Even the best of us are rule breakers. Generally, we can’t help it. Sometimes the rules are too restrictive, or not conducive to our personality type. Other times the rules are made for those who can follow them. Most times, we make our own. Rules that is.
Breaking the rules isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s often revolutionary. It usually incites some type of movement, is provocative and/or causes some type of disruption. It means that the rule breaker has some other plan, path or method they’d rather use to get them from here, to there.
For some of us, breaking the rules is necessary. Often, the consequence, or result of what we’ve done, is the very thing, the miraculous serendipitous event that sets us on the path to personal rightness.
Kalimah Johnson is a rule breaker.
She’s also a social work professor on tenure track at Marygrove College in Detroit, founder of SASHA Center, a non-profit organization that provides core support services to rape survivors, owner of PicNap Natural Haircare Studio, and co-owner of Mo’ Better Butter, a Shea butter product recently picked up by Whole Foods.
All wonderful accomplishments, right? Right.
In addition to those things, she’s also a high school drop out who got her GED only after a stint in Job Corps.
Every single thing that happens to us in our lives is quite on purpose and by design. There are things that we must go through, things we have to experience in order to be led to our purpose(s). The journey is different for each of us. Our lives are customized according to who we are at core. What works for one, may not necessarily work for the other.
In the case of Kalimah Johnson, it meant discovering who she wasn’t in order to uncover who she was, is. Sometimes, we get lost in who we believe ourselves to be at a particular time. And them sometimes it takes someone, like a parent, to pull us out of that haze and introduce us to the reality of our true potential. Job Corps was a start.
It was the beginning in a series of personal discoveries that lead this woman to where she is now. Looking back, she probably seemed like the typical semi-promiscuous, weed smoking, listless, wanna-be rapper. But she was more than that, really. She was then and is now a god-dess. She had a good foundation, came from good African centered, culturally aware stock.
But she was a rule breaker nonetheless. She didn’t fancy the typical route folks would normally take to personal and professional successes. She did the rap thing and was good at it. She went into sound booths and set tracks on fire. Performed at shows, signed with a local record label. But her mother saw something in her that would not be ignited simply by notoriety in the Detroit hip-hop scene.
You’re going to college.
It was met with Kalimah’s opposition. But not for long. Kalimah’s mama must have been a rule breaker too. She did something unprecedented. She did what mothers do when all else fails. She got creative. She led by example. Even though she didn’t have to, she enrolled in college, right along with her daughter. And there they were. Mother and daughter, buying overpriced textbooks and reviewing syllabi at Highland Park Community College. Later, Kalimah would go on to graduate at the top of her class, both in undergrad and graduate studies at Wayne State University.
For must of us, our life paths are not in a straight line. There are curves, bends, turns, winding roads. There are bumps and potholes and detours. Sometimes, we want to get off the path, give up, or just sit right there on the side of the road. But then there is something that tells us to keep going, keep moving. That something for Kalimah was and has always been faith. And with faith, she discovered, comes assistance.
I called upon God, my ancestors, my will. A lot of the times people in the community helped me. I just knew that I didn’t want to struggle in life. I didn’t want to be in a position where I couldn’t help other people. I just knew that the universe was going to be benevolent and God was gonna bless me if I showed up everyday and did the right thing. I had faith. My faith was grounded in the belief that there is something more powerful than me in the universe that really wants me, us, to do well.
Once we acknowledge and respond to that something, a new world will begin to open up for us. We see things in a way we had never seen before, we suddenly spring into the type of action we hadn’t before considered ourselves capable of. But it begins with knowing. It begins with faith.
Faith for me is an intrinsic, deep, understanding that the world we live in is full of gifts that can show you the way to your own destiny.
Kalimah currently lives in Detroit with her wife and partner Keisha Price.
written by Traci Ricks for The Amazing Woman Network