Infinite Possibilities

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21, oh life has just begun… It’s been a very long time since I wrote a post. In that span of time, so much has happened in my life. My entire junior year of college has

Part of the BSU board at my Zeta new member presentation.

Part of the BSU board at my Zeta new member presentation.

literally come and gone, and reflecting back on it, I must say I am truly blessed. It had its fair share of ups and downs, but nonetheless, it was very fulfilling for me personally. I had the opportunity to serve our Black Student Union as President, culminating my years of service to this wonderful organization. I am excited and optimistic for its future on campus, as I see amazing young people ready to take on its reigns.

My Aunt and I during my freshman year.

My Aunt and I during my freshman year.

My beloved Aunt Marilyn passed on January 16th, right before my Spring semester started. I tell you now, you will never meet a woman as caring and warm as her, and it hurt my soul so deeply that she left us–too soon, in my eyes. I wasn’t ready for it (who ever is?), but even as she was sick, I just knew and believed she’d get well. She always did. But this time, it was her time to transition to her heavenly home. Just months before, she graduated with her doctorate. And within a week, she was hospitalized. I thank God for giving her the strength to make it through a glorious journey that exhausted her for many years. I thank Him for the life she lived, the love she poured out to others, and most importantly, the love she had for her Savior. I draw on her strength continually through everything I do, and I know she’s looking over me and our loved ones near and far.

My family at my Aunt's commencement in November.

My family at my Aunt’s commencement in November.

Yet, in the midst of pain, God prepares you for greater blessings. This semester, I had the privilege to begin a lifelong journey of sisterhood through becoming a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. This was no doubt a culmination of years of contemplation, relationship building, support, and growth. While I had some sort of exposure to other sororities prior to coming to Minnesota, my journey with Zeta was solely influenced by the relationships I found with Sorors here in Minnesota, which is honestly, quite beautiful to me. What was most resonating with me was that, wherever my journey would take me, Zetas would be there to support me, encourage me, and be a mentor to me, regardless of my interest. The entire Blue and White Family have also always been there for me, and I am so grateful for both my sisters and brothers. I truly inherited a family.

My LS's and I after we were inducted into Zeta! #ElementZOfFinerWomanhood

My LS’s and I after we were inducted into Zeta!
#ElementZOfFinerWomanhood

I entered the sisterhood alongside seven amazing, beautiful, strong, resilient young women that I love dearly. To know that I have the rest of my life ahead of me to share with them and vice versa is a blessing, indeed! We are so different in so many ways, but through our bond in Zeta, our sisterhood comes to life. I love Zeta because of its ability to bring women together from all walks of life and unite them through our principles, and I feel it strongest through the bond with my LS’s. These women are about to take over the world! #JustWaitOnIt It’s amazing how God works. I remember my Soror Brittany telling me on Founders’ Day this year (not my Soror at time obviously, but at this point, I was sold on becoming a Zeta) to think about how I would honor January 16th moving forward, in light of my aunt’s passing. January 16th is now not a day of mourning, but a day of celebration. It is a day where I can reflect on the matchless power of sisterly love, as it is my Founder’s Day. I can honestly say that the way my Aunt loved me and those in her life influences me in my relationships not just with my sisters, but with everyone, and if anything, January 16th is a day of rededication to do just that: love, and love fiercely. —- I’m sitting here right now, in awe that in less than one year, I will be a graduate of the University of Minnesota. I will have graduated with honors. I will have left a legacy here that I never thought I could accomplish almost three years ago when I stepped foot on my campus. I will leave with friendships, sisterhoods, family that I can cherish for a lifetime. I will literally have the world at my feet. Not many can say this, so this is a blessing in itself. I am at that point in my college career where people are starting to ask me, “So what are your plans post-graduate?” Honestly, I don’t know. My path is not clear-cut, and to be honest, it never was–at least, outside of my education. I was never the type of person who made a strict plan for my life in the next 5-10 years. I thrive in the college environment because anything less than 5 years I can work with. Once inspired, I set my basic path (primarily, my academics), but along the way, experiences came into my life and I took advantage of them. And so, I cannot tell you where I’ll be in 5-10 years. And I don’t want to be able to tell you. I am on the track towards my doctorate and professorship–a goal further solidified through my aunt’s journey. But right now, I cannot say definitively what discipline. Through my major, I have been exposed to multiple disciplines, and I’m still searching for the one best for me. I know I am called to be an educator. There are days when I see myself as a professor. Other days as a K-12 teacher. Other days as something creating curriculum system-wide that better engages students holistically and seeks to teach the truth. I could very well do all of these things in my career. I’m just not sure where I’ll start first. For a long time, I said I would go back home to Chicago for a few reasons. I miss my family dearly. Every year, I seem to spend less and less time at home. I also feel compelled to bring everything I have learned here in Minnesota back home. But I’ve also traveled across the country and can see myself elsewhere for awhile. East Coast, Down South…maybe even still the Midwest. But that’s not a solidified decision. I have a unique opportunity in my hands as I approach graduation. God has blessed me with life circumstances that allow me infinite possibilities! At first, I was afraid of this. I wanted to go home because it was safe. I almost considered staying in Minnesota because it was safe from a career standpoint. I considered different locations because certain friends of mine lived there. And that’s fine and all, but I don’t have the obligation to do so. I am not married, nor am I in a relationship. I don’t have children. I am not burdened financially to the point I cannot be mobile (I just have a boatload of loans -_-). I will have an education. I have knowledge of a plethora of opportunities that could take me anywhere. All I have to do is take advantage of them. What a blessing indeed! So, when the time comes, I will make my next move. My senior year is shaping up to be great. My big project is my Senior Honors Thesis (which I will chronicle the process through the blog). I’m transitioning out of BSU and into Zeta. And most importantly, I will graduate on-time. Currently, I plan to apply to a variety of public service/federal corps programs in the gap year(s) between undergrad and graduate school. I could honestly be placed anywhere in the country through these programs. And who knows? I might come across an opportunity that will take me out of the country. While that is definitely scary in itself, I cannot be found by fear. Whatever path God has for me is the best for me, so why should I be afraid? Why should I limit His blessings? Writing this post in itself has been therapeutic. I will confess and say more often than not, I approach this topic with more cowardice than courage. I want to take the easy road out. I want to tie my life down. I want to take the next step that’s been outlined for me by the world, no questions asked. The trajectory looks much clearer that way. But obviously, that’s not what God wants for me. He wants me to take the leap of faith I have dreaded for some time now. He wants me to trust Him with my future. He wants me to stop burdening myself with worry and self-doubt and just JUMP. And He has ensured this through leading me down the road less traveled. When I am afraid, I remember what my God said: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). At every step, He will be there. At every moment where I feel I do not have a clue as to what I should do, He will guide me. When I am weak, He will strengthen me. I am worthy to fulfill His plan for me, because He lives in me. And that’s all I need. The possibilities are infinite, and I have just scratched the surface on what could happen. And that’s alright with me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqdd2_SiTsU

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Let Them See You Sweat

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I keep beginning to write this post, only to walk away from it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is fear. Maybe it is my ego. I cannot pinpoint it. All I know now is that this time,  I cannot walk away.

I have a supremely difficult time being vulnerable. For me, I do not see vulnerability as a weakness or a dissension from God’s masterful work he employed when sculpting us in His image. It is central to our human experience. It uncovers the depths of our souls. It shines a light in the darkest crevices. It reveals our wholeness. It makes one strong.  It is necessary to trust. It is necessary to love. It is necessary to change lives, to change the world.

And it is one of the biggest plights of my life. I don’t know why I decide to fight it so often, to attempt to live as a Superwoman as if it is humanly possible to do so. Even Superman had a Kryptonite.

I tried to seek out the answer through various venues, starting with my family. I come from a lineage of strong women, and that is something that I am nothing but proud of. My grandmother, aunts, cousins–they pour themselves out for the ones they love on a daily basis, and it is seldom that I see them in a state of weakness. I admire them; their strength, their compassion, their love. I know they have each gone through their share of struggles, and if it was not for their ability to pick themselves up, they would not be where they are today. But even they did not do it themselves. They had each other, their circle of sisterhood. As Pilate, Reba, and Hagar supported each other in Song of Solomon, they continue to come together and support each other.

Then I look to my mother. To this day, she never ceases to amaze me. She is beautiful and beaming of love. Even when I was the irritating, spoiled, ungrateful child I can be, she has not walked away from me. But this is not a trait that she employs solely to her only child, and that is what surprises me. I have seen a snippet of her struggles, and I can count on one hand the times I saw her cry. She held it together, especially for me.

But now I am at this point that while I praise the women before me, I feel like I am employing the qualities I admire about them in the wrong way. The largest struggle I have encountered in my nearly two years since leaving home is knowing who I can trust and reveal myself to–all of myself. I’d rather be strong. I’d rather be Superwoman. I’d rather be someone people can depend on. It’s easier to be dependable than dependent.

But it’s also toxic. Very toxic. I remember reading When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down by Joan Morgan and feeling so refreshed because she gets it. She understands. She has an entire chapter on “Strong Black Women” and how toxic that mentality can be to Black women. It is completely okay to be strong. I would not be here today if I was not strong. I would not have been able to get through heartbreak, depression, loneliness, isolation, self-worthlessness, all of this without strength. But when it takes away your vulnerability, your humanity–that is when it becomes toxic. When it makes it increasingly difficult for you to trust people, to lean on them for support–that is when it becomes dangerous.

I’m tired of employing this “Strong Black Woman” logic. It’s not that I do not want to be strong. I just also want to be real. Real with myself and real with the loved ones around me. I have legitimately pushed people away because I felt I was becoming too vulnerable in front of them, and that is something I am not okay with anymore.

The reason why I am writing all of this is because I know I am not the only person struggling with this. Whether it is a person in my life, or a complete stranger across the world, it is not an issue that people do not struggle together with. For me, I can never go through something without taking a note from Jesus. If there was anyone in the history of existence who endured the greatest degrees of vulnerability and triumphed, it is Him. And that keeps me going. Whatever keeps you going, find that. Keep challenging yourself. Push your limits. Because doing so will also challenge you to become a person with no secrets, full of integrity.

We were created to be in community. There is nothing beneficial about perpetually isolating oneself emotionally to preserve “strength.” We are all imperfect beings. We are one piece to a puzzle. When we live like no one needs to truly know us, we set ourselves up for failure, especially in our moments when we need someone the most.

I know this is a stray from my normal topics, but it needed to be said. It must have been if I keep thinking and wrestling with it so much. Hopefully, we can all grow together from this. There is nothing wrong with letting someone see you sweat. Or cry. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Because it is only but one setback on your path to greatness. A setback you can overcome. When you act like it is something you can fix when you really can’t, you end up like Olivia Pope, drowning in a pool of issues and a glass full of egotism. You are better than that. Get back on your path–the right way.

With much love,

Amber <3

Welcome to the Blog!

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After much encouragement from friends, I finally have my own blog!

I would like to introduce myself to the newcomers and to the ones I know quite well. My name is Amber Zakiya Jones. I am a PROUD product of the South side of Chicago, Illinois (and when I say proud, I mean PROUD). Currently, I am a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, majoring in African-American & African Studies and minoring in Political Science. As I work towards my senior Honors thesis, I am becoming increasingly interested in womanist/black feminist philosophy (I say this now because if you have plugs/resources, I am happy to receive them). I go hard for the Black Student Union; I’m on the Executive Committee. I work with some fabulous feministas as a Communications Intern for the University of Minnesota Women’s Center. Jesus is my Savior (and my homie :P). I like cheese. I’m a hip-hop junkie. My hair is natural and sexy. My life is pretty dope. Jus’ sayin’.

I adopted this moniker Zakiya Sankofa (which is also my Twitter handle: @ZakiyaSankofa) not too long ago for a couple of reasons. Zakiya is my middle name, and it was the name my father chose for me, as he wanted to speak prophetic truths onto my life, much like our ancestors from Africa. In my research, I have come across two origins for “Zakiya”: in the Swahili language, meaning “intelligent”, and in Arabic, meaning “pure”. Hopefully I am living up to these expectations–I’ll leave that up to my father to determine. ;)

“Sankofa” carries the second portion of the moniker to symbolize the lifelong journey I am embarking on to be one with my culture, my history, my identity, my people. “Sankofa” is from the Akan language of Ghana, and it means to “go back and get it”. It has been widely interpreted in North America to symbolize the importance of learning about your collective past and being one with your culture and history. For me, I find peace in the fact that this journey does not rest in reaching a destination, that the treasure lies in the journey traveled, much like Santiago in The Alchemist.

With that being said, this blog will be an outlet to express my sentiments while venturing down this journey. I will be delving into topics such as Blackness, (black) feminism, womanism, poverty, racism, activism, religion, spirituality, theology, education, mass incarceration, youth, love, family, my childhood, leadership, sexism, hip-hop, elitism, the list goes on and on. IF (and I mean “If”) I get my poetry thug-dizzle on, I might share some verses, but keep in mind I’m (somewhat of) an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit. I will attempt to not censor myself only because this is included on my quest to freedom. As I up my reading game, I will share some book reviews.

I intend for this blog to be a release. I am also on a quest to be more publicly vulnerable. So hold me accountable. If you sense I am being too guarded, call that shit out in the comments. We cannot grow together if we do not feel one another. I want this experience to be cathartic. I want us to purge. I want us to revitalize. I want us to be restored.

When I say “us”, I take it seriously. Contact me at my email azjones0210@gmail.com if you have something on your heart to share. I want this space to encourage story-telling. So often, we build barriers to keep people away from each other. We walk around in exclusive inner-circles. We make simple judgments that balloon into serious, static, permanent perceptions and keep us locked away from the greatness we all possess. I am not about this life anymore, so if you want to venture down this journey with me, hand gripped tightly with support, by all means, join me. We cannot progress if we do not exist in community–my ancestors taught me this.

With that being said, welcome to the blog, and welcome to this journey. The road will be bumpy, but I anticipate a wild ride! :)