Ten years ago, Jessica was my student. Now she’s an actress and a model using her voice and calling for change.
I don’t say much because I like to stay in silence. I’ve been told many times—your nickname should be MIA or ghost but when I need to speak I will and I will state all facts because I’ve watched for years, studied for so long, and witnessed first hand!
7 years old (Louisiana) – my teacher talked about me to my face, called me stupid, said I would never be anything.
9 years old (Virginia) – walking home from school a group of kids on the back of a pick up truck threw bottles at my feet and yelled, “dance monkey dance.” I ran home (thank God for my father’s speed) but yet they yelled, “run little ni*** run”… I never told my mother but I cried for days from bad dreams.
10 or 11 years old (Tennessee) – my teacher called me the n** word, wouldn’t let me use the restroom, and put F’s on my papers without even looking at it.
15 years old (Texas) – A kid at school said I can pass/be cool with both bc I’m “paper bag brown” so I can sit at both tables. He said if I was a few shades darker I couldn’t sit with them bc then I would be targeted and they would see me as the rest…in his eyes “trouble makers.”
22 years old (working a flight in nyc): “you’re pretty for a black girl. I’m sure your ancestors were some of us bc your hair is wayyy too pretty and you’re way too educated to be just a black. Are you sure you’re black sweetheart? I just never seen one like you.”
The list goes on from different places around the world!! But I can honestly say I’ve met the most beautiful amazing God given people in ALL races! We all are one. We all bleed the same red blood. WE ALL ARE HUMANS!! My life matters just like the next and for those who think mine or my brothers and sisters do not, I will pray for your souls. Everyone be careful and stay prayed up. Our time is coming and it’s closer than we think.
We all bleed the same red blood.
Jessica Cobbs, May 31, 2020
Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
"Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
As the first semester at my new school winds to a close, the students have had some extra down/review time leading into exams. “I’m taking song requests,” I said to my class while sitting in front of my computer at my desk, double checking potential failures in a final attempt to give kids opportunities to pass.
“Rihanna. Love on the Brain,” Rebecca responded.
Ironically, I’ve had love on the brain for a while now although my thoughts on the matter don’t quite align with Rihanna’s lyrics. Love keeps knocking at my door, showing up in phone calls, texts, mail, books I’m reading, on television and social media, almost everywhere, persistently, as if to say, “Let me in. Don’t let me go. Oh, but share me because I will multiply. Pass me on.”
Flashback with me a couple of months or so, one month after evacuating from my Harvey-flooded house, I left Houston on a weekend getaway through Dallas and into Oklahoma, a break filled with family and friends and Love. It was a wonderful escape to places I-call-home during a time when I didn’t have one.
On the return trip, I began mental preparation for my work week, telling myself that everything was going to be okay. But, thoughts of nurturing kids and making up two weeks of lost curriculum time amid so much personal loss overwhelmed me, and thoughts of doing that without my former co-worker friends seemed impossible. Anxiety attacked a place in my chest that felt like my heart, and bitterness crept into my head about living at a La Quinta in Houston.
When I arrived back at the hotel that Sunday, Kody wasn’t there. I texted him after waiting awhile to announce my return, “Will you bring food when you come back?”
I never heard from him.
I said never, but I’ll rephrase. I didn’t hear anything from him until his key scratched at the door, and he stumbled through, wasted, and promptly passed out on the bed. I saw red. Anger coursed through my veins, pounding at my temples. Anger towards my husband for handling his stress like an alcoholic, anger towards Oxy for transferring us from Dallas to Houston away from a home and friends and a job I loved, anger towards Harvey for destroying my house and taking most of my furniture, anger with myself for taking a job without knowing exactly what I would be teaching. And all of that anger turned my heart black, into a thumping conglomeration of hate. At that moment in time, I HATED my life.
The next day I endured school and texted Denise afterwards. In the back and forth, three things resounded:
Not the “come live with me part,” which I totally considered, but the “Hang on? Love others….” followed by, “Are you going to run away?”
Forty-seven-year-olds don’t run away. At least, I don’t, or I don’t think I do. Her question helped me realize I had to let it go—I had to let it ALL go—the anger, the moving back to Dallas fantasy. I needed to breathe, put one foot in front of the other, and choose Love and grace. If you’ve read any posts since October 2nd, hopefully you’ve noticed I’ve been practicing. Recovery is a process.
I’m fascinated by how YouTube reads minds. Maya Angelou popped up the other day.
I’ve seen this video before, but not in a couple of years. Now, I can’t stop hearing her words: “I am grateful to have been loved, to be loved now, and to be able to love because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold. That’s ego. Love liberates.” Hey Rihanna, I recommend listening to Maya Angelou.
From Maya Angelou, my thoughts shift to Jesus. After all, he is the reason for the season, and reminders of Him abound this time of year. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). As an English teacher, I notice he said, “must.” Love is imperative.
Recently I started a book called The Gift of Crisis: Finding your best self in the worst of times. I know the author and psychologist Dr. Susan Mecca through a friend, and I’ve been to Susan’s house for dinner. Her book had been on my To-Read list, and post-hurricane, Susan offered a free download of her book on LinkedIn. She knows crisis. Her son Nick and her husband Vito simultaneously had cancer after Vito had recovered from the paralysis of Guillain-Barre. Nick is now healthy and cancer free. Vito lost his battle. I feel guilty claiming a crisis in comparison. Susan says, “In the years our family fought for the survival of our men, Nick and Vito taught me love always brings transformation to our lives. That love is endless and can never be taken away from us, even when we can no longer see its source.”
In chapter one, Susan suggests some strategies and exercises for a crisis:
Imagine it is six months after your crisis has passed. Your best friend is talking to you about what s/he admired most about you during the crisis. What do you hope s/he will tell you?
Strength, grace, and love popped into my head.
Reflect on someone (real or fictional) who has gone through severely challenging times in his or her life. What are the qualities or traits that person demonstrated through his or her personal crisis?
Sydney Carton, Maya Angelou, Jesus, and Susan Mecca come to mind.
If you don’t know Sydney Carton, let me introduce you. In A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney was a miserable alcoholic before meeting Lucie Manette, but his character shows how love liberates. His love for Lucie frees him to be a better person and my favorite literary hero. Sydney tells Lucie, “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you…think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you.” Sydney Carton’s sacrifice at the end demonstrates a Christ-like strength, grace, and love.
Dr. Maya Angelou survived rape at age seven and coped by not talking for the next six years. She grew up in the segregated U.S. and became the first African-American trolley conductor at age fifteen, a civil rights activist, a poet, a journalist and author, an actor, director, producer, and professor to name a few. The epitome of strength and grace, Dr. Maya Angelou says, “Love liberates.” And I have witnessed that truth in my life time and time again.
I’m sure most of you have heard of Jesus. So many celebrate His upcoming December 25th birthday, but the night before he carried his own cross to his own crucifixion, he commanded his disciples to “Love one another.” As a believer and Christ-follower, I want to live my life like that—with His strength and His grace and His love, and when I speak of His grace, I mean His kindness and His forgiveness.
And as for Dr. Susan Mecca. Well, I look forward to finishing her book. She has made me realize my crisis is over. All of my people are alive. After losing her husband to cancer, Susan shows strength and grace through her message, “Love always brings transformation to our lives.”
And I say, “I am practicing. And you know what? I feel both liberated and transformed.”
(And the messages keep showing up…)
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a new year filled with STRENGTH, GRACE, and LOVE!