Of Post-It Notes and Positivity

A year ago today, I covered my office window with blank post-it notes. Many of you followed this activity via an earlier blog post – Post-It Project 2014.

My hope was students and staff would stop by, share a note of positivity and inspiration and then anyone could take a note as needed. One year later, it’s time to look at some of my favorites notes that went unclaimed this year.






I’m not certain I expected a drastic change in myself over the course of the year, but I spent a year looking at notes like this. I spent a year of students and staff members silently walking into my office, taking a post-it note and leaving. I spent a year of students and staff walking into my office laughing, writing a note of positivity and leaving. I spent a year of students talking about why sharing positive news was important. I spent a year thinking about happiness, light and laughter.

It wasn’t an easy year – but whenever I needed it most, there was light coming from my window.

I haven’t put any post-it notes on my window yet… and I might not. For once, I like seeing actual light come through my window. As another work year comes to a close, I wish you and your loved ones nothing but light.

Of Post-It Notes and Positivity

Of advocacy, risk, loss and holiday anxiety

I’m damn lucky.
I’m financially stable, secure in my facts, able to convey opinions and comfortable in the loss that comes with advocacy.

But as the holidays approach, I realize this places me in a seat of privilege that our students do not have but so desperately need.

For the last four months, college students across the country have done a deep dive into serious issues of violence, sexual assault, drugs and alcohol, race, police brutality and the right to basic civil liberties. As administrators, we have encouraged the dialogue and ability to have this conversation. We have championed opinions and told students they have ideas worth sharing.

Suddenly, students face a very real decision – share these stories and risk so much loss.
-What will your student say when their aunt claims “I don’t see anyone protesting black on black crimes. Besides, it should be #AllLivesMatter, not #BlackLivesMatter.”
-What will your student say when their dad claims “Well, of course she got raped. She shouldn’t have been so drunk or wearing a short skirt.”
-What will your student say when their grandfather claims “No one in my family is a faggot.”
-What will your student say when their brother claims “Of course the US is justified in the use of torture. Don’t you remember 9/11?”
-What will your student say when their best friend from high school claims “You’ve changed. You were more fun before you left for you college.”

Being true and authentic to one’s self has many real life consequences.
-Students face the very real situation of losing support from their family or friends.
-Students face the very real situation of being cut off financially from their family.
-Students face the very real situation of being disowned from their family.
-Students face the very real situation of becoming homeless during any break – winter/holiday break, spring break, summer, Thanksgiving.

I’m damn lucky. I can get a hotel room, rent a car and go back to my home in Boston. For my students, the conversation is more difficult.

Advocacy is hard. There is real risk and real loss associated with advocacy.

When a student tells you that they’re anxious about going home for the holidays, think about why. They may be facing significant loss.

Of advocacy, risk, loss and holiday anxiety

Of mourning and gratitude

A simple view of my Facebook newsfeed tells me I should be mourning.

I should be mourning the loss of my grandmother, Ernestine. Ernestine was more than the matriarch of my family, she was a subtle force of nature. Never one to complain, she kept her head down and did what she felt was needed. My entire family is hurt.

I should be mourning the loss of jobs at my former place of employment, the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As we speak, students, faculty and staff are fighting to keep their campus intact. With jobs and scholarships on the line, what’s happening at UAB will forever negatively impact people’s lives. And trust me when I say that this is much more than about a simple football program.

I should be mourning my fellow brothers and sisters who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS. Every year on World AIDS Day, we reflect on the past, how far science has come and how much further we have to go.

I should be mourning the stories of black men and women throughout the country – men and women who are being stopped by cops in Michigan for walking with their hands in their pockets, being gunned down in playgrounds and not finding closure to what happened last week in Ferguson.

So, I took a walk in the rain this afternoon to try to make sense of it all. I had just gotten home from a whirlwind trip to Iceland. My heart was full of joy and memory. Why should I be mourning? Instead, it dawned on me. I am grateful.

I am grateful to have had Ernestine in my life. I’m grateful to have learned to play cards with her. I’m grateful to have spent hours playing marbles with her. I’m grateful that she died as she lived, surrounded by family.

I am grateful to have worked at UAB. I’m grateful to have spent almost four years with some of the brightest, most engaged students, faculty and staff I’ve ever met. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help stroke the sparks which are creating flames at UAB today.

I am grateful for those on the forefront of HIV and AIDS research. I’m grateful that we are able to discuss HIV in an open and honest way, a way that is slowly chipping away the stigma of a disease that has ravaged the LGBT community.

I am grateful for my friends who have rallied in response to the tragedy that is Ferguson. I’m grateful that stories are being told and shared in response. I’m grateful to have such prolific and brave friends who are able to stand up for what is right.

Today, I make the decision not to mourn, but rather to be grateful. I make the decision to recognize perspective and privilege. Today, I make the decision to move forward instead of dwelling.

Of mourning and gratitude