Healing in Ferguson

Iyanla Healing Ferguson

Iyanla Hugging People in Ferguson, MO

Iyanala Goes to Ferguson

Iyanla Vanzant announced she was going to Ferguson to promote healing after the murder of Michael Brown, and the backlash was immediate. She was called an opportunist and her motives were questioned, and her critics were all in an uproar based on what they thought she was going to do despite her not having a history of being an exploiter. Furthermore, Iyanla is a lawyer, minister, life coach and a full human being with the right to express herself. I am not even going to give those negative Nancys any more attention because now that the show has aired, you can judge for yourself whether the visit was effective. The 90-minute special “Iyanla Fix My Life -Special Report: Healing in Ferguson” aired on August 26, 2014 more than two weeks after the unarmed 18-year old was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

“I’ve Come to Interrupt the Pattern”

In the weeks since the shooting, the streets of Ferguson have been chaotic. The police are in tanks hurling tear gas with snipers trained on the crowds of protesters and even some reporters have been threatened and arrested.  Violence and bad feelings abound. These horrible images were being broadcast all over the world every day to the point where people from Palestine have been tweeting tips to the protesters in Ferguson about how to deal with tear gas using the tags #Ferguson and #Palestine.

This is the environment that Iyanla was walking into to try to offer some much-needed healing and interrupt the patterns that lead to this tragic situation. She thanked the community for allowing her to visit and upon being embraced by an older woman, she told the woman that as an elder in the community she needs a voice: “We cannot be silent any longer. We cannot!”

Iyanla showed up with a camera crew ready to have some tough conversations with the interested parties including Police Chief Thomas Jackson and Pastor Charles Ewing, Mr. Brown’s Granduncle. I give the Chief credit for showing up even if he did seem to dodge the questions about the poor optics of having a militarized police force squashing peaceful demonstrations. She allowed Pastor Ewing to speak from the family’s perspective about the desire for justice, and the Chief expressed his sympathy for the loss of  life that happened on his watch. The Chief said that the investigation into the shooting is still ongoing and  that he needs at least 14 days of peace to wrap things up, and Pastor Ewing agreed to that. Now they just needed to convince the protesters to remain peaceful despite the high tensions.

Iyanla Healing Ferguson

Iyanla Meeting with Pastor Ewing and Chief Jackson


An Elder’s Apology

Next Iyanla met with a group of clergy, protesters and concerned citizens to find out what they hoped to accomplish by demonstrating every day. The protesters are very angry not just about this particular shooting but about the ongoing issues of racial profiling and discrimination that they have been dealing with for years. She tried to get to the root of the problem and let them know that the Chief requested 14 days of peace and gets them to agree to enforce this moratorium on violence.

The next meeting with a group of protesters, including some gang members, was the part of this episode that stayed with me long after the show was finished. Iyanla apologized to the young men for failing them as an elder by not showing them the way and let them know that continuing down that path that they have chosen is very dangerous since they have no real plan of action, and the police were prepared for brutal retaliation. One young man had on a shirt that said “No Justice No Peace” which was a familiar rallying cry, but as she pointed out “Now you don’t have justice, and you don’t have peace.”  They are understandably angry, but that alone won’t change anything. After a long discussion about their fears and expectations,  there were promises to do better and hugs. You can tell when someone is just returning a hug to be polite, but these young men fell into Iyanla’s embrace and were clinging to her like she was a lifesaver.

Iyanla Healing Ferguson

Iyanla meeting with some of the protesters

In asking the young men to commit to enforcing the peace, Iyanla asked them to do three things:

  • Pause – to get clarity
  • Plan – have some goals in mind
  • Participate – show up and be counted

After that, they headed out to march and were immediately confronted by police officers and National Guard members who asked them for their passes – reminiscent of what happened in Johannesburg under Apartheid – and then herded them over to an approved assembly area.

The Takeaways

Iyanla’s visit started some necessary conversations and could lead to real changes down the road. The protesters needed to know that violence begets violence and as she put it “someone is benefiting from you staying disorganized.” She stated more than once that she was an outsider and was not there to tell them how to handle their business, but as a coach, she did make some good suggestions.  She also promised to return to Ferguson in the future without cameras. For all the advance criticism, she was received with open arms and those young men seemed to genuinely appreciate her love and guidance. And I liked that she made the point about how some people are so busy clutching their pearls and being afraid of these young men that they cannot even see how they have failed them.


Iyanla Fix My Life

Iyanla Fix My Life

The New Season Began May 10

If you love “Iyanla Fix My Life” like I do, May 10 seems like a long time to wait for the new season. OWN has been running marathons, but I have seen most of those old shows several times already and am looking forward to seeing the new ones. I saw Iyanla during one of the seminars at the Essence Festival last year, and she was awesome. She only spoke for about 30 minutes and that packed auditorium was enthralled during the entire presentation. Her overriding message to the women there was that many of us are out of order which really cannot be denied about the collective. I read some criticism about that message later on, but please believe that the folks in attendance enjoyed every minute of her speech. Just because something does not apply to you that does not make it untrue. Furthermore, her comments were coming from a place of concern and not of condemnation – there is a difference.

The show is so popular because although Iyanla is a minister and a spiritual leader, she is very down to Earth and has no problem calling anyone out on their foolishness. Or as she puts it, “Calling a thing a thing.” On one of her first shows, she called notorious reality tv brawler Evelyn Lozada a thug among women, and Evelyn just accepted it. Heck, it was true. I can never understand why people get so upset when they come on the show and she confronts them about some glaring fault. Have they not watched previous episodes? I could definitely use her help, but there is no way that I would ever agree to air all my many personal issues on national tv. So my next best bet is to watch and learn from the show.

Celebrity Guests

In addition to Ms. Lozada, Iyanla has had other celebrities on her show like Terrell Owens, Syleena Johnson, Sheree Whitfield, the Pace sisters and DMX. That episode with DMX was a hot mess because he seemed like he was high and was so disrespectful to her that Iyanla told him that he could never speak to her again. He is an addict and in denial about what this has done to his family, yet he claimed that he thought he was there to discuss his womanizing and even threatened to sue OWN and Iyanla if they continued airing that show. Yeah, good luck with that Earl.

Iyanla & DMX

Calling DMX out on his filthy mouth

One of the most memorable moments on her show was when she was counseling a pastor’s wife about her relationship with her cheating husband and what that had done to her self image. The woman said that she did like herself even without the material trappings that came with that marriage and Iyanla asked  “So why would you sell her down the river for a hat and a parking space?” The woman could only respond that she didn’t know. She did ultimately leave the marriage which surprised the cheating husband who confessed to his bad behavior and said it was due to childhood sexual abuse.

Iyanla Counsels a first lady

Iyanla helping a first lady acknowledge her feelings

Here are the main reasons why I love Iyanla and her show:

She’s from Brooklyn. This is not as shallow as you might think because everyone knows Brooklynites are cool. Plus she calls people “boo.”

She is a sharp dresser. Iyanla does not shy away from color and patterns and her makeup game is on point.

Iyanla is a snazzy dresserIyanla is a snazzy dresser


Iyanla is dramatic. During an episode about 19 relatives living under the same roof, Mamma Iyanla was upset over how little empathy there is for the woman of the house whose husband has been moving various family members into the house (14 in total) without even discussing it with her first. Their children, his sister, a nephew, a niece and her small children are all there and they are anything but one big happy family. Surprisingly, the woman’s own son is one of the main critics and isn’t even defending his mother against the others who are acting like she is the worst person in the world. Having had enough, Iyanla stands up and announces that she is going to “weep in the bushes” for the lady of the house. Iyanla broke down in tears during the filming.

She comes up with her own words like craziment, and I admire folks who have their own vernacular.

She’s a hugger. You can come on the show acting like you are not going to be folded into her arms if you want to, but Iyanla is going to hold you to her bosom before it’s all said and done. Resistance is pointless.

Iyanla Hugging Evelyn Lozada

Iyanla gives good hugs

Her advice is accessible and real. It does no one any good to get lofty moral teachings that you have no idea of how to implement in your daily life. She may ask you to face hard truths and to do your work, but the concepts are pretty simple.