Deneice William’s “Black Butterfly” peaked at #22 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart in 1984. It was a song that represented self-love to a little Black girl who grew up in a predominately white suburb in New York City, with her Black mom and Black dad, married, until death did them part. I would later grow to realize that the Black Butterfly, through the lens of my own experience, had come to be anchored within the layers of my relationship with love, grief, acceptance, awareness, and growth. That is where the metamorphosis of my own journey began and continues.
I was in the 7th grade when the song came alive for me, four years after it was released. At 12 years old, my first African-American teacher was Mr. Melvin Jones. Mr. Jones was a tall, brown-skinned, balding man from South Carolina with a tremendous smile. Mr. Jones also happened to be a former Alvin Ailey dancer prior to teaching, so therefore, Mr. Jones was a graceful gentleman. Between 7th grade English class and my dance elective, Mr. Jones shared his life journey in full color, all while affirming and asserting his Black identity. He used authors like Zora Neale Hurston to shape our young minds to different experiences through language. And he used dance, to express the subtle art of emotion and passion.
At that age, I was both aware and familiar with African-American culture and the arts. On the surface, my parents afforded me the early opportunity to have exposure to Broadway in New York City. How blessed was I! My faves were Annie, Sophisticated Ladies and The Tap Dance Kid. I took drama, ballet and African dance as well as played the clarinet at The Harlem School of The Arts. I may have been a Bronx suburban kid, but my parents made sure I was connected socially and had historical context to African-American contributions in history. I’d like to think that my early exposure to music, dance and theater helped to expand my aperture and shape my appreciation for the craft. By the time Mr. Jones shared a piece he choreographed to Black Butterfly, I was caught in the rapture. There was something about the lyrics and melody of this song, coupled with Mr. Jones stretching and moving across our auditorium stage, it captured me. He used dance as a visual medium to express the power within the song.
Sailed across the waters
Tell your sons and daughters
What the struggle brings
Set the skies on fire
Rise up even higher
So the ageless winds of time can catch your wings”
At 12, I was encouraged to become anything I wanted to be. To dream. To believe I could achieve what I desired if I worked hard for it. From my parents to my educators, they all pushed me toward staying focused on the goal. So the Black Butterfly resonated with me back then. I was going to rise and set the sky on fire. What the struggle brings I was less concerned with, but Mr. Jones surely expressed the tension of the Butterfly’s process in his performance. In the contortion of his body movements, he followed with a full transition of his arms so we can imagine a butterfly’s metamorphosis represented through the span of its wings, his arms, to signify completion. It was so beautiful and poetic. It remains a memory that stands out for me, for all the reasons I considered titling this blog Black Butterfly in 2020.
As I sat down to think about what I wanted to create with this blog, I considered how much representation matters, and how I would approach sharing my metamorphosis over time. How would I expand my wings to allow these stories and testimonies to take shape and form. What topics would I want to put forward while I’m blooming in my proverbial garden. How would I keep myself honest in these present moments of growth and awareness. As I thought about the montage of memories and moments that encompass my own journey, and considering this present day tipping point we are experiencing in the world amidst a global pandemic and the racial reckoning in America, on top of it being an election year, Black Butterfly felt right and appropriate.
I plan to share parts of my own journey – past and present. I hope to represent and reflect the honesty and vulnerability that unfolds through this process of experiencing life as a Black woman, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, leader and child of God. As the author, I desire to revisit the beauty as well as the beautiful scars within my own life metamorphosis. And now that Beyoncé has validated Black Is King, and our real life superhero Black Panther has transitioned in the physical, guess what…it’s time.
In these present moments, I have the ability to talk with my Black son and Black husband about what that struggle brings, because we are actually experiencing it in different ways together. My son is growing up having bear witness to a Black president and first Black family. And he’s also learning more intimately about navigating his existence in the world, as the incidents of police brutality on unarmed Black men and women hit a tipping point in his 9th year. He sees a myriad of reflections of himself in various stages of emotion. He has questions, and we explore the answers together.
I’m a servant leader who believes we have the ability to lift as we climb. To be an ear or a voice for someone else in need. Pay it forward. Share. Be authentic. Live, love, and laugh to the fullest. We are all changing in this new season. The world is shifting right before our very eyes. There’s a metamorphosis taking place.
Welcome to Black Butterfly.
KK is an energetic storyteller, creative marketer and, servant leader with a kaleidoscope of professional pathways in music, print publishing, and television. Currently, KK is a marketing executive at a major media company. Faith and family anchor KK’s ambitions, and she believes Luke 12:48 holds true, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” KK leverages her gifts, talents, and abilities in support of advancing others, particularly in motivating her 9-year-old son CMK.
Passionate about education and inclusion, KK is a graduate of New York University, with an MS in Integrated Marketing. She supports her undergrad alma-mater, Wesleyan University, with dual alumni volunteer leadership roles. As a Trustee on the Oliver Scholars board, preparing high achieving African American and Latino students for academic success is a priority. Through her writing and in her relationships, KK continues to unpack and explore life transformations the only way she knows how – with unconditional love, raw honesty and a touch of humor.