It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, and this is my first post since my posts from NaPoWriMo last month for April, my first time participating in the widely popular poetry initiative. It is a wondrous feeling to be here, sharing these moments in my life with you.
Today I have chosen to write a blog in memory of a woman I met a few times, perhaps less than a handful. Yet be that as it is, this person was beautifully memorable, was simply spectacular. Each time I encountered her she was attending a lesbian gala in Atlanta, signing one of her huge-selling novels. Once or twice, it was a Ladies At Play event. She was sitting behind a cloth-draped table exquisitely decorated with her novels, their covers colorful and eye catching, like the author herself. Her style was impeccable. On another occasion, I remember her drifting through a mansion-type building in which another lesbian party was taking place, perhaps it was a Pride party, and she was accompanied by her gorgeous partner, Brandy Jenkins, who would later become her wife. In the main ballroom of the building, her books graced a side table off the dance floor, and Nikki and Brandy stood and chatted with some of the event’s organizers, I gather, as they smiled and welcomed Nikki’s adoring fans.
That author was the incomparable NIKKI RASHAN. Below, she is pictured with the love of her life, her wife, Brandy.
(This photo and the others came from the World Wide Web, when I googled Nikki’s name.)
I felt inspired to honor Nikki here because she touched my life, even if we did not share a friendship. She crossed my path this lifetime. Going beyond the peripheral, she and I shared commonalities. She was an African-American lesbian who was once married, before she came out to live her life in the light and cease struggling with that reality. I am an African-American lesbian, once married and struggling, but who now lives her life as an out lesbian. Nikki was a writer. I am a writer. She was a mother of three daughters, two biological, one step. I am the mother of one son. Nikki wanted to write and wrote lesbian romance novels. I am writing my first lesbian romance, unlike my first two novels with lesbians supporting a straight protagonist. (Better now than never, right! My poetry collection, Soft Tsunami, is openly lesbian.) Nikki self published her first two novels and was later signed by Kensington Press under the Urban Books branch. I self published my second novel, If You Love Me, Come, my Wanda B. Wonders short story series and my poetry collection and am thanking the Universe to be signed by a traditional publisher. While reading, I also learned that Nikki gave encouragement in a gentle and loving way, like I strive to do when I am encouraging others.
This past week, I learned of Nikki’s passing via an email from SistahsontheShelf, a site that honors African-American lesbian authors. Instantly, I felt sadness, though I knew the Universe cradled us all. I was in allowance…to feel the beauty of her life, to know of the legacy she left behind in her relationships with her wife, daughters, family and fans. I had her novels on my Kindle, and I’d already loved and read Double the Pleasure Double the Pain, which I enjoyed. In short, I chose to allow the good to course through me.
But, somehow, I couldn’t stop there. As I continued to work in my sister’s store during the rest of the week, I knew there would come these quiet, tranquil hours I just passed, learning more than I already knew about a beautiful Woman Warrior.
I opened this trusty laptop and skipped from link to link. On my virtual journey, I followed Nikki’s web footprints and what a fascinating journey. I learned of how she and Brandy met and fell in love on Create Love!For Women Who Love Women blogspot, a lesbian group to which I belong on Facebook. The Happy Couple Highlight was an elixir to my soul. There, Nikki and Brandy narrated how Spirit, a “something” as Nikki put it, brought them together. After her uncle died, Brandy asked for somebody to love her unconditionally, who would be a true friend and a partner. Not long afterwards, she was inspired to enter a chat room one evening, and in that room was the love of her life, waiting, she herself guided there, divinely. Their love story kept me reading voraciously and put me in remembrance of how imperative it is to ASK, BELIEVE and RECEIVE.
On the site, I saw Nikki and Brandy’s wedding photo, one I’d seen before on the web. Breath-taking, it invited me to pause and be Present to know what happened for them could happen for me as well. I loved how the Universe handled their transition from living in two different states to living together in the same city, how Brandy received a job interview just before she flew out to visit Nikki. Theirs was a story alive with Lady O’s, as Nikki lovingly referred to Oprah, Aha moments.
I discovered Nikki’s blog home from the Sistahsontheshelf site. Of course, I visited it before today and realized that it, too, was a joyous yellow brick road into Nikki and Brandy’s love story. It offered an amazing rendering, in Nikki’s well-written and beautiful prose, of Nikki’s cancer journey. In her posts, I realized her strength, her indomitable faith and her enduring, endearing capacity to love while her body was in a state of dis-ease…and through it all, she remained absolutely gorgeous, even, in some pictures, without a strand of hair, proving India’s line, “I am not my hair. I am the soul that lives within.”
From the various links I will list below, I learned that Nikki was a focused writer. Yes, she read other writers, some her favorites, though she wasn’t consumed in reading more than she was in writing her stories. I respected that, even if I enjoy a balance of reading and writing. It’s just Nikki’s way is a clear road to getting the writing done, less margin for self sabotage. I loved this quote from her Sistahsontheshelf interview, in which she was asked to give advice for young writers:
“Get in tune with the truth of who they are and uncover what motivates and inspires them. When people are focused on that which has meaning to them, staying positive comes naturally.”
I was in awe that Nikki Rashan appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, like one of my local ATL greats, Lakara Foster. On a 2004 show, Nikki shared her coming out story in hopes of inspiring other women who faced a similar, inner crisis.
Despite having to learn more about Nikki Rashan posthumously than I did while she was here, the time I’ve spent has been well worth the sunshine. I wish her wife and family peace and serenity at this time on their journey, and I am grateful the world has known NIKKI RASHAN.
The links are posted below for your venture into a lovely luminary:
You can find her books on Amazon and other places books are sold.
DOUBLE THE PLEASURE DOUBLE THE PAIN
YOU MAKE ME WANNA
LOVE & LIGHT ALWAYS