#BlackHistoryMonth Treat: How Playwright Lorraine Hansberry Inspired My Novel, Love’s Troubadours


My debut novel, Love’s Troubadours was inspired by a speech given by activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry in February 1964. She spoke to a Harlem-based group of aspiring young, gifted, and African American writers about the power to love in America. In her remarks, Hansberry stated,

“O, the things that we have learned in this unkind house that we have to tell the world about! Despair? Did someone say despair was a question in the world? Well then, listen to the sons of those who have known little else. If you wish to know the resiliency of this thing you would so quickly resign to mythhood, this thing called the human spirit … Life? Ask those who have tasted of it in pieces rationed out by enemies. Love? Ah, ask the troubadours who have come from those who have loved when all reason pointed to the uselessness and foolhardiness of love. Perhaps we shall be the teachers when it is done. Out of the depths of pain we have thought to be our sole heritage in this world-O, we know about love!”

She referred to African Americans as troubadours, the descendents of people who used the power of love to live through and overcome despair and insurmountable odds. She went on to urge the audience to seek wisdom from African Americans because of their capacity to love.

I first read about Hansberry’s speech in Salvation by bell hooks in 2001. Salvation discusses how African Americans have used the power of love to transform their lives and communities. hooks’ writings caused me to question how I could use my gifts as an artist and writer to promote love as a healing tool in the lives of individuals and communities in America. I answered that question by writing Love’s Troubadours, a novel that tells the story of Karma Francois, a 30-something museum curator and yoga teacher who loses her job, discovers family secrets after a loved one dies, and begins a healing journey as she relocates from New York City to Washington, DC. Learn more about her in the video below.

Karma learns many life lessons as she comes face-to-face with the choices she has made in her life and relationships. Watch the video below and learn about some of them.

Throughout her journey, she uses journaling, meditation, mindfulness, poetry, spirituality, therapy, and yoga to heal and love herself. Hansberry’s wisdom on mindful living inspired the way I wrote about Karma’s healing journey:

 “I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and–I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.”

Watch the video below and learn how Karma’s healing journey transformed her idea of love in her life.

After reading Hansberry’s book, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, I made a conscious decision to use my novel’s characters to celebrate the beauty and diversity of people of African descent. Watch the video below and learn about the diverse characters.


Listen to a chapter excerpt from Love’s Troubadours that illustrates the diversity of African Americans when Karma walks into Mocha Hut, a coffee and tea café in her U Street neighborhood, and eavesdrops on a conversation.


Be Present in 2018 (Mindful Body Scan Podcast)


Happy 2018!

Start your new year by making a self-care investment in being more present in your body, heart, mind, and spirit. Listen to the latest episode of the #ThrivingMindfully Podcast and learn how to be present with a guided body scan. A body scan can help you relax and connect with what’s happening in your body from head to toe (or toe to head), how you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking. It also trains your attention and can help you release pent-up emotions.


Happy Fierce Living Friday: Being Surrounded by Fierce Living Women

Happy Fierce Living Friday!

This week I have been surrounded by many Fierce Living women. The way they live their lives and the work they do inspire me. I have included photos of several Fierce Living women below.

Who are the Fierce Living women that inspire you?

International Women of Courage 2014 Awardees and FLOTUS Michelle Obama -- Photo Credit: State.gov
International Women of Courage 2014 Awardees and FLOTUS Michelle Obama — Photo Credit: State.gov

The 10 women who were named 2014 International Women of Courage (#IWOC) by the U.S. Department of State on March 4 and First Lady Michelle Obama are Fierce Living women in my life. The #IWOC awardees were honored for their exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk. See list of #IWOC awardees below.

  • Dr. Nasrin Oryakhil, Director, Malalai Maternity Hospital Kabul (Afghanistan)
  • Ms. Roshika Deo, Feminist and Political Activist, Be the Change Campaign (Fiji)
  • Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze, Bishop, Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (Georgia)
  • Dr. Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar, Tribunal President, High Risk Court, (Guatemala)
  • Laxmi, Campaigner, Stop Acid Attacks (India)
  • Ms. Fatimata Touré, Etude, de Formation Femme-Action (Mali)
  • Dr. Maha Al Muneef, Founder and Executive Director, National Family Safety Program (Saudi Arabia) *To be awarded in absentia
  • Ms. Oinikhol Bobonazarova, Director, NGO Perspektiva Plus (Tajikistan)
  • Ms. Ruslana Lyzhychko, activist and pop artist (Ukraine)
  • Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer (Zimbabwe)

Click here to read their full biographies. To learn more about #IWOC, check out my Pinterest board of resources.

FLOTUS Michelle Obama and the #IWOC Social Media Leaders - Photo Credit: State.gov
FLOTUS Michelle Obama and the #IWOC Social Media Leaders – Photo Credit: State.gov

First Lady Michelle Obama has always been a Fierce Living woman in my life. Meeting her in person at the #IWOC Award Ceremony was an incredible experience.

Meeting, talking to, and working with my fellow #IWOC social media leaders Kelsey Glover, Salma Bahramy, Jen Charlton, Erin Dunne, Laila Alawa, and Katie Kaestner during the Award Ceremony and meetings with State Department officials gave me a chance to witness how fierce these ladies are. After one day together, they became Fierce Living women in my life!

Author Emily Parker at New America Foundation event
Author Emily Parker at New America Foundation event

On March 4, I attended the New America Foundation’s event featuring a conversation with Emily Parker, author of Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground. Listening to Parker discuss her experiences with political activists who blog and use social media in the midst of government imposed restrictions on free speech brought back memories of my own trips to Beijing, China and Havana, Cuba. As I listened to her share her experiences with Cuban online activists, I thought of one of my Cuban digital diva sheroes, Yoani Sanchez, a blogger activist and author of Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today. During the question and answer period, I asked Parker about her interactions with Sanchez. Her comments about Sanchez revealed a deep passion and commitment to telling stories that might not otherwise get told. In that moment, she became a Fierce Living woman in my life.

Me and Dartmouth Professor and Author Ella Bell Smith at the Center for American Progress Action Fund
Me and Dartmouth Professor and Author Ella Bell Smith at the Center for American Progress Action Fund

Today I attended the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Blind Spots and Double Binds: The Leadership Issues for Women of Color forum. I attended the forum to hear what Dartmouth Professor Elle L.J. Bell Smith had to say about women of color and leadership. Professor Bell has been one of my Fierce Living sheroes for several years. After the forum, I had a chance to meet and talk with her one-on-one. What a Fierce Living moment!

My Fierce Living mentor and friend Toni Dunton-Butler, Founder of A Silver Thread, Inc. (in all black outfit) at Center for American Progress Action Fund
My Fierce Living mentor and friend Toni Dunton-Butler, Founder of A Silver Thread, Inc. (in all black outfit) at Center for American Progress Action Fund

During the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s event, I sat next to Toni Dunton-Butler, Founder/President of A Silver Thread, Inc. Toni has known me since I was in high school. She has been a Fierce Living mentor and friend for numerous years. Spending time with her at the event and having a juicy lunch chat reminded me how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many Fierce Living women.

Photo Credit: State.gov
Photo Credit: State.gov

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. It is a day to honor Fierce Living women all over the world. One way you can do that is by participating in the State Department’s Instagram and Twitter #WeAreCourage campaign. All you need to do is post a photo of your woman of courage with the hashtag #WeAreCourage.

Good Friday Positive Inspiration for My Writer’s Soul from Kelly Rae Roberts & Brene Brown

Happy Friday!  Happy Good Friday! Happy Early Easter!

How is your day going?  I hope it is treating you well.  Mine started with a confession and a double dose of positive inspiration for my writer’s soul.

Here’s my confession: when I write books, especially memoirs, I have an opportunity to really explore some deep parts of myself.  Sometimes the writing journey can get emotionally draining, scary, and overwhelming.  When that happens, I look for positive inspiration. Today I reminded myself to slow down, breathe, and look for some positive inspiration.  Guess what? I found two great sources.

Photo Credit: KellyRoberts.com

Artist Kelly Rae Roberts’ April 5th blog post was the first source of inspiration.  Roberts’ post about the benefits and pitfalls of an online life reminded me I need to continue taking great care of myself by setting more boundaries on my online life.  In short, it’s time for me to revisit my online boundaries, establish a new schedule for going online, and have a more consistent practice of daily and weekly UNPLUGGING (my digital sister and friend Danica Kombol calls it a digital diet).

Photo Credit: Brene Brown photo from The University of Houston

My second source of positive inspiration came from a YouTube video featuring storyteller/researcher Brene Brown’s TEDx Houston Talk on the power of vulnerability. Click here to watch the video.  What a game changer!  It’s making me dig deeper into my Digital Sisterhood book writing journey. I’m so grateful for Brown’s talk, the power of connection, and the belief and acceptance that I am enough as a spiritual being having a human experience as a woman, friend, daughter, sister, author, artist, coach, yoga teacher, innerpreneur, speaker etc. etc.

So what positive inspiration have you discovered lately?

How do you keep yourself inspired?

Any plans to unplug, set boundaries on your digital life, go on a digital diet (check out Daniel Sielberg’s The Digital Diet — great tips), or take a digital sabbatical (similar to the one Gwen Bell talks about in her book Digital Warriorship – fantastic book I read in 2011 — had a chance to participate in Bell’s BlogHer 2011 workshop — awesome experience)?