Monthly Archives: November 2011

Showing Gratitude and Giving Thanks

Many Americans celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday.

In the meantime most of us are fully aware of the cynicism concealed behind the thin veneer of the original “Pilgrims and Indians” story. But the custom of “thanksgiving” is also known in many other parts of the world without any thought of Pilgrims and “Indians”.  Those celebrations center around giving  thanks for a bountiful harvest. For example: The New Yam Festival celebrated by the Igbo peoples in Western Africa.

That’s why I’m personally not bothered by people still choosing to commemorate the day, because it can never be wrong to spend some time focusing on gratitude for the many blessings we receive in life.

Whether you are American or not (and whether you celebrated yesterday or not):

What are YOU most thankful for at this moment in your life?


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Filed under Affirmations, This & That

The Word of the Week…

…is “Connectivity”

After last week’s wonderful TableTalk session I had to again think long and hard about the wonders of modern technology, and how it has the power to enrich our lives if we let it. Not only did technology allow me to conduct a 2 hour conversation with 3 stupendously talented women located in three different countries. It was that same technology that allowed all of us to “find” one another in the first place!

I may be showing my age here, but I still remember the days when almost the only way to communicate was via telephone or a written letter. Back in those days there was really no way to find out directly what other women – who looked like me – were doing halfway round the world. Heck, with few exceptions, I didn’t know there were women who looked like me all around the world. Now, if I want to find out what it’s like to be a black women in China or Brazil, Sweden or Paraguay, Korea or Bulgaria all I have to do is search for a blog or look through the membership rolls of sites like Black Women in Europe, etc. From there it’s usually just a brief comment or message later that I touch bases with a women, and we begin sharing information and experiences across the expanse of the digital divide.

In the meantime I have a hard time remembering exactly when and where I encountered certain women. The interaction with some of you has become so regular that it’s difficult for me to believe we’ve never met in person before, and haven’t already spent many a Saturday afternoon sipping wine and talking about our lives, kids, daily challenges and aspirations.

So, once again I’d like to thank


Carolyn, and


for being  present with their work and their stories. Thank you for sharing your time and your insights. Not only with me, but with all of us!

What stories about great virtual connections can you share?

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Filed under Monday Musings

Listen To This Year’s TableTalk


Uncaged Birds TableTalk 2011:

The Power In Telling Our Own Stories



Filed under This & That, Virtual Round-Table

The Word of the Week*…



Who is that big hairy brute we’ve created as an avatar to be the scapegoat for all our fears… the one we’ve voluntarily handed over all our “stuff” to…?

What stuff, you ask?

– The “stuff” that says we cherish our “friendships” with the people on job so much that we can’t stand to deal with the change in relationship dynamics if we were suddenly their boss – or to lose them as a “semi-professional comfort zone” if we were to leave the company altogether

The “stuff” that keeps us spending our disproportionate amount of our money on things of little real value and prevents us from sticking to the long-term plan that will help us realize our dream to travel more of the world

The “stuff” that tells us over and over again that it’s more important – or easier – or more acceptable – to invest in how we look or smell – what we have on our feet or carry on our arm, than it is to personally invest in what’s in our heads – and in our heart.

*Click the word to listen to this brief podcast


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Filed under Coaching, Monday Musings

(Belated) Wednesday Wisdom: Storytelling is (…) Sharing My Healing Experiences with Others

Sharon Dodua Otoo is a mother, activist, author and the editor of the upcoming series of books about living in Germany from a black perspective, “Witnessed”. I’m personally looking forward to hearing more about this exciting project when Sharon joins the panel on next week’s TableWalk!

If you haven’t already registered to be part of this year’s virtual round table, click to find out more about the event or go directly here to register!

When asked about the power in our own Afro-European stories, this is what Sharon had to say:

“…I find extreme comfort in working through traumatic experiences by writing about them. Writing is healing. Storytelling is an extension of that – sharing my healing experiences with others…”

For a sample of Sharon prowess as a poet and performer, you can watch Sharon – together with Philipp Khabo Köpsell – perform some of her own English-German texts after the 4.27 minute mark on the video below! But be forewarned – if you skip the beginning, you’ll miss the pleasure of seeing the next Afro-German generation in action! 🙂


Filed under This & That, Wednesday's Wisdom

New Feature 5: Webinar Series

Have you ever wanted to experience a rigorous course of self-discovery and goal-setting in the company of like-minded women? And have you wondered what it would be like to integrate your experiences as an Afro-European woman into the discussion and not have them be seen as “foreign” or “exotic”?

The upcoming Uncaged Birds™ webinar event – “Eight Steps Back to Me” – is a webinar series focusing  on personal development challenges from a distinct Afro-European perspective. Over the course of eight week, I will lead a group of women through guided conversation geared towards helping with

  • Grounding
  • Centering
  • Goal-setting

Yes, there will be homework!

As an accompaniment to the eight virtual sessions, participants will receive:

  • topic-related checklists to help them focus better on the upcoming session (mental preparation)
  • summaries/recordings of each session (documentation)
  • questions and writing assignments to support them as they apply what they”ve heard to their own lives and experiences (internalization/application)

Here are the topics of each of the eight virtual sessions:

  1. Do you know what’s true about you?
  2. How did you teach them to treat you?
  3. Discovering the freedom in letting go.
  4. Getting yourself ready for your “Eureka” moment!
  5. If you don’t name it, you can’t change it!
  6. Taking YOUR turn – Staying clear on who you are. Getting clear on what you want.
  7. Creation = Action
  8. Doing what works for you – BETTER!

The 1st two sessions will be complimentary, so anyone interest has an opportunity to see just how transformational this webinar series has the power to be in their lives! There will be an enrollment fee for the following six sessions. Although sessions can be booked individually, the full impact of the series is best  experienced by participating in the full course. Anyone wishing to enroll up front for the entire program will get all six sessions for the price of five.

The first complimentary session of this webinar series will be held on

16 February 2012

so watch for the invitation at the beginning of January for a more detailed description of the each event in the series, as well as instruction on how to register!


By the way, have you:

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Filed under Coaching, This & That

The Word of the Week

…is ROOTS!

I started out writing this on Monday. Really, I did. And the WoW was going to be “courage”. But as I sat writing the script for what was to be this week’s podcast, the words simply didn’t flow. No matter how I backtracked and edited, the text remained stiff and impersonal – and uninspiring even to me.

So, I decided to give myself a break and concentrate on other things before completing the task.

After that I admit I got sidetracked. You see, I am very much into genealogy, so when I saw that some new genealogical information had become available online, I surfed on over to see whether or not I could find a trace of my own ancestors somewhere on those pages.

If you – like me – come by your African roots via the so-called New World, you realize just how difficult it is for most of us to trace our families back more than a generation or two. Sometimes it’s because we realized too late that one day those family stories and pictures would take on a real and tangible significance in our lives. The “old folks” whose stories may have bored us as children are now no longer around to ask; their wisdom and histories lost forever.

But we also know how the institution of slavery uprooted and oppressed our forefathers and -mothers, ripping apart families and often making it impossible to record the facts and details – great and small – of human lives that were neither honored or respected or cherished.

For me, at least, having a better understanding of where I come from means comprehending more completely what it took to make me the person I am today. As I pour over page after page of information on the internet, I discover not only nuggets of information about my own extended family, but also am empowered by the testimony of the lives of those scores of men and women who persevered through horrors you and I can only partially imagine.

The death certificates were a particular treasure of both information and sorrow. In addition to names of husbands/wives, I’ve often (finally) found out the names of an ancestor’s parents, allowing me to add another –  earlier – branch on my family tree. But the causes of death were the real window of insight. I was surprised to see the number of people who lived to be very old, even by today’s standards. A twinge of heartache overtook me each time I searched another unfamiliar cause of death, only to find out it was nothing more than the aftermath of poor nutrition or bad hygienic circumstances – or both. I also felt a deep sense of sorrow for the many babies and small children who didn’t live to reach adulthood, as well as the many (young!!) women who died during or shortly after childbirth – or trying to prevent yet another pregnancy.

So Monday I was going through the recently published list of names of freed blacks working under contract to a white plantation owner after the American Civil War when I came across the name of one of my own ancestors: Chloe Singleton.  Next to her, another woman – maybe a sister – named Jane Singleton. Although I didn’t know anything about my Chloe’s siblings, I do know that she had named one of her daughter’s Jane…

Could this be MY Chloe?

After an initial tingle of elation, I had to accept my own faulty logic. Chloe had married my great-great-grandfather, Sidney Brown, by the time that list was made, and would therefore have already been Chloe Brown. In all probability I had simply stumbled upon another woman with the same (maiden)  name.

But my itch that day hadn’t been sufficiently scratched, so I continued browsing new sources, looking for new leads. It was then that I happened upon a site called

Find a Grave

Sounds pretty macabre and halloween-y, right? But it’s a site powered by family memebers, friends and volunteers who post online information about the people buried in cemeteries across America. Sometimes with a picture of the loved one lost. Sometimes with a picture of the headstone.

That’s when I discovered this:

It was only while looking through the census information from the beginning of the century that I found out that my great-mother had died somewhere between 1910 and 1920, and that my great-grandfather had then re-married. I never knew exactly when Elizabeth Brown Roach died, but here I’d found her gravestone. Unfortunately, the stone has sunk so deep into the earth surrounding it, that the date of death can no longer be read. I don’t know exactly when she died, nor what was the cause, but now at least I know where to find her.

What surprised me more, though, was finding this:

On one census you can find information on how many live births a woman had versus how many of her children were still living. This was sometimes often heartbreaking to read, because some women had lost more than half of their children to sickness or accidents. For my great-grandmother Elizabeth the number was 7 live births with 5 living children in 1910. Until Monday, I knew nothing about those two lost children. My grandfather and all his sibling are long dead, so there isn’t anyone to ask. I’ve also never unearthed a death certificate for them online. Now I know, though, that I had a great-aunt Lillie who isn’t present on any census. I think she must have been born around 1890, because the census for that year was lost in a huge fire. Because the stone has been broken at the bottom, it can’t tell me anything for sure about that, nor about the day she died. I do know, though, that she was loved enough to be memorialized in this way.

Whose roots are you?

There were many reasons some families didn’t talk more about their history, and didn’t preserve more information to document their lives. I wonder if they knew how potentially important that information would be for their descendents?

What are you doing to make sure that those who come after you find a piece of their own life’s puzzle by being granted insight into yours?

  • Do you journal or keep a diary?
  • Have you got photo albums where the pictures are clearly marked with names and dates and other relevant information?
  • Do you collect and record stories from your older family members, and share stories about your own life?

Just as it’s important to find out more about our own roots, it’s important for us to remember we’ll be someone else’s window into their extended past someday.


Filed under Monday Musings