WHO ARE YOU?

I love how life imitates art and vice versa. Leave it to a TV series to ask the deep questions. The question of “Who are you?” has become prevalent in my life lately. It’s shown up in “The Gift” on Netflix, which is a series about an artist who sets out on a journey of self discovery and how her work ties into her ancestry. Many times in the first episode alone she was asked, “Who are you?” and as simple as the question was, it required her to question all she knew about herself and where she placed her self value. She began to pull at loose threads in the stories her parents would tell her about herself and her ancestry until her vision of herself began to crumble, and she had to find out who she was in the midst of chaos, much like this new generation of high school and college students today. They are forced to face themselves in self isolation and quarantine in the midst of a pandemic in one of the most crucial election years.

COVID-19 (C-19) has presented the ultimate Tower moment, where life as we have known it has been flipped on its head. Prior to the virus, many had plans to go to college or take a gap year and essentially live their best lives. They were probably looking forward to taking the road most traveled by: higher education, which leads to good job with benefits, meeting and marrying the love of their life, and retiring well off. Financial stability, love, and good emotional and mental health, this is the American dream. It’s also the misconception about adulting; that at some point we will have everything together. I think we’ve almost accepted that we’re not perfect and that things can fall through the cracks. If only we could extend this grace and wisdom to the youth…

I look back on most of my life, and I see that I equated who I was with what I did and was only happy when I was excelling at it, whether it be in academics or athletics. I defined myself by a summary of my accomplishments and goals not knowing who I truly was. I was a track and field athlete in pursuit of the olympics from the age of sixteen. My need to run was so engrained in me from the age of eight that I didn’t know who I was without it. I didn’t want to know who I was without it, but there came a day when I had no choice but to walk away from that piece of my identity. I was twenty two with no identity and even after acquiring a Masters degree in Film and Media, I took on the identity of “grad student filmmaker”. I was still seeing myself through the lens of my actions and valued myself according to what I was doing. It’s a common trap to fall into, and it wasn’t until everything was stripped from me that I truly saw who I was and what I brought to the table. It is my hope that the youth don’t have to lose pieces of themselves to find themselves the way I did. I hope they find themselves through joy and that they excel at everything they put their minds and hands to with support from their parents and guardians, so adults, please put yourselves in remembrance of a few things:

  • You are their first teacher. They learn how to respond to success and failures through you.
  • Tell them you love them, even when they’ve done nothing but sit on the couch watching Naruto all day. It shows that you see them, even when they haven’t necessarily done anything.
  • Validate their emotions, even when you feel they are in the wrong. Everyone is entitled to their emotions. It is our responsibility as adults to facilitate and aid them in navigating them.
  • Affirm who they are in the home before the world gets a chance to.

One of my favorite quotes is, “we are our ancestors wildest dreams”. It comforts me to know they are out there supporting my journey. How much more of an impact will your words have on your children with you present being a present force in their lives? They may or may not know who they are, but when you facilitate the journey with love, you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make together.

“U’i (Beautiful)

My brother

on top of Koko Head peak today

any other day

he may be lost

or just on other mountaintops

Diamond Head

Lanikai Pillbox 

Some days he is small 

in his head

bible in hands

pain, remembrance of

days lost as a kid

We all had to grow up

a little too fast

we all had to survive

a little too much

to make it through days

as skeletons floating

like piñatas 

above winery land

We were hot air balloons 

in Calistoga

on days our childhood house

was always in mode

of lights out and violence

Now you walk outside to see 

colorful fabrics high in the air

flames giving way to

speed and light to

fly away from this life

to be bigger than this life

Brother

you and I

they and us

we aren’t kids anymore

it’s like we took those shades off and

see this new panorama

see this scenery

see these murals with messages

broadcasting how we don’t belong

to our skeletons of sad children

We can be anywhere

like you are now

in the Honolulu hills

Oahu beaches

pineapple mountains 

and palm trees

There is nothing bigger than your grace

bigger than you

e kūlia i ka nu’u

Photo by Georgina Marie, Tropical Flowers in Rural Country, Ukiah, California

e kūlia i ka nu’u” is a Hawaiian proverb meaning “strive to reach the highest”.

-Georgina Marie, Poet in Residence

Vote By Mail November 3rd! (A Photo Essay with Instructions)

Making your voice heard this year is critical. There are active attempts to limit access to safe voting and to suppress voting by Black and Brown voters, in particular, as is common in our great nation. Not one of us is going to get the $100,000 treatment that the outgoing president received to fight COVID-19, so make a plan to vote by mail in our General Election, this November 3, 2020. Here’s how:

The United States Postal Service has been operational since 1775, when Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster General.
Reform society with your votes for Measures and Propositions. Learn about your choices from a trusted news source. I’m in Los Angeles, so I used Elections 2020 Voter Game Plan from LAist and recommendations for electing judges from the LA Times.
Your local city, county and district elections are printed on separate pages. Simply mark your choice clearly to avoid a misread of your ballot.
Sometimes, there is no good choice. It is acceptable for a voter to abstain. When votes are counted, there will be a discrepancy between the number of votes in the district and that particular race. Everyone will understand that some voters were unhappy with the choices.
The Presidential Ballot is the last sheet and clearly identifies all the official candidates, but allows write-in candidates. Once you decide on your vote for president, you’re ready for preparing your Official Return Envelope.
The Official Election Mail is clearly marked, and does not require postage.
Clear instructions are provided on both sides of the Official Return Envelope, a very recognizable and large article.
Signed, sealed and soon to be delivered by the trusted and proven USPS.
The pride of our nation, our historic USPS has delivered election ballots, Christmas gifts and stimulus checks have been sent and received with little-to-no incident for hundreds of years. USPS is as American as it gets!

Educator and activist Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman works to ensure democracy and has voted by mail since she lived overseas two decades ago. She’s safe at home, social distancing and exercising her right to vote.

Social Justice and the Mindfulness Bell Go Together

Please support the Plum Village Community with a purchase of The Mindfulness Bell Autumn 2020/Issue 85 and read the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s guidance for cultivating “Peace, Love and Happiness” during these challenging days. Plus, you can read my contribution, “Peaceful Warrior,” about how I’ve coped with COVID-19 in my new city.

The Spaces in Our Togetherness

risk everything.

And nothing.

I found you whole, a perfect imperfection.

Saucy and hot!

Stay close, hug up on me, bump me–again, worry, smile, cry, mansplain, masseur, get provisions, pay the bills, pick up G, wake up too early, laugh, grade papers, water the garden, teach, teach right after, teach some more, learn two or three things from your wife, get takeout, walk up the hill, put out the bins, close up the house, deliver my bud, check your email, call your siblings–

all kind as love!

And, just this morning.

Edissa mentors artists and writers of all ages in alignment with her conviction for working in radical solidarity to achieve social justice.

Featured photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project.

Watch Your Mouth! Self-Care Through Self-Affirmation

We have made it to the fourth quarter of 2020! With only three months of this year to go, many are feeling emotionally and existentially tired. With things running together on what seems like a continuous feedback loop, many may have fallen off their usual self-care routines. The fourth quarter is where games are won and lost but, in the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill, “how you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” Practicing self-care in your usual ways, traveling, going to the gym, attending family events, may not be practical right now. In a climate rife with complaints and murmuring, the easiest way to maintain self-care, and remain in balance, is through the practice of affirmations.

What Is Self-Affirmation?

Self-Affirmation is the process of speaking life into yourself. It is using your own ashe (divine energy) to shape your circumstances and reality around you. It’s not just positive thinking, thought that is part of it. To affirm yourself means to speak life over yourself from a standpoint of truly wanting to see those things come to pass. Affirmations also aren’t wishful thinking either. The affirmation needs to have actionable intention behind it. For example, if you are affirming that you are a top scholar, you have to do more than just declare that over yourself, you have to do the work and study. Words are the starting point, consistency brings it home.

What If I Don’t Believe the Affirmation?

Of course, believing the affirmation makes it all the more powerful, but as Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers remind listeners, sometimes you just have to encourage yourself. You don’t always have to feel in the mood to affirm yourself though generally, it’s when you’re feeling down that you may need it the most. If you are having trouble speaking positively over yourself, there are a few ways to go about shifting that paradigm.

  1. Therapy. For numerous reasons, within the Black community going to therapy is seen as weak or ineffective. There was a meme on social media that stated essentially that many are exhausted from trying to pray their way through things they needed to seek help for. Self-affirmation can be placed in this context as well. Sometimes, you need a licensed professional to help you understand the root causes of self-esteem issues and other troublesome patterns of behavior. Once you’ve dealt with the root, you can then begin to plant a new harvest.
  2. Enlist the Help of Friends/Family. If you don’t feel that you are able to encourage yourself, try and see if you have family or friends who would be willing to offer you words of affirmation on a fairly consistent basis. Some people need to have things externalized before they internalize them. If that is you, get an affirmation buddy and make it reciprocal. You affirm them, they affirm you, and you build one another and by extension communities.
  3. Meditate. Sometimes it may not be that you have an issue believing the affirmations. Your mind may just be too cluttered with the minutiae of life. Take a moment, or several, to ground yourself and align yourself to receive positivity. For more information on meditation and mindfulness, check back in November!

How to Begin Self-Care Through Self-Affirmation

There is no wrong or right way to affirm and care for yourself. But if you are looking for some starting points, here are some suggestions.

  1. Scriptures, Proverbs, and Parables. Regardless of what spiritual system you subscribe to, if you subscribe to one at all, proverbs and parables abound. They also are prevalent outside of a spiritual context. Though many may find organized religion problematic, there are some gems contained in the Bible, Torah, Koran, Odu Ifa, the teachings of Ptahhotep, et al. that can start as the basis of your affirmation list.
  2. Music. Music is powerful with a specific energy. If you need affirmations on the go, try looking for it in music. Some personal recommendations are any album by India.Arie.
  3. What needs to change? Another starting point is by looking at what things need to change, or what things have died in your life. Once you are able to identify these items, you can move forward to speak life into them and build yourself up.
  4. Social Media. Social media is usually seen as harmful to one’s sense of self. However, there are a few accounts that are great at providing affirmations. Two accounts to follow on Instagram are: @thenapministry and @blackselfcaretalk.

Whichever method you choose to begin, the important part is to get started. Start setting your foundation for 2021 now. Happy affirming!

Burning: Inside and Out

Experiencing personal racism is exhausting. It’s on the news. It’s in my mail. At work when I get some. It’s even in my family.

As I navigate this heat,–let’s call it Traumatic Racial Stress Syndrome, because that’s what it is–it’s as if the land around me is burning. The air is choked with its gritty scent. My home and possessions are threatened by active danger.

My retreat is to a place within where I have learned to cool my embers with the balms of healing. Even so the heat, smoke and flames are always at the door. They wait at the supermarket. Lurking in the woods is commonplace. Don’t even think of getting your brows done.

This is what it’s like to be a Black-Skinned Woman in 2020 America. It’s hot all the time–fires burn on every TV show. Every dinner party is laced with it. My actions are never good enough. I must learn my place or pay the price. I wear my papers on my skin: I do not belong.

Edissa completed production of a short documentary September 2020 and submitted it to several film festivals. She’s working on her next film and hiring a new Contributing Writer for Karma Compass.

Radical Honesty As A Method of Healing

Photo by Terrillo Walls from Pexels


Ah — the internet, overrun with so much discussion about self-care. People mention self-care to promote candles, to sell subscription services, and even foods. In a time like this, there are so many things changing and called into question in our country. Self-care, for some, can feel like a selfish, banal activity that should be on the back burner. 

How can we move through life with clarity without self-care? Self-care is not all vision boards and affirmations. Sometimes it is as simple as telling the truth and accepting our lives with radical honesty.

Honesty as a healing practice

Studies have shown that being mindful of being accurate in our narratives can lessen symptoms like headaches and tension in various muscles of the body. Being honest can be challenging for those who may have had an upbringing that fostered or even encouraged hiding your emotions, thoughts, opinions, and motivations from others. Small steps toward radical honesty is a powerful way to change your perspective and feel more empowered.

Overcoming fears

Changing your perspective can be equally as humbling when you have historically been secure in your experience but have had some trauma occur in the last few years when conveying your truth to others. Here are some tips to overcome your fears of practicing radical honesty:

  • Envision the events of your life after telling the truth. Sometimes we can mentally practice our responses if we prepare for the possible outcomes. Many times, real-life events are much less severe than we had imagined.
  • Push the envelope. Begin to tell truths to yourself that might feel a bit uncomfortable, i.e. you do not like your career. When you can accept these facts, you are a bit closer to changing your life. 

You do not have to do anything to change your circumstances until you are ready, and able, to be honest, will keep you safe from others forcing their ideas on you, or you inaccurately selling yourself.

What to expect

Your family, friends, and co-workers will know what to expect from you because now, your emotions, thoughts, and actions are aligned. Over time, you will want to change those circumstances that do not fit what is best for you, or you have made peace with them.