Archive for January, 2012

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is a sisterhood of college educated Black women committed to public service.

Delta Sigma Theta was founded in 1913 on the campus of Howard University..

Today we have over 950 chapters and we convene nationally every two years. In 2010 the National Convention of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was in New Orleans, Louisiana; my favorite US city….

The New Orleans assembly was my first national Delta convention –  that’s probably the reason that my line sisters and I mixed up the dates. We arrived on a wednesday and stayed until monday. The convention didn’t actually begin until that saturday and it lasted until the following saturday. As a result, we had three days of down time and only two days of convention. That was fine with me, though; I was happy to have down time in New Orleans with my sorority sisters.
Down Time...

We stayed at the JW Marriott. The hotel was Qiyana’s choice and it was a good one. My favorite amenities were the gym and the roof top swimming pool; we made sure to take advantage.  There were five of us in the room: Qiyana, Talithea, Monica, Kim and myself. I felt comfortable staying with those five; they had been there when I was at my worst. I could be myself with them. No performance.

Around that time I was becoming very particular about who I spent time with; I was concerned about making people uncomfortable. My humor was off (I was making a lot of sarcastic remarks about death by this time), and I remained on the brink of a spontaneous breakdown in every moment. I felt it was best to spend time with people who would not be alarmed by my moods.

We had a good time, the New Orleans JW Marriott was definitely the next comfortable place where I would stay. We worked out, swam, ate, shopped, and laughed a lot. It was great. 

As the week progressed, Delta Sorors began to fill the city. Thousands of Sorors. It was incredible, a sight to behold. My mom (also a soror) arrived on Friday and by saturday it was time for the formal opening ceremony.
Minutes prior to the opening ceremony, I ran into my mom amidst the crowd of sorors in the convention center. Since she was the newly-elected national president of the Links, she was being escorted into a holding area to greet the national officers of the sorority. I followed her into that room and I was warmly received. Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre, the national president of Delta Sigma Theta, gave me a big hug then looked me directly in the eyes and said, firmly:

“God has something special in store for you!”

Cynthia M.A. Butler McIntyre - National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

I’ll never forget the sound of her voice as she said it. She was so confident.  So sure.

I believed her.

I knew that there would be more to my life, that I would survive this, that time would heal;  But in that very moment, I began to believe that what God has in store for me WILL be special. That moment in the holding room was a turning point...

By this time it was saturday and our time in New Orleans was coming to an end. The convention would go on, but my line sisters and I would have to leave on monday. Having been inspired, I was almost ready to go; there was just one more thing I had to do…

I had to find Susan Taylor.


Susan was also in New Orleans because she received a national award from the Sorority that week. I was hoping that I would bump into her, but by sunday evening I’d had no luck. On Monday, as we were preparing to leave, Talithea and Kim ran into her; she was signing books in the convention center. Knowing how desperate I was to see her, they called me and told me to get there quickly.

I ran from the JW Marriott to the convention center. I brought my books with me, the ones she’d mailed to me a month prior. I scrambled around the convention center until I found her sitting at a table and signing her latest book, “All About Love.”

There was a short line and I stood in it. As I inched closer I began crying. She saw my sadness and hugged me before she knew who I was. I was overwhelmed. I said “I’m Margot’s daughter, Kim… You sent me these books.” I could hardly get it out.

She hugged me again, more tightly this time; she knew immediately who I was. Love emanated from her. “Oh Kim..” she said, “of course.” There were two other women around that she knew, she called them over and she told them what happened. we all hugged.

It was a moment.

During that moment one of the two women kept touching my hair and saying: “aww, you’re so pretty…”


It was time to go and I was well. I had seen Susan Taylor, this amazing writer that I’d been connecting to in my grief; we’d hugged and shared a moment, she even gave me her cell number. I could leave New Orleans now; seeing her was an emotional high.

and on the plane back to New Jersey, I was about to have an emotional low.

I don’t know what came over me but as we boarded the airplane, I lost it. Kim, Talithea and I flew together and I finally had the breakdown I’d been fearing all week. I sat in the window seat and sobbed and sobbed. They did not react, which I appreciated. They let me cry it out.

When my tears finally subsided I looked up and noticed that Talithea was looking at a natural hair book. In the book, Black women were sharing their accounts of shaving their heads and “going natural.” In that moment I made a decision:

I’m going to cut all of my hair off tonight” I announced.

Upon hearing this, the two of them looked at me like I was nuts. But I kept insisting, and I was also insisting that I had to do it that night.

Don’t you at least want to wait until the morning and have a professional do it?” Talithea asked.

Kim started crying. “Just wait Kimmy, go to a stylist..”

But by that point it was too late. I’d made a decision. I would stop by Target on my way back to Princeton and buy some hair scissors. I was definitely cutting my hair off.

And I was not going to wait for tomorrow..

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012

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It was nearing the end of July and my apartment lease would expire on the 31st; I had to get back to New Jersey and move out. It was time to leave Ohio for a few days and return to Trenton.   All of the healing things that I had done at home  helped me muster the strength to make the trip on my own.  I decided to drive.

When I arrived in New Jersey, I drove straight to Qiyana’s condo.


Qiyana’s  place felt safe; I decided to stay there. Qiyana greeted me warmly with some of my favorite things. It had been over a month since I’d seen her last, so we caught up on her balcony and later I settled in for the night; I would go to my apartment the following day…


I arrived at my place the next afternoon. I hadn’t been there since the weekend of the funeral and I was apprehensive about the emotional impact of re-entering the space.

It was emotional.

When I walked in I felt the familiarity of home. And Kesner. And I took a moment to pause, sit, look around, breathe and cry. I looked at the chair he used to sit in. I could see him and hear him.

I needed him.

If I was going to pack up my apartment, and our memories, I needed to know his spirit was with me – helping me to be strong.  ‘Kesner –  Help me,’ I breathed through my tears. And within short order, he responded.

Kesner sent me three signs:

The first sign was a balloon. There was a helium balloon floating around in my apartment that said “Thinking of You” on it.

thinking of you...

The balloon had come with a bouquet of flowers that had been delivered a month prior, just after Kesner died. This balloon was significant because Kesner used to text me that every day: “Thinking of You.” It was also significant because the average life span of a helium balloon is 30-60 hours . There is no reason that the balloon should have been full of air and floating for an entire month, except for the fact that Kesner wanted me to know that he was thinking of me…

I found the second sign in my refrigerator: the last bottle of chardonnay that Kesner bought was still there.

I’d cooked dinner the week before he died and he’d brought over this bottle of wine. There was enough left for a single glass, so I poured a glass and relaxed for a moment.  And as I was sipping my glass of wine and watching my balloon float around the room, I saw my third sign:

Edward Hiscox’s Star Book For Ministers.

This was a book that I didn’t realize I owned. Kesner and I had shared a good laugh with Courtney and Cory about the phonetic pronunciation of ‘Hiscox’ over dinner several months prior. In fact, in the photo where Kesner is whispering in my ear and I’m laughing, that is what he was saying to me:



I laughed.

Kesner was definitely there; with a message, a glass of wine and a laugh. I felt strong.

I could get to work.

Packing was easy. In fact I’d never had a move that went that smoothly. This was due, in part, to the fact that I had organized my apartment several weeks before I left town:

I’d gotten everything organized in April: It was the last week of April and I decided to take a vacation from work. I was preparing to preach that sunday and I was waiting on a WORD from the Lord. The only WORD that came that week was ‘Get Your House in Order’. So I decided that God wanted me to clean my apartment. I threw away many bags of unnecessary stuff that week, and I now understood why. God told me to get my house in order because HE knew that I would have to move soon… 

GOD was making it easy for me.


I got most of the packing done that afternoon. Felicia and Talithea came over that evening to help me wrap my dishes and valuables in newspaper and bubble wrap.

Felicia and Talithea

It was good to see them. They caught me up on everything that had gone on in Trenton while I was away. I’d missed them.

The following day was moving day and 6 amazing Kappas came to help us move my things. This included the Polemarch, the Vice Polemarch and Drew/Angel. Kesner had dispatched his fraternity brothers to help me.

He was definitely there.

We moved all of my belongings into a storage unit at my church; God had paved the way for me to have free storage space. We packed the remainder of my belongings into my car, including the large box of my orange protest tee-shirts; I still had about 250 of them left. And with that it was finished. I returned my keys and said goodbye to Trenton.

The following day Klay hosted a small party for me at his apartment in Harlem. Talithea and Felicia came with me; it was a beautiful night. Klay served a delicious meal. Andrea recited some of her amazing poetry. And Michelle, a friend from my Spelman College Glee Club days, serenaded us with a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria. It was awesome; a wonderful night.

Talithea, Felicia and I spent the night in New York that night and headed back to New Jersey early the following morning. We had to get back; Talithea and I had an early flight to New Orleans the following morning…

We were headed to the National Convention of our beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta…

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012

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In addition to one-on-one grief counseling, I joined a support group.

This was a monthly grief and recovery group for people under the age of 35 who’d experienced loss. “The Man” agreed to go with me to my first meeting…     for support.

My Brother - "The Man"

We met in a dimly lit space at a bereavement center; it was decorated like a living room. There were about six of us in that first meeting, Mike was the only man. We had pizza and soda and before long Diana, the group leader, opened the meeting.

She asked us all to go around the room and introduce ourselves by talking about our loss. One woman was grieving her mother, another her brother, another her sister and another her sister and mother who died separately and within one year of each other. Three had lost loved ones to cancer, two experienced sudden death, and one of those saw the dead body immediately after death – a sister who died suddenly on a basketball court at a routine practice. It was a sad room and there were many tears and tissue boxes and stories about how “I suppressed the pain until I had a breakdown; that’s when I knew I needed support and to talk about it…”

There was solidarity and shared pain in the room.

When it was my turn to talk, I told my story: the love, the shock of finding that love dead, the drama of being detained by the police, the experience of disenfranchised grief… There were audible gasps as I spoke.

Did I still have the worst story in the room?

I later decided it wasn’t “the worst story” (we’re advised not to compare grief or the ways that people grieve) but the story is unique. I wished there was a support group just for women under 35 who found their men dead and were then detained by the police for seven hours; we’d have lots to talk about.

I didn’t think The Man would have much to say. But when the time came for him to speak, he put his pizza down and began rattling off the names of everyone who had ever died in our family. And in our extended family. And in our church. He went on. And on. And on. Soon I didn’t know if he was there to support me or me him. I hadn’t realized that all this time he’d had no one to talk to; and that night in group, he talked the longest. He said it felt so good to get this all off of his chest. It made me wonder about cultural norms and expectations for men and how they may limit opportunities for therapy and healing from trauma. Mike was the only man in the room; but there are millions of men who grieve.

In group we talked about visitations and symbols in nature that reminded us of our loved one. When we see these signs it makes our loved one feel near. One woman talked about how her mother loved yellow finches, she would sometimes see them outside of her bedroom window and know that her mother was close. I told the group about the yellow flowers that I was seeing everywhere, and about the Hawks.

“I’m like a Hawk,” Kesner told me one afternoon at his house. We were talking about his pursuit of me. “A hawk will fly into a group of birds with his eye on one bird and nobody knows which bird it is until the hawk swoops in.”  In other words, hawks stalk their prey.

And now not only was I seeing yellow flowers everywhere but I was seeing Hawks as well. Kesner was definitely around…

"I'm Like A Hawk..."

We ended the two hour group with an alpha poem. To create an alpha poem, you take the letters of a word and think of different words that come to mind that begin with each letter. The words we used that night were “yellow finch” but I later did one for Kesner as a homework assignment:

K- kind, kinetic, kiss
E- energetic, eternally etched
S- sincere, sad, sick, solid
N- new, new love, nice
E- elevate, evolve
R- rest.

Read together the poem sounds like this: KESNER- kind, kinetic, kiss, energetic, eternally etched, sincere, sad, solid, new, new love, nice, elevate, evolve, rest. Meaning can be found for the person who selects the words.

We were also given handouts with news about other grief recovery activities: painting classes and quilting, making things out of our loved ones old belongings. ‘Maybe I’ll make a pillow out of Kesner’s tee shirt and shorts that I have,’ I thought.

I would put the heart inside.

My friend Marcella had given me a stone in the shape of a heart when I saw her at the Links convention. She told me to wear it close and think about Kesner; I hadn’t figured it out yet, but that meant wear it in my bra and close to my own heart – when I needed too. She also gave me a beautiful cross and a large pair of gold hoop earrings with small rhinestones on them.

The earrings would come in handy shortly…

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012

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When I returned from visiting Kristen in Maryland, I had lots to do. I had to email the director at Camp Dudley about Yanni, I had to update my resume and bio for the essence.com opportunity and I had to file for unemloyment. I also thought I might submit a writing sample to essence; after all, how could I expect essence.com to hire me if they dont know my writing?

I took my laptop to Dewey’s coffee shop and I decided to write.

…about being a writer.

This is what I wrote that day at Dewey’s:

“I’m a writer.” This was my response to the stranger I met in Georgetown on Sunday who asked me what I did. I said it a second time on the airplane, to George, as I was traveling back home from Maryland to Cleveland on Monday morning. George and I will become friends, I suspect. He is a mid-forties Italian-American financial consultant from Connecticut. George is working in Cleveland to shut down operations for a local bank that was unable to survive the economic crisis. This is a welcomed assignment for George, as he is going through a “messy divorce.”  Somehow seeing many people loosing their jobs is less stressful than going home to what must feel like a loosing situation with his wife and children. George shared his pain and fears of loneliness with me on the plane and I shared mine with him…

But back to me being a writer… Why not? This is who I am deciding to be. Mostly this is a response to an urgency and need to share. My experiences over the last few months have been incredible. My life has actually been pretty incredible, but these lasts few months have been extraordinary. “My people” (that circle that I hold most dear) have encouraged me to write. And then I got a call from a friend who has a friend at Essence. Essence-dot-com is looking for a columnist on spirituality and faith and of all people this friend-of-a-friend called me…   and at just such a time as this.

The Universe is responding.

So having no formal experience at this, I have decided that I will begin by altering my perception. I will tell people that I am a writer until I believe it. I said this to my grief counselor, Monica, today and she suggested that I go a step further and actually start writing. “Brilliant,” I thought. So now here I sit at Dewey’s Coffee Shop (my new home away from home) and I write, with a chi tea latte by my side (every writer needs a good companion drink).

I am a writer!

And what better to write about than my new identity?

Professionally I have been a banker, a headhunter, a minister, a social worker and an activist, and that’s just in the last 8 years. I’m 30. Apparently these transitions are consistent with the trend of my generation (Y); we work to live while our parents’ generation (Boomers) live to work. The Boomers often criticize us Ys, but I think we’re on to something.

Do we really need just one title, one stagnant career path, or does that restrict creativity? If I look at my work history as a series of titles, I feel unfocused and all over the place. However If I consider the collection of experiences (working on the NYSE trading floor, helping to facilitate life transitions, advocating on behalf of incarcerated men and women, MINISTRY..) it feels incredible. And I don’t cease to be the things I have been; I just continually grow to become more.

I feel that I have been responding to a series of assignments from God. All of my assignments have had meaning and purpose for me and for others. All of my assignments have forced me to grow.

My last assignment ended abruptly. For two years I was the director of a women center in Trenton, NJ. My staff and I worked to help spiritually, emotionally and financially impoverished women facilitate lifestyle changes meant to lead to greater stability. We made a difference in the lives of many women. But alas.. with the loss of funding, the loss of staff, the ending of my apartment lease and yes, the sudden death of my beautiful partner (hence, grief counseling) , I can’t think of a clearer sign that an assignment is over!

And what about my PhD plans?… I have no plans. I am choosing, rather, to embrace life’s open question mark. I have my Soul Friend, Jessie, to thank for giving me permission to be open. I am still in conversation with Rutgers and others about funding and housing but nothing is solid. Things will need to be solid and very CLEAR if I am meant to return to New Jersey this fall.

For now the only thing that is clear is that I am a writer. And I know this how? Because in this very moment I am writing, and this very moment is the only thing that is real.

God is here; God is in this very moment and I am in it with God…


I heard the analogy once that God is like a song that has been played throughout eternity and it is our responsibility to remain present with God and to sing in harmony with God’s song. I have asked myself how I can sing along with God’s song if I choose to be bound by a single label or title. I think one must choose to be bound or be free. I choose to be free. I choose to be present and to sing. And apparently there is something that I am meant to sing in this season of being a writer. I hope that it is helpful. So I humbly assume this new assignment, peacefully resting in the uncertainty of this moment with the hope for incredible experiences to come.


Kimberley S. Copeland -Writer

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012

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I was somewhere between the past and the present. Some days I would sit in the park and live into my memories. I smiled through my tears. My romance with Kesner had all been so beautiful, like nothing I’d experienced.  I remembered not trusting it. ‘This can’t be real,’ I thought. ‘This can’t possibly last.’ I picked small quarrels for no reason, just to be heard.

And to test if he really loved me.

I was waiting for one of my flaws to surface and ruin everything; ‘I’m not who he thinks I am’– I thought. ‘Do I deserve this?

As I sat in the park and reflected on these things, I realized how silly I had been to doubt Kesner’s love. I realized that my greatest flaw was my own insecurity. This would have been the sabotaging flaw. Insecurity can make you so self-aware and self-obsessed that you can’t see the other person in a relationship. You see them only through blinders of self-perception.

Had I done this to Kesner? Had I been so self-involved that I couldn’t see that his were the gestures of a man facing his mortality?


‘I will love again and I will love differently,’ I promised myself. ‘I will love unselfishly.’

To love a dying man was a gift because he seemed to know what was important. Kesner taught me how to love. Often when I would bicker with him he would not argue back, but simply say “I understand.”

What did he understand? – I wondered.

Perhaps his ‘understanding’ was a preference for harmony over the need to be right.

I wanted this understanding. Meditation would help me get there…


I was introduced to the practice of Tonglen in one of the books that Susan Taylor sent to me. Tonglen is a prcatice of meditation found in Tibetan Budhism. This is how the practice is described by Pema Chodron:

Pema Chodron, A Western Buddhist Monk

“The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering —ours and that which is all around us— everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us …. one’s whole attitude toward pain can change. Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one’s heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.” (“When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” Pema Chodron – and http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php)

Basically tonglen is a breathing excercise:   I would connect with my pain, feel it, and then I would think about everyone who was feeling the exact same way in that moment, all around the world. I would take a deep inhale and breathe in the pain and sorrow of  all humanity. Then I would exhale and breath out LOVE, peace and compassion for everyone; prayers of healing for myself and the world. This breathing excercise made me feel connected and not so alone in my sadness. It helped a lot.

I began to practice tonglen regularly and to reflect on matters of understanding, acceptance and growth. How could I use this experience? How has it softened and purified me? – I reflected on these things also.


Kristen (Haystacks and Sisterhood) was my second friend to send for me over the summer.


 The week after I returned from Camp Dudley and the day after my father’s wedding, I flew to see Kristern in Maryland.  There is a winery in Maryland that hosts pretty fantastic reggae wine festivals throughout the summer. Kristen sent me a plane ticket to come in for this event.  She’d planned everything. She had a portable tent and chairs, and a plethora of snacks with which to enjoy our wine. All I had to do was show up.

When I arrived on Saturday morning, we didn’t waste time in getting to the festival. Carrying the tent and chairs and putting it all together was more strenuous than we both imagined, but once we were settled in our spot in the grass we had a beautiful time together. We enjoyed cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, fried chicken and wine, while listening to the musical renderings of a live reggae band. It was a beautiful day with my sister-friend, Kristen.

Later we came back to Kristen’s place and spent time together with no agenda or plan. Kristen has a spacious two bedroom/two bath condo with an open kitchen, living, dining, and den area. The colors in her place are warm and she has a great kitchen; it’s very large, with stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. Her’s was the next comfortable place where I would stay.

Being there with her and spending down time, reminded me of our days living together as roommates in brooklyn; it was a comfort.

The following day we went to DC and visited the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we decided to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and relax for a bit. As we sat, out of nowhere, I began to sing “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me..”

Without question, Kristen began to sing with me.  The two of us sat side by side on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and we sang the familiar song from our childhood days:

“…with God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony…”

Harmony, I thought.

I Understand.

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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