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2016 Review (or Why This Blog’s Been Silent 6 Months)

Y’all. I’ve been working on this 2016 review for weeks.

But I just haven’t been able to get my act together.  Typically, I like to spend the last few days of a year reflecting on all that’s happened.  You know, the highs, the lows, how I’ve navigated and God’s grace through it all.

The thing is,  2016 has not been typical.

As 2017 opens, I wanted to share a not-so-brief update on why I’ve been MIA. And ask for a bit of grace as my life drastically changes in a few weeks.

The primary reasons I’ve been out of touch are: a baby, a book and our new little bungalow. Since it’s been a while since we’ve chatted, I’ll just give you a chronological update (and lots of pictures) of the last six months.

PERISCOPE : A New Creative Space (June 2016)

Periscope Pitch 2016

I’ve never really thought of myself as an artist. I’ve always identified as a writer, with a business background to boot. For me, there was all this internal pressure to:

  • perform
  • produce
  • and constantly be in motion.

But earlier this year, I was accepted into PERISCOPE an artist entrepreneur training program. And I learned four important lessons.

  1.  Art is a learning process that materializes in a million different ways. Sometimes, the end result is  wildly successful and sometimes it’s a disaster. Learn from it and embrace it either way.
  2.  I must learn to say ‘no’ to work that doesn’t fit the mission and purpose of my work.
  3. I must account for the time I invest in each and every project.
  4. There is a broader community that is ready to support the mission of this work…if I’m willing to share.

It was a miracle I was even accepted into this program.

I mean, the other two writers were nominated for a Pushcart and Pulitzer.  For some reason, however, the Good Lord saw fit to have be in the number (insert praise break).

After grappling with so many rejections and disappointments,  it was a gift to have the confirmation that I do have some talent. I even won third place at the business pitch and was a guest  on a podcast.

Life at The Library (July)

library 2016 review

In the spring, I kinda decided I was done with writing.

The novel kept getting rejected, I wasn’t making enough money freelancing and I was just tired of writing and not getting the results I wanted. So, I started applying to jobs related to books i.e. publishing, book stores etc.

I just wanted out…

In July, I started temping at my local library. My first week of training was, shall we say, difficult. The police (and one ambulance!) were called in almost every day.  (Lemme tell you, it was not what I pictured life at the library would be.) As a result, I gained a new level of focus and I thought  “Hey, maybe writing isn’t so bad.” And after a month of training, I landed in a community and library that I loved.

But it still wasn’t smooth sailing…

Living Without Plumbing (July 2016)

Plumbing Problems 2016

Our Backyard: All Dug Up

Two weeks after we purchased our new little bungalow, our plumbing stopped working. (If you are a subscriber, you already know this story.) Our showers didn’t drain, our toilets didn’t flush and we couldn’t use our washing machine…for six weeks!

But the plumbing was just one of about 14 things that went wrong with our house in our first two months here. And it felt like we had REALLY missed the mark.

  • Should have kept renting?
  • Did we heard God wrong?
  • Maybe we should have moved to the suburbs?

Then my dear friend, Simone, reminded us that maybe were facing so much opposition because we were supposed to be there. She was right.

And while it was awful to live without plumbing, face all the challenges that came and not take our frustration out on each other…Morris and I grew toward each other, became much more grateful and prayed like never before.

It’s a good thing we were praying because…

A Matter of Justice (August)

2016 Review: Edgehill Village

A few weeks into my library job, I witnessed a troubling incident. It was just a couple blocks away in Edgehill Village.

Two boys were stopped and questioned by the police. I knew one of the boys, because he frequents the library. So, I stopped to ask the  officers why the boys were being detained. The conversation went something like this…

Officer MH: They were riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

Me: Okay.

Officer MH: Their parents aren’t with them.

Me: Yes. This little boy comes into the library by himself all the time. He’s a good boy. And he doesn’t get into trouble.

Officer MH: Well, they weren’t wearing helmets

Me: Okay…

Officer MH: (lowers voice and points) Listen, the Gelato place and several of the other businesses calls us whenever they see unaccompanied minors. They don’t want them around here, because there’s been some vandalism in the area.  

Little Boy: I didn’t break anything!

Officer MH: I’m not saying you did, but these businesses have had problems with children.

I didn’t know what to say.

It was summer time.

They were riding their bikes two blocks from their home!

2 Boys, 2 Bikes and the Police Car…

In the end, the boys and their bikes were loaded into the police car and taken home. The boys are 7 and 9.

First, I was crushed. Then, I was outraged.

The  next day, I called the police station and requested records of all the complaints of unaccompanied minors for that street. Because I wanted to know if there was a pattern of targeting children.

No response.

That afternoon I visited. One officer listened and seemed empathetic. But the Community Coordinator, Sgt. Michelle Jones, informed me that I am “just one person, she would have to conduct a database search, and that I would need to be an organization or something to attain that type of information.”

So, What Next?

This was a soul-crushing conversation to have with someone that is supposed to represent the needs of the community.

  • Maybe this is to be expected in a neighborhood where the face of the community is rapidly changing?
  • It could be that, my idea of community is unrealistic?
  • Or maybe this was a tactic to intimidate low-income children  from accessing public resources around new fancy pants businesses?

But like my friend, Aja, says…sometimes you just gotta get in Formation.

So, I started talking to anybody that would listen to my concerns (the local newspaper, my church, area non-profits etc.)

Turns out, I’m not crazy and my concerns were valid. After numerous, emails and one meeting to placate me…the police department pledged to hold bicycle safety training for the children.

Y’all, this was an unsatisfactory response. But more on that below.

Baby Boyd  + Book (August 2016)

Baby Boyd 2016 Review

There’s a baby in there!

Two weeks later, we found out that I was four months pregnant! Suddenly, it all made sense why we were in our new home…just 8 minutes from my parents.

We won’t know the gender until we meet Baby Boyd aka Ray/Rae of Sunshine in February.

After working  with an editor for two months, swapping manuscripts with a dear writer friend, and rounds and rounds of edits the book was finished. And was finally ready to head to the designer for layout.

A Disguised Blessing (September 2016)

As I mentioned earlier, the police department’s response was unacceptable. But the Lord had a ram in the bush…

During PERISCOPE, the arts entrepreneurship program I mentioned earlier, I learned that Nashville sometimes funds community-based art projects.

I’d never heard of the program before. But it got me to thinking about the unjust incident I witnessed:

  • Maybe there was an artistic response?
  • Could we  use the incident as a way to lift up the voices of our children?
  • Maybe we could connect neighbors across ethnic, educational, and economic backgrounds?

So, for two months I worked on a proposal to submit to the city. At the same time, four years of work came to completion.

Spreading the Message & Celebrating (October)

On October 3rd, The Day Sonny Died was published. Many of you read it AND wrote reviews (thank YOU). After so long writing, rewriting and fighting with scenes and characters…it was a gift to cross this finish line.

So, me and Morris headed to NYC to celebrate.

The Day Sonny Died 

The Day Sonny Died highlights the struggles of young black men and explores the story before the headline and hashtag.

The Day Sonny

The Day Sonny Died

The story came to me after serving on a jury in Washington, D.C. A mother was being tried for drug possession, an unregistered firearm, etc. But the worst of it was, she had her 9-month old baby boy in the car with her. Her face and the thought of what her son’s life would probably be never left me.

And I started writing.

Living in Survival Mode

You see, so many times we witness the end of these young men’s lives as a 6-second news clip. But we don’t know that they’ve lived a life in survival mode. The thing is, there is always hope despite tragedy.

We’ve taken an organic approach to spreading this message and are having discussion groups. To date, we shared at a mentoring program in Maryland, a group of families in Northern Virginia, the Family Foundation Fund mothers, and to a chapel at a local jail.

Sharing with the young men that are incarcerated was true confirmation…

Sharing in Jail

We visited the jail twice. First, to share the need for fatherhood, introduce the book, and request their honest feedback. When we arrived for the first session, we waited about 45 mins for the men to join us.

But when we returned ten days later the entire group was there waiting on us, with their books and ready to share! And the session ended up going over on time.

It was nothing short of miraculous to hear these men share their hearts and how the story connected with them. Four men even wrote letters of support to help us access more prisons and possibly schools. Here’s a quote:

What intrigued me the most is how Sonny story was so close to mine. The resentment one feels from not truly knowing your father, or knowing the roots from which you came…Somehow we find excuses to govern our lives, either it be drugs, alcohol, sex anything that can suppress that feeling to take on that responsibility to live as a productive citizens. Most fall victim to gang life because they’re looking for that false sense of love to feel that void of neglect that blinds you to the beautiful people that God’s surround you with. The Day Sonny Died will be a very inspirational book to share with our youth, because they’re are future.

Only God could do that.

And, apparently, He’s not finished…

The Freedom Awards: My First Press Trip

In October, I was invited on a press trip to visit the National Civil Rights Museum and cover the Freedom Awards. It was quite the experience.

I did my best to keep cool, but standing in the space where Dr. King took his last breath, interviewing Soledad O’Brien, talking with Bryan Stevenson and witnessing the cost of change…

Y’all it was almost too much.

  • It was heavy
  • I felt all emotional
  • But it was a good reminder…

Freedom ain’t free.

The Bible commands us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. The road will be tough. And the road will be long.

But God is beginning to show me my place in the struggle for change…

Art In The City (November)

Community Art Edgehill

An Artistic Response to Injustice

My art proposal in response to the boys being detained by the police was approved! As a result, in the very neighborhood where our children were humiliated…they will have a platform to respond and be heard.

The best part is that so many community members, businesses and local organizations are stepping up to support our children. The project is funded in part by the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission…and I’m just grateful.

So those are the 10 reasons this blog’s been silent.

2016 Review: Writing With God

A Matter of Taste

Celebrating a Chance for Change

Simone, are you still blogging? When’s your next book coming out? 

I get those questions a lot these days. The short answer is: I don’t know.

I started last year by reading Fervent.  By writing this 2016 review, I can see the year was all about letting  God drive my agenda and priorities…and being obedient. For me,

  • it’s uncomfortable to let emails go unanswered.
  • I hate not returning phone calls for days on end.
  • I worry about being silent on this blog.
  • And it’s painful not to have a plan for 2017!

But.

All the good things and trials that I’ve overcome happened because I was available to God. And that’s the point : power in God’s kingdom is NOT based on ability…but availability.

So, I’m just going to make myself available. If He tells me to blog, I’ll blog. If He tells me to write, I will. He’s given me three priorities:

  1. The Baby
  2. The Day Sonny Died
  3. And Our Home

Outside of that, I really don’t know what my days will look like. But I’m excited and expectant to see what He has in store.

Question: What was 2016 about for you?

Can’t wait to hear your updates! Love, Simone

 

14 Comments

  1. Tosha Washington

    January 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Simone, reading this update brought tears to my eyes. It’s truly amazing to see what God has been doing in your life. There are so many things I admire about you including your faith, your resilience, and your love for the people around you. I completely understand the need to take some steps back from others or to be silent in order to really hear and truly listen and to evaluate the voice of God. Even in the midst of many trials, I admire your ability to continue to put your trust in Him but also your ability to really submit to Him and to be open to change. Along with your ability to trust that God has a plan that is perfect and just for you even when it feels like your plans are not moving in the direction that you had hoped for. The Word tells us to be “still’ and to “know” that He is God. I applaud you for trusting in that and I am SO HAPPY for the direction that God is leading you and also you husband and family in. Congrats on the soon to be new little one on the way! Prayers for a safe delivery and a healthy baby.
    Writing is definitely and art and I love the fact that you are identifying your self as an artist and have essentially allowed the ‘creative juices’ to flow and also guide you. I’m sorry to hear about the incident at the library. Too many young black men and children are not given a fair chance. I love that your passion to give these men and children a voice has opened up so many opportunities for you–including a published book. All I can say is, WOW! It’s amazing to me to hear that you were able to cover the Freedom Awards and Metro Arts sounds like a wonderful Project. I’m believing, praying and praising with you that God’s handiwork will lay the foundation for this project, and that it will thrive in a way that truly lifts and bring change the community in Nashville.
    Simone, even though there has been distance between us, I love you! God brought you into my life at a time when I really needed a friend like you and you probably don’t even realize it. You are a gift to this world and a very special friend to me. I have a lot going on in my life too. Even though we both have a lot going on, I will continue to keep you in my prayers and I hope you will too! Keep ‘pressing’ on, lady!!! You are loved!

    • Simone

      February 3, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      Hey Tosha! Thank you so SO much for the kind words and encouragement. I am grateful for your friendship (also please forgive me for the delayed response and being out of touch).

      That verse: Be still and know…on application, it is tough for me. But I’m learning that it’s the only way to really hear.There seems to be constant noise and chatter, especially in our social climate, but I think that the Good Lord knew there would ALWAYS be a need to still ourselves. You know, it’s taken longer than I anticipated for the direction to become clear. If you had told me in October 2014, all the rough patches that were watching for me. I’m not sure I’d have kept on the path. But maybe that’s why God doesn’t let us see the whole plan…just what we need to know when we need to know it.

      The incident at the library was crazy and hurtful and tragic and a whole bunch of other adjectives. But reading your comment reminded me that ‘All things work together for good.’ And maybe this will be a catalyst for those young men in a way. I’m just grateful the Lord saw fit to use me! And thank you for your prayers…that’s what I need above all us. I’ll be sure to let you know how the project goes.

      Tosha, I love how the Holy Spirit connects us despite the distance. You are such a gift. And I want to , thank YOU for reading, sharing your heart and for being a steadfast friend…LOVE YOU LOTS!

  2. So good to hear from you sis!! So blessed by all that God is doing in and through you and your fam! So excited for the baby to come! 2016 was a mixture of highs and lows. It was full of open doors and movement but also spiritual warfare. Either way i made it and that is a testiment to His hand and grace. So glad we finally have a pic of the baby bump!!! Keep us posted :-)))

    • Simone

      February 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Hey Nicole! All I can say is Praise the Lord. You know, sometimes the path can seem really dark. But Father is so faithful and I’m just grateful to know that He can use me.

      2016. It seems it was a mixed bag for A LOT of people. I love what you said about grace…that’s what I keep coming back too. It sustains, empowers and carries us. Thank you for stopping by. Love, Simone

  3. Ahh!! I have thought of you SO, SO much lately!! Congrats on your baby AND the book!! Whoa!! I am so proud of you for putting it out there! I love hearing the ways God is using you!! Love you, sweet friend! ❤️
    Laura C Brandenburg recently posted…The importance of “YOUR PEOPLE”My Profile

    • Simone

      February 3, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Laura!!! How are you, Friend?! Gosh, it’s been like half a year since I reached out. I’m sorry I fell off the map. But I was THRILLED to read about your promotion, conference invitation and writing contest win. It’s so encouraging to read everything He’s doing on your end. (I HAVE been reading and praying for you…despite being out of touch.) Love you too!!!!

  4. Hi Simone!
    I found out about you on the Periscope website where your website was listed. I’m so glad I came across your site.
    Wow! What a year!
    Congrats on Periscope-The Book(looking forward to reading)-The Baby-and the Metro Arts Project(looking forward to seeing more)!

    Thank you for being a strong and active voice in the community!
    your work gives me goosebumps and heart. aka hope.
    Thank you again!

    • Simone

      February 9, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Hey Julia! Thank you for stopping by! It was quite the year:-)

      Periscope was SUCH a great experience and I’m grateful for all it taught me about art + business (who knew they could coexist?!). Another benefit is being connected to such an awesome community of artists that are committed to social causes…like you! I stopped by YOUR website and read about the work you are doing with Old School Farm. This makes my heart so happy.

      The Metro Arts Project will have a culmination event on April 22, and our children will be showcasing their work. I’ll post more details closer to then. Perhaps you can join us. If not, no worries. With Baby coming, I’ll be sticking close to home for a while…but I hope to meet you soon.

      Peace & Blessings,
      Simone

  5. Simone, I am SO proud of you! You are an inspiration to many, including me. I will follow your example of being available to the Lord. That’s a good word! I’ll be in touch. Much love to you!

    • Simone

      February 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      This means a lot to me!!! You’ve been such an encouragement to my writing path, Barbranda. Do you remember telling me to ‘keep writing.’ All those years ago, I really wanted an easy button/expressway. But God uses the long road to build character, mold us and get us to His destination. The lesson about being available was a hard one ,for me, because I LIKE being busy.

      But He’s showing me He can do waaaay more WITH me. Than I can do FOR Him in all my busyness…

      Love you too!
      Simone

  6. Simone, Simone, SIMONE!!!!!!!! I cannot believe so much has happened to you and for you in 2016. I’m SO excited for you and your hubby. May your baby and home continue to be truly blessed.

    Your courage in pursuing justice for what happened to those little boys is phenomenal. There’s so much injustice going on and it’s a reminder that retweeting or hash tagging ain’t gon’ cut it. It takes people like you doing what they can in their own community, to really effect a change. Love, love, love that.

    How did I not know you have a book out!?! Congrats! You stepped out on faith and did the doggone thang. So proud of you! I would love to feature it on my blog for Black History Month. 🙂
    Faith Simone recently posted…Conversations with Faith: The Deep End of the OceanMy Profile

    • Simone

      February 23, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Hey Faith!!! Thanks for stopping by! Let’s just say we both had an eventful 2016. I’ve been keeping up with you too. Thank you for your transparency, because it is just amazing to see all that the Lord has brought you through and the insights He’s given you along the way.

      Yes, you are right. We DO have a lot to be grateful for…when things were tough with the house and my temp job. There were times that I just couldn’t believe God was putting us through all this. But looking back I can see how He was using life to draw us closer. Would you say the same for you?

      Gurrrrrl! You know my social media game is weak! Some people can make a lot of waves with tweeting and hashtagging, but I’m just not one of those people:-). I’m grateful the Lord uses each of us in our own lane. The art program for our children is in April. So, I’d LOVE you to keep it in your prayers.

      Yes. The Book…ugh I’m the worst at sharing stuff like that. I’d love to be a feature! Forgive me for the delayed response…Baby Boyd joined our family a week ago today and I’ve probably missed the Black History Month window. But, we’re doing a sale from Friday, March 10th to Sunday, March 18th. The ebook will be on sale for 99 cents (usually $7.99). Would a feature coincide with that?

      Thanks a bunch for the support, Faith!
      Love, Simone

      • Congrats!!!! I’m so happy your new addition made it here safe and sound. I have no idea what it’s like to care for a newborn baby AND promote a book AND plan an event, but I can imagine that it’s more than a notion. I’ll definitely be praying for you and all that’s unfolding in your life. I know that new motherhood is a season like no other, and support is paramount.

        As far as what this time of challenges has meant for me and my relationship with God, I’ve often asked myself the same question. Why in the world am I going through like this? I actually had a moment earlier where I just cried and cried, telling God I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want to be broken or molded or used for His purposes if it means all this! You know what I felt drop in my Spirit? I have overcome the world. I couldn’t remember the whole scripture (the brain fog is real over here) , so I looked it up. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” That scripture helped me understand that not everything is a trial of faith. Some things are just a part of living in this world, on this side of eternity. The blessing is that we have Him to help us through it. I’m thinking about doing a Conversations with Faith on that topic. Btw, thanks for subscribing to my burgeoning YouTube channel! I so appreciate your support.

        I’d love to feature you this week! Just email what you want me to post and I’ll schedule it. During a sale is the perfect time.

        Take care of yourself after having your precious baby! 🙂
        Faith Simone recently posted…Conversation with Faith: No Weapon Formed Shall ProsperMy Profile

        • Simone

          March 16, 2017 at 6:01 pm

          Okay, so clearly I just think I can do more than I can actually do. And I still haven’t gotten around to sending you something about my novel. I’m really sorry, Faith.

          That thing you said about more than a notion. Yes. And YES! Sometimes, I look back on the day and I’m like ‘what did I do’ Oh, yeah: nurse, change diapers and burp Baby for 10 hours. Don’t get me wrong! I’m overjoyed…it’s just I haven’t been able to write or market much. The good news its forcing me to just trust God, and it’ll be whatever it will be. I absolutely LOVE that verse you mentioned John 16:33!!! I have clung to it many MANY time during seasons of incredible difficulty. And the reminder that some trouble is just a part of the human experience:-(.

          Thank you for being SO supportive, my Friend. I’ll reach out to you via email once I get my ducks in the proverbial row. I’d love to be a guest on your blog!I just have to discuss it with my new managing partner, Baby Boyd:-) And see what time will allow… Love, Simone

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