To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
“In a Latinegra English teacher’s version of the future… in the Black future, there’s a place so dangerously absurd that words reemerge as our tools and our friends rather than the means by which the Man condemns us to ignorance… But if we ever want to return to our former glory where we also were seen as worthy of the dominant culture's highest accolades and goals… We've got to stop dumbing ourselves down and calling it resistance, gotta stop equating selling out with intelligence… we remember to believe in Renaissance and being good at everything…”
I wrote this poem version of a guidebook to my life eight and a half years ago. The rest of this post is fairly personal to me, but I hope it gives you inspiration for yourself.
Allow me to revisit my August blog post about purpose:
"’Deep down/ you know/ this is the only thing you were put here to do’ (1). I have been rehearsing these lines of poetry in my head for maybe ten years. But those three words "the only thing" made me so nervous.” It seemed impossible that “the only thing I was put here to do is write, perform, speak, and throw some glitter on it (2)”. (See notes at the end)
In that post, I spent a lot of text talking about the ways in which teaching is the wrong job for me.
the work and time that the system takes
attending to clerical and organizational school tasks
taking the time and effort away from my purpose
I even made a good counter argument:
(Black) teachers are essential
there's an ever-intensifying shortage
I will add today that teaching is by definition a vocation that builds and develops the community and could restore us to traditional greatness. (I promise I only read the Kwanzaa principles during Kwanzaa, but I’m pretty proud of how they stick with me and show up in my year round work.)
And then I conflated argument and counterargument. In a paragraph about what I should do instead of teaching, I wrote these tasks - which are teacher tasks:
to interpret the reason in other artists' craft
to find the hidden gold nuggets in texts
to keep and tell other people’s stories
to teach and interpret information
I distanced myself from the knowledge that many djelis, griots, and public intellectuals are writers, speakers, and also educators - all of it together. I neglected to mention the things that could make my teaching more time efficient and therefore easier. I’ve had a mental curriculum formula in mind for years that I never put on paper.
Perhaps, I should be separating my individual work and my public-facing work. The public intellectuals I admire emphasize their writings and speeches and they don’t publicize the innerworkings of their classrooms. While I think there was value in my public classroom (let me know if you want the story), I also think maybe that’s a good shift in de-emphasizing the classroom in my public facing persona.
Maybe current politics even lend themselves to that.
If I ain’t nothin,’ I’m impatient. People keep reminding me about slow and steady and I keep rejecting their advice. Sorry about that, y'all.
After working at and meditating on my purpose all quarter, what I came back around to is habit work. I did a lot of this in 2021-2022 but it’s hard to maintain habits when lifestyles change. I read Atomic Habits in January of 2022 and then moved to Guatemala in July.
I know that “you are what you do all the time.” In that light, I am a workaholic, addicted to my phone. I chase a bunch of things that keep me from sleep and nourishment.
I had already begun, but never completed the process of dedication to the habits of a healthy public intellectual, habits of body and mind.
In the August post, I elevated:
writing as a process
writing as a result
the energy exchange between myself and a crowd
the energy of a cypher circle
poetry slam teams
training and rehearsing
editing and revising
Go back to the previous post to read about my friend’s wisdom regarding gifts in contrast to purposes/callings. In short, the difference is the habit work.
There’s no way that these public intellectuals (Morrison, Walker, Baldwin, Angelou, Butler, Ellison, Giovanni, Brooks, Hughes, and Wright) don’t have a daily writing habit, and a constant reading habit. In my “Black Future” poem, I mentioned that one of the main things the Black community needs to take back is our health. Social media accounts and authors are doing and promoting this work: my favorites are Black Liturgies’ Cole Arthur Riley, The Nap Ministry’s Tricia Hersey, and Racialized Trauma expert Resmaa Menakem.
So instead of an unhealthy workaholic, I want to be:
a good sleeper
a writer (who reads and edits and revises happily)
a performer (who finds joy in rehearsing)
an efficient educator
It’s not good to criticize oneself without talking about the wins also. So I said I was going to focus on poems for publication in periodicals and a remix of The Risk to Bloom and I didn’t submit to periodicals, but I will today and tomorrow. I didn’t do the remix, but I published an all new book. That’s better, right? I haven’t done short stories or a guidebook yet but I am excited to. Here, I’ve written 8 blog posts, three plus newsletters, three poems that make me happy, and a bunch of vlogs. For a month or six weeks, I have been journaling and meditating. I was invited to and accepted the invitation to perform poems here in Guatemala. I was even the only English speaker, but the vibes were immaculate nonetheless. r
The influencer and hypnotherapist who helped me with my most recent level up, Amoya Shante, is hosting another short class in mid-January. I thought my mindset was great, but she has helped me realize I was stilllllll downplaying myself.
Do you know your purpose?
Do you even resonate with the idea of having a purpose?
(1) Lauren Brazzle Zuniga on Josh Sallee's album circa 2012
(2) a quote from a sweet friend Ann Michelle King who was known for being light, bubbly, supportive, artistic, and adorable, until her untimely passing from cancer.
I don’t have extra things to say about creativity that would fit into a blog post. I’m going to spend the time I would take on a blog post making things with my daughter and my neighbors. But I encourage you to consider how you can live creatively. The Kwanzaa principle is not about us artsy types. It says we “always do as much as we can, in the way that we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.”
What creative solutions do you bring to the community?
Don’t say “none” because it’s not true.