new sabbath: 07.04.21

"other models by which to live." + introducing Black Girl Black Coffee

good Sunday to y’all. i hope you’re having a wonderful Sabbath, and that you’ve had a great week.

this week, i took a trip down to Memphis with Olu, my partner. we both had some business to handle! for me, it was time to pick up the first batch of *my* coffee. y’all. i have been working on this for months, and it’s so exciting to be at this point of sharing it. in these months, i’ve learned a lot about the ins and outs of social entrepreneurship, including filing paperwork, clarifying mission, writing a dynamic business plan, expanding my network, and more. it feels rewarding, and i believe that it’s because this vision was borne out of a unique season. for the first time, i’ve had a chance to really think about what kind of life i want to live.

for years, i’ve been on a vocational autopilot. from one thing to the next. one degree program to the next. one job to the next. one accomplishment to the next. i don’t fault for myself for this. i don’t shame or blame myself for it. i don’t blame anyone. i think that this is just how many Americans are programmed to behave. it’s how many of our models live, and it’s often praised. it’s often in the rush that we accumulate wealth, prestige, notoriety, and fame. there’s isn’t a lot of honor for pausing, reflecting, and really dreaming of “otherwise possibilities,” in the words of Dr. Ashon Crawley (i STAN.).

In this self-portrait by Carrie Mae Weems, she is imaging herself through her own eyes. As the fourth photo in a series entitled, “Not Manet’s Type,” this is the first photo in the series where she is facing the camera. This photo represents a pivot in her self-understanding. The plaque (i.e. caption) beneath the photo reads, “i knew, not from memory but from hope, that there were other models by which to live.” ::insert praise break.":: in the following photo, she names Frida Kahlo as a model of possibility for her art, her relationship to herself, and her life.

for the last three years, these words have sat in my center. i continue to live into a deeper understanding - and more abiding embrace - of all that this can mean. within the context of the photo series, i believe that Weems is intimating that the journey to our authenticity is often rife with experiences of trying to fit into a norm the wasn’t created for us. but, there comes a moment. a time. a season. wherein we breathe our way, pray our way, and move our way into what feels right and true to us.

i’m currently taking a course to improve my skill and presence as coach and educator. this week, one of our small group exercises had to do with breathing and speaking from our gut. as i did the exercise, i began to weep. my practice partner noticed, and she asked me, “i’m seeing that you’re experiencing some emotion. do you want to say more?”

“i’m just grateful,” I said. even as i’m sitting here today, i’m feeling it. i’m grateful that there is another way to live. it is possible to be thoughtful, rather than subsumed in a pre-written plan. it is possible to be intentional, rather than merely strategic. it is possible to be imaginative, rather than robotic. it is possible to driven by vision and trust, rather than greed. it is possible to dream our lives into a new direction. it may not always be certain. it’s not always stable. i don’t even know when this will become profitable! but, there’s a refreshing peace and excitement that serve as fuel for the journey.

“i’m grateful,” i said. “i’m starting a business that has shown me that my work doesn’t have to feel so laborious. it can flow from a place of passion, love, and genuinely wanting to share my love and passion with the world.” i just sort of… held my hand to my heart and felt it. a moment of surrender.

i have had so many possibility models in this season. truthfully, many of them have been in my life for some time. but, i asked for God to show me other possibilities, and God drew my awareness to how these people live in such a way that they inspire me to think about what’s possible for my own life. my parents. my sister, Cloe. my professional development coach, Ekene. my friends Lanecia, Nadia and Jeff. my colleague and best-work-friend at Spelman, Dr. Michelle Hite. Uncle Rudy. on a large scale, Tabitha Brown, has been a major possibility model. she never ceases to amaze me with her faith, her ebullience, her humility, and her realness. this week, she showed me another way of showing up on the internet when bitterness and ugliness present themselves. i’ve listened to this so many times, asking for the ability to respond to dissenting voices with a fraction of this grace.

Black Girl Black Coffee is almost on her way into the world. with my new business, my desire is to share the luxury of specialty coffee with Black people, especially Black girls and womxn. we deserve it. no shade, but this ain’t no Starbucks, because in my opinion, we deserve better. this coffee has been graded for quality and excellence. my first release is from Burundi. it was produced by a Black woman named Angéle Ciza, and it’s been certified by the International Women in Coffee Alliance. it was imported Phyllis Johnson, a Black woman who has held the U.S. specialty coffee industry accountable for its racism. at as many points in this supply chain, this coffee has been LOVED UP ON by Black women, including myself in the sourcing and selling. cheers to that!

as subscribers and supporters, I wanted to let you know that the website is live for e-mail sign-ups. i will be sharing this widely this week, but i wanted to share with you first, as promised. you’re more than welcome to follow the story here.

thank you all for rocking with me. i hope you have a wonderful week.