Saturday, April 8, 2017

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sweet Black Love - Nature or Nurture?

What kind of romantic love do you create when you’ve been shaped by community love? What turns you on about a man or woman, when the community has turned out for you? Is attraction simply a matter of individual biology and natural instinct, or does the community’s touch help you interpret the intimate touch?

AYA’s 2017 - Community Love Honorees - Gerry and Celeste White may be best qualified to answer this age-old nature/nurture paradox.

Gerry is an Assistant Professor at the Clark Atlanta University (CAU) Whitney M. Young School of Social Work and Owner of PES Consulting. Celeste is an author and Instructor in Sociology and Criminal Justice @ CAU. They've been married for 24 years.

"When I was in Jr. High school there was a major race riot. Some white boys tried to jump me. My brothers weren’t having it. My neighborhood wasn’t havin’ it. The next thing I know, there are police dogs and everything. I was in the Malcolm X movement, and just after high school my second home was the Uhuru House in Oakland. Though my dad and mom divorced, both were strong in my life, and everyone – especially the men - in the neighborhood had a hand in raising me. They stood up for me and taught me to stand up for myself. Still today, I’m still best friends with Bookie and other brothers that I grew up with back in Richmond, California"

"Raised in the projects of San Francisco, I had 7 mothers – my mother and her best friends. These women came from the projects too, and regardless of their hardship and struggle, they made sure I was taken care of. They saw to it that no harm came my way, that I was fed, that I got an education to hold on to my dreams. They also were on me to make sure I stayed focused."

They could never have known that their respective communities were preparing them to write and sing a life-long love song. When asked what was his attraction to Celeste, Gerry said, "outside of that beautiful hair and smile, was her discipline. When we were in college, she insisted that we go study in the library before we could go out on a date. That’s the kind of discipline I needed to get me through college. She never wrote my papers; instead, she inspired me to do my best."

Celeste revealed the four things that made Gerry the man for her - “his big steps, his chocolate colored skin, his commitment to family, and the way he stood up for what he believed in and for others who had been treated unjustly." She remembers him on his campus @ California State Univ -Hayward, advocating for the Black History Program. “He was always on the front lines,” she says.

Gerry said, the people I was trying to get to come to speak, were her professors at San Francisco State – Asa Hilliard, Wade Nobles, Angela Davis and more. She was being taught by the heavy weights! Everything lined up, and Gerry remembers: “She was such a 'perfect spirit.'" “I was waiting for the catch.”

Over 29 years later, he's still waiting, and has decided to enjoy the gift that he still calls the “Perfect Spirit.” She still calls him "Superman."

Superman and the Perfect Spirit - their love cup hath runneth over - showering us with three other perfect spirits: Imani, 23, Nia 19, and Jaya, 15. "Together they are faith, purpose, and victory," says proud Papa.

While Celeste and Gerry are accomplished writers and educators, and business owners, they point to their community work with most pride.

Celeste says, "we’ve created a 'Healing House'  where anyone feels welcome. I love helping people focus and stay at peace with the confidence that they are doing the right thing, and that their investment in their family is right."

Her passion is Black women’s power and influence in ways that function in the Black community. In her own words, “I’m interested in the agency and resiliency of the Black woman."

Now, you know Jo Ellen Moon, and the rest of her mothers are smiling at their handy-work. 

Gary points to his initiating the fatherhood movement in GA after the Million Man March. He said Georgia was targeting Black Men with felony convictions for child support issues. I started educating men in barbershops. I was traveling all over the place talking about Black fathers and the Black Family. Mr. Hunt – along with those other community men who helped raise Gerry back in his old neighborhood - are smiling at what their touch has produced.

Even today, Celeste likens Gerry to a Black Onyx and still loves his poetry, especially “A Tribute to the Black Woman, and her favorite his I Stand as A Black Man." “When he does that poem, I sit just waiting...” He, in turns, likens her to brown caramel for both the color and the flavor. “Pure sweetness,” he says. About the poetry, he adds, “She turned me into a poet.”

So while the nature vs. nurture debate still rages in some circles, here there is no question: community love birthed sweet romantic love. That love is reborn with each new act of community love.

Come. Bring your love - romantic and/or community - to celebrate with Gerry and 
Celeste at our 5th Annual Black Love Dinner Celebration.

“Let The Circle Be Unbroken.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Healing Love in the Raw

What does is mean to have a love that heals and a love of healing? What is it to love healing our people in a society which profits from making us sick? What does it take to transform that love from a dream to a "dream come true" for decades? You’ll have to ask our Healing Love Honorees for 2017 - Quinne Cook-Richardson and William E. Richardson, MD.

Their love is like their diet and their lifestyle – organic. It is derived from the living spirit that each brings to the marriage of 26 years. Like all living things, their love has grown. Like organic fruits and vegetables, they came to the marriage table with perfect imperfections.

“William's imperfections caused me to find my own joy." Explaining more Quinnie said,

“My husband isn't perfect. He is human. At first, I expected him to make me happy, then I learned through our trials and tribulations that no one can make you happy. I was used to basing my happiness on outside experiences. My husband helped me to find a joy which I control.”

Quinnie seeks to spread that joy via “Innerwork: A Retreat For Women” that invigorates the mind, body, and spirit. She also plans to assist more women who desire to have an unmedicated childbirth.

Through their healing practice American Clinics for Preventive Medicine (ACPM), William- the Medical Director -  has helped countless people find relief from the disease and pain of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. He’s helped even more find vibrant health integrating both conventional medicine and holistic disease reversal therapies.

Called the Vegan Doctor, he’s challenged us all to join him by starting the day with a live-food breakfast, smoothies and those 63 push ups every day for his 63rd year. Whew!  He’s a teacher, a fixture in the Atlanta African-centered community a lover of our people and a lover of Jazz. To many of us, his presence is healing.

A healing love is a growing love.

Over the years that grow appeared as Folasuyi 25, Akinbola 23, Olatunde 21, Orisamola 18, Adeshola 16, Olatunde 13. Four of them were home births where the children assisted Papa with delivering their siblings. Folasuyi, the eldest daughter, has been present for all of her sibling's births.

“When we married we agreed to raise our children as vegan and have maintained that lifestyle as a family.” Their personal family love is bound up with community love and healing. Just as William extends himself via his School of Natural Medicine and YouTube Channel, Quinnie mentors several young people and has helped them to complete high school and go to college. She says: “I believe it's our responsibility to make certain any child we come in contact needs are met."

When asked the secret of their healing love, they summed it up in one word: commitment!

“We have a strong commitment to keeping our family together regardless of our differences.”

Join us in giving returning just a smidgin of the love that this couple has shared with the community at AYA's 5th Annual Black Love Dinner Celebration.

PS: In case you want your Black love in the raw, you can order “raw” as your dinner preference.”

Purchase your tickets here:

This is a fundraiser for AYA Educational Institute, If you can't attend, please consider purchasing a ticket, and donating it for college-aged students to be able to attend. Medase.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Building Love - 2017

Growing Trust

Trust is the operative word for a Building Love. . The operative skill is how to build trust when distrust is induced? Oppression induces us to distrust ourselves and each other. It’s like learning to grow food in a torrential rain. Conventional growing wisdom is not enough. However, the skill of AYA’s 2017 Black Love Building Honorees is more than sufficient. The honorees are:

Brother Wade and Sister Monica Muhammad

Brother Wade and Sister Monica Muhammad have cut a new path through a thicket of obstacles. They have been growing their love in this torrent of oppression for nearly 28 years. This year, they will celebrate their 25th anniversary and they will celebrate their children: 5 girls, 2 boys and their “bonus” sons and daughters:

  • Ayanna and bonus son - Jeff 
  • Aisha and bonus son - George 
  • Amiynah and our bonus son - Jamar
  • Horace
  • Emmanuel
  • Zuheerah 
  • Tynnetta

For them, nation-building is family building. It is at the center of their building with and for our people. They are also proud of the grands which they call Generation X. With the latest grand on the way, Wade and Monica have figured out how to grow family cohesiveness in a torrential rain. They are so smoooooth at it, though!

Modesty rules. Brother Wade is probably shaking his head at the attention garnered by this short introduction. He and Monica give credit to the presence of Allah - God in their hearts and their lives.  However, it would be an error to take their modesty for weakness or timidity.

They are quiet a powerhouse in our community – touching lives, teaching, organizing and leading by example. Guided by the  “do for self” philosophy together they continue to procure land and create a sustainable family agricultural business.

When pressed for the keys to their success, the answer from their lips is the same. “The success we have experienced on our journey thus far is the Synchronicity of our Belief in putting Allah God at the forefront of everything.”

The consistency of their actions, their unselfishly sharing themselves with the community, and risking to make “do for self” a reality, tell the same story in a more observable way.

Across generations in the family and across various groups in the Black community, they’ve learned to engender trust over distrust. They have learned how to grow food in a torrential rain.

Join us. Their love has something for us. In turn, they need us to help hold back the rain – so they can grow some more food for our community.

See you on Feb. 11th @ 7pm.

Young Love - 2017

Young Love in a Bowl, or Two

New love (and young love) is awkward. It has incredible highs and lows as bottomless as the ocean. Young love is vulnerable love, especially in this oppressive environment which uses individualism, self-blame, induced identity confusion, the superior/inferior line, and more to thwart its journey to maturity. With all that and more, young love is our only hope. We embrace it and surround it with support and protection. To that end, it's with great pleasure that we announce
AYA's  2017 Black Love Young Love Honorees:

Ruby and Tenisio Seanima

They have been building together for 8 years and married for 4. They have been fruitful  - Fasola, Kwame, Malik are a testament to that.

They have been fruitful in the community as well. They both attend to our community's health in different and complimentary ways. Tenisio is an agrarian. He cultivates the land and advocates for Black farmers – urban and rural. He’s a disc jockey and audiophile attending to our people’s music, our musical story, and legacy. He’s also a Basu (yogi) working to provide stability for AfRaKan people via our holistic health.

Ruby is a physician and educator. She educates the next generation of health professionals and is the first teacher of her children. She is also a health coach, consultant, and speaker. She is creating a community of women dedicated to their own and their family’s well-being. Her goal is to stimulate generational transmission and a self-determination particularly in the areas of health, wellness and abundance for our families and community.

Tenisio and Ruby are being honored because their young love is grounded in respect for their respective families, our community, and our culture. They do not take Afrikan culture, our sustenance, nor our thriving for granted. They examine everything critically. They seek counsel from elders they respect and are respected among their peers.

They nurture our people, our community, their families, their children. They also know the wisdom of the Kongo:

“Love is like a baby, it has to treated tenderly.”

To that end, they’ve embraced AYA's Warrior-Healer-Builder (WHB)  model and other models to help nurture their love. One particular novel application of the River of Touches is what Tenesio calls the two bowls – The Thought Bowl and The God Bowl.

He says: “The Thought Bowl is a receptacle where we place loving notes about each other in good times and The God Bowl is the receptacle where we place notes regarding our relationship challenges in hard times. When either of us places a note in The God Bowl, we notify the spouse of its presence. Before the two of us address the note's content, we pull out all of the notes from the Thought Bowl and read them to each other to remind us of the love we have despite the current issue addressed in the God Bowl note.

Ruby expresses this nurturing with the terms: “Patience and Space.” She says, “we need the patience to weather the ups and downs that come into our relationship - knowing that the end goal is more powerful than the energy of the moment. We also need space to let each of us be ourselves and grow individually, so that we may be stronger together."

"The "end goal," the "Thought and God Bowls, " The River of Touches" - they are working to build a love foundation to serve our people for a long time to come.

Thought Bowl / God Bowl
Join us as we surround this young love with our love. Let's praise their work and bless their journey and extend the same to other "young lovers" at our 5th annual Black Love Dinner Celebration. Come. You might even learn why the "hard time" notes go in the “God Bowl.”

Get your tickets now:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Goodbye St. Valentine

Seek Tyehimba Love. Send a Tyehimba card. 

AYA's Black Love awards are not popularity contests. 

To get your hands on one of these, you have to earn it.

Black love is in need of love today. We need real Black-Afrikan relationship-building, family building, nation building love.

Tyehimba love is the kind of love that you'll fight for, and it's the kind that will help you fight against anything that threatens your love or our people. It's a laughing, crying, on the beach and in the trenches kind of love. It's an ancient Afrikan love from the beginning of time that responds to the urgency of now - recreating itself - changing while staying the same.

It's a healing love - one that soothes the wounds born of oppression, one that nurtures a confident and creative hand as you seek to heal family or build an organization or business.

It's a Black love that also stiffens your back as you face the winds of resistance and days of loneliness that accompany your decision to take the Afrikan growth road - less traveled.

It's a love that also strengthens your grip as you reach to snatch our freedom from the tyrant's mouth.

This is the kind of love modeled by 2015 Honorees - Baba Watani and Mama Ahadi Tyehimba and many other honorees. It's not a popular love, it's a principled one which transforms those in it to transform our world from death to life.
Feb 11th. Get your tickets now.
St. Valentine doesn't know anything about this kind of love. He only knows an escapist love that hides his need to dominate - even in the bedroom. 

It is a pseudo candy-coated love-domination born of his inadequacies - hundreds of centuries old. It's so old he knows nothing of the spiritual transcendence embodied in "I am because we are and we are because I am." He gives lip service to - but is not "turned on" - by the complementary wholeness that defines Afrikans. 

Domination is his surrogate, his pacifier for the wholeness that is your birthright. His perfumes hide the smell of his decaying soul. The more we follow him, the more our relationships and our souls begin to smell like his.

So leave St. Valentine. Leave his sham, scripted love fests that dissolve to tears, that tastes of sawdust when the artificial sweetener wears thin. Abandon his love-domination scheme that leaves us questioning our worth and abandoning our real divinity.
That is his albatross, not yours. Leave him.

Seek Tyehimba love. Come watch it, catch it, touch it, and dance to the heartbeat of revolutionary Black Love. Come home to real Black Love @ BLD 2017.

*Be Real Black For Me