5 Things My Grandmother, Mama Faloyin, Taught Me
We all know her. That older Black woman who will lambast you in one breath and feed you the best food one minute later. She knows no strangers because everyone she comes across is family. She’s been through life’s worst but made it through to the best side. The elder stateswoman who takes no shit, loves fiercely and is loved even deeper. Mine was my grandmother (my mom’s mom).
Olúfúnmiláyò Juliana Fáloyin was who I watched, and who taught me how to take up space without apology, walk in any room with confidence and revel in being celebrated. It’s the reason I center her in my book. Her life was a testimony to powerful womanhood – fierce yet soft. My warrior, my matron saint, my grandmother, Olúfúnmiláyò Juliana Fáloyin.
You know what you can say to an elderly Nigerian stateswoman who has been through the darkness of life and conquered all the mountains placed in her way? Not a damb thing.
Above all, she was anointed and really blessed. No one prayed and rejoiced in the Lord as she did. She never wavered in her faith. The cross I wear around my neck every single day is because of her. She even built a prayer room in our backyard. Every day at 3 am, she’d get up and prostrate in front of the Lord, thanking Him for her life and for all of us. Often, naming us all one by one. That faith was SO strong. It radiated off her. It was in everything around her. Even though she’s gone, I feel that faith radiating from her still.
That spirit, those lessons, and that fortitude is the energy you will find throughout the pages of my book ProfessionalTroublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual. So you know it’s anointed! My grandmother’s stories are all up through it!
As we begin Women’s History Month and to honor my grandmother as well as the launch of my book, here are five things Mama Fáloyin taught me:
1. Battle doubt.
Being audacious enough to dream means discovering the courage to think your life can be bigger than you can even imagine. But often we don’t get there because we are too afraid of the worst-case scenario to take that first step. We fear how disappointed or heartbroken we will be. My grandmother taught me to stand in my fear and do the things that I think are too big for me.
2. Take leaps of faith.
My Grandmother was deeply Christian. She and God were besties. She prayed every day, for 3 hours, fervently. I am convinced that her prayers still cover me to this day, and she’s been gone for 10 years. Her faith was an anchor, and mine is too. So leaps of faith feel like an obligation for me, not an option.
So many times, what looks like a big leap of faith was actually God giving me a big old push. I think back to what it felt like to go skydiving for the first time. I thought I was safe sitting on the edge of that plane door, rocking back and forth, too afraid to leap. But what I thought was safety, what I thought was comfort was nothing compared to the thrill of flying through the air doing what I was meant to do. So even though I was laid off from my job years ago because I was too afraid to quit, and even though I was too nervous to do a TED talk and turned it down twice, the universe showed up and pushed me right out of the door. When I have the courage to leap on my own, it’s game-changing. And God got me.
3. Stand up against injustice.
Those who came before us fought for so much more with so much less. THAT is the hope I need to keep fighting. My grandmother showed me what it meant to do the work and I will continue to do it in honor of her and those that came before me. Me using my voice matters. Speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves matters. The house we need to build is huge and we’ve got to do it brick-by-brick.
4. Use my voice for the greater good.
Grandma was not shy about letting people know when she didn’t like something, or when someone was being cheated. She used her voice often, for others beyond herself. For things to get better in this world, we’re going to have to open our mouths and speak hard truths. We’re going to have to speak uncomfortable truths, have hard conversations and shout loudly on behalf of those who can’t use their voices. It’s uncomfortable, but as I said in my TED talk, we’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable to make this world a place that is safe for everyone. Discomfort will not kill you. Get loud.
5. Take up space without apology.
Mama Faloyin walked into every room like she belonged there. She laughed loudly, and loved fiercely. She did not apologize for herself, or for her wants. She allowed herself to be celebrated. This was troublemaking, because she could have cowered when the world asked her to.
Professional Troublemakers are people who take action, cause good trouble, and consistently show up with the courage and confidence they need to become the fear-fighters they are today. They are disruptors, truthtellers, and change-makers. My grandmother was the first Professional Troublemaker in my life and has continued to push me to fight my fears every day.
I’m really looking forward to you all meeting Mama Faloyin in the pages of my book. March is Women’s History Month and this is who I honor. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 It’s been 10 years since she passed and I couldn’t find a better tribute than to dedicate this book to her and introduce the world to the legacy of strength I hail from. I hope her stories and my stories help you find the courage and the strength to fight your fear, dream audaciously, and live a life so big your dreams say goals.