10 Good Things that Happened In 2020

With everyone talking about all the bad things in 2020, I almost felt compelled to join in. Almost.

One day, I will open up about ten bad things that happened in 2020.

Today is not that day lol.

The interesting thing about this list is I forgot most of it happened!

I did not forget about the books I published or the fact that I am still above ground, but a lot of this other stuff had become blurred amidst the pandemic, my mom’s death, and other things. As I looked back at pictures and dates, I could only think, “wow. A lot of good happened this year. I was just too focused on the bad.”

As you read this, I hope you will think more about some good things that happened to you this year that you might have forgotten about in the chaos. Yes, even if the only good thing is that you did not contact this deadly virus and are still above ground. Even if all you did was stay safely inside, kept your job and your family healthy. These are the most important things.

10. REVIVAL with Harry Lennix

I had the privilege of being contacted by TriCoast Entertainment to review Harry Lennix’s new film, REVIVAL, featuring a star-studded, mostly black cast in the retelling of the Book of John. With Michelle Williams playing Mary Magdalen, Chaka Khan as Herodias, Wendy Raquel Robinson as the woman with the blood issue, Kenny Lattimore as Lazarus, Harry Lennix as Pontius Pilate and Mali Music as Yahoshua, Revival! is a part short film, part musical, and part Broadway Play. You can check out my full review here.

9. Freedom Train Network

I enjoyed being a featured author for The Freedom Train Network at its Black Woman Celebration back in May. I also got to interview with them on The Freedom Train Network Podcast. It was a fabulous experience, and I am so thankful for platforms such as this one. Joseph Ward, Patrick Irvine, and Sam Carter, three Tallahassee natives dedicated to the betterment of their city and black America, founded the network designed to highlight black entrepreneurs, black professionals, black community leaders, and black-owned businesses throughout the United States. They use this network to educate, inspire, inform, uplift, and equip listeners with valuable and purposeful information. The network also serves as a media resource directory for black Americans who may not be informed about their available resources. (FTN)

8. Ambassador for Greenwood Dist

I became an ambassador for this amazing clothing line called Greenwood Dist. Greenwood Dist. is passionate about “proving that a black-owned business can celebrate black excellence while still making the market’s dopest clothing.” Greenwood believes that “fashion, culture, media, and art can and SHOULD help advocate and ensure that people’s voices are heard. Black culture is the biggest determinant of what’s “cool” and popular. Our culture determines everything from the way society talks to the brands that are popular.”

If you care about supporting black-owned businesses and you care about supporting me, be sure to check out the site. If you see something you like, use my discount code Soul at checkout for ten percent off. 

7. Sold My Books at Barnes and Noble

When I first started working with B&N, I was skeptical. The chain is not exactly doing well. There is not much black literature on the shelves, and I wasn’t sure I could stand out among so many notable authors. With bookstores, it’s like people have to know already who you are to look for you. I hoped to get my Georgia online audience excited enough to visit the store in the area. Well, I don’t know if that happened, but I do know the books sold, and I could bring in more to stock.

6. Visited Spain for First Time

We got to visit Madrid and Alicante, Spain, for the first time. It was just as things unfolded with the virus. We went and got back just in time. (I think Spain shut down like a week later). We picked oranges and lemons from trees, helped plant a garden in Almoradi, a city that gives free land to its citizens, and ate homemade churros and chocolate with coffee. It was so good y’all. We did other things top of course, but this is the cliff notes version.

5. Published Four Books (3 Revised)

I revised The Stella Trilogy, something I have wanted to do because of the poor editing and cover design the first time around. All three parts got a professional edit, new covers, new formatting, and my own ISBN. And I could still release a new poetry book. Now that I think of it, I published four books this year. Between Slavery and Freedom is available free on my website here, and the entire Stella Trilogy is available on KU here.

4. Books in a School

Griffin High School bought some of my books for their school library after my visit in January. I didn’t get to sign them because COVID hit before I could but I am Soul, Renaissance, Revolution, Keep Yourself Full, and Even Salt Looks Like Sugar are all available at the school.

3. Books in a Public Library

I got I am Soul into the Dallas Public Library in Dallas, Georgia. We stock next month. This is exciting because it opens the door for me to get my books into other, larger libraries. As I have heard, it is easier to get into the others when you get into one. Well, we will see if that’s true. I want to focus less on selling books one-by-one and more on packaging them in bulk for larger companies and corporations and then, if it is Yah’s will, do more teaching and coaching. I will still write and publish my own books, but I am ready to move on to what’s next for me. There are no limits.

2. The Next Generation

I spoke to four classes of tenth and eleventh graders at Griffin about writing, publishing, my journey as an author, and advice on how they can Self-Publish their own books. This was the highlight of 2020 for me. I love young people, their innocence and straightforwardness, their non-sugarcoating questions. I love their realness. Because of school policy, I couldn’t take pictures of them except for the media specialist’s one, as seen here. However, some students bought books, some of them asked questions in private after the session, and almost all of them wrote to me thank you cards.

1. Alive and Well

Above all else, the most important thing of it all is that I still have the breath of life in my body. I am alive, my family is alive, and despite everything we are healthy and have lacked nothing during the pandemic.

UPDATE: I forgot about the awesome dinner I had as keynote speaker with Queens Circle of ATL Book Club! As I’ve said, a lot of good happened I forgot about in the chaos.

Call me naïve, but I still believe in silver linings. Even if it’s something you think you might have done poorly or something that went badly, always look for growth in it.

The Preciousness of Now

Photo by Luke Littlefield on Unsplash

“Our passports are basically useless right now.”

I looked at my husband, “what do you mean?”

He passed me his phone with a world map pulled up next to an article. The article detailed that because of the extreme of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, most countries are not allowing citizens from America into its lands. While we were not planning a trip out of the country, this made me think about the preciousness of now, of gratitude, and how quickly moments become memories.

How often do we stop to enjoy the minutes in front of us, before rushing on to the next something?

Fun Fact: I take a lot of pictures on vacation, but I rarely post them to social media when they were taken. Sometimes, I may not post photos at all on that day.

I started this practice after realizing how much I was missing with my head down. My husband would say stuff like, “did you see that deer?” No. I didn’t. I was uploading photos to Facebook.

Alicante, Spain. ©2020. Yecheilyah Ysrayl

I kept taking lots of pictures and sharing them, but not before enjoying the moment in front of me first. It has made all the difference. I can still taste the sweetness of the oranges we picked from the orange trees in Spain and smell the delicate fragrance of the lemons we picked from the lemon trees. And I can still remember the moment my husband snapped this picture, capturing forever a time I am not sure will ever return.

I do not know if the world is going back to what we considered normal, and I am not sure when we will travel again. But, I know that I will keep taking pictures and capturing moments because today is here; living and waiting to be filled. This second. This minute. This single hour. This unprecedented time. This precious right now that will undoubtedly become history. How does it feel to live history? Will we remember? What will we make of these moments before they become memories? What will we do with all these precious hours in front of us before they are gone?

31 Years, 31 Life Lessons

Me having fun in Raleigh North Carolina #Travels

I am officially on vacation. This means that I am doing my favorite thing: traveling. I had a ball in North Carolina and my next stop is Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. I also just had a birthday. Since I turned 31, I thought of 31 life lessons I’ve learned to date. Some of them I am still working on (like my patience) but they are lessons life has taught me were important nonetheless:

  1. Always put Yah and Yahoshua first. YAH is faithful. He can and he will.
  2. Be yourself. People don’t have to like you and you don’t have to care.
  3.  If it doesn’t feel right that’s because it’s not right.
  4. Remember, the more you know, the less you speak. Sometimes the loudest one in the room is also the weakest one in the room.
  5. Watch everything. Let nothing go over your head. Listen to body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Hear everything people don’t say in words.
  6. Establish boundaries, let people know what those boundaries are and remind them when they have transgressed them.
  7. No is a complete sentence. You are allowed to turn down a commitment without feeling guilty about it.
  8. Marriage is sacred. Protect it. Remember that everything doesn’t belong on social media. Learn to experience something beautiful and tell no one.
  9. New beginnings. It’s never too late to begin again.
  10. Love all. Trust few.
  11. Be patient with yourself.
  12. Call your mother. You only get one.
  13. Pay attention to yourself. Your actions reveal your heart.
  14. Speak up. People don’t know how to love you if you don’t show them. If something irritates or annoys you, say it.
  15. Never sacrifice your integrity no matter how enticing the opportunity.
  16. Don’t chase people. If someone wants to be in your life, you’ll know.
  17. Because of the increase in lawlessness, the love of the world has grown cold so be kind, be gentle, be considerate.
  18. Karma is a real thing. If you don’t want it to happen to you, don’t do it to others.
  19. Some people say that cucumbers taste better pickle.” < See how this statement makes no sense? Just because something sounds deep, doesn’t mean that it is.
  20. Be a fool for no one.
  21. Friendships are sacred. Don’t go around calling everyone you friend or sister. Make them prove it.
  22. Remember to check on your strong friends.
  23. Assume nothing. Validate everything.
  24. Laugh. Let joy rub off on you. One day you won’t have the privilege of being in a good mood. One day things won’t be so joyous and you’ll just have the memories of when they were.
  25. Make memories.
  26. Don’t ever look down on someone for not knowing what you know. There was a time when you didn’t know either.
  27. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  28. Spend time alone. Get to know yourself.
  29. Be willing to walk alone, than with a thousand snakes.
  30. Remember the homeless as if chained to them. Let their condition be a reminder of your humility. Your life could always be worse.
  31. Remember that there is a way of correcting people without telling the whole world. Educate, but do not make people feel less than they are. Even if someone is wrong, give them the tools they need to be successful but leave them with their dignity.

Inspiring Dr. Chadwick Boseman Howard University Quotes

Actor Chadwick Boseman addresses the 150th commencement ceremony at Howard University in Washington, U.S. May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Just a little inspiration for you beautiful people out there.

“Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

“Sometimes you need to get knocked down to understand what your fight is.”

“Savor the taste of your triumphs today. Don’t just swallow the moment whole without digesting what has actually happened here.”

“When God has something for you it doesn’t matter who stands against it.”

“When experiencing a long climb one often experiences dizziness, disorientation, and shortness of breath due to the high altitude. But once you’ve become accustomed to the climb your mind opens up to the tranquility of the triumph.”

“Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you.”

– Dr. Chadwick Boseman

Moments Become Memories

Don’t waste it today. Don’t waste your time or hold back your goodness. Do not withdraw your kindness or take for granted the gratitude you can gift to someone else. Gift someone today. Crown them with hope and courtesy. Who knows which of us will be called back to the dirt. Whose breath will leave their lungs to be stored away in the chamber where breaths are. Whose body will melt back into the dirt? Whose bones  will become the home of carcasses that roam the cemeteries? We are told to live every day like it is our last. But how? How do we take what is cliché and make it real? Think of moments. How they live for only seconds at a time. Think of pictures. How they capture those moments when they become memories. Don’t gamble with your life today. Enjoy the warm weather, accept the truth for what it is, and apologize. Apologize and forgive like a well of “I’m Sorry’s” that won’t run dry anytime soon. Be not held captive by anything or anyone. Do not enslave yourself to pain and emotion and sorrow. Always be forgiving. If only because it makes no sense to give us flowers when we’re gone. Do not weep for me, or throw arms around caskets that could have hugged my flesh when breath stopped the skin from melting back into the earth. Don’t waste it today. Don’t waste your time or hold back your goodness from those who need it. You don’t know if today is their day or if it is yours. Because moments only live for seconds at a time and soon they become memories.

Encoded

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Certain memories won’t let you forget
they rush before the forefront of your mind
like messages that escaped the past
only to cement themselves inside you
climb their way through blood vessels
encoded experiences written in our DNA
for thoughts do not disappear
do not evaporate from the mind
only to fall short in the abyss of nothingness
they’re instead a strand of silent data
entwined within the past and the present that is you
and sometimes, the future too
encoded memories
they erupt old wounds like falling planes
in smoke filled clouds
a twin tower sacrifice for your humility
a taste of truth for our memories
a thorn in the side
encoded data
so we never forget what falling feels like.

Butterfly, My First Writing Love

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Where do I trace the birth of this longing? I have not photographic memory as many do, nor do I remember the exact moment I said, “I want to be a writer”. And as I ponder this history of mine, the thunder growls and the winds roar. The skies darken this very moment and hover around this building; leaning its body against my windowsill and making my living room look like evening time. I like it like this really. To hear the thunder roar in the midst of the quiet and the skies darken. It has a calming effect on me. The appearance of lightening is a chance to see pure light, and the sound of horns is a reminder of great power. But I digress. Really I just think they must be excited, just as anxious to discover this mystery. A collection of horns and quarter notes gather from beyond the clouds and deep inside the galaxy, shouting melodiously. The floor beneath me pulsates and sends shivers up my spine. Meanwhile, raindrops tap dance against the roof. Perhaps the scream of heaven is prompting me to remember. I do remember the first time I had the material to organize my writing. I do remember my first journal. I do remember my first writing love.

I was just about to turn fifteen, and though by then I’ve been writing for some time, I had not the care of keeping things organized. I wrote at will and on whatever pieces of paper I could find. But the close of eighth grade presented me an opportunity to confide in that pretty pink booklet with the blue sparkling butterfly on the front. I purchased it in Cincinnati Ohio during our eighth grade school trip. I spotted it at Claire’s, a store at the mall, over in the corner and it was a unique version of many of the journals I had seen in Chicago or anywhere. Somehow I didn’t think I would find it anywhere else in the world. As my peers busied themselves in appropriate teenage endeavors, my pupils danced in delight. Immediately upon seeing it I had to take it home. And I must say it dressed up well for our first date. The pink was fluffy and soft; my fingers found comfort when they slept on top the cotton. The butterfly on top shone bright like the dye was squeezed from fresh blueberries, and to top it off there were little diamonds imbedded in its wings. It wasn’t a diary so there was no lock and key. Nor did I use it as such, but it holds some of my early poems. In fact, I pretty much just used it for poetry, and maybe a journal entry or two here and there. When it opened, the euphoria of opportunity greeted me with the smell of fresh ink, and elegantly curved lines. It wouldn’t be long after this that I would begin my collection of journals and notebooks, but none of them would compare to the first. Butterfly was that first real writing love. The rest were merely copies. And as you can see, I still have it, though it is obviously not as beautiful as it once was. I think I’ll give it to my daughter one day. Maybe. OK well, let me just flip through it first.