Monthly Archives: August 2011

Guest Podcast: The Collective Story of Women

Although I mentioned asking Lillian to contribute a personal story, I just realized that only those of you who follow the Uncaged Birds group on Facebook have had an opportunity to listen to it. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t actually posted it here. Till now.


The Collective Story of Women


Have a listen and share your thoughts and comments!


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Filed under Coaching, Retreats, This & That

Owning what you “know” you know

I’ve asked both Lillian and Jemitra to share a personal and self-care story with you all, and now it’s time for me to add my own story – a professional story. When I requested the other ladies contribute something, I had no idea that my own offering would be so timely. But instead of pushing this to the back burner and choosing something that I’ve had time to (over-)analyze and digest, I decided to go with this one, while the feelings are still new and raw.

Last Thursday I did a webinar for a client of mine. It’s the second project in a 3-project deal I signed with them at the end of 2010. Because this is a large international organization, it goes without saying that I was very pleased to have landed the deal. The first part – individual coaching of one of their executives – went extremely well.

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Guest Post – Things my Mama Used to Say

During our last Fixe Jour planning meeting for the Uncaged Birds retreat, Trina asked Lillian to each share stories from our lives.  This is in keeping with the retreats theme “Empowerment Means Telling My Story”.  During the retreat, we will be providing ample opportunities to tell the stories that make up the fabric of your lives.  The stories can be funny or sad.  They can describe a happy memory or a more challenging one.  They can be stories that describe your personal experiences or they can be stories passed down to your from your ancestors.  I’d like to share a story from my own life.  (Jemitra Hairston)


Fall is in the air where I live in Holland.  Some of the leaves are already changing colors.  It reminds me of where I grew up in North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, which are known up and down the east coast for their beauty, particularly during the autumn season.  My story is my recollection of a phone conversation, I had with my mother perhaps two years before she passed away in 1999.  I was still living in Washington, DC and we were reminiscing about my days playing the flute in Carver High School’s marching band.  Our band was known throughout the state for our distinctively soulful and rhythmic marching style.  Hence the name “The Highstepping Yellow Jackets”.  My mother and I talked by phone nearly every day after I left North Carolina as an 18 year old.  If I were to guess, I would say this conversation took place in early September–close to this time of the year.  During this conversation, she said, “Hey Pooh.  How is everything up there?  is it getting cold yet?  Whatcha eat good today?”  my mother always began with a barrage of questions.  When I answered them all to her satisfaction, she said, “Fall is certainly in the air here.  It reminds me of when you used to go over there with your band uniform on to the football games. I used to be so proud.  ou remember them big ugly shoes you had to wear?  Them things was sho nuff awful looking, but y’all used to be stepping.”  My mother would then pause and gather her breath. “You remember how hard a time you had learning to play the flute.  You couldn’t get it to make no sound for the life of you, but you kept on trying ’til one day you could play it.  I wonder what ever happened to Ms. Foxx who used to teach you music over at Kennedy.  She was a cute lil’ thing.  I remember how mad you was when she got married.  You remember that?”, she asked.  “Yeah, I remember ma, but I wasn’t mad at her though.  I just thought she had a cool name”, I replied.  “Yeah, that’s what it was.  You didn’t want to call her by her new last name.  I knew it was something”, my mother continued.  I got quiet and waited for what I knew was coming next.  “Yeah, I knew it was something like that.  I ain’t as crazy as I look.”  I smiled into the phone.  That was one of my mother’s favorite phrases; one that I’d heard her say time and time again for as long as I could remember.  I looked out of the window of my apartment to trees who’d begun to put on their party clothes and were resplendent in orange, yellow, red, and brown.  Even though the leaves were changing, there were some things that always stayed the same.

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Back in the Saddle Again

Everybody needs a time-out. Sometimes it’s necessary to just step away from those things that monopolize our strength and attention, and only focus on the bare necessities.

So that’s what I did.

Now I’m back – and looking forward to moving forward. Sometimes quickly and with a light step. Sometimes pensively or with my head in the clouds.

As always, I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with you!


Woman poem*

you see, my whole life
is tied up
to unhappiness
it’s father cooking breakfast
and me getting fat as a hog
or having no food
at all and father proving
his incompetence
i wish i knew how it feel
to be free

its having a job
they won’t let you work
or no work at all
castrating me
(yes it happens to women too)

its a sex object if you’re pretty
and no love
or love nd no sex if you’re fat
get back fat black woman be a mother
grandmother strong thing but no woman
gameswoman romantic woman love needer
man seeker dick eater sweat getter
fck needing love seeking woman

it’s a hole in your shoe
and buying lil sis a dress
and her saying you shouldn’t
when you know
all too well that you shouldn’t

but smiles are only something we give
to properly dressed social workers
not each other
only smiles of i know
your game sister
which isn’t really
a smile

joy is finding a pregnant roach
and squashing it
not finding someone to hold
let go get off get back don’t turn
me on you black dog
how dare you care
about me
you ain’t got no good sense
cause i ain’t sh!t you must be lower
than that to care

it’s a filthy house
with yesterday’s watermelon
and monday’s tears
cause true ladies don’t
know how to clean

it’s intellectual devastation
of everybody
to avoid emotional commitment
“yeah honey, i would’ve married
him but he didn’t have no degree”

it’s knock-kneed mini skirted
wig wearing died blond mamma’s scar
born dead my scorn your whore
rough heeled broken nailed powdered
face me
whose life is tied
up to happiness
cause it’s the only
for real thing

*copyright 1969 nikki giovanni

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