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Lesson 10: Identity is Nurtured

♥ Part of the Series 35 Lessons at 35 Years of Life

With a commitment for bite-sized + deliberate action today, tomorrow, and every day that I keep putting one foot in front of the other to create what I believe in.


Simply put, my identity has felt under attack.

Not in the personal struggle, owning my Truth kind of way. Instead by the very leaders who took an oath to protect my freedoms and uphold our vision of democracy as we respond to ever-changing culture. On Monday I shared this on social…

Today’s Truth 💔😶I am feeling worn down.Every day it seems there’s an attack.On my identity…On my body…On my mental health…These are the narratives currently circulating:I can be shot while Black.can be harassed, assaulted, or violated as a woman. ➡️Then add the reality that I am raising a girl who can trust her inner knowing, set boundaries, and own that she’s the only one to give consent over her body.And now, 45 and Mr. VP thinks hanging me for who I love is a joke. This Black Queer Mama + Wife is not laughing 🤷🏽‍♀️

While I refuse to play the game of self-doubt, I’m just owning how raw and vulnerable I feel today…how about you?! I’d love to know, so please do share 

In lovelution 💕

Via @mamajlove1

As I am writing this post, it’s first Friday as I draft and craft this chapter, (and then, Sunday as I finalize + edit) all in the same week. What’s clear as look in the rearview mirror of this past week and feel into the rawness and vulnerability I felt, it’s with the clarity of working through the muck and owning my experience with resistance, inner critic mixed a dose of holding myself back while simultaneously taking bite-sized + deliberate action to uplevel out of a scarcity model with my biz and how I show up to be of service in the world. It’s with this lens that I lead into a fresh perspective on nurturing identity.

Nurturing Identity: What do I mean?

Let’s begin with a definition of nurture…

(verb): care for and encourage the growth or development of

In Identity: Why the Focus? I define identity as

Who we are (how we show up in the world to ourselves and others) and how we are seen (who the world perceives us to be), as well as the experiences that result have an impact, often defining us.As an individual who has been on a journey of personal growth and discovery,

Identity is the lens that has helped me make sense of who I am and how I view the world. While I came to understand this more philosophically in college and more poignantly in graduate school, my lived reality exposed me to it much earlier. It’s a toss-up of which dimension I experienced first—race or gender; yet what is now clear is how I am seen in the world has greatly influenced my experience.In other words, identity is also a tool to reveal and unravel the stories we tell ourselves and one another.

Black Queer Mama + Wife Igniting Intentional Justice

First and foremost, this is how I see myself showing up to myself and the individuals and community I show up to and for, with and among, playing the dance of authenticity and mystery, public and private. Amongst all the ways this is how I define myself for to the world and to me.

How I experience the world within and around the playful intersection of being a Black queer woman, who is a mama to a nearly 3-year-old mixed-race girl co-parented with my wife who identifies as a white gender non-conforming queer mommy + wife.

While my wife and I have done the self-awareness work for various social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural responsive efforts and initiatives, this is simply one lens of how we show up in the world. Amidst the dominant narrative that many of us are being called to help shift. This is where my professional identity statement comes in…

I am a Love Leader

It has taken the first half of my 30s to learn that we are the guardians of our soul, which I’ll be marinating on this week as I move into a full week of giving, supporting, loving, and leading. Walking the talk, resetting for the lovelution.

> hot tub + steam room: how is it that I’ve been a member on/off for nearly 12 years, and this was my first time being loved by the steamy haze 💨
✨🌈🙏All made possible with Tiny Waves swim time with Mommy

Via @mamajlove1

While this Sunday of rest for the lovelution is not always possible with our love for Sunday adventures. I was reminded that loving yourself the way you deserve looks like finding a family rhythm for practicing radical self-care as it was just what our individual + collectives souls needed 💕This is one example of bite-sized + deliberate action. One way I bring Justice into my daily life with Intentional. This is Mama J Soul Medicine in Full EFFECT! Leading with love in my life.

I Am Mamapreneur

I am also the leader of a biz. A mom boss. Turning passions into a dream that becomes a sustainable reality to meet the intersecting needs of my family, wife + daughter, and self. For me it also means juggling tuning my dream into a reality alongside working as a Data Goddess (aka Instructional Data Manager) from 9am – 4:30 pm M-Th with Fridays to focus on household needs/errands, biz tasks (planning, writing, promoting), and self-care.

Resetting for the Lovelution in the Everyday

Reflecting on how identity is and has been nurtured within myself over the last week, 3 years since becoming a mama, and in my lifetime boils down to finding ways to practice care, encouragement, and growth for myself. As a multi-passionate human, caring for ourselves (aka self-care) can often be the last thing I check off my endless list, despite there being plenty of 5minute or less restorative practices I do throughout the day. The Truth is what it takes is bite-sized + deliberate restorative practices that prioritizes caring for ourselves without the guilt or shame of the endless to-do list.

For this Love Leader, I am choosing to lead with my identity front and center. This means nurturing all the ways I show up and want to be seen because identity is nurtured. And, it’s taken 35 years to name this as so.  This includes falling silent on some days or what I am framing as the practice of…

💕 Resetting for the Lovelution 💕Turning in…

Integrating the week’s lessons + breakthroughs…

Staying in your pjs until 1pm…

Giving love to yourself, your family, and the house that’s become your sanctuary 🏡While in hindsight it can feel like magic, I find that it can often feel like a struggle in the moment. An tug ‘o’war that’s calling for doing more when doing less is what’s needed to progress 👣This said, consider this my heartfelt reminder to us all that just like our phones and computers, we too need a weekly reset at the very least.

And, I invite you to do the same 💕Nurturing My Identity

It’s time that I name and claim it. Nurturing my identity as I continue to stand in my Truth to do so.

So, who I am?

I am a girl loves the water, it calls me (Yes, I’m taking the opportunity to reference Moana! and share a previous lesson). In all seriousness though…

I am a 35 year old Black Queer Mama + Wife Igniting Intentional Justice

I am a Love Leader + Mamperneur embracing the juggle of Data Goodess & Organizational Leader while building a life of Intentional Justice as a strategist, coach, and writer.

I am also much more…

This is what’s unfolding as I write the book of my dreams with weekly posts that act as chapter of book: Lovelution–A Journey to Self: One Seeker’s Guide to Intentional JusticeIntentional Justice™ in Your Life

Now it’s your turn, as I now invite YOU to consider:

What bite-sized + deliberate action will YOU take in your life today or the week ahead to reset for the Lovelution?

How are you + your loved ones practicing radical self-care?!

👇 Share your intention for today or the week ahead 👇It’s one way YOU can take bite-size + deliberate action TODAY 👣✨🌈In lovelution 💕Wanna Join the Lovelution?!

⇓  Sign-up below to receive Mama J’s monthly Lovegram ⇓  

includes Mama J’s insights, a roundup of these posts directly to your inbox,  and ways to take bite-sized + deliberate action

Lesson 9: Coming Out — Not Just a One Time Event

♥ Part of the Series 35 Lessons at 35 Years of Life ♥

With a commitment for bite-sized + deliberate action today, tomorrow, and every day that I keep putting one foot in front of the other to create what I believe in.


Wednesday, OctobNational Coming Out Dayer 11th marks National Coming Out Day!

Hindsight is 20 / 20

What I wish an elder queer folk would have told me, though I’m quickly reminded why this was not so—secrecy and shame, what I would now tell a queer (the spectrum of LGBTQIA—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and ally) young person is that your experience will not be a one-time event. Instead, there’ll be THE first time that you will never forget. And then, the initial letting all the key people in your life know that will make it easier to know who’s got your back for you to stand in your Truth and keep living your life. However, due to our heteronormative culture—you know, the one that normalizes the relationship / marriage between a man and a woman as the only option—it will likely feel like a mini coming out with each introduction.

This is what I wish I could tell myself and share as wisdom to my younger LGBTQIA sisters and brothers. What follows is a peek into the progression of my coming out journey over the last 16 years.

The First Time Coming Out

I had my first coming out conversation with my mom over the phone on a cool May evening after the end of my freshman year of undergrad. I write about it in my master’s thesis Triple Threat: A Black Lesbian Student-Athlete in Search of Additional Black Lesbian Student-Athletes, in which I share this:

[When] I came out to my mother I hesitated to tell her the mixed emotions I had been feeling and continued to feel, but I knew in the deepest part of my soul that the feelings were not going away. The feelings engulfed me and there was no escaping them. However, I still wondered…could I really be attracted to other women? Will my mother disown me? Is the timing right or should I wait until I am completely sure. Ultimately, in spite of the short amount of time I had been concealing my emotions and actions, I wanted…I needed to share them with my mom – my best friend – the whirlwind of emotions and fears I was experiencing so that she could be my rock as the whirlwind continued. The conversation went something like this:


Jillian: Hi, mom! What’s going on?
Mom: Nothing, what are you doing?
Jillian: I was just calling to talk. I’m feeling really lonely and I miss you guys [her and my sister].
Mom: Well, what’s going on?
Jillian: I have something I to need to tell you, but do you want me to tell you now or when I come home in a couple weeks for your birthday?
Mom: A couple of weeks aren’t going to make a difference. Tell me now.
Jillian: Well…well…I’m…I’m…
Mom: You’re what? Just tell me…
Jillian: I’m…I’m… (This back and forth occurred for what seemed like half an hour until finally my mom said…)
Mom: C’mon, Jillian. It can’t be that serious.
Jillian: I’m…I’m…I’m gay.
Mom: I knew you had been acting weird lately. Not saying much when we talked…what’s been going on?
Jillian: Well, I have feelings for #*&^2, and it has become more than just friends.
Mom: I tried to tell you #*&^ was gay. Are you sure this is not a phase?
Jillian: No. Do you really think I would have had such a hard time trying to tell you?
Mom: How do you know?
Jillian: I’m pretty confident this is not a phase. My attraction towards #*&^ is not going away, and it all makes sense to me now why I have always felt uncomfortable on every level – emotionally and sexually – being with guys.
************************************************************
I could go on and on about the various twists and turns our conversation took that night, but by conversation’s end I had realized my mom had no plans of disowning me. In fact, she told me she still loved me, that I would always be her daughter, and that she was proud of me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she was completely happy with the situation, in fact I know now that all she wanted was to create an easier life for me and she felt that by claiming to be gay and acting upon it would lead towards a more difficult existence – similar to what she and my dad faced as an interracial couple in the late 1960’s – in the often cruel and disheartening society, the United States. After hanging up with my mom, I let out a sigh of relief knowing I had done the right thing and then immediately started to cry uncontrollably. Although it is hard for me to go back to that exact moment, I know that all I really wanted that night was the comfort of my mom’s embrace to physically feel her unconditional love. Instead, I was forced to find comfort in myself.

Note: “#*&^2” is a reference to an individual. I chose not to insert a pseudonym for the individual I am referencing – I felt it was important to note that understanding my sexuality was not tied to another individual – as I don’t want anyone to try to assume some significance to the name I picked nor was there any significance to the number or type of characters used.

Seeking Comfort in my 20s + Early 30s

The need to find comfort in myself became a theme during my 20s and early 30s. This pivotal moment to courageously act and speak my Truth ignited a desire to reveal and unravel my identity. Maybe this is the moment when I set on the path to love myself the way I dream and deserve or what I have now framed as Love Yourself like a Mother! with Intentional Justice

Since I have told a version of this pivotal moment along with my interpretations of what followed, the story crystallized when I worked for a small LGBTQ-focused nonprofit in which part of my job was sharing my coming out story. Doing so marked a time in history for I as an individual and our collective history as I shared my experience with young adults as they crafted their own to share with their peers and adult educators. The magic and messy of this work is that I was supporting courage and vulnerability when I too was being asked to do the same to stand more and more upright in my Truth. Both sadly and surreptitiously this work ended due to a shift in funding toward marriage equality for which I can now proudly say I am a beneficiary.

While much of my 20s was a highlight reel of adventure, love, and growth, the transition into my early 30s marked the experience of coming out as it relates to the beginning of our conception journey and systemic oppression as it relates to my body and being deemed infertile by the medical profession. In turn, then becoming a privilege in which I could access medical services via my employer-based insurance. While there is much more I can and will say about the experience and journey of becoming Mama J, for now, my inner circle of mean girls are triggered, who are saying that I created this situation for myself.

Coming Out: Truth or Life Choice?

While I remind myself that’s my internalized oppression talking because what I know to be true is that I made the decision over 16 years ago to stand in my Truth and I will continue to do so as an act to bring visibility to same-gender love, same-sex marriage, and the creation of our two-mom queer family. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of who I have become. I am proud of what we (my wife + I) have created. The result, so much JOY and so much LOVE!

I recently found myself compelled to respond to a Facebook post by a college friend that focused on men being the leader of the household and making the final decisions in a relationship / marriage between a man and woman and the interplay of Christianity. I had this to say,

It requires a man, which is not the only way. While I recognize this is where we disagree, it’s important to note the differences in family structure and the dominant narrative of patriarchy that rules most religions. I am proud of who I am with no shame or fear of “sin.” With love, a married Black queer mama + wife 🌈 

While I Iearned the post I had responded to was connected to a previous post, this was noted after this sentence, “I completely respect your life choice.” There it was. The reminder or passive shame that I had chosen this path. I have learned to not take this personal. There’s no one but everyone to blame for clutching to the dominant narrative. I could have said nothing, which felt easy and then I was reminded of the numerous young people I have encouraged to speak up, so I thoughtful responded with…

I appreciate you for respecting my choice, and I will push back that the only choice has been to stand in my Truth instead of living a lie. I would say the goal of marriage is to live an intentional life with love and healthy boundaries as equal partners, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. From my experience though, equity ebbs and flows and is often experienced as a give and take. In lovelution…

Co-Parent & Wife in a Two-Mom Queer Family

img_0059This is what coming out now looks like as a 35-year-old Black queer mama and wife. Now as a two-mom queer family, each new interaction is an opportunity to come out. In fact, just last week while dropping off Jaylin at preschool, a kid that I later learned is in Jaylin’s class, asked this:

Kiddo: “Are you her mom?”

In response, I shared, “Yes, I’m Jaylin’s mama. She has two moms.”

The kiddo responds with “Oh, I met Jaylin’s other mom.”

“Great, he’s got it and he’s 3 or less.” I thought in my head.

By asking this question, this boy was breaking the down wall. One brick at a time.

By standing in My Truth and coming out to this boy, I removed a brick as well.

This is how the wall of injustice will fall, brick by brick.

Intentional Justice™ in Your Life

So I ask, what brick or …

bite-sized + deliberate action will YOU take in your life today to create an environment in which ALL LBGTQIA individuals feel supported to take the courageous act to come out?

Not sure? I give a few tangible next steps below.

3 Steps for Intentional Justice™

  1. Words Matters: Language matters. Kiddos notice. They pick up on what you say and they hear. This is not simply my experience, yet backed in research. Here are my top 2 suggestions to shift your language to be more inclusive:
    • Use parent instead of assuming mom and dad. This goes for forms and in conversations.
    • Ask the parent or child what they call one another. This takes away the assumption and allows for the individual to name it for you.
  2. Book Selection: We love books in our house! We have been intentional from day one to include books that reflect our families reality, as well as includes the spectrum of diversity. Here are my top toddler books for expanding the conversation of family structure:
    • Mama, Mommy & Me + Daddy, Papa & Me
    • How to Make a Baby
    • What Makes a Family
    • Families, Families, Families
  3. Asking Qs (aka questions): If I was to name one rule, it would be simply to not assume. I know our assumptions are based in what we expect from a category or group. By instead being curious, you are inviting an opportunity to learn something new:
    • What’s your preferred gender pronoun?
      • While not connected to sexuality or family structure, this Q allows for the individual to express their gender as they identify.
    • What do you call your parents?
    • How do you address or speak about various family structures?
      • A question I will be exploring as a member of the school communities I am part of currently.

While I could probably think of a zillion more bite-sized + deliberate actions, this is post is much longer than I plan, so I pause for now to invite you to consider:

What step above will YOU take for justice in your life?

Already know? Tell me in the comments below It’s where the magic happens. And if, you…

In lovelution…

mama-j-sig-.jpg

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includes Mama J’s insights, a roundup of these posts directly to your inbox,  and ways to take bite-sized + deliberate action

Lesson 8: It’s a Journey Not a Race

♥ Part of the Series 35 Lessons at 35 Years of Life ♥

With a commitment for bite-sized + deliberate action today, tomorrow, and every day that I keep putting one foot in front of the other to create what I believe in.


As the saying goes, “It’s a journey, not a race.”

Without a reference for this quote, just a knowing, as if it’s an absolute Truth, I have been on a 5-year journey of entrepreneurship. A Journey, Not a Race.

I can see it with rose-colored lens. Not because it has been easy. Quite the contrary. It’s more that I know I have traveled the path that was meant for I. Learning lessons that are now informing what’s next as I keep putting one foot in front of the next. The experience that has been the ultimate test of feeling all the feels, the highs, and lows and inevitable uncertainty like my favorite roller coaster with it twists and turns and no sight of the track ahead.

As I shared in Lesson 7: Change Begins with a Belief, I was in Chicago last week for the 4th annual Culturally Responsive Evaluation & Assessment Conference. It has been a full week since the conference wrapped and the learnings and future implications are truly just beginning to reveal themselves. I loved returning to the office and being excitedly asked by colleagues and leaders, “How was the conference?” Below are my…

Top 5 Nuggets of Love from CREA 2017 & Chicago

  1. Continued Insights: I am in a place of honoring that the learnings will continue to drip out in the various spaces and places in which I am invigorated to share my insights and resulting dreams. What’s magical is these are the same space and places where I lead and contribute.
  2. Research Validation for Intentional Justice™: Small action = the biggest impact 💫 This was one of my biggest takeaways from a roundtable I joined on Day 1, which is based in systems change research. As soon I heard this nugget of love, it was the confirmation that there’s power in bite-sized + deliberate daily action.
  3. What does it mean to be culturally responsive? Simply put, I would define it as an individual, community, or organization that responds to an individual or experience based on a cultural understanding or competency.In other words, how one chooses to follow the dominant narrative or create or tell a counter-narrative. With this understanding, I am grounded in how culturally responsive along with culturally relevant applies to education, and in particular, research, evaluation, and assessment. Mission accomplished!
  4. Seeds Planted: It was a magically powerful experience to walk into a room and look around to be in a community of learners with fellow Black women, changing the game as leaders. As such, numerous seeds were planted that I am looking forward to nourishing in the weeks and months to come.

Is the Intention: Knowledge or Insight?

In the same roundtable session, I mentioned above, there was also the opportunity to ask questions and dialogue to not just simply learn knowledge, but as I later realized to provide an experience in which we as learners would experience an insight.< strong>insight (n.): the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.

When I look back on my entrepreneurial and career journey over the last 5 years, as well as my experience in Chicago, one thing is clear.

Insight creates action. ~ mama j

In fact, find myself in a space of turning dreams into actionable outcomes. Project planning with intention. Honoring the time and space I have while also tending to individual relationship-building and collective community-building. The dynamic nature of creating within a system while also documenting the systems I’ve tested and begun to implement. Breaking each intention into bite-sized + deliberation action. This is Intentional Justice

Systems change research confirms that it’s the small action that has the biggest impact. We can simply focus on gaining knowledge or experiencing life and making choices that create the opportunity for insight. What will you choose: knowledge or insight?

Takeaway: There’s rarely such a thing as an overnight success. Many have said it before, yet now for I, it’s an insight instead of knowledge gained.

Intentional Justice™ in Your Life

So I ask, what bite-sized + deliberate action will you make in your life today to create insight?

It may feel like a leap, which often asks us to stretch our vulnerability and courage muscles, yet what I know to be true is it will be worth all the feels of uncertainty, as well as the twist and turns. That said, I leave you will a final Q:

What’s been your superpower in your journey?

Tell me in the comments below it’s where the magic happens.

Wanna Join the Lovelution?!

⇓ Sign-up below to receive Mama J’s monthly Lovegram ⇓

includes Mama J’s insights, a roundup of these posts directly to your inbox, and ways to take bite-sized + deliberate action

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