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July 19, 2020

SAFE is a 4-Letter Word

SAFE is a Four-Letter Word

by Trish Ahjel Roberts

2020 will go down in history as a wild ride. The ongoing harassment and murder of Black people shares center stage with a global pandemic we haven’t seen the likes of since 1918. I feel like a turtle peeking out of my shell to see if this world is safe to re-enter, or if racist cops and an invisible predator are lurking around corners. From the ashes, and because of the fire, I gave birth to my first memoir and have a title for my second. I’ve seen ashes in my life before. I’ve walked through many fires.

When I was about twelve years old, I visited Canada with my parents. Toronto struck me as beautiful and surprisingly clean to my Brooklyn-weary eyes. I asked my father if they had crime in Canada. He told me there was crime everywhere. It was disappointing news. I had already been a victim of assault, and I was hoping to find a place where crime didn’t exist. Someplace I could be safe. In that moment I understood, in this world with all its beauty, we have to take the good with the bad.

It’s into this world of profound beauty and random injustice and heartache that I release my most precious creation of all, my daughter. Parenting has as much to do with protecting and teaching as it does with letting go. My sweet teenager is in Florida for a month on vacation with another family. I know Florida has become one of the coronavirus hotspots. I know she’ll be riding motorcycles. I know I’m more than six hours away. A part of me wishes I had told her to stay home, in her room where I know she’s safer. Another part of me wants her to pick wildflowers, take long walks and feel the wind on her neck and the motion in her belly as she lets loose on a motorcycle. I want her to dance with complete abandon and live wildly, abundantly and joyfully. I want her to grow up to be an old woman with no regrets.

Safe is a four-letter word. First, because it’s not real. Trayvon Martin should have been safe going to the corner store to get Skittles. Ahmaud Arbery should have been safe going for a jog in his neighborhood. Brianna Taylor should have been safe sleeping her bed. Tamir Rice should have been safe playing in the park. Sandra Bland should have been safe driving in her car. We can’t let the quest for the illusion of safety keep us from living. We can take precautions: wash our hands, wear a mask, wear a helmet, etc. But we can’t give up or give in. We can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed. One of my former fitness center clients permanently injured herself falling off her living room sofa. Whitney Houston and Bobbi Kristina both died in a bath tub. With all the money in the world, while in their own homes or hotel rooms, they couldn’t guarantee their own safety because none of us can.

So, make calculated decisions, Google statistics, take precautions and step boldly into the future of your dreams. Being alive is an occupational hazard. The quest for safety can quickly extinguish the seeds of joy. We may be in this mess together, but as long as we are on this earth it is our duty to LIVE and encourage others to do the same.


  • Trish Ahjel Roberts is a blogger, self-actualization coach, yoga and meditation instructor, reiki practitioner, retreat organizer and founder of Black Vegan Life ™ and HoneyButterflyz Wellness & Transformation. She is the author of the self-help memoir, Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings, the novel, Chocolate Soufflé, and a contributing writer for Natural Awakenings – Atlanta.
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