A musical odyssey of sorts

Cute child of color playing the piano
Image by Smith Pereira (Pixabay)

It was love at first plink when I could stand on my tippy toes with my chin scrapping the edge of the keyboard of my grandparent’s piano. Fascinated by the sound I’d plunk, bang, thump — do whatever my tiny fingers could do to make the instrument talk back to me.

Music is in my DNA. My paternal grandmother was a classically trained pianist who played and sang with the Fisk Jubilee University choir in the early 1900s. The touring ensemble composed of African American students sang spirituals acapella to raise funds for college. My dad could play too.


Love transcends time and space

Woman of color asleep in her bed of earth tones
Photo by Ashley Byrd (Unsplash)

As sure as the sun rises each morning, I know with certainty she will come. She’ll glide over mountain tops — skim the ocean blue. Test her wings with doves in flight to land within my view.

Anyone close to my heart who passes over will find a portal back to me in my dreams. I never know the day or time of their return. Family and friends drawn to the light can see the door stays ajar — enough for them to squeeze through.

They come to share eternal bliss found in freedom from mortal pain. To assure me…

Love has everything to do with anything

A Black woman, eyes closed with a short afro, with pink rhinestones on her face, white hearts pressed on her cheeks and sparkly pink lipstick. Yummy.
Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

LOVE can seldom be returned in the exact manner of which it is given.

LOVE is the singular reason for all joy and pain.

LOVE is all encompassing in that it can heal a wound or prolong the suffering.

LOVE is never enough in and of itself — it thrives on nutrients of compassion, empathy, sensitivity and understanding.

LOVE is not a concept, commodity or control mechanism — it’s a vehicle of freedom from constriction and ALL that binds.

LOVE is the ultimate sacrifice of oneself — a generosity of spirit where vanity…

A brother’s dying wish is the gift that keeps giving

A white heart shaped cloud in a baby blue sky
Photo: 95C (Pixabay)

Some stories breathe to take shape through other people — to deliver an extraordinary message of the human spirit that can motivate us all. This story was told to me twice. Could have been the original storyteller forgot he told me the first time, or the universe needed me to hear it again until the proverbial penny dropped.

There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe in chance encounters either — we meet people for a reason, even when it’s brief. …

Christmas past and the bittersweet memory of a lost recipe

A flocked and decorated Christmas tree with bright red and gold ornaments
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

A thin sliver of creamy lemon goodness sat waiting, smudged in a frosty, glass pie dish. The last piece hidden behind a large container in the back of the refrigerator and her last pie. Every holiday, my mother-in-law would bake the entire family’s favorite dessert using lemons from her own tree in the front garden. They were always plentiful — in full golden bloom, as if she had a personal relationship with the lemon gods.

This Christmas would be different. It wouldn’t be at my husband’s parents’ home. They were aging and no longer able to host such a large…

They stirred the soul

Multicolored brush stroke painted poster of an Aretha Franklin image.
Yury Malkov Art

“If I wanted a boy, I would have married one,” my stepfather said to my mother when she came home after the big chop.

Her buzz cut shocked us both, but his insult fueled the budding rage living beneath her skin. He missed the signs of an ending. Little did he know mom had cut him out of her hair and our lives long before her salon appointment. It was the last smoke signal on her path to freedom from a four-year entanglement submersed in infidelity.

Last weekend, Aretha Franklin’s movie, “Respect,” ushered me into the musical backdrop of my…

A daughter’s perspective

Image of a happy little girl being lifted in the air by her dad at the beach.
Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

Underneath a layered veil of grief, no one understood my decision to skip dad’s funeral.

Some family members thought it was retribution for his absence throughout my childhood. Who would I be hurting? He was dead. Others thought it was resentment — I must be angry at my older siblings from his previous marriage for lies told to me during his illness leading up to his death.

Plausible, yet neither could be further from the truth.

As an only child, I fantasized daily about being a daddy’s girl. I wanted to be doted on, loved unconditionally, protected, seen by my…


Zombies are color blind

A female Zombie dressed in black with red hair.
Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

The year 2025

News flash! Global media news outlets are reporting the CDC just announced New York has reached over 30% zombie status. Their state strategy worked. The government is switching from partial to full Zombie preparedness mode. United States citizens are panicking.

America is posting hot off the presses billboards across the country that read, “It’s time. Get Your Guns America. We’re at war with ourselves.” Martial Law is in full effect again. No one saw this coming.

Designers are rushing their Zombie Collection lines into production in time for spring before the entire country is half dead. …

Us vs. them

A woman of color covering her face with several people pointing fingers at her.
Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

Something ugly is emerging herea movement spreading faster than the Delta variant. As we navigate this pivotal moment in history, we’re falling prey to the same mentality that constructed racism and classism.

We’re judging a group of people, making assumptions based on what we’ve been told to think is right. If we’re right, someone must be wrong — for us to feel superior — someone must be inferior.

We call the elephant in the room stupid, ignorant Neanderthals, Science rejecters, idiots, imbeciles, and countless other descriptors — the list goes on. …


Some doors should remain closed

Two female friends up close, cheek to cheek.
There are three types of friends in life: friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime ~Ziad K. Abdelnour. /Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Dear fake friend,

Call me old school, but I tend to like people who are thoughtful. When I haven’t heard from you in a year — a pandemic year to boot — a simple “how are you and the family” is enough to open my heart and ears to listen. I thought catching up could at the very least prove interesting, considering.

But YOU.

You’re so self-centered — always thinking about yourself and what someone else can do for you. You skip the pleasantries. Get right to the point.

You’re a walking conflict — a human dichotomy. Still talking about…

Toya Qualls-Barnette

Living, loving and observing the absurdities of life/Writing about the impact of relationships and the human experience

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