What needs to be said.

From Mel: I've been itching to get Chidimma in front of my camera for awhile now. I've enjoyed her podcast a ton this year due to the focus on social justice issues that impact how we do life with each other and ultimately how we love our neighbors. When I heard she was headed through Arizona I jumped at the chance to meet her and love what we created together. She has a passion for the addiction community, essential oils and yoga and I value what she had to share here.

Here are her words: 

From Chidimma: {If I were to change one thing about living in this world what would it be?} This must be the right question because tears have sprung to my eyes. I would love to feel more connected to the Divine and kinder to myself about my foibles. I would let myself off the hook a little more and see good in myself as I attempt to see good in others. Some of the things I say to myself are very unkind and untrue. I would change that about myself. 

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Another thing I would change would be my platform. At times I do wish I had a bigger platform, if only to be used by the Divine as a vessel to be able to serve and to be helpful to more people. About a week ago I began to question EVERYTHING. Wondering if I wasn't doing my life's purpose. The unkind thoughts that pursued me like the unrelenting dripping of a broken faucet...what you do does not matter? Why are you spending so much time on your podcast? Your existence on this planet has not made a difference in anyone's life. Why are you still here? You're wasting your time and everyone else's too. Just stop. Now friends, intellectually I know that this is not correct information. Yet in the throes of it, the psychological assault was incessant. I wept. I was broken. I considered giving into the unreasonable demands.

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And then I came out on the other side, because what I've learned is that the only way through something this painful is through it.  I also realized that self-care is incredibly important and it looks like the following for me: I need to move my body daily. I need to meditate daily. And I need a daily essential oil regimen. As I've incorporated these three items, the sunlight has returned. My spirit has infused. I again feel connected to the Divine. 

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What do I want people to know? That as an empath I am incredibly aware of the emotions of those around me. And although I may "play an extravert on TV", I am extremely introverted so navigating my identities as a Nigerian-American, a Nigerian, a Black woman, a woman of color (WOC), a spiritual person who happens to love Jesus and humanity, a non-christian who was raised in the church, a person who seeks to live in the solution, someone who has never quite fit in, and as someone who is recreating the rules of engagement there are times that I just do not have the bandwidth to teach you about your own privilege, why what you said was hurtful/racist/sexist/xenophobic/homophobic/transphobic/etc or to respond to your ignorant text or comment and that is ok. 

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This is my life. I went to a 50 minute Kettlebell Spin Fusion class which is half kettlebells and half indoor cycling. The class was awesome and the instructor was a woman of color, very possibly biracial or multiracial, a solid instructor. And it was so nice to see a WOC teaching because friends, that. is. usually. me. Only me. Not many others. And then I'm confused for other WOC who LOOK NOTHING LIKE ME. Oh yes, that really happened. A white woman mistook me for another WOC yoga teacher in Las Vegas, NV where I lived for nearly 10 years. Mind you, my friend and I LOOK NOTHING ALIKE. Not even a little bit. Then she proceeded to argue with me about who I was, insisting that I was my friend when clearly I was not. That, friends, is privilege. The ability to be flat.out.wrong. and still insist that you are correct. And there were no apologies by the way.

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Or receiving a text message from a yoga friend whom I've had coffee with once. And I get a random text message from her telling me that she wants to bring more diversity to yoga so they're having a yoga photo shoot and she hopes I can be there. Can someone please tell me what does that mean? I mean, I know what it means because English is my native language, but really what did she mean? So here's the decision tree of my mind. Do I go to be a POC face for public consumption? Do I scold her? Do I hold space for her folly with grace and love? I likely will go with option three because that's my way, yet I haven't formulated the words and I'm still shocked about not only the timing of the text but the content. The reason the timing is so interesting is that I am currently in the process of requesting my images be removed from a website for an organization with which I've not been affiliated since Jan 2017. People have gone to this organization's website and have seen my image thinking, through no fault of their own, that (a) I'm still affiliated with the organization and (b) there is diversity at this organization which is a falsehood, whether the deception is intentional or not, I want no part of it. 

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The onset of #metoo which began 10 years ago with Black activist Tarana Burke opened many people's eyes. I didn't post #metoo on social media because I was having a hard time reconciling my own experience as a survivor of sexual abuse as a child (aka sexual assault). I was 7 years old. And it was a family "friend". And because my stomach was hurting thinking about the intersectionality of our identities and that how historically in this nation, Black women and WOC's sexual assaults and harrassment has not be taken as seriously as white women's experiences. Even the fact that Tarana Burke began #metoo A DECADE AGO and people thought it was started because of that Hollywood abuser who will not be named by me and a white female actress used the hashtag me too and that spread like wildfire all over social media. There are differences when a white woman speaks of sexual assault and when a WOC does. Similar to kidnapping. Look at the 20+ year story of a white beauty pageant girl who went missing and then look at all the children of color who go missing. There is a disparity in media coverage and general love, care and concern when children of color are kidnapped or killed. 

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Today alone three white men have been fired from their jobs due to inappropriate sexual conduct at work. Those five words should NEVER be strung together and yet they are. All. the. time. Ok, so back to these men. They believed the women that were their colleagues were essentially there for their own consumption. But why? Because of entitlement. Similar to my sweet friend who thinks that bringing diversity to yoga is as easy as photographing me doing some yoga poses. Hard no. I am not here for your consumption. I am here because Divine Love, the Divine, Spirit, a Power greater than myself still has work for me to do. I give of myself willingly, as it makes sense and is safe for me to do, yet I am not here for you. 

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While I am largely comfortable in my own skin (thank you to the Divine, essential oils and a decade plus of work!) I am very mindful of the types of conversations I can have with whom and where I am, in real life and on social media, to ensure I am safe both physically and emotionally. I wish people would understand that the laugh of a survivor as that person retells someone else of their horrifying experience with sexual assault or harassment, may be a legitimate laugh, or may be the laugh many of us have done to gloss over the pain and powerlessness we felt in the moment and often continue to feel. It is similar being a WOC. I hear things that make my heart stop all of the time and before I used to laugh and allow the feeling to pass, but not anymore. I want people to know that I don't always want to be strong, that I don't always want to speak up and speak out and that I'd like a day off once in awhile, but that is not reality. While I acknowledge I do have some privilege in some areas of my life, overwhelmingly, I don't exercise the privilege of checking out. And that is not an indictment of anyone else. I am not you. I simply am speaking authentically about my own life. Yes, I take breaks. A band works because while some players are breathing, others are playing. And that is how this #resistence is. I tap out and you join the fight of advocating for others and when you need to tap out, I rejoin the advocacy efforts. 

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Most importantly, I want poeple to know that my love for humanity means, I speak truth to power in love. You may not like what I have to say, yet I would encourage you to pay attention and lean in.  #hoperising