Monday, August 28, 2017

Recall, Recollect and Remember

Recall, Recollect and Remember

I’m going to let you in on a secret, it’s a big one, so brace yourself. I try to live each day to be able to say, “I can die now.” Don’t stop reading, this is not, nor will it ever be morbid.

I am not trying to die, nor am I planning to do so in the near future. My proclamation is one of readiness, not desire. You see, I try to live each day so fully and meaningfully that I can change someone’s heart and mind so completely that they can see their true and full potential. I seek to see my life come full circle and I strive to make a difference. When I have, I say joyfully, “Whew, I can die now.”

In that moment, I am declaring that my purpose is being fulfilled.

Recently, I had one of those moments and it connected me with the spirit of one of my ancestors. If you’ve been reading these posts lately, you know that I have taken up design and sewing. I am also designing the fabric that I make the clothing from.              

A few days ago, I made a dress from fabric made from a painting my sister Myrna created. The painting is so old, that I posed for the features of the baby.

I’d made my dress and had enough fabric left to make another one, but before I did, I decided to make a top for one of my “sisters.” I could see the pattern in my mind and so I made the top without making a pattern. She marveled at my skill and I laughed and said, I have no idea where this is coming from. The top was such a success that I decided to make a longer version for my dress.

That same evening, I started on my dress, and as I did, a memory flowed in like a river. As I cut the fabric made from the image of my sister’s painting, I remembered where that design had first come from, and when I did, I remembered so much more.                          

Back when I was about 14 or 15, I sang with my church choir. We were singing for Easter and everyone had to wear white. I desperately wanted to sing, but we had no money for a new dress. My sister Myrna was between assignments, so she could not contribute financially, but she remembered that she had some white fabric and declared that we could make the dress.

Without measuring or making a pattern, Myrna not only made my dress and taught me how to hand stitch, she gave me something more. That day, on the floor of her apartment, Myrna told me that if I could think and learn and keep learning, I would never ever be poor. She said that ideas and creativity were the real wealth and that as long as I was willing to keep learning, I would never ever be destitute.

I was focused on getting that dress and being able to sing. I was focused on not having to sit on the sidelines while the choir was singing and not looking poor in the process. There were so many “nots” in my negative thinking, that I didn’t consciously hear Myrna’s powerful lesson, and until this summer, I didn’t ever attempt to make another dress.

We have a trove of buried treasure, but we have focused on the loss, the lack, the pain and the injustices of life; so much so, that we have forgotten their gifts.
We have forgotten the legacies that were left when a loved one passed away. We have forgotten their prophecies of a better time and we have failed to remember the work that they have already done on our behalf.

Memories, like the ancestors, are a powerful thing; if you call on them, they come back.

Recall, Recollect and Remember YOURSELF

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Awaken the Divine/Artist in You

Awaken the Divine in You

             If anyone had told me that I would be designing and making clothes, I would have laughed my face off.

              My children are all remarkable artists. I was deliberate with the development of their artistic genes. Where the visual arts were concerned, I felt I had been passed by. I now know that my visual artist had been lying dormant, waiting for me to slow down.

              The visual artist in me was awakened a few months back when something said, “Make a dress.” I listened and now, I am not only making dresses, I’m creating the fabric they are made from.

              Recently, I didn’t just create, I gave life to the memories of my sister who’s been gone from here for 25 years.

              My sister, Myrna Vercher, was a creative light. She was afro-centric long before it was cool, and a feminist before folks were saying the word out loud. She was my heroine. Myrna was a professional photographer at a time when black women were not allowed in the places she photographed. She was a spiritual/ intellectual/artistic being and I yearned to be like her. 

              Myrna was also a painter. I was just 2 or 3 years old, but I remember sitting outside in the sunlight so she could capture my features for the Madonna and child she’d been working on.
              “Hold still, Bess-One.” She said. I was her Bess-One, or the best one of them, she’d say whispering in my ear. My middle name is Bessie, after the singer Bessie Smith, but if you call me that I won’t answer—I just won’t.

              She took me to New York, and bought me a copy of The Science of the Mind for my birthday; I was just 12.

              In our family, Myrna was an enigma, a weirdo, Cousin Marilyn from the TV show The Munsters. She was strange, but she was also my light.

              So when I sat down to create a new dress, something said, “Do us.” I looked up and saw the painting of the Madonna and child. I had posed for the features of the baby Jesus, and Myrna used her own for the mother, Mary. My family was poor, so I have no baby or even childhood pictures. I have her one surviving painting. I have her stories, her light, and her wisdom and now, I have her creativity.

There is an artist in all of us. There is divinity in all of us. Wake up.

Now, more than ever, I love you.

We need We

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Leading with Wellness

Leading with Wellness

              Lately, I have been troubled about the state of our nation, but a wise teacher by the name of Michael White, (who also happens to be my rector) reminded me that the state of our nation is in our own hands.
              What if, Michael posed, the wellness of the world is tied to the wellness of the world’s servant leaders? Not the presidents and kings; not queens or Prime Ministers, but every day people taking up the charge of their everyday lives?

              Recently, at my graduate Alma mater, Kent State, I asked a group of student leaders what negative thought, person or aspect of themselves would they be willing to stop chasing.

One young leader immediately raised his hand. Earlier in our workshop, this same young leader had disclosed that he just didn’t have time for some of the things I’d suggested for personal wellness. He said that he had no time to meditate, read or unplug; he was too busy doing the work of a leader.

Tears came to my eyes as I told him that a leader who is not willing to take care of their own self should not attempt to lead others.

I was crying because I was also speaking to my own self.

When his hand flew up in response to the question of what they’d be willing to give up, I prepared myself for more tears, and I got them.

“I will give up the idealized version of myself that makes me think I don’t deserve to be a leader.”

I dropped the mic and simply said, “Me too.”

BE you, be well, be a Leader

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

If You Ain't Dead You Ain't Done

If You Ain’t Dead, You Ain’t Done

              I know that I’ve been a bit quiet on these blogs lately. I’ve been busy. A few months back, I was trying to figure out something for a book I’ve been working on. The novel, Beauty Thieves is about a woman who discovers that there is more to life than we can see. Meredith Brown; a sociologist turned talk-show host (you have to write what you know,) uncovers an ancient truth; that there are beings who lure you into giving away your most valued asset—your light.

              My brilliant editor, Janet Hill, suggested that I bring in a character like the ones I’d used in Redemption Song and When Love Calls. These characters spoke from the beyond and told the story from that vantage point.

              When I read Janet’s notes, I could see that this was an obvious solution, but I had been too close to see it. 

              Armed with the knowledge of what to do, I had to figure out how. I walked about for days trying to unravel my puzzle. Folks who know me will tell you that when I’m trying to figure out one thing, I work on something else. It’s usually something I’m good at, like solitaire.

              This time though, I decided that I needed something completely new, so I told myself that I should make a dress. I’m laughing as I write this, because until that moment, I hadn’t even repaired my own socks. I knew I needed a pattern, but I didn’t have one, so I’d have to make that too.

              I made the pattern, then cut out the dress and I sat and sewed a completely new garment by hand and when I put it on I was amazed. It was beautiful and it fit me perfectly; better than anything I had ever bought.

The next night I made another dress and another and another. Somewhere in the sewing, I decided that I wanted to design my own fabric and I did that too, and then somewhere in that sewing, I got the answer I was looking for. I used the main character’s mother as the voice from beyond. In this book however, she does not tell the story—she breaks through and speaks directly to the reader.

              In the midst of all of that sewing, I remembered my mother’s diaries; the ones I found after she passed away. She had been writing to me the last two years of her life. In those diaries, she told me what I needed to know now.

              I have finally finished the book, and I have learned a lot more as well.

If you ain’t dead you ain’t done and as Miss Hattie Mae Brown says, “When you live a life that leaves a memory; dead ain’t done either.”

Be you, Be well, be better than you are today.
Bertice Berry, PhD.