I am unusually messy and complicated.
It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable with owning this fact about myself. As a kid, these were not traits that were understood in my small family that valued appearance, structure and order. My wild kinky curly hair, my outspoken nature, my tendency to think and feel deeply and my pull toward complex topics and individuals has always made me stand out and seem unusual. I like defying convention. I struggle with rules. I want to analyze everything and philosophize about its meaning. I gravitate toward disreputable people.
As a result, I have always felt stifled by other people’s expectations of me. Doing what others think I should do has powerfully conflicted with what I want or need to do in order to make myself happy. For most of my life, I did all the things people thought I should do in order to be seen as respectable and structured. And while I was doing all those things, I was losing myself in the process.
It was painful.
It took some major life shifts in my thirties for me to realize that I had taken on a life that wasn’t really my own, that I was not being authentic to myself and my own voice. I had straightened my unruly hair, was not speaking out nearly enough about what I am passionate about, had friends who weren’t really friends, and was afraid to leave a job that made me unhappy.
I vowed to undo it, all of it, so that I could start living a life that was authentic to me—in all its messy complication.
I think of undoing as the long, sometimes tedious process of unraveling. Unraveling what currently is in order to allow space and opportunity for what can be to flourish. It’s a process of detangling the convoluted mess of images and messages I learned in life that taught me that I was not enough. That my voice was too loud. That my deep thinking was unattractive and weird. That I could not be complicated and messy in a world that prefers structure and order.
In some ways, claiming who I am feels like I’m living my life each day as if it’s day one. I am constantly breaking down barriers and building myself up back again. It’s frightening and exhilarating all at once.
I am becoming. I am a work in progress.
I am undoing the conflict within myself—everyday.
Accompanying me on this journey are my husband and my stubborn Beagle pup, Clinton. As a couple, we navigate various conflicts everyday in our intercultural marriage (my husband is from Colombia) and the exuberance and chaos of living in a bilingual home. I am a yogi and can often be found trying to resolve my life’s conflicts on my yoga mat.
I’m glad you are here and invite you to join me in the process of exploring and undoing life’s conflicts.
It should come as no surprise then that I’ve also dedicated myself to a professional life that focuses on undoing.
My work is about facilitating the process of undoing. Unraveling the parts of ourselves that do not serve us. The parts of ourselves that stifle us. The parts that have a negative impact upon us and do not allow us to live, full productive lives.
All of us are doing our best with whatever tools we’ve been given. And yet, in spite of doing our best, we often find ourselves stuck. In a world that encourages a culture of “busy”, values like thoughtfulness, self-awareness, communication and genuine connection with others seem like luxuries that are increasingly difficult to tap into.
The lack of meaningful connection with others, combined with an inability to successfully work across differences, means we are often unable to manage conflict- at both interpersonal and organizational levels. And as the country and world become more dynamic and increasingly diverse, harnessing the ability to work with people of all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds is no longer a preferred skill but a requirement.
It is no secret that most of us do not like conflict. In fact, if you are anything like me, your natural tendency is to shy away from it. Conflict almost always makes our stomachs knot up, our hands feel terribly sweaty and produces various forms of anxiety in us. However, once we get past the initial discomfort of conflict and are able to fully express our needs and wants while listening to others and practicing empathy, rest assured that creativity, potential, personal and professional growth that are on the other side.
From years of personal and professional practice and experience, I believe that conflict, no matter how difficult or insurmountable it seems, can actually be undone. And when we have the tools to resolve conflict, we can live fully into our purpose and transform ourselves and the world!
At the core, I believe that in order to undo conflict, we need to undo what has been created within us before we can begin the process of building bridges. That means taking a good hard look at our own selves, our beliefs and how they serve to help us grow or remain stuck.
As a trainer, consultant and coach, I focus on the intersections of diversity, communication and conflict. My job is to help individuals and groups develop the skills and tools they need to successfully manage conflict, change and transition- whether its at work, with friends, family or some place else. I place special emphasis on developing an ability to work within culturally diverse environments. I believe that innovation, learning, meaningful change and fun can take place when we bridge culture, communication and conflict resolution.
I have had the opportunity to share my expertise in lots of settings and places. I began my career giving back to my hometown as a public school teacher in Baltimore City and have worked as an academic advisor and instructor at the university level, a trainer, curriculum developer, coach and consultant for government, non-profit and international organizations. I have worked in 16 different countries around the world and I’m a fluent speaker of Spanish.
If you are interested in beginning the process of undoing your conflict and unlocking your potential to live your most authentic life possible, feel free to contact me. I'd love to work with you!
This summer/fall I will be presenting my work at two conferences. If you are local, I'd love to see you there!
"Tweeting Away Our Blues: How Black Women Use Social Media for Self-Awareness, Activism and Black Liberation"
August 19th: Digital Media in Social Justice Symposium
"Between the World and Us: The Testimony of Multicultural Activists on Race and Social Change Work"
September 19-21: Testimony: Memory, Trauma, Truth and Engagement
The Tango Chronicles
I'm starting my very first series on the blog entitled "The Tango Lesson." It is inspired by my twelve year long, off and on relationship with Argentine Tango. My last tango class was four years ago, which was preceded by a six year hiatus. After all that time away, it seemed unlikely that I could or should find my way back. But recently, I've had some dramatic life experiences; the kind that make me realize that life is incredibly short and that I need to do some searching for the things that bring me joy. Thus, I made the decision to re-enter the world of tango. Quite a bit has changed since I first started dancing it back in 2005. Part of why I stopped had to do with not feeling a connection to the tango community where I lived beyond a very small group of people in intimate settings. While I loved the small cohort of people in my Sunday and Thursday evening classes, I got tired of being the sole brown body in almost exclusively white spaces. I was disappointed in the lack of body diversity. I felt like the last kid to get picked for a team in gym class when I would go to milongas and practicas and never get asked to dance. I quickly learned that, when it comes to tango, white people like dancing with other white people. I finally got rid of my tango shoes in 2013 since I was convinced that I would never dance it again. But as we know, things change and evolve and so do we. What will be different this time around in my journey? I cannot be certain. I do know that I am fundamentally different- mind, body and soul than I was at age 27 when I first began dancing tango. I live in a different city (ironically, the same city that I discovered tango in the first place) so I have no idea what the tango scene is like here, but since it is more diverse than my last location, I remain hopeful. And this time, I'm not dancing for connection to other people. I'm dancing to connect back to me. To all the joy I feel when I dance tango. To the melancholy I often feel deep in my heart that only tango music can express. To the African influences in the dance and music that are often denied since the African presence in Argentina is all but forgotten. This time, instead of keeping all these experiences in my head, I've decided to write about it. Since our experiences are often invisible, you probably won't find many stories of Black women dancing tango (even though I can assure you- we are out here). This series is dedicated to embracing new experiences, reliving and sometimes healing old ones and to elevating Black women's voices in spaces and places that aren't always made for us. You can read the series here.
The Feminist Wire
The Baltimore Sun