The B Word Blog

20 Things I’m Grateful for from 2020

in no particular order, here is my 2020 gratitude list:

  1. The B Word was born. It had been a long time coming, but in 2020, I finally launched my creative writing blog, and I’m so grateful that I did.
  2. “River” was published. I’m still in disbelief that one of my original writings was published by The Merrimack Review, but I’m eternally grateful.
  3. I grew closer to God this year. I prayed more. I fasted more. I read my Bible more. My faith strengthened, and I saw God move in my heart.
  4. I completed therapy for the first time. It was hard, but it was life changing . . . and with a Black counselor!
  5. I grew a lot mentally. Self-awareness, self-confidence, self-love, self-control, self-discipline, and more. Going into 2021, my mind is stronger than it has ever been, and I’m grateful.
  6. My family never lacked or went without. 2020 has been the year of the pandemic. I’m grateful beyond words that my family has consistently had everything we’ve needed, be it our homes or food on the table. It’s a blessing we must remember not to take for granted.
  7. I turned 22.
  8. I grew remarkably as a writer and am beginning to find my voice and decipher the kinds of stories I must tell.
  9. I had two 4.0 semesters.
  10. I applied to graduate school.
  11. I am one semester away from obtaining my bachelor’s degree. You can expect a graduation photoshoot in the coming months.
  12. I fell in love with African American literature in an entirely new way. I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, and I always read books by Black authors with Black characters. Still, something about my readings and studies this year has forever changed my appreciation of the written word by Black writers.
  13. New visions were generated, and new seeds were planted. I have so many great things planned, and I can’t wait to fully bring them to fruition.
  14. I wrote a lot of really amazing stories. I’ll never rush my creative process or release work prematurely, but I hope to be able to share some of them in 2021.
  15. I’m grateful for my family and friends. Whether near or far, I’m grateful for all the ones who love and support me.
  16. I have amazing professors. As I’ve prepared applications for graduate school and delved deeper into writing, I’m grateful for professors who have gone above and beyond to pour into me and invest in my future.
  17. I get to work in a place that I love. Even though it’s not permanent, I’m grateful to still work in a place that I love, have room for growth, and feel supported by those around me.
  18. I’ve realized how much I am a student of life. Everyday has been a day to learn, and I’m grateful to be a student of life.
  19. You. Not just you, but my entire small group of readers. I’m grateful for every person who has visited The B Word and read even a single word of anything I’ve written. I’m grateful for your support, and I’m grateful that the words I write resonate with you beyond the pages I release them onto.
  20. I am alive. I am healthy. I am blessed. And I’m grateful.

Let me know in comments: What’s one thing you’re grateful for from the year 2020? Wishing you all a blessed and safe New Year!

GROW

If college has taught me anything, it’s that in every situation, there’s room to grow.

College will be tough.  

Your account will go into overdraft  

and your bank will hit you with a $35 fee.  

You’ll forget to submit your essay by midnight  

and your professor won’t listen to your pleas.   

You’ll stay out taking shots with your crew 

and sleep through all seven alarms. Or  

you’ll neglect to pick up Gram from the airport and  

become the least favorite grandson.  

The doctor will say your cholesterol is too high  

and that you don’t get enough nutrition or sleep. 

And just when you think you’ve worked hard enough, 

your final grade will read “C.” 

The job that has nothing to do with your career will stress you to the point of tears, 

and as your boss yells at you, and your lover neglects you, 

you’ll stare into the mirror of your college years.  

Grow.

Chitlins and Hog Maws

With Thanksgiving just under two weeks away, I wanted to share this piece about two food choices I swore I’d never eat until I learned of their cultural and historical contexts for Black families.

Black families eat things like chitlins and hog maws, especially during the holiday season. I come from a very southern cultured family, which always had a huge influence on the way we cooked and ate. This was great when I was eating collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese, fried cornbread, and fried chicken; but when it came to things like chitterlings, or chitlins as most Black families and mine have always called them, there was no way I could find a thankful bone in my body.


As a small child, I sometimes hated eating at my great-grandparents’ house because I was always forced to eat everything on my plate. I didn’t get to choose what I ate, but I sure did have to eat all of it. There were even moments when I’d walk into the kitchen to take a peek into a pot and there’d be stewed chicken fingers waiting to claw my eyes out (or that’s what I thought, at least).


As with most things, my opinions changed as I got older, but I still swore that I would never eat chitlins. Toward the end of high school, my best friend’s mom explained to me why Black families eat these things. During the times of slavery, enslaved Black people were given the leftover scrapings of the pig after it’d been slaughtered, and all the “good” meat had been taken. They’d then make use of what was left, i.e., the intestines, ears, and feet. Before that moment, I’d never understood the background of why Black families ate such foul-smelling foods, but I certainly gave chitlins a try after I learned that. Chitlins are essentially pig intestines, while hog maws are the exterior lining of the pig’s stomach, but there are many other Black people who’ve been given little opportunity to understand this cultural and historic context.


If you’ve ever eaten them and enjoyed their tastes, it’s amazing to see how throughout history, Black people have continually shown their ability to turn things that are gross and unfavorable into something appetizing and culturally unique. But even if you still refuse to eat chitlins or hog maws—I was once one of those people, and I still won’t eat pig feet or chicken feet or anything’s feet, so, I promise, I’m not judging you—consider the historic and cultural implications associated with them the next time you smell them and decide to turn up your nose. If nothing else, share the simple, but remarkable origin story of why Black families have for so long been eating chitlins and hog maws.

A Tribute To My Grandmother

This week, I wanted to share the tribute I wrote to my grandmother and had the privilege of honoring her with at her memorial service last weekend.

There are a lot of stories and memories I could share about my grandmother, Gramma Linda, as my siblings and I always pronounced it. There are stories that have always been a joy to reflect on, like when she lived in Redding Gardens and we’d walk to Park and Shop to get a bag of “skins,” or to the downtown Sanford lakefront to feed the ducks. There are also those stories that are funny now, but back then were only funny to Grandma. Like when we were living in Georgetown and she was babysitting my siblings and I while my parents were at work, and I clogged the toilet. I literally begged Grandma to whup me so that my parents wouldn’t. I gave her combs and belts—anything I could find—but she just laughed and said: “Nope, I’ma let your mama do it.” My parents weren’t even upset, and I didn’t get the whupping I expected. I think Grandma was laughing because she already knew that I wouldn’t.

One of my more recent memories of my Grandma Linda stems from an interview I did with her on February 16, 2018. This interview was initially just a school assignment—a family-community history project—but looking back, it’s a memory of her that I will cherish forever and share with my own children one day. Since I was attending in school in Atlanta, Georgia at the time, the interview was done over the phone; however, I’d like to share a few of my favorite moments from this interview. The first question I asked Grandma was about her childhood.

“What were some of your favorite things to do as a child?” I asked.

Without hesitation, she shouts into the phone, “Play!”And we both erupt in laughter, because Grandma had a contagious laugh like that.

“Well, what did you like to play with?” I ask her. Grandma really liked to play with her dolls, and she loved to play baseball.

“We had a baseball team every day as a family,” she told me. “We got out there and played.” Now, this caught me by surprise, because of everything I knew about my grandmother, I’d never known about athleticism. So, I tell her this, mentioning that I didn’t know she into sports or that she was athletic.

“My mom was athletic,” I say. “I didn’t know she got that from you.” And because Grandma was quick-witted, her response was swift and sweet.

“She get all her talents from me,” Grandma said. And of course, we both laugh again.

In talking to my grandmother, I learned that she was a dreamer. As a little girl, she wanted to be a schoolteacher. This was something else I’d never known, but I wasn’t surprised because what I had always known, was how much my grandmother loved children.

“Yep, I loved children,” she says. “I love kids. Gimme your children and you can do whatchu wanna do!”

My grandmother also had a vast memory. She remembered John F. Kennedy as the president and when he was assassinated. She tells me that she was in fourth grade at the time and remembers so many different people running for president.

“But we was so young, so that’s all we knew. But we knew everything wouldn’t be right after that.” She even remembered the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Even when Martin Luther King died. . .” she tells me. “. . .everyone was so sad and scared.”

“What was the best thing to happen in your life?” I then asked her. And her being the comedian she was, her response was as quick-witted as every other.

“I guess getting my retirement because I got a lot of money. My settlement was real good.” After we both calm down in laugher, she offers a more serious answer, that the best thing to happen in her life was when she had her three children. “Because I wanted them all and I wanted to love them, because I love children. I was 15 when I had Peter,” she tells me. “Yep, I was young. And I had Rita at 16, and I was 18 when I had your mama.”

Like the high and memorable moments of life, there were also the lows—and for Grandma, one of her lowest moments was losing her own mother, Great-Grandma Rose. But Grandma assured me that depending on God was what got her through, that she counseled, listened faithfully to pastors pastoring, and eventually, the Lord took the weight of grief from her. Grandma told me that her dad used to build houses and she loved him dearly, but her mother was one of her biggest role models.

“It was my mama,” she tells me, “and Grandmama Annie Mae, they always kept us going straight.”

The last question I asked Grandma during this interview was about the future of her children and grandchildren.

“What would be your hopes for the lives of your children and grandchildren?” I ask. She offered a response that was simple and clear:

“I want them to be successful in everything they do, and I hope they reach their goals and I will be happy for them and do all that I can do for them.”

Grandma may no longer be present with us here on earth, but she made her wishes for her children and grandchildren clear: to lead lives of success. As I continue through school, I can’t help but think about Grandma’s dreams of being a schoolteacher. In part, I hope that my aspirations in education will in some way be a manifestation of the dreams my grandmother wasn’t fully able to accomplish. But whether she was in a classroom or not, Grandma was certainly a teacher—she was a teacher of life. She was a teacher of humor and a teacher of love. A teacher of humility and a teacher of beauty; a teacher of style and a teacher of grace. Certainly, a teacher of pettiness—because anyone who knew Grandma, knew that she was petty. But she was also a teacher of care and thoughtfulness—especially considering that no matter who you were, she never forgot your birthday.

I will continually honor her by always striving to find success in all that I do. As I, along with my family, carry forth the charge of her memory and carry her in my spirit, I’ll always remember the lessons that Grandma—the teacher—taught to me. May Grandma Linda’s beautiful soul rest in eternal peace.

Bradleys of the Dining Room Table

This piece is inspired by my family and was written just under a year ago in my first nonfiction workshop.

I never realized how much I would appreciate sitting around the dining room table for dinner with my family every night as a child. There were six of us, which to me, constituted us as a big family—two young, happily married parents, four bickering, yet inseparable children, and occasionally a dog or a couple of fish. It didn’t matter the day of the week or the season outside—when it was time for dinner, everyone was seated at the dining room table. The television was to either be muted or turned off completely, and the house phone we had at the time was to be ignored until the conclusion of dinner. I was a child who loved to read, my brother a drummer, and my other two siblings falling everywhere in between; but when it came time to eat, everything else had to wait.  

My mother, who is still undisputedly the best cook I’ve ever known, had a hot meal prepared for us every night. When dinner was ready, she’d tell one of the four children to clear the table so that we could sit to eat, and after clearing the table, we’d trolley around the house to let everyone else know that mama was ready to fix plates. Each of us would line up in the kitchen while my mother stood at the stove fixing our plates, including my father. She did this until we were old enough to do it ourselves and still does for my father—she was raised old fashioned this way. Looking back, many of our meals were “struggle meals”—super cheap and much less than gourmet; but my mother was a gifted cook, and she had a way of making every meal warm and fulfilling. My favorite was always the canned pork and beans over rice with fried chicken. She’d sweeten the beans with sugar, cinnamon, and only Lord knows what else, and when she was feeling fancy, we’d get hot dogs or sausage mixed in.

My father usually took the lead from there. We are a Christian family, and my parents believed in taking the principles they followed and instilling them into their young children. I was the hangry child, desperate to dive into those pork and beans and rice on my plate, but there was no eating until after my father read a few verses of scripture and then explained to us what the scripture meant. Like clockwork, we’d then join hands and my father would say grace:

            Lord, we thank you for this food we are about to receive. We ask that you blot out any offenses that may be caused to our bodies. Lord, bless the hands that prepared this food, and the means by which it came, and bless our gathering together here as a family; in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Occasionally, my father would task one of us children to say grace, and it went more like this:

            God is great, God is good. Lord, we thank you for our food. By his hands, we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.

My parents always seemed to have a topic planned to discuss with us, whether it was how we were doing in school or a need to do better in our chores around the house. Most days, though, they’d go around the table and simply ask everyone how their day had been. Everyone had to share, so, when it was your turn, it was best you at least make up something to say. Somehow, we always managed to keep a large table that took a rectangular form but was rounded at the corners. These tables were usually a dark, wood stained color and came with a bonus piece that could be added to the middle to extend the table. The chairs weren’t always of a matching set, but there was always a chair to comfortably fit everyone.

We all had assigned seats when it came time to sit down for dinner, even though no one was ever explicitly told where to sit. I was always seated to the right of my mother who sat at the end of the table, usually with her back to the front door. To my right, was my little brother, and to his right was our father, who sat directly across from our mother. To my father’s right and across from my little brother was my older brother of whom I share only 15-months difference in age. And directly across from me was my sister, the eldest of all of the Bradley children. When it was time to share, we typically went in order around the table, or in variation of oldest to youngest.

Ironically, or maybe not so ironic at all, we still follow this “seating chart” every Sunday for our post-church dinners, only now with the addition of my brother-in-law, niece, and nephews. There are moments now as an adult that I sit down to eat and run to the den because I can hear the TV still on. At only five years old, my niece doesn’t fully understand the etiquette of the Bradleys of the dining room table, but I’m doing my best to remind her that YouTube has no place at the table during dinner.

Somehow, even as we escaped our childhoods to become teenagers, and now adults starting their own private lives (the youngest is 18), we always found our way back to the comforting security of these unofficial assigned seats at the dining room table. I moved from Florida to Georgia for an entire year for school and my sister moved out to start a family of her own—yet we still always find our way back to these seats. And even when there was tension amongst our spirits or numerous elephants in the room, the family suppers at the dinning room table always reignited the love in our hearts for each other and keep our laughter and youth alive. We told jokes that sometimes held entirely too much truth, as most good jokes do, and we’d have endless conversations about the world around us, what was happening in our own world, and how we could all be better.

The dining room table has held my family together and I have mixed emotions about leaving it one day to start a family of my own. I believe we’ll have a dining room table of our own, with unofficial assigned seats that bring us security and many family secrets to tell. But I think I’ll have to buy mom and dad a larger table to fit what our family will grow into—at least for our post-church Sunday dinners.