Singing We Ain’t Gonna Stop Till People Are Free!

“Calling out the violence of the racist police. We ain’t gonna stop till people are free.”

We’ve been singing this song for far too long. This video was posted with a young version of myself & Louis (age 11) in Dec of 2014 & the story remains the same. We may be exhausted but we ain’t gonna stop!!

“Calling out the violence of the racist police. We ain’t gonna stop till people are free.”

Nisha Williams and her son Louis Blanton singing “I Can’t Breathe” in Dec 2014.

When Power is Invisible Racism Thrives. Call out white supremacy in whatever way you know & teach your children the same.

Today my 17 year old son is a senior at an historically Black High School, Hillside High School, in Durham NC & is taking African-American History. The day after the Kentucky Attorney General stated a grand jury failed to indict the officers who took the life of Breonna Taylor, Louis is learning about Qualified Immunity.

He is learning about the racist structures and policies that continue to exist in our 21st Century American legal system that enables law enforcement to have no culpability when unjustly taking the lives of people in this country.

Qualified Immunity is a legal principle created through Court opinions. It is not based on actual federal law but rather the Court’s interpretation of laws & policies. Qualified Immunity can be repealed through state & federal legislation. This is just one state/national reform that MUST be passed into law in order to hold individual law enforcement to the same standard that civilians are held to when causing the death of another.

“Qualified immunity applies only in civil lawsuits, not criminal prosecutions. Yet such civil suits are the only means by which individuals or families can get compensation for the violation of their constitutional or civil rights. And in practice, civil lawsuits are often the only means to seek justice at all because prosecutors—themselves government officials—are typically reluctant to bring criminal charges against their government colleagues, especially police officers who are crucial to the work prosecutors do on a daily basis.”

https://ij.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-ending-qualified-immunity/

#blacklivesmatter # sayhername #BreonnaTaylor

Why the RBG Supreme Court Fights Triggers Me

Although I love watching and reading all thing politics, I have purposefully avoided all conversations surrounding the Supreme Court replacement of RBG because it is simply too much for my soul who has even after 18 years not fully healed from the trauma of inadequate access to abortion services.

On Friday, September 18, 2020 the world learned that 87 year old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and as a result left an opening in the Supreme Court with less than 50 days before the 2020 Presidential election.

My Facebook and Twitter timelines are filled with debates among people discussing why or why not the Republicans should appoint a conservative justice to replace the liberal Justice Ginsburg.

In February of 2016, a seat was left open on the Supreme Court by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The Republicans infamously stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to hold hearings for President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in the Spring of 2016 claiming that it was an election year and the people should vote to decide who should get to make that decision even though the voters had already voted in 2012 and thus decided that Obama should be the one to make the nominee.

The Republican controlled Senate led by the KY Senator Mitch McConnell refused to honor the wishes of the 2012 voters. That was over 200 days before the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died less than 50 days before the 2020 election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. The Republicans have quickly turned their 2016 rhetoric upside down and are now pushing to move forward with confirming Donald Trump’s anticipated nominee even before knowing who said proposed justice will be. Republicans are falling in life and have no issues with their blatant hypocrisy.

The Republicans are utilizing this opportunity to highlight their conservative social agenda as the reason for moving forward with filling the open seat.

The conversation of abortion and women’s right to agency in their reproductive health is front and center in these debates.

This debate is triggering AF.

Why?

Because I remember being a pregnant 18 year old college freshman living in Tennessee without adequate access to abortion. The idea that a Conservative Supreme Court could roll back access to abortion rights for women in all states terrifies me for all women and in particular young women without wealth access.

I have struggled for over 18 years raising my son as a single parent. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of having a strong financial support system in my family and was able to tread water and survive the life that came with early motherhood. But even with that I still had to obtain medicaid for myself and my son. I still had to utilize WIC services. I have still had difficulty paying students loans because two bedroom rent payments superseded student loan payments. I had no time to focus on bettering my credit when I needed to simply survive. Being a single parent beginning at age 19 is not a beautiful story of overcoming obstacles. It has instead been an anxiety and depression inducing time. I might look fancy while making this life work for me but it is the mask I have chosen to don while trying to survive motherhood.

My choice to have a child was not my choice in its entirety. I found out I was pregnant in November of 2002. I was attending college in Collegedale, TN, a small college town 20 minutes outside of Chattanooga, TN. I actively considered abortion at the time but was unable to access it in Tennessee. I later learned had I told my parents earlier in my pregnancy they would have helped but like any naive 18 year old I stubbornly and fearfully refused to tell them I was pregnant. Instead I did my own research and learned that there were no abortion clinics in Tennessee in 2002. If I wanted to obtain an abortion I would have to go to either Atlanta, GA or Charlotte, NC. This was not feasible to a then broke and car-less 18 year old college student. Instead I visited the local health department that gave me information for a clinic that served pregnant women. This clinic was actually an organization that encouraged women to continue with their unwanted pregnancies. It required of me to attend parenting classes and at the end of the classes I could get the option to get a free car seat or bassinet. I chose to attend their program and received a bassinet and a few items of baby clothes. That was their “contribution” to my success into motherhood.

For a few weeks I debated amongst myself, my boyfriend, and my friends about what I should do. I was attending a Seventh Day Adventist University at the time so many of my friends were more socially conservative in nature which led them to encourage me to follow through with my pregnancy. I was surrounded by people who simply did not advocate abortion as a viable option to me.

The reason this debate is triggering for me is because I am so fearful for other young versions of myself who find themselves with inadequate access to abortion services as well as support systems to support their decision to move forward with an abortion.

Unlike anti-choice people, I believe that girls and women should have a choice to access to abortion services. I believe that we should be able to make these decisions and not be barred by costs or by parental notice requirements or to be shamed by forcing women to look at pictures or hear the heartbeats of the fetuses they may be carrying.

Child birth transforms a woman’s life. Raising a child without access to wealth can detrimentally affect a woman’s life and her child’s life.

Abortion is not a first choice option for many women but it should at least be a viable option. When politicians cavalierly speak on what women should do with the fertilized cells in their uterus it infuriates me. These politicians do not have to live through the poverty and the mental instability that comes with raising a child in today’s economy.

I have made it by the skin of my teeth. I am only now seeking to thrive and not just to survive today but that is after spending 18 years being a mother with little financial support from his father.

I have been a negative teen pregnancy statistic as well as an example of positive success story regarding teen pregnancy. This was not the life I planned to have and yet this is the life that I was cornered into as a direct result of being pregnant in the socially conservative Republican Red state of Tennessee.

So yes I this conversation triggers me.

Abortion access is no longer a concern for me as an employed 36 year old attorney but this is not about me. It is about the many young women who may have to live in a society where they too are cornered into parenthood because of public policy. Public policy that supports child birth but not contraception or childcare or economically uplifting mothers. Social conservatives need to do better and stop demonizing women who choose to access abortion services and start implementing and funding policies that will support all parents and in particular single mothers.

Although I love watching and reading all thing politics, I have purposefully avoided all conversations surrounding the Supreme Court replacement of RBG because it is simply too much for my soul who has even after 18 years not fully healed from the trauma of inadequate access to abortion services.

***Please don’t get it twisted I love my son and this should not be read as in that light. This piece is to highlight the turmoil that comes with the government taking the right to choose away from a woman. ***

My Pain is Real

The medical community has a deep dark history regarding the pain of Black women. Black women are seen as superhuman. The reason we are given this moniker is because no one seems to believe us when we say we are in pain. I have learned this the hard way.

Today I cried. I cried happy tears. I cried tears of anger. I cried tears of joy. And I cried tears of sadness. I was a whole crying mess. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of vindication and I was so excited about it.

Now I bet you’re asking? What happened? What was wrong? Or better yet what went right? Before I tell you what happened today, I need to first tell you about what led up to the events of today.

I grew up on a animal farm and helped raise a variety of animals including pitbulls, goats, sheep, and horses. I was a fairly active child and teen but rarely ever did long distance running. And when I say long distance running I mean I rarely if ever did any running. The few times I did run, my legs would start to cramp and I would quickly stop the running or jogging or fast walking that I was doing. So needless to say, since my pre-teen years I have had a disdain for running or generally any cardio exercise. In my mind exercise was equated with physical farm labor or correlated to painful cramps in my legs.

run running GIF

Fast forward to my college years, post baby and post baby weight, I wanted to lose weight. In order to lose weight I had to exercise. My friends tried to help me workout.They had great intentions and I wanted to exercise. But again as I would try to workout my legs, the cramps would come. My friends and family would encourage me to push through the pain and stretch out my legs more. Their encouragement and recommendations felt futile because the leg pain just would not subside. I resigned myself to thinking that exercise was simply not my thing.

Bad Run GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
Running in pain

As I grew older I continued to gain more weight. As I gained weight I struggled with diet and exercise. The diet part was fairly easy to change when I put my mind to meal prep but the exercise part remained my achilles heel.

From age 12-36, I have struggled with these severe leg cramp like pains. I’ve been told by numerous personal trainers, doctors, and friends and family (many in the medical field) that I just needed to stretch my legs and work through the pain. Exercise is painful but as you train your body through exercise the pain will subside. I tried this. I worked through the pain but once the pain got intolerable I would stop cold turkey. I hired many different personal trainers. I notified them of the limitations of my legs. they would be mindful at first but as we continued to workout together they continued to push me as trainers are trained to do. This lack of respect of my boundaries would eventually lead me to to stop working with them after I felt they were negating my complaints of pain.

fitness running GIF by Gunpowder & Sky

As time progressed this inability to exercise began to seep into my soul’s understanding of my self-worth. I saw myself as a lazy unmotivated person. A person who just would not overcome her fears and was simply a coward for not doing the work to exercise like I needed to in order to lose weight.

This year I was more purposeful about utilizing my health insurance. I have United Healthcare thanks to my job the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. NCCADV pays for employees’ health insurance. This was my second full year of having adequate insurance in my adult life.

the goldbergs television GIF

After trying to walk multiple miles a day, my legs continued to cramp up causing me excruciating pain. I refused to take “just stretch” as an answer anymore. I set up an appointment with my primary care physician and requested a podiatrist referral so they could figure out what was really wrong with me.

On August 5, 2020 I went to my doctor for my annual appointment and demanded that I be referred to a specialist. I said I wanted to see a podiatrist because I believed that my leg pain was caused by the way I walked. She recommended that I see a sports medicine doctor. My appointment with Dr. Lee at UNC Sports Medicine was scheduled for Sept 4th.

During my appointment with Dr. Lee, he asked me about my medical history regarding my bilateral leg pains. He listened to every work I said. He asked follow up questions. He answered every question I had about all of his questions. And finally he gave me a proposed diagnosis.

I think you may have Chronic Exertion Compartmental Syndrome.

Dr. Lee, Sept. 4, 2020.

“Huh? What in the word is that” I asked. He explained to me that it is a relatively rare condition that exists in certain people where the soft tissue around the leg muscles are wrapped too tight around around the muscle.

The pain increases in intensity as the patient continues exercising. An athlete will discontinue the activity when the pain, muscle tightness, or muscle dysfunction becomes unbearable. Pain and tightness resolve after a rest period. Patients typically describe pain as burning, aching, or pressure. A patient may also complain of being unable to achieve the same level of exercise the day after symptoms occur. Symptoms occur bilaterally 70–80% of the time [72529]. Other symptoms include numbness and tingling in the dermatomal distribution of the nerve running through the compartment or weakness of the affected muscle. A classic presentation of compartment syndrome would be a runner who experiences burning in the leg and numbness on the dorsum of the foot 15 min into a run. The burning and numbness resolve within 30 min of rest.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941579/

Before he could make a definitive diagnosis he would first need to perform a pressure test on both of my legs. The test required him to check the pressure in each of my lower legs and then check it again after I went on a treadmill and walked until my legs began to cramp. We scheduled the appointment for the following Friday, September 11, 2020.

I can’t lie y’all the test sounded extra scary. I was so scared to do the test that I called and canceled the test the morning of Friday, September 11th. I rescheduled it for the following Friday morning, September 18, 2020 which bring me to today – September 18.

Today was my appointment. I was ready for all the injections and the pain that was to come. I got to my appointment right on time for 9:15Am. My nurse for the morning smiled and eased my anxiety by letting me know that although it was going to be a difficult test, I will leave here with answers.

Nisha anxiously waiting in exam room of doctor’s office

I waited in the exam room for roughly 45 minutes until Dr. Lee, the nurse, and a student shadowing him entered the room. They entered with a rolling tray full of needles. Dr. Lee first made multiple markings on legs for where he would insert the needles. He then sprayed my right leg with numbing spray and inserted a needle with a numbing agent to numb the soft tissue in my leg. He did this twice on each of the sides of my lower legs. After waiting a few minutes for the numbing medicine to take effect, he then checked the pressure in two spots on both my legs.

He wanted to make sure I didn’t see him stick the long needle in my legs so he used his arms to block my view. As he inserted each needle I hummed and groaned along with the music I was playing in my ear. As the doctor asked me how I felt I replied “aight, I guess.” He responded with “I can’t tell if you being straight forward or sarcastic” and I replied “it’s both.” As he continued with each injection, I continued to hum out loud while digging my nails into my arm in an effort to distract myself from the pain. Singing was the pleasant distraction I needed.

After taking the pressure in my legs, Dr. Lee said “Wow those are some high pressure levels.” I asked somewhat sarcastically if that was a good or bad thing. He replied it is both. It is good because it is a good indication that his diagnosis was correct but bad because the numbers were abnormally high. What is the average baseline pressure? The baseline pressure is usually between 15 mmhg – 30 mmhg in a “normal” person but the pre-exercise pressure was 50 mmhg & 50 mmhg in my right leg and 60 mmhg & 57 mmhg in my left leg. Even though my pressure numbers were so high, Dr. Lee still wanted to do the exercise portion of the exam so that he could complete the test and fully verify his diagnosis.

If you are seeking to center your soul during a particularly scary medical procedure, listen to Leon Bridges’ song Coming Home. As the song came to an end, Dr. Lee finished his last injection. Now it was time for me to go on the treadmill.

Leon Bridge Coming Home

After wiping the blood off my legs from the injection spots, the nurse wrapped my leg with a lime green bandage. I put on my Machel Montano playlist to jam too as I began walking. I walked on the treadmill for about 7.5 minutes at speed of 3.5 before my legs began to ache and my feet started to feel numb.

Walking on treadmill.

Within a minute of being off of the treadmill, Dr. Lee quickly took the pressure again on the two spots on each of my legs. I heard him say “80 & 94” for the pressure in my right leg and then “107 & 87” for the pressure on my left leg.

The diagnosis was complete. It took 34 minutes to complete the test & validate 20 years worth of pain.

Dr. Lee told me that my next step would be surgery. I would need to have a surgical procedure done called a fasciotomy on both legs. This would involve cutting open the inflexible tissue encasing each of the affected muscles in both my legs. The surgeon’s office will be scheduling an appointment within the next week. This was just the beginning.

As I drove back home I tried my best to feel the feelings I was feeling. But somehow the feelings stay buried as the thoughts ran around in my head. I knew I was emotional but couldn’t seem to put into words what I was feeling. As I pulled up into my apartment complex, I began talking to my mom on the phone. I told her that the diagnosis had been confirmed and I would be having surgery on both of my legs soon. My mom was happy and excited for me . As she spoke I began to cry. Like the walls of a dam had fallen away, my tears began to gush out of my eyes. In that moment, all off of my emotions boiled over. As I sat in the car, tears flowed steadily down my face. I told my mom that I felt so overwhelmed with joy, sadness, and anger.

I was joyful because I finally knew what was wrong with me. I was sad because it took so long to get the answers I needed. I was angry because for decades I have internalized so many negative thoughts about myself that I have gathered from those doubting my pain and telling me to just grind through the agony.

excited done with finals GIF

The medical community has a deep dark history regarding the pain of Black women. Black women are seen as superhuman. The reason we are given this moniker is because no one seems to believe us when we say we are in pain. I have learned this the hard way.

“…having untreated pain can have long-term physical, psychological, social and economic consequences…pain that’s dismissed causes patients to have less trust in the medical system.”

https://www.today.com/health/implicit-bias-medicine-how-it-hurts-black-women-t187866

This superhuman strength of Black women is not just related to the medical community but to our larger community. Not only was my pain not believed by my previous doctors but also by my family, my friends, and my various my personal trainers. No one thought outside the box. Why would any think I could be suffering from a rare thing like Chronic Exertion Compartment Syndrome?

For so many years I have doubted myself and my pain, but thanks to the access to healthcare I finally have a diagnosis. My feelings have been validated with my diagnosis. Having health insurance has changed my life.

Happy The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air GIF

About 44 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance.

https://www.pbs.org/healthcarecrisis/uninsured.html#:~:text=About%2044%20million%20people%20in,to%20them%20and%20their%20families.

Everyone deserves healthcare. It should not be limited to those with access to wealth or employer funded healthcare. So many lives just like my life can be transformed and saved with meaningful access to adequate healthcare.

This is only the beginning of my journey with my new diagnosis. I am hopeful that only good things will follow and maybe one day I will be able to run a mile with ease.

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