Dear America – Nothing Will Change Until You Face Yourself

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Photo Credit: Nitish Meena

Last night I dreamed groups of us moved slowly, herded like cattle, pushed into large spaces meant to contain undesirables, those folks swimming across oceans, desperately chasing illusions of freedom; they hail from countries we callously dismiss because their faces are the color of copper pennies and mahogany, faces like mine.

I tried to run, all of us did, but escape seemed impossible; our mouths full of invisible cotton, choking words we longed to utter into the angry stillness enveloping us. It is the kind of dream one finds nearly impossible to awaken from because it echoes real life.

What is unfolding in America today under the guise of “immigration policy” is barbaric. Infants and children callously taken from their parents arms, left screaming for hours in unending agony, unable to be held or touched by workers in these shelters. Is this what we are becoming? Perhaps it is partly who we always were? Facing this scares us. And so, we swallow self examination with either avoidance or the shallowness of political correctness.

For the last several months, I have come back to Andrea Ritchie’s recent book Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. It’s an arduous read, with account after account of atrocities committed by the state against women of color, from the indigenous to those who were enslaved:

“On the estate I am speaking of, those women who had sucking children suffered much from their breasts becoming full of milk, the infants being left at home. They therefore could not keep up with the other hands: I have seen the overseer beat them with raw hide, so that the blood and milk flew mingled from their breasts.”

Pain. Suffering. Sorrow. Ripping families apart then and now…

Photo Credit: Nathaniel Tetteh

All of these practices exist within a continuum of the historical dehumanization of people of color. And at this moment, migrant children are under attack with no regard for their psychological or physical welfare. According to a recent article in The Washington Post “nearly 4,600 mental-health professionals and 90 organizations have signed a petition urging President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several elected officials to stop the policy of separating children from their parents. The petition says:

These children are thrust into detention centers often without an advocate or an attorney and possibly even without the presence of any adult who can speak their language. We want you to imagine for a moment what this might be like for a child: to flee the place you have called your home because it is not safe to stay and then embark on a dangerous journey to an unknown destination, only to be ripped apart from your sole sense of security with no understanding of what just happened to you or if you will ever see your family again. And that the only thing you have done to deserve this, is to do what children do: stay close to the adults in their lives for security.

A 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in McAllen, Tex. (John Moore/Getty Images)

I read these words over and over, each time the weight of my anger and sorrow grows. As I look back at the lead story photo, a little girl bewildered, desperately trying to make sense of a senseless situation, I see Nai, myself (the daughter of an immigrant), and every child. They all long for reassurance, love and safety. Now a country which espouses the rhetoric of inclusion has taken this away from them in a burst of fury led by a few and fueled with xenophobia.

James Baldwin once wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it faced.” If we continue to run from ourselves as a society, we will merely create new iterations of the same oppressive systems rooted in ideologies of white supremacy, patriarchy and greed.

And folks of all ethnicities can internalize and carry on the work of institutionalized racism, turning hatred inward, toxically afflicting their own communities. Have we not seen it’s manifestations time and time again with practices like colorism, a term first used by writer and activist Alice Walker which she defines as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color,” in her collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.

None of this is going away until we confront the ghosts who refuse to leave because we so vehemently deny their existence. The crying children of immigrants; our response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico; high maternal mortality rates for women of color; the school to prison pipeline; deadly attacks on those in the transgender and gay community, all of these egregious wrongs are symptoms of a society at war with both the most marginalized and itself.

Each of our lives depends upon tearing down the myths which have held generations captive for centuries. Our collective freedom is inextricably linked to each other. When we come to understand this then fully lasting liberation can blossom within our hearts and souls.

Feeling overwhelmed by all of this? Start with this action:

Sign the petition over at Moms Rising, urging your lawmakers to reject the bills on the table. Here is some info from Moms Rising (the rest is available when you click the link above – “Sign the petition”):

On Friday, President Trump suggested that he won’t change HIS policy of intentionally separating kids from their parents, unless Democrats agreed to his other destructive immigration demands.

Trump’s demands include passing a very dangerous bill proposed by Speaker Ryan. This bill will NOT end family separation. Instead, it would result in children being detained indefinitely in worse conditions, without basic standards for their care or well-being.

It would also result in the near immediate return of other children to the very life-threatening conditions they are fleeing and from which they are seeking asylum (a legally protected right in both national and international law).

Why Praying with Our Feet Matters More Than Ever

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov

The world is erupting – climate change, institutionalized racism, economic inequality, the destructive ideology of white supremacy which is rapidly rolling back gains of civil rights advocates in multiple spheres. Folks of faith can no longer pray passively, hoping things improve, while sticking our heads down in bibles and looking away because it’s uncomfortable. Prayer demands an active partnership with God to birth change.

How can we love God yet remain silent about the cruel treatment of the most marginalized among us – communities of color, the differently abled (physical and mental challenges) women, folks of various gender and sexual identities, and the poor, many of whom experience intermittent homelessness, despite scraping together a living working multiple jobs. “Almost a third of U.S. workers (41.7 million people) now earn less than $12 an hour. Nearly half (58.3 million) earn less than $15 an hour, ” according to an article in Fast Company.

Isolating ourselves means many continue to suffer alone because we choose complacency over meaningful change and connecting with the larger world. My friend Lenora quoted Rabbi Heschel on Instagram last year, and I couldn’t get what she said out of my mind – the importance of praying with our feet. And I began to looking into the story behind the phrase:

“When Rabbi Heschel returned from Selma, he was asked by someone, ‘Did you find much time to pray, when you were in Selma?’ Rabbi Heschel responded, ‘I prayed with my feet.’  What was his point? That his marching, his protesting, his speaking out for Civil Rights was his greatest prayer of all.”

As I continued contemplating the Rabbi’s words, it felt as if I found the faith I sought for so long, one rooted in a “radical revolution of values,” as Dr. King said towards the end of his life. I thought of Proverbs 31:8-9, which urges us to speak up for the poor, those who are judged unfairly. Then I began listening to and reading James Cone, who lifted up black liberation theology which places the suffering Jesus endured in a wider context of oppression:

The Christian community, therefore, is that community that freely becomes oppressed, because they know that Jesus himself has defined humanity’s liberation in the context of what happens to the little ones. Christians join the cause of the oppressed in the fight for justice not because of some philosophical principle of “the Good” or because of a religious feeling of sympathy for people in prison. Sympathy does not change the structures of injustice. The authentic identity of Christians with the poor is found in the claim which the Jesus-encounter lays upon their own life-style, a claim that connects the word “Christian” with the liberation of the poor. Christians fight not for humanity in general but for themselves and out of their love for concrete human beings.

God of the Oppressed, James Cone

These last few weeks have reignited my passion to return to blogging after nearly a year away. While I kept some of my social media updated, I was not quite sure of what I wanted to fully convey on the blog, but now, with the help of God I am. Live In Color blog is becoming Pray with Our Feet blog, which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism, with pieces on the lessons I am learning along the journey of motherhood.

I believe in the power of art (writing, visual art, etc.) and faith to spark change. I am creating this online space to refute the common narrative of Christian apathy about domestic and world events. It’s also a space to challenge the all to common practice in many churches of avoiding what is uncomfortable, this unwillingness to cultivate authentic discussions about the toxicity of systemic racism and other forms exclusions. There are too many folks of faith clinging to a false narrative of color blindness (differences don’t have to divide us), bristling at the mention of black lives matter (or the affirmation of any other marginalized group), while ignoring Trump’s abhorrent treatment of women and anyone else who differs from him, simply because he self identifies as a Christian.

Praying with our feet means consistently questioning “truths” society feeds us, coming off of our knees and into the world, sharing Christ’s radical love with everyone, the message of salvation and hope, and examining our own motives daily: Are we uplifting the status quo or disrupting it as Jesus did throughout his time on earth? What matters more – your comfort or commitment to creating a world of light, beauty and justice? Will you pray passively or in the spirit of transformation?

“Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” Zephaniah 3:10

Living by Faith (Blog Series): Writer Christina of The Whole Cook

Emelda De Coteau
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Emelda De Coteau

Mother, wife, sister, friend, writer / blogger / creative organizer, budding photographer... These are just a few of the many hats I juggle each day. I believe creativity is oxygen for the soul. I created Live In Color blog to celebrate the beauty in every moment, from faith to inspiration and motherhood.And it is soon becoming Pray with Our Feet blog which will focus on the intersection of faith and activism. Follow the inspiration on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/praywithourfeetblog/
Emelda De Coteau
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Christina’s Instagram feed overflows with yummy recipes, adorable kiddos, a handsome hubby, and oh those totally relatable Mama posts.  She’s with us in the trenches of toys, diapers and sippy cups. But she is also a woman of deep faith and conviction. I love how Christina encourages us to delve deeper into the Bible and develop an authentic relationship with Christ in her interview. Grab your chai or tea and enjoy!

Christina Shoemaker Writer | Blogger of The Whole Cook blog

Everyone of us must discover faith for ourselves. When did it move from religion to relationship for you? 

I was raised in the church so I’ve always had what I thought was faith in God. I called myself a Christian. I now know that being a participant in church doesn’t make you a Christian. I didn’t know God. Not really. I knew and loved the idea of God. It wasn’t until adulthood though that I truly began to have a relationship with our Lord.

It happened when I began to really study His Word rather than relying simply on the messages a pastor or author might convey. It was through study that I realized I had never really known God or His big beautiful plan. It took falling into the pages of the Bible to fall in love with Him. I devote a lot of my blog to sharing that experience and trying to teach others how to study the Bible.

Before sharing your journey of faith with readers, how do you prepare – prayer, meditation, worship music, etc.? How have these practices grown you in both your walk with God and the craft of writing?

I pray before I start writing out Bible Studies for the blog. We are responsible for what we teach and how we represent Him so I pray for wisdom. I pray for the right words. I pray that He uses me however He chooses to use me. I pray that I fulfill whatever part He’d have me play in His plan.

How do you hear God speaking to you in daily life? 

I believe that God gave us His teachings in the Bible and that it’s through the Bible that we can best hear Him. Often I find myself struggling with a situation or question in my daily life. I pray about it and then I seek the answer in the Bible. I find it without fail. Sometimes it surprises me but I know that this isn’t coincidence. He gives us everything we need in His Word if we’ll only seek Him there.

What advice do you have for readers who want to deepen their relationship with God but feel overwhelmed or intimidated by it all? 

I’d say that to have a true relationship with God you have to be an active participant in that relationship. You can’t just sit in a church pew and listen to someone else describe their own impression of Him. You can’t just make requests of God while you’re in bed at night. You have to listen to Him. You have to pursue Him. You have to live your life in His will.  So where can we find his words and His will? How can we pursue Him? The answer is simple. Study the Bible. He tells us repeatedly that we are to know His Word. His answers are there just waiting for us. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the book or the sometimes confusing language. Set aside time everyday. Start at the beginning.

Work through it chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Use The Companion Bible and The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance so that you know you’re getting the best translation possible. Ask God to grant you understanding and just take it one step at a time.

If you’re struggling with a stale prayer life I bet you’ll see this dramatically change the more you spend time in His Word. Suddenly you’ll find yourself in regular conversation with our Lord.

You’ll start to piece together what’s happening in this world today. You’ll feel less fear and more joy even the midst of the things around us because you’ll know that He is in charge. He holds His people in the palm of His hand. What more could we want?

 

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