When I reach out by email or text, I often start by saying: I hope this message finds you smiling from the inside out. When I can’t offer a hand to shake (or an elbow to bump), I can still extend positive energy.

This custom grew from observing the way a smile can run ahead of us and start embracing people before our feet reach them. I love to smile. Some would claim it to be my trademark. 

January came in and took my mother away. Consequently, I haven’t felt much like smiling, inside or out. Every healthy emotion just went numb. Then, anxiety grew. I fed on salty anticipation of the catastrophic pain yet to be endured on Mother’s Day. How would I get through the day? I didn’t want to see a flower, a card, a box of chocolates … nothing. Wallowing in misery was my action plan. 

That night, while scrubbing Noxzema off my face, I saw my Mother staring back at me in the mirror.  I don’t mean in a ghostly manner. I saw her reflection in me. Then, I heard God whisper: “She’s not dead. Your Mother lives in you.” 

My knees buckled and pent-up emotions gave way. My drive, my creativity, my collard greens, my devotion to community, my hands … and, yes, even my smile, all came from my Momma. 

I hope each of you found joy and inspiration this Mother’s Day loving on the women who birthed you. We can’t forget the ones who nearly became mothers, lost a child and those who are like-a-mother. We also send our love to those longing to be mothers. 

To the Class of 2021. I know this wasn’t the senior year you hoped for. Most of you are understandably frustrated because of the things the coronavirus has taken from you. … unfulfilled senior traditions. But know this, your hard-earned diplomas have positioned you to lead us into the future in a way asked of few generations. 

You have prevailed and we couldn’t be any prouder. This issue of UMOJA Magazine is dedicated to you. 

This issue also lists all the wonderful events planned for Juneteenth. For instance, the Kujichagulia Juneteenth Celebration Week will be held June 16-19, concluding with a parade and celebration at Penn Park. This year’s theme is: “Black Resilience: Exemplifying Resistance; Past, Present, and Future”.  

American Family Insurance DreamBank is hosting virtual Juneteenth lectures including Dr. Chuck Taylor who will discuss the Promise of Freedom on June 16. The next day, a group of Black leaders will explore Juneteenth “in their eyes.”  

See you there!