2017 in Review: A Year of Blooming

2017 in Review: A Year of Blooming

2017 has been quite the year!!! I made a lot of noise. I’m hoping 2018 will be a lot more quiet though.

This year:

I released kin.DREAD, my second book, into the world – a 200+ pg book that’s essentially a memoir interspersed with poems, reflections and stories told through the lens of kinship & dread. I am thankful that more than 100 people have a copy of the book since it’s been out in May.

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More info about here:

I had the opportunity to tour pre () and post-release () of the book across 3 states and 12 cities – a total of 20 shows.

kindread book tours

I’m still ever so thankful for the generous venues – Laredo Border Slam, Write About Now, Mic Check Poetry, Houston VIP Slam, Blah Poetry Spot, Puro Slam, Coast 2 Soul, Slam New Orleans, Austin Poetry Slam, Poetic Underground, Modern Muse Poetry, among many others – that gave me space to share my stories.

Outside of the official tours for the book, I had other opportunities as well to read from or share poems from the in Houston, Prairie View and Shreveport. Thanks to , Marvin Smith (Notebook Assassins) and Gerald Cedillo.

I also spoke/shared poetry at some specially curated events – CHI St. Luke’s Health–Sugar Land Hospital for their MLK Day event, for their Harvey-inspired event, and the Black Heritage Celebration @ Killough Middle School.

Even outside that, I lent my voice alongside this generation of artists using their art as a means to resist. Thanks to the vision & leadership of Lupe Mendez (with the writers resist events) & (with her work with ) + 100 Thousand Poets for Change…

As if being ‘a part of’ wasn’t enough (& I guess it wasn’t), I got the chance to cocurate a performance series with my choreographer friend, Rebecca French for that gave space to queer, white, black, female, Christian, (Muslim, Mexican-)American, immigrant voices

Also, I taught poetry (workshops with the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees, Eclectic Truth, & a class for two weeks with Writers in the Schools (WITS), was part of panels, and competed in some major poetry competitions (Bayou City Slam, Red Stick Regional, and SouthWest ShootOut Regional – where I got third place)

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Also, my work was published/featured in:

Glass Mountain // (Volume #18 Spring 17),

Houston Chronicle // (http://www.houstonchronicle.com/…/After-Harvey-Poems-from-t… …)

Squawk Back // (http://www.thesquawkback.com/2017/04/falomo.html …),

Pressure Gauge Press // (https://pressuregaugepress.com/pressure-gauge-journal-issu…/ …),

Write About Now // (https://www.youtube.com/playlist… …)

&

Houston VIP Slam // (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su2wJUPufIk …)

I think that’s it. & yo, I did all these poetry things while working full-time as a school psychologist. & yo, I got paid for doing something I’d still do even if I wasn’t paid for it.

Anyways, all that to say don’t let nobody tell you what you can’t achieve in a day, week, month, year. Ever.

Aside from poetry, a lot of life happened. I was mostly in a state of constant overwhelm. I passed my licensure exam after the 3rd try. Harvey happened. That destabilized me a whole lot – especially mentally. Especially in regards to doing my day to day job. Many people stepped in – gifts and monetary donations from individuals, venues and organizations, ears to listen to vents, arms open wide for much needed hugs, doors opened, books mailed to replace the ones I lost in the flood… Yeah. And of course, there were other personal challenges as well, most of which I didn’t feel equipped to deal with.

But STILL, here I am.

My word for the year 2017 was BLOOM, and boy did I! Blooming is a beautiful thing when it happens. However, people just see the bright of the yellow and the red and purple. They often don’t see the dirt, the dew, etc. that allowed that blooming. And so, too, I am thankful for those who were both shade and water/soil and hands when I needed it most.

To say the least, 2017 has been a busy year. It’s why I had to take December to retreat. & I definitely as heck am looking forward to more of that in 2018.

As I’ve shared the word for the upcoming year towards the end of the last few years, mine for 2018 is STILL. I hope you all find that, in whatever way it might look like, for yourselves as well.

STILL here (at your service),

Ayokunle.

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On 2016 – A review of the most hated year by a Dreamer-Doer

I think we can all collectively agree as a people that nationally (and even for the most part, globally), 2016 was a crappy year, without a doubt!

In the midst of everything that happened, including witnessing the year take a lot from the world at large, the nation, and even the people closest to me, I still managed to not just survive, but thrive.

2016 is kind of like the old lady who just recently moved into the neighborhood that everyone hates, because they think she’s a witch, and because it was when she moved in that kids started dying, husbands started losing their jobs, marriages started to split, car accidents (let’s say about 6) happened…and guess where, at the front of her house. I mean, it’s really kind of hard to not want to agree with everyone else that she might be somewhat responsible, but…

…then you remember the apple pie she baked for you when it was your birthday (you still don’t know how she knew it was your birthday but eh, who cares, you have apple pie to stuff your face with!), and how you were pretty much balling so hard during the summer, because, thanks to her, you had a job – helping her around the house, washing plates, laundry, mowing her lawn, etc. and went home with baked goods + the dopest meals every single night!

What I’m saying is, while I can sympathize with my friends and family members and the world at large regarding how messed up this year was for almost everybody, the same year was consistently good to me. What 2016 has been to a lot of people I know was what 2015 and 2014 especially were to me.

What I’m saying is that I can literally mention at least one thing that happened each month throughout this year that proved to be significant to my trajectory as a person. So, that is exactly what I’ll do, list at least one thing for each month of this year for which I didn’t even really expect but am grateful for.

This year started off, in January, with a feature in a local magazine here in Houston. Also, I started a podcast with my friend, Jose Avalos Estrada. It was mostly a learning experience, I’d say for both of us, but I’ll say myself definitely.

In February, my friend, Sade Champagne invited me to join her on her radio show to share some words. Also, considering it was the month of love, I release an audio project of love poems, titled my song is love. Also, I was also asked to be a digital ambassador for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts‘ CounterCurrent Festival 2016.

For March, I was awarded a fellowship by the American Psychology Association (APA), pretty much the highest honor I’ve received so far in my field, and it didn’t hurt that it came with $6000 and expense paid trips to conferences later in the year. An interview I did with The Lunar Cougar, the online blog that features profiles of University of Houston alumni, in January was posted.

In April, I was featured as a spotlight student via the Graduate Studies department of my alma mater, Sam Houston State University. Also, my friend Sade Champagne gave me the opportunity to host the “Sharing Your Story” segment of her show, where I gave the listeners some tips and encouragement on writing, etc.

Also, my work (a write up about identity – how I’m coming to terms with my experience as a “black” immigrant to the United States from Nigeria) got published on The Black Expat.

In fact, I, , forgetful me, found out midway into this that I actually wrote a recap of the first quarter on the blog.

Soon after, it was May, and it was then that I graduated with a Specialist Degree in School Psychology from Sam Houston State University. In May, I got myself a passport as a graduation gift to myself. Also, my friend, Charles (a Teacher) sent me a message to tell me that he found one of my poems in his school’s poetry resources for teacher.

In June, I finished my internship with Humble ISD as a Specialist in School Psychology Intern. And an adventure started – my first trip, another gift to myself, outside of the United States, to Costa Rica. Also in June, the poetry community I call home, Write About Now, was featured in the Houston Press.

In July and August, the adventures continued. I got the opportunity to travel to New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Denver Colorado, and Atlanta, thanks, in part, to the fellowship from APA. Many many experiences to recount that will have to be another post if I were to do each justice.

In August, I started my first year as a Specialist in School Psychology with the same district. I signed the lease to my very own apartment – the first I’d have all to myself; brought a one man play infused with poetry to the Houston Fringe Festival. Also, I got the opportunity to work with my very good friends at Goodspero on a series of videos for my newest project.

In September, I turned 26, which is to say, I made it past 25! Also, I shared again, the introduction to a video series of the new project – kin.DREAD (more on that later)

As September ended, I had the opportunity to compete alongside some remarkable individuals who also poet remarkably in what is known as Texas Grand Slam.

In October, I met one of my poetry inspirations – Rudy Francisco, had the courage to share publicly, for the first time, (through Facebook) a deeply personal story about my past struggles with mental health, spent a Sunday morning with new friends on a beach in Galveston, witnessed my work ( a poem from Texas Grand Slam) get featured on the Write About Now YouTube Channel for the very first time, and I announced the desire to tour the kin.DREAD project – which as I type this, is a reality.

In November, I voted for the very first time, celebrated 9 years of being a US resident, celebrated the very first Thanksgiving where the whole of my family is in the US, and handled the cooking, witnessed two of my friends get married to each other, and came out alive of a situation at my workplace that resulted in a lockout/lockdown of the whole school.

This month, December, I started it by sharing the news about my tour. Soon after, another video of a poem, the most important I’d ever written if I’d be permitted to say that, from Texas Grand Slam was posted by Write About Now. Also, I finished paying off my school loans from Grad school (thankfully didn’t have any for my undergrad, thanks to Dad and grants), an interview I did with Millennial Faith Podcast got posted, and… well, it’s still December, so…

I’m sure I missed a few things and there sure are many more seemingly small moments over the course of the year that I could have shared, but these are just the highlights that, as I said, added substantially to my development personally and professionally.

As I’ve shared on Facebook, my word for 2017 will be BLOOM. For 2016, it was TRUST, and it was the perfect word to guide me through the year – to be reminded constantly to let go of my desire to control everything and trust that everything is working for my good. As you’d notice, there was a lot of firsts this year – and it was hard to not want to spread my wings for fear of falling, but then again, that’s where trust came in.

This year, for me, though a lot happened, was a lot of preparing, planting, watering, pruning, etc. I so cannot wait to share the flowers I’ve been tending, in all their glorious shades and hues, with you all in the coming year.

I sympathize with you if 2016 wasn’t as kind to you. I do hope though that your 2017 is grand! And it definitely can start now 🙂