Today I had the chance to be on Huff Post Live for a dialogue on Black Gay Men & their Fathers. The conversation was inspired by Chase Simmons’ documentary Dear Dad: Letters From Same Gender Loving Sons. I interviewed Chase for Huffington Post a few weeks ago. You can read that interview here.
Make sure you check out the video from Huff Post as well. A very powerful dialogue that we need to keep having in our communities!
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.
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.
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.