Flowers While You're Here
The Urgency of Love
My friend, SiairaShawn is an incredible vocalist and songwriter. In 2015 she released an album called Flowers While You’re Here. This is when I first came to understand the figure of speech. Often, at funeral services there are dozens of ornate flower arrangements or when someone dies flowers are sent to grieving families. These rooms are filled with the fragrant aromas of oleander, lily, rose, and other white petaled blooms, but the person who we mourn does not know the capacity in which they were/are loved. The term Flowers While You’re Here is all about expressing both gratitude and appreciation for someone you care for while recognizing that this life is fragile and short.
Grief is a tricky emotion. It’s a feeling that I’ve become acquainted with that I’ve accepted I will have to leave room for. It emerges in sneaky iterations. Sadness. Gloom. Anger. Void. Loss. Loneliness. At times, when I’ve thought that I’ve resolved this expansive emotion – it finds itself lodged into a corridor of memories, or in my body. Right now the world, at least the western world is falling the fuck apart, and in these moments of dramatic cultural upheaval I think often of the people in my world who soothe me, who help remind me I am whole, and who hold space for the complexity of emotions that I cycle through. I didn’t always think about my relationships in this way. It wasn’t until I faced a series of painful losses that I recognized the precarious life that my family, friends, and I are living. We are more vulnerable to the many systemic and historical forces that seem to hinge upon our destruction. I won’t be getting into the specifics of that loss or those dangers of the world, or how I am haunted regularly. Instead, I’d like to make an offering to those who are here, and whom I love. Grief is such a powerful feeling, stirring me to act – towards honor and recognition. Grief has shown me how to love more, to resist the urge towards hesitation and to actively let people know I love them.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way… on to the person who I’m giving flowers to!
Uhura aka Olaronke Akinmowo!
I met Ola in 2018 in Philadelphia at the #blkgrlswurld zine fair. There she had a table spread out with books, and it was then that I learned she was the human force behind the iconoclastic The Free Black Women’s Library. She was so smiley and nice when I introduced myself to her, and I was in awe that she was behind this powerful roving library and altar to Black women, femmes and nonbinary writers. I joined her Black Feminist Praxis Reading Club and over the course of a few months my mind was blown by just how expansively she thinks! In 2020, I was tasked with writing a profile for a course in my MFA program and I could think of no one other than her. I like to think this is when our friendship began. Since then, Ola has been my literary bae – dishing on new releases, talking for hours weekly about anything and holding space for our writing practices. She was one of the three people who encouraged me to apply for this fellowship! She believes in me in a way that I am trying to believe in myself.
Ola is such a powerhouse and I’m delighted to know her and be privy to a slice of her life. Last week she and I were hanging out at my friend Roze’s iconic queer party Set It Off. As I sat (because I made the poor choice to wear some damn heels) and watched Ola dance a wave of appreciation surged over me. In a lot of ways, she is the reason why I write. Ola has encouraged me, and probably hundreds of other Black Women, Femmes and Non Binary lovers of literature to recognize our brilliance and to act with urgency towards our creative impulses. She does this just by existing and I am so appreciative for her. Here are your flowers Ola!
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