Quote For The Day

“You have to remind yourself that you are enough. You have to feed your soul and nourish your spirit and trust your inner voice. And you have to take it day by day, remembering that the way society treats you is not a reflection of you-but of it’s own issues.

You have to build a spiritual home that will hold and heal you, because all too often, the world at large just won’t. You have to remember you are enough. And you have to structure your world so that it affirms that you are enough every day, as much as possible….. You have to take responsibility for your own healing…”

 

For more quotes by Yolo: DearUniverseBook.Com

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New Documentary Explores Relationships Between Black Gay Men & Fathers

My Latest for the Huffington Post:

Every once in a while a project comes along that invites us to openly acknowledge our need for healing. I believe that Dear Dad: Letters From Same-Gender-Loving Sons is such a project. Created by Chase Simmons, the documentary shares the stories of eight black gay/same-gender-loving men writing open letters to their fathers. As the film’s website states:

The project aims to give black same gender loving men a platform to tell their varying yet universal stories about their relationship with their father and how it has shaped them as men. Ultimately, the documentary is meant to help these men and men like them appreciate what gave them hope and heal what gave them hurt.

 

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Without a doubt the film attains its goal. As a black gay man, I found that the 90-minute documentary led me to reflect on my relationship with my own father. I found myself laughing through misty eyes at the awkward stories of black father love, and kneeling over in tears at the unhealed anger and rage.

After watching, I felt compelled to continue the healing with my own father and all the black men in my life. I was also moved to support this amazing film, which compels each of us to do the same. In that spirit I reached out to the film’s creator, Chase Simmons, to learn more about what led him to create Dear Dad, what he hopes the film can offer the black community at large, and how creating this film has changed his life.

Yolo Akili: Why black same-gender-loving men, and why letters to their fathers?

Chase Simmons: As a black same-gender-loving man, I know how difficult it can be to forge a real relationship with your father. I’ve struggled with it myself. In my own experience there is often an immediate disconnect once your sexuality is mentally acknowledged, and that gap just gets wider and wider over time. That led me to think about how I’ve struggled to forge real relationships with other SGL men, romantic or platonic. Then I started to think about how I struggled to maintain connections with the heterosexual men in my life after coming out, especially black heterosexual men. Those thoughts looped me back to the first black heterosexual man that I knew, my dad. So I felt like there was a lot of potential in hearing these stories.

Akili: What was the impetus for this film?

Simmons: The impetus for this film was a conversation I had in 2009 with a friend and roommate at the time. I can’t remember how the conversation started, but we started really digging into his relationship with his parents. It was very strained. They were not very supportive of his sexuality, and they didn’t acknowledge it, despite full awareness. Over the next week or so our conversation continued to play in my head, and I started formulating the project, piece by piece. About a month later I had a focus group/brunch with some close friends at a local grill, and the rest is history.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

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Dear Universe Reviewed in Muse Magazine!

Honored to have a great review in Mused Magazine from Writer Dymir Arthur! Check it out, and make sure you visit this great magazine for black gay men!

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It is said that if you want to be a great writer, you should study great writers. The same is true for those who aspire to be great musicians, actors and athletes. I also apply this mentality to my role as an educator and it has led me to invaluable lessons on my journey. Great educators don’t strive to insert anything into the minds of others, but rather they help others give birth to their own dreams, beliefs and discoveries by leading from a place of vulnerability.

When it comes to developing my own craft, I am always looking for great work from other writers and educators who have done the deep and reflective work it takes to discover the most powerful lessons worth sharing. One educator and writer that I’ll be adding to my list of people who have inspired me is Yolo Akili.

I met Yolo more than a year ago through a mutual friend. From our initial interaction it was clear to me that he has found a rare balance between being a serious educator and activist while remaining graciously humble by approaching conversations from a place of sincere curiosity. While he is consistently focused on the larger lessons of life and spiritual well-being, Yolo never misses an opportunity to laugh and show gratitude for the little joys of the human experience. For those who are brave enough to read his new book “Dear Universe”, you will find that Yolo brings his authentic self to his work by forging a path toward healing and empowerment for others.

With only 72 pages between the front and back covers, “Dear Universe” proves a lot about the power of small things. A collection of letters of affirmation, the book is packed with powerful lessons on every page that reach beyond the veils we wear down into the most well-kept and concealed aspects of our individual and collective experiences. 

Read the rest here..

Buy Your Copy of Dear Universe Here..

 

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Dear Universe Reviewed on The Feminist Wire!

Dear Universe is reviewed by Alexis Pauline Gumbs on The Feminist Wire! Check it out below!

From the Feminist Wire Did you know that my mom is a therapist?  She is!   And at it’s very best psychology is the science of learning how to love ourselves and each other better and better and better.  (And like most fields…at its worst it is basically the opposite of that.)  I have grown up hearing my mom use a scientific term called “operational practice” which, as I see it, means things that you actually do on a regular basis.  As a black feminist love evangelist I see these operational practices as rituals, those things we do on a daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal basis that shape our days.

In other words, my mother is a ritualistic person.  Every day she reads The Daily Word.  She usually has an inspirational quote-a-day calendar on her dresser.  She believes in breakfast in the literal and literary sense.   Just like eating first thing gives your body and brain something to work with as you face the day, reading something inspirational offers an inquiry and a clarity that can transform our everyday experiences into opportunities for insight and inspiration.

For this reason, and several others Yolo Akili’s new book of affirmations, Dear Universe passes the mama test.   I can count on my hands the books that I have read and then immediately gotten for my mother.   Only one of Toni Morrison’s books passed the test (A Mercy), my favorite Dionne Brand novel made it (At the Full and Change of the Moon) and all of Asha Bandele’s prose has made it so far (The Prisoner’s Wife, Daughter, Something Like Beautiful).   But Dear Universe has a special place on that list now because it is the only book on the list that is neither by a black woman writer nor about black mother/daughter relationships.   I intend to send my mother a copy of Dear Universe as an offering towards her daily practice of reading affirmations.   And I suggest that you not only let Dear Universe collaborate with you in the possibility of knowing something today that you might not notice any other day, but also let this small blue book collaborate in your most meaningful relationships as well, and this is why.

 Read the rest by clicking here:

By Dear Universe by clicking here:

 

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Dear Universe Featured on BET.COM!

    I was interviewed about Dear Universe on BET.Com! Check out the interview below!

From BET.Com: The state of African-Americans’ mental health—regardless of gender, sexual orientation and gender expression—isn’t as stable as it should be. According to the Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to suffer from serious psychological distress compared to whites.

And whether this break is due to poverty, past trauma, homophobia, lack of access to health care, unemployment, stress and unsafe neighborhoods, it’s clear that we all need to heal. One man determined to improve our mental health is Yolo Akili. His new book Dear Universe: Letters of Affirmation and Empowerment ($9.99, Micheal Todd Books) fuses self-empowerment, humor and social justice to help his readers navigate their emotional and spiritual path.

BET.com sat down with Akili to talk about what inspired his book, why Black men need to tap into their emotional health and why Dear Universe is for everyone.

What inspired Dear Universe?

There was a period in my life when it seemed like everything was falling apart. I left a job I loved and moved from Atlanta to New York City, a place that was alien to me. I was really depressed and was struggling to figure things out, so I took to writing things down in a journal.

And it’s so ironic because before I moved to New York, I had spent years working in with therapists and counselors facilitating support groups for all types of African-American men (batterers, gay and bisexual men, men , living with HIV/AIDS) and here I was, forgetting all of the things that I had learned doing that work. And so journaling was a way to rediscover that knowledge. And when I started to feel better, I looked at all of these letters and was like, “This would make a good book!”

From there, I took these letters and tweaked them to better to convey the messages of self-love and empowerment.

Read the Rest at BET.Com by clicking here.

To purchase a copy of “Dear Universe’ click here.

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The Ego, The Activist & The Universe

From the Vault: This piece originally appeared in Aquarius Magazine.

The ego always tells us that what we have done is not enough. It always finds a way to creep into our minds, reciting mantras of inferiority and ill willed actions.  With the ego, all of the work we have done is easily forgotten.  All of the things we have done to raise awareness, foster love & healing, cry for justice or balance; all these things are lost in the ever pressing urge to do more. Do MORE. DO MORE.

Yet after the frenzie has ended and all of the rallies have demonstrated, after the papers have been presented, the poem recited, the song sung, the art released and the language expressed, the ego makes us forget that we  have done anything at all.  It presses down upon us and says, “But what good was any of that?”

In response to this we rush out, or rush inward, ready to beat up on ourselves for all the trees we couldn’t save, all the young people we couldn’t reach, all the legislation we are unable to petition, all the strangers we couldn’t help, all the times we had to sit down, stop, rest and say “no”, because we couldn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t bring ourselves to do anymore. Whether it’s because our resources were extinguished, our spirit or body needed rest, or simply because we made a different decision we beat up on ourselves.  This can and often does go on forever.

What we must remember is that every act towards healing oneself or others is an act of healing that proliferates throughout the soul of the universe. If we truly believe in the concept of inter-being, which suggests that all life, energy and beings are interconnected, then the love, healing and education we bring to one person one group or more, has a rippling affect.  It moves beyond us and into the unseen.  It may manifest as a flower growing through concrete. It may manifest as someone else across the world being compelled to give a hug, a kiss, a dollar, a dime, a hand, or laughter. It may manifest as a spark of an idea being awakened in someone a world away, but it matters.  Everything we do matters. 

Whether it’s break a smile or breakthrough a facade, these acts, no matter how tiny, actually continue to recycle throughout the galaxy and planet to create more of the same. Our acts of arrogance, ignorance, snobiness, aggression, and elitist attitudes multiply. Our acts of anger, secretiveness, and dishonesty triplicate each time without exception. Just as these less desirable energies spread, so to do our acts of loving-kindness. So do all the times we were non-judgemental and loving.  All the times we reached beyond ourselves to share something with someone outside of our comfort zone to connect, this to was spread over the universe.  Let me make this clear: this is in no way an attempt to suggest that we should not have our emotions or feelings, but to be clear that our emotions are different from our actions. Have the feeling of anger is wonderful. It is apart of being human. 

Acting or hurting someone because of that anger is the challenge. It creates more pain for others and expands this energy across the cosmos. We all of course have done such things at one time in our lives, and have had no or little idea of the consequence on others and ourselves. We also often have to make choices that create pain-such is a part of life. We can work on forgiving ourselves for those actions and in the process heal that energy in order to redirect it. We are all having human experiences here, and no matter with what tools we are equipped with we will still make mistakes and blunders. (if so we would not learn.) Thus forgive yourself and make the wisest choice you can.

The gist of this message is this:  That one, we must acknowledge our deeds and work no matter how small or insignificant for how they affect others and the community. And two: the results of our work and things we do are not always readily seen or perceived by us. This should bring us to both a place of celebration and of caution.  Act mindfully. Move lovingly.  When you are unable to do so, forgive yourself and redirect that energy towards compassion.  And when the ego says, “But what good was that?”  Know and trust that  the after effects of the love and authenticity you have engendered is in action.

-Yolo

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A Book Interview on “Dear Universe” With Moya Bailey of the Crunk Feminist Collective!

Recently I sat down with Moya Bailey from the Crunk Feminist Collective to talk about my new book “Dear Universe”. Check out the interview below!

1. What made you want to write a book with this format of affirmations?

My love of affirmation books made me want to put it in this format. I grew up reading books by Iyanla Vanzant, Susan Taylor, Wayne Dyer, Pema Chodron and many more. I love  those books and some of them have similar formats as “Dear Universe.” But one thing I realize with them, and the new age movement in general, is that they are sorely lacking in structural analysis and social context. In fact, the new age movement at large has been built upon the exploitation of indigenous and people of color’s beliefs. This has helped to fuel conversations on things like  “creating your reality” that completely miss the “realities” of sexism, racism and other forms of oppression.  All those things to me seem to be big omissions.  So I wanted to create “Dear Universe” in this format so that it could be used  as a tool to build upon those conversations. It’s really the first step in a broader dialogue about self/community care, spirituality and emotional wellness that I feel is a large part of my life’s work. That’s why I wanted it to be accessible so that it could not only appeal to progressive communities, but also to the mainstream as well-people of all faiths and political perspectives. It’s small and cute, but packs a lot of power and can catch you off guard at times (Kinda like me I’d like to think! lol)

2. What does the Universe mean to you?

The universe means community. The universe to me cites us as the place where spiritual power lies. When we call on the universe for support or guidance, we are not calling on some externalized far away force. We are calling on ourselves, our families, our communities.

I believe the universe as a theoretical concept can push back against spiritual belief systems that say “God/spirit power is out there somewhere.” This idea has always been troubling to me. It makes me think of the elder christian women I have met throughout my life, who are amazing healers. However, they always said that the power to heal was not them. They didn’t think they had spirit power, but that “Jesus” or someone else only gave it to them at intervals. I often wonder for many of them what their lives would have been like if they believed that power came from within them, not from a man, or anyone else. I always wonder, what more would they have done? How much more could they have healed if they had been able to embody their power differently?  This is why I think the Universe as a term can maybe get people thinking differently. Because if you have the power, and if you are the power, then what else is possible?Dear Universe Book Cover

 

 

3. How did you feel while writing the book? Do you practice these affirmations in your own life

When I wrote the book I was depressed. Honestly. I was in the middle of my Saturn return, and most of my life had fallen down around me, along with my idea of who I thought I  was.  Writing those affirmations was a way to pull myself out of it. I didn’t even consciously realize that was what I was doing, but that’s That’s what Dear Universe did for me. I wrote those affirmations because they were what I needed to hear. They were what I needed to remember to find the strength to pull myself together. People always quote Toni Morrison as saying “ Write the books you want to read” well with Dear Universe, I wrote the book I needed to write to survive. I wrote the book that contained the magic and love that I felt was missing from my life at that time.

And yes, I absolutely practice these affirmations in my own life. I work hard to inscribe them into my everyday way of being. I don’t just read them in the morning; I take them to heart and try to consider them in how I am in the world. This is why writing them down became so necessary to me. I needed them in physical form. I needed them as reminders when the world tries to get me not to trust myself.

Read the Rest HERE:

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Why I Love The Universe More Than I love God

I love the Universe more than I love God.

I love identifying the divine source as the “Universe” because it implicates you and me, inherently.

It does not conjure thoughts of one person or entity. It does not invoke a man, a prophet or a hierarchy. It invokes us, and by calling on it we affirm that we are a part of the power that answers our own prayers and wishes — not an external source or an all mighty white man.

Because the Universe is you … and yo mama. You both are the universe. We all are the divine power.

Many beliefs strongly suggest otherwise. And a consequence of these beliefs is that many a community has been held hostage or destroyed, because they have been waiting on an external savior to exercise the spiritual energy that only they themselves possess.

This is of course, not new. Throughout history spiritual power, which is nothing more than concentrated consciousness, has been projected on and through deities. But by calling on the Universe we invite that power back into us. We invite it back into our bodies, our hands, our bellies and our hearts. We share it with our friends, brothers, mothers, cousins and sisters. We harness it collectively and individually to challenge and transform systems that seek to sabotage our self worth.

In this frame there is no need to argue with agnostics or atheist bullys about “proving” the universe. Because we are “it” and we are the proof that it exists.

We are a part of the power that brings it into being. And as that power, we have to take accountability for creation around us. We have to take responsibility for what we create. We have to recognize how we are complicit in the violence of the world and make our own decisions about how we will, through our everyday choices and ongoing acts of resistance, contribute something else to the pot. 

 (Read the rest at the Huffington Post by clicking here) 

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