CELEBRATING THE LEGACY ~ REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
January 15, 1929 ~ April 4, 1968
The journey toward
Freedom continues despite
The crushing setbacks.
The illustration for this blogpost by artist Louis Delsarte captures the fervor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It depicts him when he was at the height of his powers, leading a peaceful protest. Mr. Delsarte was commissioned to create this massive work of art for the Dr. King National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. King emphasized nonviolence as much as he emphasized activism and equality. When he rallied over 100,000 people to join him at the March on Washington in 1963, there was no destruction, no violence on the part of the protesters, no attempted annihilation of the American Constitution. But life in these so-called United States looks very different these days. Just to think, America experienced an attempted insurrection during Congressional proceedings to certify the election of President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris.
What do you say at a time like this? I say: “Stay encouraged my comrades.” Stay encouraged – despite everything. On this, the 92nd anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I challenge you to ask the question: “What would Martin say?” The fragile American republic is as divided and volatile as ever. The evil, destructive, violent political conflagration at the United States Capitol on January 6th 2021 left many individuals even more disillusioned than ever before.
Dr. King forewarned us about the difficulties ahead when he articulated his dream, as he led the crusade for equal rights around the globe. On April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, Dr. King delivered his eerily prophetic “I Have Seen the Mountaintop” speech. Some even say that he preached his own eulogy, most notably the phrase, “I have seen the mountain top. I may not get there with you.”
And even though, as Dr. King warned us, we are assured of some dark days ahead, please know that we are moving toward the light. The majority of humankind is moving in the light, spreading the light, upholding the virtues of peace and unity and compassion and inclusion. So yes, let’s celebrate the birth of Dr. King. Let’s exemplify the ideals Dr. King set for us. Instead of feeling weary, and powerless, stay strong. Stay encouraged. Get organized. Work toward solutions in your own sphere of influence. And, as you’re going about your daily routines, when difficult situations arise, ask yourself, “What would Martin say?”
I’ve been checking in on myself lately, checking in on my feelings. Am I in control? Or am I out of control in any given situation? What I’m noticing is that I could use some leveling up when it comes to emotional maturity. Sure, I’m only human. But do I really want to live my life at the whim of being thrashed about by my emotional triggers?
What (or who) are your emotional triggers? What tends to set you off? We live in a visceral world so it’s only natural that we feel our emotions. Our feelings and emotions run deep, from happy to sad, from angry to understanding. We feel our emotions all the time. Yet, more often than not, we tend to get bossed around by our emotions. We can spin out of control within a split second. Afterwards we think of all the ways we could have handled the situation in a calmer, more strategic way that would have played out more to our advantage.
So what can we do about our emotional triggers? What people, places, conversations, situations, or things make you “go there.” What tends to send you straight to that dark place? Do you abuse food when you’re lonely? Do you “go off” when a family member is critical? Does your boss at work make you feel “some type of way” every time they speak to you in that condescending tone?
The first thing to do is to be aware of your emotions. Take the time to recognize triggers. Mindfulness is a good thing. Practice impulse control. Be aware of your internal emotion regulation. Envision yourself as an emotionally mature person. See yourself as a person who is in control of their emotions. If your trigger is a person, it may be necessary to remove yourself from that person’s presence or limit interaction as much as possible. Even if you are in a professional or family situation that would prevent you from removing that person from your life, you can create healthy emotional boundaries. Know that you have the power to create an invisible forcefield around you that will provide strength and shield you from negativity. After all, it’s all in your mind, isn’t it?
Have you thought about your emotional triggers lately? What sets you off, and then what do you do about it? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
“Excelsior!” Or, as translated from the Latin: “Onward! Upward!” This is my wish for you as we enter our New Year. May you reach heights higher than you ever dreamed possible. Yes! Onward. Upward. I trust that you are poised to make all your dreams for 2021 come true. I trust that you are able to find a way to be optimistic about the days ahead. Today is “Imani” the Seventh Day of Kwanzaa, (which is a Pan African traditional holiday). Imani translates into “Faith.” It comes from the East African language of Swahili. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are called The Nguzo Saba. The principles include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and finally, “Imani,” ~ faith. These are wise principles to live by all year through, not just during the annual Kwanzaa period between December 26th and January 1st. Think about practicing having faith as you go through the inevitable ups and downs of day-to-day life. Think about gratitude. Especially when times get tough. There are many parallels between gratitude and faith. Keep your goals, dreams and aspirations close to your heart and at the top of your mind. Write out your plans. Go forth with confidence knowing that you are worthy of accomplishing all of your spectacular visions for yourself and for our world.
Notes & News
I am one of Moonstone’s Featured Poets!Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, @ 7 p.m. via Zoom, I’ll be reading along with Peter Baroth and Bob McNeil. Please log in and join us!
I wanted to ask you a favor, but I will get to that later. First and foremost, I am sitting down to write because I did not want to let 2020 get away from here without me reaching out to you. I want you to know that I appreciate your love and support. Thank you for reading my blog and thanks for giving positive feedback. I love writing this blog whenever I get around to it. However, for quite some time I have been feeling like these sporadic posts here and there just won’t do. So I have decided that beginning today, December 25, 2020, going forward, I will upload a blog post every Friday. Writing these blog posts represent Kuumba, which means creativity in the East African language of Swahili. Kuumba is the 6thPrinciple of Kwanzaa, (which for those of you who may not be familiar, is a Pan African cultural holiday that takes place each year between December 26th and January 1st.) So here we go.
As 2020 comes to a close, I wanted to tell you about my creative pursuits during this era of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mainly I have been using the time in isolation to do a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of walking. And while I am out walking, I have been taking a lot of landscape and nature photographs. These daily activities I have welcomed may not sound earthshattering, but this forced quarantine has made a huge difference in the quality of my life. For me, this has been a time to reflect and reset. I am naturally an introvert, so I welcome the solitude. Plus I am a creative, so I welcome this space to create. These past 8 or 9 months or so have been the first time in my adult life that I have had this kind of leeway to organize my days organically around my own biorhythms, passions, goals and objectives. For once, I am not obligated to constantly rip and run all over the place each and every day. So even with all the sadness around COVID-19 and all the social unrest, I do have a lot to be grateful for. I recognize that I am blessed and highly favored. I do not take any of these good fortunes for granted.
But keeping it real, I also wanted to take the time to write a little bit about diversity and equity because of this unparalleled year we have had. I want to take a moment and acknowledge how difficult the reality of racism is, how unfair and demonic it is that our society is dominated by systemic white supremacy. I also want to acknowledge how challenging it is to talk about the subject of inequality in mixed company. I am inspired by what so many activists and everyday heroes amongst us are doing to help move the needle forward in the right direction. I applaud your efforts. I applaud your ongoing advocacy, due diligence and hard work. So yeah, thanks guys. I am humbled. So proud.
And while I’m rambling, here’s a short (but true) story I wanted to share.
In addition to all the other stuff, I have become a freelance writer for a corporate blog during this era of COVID-19/social unrest. I accomplished this purely by default.
My close friend and college classmate from Hampton is one of the few Black females in senior management at Rosetta Stone, an internationally renowned online language learning platform. Like so many organizations, Rosetta Stone found itself reeling as the social unrest unfolded following the murder of George Floyd. My friend and one of her colleagues, (a white male) found themselves involved in more than a few hard discussions that were taking place at Rosetta Stone. One of the outcomes of their dialogue, due to my friend’s advocacy, was to introduce me to her colleague (who plays an integral part in deciding what content appears on Rosetta Stone’s blog.) Subsequently I pitched a story on Kwanzaawhich was approved and currently appears on the Rosetta Stone website. This is the first time in the company’s history that they have included Kwanzaa in their coverage of the winter holidays.
And, as far as I know, by contributing this post on Kwanzaa, I have become the first African American freelancer for Rosetta Stone’s blog. I feel so privileged. It would mean the world to me if you would read my article. Here’s the link: https://blog.rosettastone.com/what-is-kwanzaa-heres-what-you-need-to-know-and-what-to-say/. Please click on, scroll down to the bottom, and give it a thumbs up. A thumbs up encourages Rosetta Stone to continue to embrace the ideals of being good corporate citizens, continue to publish diverse articles, and continue to engage in the difficult yet necessary conversations.
Thank you very much! “Asante Sana!” Peace, Love, Joy and Blessings!
“Why us always have family reunion on July 4th?” asks Alice Walker’s character Henrietta in “The Color Purple.”Harpo replies: “White people busy celebrating they independence from England July 4th so most Black folks don’t have to work. Us can spend the day celebrating each other.”
I remember years ago, my own family (on the Dove side) driving 12 hours down Interstate 95, from Philadelphia to South Carolina, to gather by the old homestead in Eastover, to celebrate the 4th of July. At least one hog had been slaughtered and barbecued, sometimes as many as two or three. My Dad and my uncles would stay up all night roasting the pigs on grills they made out of out of 55-gallon metal drums, adding their secret sauce when they were almost finished cooking. And believe me, the meat was tender and luscious. While the pulled pork was the star of the show, when the gathering commenced, there was also plenty of potato salad, collard greens, fried chicken, corn on the cob, lemonade, cakes, pies – all kinds of delights. The up-to-the-moment rhythm and blues music on the radio would be blaring. At a certain time, all the children gathered around in a circle and danced, danced, danced, gleefully transforming the dirt into dust with nary a care in the world.
None of us – neither the children nor the adults – gave a thought about Independence Day from England. And even as they watched their children twist and turn to the beat of the music in the dirt, none of the adults were foolish enough to delude themselves into thinking Blacks were free in America. But we celebrated anyway, knowing that we were untethered (at least for those precious moments), dancing and singing and talking and eating and laughing on the land our ancestors had bought, cleared, built up and made home.
For whatever reason, we don’t gather down there where the old house used to be for the 4th of July anymore. Since those golden days, the old house burned down, another one was built and now even that house has been jettisoned for a newer, prettier, ultra-modern edifice a little further up on the property. You would think our family had arrived.
Yet as I sit here reflecting from my 2020 point of view, I realize that with all the gains we have made as a race, Blacks in America, (and throughout the Diaspora) still are not free, still remain disenfranchised, still are no where near experiencing ubiquitous equity. We still face mountains of injustice on a daily basis. We are still in the throes of daily warfare, not to mention the utterly unacceptable fratricide and Black on Black crimes within our own conflicted communities. We are all very aware there is still, without a doubt, ever-present danger in our very being Black in this country. We are reverently reminded of too many of our brave foot soldiers who were lost on the battlefield. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Trayvon Martin.
Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Freddy Grey. Reika Boyd. Dorian Hunt. And down throughout the ages including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evans, Emmett Till and countless others, too many to name.
Indeed, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them,” once wrote the journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, who was born in 1862 and died in 1931. Talk about shining light on the truth! Especially on this day – I am reminded of Fredrick Douglass’ landmark speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth for the Negro,” presented in Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852. The masterful orator Douglass told his predominantly white audience, in part:
“…I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! -The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can today take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
“…Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting…”
These injustices notwithstanding, as Maya Angelou so eloquently stated: “And Still I Rise!” So you go on everybody. In spite of harsh truths about our station in this country, go on and enjoy this day. Do as Harpo said and “…spend the day celebrating each other.”
Excerpted from Pheralyn Dove’s Forthcoming Volume of Essays:
Gracious when in Pain.
Fair when Angry. Calm when in
Although I do my best to “live in a state of perpetual gratitude,” and claim to have an “ageless” consciousness, I can tell I am getting older. But this has nothing to do with my physical being, or “aging” in the negative (“breaking down”) sense of the word. Because actually, I feel great. I am truly blessed with enough energy to get everything done I need to do and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.
But what lets me know I am on an advancing trajectory (besides my silver hair) is more about my inner world. I am less concerned about what other people think. I am a much kinder person these days. I am a much more patient person these days. My thoughts are geared more toward peace, happiness, tranquility and productivity in the “inspired” sense of the word.
Other clues that I’m getting older? I am paying more attention to how I treat myself and how I treat others. And the biggest clue that I am advancing in age is that each and every day I find myself focusing on what my legacy will be after I leave this earthly plane. Altruistic ambitions indeed. But I’m not ready to go so far as to say I am “enlightened.” Enlightenment is an advanced stage of wisdom I still aspire to and plan to continue striving toward. During my 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s, I never did quite follow the memo about being aggressive and competitive professionally. It seems as though instead of chasing after money and being ambitious, I was always trying to find myself. Decades flew by as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
As I look back, I see that I was restless and forever seeking — wandering aimlessly — following my intuition from one position to the next until after many years I realized I was a writer and creative artist. I spent a lot of time working as a freelance writer, spoken word artist, and public relations consultant, not to mention stints as a reporter, press agent, social worker, executive director of an arts agency and grant writer. It has been a fascinating journey, let me tell you.
What is important to me now is not so much about going after another day job, merely to “pay the bills,” or imagining what “retirement” will look like, but working on my passions in earnest, savoring each moment as I go along. Working on book projects, photography projects, and theater projects consume me each and every day. I absolutely love being in the flow. And I feel so humbled and blessed to be on this path. But enlightened? Not even close.What about you? Do you feel you have reached a stage of enlightenment? Does this idea even matter to you? I would love to know your thoughts. Peace, Love & Blessings Always.
*This post first appeared on my former blog: “Sacred Journey to Self Love.”
makes miracles happen in
our everyday lives
I live my life in a state of perpetual gratitude. I believe in magic. I believe in miracles. Not just the ethereal, other-worldly stuff. But the everyday stuff too. The stuff we all too often take for granted. Like our breath. What a miracle – the way our bodies breathe for us each and every moment of our lives. And what about other functions our bodies perform, like sight, mobility, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and so many other wonders.
Sometimes I am aware of divine intervention during the course of my daily routines. I find my car keys just in the nick of time, pay a bill and revel in the realization that I have the money to pay it, or consider the fact that I am one of five siblings and we are all friends. Indeed. My family, my friends, my comfortable lifestyle – all miracles. And this precious gift of writing – another miracle that I am humbled to perceive. I’ve shared my artist’s statement many times before and I’ll repeat it again: “Each and every poem I write, I consider a gift from God. A turn of a phrase. Emotions that surface. An experience distilled into verse. Each offering is a present from the Creator. All praises, I say. Thank you for choosing me as the vessel.”
My writing has spun me all over this world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. From all across these so-called United States, to Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and Europe. At this writing, ports in Asia and Africa beckon and trust me, I fully intend to heed their call.
Just imagine. Me. Pheralyn. That same little girl who started out on Clifford Street in North Philadelphia. Reciting poems and Bible verses at Morris Brown AME Church. Writing letters to my grandmother who lived 500 miles away in South Carolina. Just imagine. That little girl is now a woman being paid to write about whatever the muse whispers in my ear. Just imagine. That little girl grew up to be a professional poet, paid to join the bandstand with some of the world’s most awesome musicians, offering my spoken words to the beats and riffs and melodies and harmonies that float off their instruments. Yeah. Just imagine. Is it any wonder I believe in magic? Any wonder I believe in miracles?
I took the photo above in Paris of the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Avenue des Champs Elysees. I was in the City of Lights to cover the 2008 Richard Wright Centennial Conference for the Philadelphia Tribune. Now you have to believe me. That was quite a magical moment to find myself in the middle of traffic in Paris, on assignment to write about one of my favorite authors. First of all, I’m not even a staff writer for the Tribune. I’m a freelancer. And secondly, the Tribune, which is the nation’s oldest African American newspaper, does not have the kind of budget required to send freelancers across the Atlantic to cover a story. But thanks to magic, it happened for me.
Upon the recommendations of poets Lamont Steptoe and Aziza Kenteh, the cultural community in Philadelphia came together to raise the funds for my air fare and lodging, making sure there was no excuse for me not being there. I’ll never forget it. Once the word was out, Aziza circulated a letter of support on the Internet. Then on one of her famous “First Fridays on the Vine” open mic sessions, she announced my trip, asked for donations, and dropped a crisp $100 dollar bill in the basket before passing it around. The miracle manifested right before my eyes.
I feel so blessed to be on this path of finding my way through the brush and the thickets, all the while following my passions, lifting up my gifts to spread throughout the world. My wish, my prayer is that you too are ready to embark on a magical path of self-discovery, service, and gratitude. I hope that you too exist in a wonderland where the angels and the ancestors, the Creator and the muses all align to make your dreams come true. Where magical thinking makes miracles happen in your everyday life.
Here. Let me sprinkle some of this fairy dust on you too. Yes, yes indeed. I believe in magic. I believe in miracles. I believe in love.
*This post first appeared on my former blog: “Sacred Journey to Self Love.”