Lessons from a Decade of Living

Peace all! I hope this post finds you well. I was sitting here this morning scrolling through Facebook looking at all of the 10 year reflective posts. I even posted my own- a picture from late 2009 when I was pregnant with my son Bryson and a picture of me taken recently.

On the surface, you can see how much I have changed in my appearance. I look younger now than I did then. But, on a deeper level, I am vastly different than I was then. In 2009, I was in a loveless marriage. I constantly felt that I had to prove something, be perfect (whatever the hell perfect means), and fit into some image that I felt would help my life improve.

I was in undergraduate school working on obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration. I was working full time as a nurse in a nursing home. I was a wife and mother of 4.5 children. And I was miserable. I wanted so much more of life and more for myself.

I wanted to not water myself down for folks- to be my amazingly intelligent, wild, magickal self but, I was in denial. I allowed church to dictate my manners, my marriage to isolate me from enjoying things, my children to be an excuse as to why I couldn’t be free.

I thought nothing would change until one day 3 years later when my now ex -husband was taken away to federal prison. Then, it was just my children and I . I made a decision to leave familiar and dive head first into something new. I began to run every day and my figure slimmed. No coincidence that my hair journey began shortly before December 24th, 2010 when I cut all the chemicals out revealing curls and expanding my energy.

It was like a domino effect really. I chopped the hair, got pregnant again 2010, gave birth in 2011, husband gone and marriage over in 2012, started taking control of my life and taking risks in 2012, moved away in 2013….and now in 2019….I am me!

I began to do what I wanted and how I wanted. There were times when I would revert back– my crazy ass wound up in a terrible relationship with a narcissist after my marriage ended. However, even through that, I continued to pursue myself. I allowed myself to breathe, to enjoy myself, travel, eat , cry, move my body, make new friends, let some go, connect to spirit, heal, and most of all-BE!

May 2020 bring more of me to me- more joy, more experiences, more love, more passion, more authenticity, more connection, just more. I am so, so ready!

 

Peace,

Ashaki A.

 

 

Going Back to Move Forward

This past weekend I felt inclined to visit my family’s old neighborhood and old farm. As I drove down old Skillet Road, it was as if I was being guided to go back, to understand who they were, to stand on the earth they had farmed, to reconnect with the past.

Initially, I visited my great-grandmother’s old house that also stands right beside the house I grew up in. A dilapidated shack now, but still the remnants of the house that once held so much joy very much visible. I remember sitting on the porch in the summer, shelling peas with my great-grandmother and Grandma Lillie, listening to them talk, feeling the heat of the Southern heat. I remember sitting on her porch, my barefeet touching the stone steps, feeling the coolness of the concrete on my skin in the evenings.

On the other side of our old lot , there used to stand another house that I literally grew up in. My godmother lived there with her daughter and her grandparents. How many days did I spend swinging on the swing, sipping “red” Kool-aid, imagining life far away?

I left Henry Street and drove down to the Skillet. I see so much has changed in town but, not much out in what we call the “country”. I drove and turned onto Skillet Road. I see the old burnt farmhouse is still there but, now there is land for sale. I parked and stood on the land, listened for the elders to tell me what I already know and felt. This land belonged to us and we must reclaim it.

I stood in reverence for once. My people farmed this land, raised livestock, lived a life. Children were born and reared here, traditions were created here, our ways were cultivated here. I left the Skillet and still seemed to hunger for more. These past months as I have continued to research of our family, I have discovered that we moved quite a bit- from Minturn, Clio, other parts of Marlboro County and Dillon county as well, so I drove. And I felt myself churn inside because of my neglect of my own rich history.

I would not exist without these farmers, seamstresses, maids, ex slaves, and such. Would I be as driven, as resilient, as proud, as intelligent, as kind – without these folks? This journey of self-discovery continually drives me back to the ancestors- the ones that I have not properly paid homage to. I will do better. I promise.

 

Ashaki

Creating Our Own Traditions

My children and I have gotten into the practice of creating and cultivating our own traditions over the years. We have our annual fall feast, our summer trips, our weekly movie nights, and the sometimes dreaded family meetings.

One new tradition that I am happy to be able to share with my daughters is being adorned with waistbeads. In my family, being adorned with Afrikan waistbeads is not for fashion- it is highly spiritual and sacred. In ancient times, young women of a certain age were adorned as she matured into pubescence and beyond. My family and I follow a similar tradition.

I had the honor of creating and adorning my oldest daughter today. Each bead color was carefully selected and threaded- white for purity, blue for protection, pink and rose quartz for love. She was so happy to receive her first strand today.

As I tied them on her tiny waist, I felt I had somehow done this before- as if every action I  had taken was a repeat of those from long past. I do sincerely believe that we are our ancestors- that we follow similar ways of being once we have tuned into the frequency of those who came and lived before.

As I gave offerings of food at my ancestor altar this evening, I felt my inner self beam with pride because I know the ancestral mothers see me and all that I am doing to keep my Tribe connected to the old ways. It is so important that as we move forward in our lives, that we pay reverence to those who are responsible for us being here now.

Ase’ to the ancestors always!

 

Peace,

Ashaki

Revisiting The Past

Several weeks ago I went to SC to attend one of my younger cousin’s baby shower. It was a beautiful event but, I felt a strong urge to stop someplace on my way back to Charlotte. I had been through the area a million times, never quite sure of where I was truly going, definitely not feeling strong enough to go there. But, on this day, spirit was pulling on me to finally go back there.

I went back to the place that my grandmother lost her life. As we drove up to the abandoned facility, I immediately felt heavy- so heavy and dark and sad. And even though I felt so heavy, I knew that spirit led me there and I had to go through it.

As I stood at the gate, I peered at the lonesome building , going back to the last time I visited my grandmother there. It was just as dark when residents lived there- a deeply saddening space that housed elderly people. They were not treated well- the workers were cold, giving patients medications without water, not properly treating their wounds, allowing patients to sit in their excrement and urine for hours. And this information I saw with my own 2 eyes. I remember wanting to get my grandmother out of there. I remember the pain in her eyes that last Christmas that I saw her; the apologies for past “transgressions”, the shifts in emotions from extreme joy to severe despair.

I stood at the gate for a few moments, recalling the words of the administrator “We have an open gate policy”. I shake my head at their attempt to blame shift at their negligence. I then got back into the car and drove down the street, “watching” my grandmother, in my mind’s eye, take her last walk that February 2001.

When I reached the railroad tracks, I felt the most intense sorrow that I have felt since the day after her death. I had not been back to this area since her death and standing on the track, walking the path I had walked 18 years ago brought back a flood of emotions and I could feel the remnants of her there. The fear, the pain, the sorrow, the intense sadness that was left at that place all flooded and permeated my being at that time.

I felt stuck, I felt the bondage, I felt a wailing deep within myself. And the tears just flowed from my heart and soul. I grasped a few of the rocks from the tracks- the same tracks that my grandmother had been dragged across those years before. I could not move. But, then I felt this cool breeze blow across my face and heard grandma say “Child you have to go”.

I came back to myself, called my spirit back to myself, and felt a renewed sense of purpose. There is a divine reason that I could not return until this time. I am rooted and grounded in the love and security of ancestral connection. I am ready to work. There is heaviness in that area. souls that need healing, love, and light. I have been chosen to do what is not done by anyone in that area- to bring my whole, Afrikan, spiritual self and cleanse and sing and chant and set them free. My grandmother and others are waiting for those songs, that smudging, that light. I am strong now. I am prepared. I am ready.

Wednesday, June 12th is my grandmother’s bEarthday. She would have been 81 years old. She was taken from us too soon. But, in her years on this earth , she gave so much, she gave all of herself for those who she loved. I am eternally grateful that I am of her lineage. She continues to walk with me every day. Ase’ to her spirit and to the spirits of all of my ancestors. May I continue to walk into my destiny and path that they have lighted for me.

 

Peace,

Ashaki

Family First…Good Vibes, High Times

I cannot believe that it has been almost a month since my last blog post. I attempted several times to put pen to paper but, the vibe was just not there. But, here I am on a gloomy , yet peaceful Saturday morning, sitting with my laptop, pouring out of myself.

Last night was so dope. Some of my younger cousins came into my city to see me and my children and it honestly was the best thing that could have happened this week. We ended up cooking a huge meal, sharing laughs, drinks, and listening to music. The energy of the night was intoxicating to say the least. We all fell asleep all over my apartment- from beds, to couches, and to floors.

I couldn’t help but to reflect upon our grandmother and her ideas about family.  Family was the most important thing to her and she always reminded us that although we may not always get along, it is so important to nourish your family relationships. But, in our family there has been a rift between some of us. There is a legacy of grudges; some so deep that they can last for years.

In the past, I have shared the fact that some of my family and I do not have a relationship. It is what it is. I make no apologies for taking certain measures to ensure that I remain happy and healthy. However, when it comes to my younger cousins and myself, we move a bit differently. We have chosen to respect each other, love each other, and give each other space to be exactly who we want to be.

One of my cousins is in the military and will be deploying soon.  The time we share is precious and we know that. I am so grateful that he came to visit before his departure. I know understand even more why Grandma Lillie was so adamant that family love on one another. The fiber that holds us together is laced throughout our DNA and what affects one of us , truly affects all of us.

So, I have chosen to take last night’s energy and lock it up deep in my heart- another memory to keep my company on days when no one knocks on my door. I felt Grandma Lillie with us last night, guiding us as we cooked, smiling at her legacy, feeling proud that we are following the path.

 

Peace,

Ashaki

Birthday Month….

It is hard to fathom that next week I will be 38. 38 years old. When did I get so old? What happened to my roaring twenties? I am almost 40 years old. I can only shake my head because I still have the energy of my 25 year old self, well with the exception of craving my bed instead of the dance floor every weekend.

When I look back at my life, I have regrets, memories of triumphs, failures, successes, and struggles. Mostly I feel grateful. I feel grateful for making it to this age. I am grateful to be able to be present for my beautiful children. I am grateful for finally embracing who I truly am at my core and actively pursuing expressing the fullness of self each and every day. I am grateful for the next chapter and so much more.

As I reflect on the strides I have made from last year to now, I honestly feel joy and a bit of anxiety. I always wonder if I am doing all that I can to secure my success and if this path is indeed the path that I should be following. But, each and every time though doubts rise up, divine intelligence comes in and reminds me that I am following my own divine path. I must remain diligent as divine timing dictates the movement and progression of all things.

38 rotations around the sun. 38 represents happiness, growth, material abundance. This number combines the energy of 3 and 8. I am coming into my season. It is finally my time. And I am open to receive that which the universe has for me. The beauty of this birthday is also that I am taking others along with me through my divine assignment as well as with my soul tribe.

I am welcoming 38 with a smile, a wink, and a slow wine!

 

Peace,

Ashaki

Wounded, but Standing

Greetings,

As always, I hope that this post finds you well. I have honestly been struggling over the past few days. I had to come to the realization that although I am healed from certain traumas, I will always carry the scar and those scars can be quite tender and can still cause pain, even be reopened when not guarded and protected. I have had to make some decisions regarding those I allow in my personal space this week. It is painful but necessary. There is no way that I can subject myself to anyone who questions the validity of things that I openly shared with them- things that have forever changed me as an individual.

We have all had experiences that were painful, even traumatic. Hearing the stories of so many women who have experienced similar trauma is heartbreaking and it also peels back my own scars, causing me to really seek solace and peace within. In years past, a bottle of liquor was salve, but now I have other means of dealing with my anxieties and pain from all that has happened. It seems every time that I have sought what I needed outside of myself, I have been left feeling more hurt and regret for not only what happened but, for who I would have been if that ugliness had never occurred.

I know that this year holds much promise but, there will also be strife. I am already feeling it and it is not comfortable. But, I also understand that space must be created in order to make room for all that is to come. I have felt that I was on the brink of something big for the past few months so, I am being patient until it comes to fruition. I also am going to make even more efforts to be of assistance to all the black girls and women who have suffered or continue to suffer because of what was done to them.  The world can blame them and shame them but, I will uplift them, love them, encourage them, and enlighten them.

I have been fortunate enough to have the courage to speak, to share, to write, to do about things that a lot of people would not dare to. I  used to see my life as one big tumult- a never-ending story line of tragedy and pain. But, not now. I see my life as a testament to a spirit that refuses to give up or give in. My life is decorated with times of near death, almost this, and wouldn’t have that. In this society , I have been labeled almost every stereotype that is- the child born out of wedlock, the welfare child, the teenage mom, the battered wife, the rape victim, and so on. But, I am a creator and the author of my life. I am a woman, an overcomer, a survivor, a conqueror, a writer, a poet, a spiritual guide, an oracle, a teacher, a leader, a mother, and so much more. And I am just getting started.

Peace,

Ashaki

 

Red Lips & Fingertips

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by red fingernails and red lipstick. I would sneak outside and paint my nails a blazing red color and admire how the red looked against my deep brown skin. I thought it looked pretty but, that notion was quickly shot down by a family member. 

“You too black to wear those colors”, “that makes you look like a clown”, “don’t wear no mess like that again”. Those statements became embedded into my mind and for years, I downplayed my own beauty, refused to wear particular colors, muting myself and admiring others who were bold enough to take chances.

But, I have shifted. My perception of beauty has changed and I am finally healed from the ugly messages that marred my childhood. So, I went to my nail salon and chose a bright red for my manicure. 

I had written previously about my red lipstick and all that it took for me to wear it. Now, here I am rocking red fingertips lol! I have come a very long way. For some people, wearing red lipstick and fingernail polish is not a big idea but, for me it is a revolutionary action. 

This is me standing fully on my own square, feeling the reverberation of my own beauty, power, and strength ripple through my body- free from the demons of the past, free from small mindedness, free from other people’s judgments.

It is not easy to overcome the lies that you have been told as a child, especially from loved ones. You often take what they say as gospel. But, be encouraged that no one can define you except you. You are as good as anyone, as beautiful as anyone, and as capable as anyone else in this world. Find your purpose, find your joy, find your hope, find you and celebrate you as often as possible. 

Live your life on your own terms and live it out loud!

Peace & Light, 

Ashaki

Ancestors Watching Over Me

Today, I decided to do some cleaning. I am not working and felt the need to just clean. I began in the bathroom, which is my usual practice, wiping down the sink, toilet, shower, sweeping, rearranging, and reorganizing. Then I moved on to the bedroom, folding clothes and gathering laundry that needed to be washed and so on and so forth.
Then I decided that my altar cloths needed to be washed and the altars needed to be cleansed as well. After the laundry was done and I began to sage the space of my ancestor altar and place everything back in order, I had an urge to change the position and dig up more pictures to add.
I went through my albums and found a picture of my great-grandmother and my uncle Otha Jr. I began to remember a flood of things- from Mama’s laugh to Uncle Otha Jr’s cool stride, to the stories, the meals, riding in his ’64 Impala convertible. I couldn’t help but to also begin to feel sad and overcome with emotions.
There are so many stories that should be shared but the family that once was is not anymore. My mother and I are estranged and have not seen or spoken in a year and a half or longer. Her brother and I were practically raised together, yet he has chosen to not have anything to do with me either. Other family members have passed away or we simply just do not communicate.
I remember my grandmother calling family meetings of sorts for members to hash out their disagreements. Whether they agreed in the end or agreed to disagree, it was always decided that we were still family- through good, bad, or ugly- no matter what. But, once she transcended this earthly life, that fell apart.
I often wonder if there was something else that I could or should have done differently but, I always come back to “Is being who they want serving my highest good?” And the answer, in short, is a resounding no. I cannot be Andre’a Danielle DeBerry, the little girl who endured much, who was a perfectionist, fighting to be herself yet, also fighting to fit in and be someone that the family was proud of. I cannot sit in church and pretend. I cannot be in a loveless marriage just for the sake of saying that I am married to my children’s father. I cannot endure toxicity from my mother or my uncle.
Stepping away from it all, moving away, and choosing to live a life so far removed has not been easy but, it absolutely has been necessary. I had to find me and ultimately choose me. I was not perfect but, I definitely was not walking a true path and had no peace because of it.
Ancestral reverence is a huge part of my life and sometimes I struggle with wondering if my ancestors are upset because of the path that I chose. But, when I hear my great-grandmother’s laugh, or my grandma Lillie comes in a dream and hugs me, I know that I am not a disappointment at all. I am my ancestor’s wildest dream. And all because I chose to live the radical concept of defining and being exactly who the hell I want to be.
May my ancestors forever guide and protect me and may I continue to be brave and make them proud.

Ase,
Ashaki

Remembering Tupac

Greetings fam! Hope all is well with everyone on this Saturday evening. Today is the day that the majority of hip hop fans spend celebrating the birth of Tupac Shakur. If he had lived, he would be 47 years old, which seems crazy to me.  Maybe it is because I was so young when he was alive. Or because we have been nearly suffocated with tons of t-shirts, mugs, memes, artwork, multiple album releases, and so much more.

I was sitting in my house thinking back on my first encounter with his music. I first saw him with Digital Underground (Yes, I used to do the “Humpty Dance”). But, when he emerged as an artist and I saw the video for “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, I became somewhat enthralled with him.

The message and images in the video were things that I knew all too well myself. I had a close friend who had been molested by her own father for years, young girls being pregnant was commonplace, drugs were prevalent, and social workers decorated many a doorstep. But, the way that he weaved the story was special and I had found a new rapper to follow and music to consume.

Tupac spoke on topics that had not been displayed so openly which appealed to me greatly. I seemed to always be on the lookout for music that spoke to my own tortured soul. “Keep Your Head Up” gave us hope, encouraged us, and solidified the fact that he loved us. I followed him closely, listening to “If My Homie Calls”, “I Get Around”, and more but, then he began to change a bit and I began to fall back.

That thug shit was a theme that although very familiar, was absolutely exhausting. His roughness bristled my nerves and I found myself tuning out when his music was played. But, as soon as I was going to throw him away, he dropped his “Me Against the World” album, and I was rocking with him again. The album displayed his feelings towards his mother, the revolutionary Afeni Shakur, displayed his sexuality on “Temptations” and highlighted vulnerability on “So Many Tears”. I was impressed and once again captured.

I remember when he died very vividly. I was almost 16 years old, living in a place that I didn’t want to be, selling dime bags of weed, struggling to adjust once again. I was sitting on the stoop in my projects when news broke across the radio airwaves. One of my homeboys stopped by as they began to play Tupac’s music. Tears ran down our faces but neither of us spoke. He was gone just as so many young black men had. Our spirits sagged.

I often sit and listen to Pac and reflect on the state of hip hop today. Lyricism is not as highlighted as in decades before and at one point, I honestly felt like throwing the whole culture away. Then, I recall some old heads talking about Tupac in similar ways that some speak on artists today.

He was a thug and a revolutionary talking about gangs, pussy, struggle, drugs, and more. They didn’t know what to do with him.  There is a difference between him and some of these untalented, new school rappers– he had a message. He was like a hood prophet, politicking on the state of affairs. So, I hang in there, as an unofficial hip hop ambassador. I feel a sense of responsibility to preserve a culture that rocked me, nourished me, fed me, and kept me in some of the most difficult times of my life.I have said before that hip hop saved my life and that is not an understatement. Tupac is another artist that played a part in my evolution.

It seems redundant to say that Tupac’s memory will never die, but it is so true. He will forever be remembered for his substantial contribution to the culture, for his influence on so many people, for the indelible mark he made upon this earth. Peace to his spirit.

 

Rest on Tupac,

Ashaki Omikunle Ali

 

Photo Cred: https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/tupac-shakur