Salut Nikki!

Was there ever a time when I did not know of Nikki Giovanni? I ‘d have to go way back to check because she was in my college anthologies, first. But most pointedly, I had her albums and tapes of her reading her poems with music in the background. She was certainly a forerunner of rap and hip hop, as were The Last Poets

In my apartment in College Park, Georgia, I had her album, propped up in the living room in the late 70’s. The cover had a beautiful, brown, wide-eyed baby on the cover, and it was titled, Truth Is On Its Way. I enjoyed it as I listened to her storytelling with a powerful choir in the background. She made me think and ponder the many aspects of life. 

I liked all of it but there are a couple of pieces that stick out in my mind. In her Alabama Poem, there is an old woman sitting on her porch working on her bunions and she asks the young woman walking by what they were teaching her at Tuskegee College, down the way. She gave the passerby a few quick life lessons that would serve her for years to come. One pointer was not to judge the goodness of a man even if he has no DE-GREE. (Hilarious!) 

The other track called All I Gotta Do, helped me to learn to wait, along with John Burroughs poem called Waiting. She says, “All I gotta do is sit and wait. Sit and wait and maybe it will find me.” I have learned that yes, waiting is truly difficult, but it is still a virtue. As others began to putter out, those patient ones begin to shine. 

At my place in Evanston in the mid 70’s I loved her rendition of My House. It is definitive as she marks her own territory and says, “And my windows might be dirty,… and if I can’t see out sometimes, but they can’t see in either…” (Love it!) She has that quiet, succinct humor that sticks and stays in the psyche.

Time passed on and Sista Nikki continually evolved as I too rowed by boat further up and down the streams. She went on to do a stint with NASA. I always kept up with her movements and caught her when I could. She came to Memphis in the late 80’s where there was a conference of literary giants. I made my way over to LeMoyne-Owen College and there stood Paula Giddings holding with a bouquet of roses in the reception area.

And then like magic, there stood Nikki, alone and self-assured. In a flash, we were facing each other and about three feet apart. She smiled and I did the same. No words were spoken nor needed. We had an inaudible Namaste moment. And that moment never left me because we were breathing the same space and hopefully some of that poetic energy flowed on to me. 

Years later, I saw her speak in an auditorium at Boston Public Library in the 2000’s. I tried to see her again when she came to speak at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago again in the mid 2000’s. When I headed to the basement to go the Auditorium. I couldn’t get in. It was packed. Closed. No room in the inn. No surprise there! 

When tragedy struck at Virginia Tech in the mid -2000’s her voice rang out. She is a Professor of Letters there. She spoke in defense of her students with care and concern, and I thought, “Nikki, being Nikki.” Always speaking the word of truth to power and exemplifying the consummate black woman and poet. A true sista, High Priestess of the Spoken Word always telling it like it is. Salut, Sista Nikki!  Speak on! 

Lynn M. 
May 21, 2022 

Going to Little Rock!

The weather was mild and sunny and the pavement was dry. It was the mid-80’s and me and my co-teacher Donna, were on the road in a community-college van filled with anxious young women. We were leaving Memphis and headed to Little Rock, Arkansas for an education conference.

Donna drove and I was her co-pilot and the young women on board were excited, but calm. As their instructors, we would have it no other way. The road trip took approximately two hours and it was a seamless trip. I found it interesting that Donna straddled the lanes as she drove but I didn’t say anything because we basically had the highway to ourselves.

We arrived in Little Rock and checked in at the sparkling, new Excelsior Hotel which had recently opened in the downtown area. It was my first and only trip to Little Rock so I took in every detail about this capital city. We unloaded the van, approached the beautiful hotel, entered and headed towards the check-in desk.

And poof!  The unthinkable happened in a flash. A very handsome, suave man approached the young women smiling and in a matter of minutes, one of them left with him. Just like that and before one could say, “Lickety-split.”  That’s a pun because she had split- with him.

Donna and I were stymied but we had to get our bearings and take care of the business at hand. After clearing our thoughts, we checked in and got the other young women settled in their rooms. As the shock wore off, we did not know if we should go to the police, the morgue or what. This was long before the advent of cell phones so we had no way of tracking her down.

We went on with the plans and I don’t remember a lot about the conference sessions because we all had this looming plague hanging over us regarding the missing student. I do remember that the beauty and ambience of the hotel was both calming and comforting as we tried to make certain that the others had a good time.

One night, some of them ventured out and had some scary encounter. They had walked to McDonald’s to get some of the new bacon, sausage sandwiches which had recently come out. They knocked on our door like little scared rabbits, came in and filled us in on what happened. They wanted to stay in our room for a while. Thank goodness, nothing grave had occurred so we laughed as we executed our duties as chaperones. Of course, the missing student was on everyone’s mind though we all pretended that we were all fine. 

On the last day of the conference, the missing student showed up grinning. I am sure that Donna read her the riot act, but I did not even look at her. She looked insane to me so I privately decided that she was ‘not playing with a full deck’, ‘ paddling with one oar’ or ‘her elevator did not go to the top.‘ All of that street lingo applied to her. Today, she would be called ‘cra-cra.’

We let her in the van and I am sure no one talked to her as we headed back to the Bluff City (Memphis). We were just blessed that we did not have to go to the police department, the morgue nor console her distraught family members.  When I recall that experience now, I just smh (shake my head) and thank the protecting angels who had us all covered!

Lynn M.
May 7, 2022

Aunt Alma

I used to go visit my Aunt Alma on the weekends while attending Jackson State University in the late 70’s. I drove from Jackson to Cruger in Holmes County and as fate would have it, my co-worker, Mary, often accompanied me as I drove the state highways of Mississippi. I dropped her off at her family home in Lexington on my way and picked her up on my way back to Jackson. She was always pleasant company.

Aunt Alma was the wife of my great Uncle Robert Cooper. He was a preacher and a businessman and they still lived in the house where my mother was born. He was a man of few words but I knew that I was always welcomed there. Aunt Alma, a lively, spirited woman, made up for his few words. She was animated, quick and most kind to me. She probably cherished having some girl company after having four sons, though they had all long left the nest.

One had died and the other three had gone North to work in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  An older Uncle Will had gone before them and later sent for them one by one. That was the way part of the Great Migration worked as one went ahead and later sent for others to find new homes and good-paying jobs away from the sharecropping South.

When my Uncle Robert Cooper passed in 1980, Aunt Alma tried to stay in her home of over 60 years, but her sons knew that she was not able to stay there. I went back down there to assist them because the boy children had a difficult time convincing a ruling mother that she had to let her home go.

They were happy for my company as I tried to soothe things over as she made the inevitable move. The scene reminded me of an Ernest Gaines’ short story called, “Just Like a Tree.” The adult children were trying to move the matriarch of the family north with them, but she died the night before they made the trip. She was determined to remain planted by her roots, so to speak.

Anyway, Aunt Alma made the trip to Fort Wayne and took up residence with her youngest son and his family. She survived and eleven years later, my mother and I decided to take a Greyhound bus from Chicago to Fort Wayne to see her. It was 1991, and when we arrived at the house all she said was, “Lynn. What took you so long?”  I laughed and was happy that she had survived, thrived and adjusted to her new home.

My mother and I stayed in a nice hotel for a couple of nights. We went to the Cooper family homes, caught up on the latest and had an enjoyable time. Upon return to the hotel, there was a festive wedding celebration going on and this was an added lift for us. The last day we were there, we were awakened by nearby ringing church bells. It was probably the angels along with our Uncle Robert Cooper singing, “Well done, my good and humble servants!”

Uncle Robert &
Aunt Alma

Lynn M.
April 30, 2022

High Road to Ann Arbor!

In the early 90’s my mother and I took a Greyhound trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan from the Chicago area.  She often agreeably accompanied me on my many excursions after she was widowed. Whether it was author book-signings, literary conferences, missioned road trips or whatever I ventured to do, she was ready to go along. This time, I had an interview as I sought to get into a library school to further my career.

Many library schools around the country had closed by that time, so I was excited to see that the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor still had an impressive program.  This particular trip held a special intrigue for both of us for multiple reasons. I was born in Michigan and it is where she met my father and had her daughters. So, a return to the place of my humble beginnings was a win-win situation.

This time, we decided to take the Big Hound and leave the hassle of driving to the driver.  The weather was dry and mild and it may have been early spring.  We sat back, read and mostly enjoyed the flat, beautiful Midwestern landscape. There were no bumps in the road, nor negative occurrences and once we arrived in Ann Arbor, things continued to flow smoothly.

We had a nice, comfy hotel room and I do remember us walking and visiting some nearby small shops. Everything was low-key which is one of the beauties of college towns.  It was a calm, dream setting for educators and librarians and we both had worked in both fields.

As I think back, it may have been spring break because I do not recall a flurry nor rush of students. I do remember climbing the steps of the building where I met the library professors as I gathered lots of information about the library program.  Some coursework took two years or longer so a lot of thought and money would have to go into taking on such a feat.

Ultimately, the timing was off and the dots did not connect for me entering library school at that time. (But, it did many years hence!)  I was not discouraged nor did I regret making the trip.  When we returned to the hotel, there was some festive event going on the restaurant/bar area downstairs. People were happy and simply enjoying life.  It added to our joy as well.

And yes, of course, before we left the famed University of Michigan campus, we visited the bookstore. I bought many mementoes such as a refrigerator magnet with the school colors (yellow and blue) and logo, bookmarks and other sacred keepsakes that I kept for years.

As I look back during this time when memories continually flow to the top, I am happy that we took that scenic journey. It was the last time that we were in Michigan together, the place where it all started for our family.  I am truly blessed, indeed for that great opportunity!

Lynn M.
April 23, 2022

Unity Village

Unity Village Fountain

In the spring of 1994, my mother and I both agreed that it was time to take that trip to Unity Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. We were once again teaching at the same college in a south suburb of Chicago, as we had done years earlier in Memphis. Coincidentally, we had also gone to college together and when I saw her the hallways, I’d say “Hi, Ma!”

She had introduced all of us to the small, yet power-packed book called Daily Word. Her Aunt Myrtle had shared it with her when she was a young woman living Detroit. Hence, she and I attended Unity churches in Chicago and Memphis. Our Chicago minister gave long descriptive talks about her time spent at Unity Village, so it definitely was on our bucket lists.

I purchased Amtrak train tickets and I thought that going First Class would help both of us relax after working with college students. We left from Chicago’s Union Station as we looked forward to enjoying the serenity of Unity Village.

To my dismay, the First Class car was quite small and we were in there with a large, noisy family. There was a crying baby and a wandering toddler and they never seemed to calm down during our eleven- hour trip. They broke my peace into pieces, but I had to go along to get along. Ma and I later found the humor in it by imitating some of their antics.

When we finally arrived in Lee’s Summit, we took a cab to Unity Village. It was a large, grassy complex and it exuded peace. Though I had rented two rooms, I ended up staying in my mother’s room because it was large and it felt the safest. Money was lost there but, oh well.

We stayed a couple of nights and these are a few of the highlights that I remember once we ventured out of our cozy room. The food was excellent in the cafeteria. Each table had a copy of Daily Word propped up as a centerpiece. That was an added plus as we enjoyed the good food after such a long train ride.

The weather was dry, mild and pleasant. We spent time in the Silent Unity Chapel and I remember a beautiful, stained glass window with a huge white dove displayed behind the altar. We sat in the silence and quietly reveled in the fact that we had finally made it there. We had spent years reading the writings of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, Catherine Ponder, Emmett Fox along with so many other great, inspirational authors.

But our trip to the Unity library and bookstore stood out the most. My mother decided to make a photocopy of the Daily Word message from each of her children’s birthdates. So, we spent time going through the archives to locate the years of 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1950. She made copies of each daughter’s birth date message and later gave each their personal copy. I still have mine!!

The experience was great and obviously, the train ride back to Chicago was quiet and uneventful because I don’t remember it. We felt satisfied that we had made the trek. Years after her passing in December of  2002, Unity Village sent me literature saying that they were building a new fountain. We were invited to help place the bricks around the fountain by purchasing a brick engraved with the name of a loved one. I didn’t hesitate to purchase one to honor my mother’s memory.

To my delight, after a special request, a Unity staff person went out and took pictures for me. This was in 2013 because I certainly did not plan on making that long trip again. Here is calming picture of the new fountain and the paver with my mother’s name on it!  How glad I am!!

Lynn M.
April 14, 2022

For my mother!

Creating Your Own Wealth!

Prosperity is first, a state of mind. Some feel rich with minimal amounts on hand. Others have loads in their pockets, but still experience feelings of uncertainty and unhappiness. They cannot level off and stop striving for more.

A flush of rich ideas is a gold mine. List them and put together a plan and work it. That is what the visionaries did and many amassed great amounts of wealth. But some had no peace of mind. They were not able to say, “I have enough!” It’s comparable to a person who keeps eating when the tummy is full. Thus, they become bloated and that is never a good look.  As one caterer-aunt used to say, “Know when to push back from the table.”

Wealth is truly having what is needed and being able to find peace within as life rolls on. It takes hard work, perseverance and study. Reading the gurus who teach the laws of prosperity can bring everlasting peace. Try visiting the self-help section of the bookstore. Purchase their books and underline, highlight, take detailed notes and learn to apply the laws.

Then, take a personal inventory and see what is putrid and toxic. Delete the nay-sayers and start building up from the ground floor. It may take years, but lay a solid foundation and develop those God-given talents. Then, there will be a less likelihood of trying to take what others have acquired by the sweat of their brows.

Confidence strengthens with small successes. They may be baby steps but they are better than no steps at all. Don’t worry about what others appear to have because no one knows what is truly going on behind closed doors.

Create your own wealth and then you can safely claim it as your own!  Write down your plan, work it and build up, one block at a time. And most importantly, know when you have enough! Then stand back. Smile!  Breathe and glow!

Lynn M.
April 10, 2022

South Station: Setting Trends-Part 2

In the early 2000’s, South Station in Boston was like a mini city to me. It is where my train arrived when I came in from NYC and after I settled in and was hired, it was my lunchtime hang-out. There were a variety of eateries, small shops, kiosks selling Bean Town souvenirs, flower shops, shoeshine men and a small Barbara’s Bookstore located in the center of the station, to name a few. 

I was in a holding pattern in my life as I waited for a quiet storm to pass over. I cannot say that I understood that at the time, but once I landed there, I was determined to make the best of things. Most days were good as I met people from all walks of life; yet a lot of the New England area felt quite foreign to this Midwestern transplant. 

I lived in South Boston and then moved into Boston’s historic Back Bay area. I rented a teeny tiny studio on Commonwealth Avenue and flourished there. I soon saw that Boston was indeed a walking town, so I picked up a pictorial map of the area, went to The Tannery on Boylston Street and purchased some good walking shoes. When that pair began to show wear, I later went to The Tannery in Cambridge near the Loeb Theatre and bought some newer walking shoes. 

And I walked and walked and walked. I recently heard a line from the movie, Sabrina that made me think about my own life. She said that she found herself in Paris. I can safely say that I found myself in Boston. I was far from the maddening crowd, and I was able to breathe, think and walk while listening to inspiring music.  

As life would have it, South Station, my entry point, remained central to my Boston life. Even after changing jobs, me and the station continued our relationship. There was never a dull moment there whether I was eating, shopping, making a train connection or running into old colleagues. 

When I begin to question my purpose for being in Boston, I found ways to comfort myself. I often purchased fresh flowers to give myself that needed boost. And guess what? One day while standing on the subway platform as I waited for a train, I did a double take. There were several women holding on to their bouquets of flowers as I embraced mine. 

I thought, “Wow! Did I just start a new trend? We all silently stood there looking like princesses as we waited for the train. We were showering ourselves with self-love and invisible hugs! 

Lynn M. 
April 7, 2022 

An Unintentional Trendsetter- Part 1

When I was in graduate school at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, I was living on a tight budget. I worked as a graduate assistant while studying, but guess what? We were paid once a month! No, I kid you not. Once a month in the 20th Century. 

A close friend from the area had a standing joke as he tried to lighten the pain of it all. He said the Southern man hiring would ask the new employee, “Do you want to be paid $40 a month or $10 a week?” The humor laid in the fact that the amounts were the same, both mounting to a small hill of beans. 

So, in 1977, the pay was minimal, and I had to learn how to try to stretch it from month to month. That was the law of the land at the University.  After my disbelief turned into belief, I did my best but, sometimes I simply was not able to make those ends meet each other. 

One day, my car was on E, meaning, Empty. Nada. No gas! I knew that I could not call in because my strict boss was not hearing it and I was not about to ask him. What was I to do? As Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  I thought. I didn’t live that far from campus, so I decided to ride my bike to work. I had a yellow bicycle that my father had assembled for me some years earlier. 

It was a push, but I rose early and propelled my way to the campus. After arriving, I took the bike up the elevator to the 9th floor of the Administration Building and parked it somewhere close to my workstation. Nobody said anything and I certainly did not say that I was out of gas. 

I do not remember any verbal protests, but obviously my trek had not gone unnoticed. I guess they thought that the Chicago girl was just exercising her freedom. And the next day, several of the women rode their bikes to work! I laughed to myself and thought, “If they only knew the real reason behind my brave trek.” Thus, I became an unintentional trendsetter! 

Lynn M. 
April 2, 2022 

Thinking Allowed!

Libraries are quite like college towns. Both can be safe havens and places where thinkers can flourish. Many students rather be in the library during lunchtimes to avoid the bullying, boisterous behaviors, and loudness of school cafeterias. In kind, people who use their minds to do every day work appreciate and cleave to college towns. They often offer them a place to think and function at a level of clear-headedness. 

Some spirits simply cannot take the volumes of music turned to 50, or the brashness and crudeness of some subcultures. When referring to absent-minded professors, they may not be absent-minded. Their work simply involves a lot of moving parts and pieces just as an orchestra has several instruments that make up the whole. If everything does not come together, there will be noise instead of a harmonious symphony. Great results take both thought and skill on the parts of many participants.

So, yes, those sacred spaces such as libraries and college towns allow thinking. It is not only okay to think, but thinkers are welcomed, respected and encouraged by those who understand that yes, nerds do run it. If no one is thinking, the ship and all who are traveling on it will sink. The problem-solvers will be in short supply and few will be around to upright and stabilize the situation at hand.

Quite like chess games, methodical answers take time, deep thought and concentration. Rash, quick moves as in a game of checkers may give immediate results but short-lasting wins. Ultimately, no one really wins because the renegotiations will soon start all over again. Cooler heads do indeed prevail, and those cooler heads can find those hidden answers in a calm, peaceful environment where thinking is allowed. Oftentimes, a library or an atmosphere comparable to a quaint college town is the perfect place to truly get the job done! 

Lynn M. 
March 26, 2022 

Spring Break -2012

Lynn in DC-2012

It was the spring of 2012. I had always planned to go to Washington D.C. at some point in my life. With our first African American President in office and the MLK Statue having been recently unveiled, I knew that the time was right. Plus, I had donated dollars to the MLK project and the thought of cruising down on a train beckoned me. I had always wanted to experience the luxury of a sleeper car, so I vowed, “Now is the time.”

I made my reservations through Amtrak Vacations which included a sleeper with a private bathroom and shower, hotel accommodations and other amenities. I went alone during spring break while working as a school librarian and I immediately saw it as a win-win situation. 

After arriving at Union Station in Chicago, the passengers were put on a luxury bus called Eclipse. I forgot the extenuating circumstances, but we were treated well and fed on the bus as we headed to Toledo, Ohio. I saw that as a good omen because my parents took their wedding vows there. It was night when we entered Toledo and a beautifully lit bridge warmly welcomed us.

From there, we boarded the Capitol Limited train and headed on down to Washington DC. I was in seventh heaven with my private quarters and private bathroom. I took copious notes as I always do and relished in the peace, solitude and scenery. When we passed through Harper’s Ferry, I took pictures and in my mind’s eye, I could see the battles of the Civil War on the hilly terrain. 

A newspaper was delivered outside my door, and it added to the royal treatment that I enjoyed on the way there. When I went to the dining car, the wait staff lavished me with little tokens of appreciation. As, I sat alone, one staffer added a rose in a vase while another quietly walked by and added other fine pieces such as special napkins, utensils and the small things that said, “We see you.” In a matter of minutes, my table went from bare to being highly adorned.

Once we arrived at the DC train station, it was busy and one couple who I had spoken with earlier was hurried to a shuttle bus. I believe that they lived there and were returning home if my memory serves me correctly. After inquiring, I soon learned that my hotel was in walking distance, so I rolled my luggage and walked a few blocks with the Capitol Building in view. To my astonishment, I saw the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Building sitting next to the entry of my hotel, The Liaison Capitol Hill. All I could think was, “Daddy.” He had been a teamster member of Local 667 in Memphis, and I felt his protecting presence. 

I settled into my room and made plans for my short stay in DC. The next day, I boarded an Old Trolley tour bus in front of the hotel and quietly affirmed, “Let the games begin!” Here are some landmarks that I saw from a distance: The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Memorial, The Capitol Building, The Smithsonian Museum, The Government Printing Office, what was left of The Occupy Movement, The WWII Memorial and The Ford’s Theatre, to name a few. I soon realized how compact the area was and we were allowed to get on and off of the bus at our discretion.

I got off to see the MLK Statue and marveled at its height and majesty. I took many pictures. Later, I got off for the Lincoln Memorial and I climbed the stairs. I thought of Marian Anderson who sang on the steps after being denied the right to sing inside of the White House. I thought of Dr. King giving his famous, I Have A Dream speech. There were many people gathered around President Lincoln sitting in his chair. I took as many pictures as possible of both him and his historic words inscribed on the walls. I also ate right outside the Lincoln Memorial where tables and chairs were set up close by. There was tarp over the reflecting pool that Jenny walked in during the movie, Forest Gump due to some type of renovation.

I walked over to the Vietnam War Memorial and there was a quiet hush as people silently grieved for all those who were either lost or for those who returned maimed physically, emotionally and in many cases, both. Every household from my era was impacted in some way from that War. I also took pictures of the Korean War Memorial as the ghostly faces shone on the walls. The statues of the soldiers with their artillery under their rain gear were quite memorable.

I continued to take multiple trips around DC and again jumped off the bus to get closer to The White House. We were allowed to get reasonably close to the South Lawn and I took pictures along with others. But most importantly, I actually went inside the Library of Congress. On the way in, I saw a group of children singing on the steps of the Supreme Court Building and of course, I snapped a few pictures. Once inside the Library of Congress, I took pictures of the beautiful ceiling and some of the statues. I saw the Thomas Jefferson Library Exhibit. I had previously studied his U-shaped design for retrieving his books. I visited the LOC bookstore to buy a few mementoes. 

This is merely an overview of what could be seen in DC, but I am just happy that I had finally made it there. The weather was great, the cherry blossoms were in bloom, and I was indeed a happy camper. So glad about it!

Lynn M. 
March 19, 2022