How 2017 Cured My Ashiness, Explained

2017 came equipped with copious amounts of razor blades, lemon juice and coconut oil. Here I lay out the highs and band-aids that was and at this moment still is 2017.

  • I started a podcast. Who in 2017 didn’t start a podcast? My dogs have a joint podcast and that’s why the living room is a mess every morning. I jumped on the bandwagon flat-footed with a small idea in my pocket: make mental health woes funny. I talk almost ad nauseum about my battles with both depression and anxiety, the two hoes that ghost follow me on everything and comment at the worst possible times. In my mind during those hardest moments, there is no solitude. There is no laughter. The year before I lost someone who completed their attempt. More and more friends and family came forward to share how they suffer in silence. Me, being the most transparent in this area, set out to create a space to lay our burdens and share a laugh as well. I lovingly call it My Depression’s Got Jokes. It’s on SoundCloud. Eight episodes down, more healing to go.
  • We broke up. Then got back. Then got better. Not many know that my partner and I split for a bit back in March 2017. I never knew a pain that deep before. It was like having my side torn from me in one fluid motion. We had hit a point that neither one of us had control over until we learned to control our own pains, the ones carried and those self-inflicted. To take ownership and stop excusing our own toxic behavior. We had to acknowledge what wasn’t working in order to salvage what would save us. It was a time for self-reflection. And the realization that the person holding the mirror is there to help and not harm. That shit hurt, but I’m thankful for its lessons every single day.
  • Road to Dasmascus for that ass. As the story goes, the Road to Dasmascus is where Saul becomes Paul. A blinding light blocked him from continuing his reign of persecution and aintshitness. Mine was more of a resounding boom. Picture this: I’m driving down Hull St in pieces. My chest is tight. I can’t stop crying. My eyes are red. I then hear the whistle of a bomb about to detonate inside me. Then I explode. It’s deafening as I hear a voice through the rubble cascading down around me. The voice is calm but stern. I hear bones break and my chest crack. The tools I kept hidden deep within burst forward. I could smell color. I could taste sound. I could see visions of the past, present, future and live to tell the tale in real time. I, my own tower, imploded to reveal who I truly am meant to be: a healer, a reader, a discerning spirit meant to help and embolden. I am the hippie cousin who drinks nothing but alkaline water and tea. I am the black vegan whose body had enough of the shit and kicked me in the right direction. I’m the one who does/reads/asks/tells/sows/breathes/is the things that old church lady told you not to look into as she gathered her bingo sheets. I was reintroduced to Hov, the One upstairs and the one who is me.
  • I gave up being a daughter and focused on being a mother. As I wrote about previously, I gave up trying to be Joyce’s kid for my own safety and sanity. I, in turn, saw how my damaged self was now inflicting my child. So I got her into dance class and apologized. For all my shortcomings. My temper. My standoffish way of loving her. I had mothered her with my own understanding of motherhood and it was broken from jump. I told her I was wrong. That I’m not perfect and I was wrong to expect perfection from her. That I pray she doesn’t grow up to hate me. From that moment, this little jerk became my protector. I say jerk because my child is a Taurus. Take that how you will. She became my light, illuminating my pain points to finally do something about them and stop calling them badges of honor. I also learned I suffered pretty badly with abandonment issues and postpartum depression after having her. It doesn’t erase or excuse my actions but it does help to better understand them. #LilBootstheRuler became my child for the first time in eight years.
  • I sold out my first solo event. I came up with the bones of You OK Sis in May 2017. The goal was to create an interactive safe space for black women especially to emote, release and ask the question, “you ok sis?”. Those of us dealing with spiritual upheaval, grief, loneliness, mental illness, all the above or just in need of more like-minded sisters could come together for three hours to let it all go. In the city I currently reside in, there isn’t much room allowed for black new ageism or progression. If you’re not doing a conference at TOO-MANY-TOO-COUNT Baptist Church of the Pink Envelope, good luck getting a huge turnout on the spiritual end. The week of my event, after weeks of posting and sharing about what we’re doing, it sold out. I created 30 tickets and each was claimed, a couple were gifted and the room was packed. I stood before them as someone who didn’t have all the answers, but was willing to share what I’d learned to this point. Since then, we’ve held another in Richmond and one in Washington, D.C. I’ve been asked to speak on how Journahealing, a practice I created to help the healing process along through shared writings, can be added to any self-care routine.
  • I created a lifestyle brand. Similar to You OK Sis, ReFeel & Co. began as meeting a need I didn’t know I had. I sucked at self-care. I tended to initiate it well after I’ve hit my emotional bottom. Self-care had also become a buzzword, a fluffy feel-good word vs. a word of action. Still recovering from my road to Damascus implosion, I needed something more than a nail appointment. My journey began with a subscription box idea. I put the prototype and soft launch out there to little bite and those who did immediately wanted to know how they could get paid selling within the box. So I went back to square one and educated myself on how to deliver multilevel self-care. Three decks, a name change, updated packaging, boxmates, four shelves in the Femme Fatale Pop-Up Shop and some apparel later, ReFeel & Co is continuing to expand. Thank God for not giving up.
  • I found out how I tick. The most important lesson of all this year. I came face-to-face with me. At my darkest, at my most ascendant, at my most real. Friends told me hitting 30 would kick off the decade of no longer taking shit lying down. Since hitting 30, my knees have ached more but my insight has gotten sharper. I have little patience for anyone coming at me any kind of way. I recognize projection and call it out. I let myself grow in the ways needed and not just wanted. I express my desires openly and fluidly. I eat breakfast, sing affirmations and expect the universe and my ancestors to come together to surprise lil ol me. I now recognize the cake mix, eggs, butter and oil handed to me is for me to create my own way out, not a reminder of all I have to do to survive. I get it done because the feeling of completing tasks outweighs the “break” I unjustly hand myself. I got to know the mirror and the woman holding it on a much deeper level. And I let her prosper. I let us prosper. The universe continues to let us prosper.

#TTSLDMV Weekend

I was terrified driving up from Richmond to DC. I had no idea what to expect or who I would meet. Would they understand the movement? Do I do it justice? I tend to do that: second guess my work which is a frustrating trait I'm actively work on. I walked in the space and immediately felt the energy. It's a dance studio - bodies project every emotion in the space I'm standing.  I took all of that in and proceeded to touch nearly every surface in the studio, speaking life, good vibes and affirmations. I proclaimed every soul who crossed the threshold would bring their own light, be exalted and feel affirmed. If they came in down, they would be lifted. New friendships would be forged, laughs had. Safe to say, .my expectations were met sevenfold. Every last queen fell through and blessed the mission and the cameras. It was the most beautiful experience. 

Check out the rest of the shots on the TTSLRVA page.

The Visit to the Den

I went home to Legacy Internet Radio last Monday, Apr 17, 2017. I hadn't touched a mic in months, especially within Ain't No Half Steppin with Marcus J and I had a blast. As one would. It felt so good to speak freely. I truly didn't know my voice was as missed or as impactful while walking back into the den. I didn't know I missed it so much.

Check out his page and give a listen to the segments below.

The Killing In Cleveland

Why Do We Celebrate Negativity On Social Media?

Did Barkley Go Too Far? Are We Going To WW3? Spicer on Hitler!? Trumps Taxes

History, Missing Child and an Epic Rant and Closing

 

Sober High - Meet My Illustrator

I've known Malik in passing for years. We go to the same church but different campuses. And he is a gifted artist who has indulged me in multiple commissions.

In preparation for my next work of poetry, Sober High, I knew the only person who could accurately capture the tone of this most personal work would be him.

Get into Malik Radford and his work below.

Richmond, VA native, Malik Radford's work invites viewers to see the world through his eyes. Born in 1996, Radford has had a passion for art since he learned how to hold a pencil. From portraiture work to illustrations to graphic design, Malik Radford is a well-rounded artist. Primarily focusing on illustration and cartooning, Radford's inspiration stems from pop culture and music and the influence that it has on him. While currently enrolled as a Kinetic Imaging major at Virginia Commonwealth University, Malik is also a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. Aside from his illustrative work, Radford creates music and dabbles in video work and animation.

http://malikradford.weebly.com/illustrations.html

Masterpost of things I've done, created and sites where I've been featured *frequent updates*

Where I ask for lunch money and funds to help catapult my handiwork: https://www.patreon.com/joiunspeakable

Where you can find my work outside of my trunk: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00B7CQCGG

Where I stepped clear out of my comfort zone, mic pops and all: https://joiunspeakable.bandcamp.com/

Where TTSLRVA went global (or national. I dream big.): https://www.buzzfeed.com/joiu/when-your-magics-black-and-your-thighs-thick-qtxt

Where #TTSLRVA met the Queenhood: http://thequeenhood.com/thick-thighs-the-hard-way

My first freelance article for Richmond Magazine http://richmondmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/a-canari-dances-in-dogtown/

Where my dope friends thought I was cool enough to be featured: http://www.notoriousstyles.org/2016/06/most-notorious-talent-joi-unspeakable.html

Where my natural hair made a statement: http://naturalpowerofher.com/power-woman-joi-donaldson-deserve-see-name-life-lit-start-writing-plan-make-things-happen/

Where I was interviewed about Safe Spaces and the Healing Properties of Writing: “Women of Wednesday: Joi Donaldson on Safe Spaces and the Healing Properties of Writing” @RantingOwl https://medium.com/@OliviaCole/women-of-wednesday-joi-donaldson-on-safe-spaces-and-the-healing-properties-of-writing-33c856b3c1a1

When I woke up crying and where we made a statement: http://wric.com/2016/07/07/police-shootings-spark-solidarity-rally-in-richmond/

Where a VCU student reached out and wrote about it: http://www.commonwealthtimes.org/2016/07/08/sterling-castile-vigil-spawns-impromptu-march-through-rva/

Where tensions ran high and truth was spoken: http://www.nbc12.com/story/32404984/local-demonstrators-react-to-dallas-attacks-on-police

Where I was asked to give my personal narrative about first meeting racism: http://richmondmagazine.com/news/recap-unmaskingrva-part-i/

2015 Almost Wrap Up: My Truth

As customary as the falling of snow, the drop in temperature and the erecting of festive things which seem to show up earlier every year, this time also presents a time for reflection. As I look back at what 2015 has given, I can’t miss what it has also taken away. Of the things I’ve lost this year, the most disheartening have been friendships.

 

In entrepreneurship, the heads tell you that everyone who starts out with you will not all make it to the Promised Land. I’m a bit of a loner by default so that fact wasn’t that scary to me. It’s when I began to notice the higher I climbed, those I hadn’t dreamed would leave my side had grown more faint. At times you just trudge through knowing that the road isn’t always easy while other times you sit in it and wonder who dropped the ball. Being a black woman business owner who also is a mother carries a bevy of guilt trips: being labeled selfish, taking on too much, the tired anecdotes of “you’re too busy for me” and “your fingers broke?”

 

It’s exhausting chasing and catching dreams not just due to the hustle but also dodging the hurdles of people who don’t want to go with you but also don’t want to be left behind. How is that balanced? Can it be?

Since taking on new ventures and meeting new faces, old faces have grown distant and it seems, resentful. Could it be my life changing has little to do with yours? That love is still present even if my face and time aren't? The heart of it is…I’m just tired. Tired of needing to be at the beck and call of friends who have not purchased a book, shared a link, read a blog post, liked a photo, recommended services or requested a shoot without the free.99 tagline. I’ve worked so hard for this and I shouldn’t have to shirk it – set myself ablaze to keep warm those who want to drop every detail of their lives on me while their eyes glaze over when I talk about my things. My life has grown, my connections have grown, my name and brand have grown while my circle has gotten smaller. While some may never feel that pang of guilt, I feel it intensely. Yet, I won’t give back what God has given because I didn’t request permission from some to move forward. I’m one who knows when life changes: a new baby, new relationships, new career, new responsibilities, life and friendships change as well. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I just want the people in my life who still reside under that friend moniker to do that same. And if that can’t be, I wish you all the best without me. Not in anger or bitterness, but in the knowledge that we have hit our fork and now we must part. Wish me well, not bad mojo.

 

Joi "Unspeakable" Donaldson

Naked on a Saturday Afternoon

I haven't moved on hours
Curled up in shorts and a tight tee
I'm comfortable yet constricted 
as I scroll through Tumblr
As I lay
Needing release
Hot with ceiling fan on high
I break through my covers 
And strip of everything 
Last night's pain
Today's headache 
Tomorrow's potential sadness
And just lay here
With all my clothing
Shorts 
Tee
Bra
Strewn on the wood floor
Naked
The feeling I've come to love most

Please

Please
Will someone do poetry with me?
Break themselves over sharp pages 
Bracing themselves for quiet stages
With me
Feel your heartbeat through pens and sheets laid flat on my back to touch frequencies
Will he go down on me?
With me?
Leave me sweaty, light and heavy enough to P-Pop on a handstand of plans to take back control of this land
Kill the ideologies of that one damn Man
With the most grandiose of slams even Serena can't stand
Will somebody do poetry with me!
I want to feel weightless 
Now face this
Being cornered with false thoughts and cruels drops as the world flies by 
Being your own mind's concubine 
Slave to the matters a brain can splatter across the screen of the mind's eye
It ain't gotta make sense
Anxiety proves it
That my sensitive ass
Chronically overthinking ass
Yet seemingly always poignant ass
Needs to do some poetry
Will somebody please do poetry with me
Because it's knocking me over in waves, you see...

Fine

I'll buy the Def Poetry set and commit every word to memory
So I'll never utter another word aimlessly
When I'm famous with all the pageantry
Then you'll want to do poetry with me

The Makings of Superheroes

Paper Storms began as the need to get out the thoughts I had about no one really knowing the backstory of Storm, the Marvel superhero who's only real claim to fame is Halle Berry bearing her likeness. She's black with white hair, glowing eyes and holds the ability to manipulate the weather. That's about it. We can fanboy it and say there have been revelations on her real name and origin, but still, there is not much to go on other than her box-office bankability. That need to know more about her expanded to the need to know more about myself and what would happen if I knew my own backstory - not the one that is written for me. Those thoughts became paragraphs which morphed into a lesson plan and curriculum to a class I had no idea how to teach. A lesson plan geared towards adults until I was told by three separate persons that I need to teach this to -wait for it - teenage girls. I have to admit: I did not know what I was getting myself into. Me. In a room with a handful of teenage girls. Attempting to talk to them unlike the mother that I am. And have them listen.

Even on paper, for me, made no sense.

Then, on June 20th, 2015, I conducted the first Paper Storms class, hearing some of these girls speak uninhibited for the first time. Now, my mindset has shifted. There is nothing else I'd rather be doing on a Saturday morning during summer break.

I have yet to hear more honesty, vulnerability, bravery and courage as when these girls speak. They relay the actual struggles and frustrations of growing up a black girl in this day and age with so much wisdom, the type of wisdom we petty adults tell them they can't possibly be privy to. Yet, they haven't ceased to amaze me. My cousin and partner in all things #PaperStorms Dei Stevenson and I leave each class with a renewed sense of identity, wishing we had this type of forum when we were in our angst years. The thought that one of them will begin to look at life - herself, her voice, her walk - differently is enough to make us get out of bed and shuffle the pens and notebooks together on a Saturday morning to divvy out across a library table.

If they all were to jump and fly in class, scraping the ceiling with their Jordans and sandals, it wouldn't be enough to call them superheroes. Continuing to be brave enough to speak her own truth to power is the real sign in the sky. 

 

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