I spent my last night in D.C. in my office until 4am tying up loose ends, pulling shirts, wristbands and stickers for the tour and of course, responding to emails (there are always emails).  I tried to combat any traces of anxiety by planning ahead but somehow that never formulated into a physical to-do list. It was more so along the lines of, “Don’t forget anything. Don’t. Forget. Anything.”


So I didn’t—sort of.


The packing list said, “This is an expedition. Pack lightly and don’t bring anything you don’t need.”


Hm. I already knew that wasn’t going to be possible. Aside from my one personal suitcase and backpack, I had another suitcase and duffle bug full of And Counting Tour tees. I was a bag lady but not in the Badu sense.  These bags were necessary, full of things I believed couldn’t be left behind.


Yet, when I arrived in LA on last Monday night, I realized I’d forgotten the bag full of #FIGHTAMNESIA + #BLESSUP wristbands, GLOSSRAGS stickers, index cards, pens, AND my business cards. Thank God (seriously) my brother overnighted them without question.


There’s something sobering about traveling by yourself. You may have some folks to accent your journey with conversations shared over meals or late night reflections but at the end of they day, it’s just you and you alone.


I spent part of my first full day in LA driving from Glendale to a shop-filled strip of Fairfax to follow up with a store-owner about whether or not he’d made a decision about hosting our pop-up shop. I figured since he hadn’t returned my text and calls after our conversation that past Friday, I’d just show up.


He wasn’t there. Out sick with the flu apparently but somehow still managed to pick up the phone and have a conversation with me for a few minutes. After that conversation, I wasn’t anymore convinced that somehow his skepticisms would materialize into a yes.


*Insert mild panic & serious frustration here*


There was another option my friend suggested that seemed worth exploring but I was still stuck on the first shop.


I dialed my friend—“Call him up,” he said. “And if he says yes and the other store turns around and tells you yes too, don’t jump ship. Just rock with them.”


So I did. That other yes never came.


Lesson: Always explore the “other” option—it just might turn out to be the best option.


But I’ll get back to that part in a bit.


With one yes ringing in my ears, I (well, GoogleMaps really) navigated to Venice Beach. Brendon Glenn was 29-years-old and unarmed when an LAPD police officer shot and killed him about two weeks ago outside of Cairo Cowboy just a few strides away from the shore. Oh yeah, and he was black.


I’d learned about his fate through Twitter and was determined to see the memorial pictured and hashtagged across numerous accounts for myself.  Without even knowing, I almost parked in one of the spaces chalked and adorned with an array of flowers, candles, stuffed animals and pictures of Brendon himself.


He lived here. He died here.


My photographer wasn’t hitting LA until Thursday so with audio recorder, headphones & iPhone in hand, I found myself among the transients of Venice Beach, learning about Brendon and the lives he touched. What was remarkable about this particular community was their willingness to be so giving even when they seemed to have so little.


On Wednesday, they catered food and brought out a huge cake with, “REST IN PEACE DIZZLE | VENICE LOVES YOU” for whomever to enjoy. They offered me some but it wasn’t my piece of goodness to savor. I felt blessed enough to be able to commune with them in their space, on their streets. Later that night, they moved the array of flowers, pictures and candles to the shores of Venice Beach. We sang, we prayed and found a bit of peace in the midst of so much unrest.


Thursday was the first day I’d meet the other 24 participants on the train. I could go on and on about how dope the Ace Hotel in downtown LA is but I digress. There was no formal ice breaker or introduction—I found myself connecting pictures that I’d only seen on Facebook or Indiegogo with the people that stood before me in person.


After about an hour, one of our mentors, Jeff Martin, stood before us challenging us to define what our mission was for the trip and furthermore, what its anthem was. Without much thought, mine just came to me—“SPEAK YOUR TRUTH.” I’d be asking my black brothers and sisters to speak of stories and experiences that are the antithesis of a post-racial era. The denial of the sacred American truth that, “All men (and women) are created equal.”


The moment that I’d been waiting for—the reality of what an idea turned $5,000 campaign turned ten-day tour truly felt like started tomorrow. I was ready.


Stay tuned to follow more of Randi’s exclusive journey on Blavity by tuning in next week.