war – a journey that requires steadfast commitment. You’re moved, so you strategically plan and act. However, you really never know the ending, or which side the journey will leave you on. You negotiate and compromise at one point and adamantly refuse to do so at another. Hard decisions are made, people’s feelings get injured, numbers fall, and opposition occurs just as quickly as the hope that brought people together initially. Yet, just when you’re seconds from throwing in the towel, everything comes together. It’s usually a win. Not an easy one, but one well worth it. Yes, I speak from experience.

Activism is not something you bully someone into. It is degrading to dictate what another should be doing or giving, and how. No one is entitled to impose upon another’s skills, talents, resources, or opportunities because it’s believed that those things will serve some greater good. And, no one has earned the right to doom another for doing, what may be perceived, as nothing. Malcolm X summed it up perfectly: “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because one doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think, or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today. “ On the contrary, activism is an act of love with the goal being to serve with dignity, respect and courage. Lead by example. Encourage through perseverance. Exercise patience. Then, mentor.

Most important, activism is not a monolithic act; it’s layered and nuanced with more than one significant way to participate. Some will be the face and voice. Others will dutifully soldier when called upon. Yet, many will sit on their sofas with coffee (or something a tad stronger), firm shoulders, a first aid kit, and wisdom, waiting patiently for you to limp through their unlocked doors, standing ready to stitch you up and infuse you with strength for whatever comes next.

All are important. All are necessary. All matter.

If you’re moved to action, do so strategically and avoid being coerced into a role or a cause that your heart doesn’t bleed for. Determine your space and commit to being faithful from there. Never be ashamed or afraid to say No. And, if you long to sit at a table you can’t get an invitation to, then build your own table to put your feet under. No matter what, when you get in there, be ready to fight hard. Because here are the ultimate truths about activism: It’s bred from your soul. It’s brutal. But, it’s always worth it.

Nice writing to you again! Until the next time, live each day to your fullest!

Truly yours,

Mo~

P.S.: You can reach me via Facebook@Monique Danielle; Twitter @MoDanielle_08; Instagram @Mo_Danielle8; and email @ modanielle8@gmail.com.