Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams: Intro

We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.

Michelle Obama

In a system built to destroy you, joy is rebellion! My family arrived in a post-apartheid South Africa from a war torn Democratic Republic of Congo and the one thing I can always remember from those early years is never feeling as though I could fit in anywhere. I spent a lot of my primary school career trying not to be noticed. Whenever people asked where I was from, I was quick to shutdown anything that linked back to my heritage and answer Belgium. Which is true as my place of birth, but I remember very early on, learning to be ashamed of my blackness. I remember one girl calling me a ‘makwerekwere’, a derogatory term used in South African for foreigners. On the other side of the spectrum, my white schoolmates were being raised by parents who enforced the old apartheid regime. Black was bad, black was dirty, black was wrong. In a few peoples eyes it felt as though I was the ‘dirty black’ who dared to be in the same space that they were in. I was lucky enough to find a group of friends that made surviving high school , and a system that was so against me, much easier!

In my thirty years of being a black woman, I have gone through a plethora of emotions. At times I would wish I was the right type of black to fit in with everyone else, and on the other side I wished I was a more acceptable type of African…whatever that means. Other times I wished my nose was straighter, less bulbous and indicative of my blackness. It took going to study in London to help me find my true identity and to stand boldly in who I was as a black woman divinely crafted in the image of a breathtaking God. My first year in the U.K. was marvellous. I grew up in a tight-laced conservative Christian family. I had my first sip of alcohol at 17 and the lightweight that I am, I passed out (still happens 😂) but somehow I still had enough sense in me to remember to tell my friend to tell my mum that I’d fallen asleep if she came into the room and found me passed out. Such is the fear that having African parents can instil in you 😂. In London, away from my parents’ rule and away from being in the shadow of my siblings, I was my own person. For the first time in my life, I found myself surrounded by people who were from different cultures, but they carried their culture and blackness with pride. The black women I met weren’t ashamed of being black, my goodness they were stunning. I started to wear my hair in its natural texture, I experimented with colour contact lenses (black girl rite of passage…), I embraced not only my features but my skin colour as well. This is gonna sound a touch shallow, but it did boost my ego a lot that people…and by people I mean the hotties on campus, had a bit of jungle fever for the girl from Africa 🤷🏾‍♀️ very much a ‘Mean Girls’ moment! And while 2020 Aurélie has grown so much (praise be to Jesus,) and no longer needs male validation to thrive, I was 18 and very silly at the time.

In those years living in London, I truly believed and embodied a phrase made popular by Dark n Lovely: ‘my black is beautiful.’ Fast forward to when I met my husband. I was a bit jaded by romance and had no strong feelings about getting married. I knew if I wanted to have children, I could do that by myself. My mom was quite horrified by that, which humoured me a lot more than it should have. Hubby is the most refreshing part of my life. The bonus & most importantly: he did not fetishise back women like SOOO many other creeps I encountered before him. Neither of us have ever applied the phrase ‘I don’t see colour’ to our relationship. In fact we’ve always been transparent about the differences in our upbringing, and the lives we have so far led. There are so many things that make being married to Sam wonderful. I’ll gush about that in another post…

Hubby and I had some marvellous plans for the future, and then 2020 hit. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, black people were reminded of an enemy they have always had to face…racism.

The passing of Big Floyd reminded us all of how far we haven’t come since Martin Luther King marched at Selma, and Nelson Mandela become South Africa’s first black president in post-apartheid South Africa. I remember waking up on Saturday morning going for a run in an attempt to forget the emotional and mental trauma of realising once again that to some, black lives don’t matter. I recall coming back from my run the morning after the video of his passing circulated, and started to feel so ill that at some stage I asked myself ‘covid is that you?’ I woke up the next day feeling physically better largely due to a sleeping tablet, and as I continue in my attempts to heal from the collective trauma that the black community is dealing with, I am grateful for the sweet Holy Spirit that continues to remind me of something:

I am my ancestors wildest dreams

As a black woman, I should not be where I am. Free, educated, alive. And sometimes I forget that. I am notoriously bad at slowing down and smelling the roses. It truly takes ALL of heaven’s armies to stop me. This is one of those moments. The realisation that who I am today is what my parents, and grandparents (on my mothers side cause Lord knows our fathers always have messy family dynamics) prayed for.

As a black woman, I have often found myself in deep need of a pouring into my spirit that I am loved, valued and beautiful. I am grateful that I have very dear and lovely people who have seen this in me when I have not. As black people the world often times wants us to forget that we are loved, valued, and beautiful. This is a world that crushes so much of our spirits that we forget the beauty that being black is. What the enemy wants to do through racism is to break us. He wants to keep knocking us down until we get to a place where the trauma becomes a part of us, a part of our DNA that we continue to pass to our children, and their children, and their children. To get to a point where we grow so tired of fighting the microaggressions that we face on a daily basis that we retreat on the inside and start to feel the years of trauma breaking us down mentally, physically and emotionally. I refuse to be broken. The revolution WILL be televised and I will be part of it. This is where our ancestors wildest dreams comes in. An online space to remind black people of the beauty and magic that lies in their melanin. Some of them I have the privilege of knowing personally, and others I admire from afar. The magic embedded in the DNA of all black people will not be stopped. Our stories of success and overcoming in spite of the odds so heavily stacked against us, will not be erased. I look forward to sharing more from a community who are EVERYTHING that their ancestors dreamt of!

Yeah, black lives matter but what about…

I was in two minds about writing this post as I truly believe that while anger is a valid emotion, sometimes it is best to let the pot of boiling water cool down before you use it…did I just make up a proverb? As the Black Lives Matter movement gains global momentum, I have up until now been silently watching how it unfolds in South Africa. I’ve started to see posts from some white South Africans almost negating that black lives matter, because of the farm murders that occur. Bear in mind that 74% of all farms in South Africa are white-owned, so does it not make sense to that wherever any race is a majority, they will make up the bulk of the stats? This is in the same line of thread as those who have rightly said ‘white people account for more police murders in the US.’ Well duh…the US is a majority white country is it not? However black people, in particular, black men are more likely to be killed by the police. I have countless times posted that the BLM movement is not about establishing a new order of white people vs. black people, it’s about dismantling racism. It’s the world vs. racists. I think it is also important to address those who have coined their own slogan ‘some black lives matter.’

If I’m being honest, I have sometimes felt as though in South Africa we hide behind the phrase ‘rainbow nation’ which sounds progressive but we really haven’t come that far. One of the reasons could be because the conversation of racism in South Africa isn’t just about dismantling toxic white privilege. The conversation in South Africa is a complex one because we’re dealing with two ugly monsters: racism AND its equally disgusting cousin, xenophobia. I can say that the reason why these attitudes persist is because we have a black population still very much feeling the inequality that was established during the apartheid era, add in a government that has more times than not served their own interests above the people who elected them and you have the perfect conditions for racial and ethnic discrimination to persist. More than anything as we watch what is unfolding globally, let us take this time to reflect on our attitudes towards other races and ethnicities. We have to realize that acknowledging the pain of one community, does not negate the pain that another community has or is still experiencing. Saying black lives matter does not mean that others do not. If having conversations about racial and ethnic discrimination makes you defensive, and deaf to hearing the plight of one unlike you has experienced, perhaps being racist/xenophobic is better suited for you…

Black Lives Matter | Peace Action New York State

One bowl triple-chocolate brownie recipe

Are you ready for the only brownie recipe you will ever need? Because let me tell you my friends, THIS.IS.IT! There’s a time and place for ingredient restrictions, and calorie reduction… that time is not now. Diet culture has made us feel bad about our cravings, geez we’re humans. Sometimes we want chocolate, and chocolate is what we must have. Not a cardboard tasting substitute that only makes you crave the real thing more. So if you’re in the mood for something decadent, delicious AND easy, here’s the recipe you were looking for! The best part is the washing up is very minimal!

This recipe took place in one bowl which lends to its appeal because 9/10, I don’t bake because of the clean-up. 🧼 🧽 This recipe will give you yummy fudgy brownies that are as great the next day as they are when you first make them!

INGREDIENTS:
240g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoon coconut 🥥 oil
260g white sugar
200g muscovado OR light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
130g all purpose flour
100g unsweetened cocoa powder
200g roughly chopped chocolate, 3 different varieties are very important for this recipe (I probably used more because I didn’t like the eating quality of the vegan chocolate but in the brownies they’re delicious! *chef’s kiss*)

Look at those yummy pieces of chocolate 🤤

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat oven to 180°C
Lightly grease a baking pan. Line with baking paper and set aside.
Combine melted butter, oil and sugars together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk well to combine. If you have a handheld mixer, your ways shall be made straight 😂 Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until lighter in colour (another minute).
Sift in flour, cocoa powder and salt over the bowl with your egg, sugar + butter mix. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until JUST combined.
Fold in all of the chocolate.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top out.
Bake for 25-30 minutes for or until the centre of the brownies are JUST set to the touch.

You can sub coconut 🥥 oil for any other oil EXCEPT olive oil which belongs in salads but not brownies 😂

Going back to Uni: 5 Tips for the mature student

If someone had told me that in 2020, I’d be halfway into completing a FULLY FUNDED MSc. programme, I would’ve slapped them in the face and said ‘get behind me Satan’. Granted a lot of that statement would have been rooted in the negative lense that I saw my life through at that time, and a crippling inability to see the ways that Jesus was working things out in my life. Thankfully, things are slightly different now. When I first started working in research, I had been unemployed for about two months, when I went for my interview I had no idea what my bosses were going to ask me to do. I’d been away from academia for about 3 years and the practical aspects of my Honours degree that I thoroughly loved, were more than a little fuzzy. On that day, my mum told me to go in and just give it all I had. It was a huge boost to my self esteem then, and now as I think of how cute I looked on that day. I thought I was going in for an interview but praise God, they had actually decided that they wanted me onboard but needed to see me face to face. My plans after my Honours degree was to specialise as a haematologist. Now I’m building my professional life in HIV research, with an emphasis on early infant diagnosis, and I couldn’t be happier. So what are the traits you need to get to where I am? I’m glad you asked!

1. Believe in your sauce. When I decided that academia was for me, to say that I was nervous was an understatement. For the first few months at work, concepts that used to be familiar now felt foreign to my very much matured brain (I was 28 at the time). I am grateful that I had my lovely husband rooting for me all the way. He would listen to me telling him about concepts that were new to me too, and engage in conversation with me. He would also remind me that had I not been capable, they would have FOR SURE not hired me. This is something that I have had to remind myself of especially when I’m hit with a heavy dose of imposters syndrome. Believing in your own sauce doesn’t mean that you’re oblivious to the things you don’t know, or that you blag your way through things (in my industry blagging ain’t gonna get you anywhere). Believing in your own sauce means being aware of where your strengths lie and not being afraid to utilize them when needed.

2. Speak up. My bosses are ridiculously good researchers in the field of HIV. THe more publications I read and found out just how good they are, the more I started to feel like I didn’t have anything to offer. When I commenced my MSc. programme, the awe & admiration I have for my bosses, became crippling. I found myself saying yes or keeping quiet, even when I didn’t agree with a certain course of action. As I grew in confidence (and also had my husband speak to me on this), I realised that my voice was important too. It may not have carried as much wisdom and knowledge (yet) as my supervisors but the last thing they wanted was a parrot who regurgitated their ideas and was a yes (wo)man.

3. Don’t stop learning. This is one that I had no other choice but to do. I had no idea of how testing was conducted for HIV diagnosis. My understanding of it was elementary, and definitely not on the level of someone who wished to work in that field. I can’t tell you how many journals I’ve downloaded in recent months. How many terms I’ve gotten acquainted with, and how many more terms I still haven’t gotten acquainted with. Being aware of how much you still have to learn is important BUT unless you take action, you’re going to stay in the same place.

4. Be flexible and laugh… A LOT! In this journey of being a student, ESPECIALLY a more mature one at that, things will go wrong. Balancing being a great partner, daughter, employee, student, sister and aunt is tough work. I’ve dropped the ball countless times, and guess what you’re not immune to ball dropping. This isn’t a negative prophesy I swear! The reality of life as a student, especially in research is that you’ll drop the ball somewhere. Your supervisors will drop the ball somewhere. The Gantt chart mapping the expected timeline of various tasks will become something that mocks you, reminding you of how far behind you actually are. Sometimes I feel as though mine laughs at me every time I look at it. 🤔 Experiments will fail, your controls will invalidate specimen results and leave you in tears, you’ll save over recent versions of your thesis but you know what in the end it’ll all work out.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. When my supervisors told me that they’d be paying for my studies, I felt very much like what the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 41:14, I am but a worm, how do I even deserve this. It sounds extreme right? But isn’t that the trajectory our mind follows when we believe very little of ourselves? This point is very tightly tied to point 1, believe in your own sauce. Believe that you have something to offer, believe that you’re there for a reason. This can sometimes be a tough one to remember as your progression begins to grant you access to rooms more advanced and intelligent. HOWEVER, if at the core of you, you’ve built your self-esteem and value to be unattached to anyone or anything else, it may be difficult to remember but it won’t be impossible. You think Beyoncé cares about the people who don’t believe in her talent? You shouldn’t either. Show up, set the place on fire (with your talent, not literal fire), and then let your work speak for itself. Accept that you aren’t like anyone else, and that is your greatest gift. Stay in your lane and excel in your lane!

BONUS TIP: Get comfortable with your work being critiqued. This is the hardest one for me, and the one that the Lord continues to humble me through. The first iteration of my research protocol was horrible. The more that precious document bounced between my supervisors and I, the better it got. When I submitted it, I couldn’t believe how far it had come from that very sad first version. To get to the masterpiece that my protocol is, was a labor of love. I remember the first email where my supervisor had removed information that I had become personally attached to. I had to swallow my ego, cry at home…sometimes at work, to come to terms that the prerequisite for life in research is being comfortable with sometimes having your work critiqued. Sometimes your ideas will shine bright like a diamond, and other times those more experienced than you will offer a different angle that you perhaps hadn’t thought of. There is a time to defend your ideas, and there is a time to realise that maybe your idea isn’t as great as you thought it was.

P.s. Try keeping yourself in as much of a positive circle as you can. If I had married anyone else, I may truly have ended up setting things on fire… literally! 😂

Why I probably won’t be going back to CrossFit…at least not in South Africa

Integrity. It’s one of the first things that people mentioned when I first heard about CrossFit almost six years ago. A sport where you’re given crazy workouts, where regardless of how long it takes you to finish the wod (workout of the day) your pride is in the honest effort you gave. I drank the CrossFit Kool-aid and I loveeeed it!!! It was refreshing to be part of a sport where women were encouraged to be strong. A sport that on a larger scale, pays female athletes just as much as male athletes. Equality in almost every sense of the word, I say almost because until recently there was very little representation from minority groups in CrossFit but slowly, I do believe it’s going to get better.

This post is inspired by a blood boiling moment I’ve just had at this lovely hour of the night, 23:54 to be precise, triggered by suddenly noticing that a few members from my old box who in truth were more the owners friends than mine, suddenly unfollowed me on insta. Meanwhile I was there merrily tagging them in posts 😂 These individuals for me have tarnished the love I once had for CrossFit as a community sport. In a South African context, I am about 99% sure that I will not be returning to a CrossFit box anytime soon…covid-19 lockdown or not!

About six or so months ago, the box that I was training at suddenly closed. The worst part about it was hearing from other members that the owners didn’t want to say anything because they didn’t want to lose people’s money. The timing of it was horrid for us as members who now had to scramble to find a box that felt like the home we thought we had. In addition to that, being billed for membership when you haven’t been to the box for 3 months while nursing your injury, is the d*ck move that I just didn’t see coming. As members, it left a bad taste in our mouths. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m over the drama but I’m also not, you feel me?

Here’s the thing that’s unique about CrossFit, you’re encouraged more than any other sport that I’ve ever watched, or partaken in, to make connections with the people who will see you shed blood, sweat, and tears, for the 5, sometimes 6 days that you’re there. How real those connections are varies, I know people who’ve met their partners through CrossFit. I also know people who have had their hearts broken through CrossFit. When you really buy into a box, and (sadly) believe the owners care as much as you do, it’s as though you’re seeing ‘la vie en rose,’ a little bit of naïvety, blind faith, and trust in your coach, that the box will always be there.

I think those three traits are reasons why a lot of members are blindsided when they’re kept in the dark about major changes or say in my case, the closure of a box that had become such an integral part of their life. As I detox from this CrossFit breakup I realise now why I can never again join a box in South Africa, I will always see every box owner as more interested in having my money in their back pocket, as opposed to wanting to improve my health markers. I kinda understand the shakeup at CrossFit HQ that Greg Glassman did. It was to remind boxes of what the purpose of CrossFit is, not just forging elite fitness but forging elite health as well. The CrossFit formula only works if you have a coach who is more passionate about improving health markers of his members, than enriching the health markers of his back pocket. It’s always interesting to me how a lot of people will forget to keep the main thing, the main thing when money is involved. It’s not to say that you can live on passion alone because Lord knows if I was just passionate about my job but never pursued excellence in it, I’d never be able to afford my favourite NARS and Chanel makeup items 😂(silly moment there!)

For a long time I held my tongue on writing about this issue because y’all I am trying to be a great Christian, you know: love God, love people? But the people, Lord your people are making it so darn hard for this girl to stay on the narrow road that leads to heaven 🤦🏽‍♀️ I’ve always said that my blog would be reflective of all seasons of my life, and I didn’t think I wanted to post on this issue because of how messy and unresolved it still is, but as I continue to be confronted with duplicitous behaviour from people who are so far from having integrity, it is truly all I can do to write this post and not put any names in. Even though the petty Patty in me wants to put names in… I won’t and trust me it’s not because I don’t want to 🙈🙉🙊

The moral of the story is this: think twice, and then a third time before you join a box started by a friend 😂 it’s not that I’m saying don’t support your friends’ new ventures, I’m just saying if it’s a box, girl!!! You better stay away because you’d be surprised at how much mediocre coaching you’ll put up with when it’s your ‘friends’ box! 🙈

Shout out to Fit 5ive/CrossFit 4E for giving me some really good years of CrossFit before this doozy. Most importantly, shout out to my sister who is less petty than I am, I have zero respect for people who mess with someone else’s hustle. You know who you are. Anyhoo you live and you learn peeps! #throwingshade.

Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

Arvo at Selfridges

I was 17 when I first stepped into Selfridges. Fresh faced and not as wise as I am now, I was a couple of weeks into my degree in London when I walked into the most magical place on Earth.

My first purchase was a paid of £80 thigh highs boots that I definitely did not need but they fulfilled every ‘Pretty Woman’ fantasy that I’d had about thigh high boots completing an outfit.

Selfridges was where I discovered French luxury makeup brand NARS. My love for NARS has remained along with other brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Dior and Chanel. All of which I discovered at Selfridges. It’s my favourite place to do a spot of shopping when I really want to treat myself and I can’t wait for one day in the future, to have a girl that will love shopping at Selfridges as much as I do.

2020, Let’s Do This!

Hello beautiful people. It’s the start of a new year. I’m still on holiday so I am in a great mood. It’s not that I hate my job, in fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a healthy work environment, however more time with the love of my life is always welcome. I’ve had time to think about what I want from 2020 and each time I keep coming to one word: joy.

joy: ‘ a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. ‘

The past two years have been challenging for my family and I, ever since we lost my sister. However we have somehow learnt to live with the grief. We’ve learnt to function and find happiness in the midst of the pain. Last year was a great one for me. I have felt myself slipping further and further away from the cloud of despair that at one point felt permanent. Depression is like that, you forget what it’s like to be happy and while I credit my walk with God towards helping, I cannot deny or diminish the role that my wonderful husband played in the person I became last year. My goals for this year are simple: find joy in God and work tirelessly at being the best wife, and human to everyone in my life. I want to truly find joy in God, in life, fully being present in all aspects of life, taking pleasure in all that it has to offer, without feeling guilty about it.

2020 is the year of being unapologetically joyful!

The Truth About Grief

I love this thought on what grief is by the internet’s boyfriend, Keanu Reeves. Probably the most accurate definition I’ve ever read on grief. It never truly leaves, it changes form and you learn to cope better. Sending hugs to anyone currently grieving the loss of a loved one, whether it’s been 2 weeks or 2 years.

Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, ‘It’s gone, and I’m better.’ They’re wrong. When the people you love are gone, you’re alone. I miss being a part of their lives and them being part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here—what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be. Damn it! It’s not fair! It’s absurd. All you can do is hope that grief will be transformed and, instead of feeling pain and confusion, you will be together again in memory, that there will be solace and pleasure there, not just loss.

Keanu Reeves