So, I headed to a Super Bowl party even though I don't dig football. Thought it was going to be a night of watching and commenting on commercials and then one of my dudes introduces me to his younger brother. The brother shakes my hand and then says: "Your name is, Cheeraz, right?" I smile, nod my head and say, "Yes." The brother turns to his side, points to a young man behind him and responds, "That's your nephew."
The young man he pointed to remarks, "You have a brother name, John, right? My uncle." I look at the young mans face and I start seeing the pre-teen version of him. I jumped up from my seat, ran over to him and wrapped my arms around my now 27-year old nephew, Michael who is my half-sister's oldest son, a man/child I haven't seen since he was about 11/12-years old.
It took everything in me not to cry as he hugged me and utter into my neck, "I knew that was you. I told my friend that's my people. That's my mother's sister. That's my auntie."
I pulled back to see a face with my father and brother's features. Facial hair and all. I held his face, and we both took a moment just to look at each other.
I had to break the news to him about the loss of his great-grandmother and uncle. He hung his head and took a few deep breaths. His mood lifted as we scrolled through pictures in my phone. When Michael saw pictures of, John he shook his head and kept saying, "Wow," because of how much they resemble each other. Then, he pulled out his phone and showed me pictures of his two children. I felt a joy-filled knot forming in my throat. My oldest nephew, who I joke about being one of the most effective forms of birth control because they use to make me baby sit him while I was in middle school and high school, is now a grown man and a dad.
Tonight, I got to hear my sister's voice. A voice I haven't heard in almost 6-years. I had to break the news about grandmother and John to her, too. That shit was hard.
My sister and I promised to not let a change in phone numbers derail us, again so we exchanged email addresses.
I spent a nice portion of the night looking at my nephew as his stood there with his button down shirt and tie on, and I stole a couple glimpses of him smiling at me when he thought I wasn't looking.
Lesson: Stay obedient and life will reward you in some of the most unlikely spaces. This may require you to go into spaces you feel like you'd much rather not be, but it is the right place to receive what the Most High has to offer you.
I give thanks!
Yesterday, I hit the main post office downtown to mail off a letter. After pulling my number from the lonely little red machine, I stood in line only briefly before getting called up. As I approached the counter, the woman clerk in front of me, who looked like she wanted to be done with the day said in a voice that wasn't as tired as she looked, "What can I help you with today?"
After getting my first sentence out, the woman clerk to my left with perfectly coiffed hair, who purchased my book when I was doing a mailing last month started giving an on-the-spot review. I was happily shocked. I would've bought someone a cup of coffee if they'd taken a picture of my face at that exact moment. After pointing out a few pieces she connected with, she ended with a thunderous, "Girl, that book is good!"
The woman clerk in front of me cocked her head to the side a bit, shifted her weight to her right foot, leaned in a bit to the counter and said, "Wait, you're an author?" I shot her a smile and nodded my head, and replied, "Yep." The woman clerk in front of me, her perfectly round blue eyeshadow laced eyes shot back at me a look of confusion and intrigue. "What is it about? I know I see you in here all the time mailing stuff off but I didn't know you were a writer." I quickly raised my head back up from filling out the return address I forgot to put on the envelop, and said, "It's a collection of poetry and selected writings." Then like a knee-jerk reaction from my lips, I blurted out, "I host a writers workshop on Thursday night if you're interested."
"I have a B.A. and M.A. in English and I want to get back to my writing." The woman clerk to my left looked at her coworker and yelled, "WHAT? What are you doing working here at the post office?" I stood back and listened to the awe-filling ping-pong exchange go down. "I'm a single mother and the post office is the safest bet for me right now but I really want to be a college professor. I want to write." I don't know what I was more impressed with, her public vulnerability or the patience of the customers behind me who not once grunted or said anything. No one seemed to be in a hurry and were all attentively listening. The clerk turned back to me, looked me in the eyes and said, "Can I come to the workshop? I might get there a little late because of my job but I feel like this was meant to be. I feel like it's my time."
*Moral of the story for me that I want to pass on to you: You know that idea you've been sitting on because you don't know how you gonna pull it off, don't know where the support or space is gonna come from, but you really want to do it--Talk to folks about it. Share your vision with the right folks in the right space and the right person may overhear you and assist you with making that shit happen. You never know who is out there waiting on you to live your dream(s) so they can remember theirs.
We know the taste
of sadness that makes its way
into the repass plate
We hear the grief
trapped in our throats
in song and mere conversation
We know the difference
in a touch that says--
be careful, don't be gone too long,
I love you, and
I'm hugging you longer than you like
because the ways of this world
requires me to do so
Black woman, man and child
We know the smell of indifference
and its looming danger
Lord knows, we've seen and see it all!
by: Cheeraz Gormon
For me, March 19, 2015 was a day of honoring women. From the Trailblazers Awards at University of Missouri St. Louis, (UMSL) to later that evening, celebrating the women who were selected to receive Saint Louis Visionary Awards next month, it was all about expressing my gratitude and reaffirming all woman––magnificent, beautiful, and powerful in their own special way.
Oh yeah, and HAPPY SPRING EQUINOX! : )
Dear Tree, you taught me:
Winter, is survivable
I will earn my, Spring
Photo by: Raquita Henderson of Pinxit Photo, St. Louis, MO. And, I'm thankful that she's been a dear friend to me for over a decade.
*When I read about he death of, Mita Diran, a young copywriter at Y&R Jakarta, I couldn't do anything but write. This story was published on, The 3% Conference, website December 20, 2013
When I made it into what I like to call the big world of advertising after graduating from Miami Ad School, I did everything I could to be on my game. Part of me “being on my game” was about putting in the hours. There were plenty of nights when my partner and I would sleep at our desk, under our desk and in different conference rooms. In a sick way, there was a certain pride that came with being seen in the same clothes I had on the day before, and being asked, “Did you go home?” Early on, I found myself replying back with a lively, “Nope” as if me sacrificing my time and my health was something to be applauded. However two years in, my body and mind started to see nothing celebratory about this type of behavior.
To give context, while at Miami Ad, working all the time is how we got down. On any given semester, I remember handling six projects at one time for school while working full-time. When I wasn’t drinking coffee to stay up, there was beer. Adding to my workaholic grind outs, I internalized the fact that as a woman, especially as a Black woman, the good ole “Black Tax” mindset lived and breathed through me: I had to work harder than everyone else if I wanted to get half the attention. This mindset, for better or worse, has been with me since I took my first job as a retail associate when I was 15-years old, and this mindset became intensified and more pathological when I stepped into my big girl shoes in the ad world.
Plus, I’d heard about the famed nights where our ECD at the time would kill all the work the night before the client presentation and make the team work all night to see if they could come up with something better. In short, I was attempting to prepare myself for the expected long hours by staying ready.
Overworking was normalized for me and I didn’t get a grasp of the words, “Work/Life Balance” until after I ended up in the hospital a few times.
Sure, when I was first hired the director of HR mentioned work/life balance at least quarterly in emails. Yet when it came to the actual practice, I only saw married creatives or those who knew that our bonuses were chump change in comparison to CEOs of the brands we were working on, attempting to achieve some sort of balance. Super single with a sparsely furnished apartment, and almost all of my friends working at the agency, “Work/Life Balance” was something I thought I didn’t meet the criteria for.
My first visit to the hospital happened when I slept for over 26 hours after traveling for an activation and not sleep sufficiently for about a week. When I awakened from my Rip Van Winkle-esque drift my body was weak, shaking uncontrollably, and I was completely disoriented. I made it to the kitchen by sheer will. While I’m no doctor, the vicious convulsions were a sign that I needed two things: water and sugar. As I stopped to take a breath at the sink, it hit me that there was no way my hands were strong enough or stable enough to grab my water jug out the refrigerator, so I turned on the kitchen faucet and drank from it. Once the shaking calmed down, I walked over to the phone to see that I had over 50 missed calls and a slew of voicemails, all from my mother and family members. At that moment I had no idea how long I’d been asleep. I grabbed the phone and immediately called my mother who sounded like she’d been crying. I explained to her what happened and she told me to hang up the phone and get to the hospital.
Fast-forward to me laying in a room in emergency at Northwestern in Chicago with an IV in one arm and a doctor staring back at me like he wanted to hug and pinch me at the same time. The insides of my ears were wet with tears from them sliding down each side of my face. I remember each nurse and nurse's aide coming in giving me mini lectures on taking care of myself and how I was too young to be in the hospital from working.
However, poor historic memory, ambition, and a hard head landed me in the hospital again. The year after my first incident, I was walking to work on a beautiful fall morning. Right at the corner of Michigan Ave. and Wacker a sharp pain shot up my left arm and I gasped for air. My brain went into panic mode but I couldn’t run. I thought to myself, “GET UPSTAIRS AND GET AN ASPIRIN…NOW.” (Oh, and I don’t take medication.) I took a deep breath and coughed for about a good 30 seconds. My steps became slow and deliberate. I clinched my left arm as tightly as I could to my body and shifted the entire weight of my backpack to my right arm. When I finally made it to the elevator, which felt like it couldn’t get up to the 29th floor fast enough, I just remember praying. I was only 29-years old and having symptoms of a heart attack. I quietly walked up to the reception desk and asked Sandy for an aspirin. Sandy looked back at me with the concerned momma face, opened her top drawer and gave me two aspirins. I slowly walked to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, popped the aspirin in my mouth, and cupped my hands to get some water to wash them down. Fighting back tears, I braced myself on the granite sink top and said, “Please God, why do I keep doing this to myself?”
In short, I ended up back at Northwestern in emergency. This time, I feel asleep in one of the waiting rooms, waiting to have some test run. When I woke up, I looked around the room and everyone had to be over 65. One of the women across the room looked at me and said, “Baby, what are you doing in here?” Still in a bit of a fog, I replied, “I don’t know.” My right arm was hurting from falling asleep on the catheter place in my arm for an IV drip. Another older white-haired woman sitting next to me, tilted her head, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “I don’t know what you doin’ but whatever it is, you need to stop. It’s not that serious. You have no business being in here.” I replied, in tears, “Yes, ma’am.” The room fell silent and I heard the sound of my own weeping reverberating through the room. The white-haired woman sitting next to me placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “You’ll be okay” and I believed her. After shedding a few more tears I got up and started opening up the bottles of liquid charcoal mixture we all had to drink for the test. I had tests run on me that day for everything from a pulmonary embolism to heart disease to everything in between. What came out in the wash: I was extremely stressed out, too stressed for my age, consuming too much alcohol and coffee and not drinking enough water, nor was I getting enough sleep. I was sent home and told to do noting but take care of myself for at least a week.
That doctor's directive sent me into an internal frenzy. At that moment, my mind somehow blocked out the fact that I’d just been in the emergency room from around 9:45am to about 4pm. Was the lighting-like pain that shot through my arm and chest on a beautiful fall day not enough for me to NOT think about my job? How about the surreal gathering of seasoned white-haired women in the waiting room who showered me with sage wisdom and gentle warning? Nope, none of it seemed to have stuck because at that moment the only thing I could think about was not being about to come through for my projects. Yes, I had a problem and it was bigger than what I thought. I’d slipped off into a counterfactual abyss, thinking my life no longer had value unless I was providing value at the gig. Coming to this conclusion hurt more than all the sharp pains and needles sticks in my veins.
Foolishly, I returned back to my office to pick up my computer where I ran into a colleague who’d been wondering where I was all day. I told her what happened and she shot me one of the dirtiest looks. Soon after, one of the owners of the agency politely walked up to me and told me if she saw me in the office at any point during the week, I would be fired. Not so foolishly, I accepted a ride home from the colleague who dry snitched on me and endured her no-kid-gloves, Account Director-style berating the entire ride home. One thing she said to me in the car continues to stick with me to this day, “Raz, I’m over 40-years old and I have never had a chest pain. Don’t take this so seriously. You need your life because we aren’t saving anyone’s with what we do.”
That statement stuck with me because I take what I do as a writer seriously. One of the main reasons why I became a copywriter was because I wanted to change people’s lives with advertising. The project I was working on at the time was all about empowering women of color -- yes, while selling a product -- but the overall message for me was life-altering if women really believed in it. Still to this day, I feel like what we do can change lives for the better, but I will never go to the extremes I once did for this profession.
When I read about Mita Diran, a part of me hurt so bad because I’ve been there. A lot of us have been there and a lot of us are still there. I cried because I know the script that plays in our head as women in this business. I cried because I wish I could’ve been there to tell her, there’s always tomorrow, take her out for a nice dinner and tell her not to come back to work until she was properly rested. I cried because I wish I could tell her that she’s more valuable than any campaign she could ever create.
*The story was originally published on, September 24, 2014, on my personal Facebook page then featured on the, Miami Ad School Pro Facebook page.
Since the Miami Ad School 20-year Anniversary is coming up I guess I'll share the story about my journey to that place.
September of 2002, I hopped in my '85 Toyota USA Tercel, aka The Brown Bandit, and drove to South Beach Miami, FL from St. Louis, solo. The car had no radio, no air condition, and sometimes it decided when it wanted to startup but school started on the 25th of that month so I had to do what I had to do.
With no mobile phone, a super packed car, two red bulls, and only the money from my CD sells from my feature at Legacy Books and Café the night before, my printed out directions from map quest, I turned around and said goodbye to the high-rises at the Cochran Projects as they were being torn down. I went back in the house and kissed both of my brothers. Drove to my moms job, my mom was livid that I was doing the drive alone. The look on her face was a mix of hurt and fear. No matter how many times I reassured her I would be okay, and that I would call when I stopped at gas stations, and my first resting point in Stone Mountain, GA at a friends house, she was still not havin' it. However, I got in my car with tears streaming down my face and drove to my cousins house to kiss all of them. My Uncle Bill was like, "make sure you call us whenever you stop," but he never turned around from his computer to look at me. I kissed him on the cheek, left out the house I grew up in, and drove around the corner to, Junior's, the neighborhood mechanic so he could look at my car to make sure I would make it past East St. Louis.
I was so nervous when I hit the road that I got lost trying to make it to the highway. I must've went back and forth over the MKL bridge about 8 times before I took a deep breath, looked at the Arch and said out loud, "you better go now or you won't leave." I tried to block out the look on my mothers face, and the fact that neither one of my brothers helped me pack my car. I held on to my cousin Danny's smile and that look in her eyes, and her telling me, "I'm proud of you. Now go."
I cried myself through Tennessee. I remember saying out loud to myself while pounding my steering wheel, "What are you doing?!" The warning signs for falling rocks on the side of the road and swerving 18-wheelers made my nerves even worse, plus I was juiced up on one red bull which made me feel crazy. (I still won't touch that shit to this day.)
When I arrived in Stone Mountain at Derrick's house, a fellow poet, I ate two veggie burgers he fixed for me, called my mom and my extended family to let them know I made it, and then I fell asleep. The next morning I had two more veggie burgers, some water and then I hit the road.
Florida is a long state! The Florida Turnpike was majestic and monotonous. At several points I felt like I saw people running through the trees in tattered clothes. There was something eerie about the poplar and willow trees that lined the turnpike, and I had a kind of sadness wash over me.
I recited a lot of poems, and sung a lot of Phoebe Snow and Stevie Wonder songs along the way. When I started to feel like I may not be making the best decision, I started to think about the long conversations I use to have with my best friend in his basement. I relied a lot on good memories during that drive so I wouldn't think about how freaked out my mother was. Each time I called my mom when I stopped, her voice sound as if she'd been holding her breath and finally exhaling at the sound of my voice.
I arrived in Miami about 1-days before classes were to start. I had a friend who was moving back to Detroit from Miami so I had his apartment for a couple days. In the meantime, I had to look for a job. Get a job. Find an apartment, and move into that apartment. My plan was to sleep in my car or at a homeless shelter until I found a job and apartment. I knew I had a nice size commission check coming from my last gig so, this plan was solid to me. Yeah, my best friends mom wasn't havin' it. By the grace of God I found a job and apartment in two days, and when my commission check came, I gladly paid back my best friends mom.
While the road there was not easy, it was honestly one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
The adventure I went on via my Miami Ad School gave me the opportunity to live in different parts of the US, and back home for a few months, and the quarter I lived in London shaped me in such a beautiful way. I have a lot of great memories from those days, and some people who are in my life forever because I was crazy enough to step out on faith and follow my dream.
*Me and that dude in the picture met the first week of class in 2002. He became my Art Director partner in 2005 when I took my first major job in advertising at Burrell Communications in Chicago. I am now the Godmother of his daughter and we are stuck with each other for life.