A Letter to my Young Daughter about Living as a Woman of Color & Radical Faith in America 

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: Devin Allen

Dear Nai,

One week ago, while you slept, Mommy stood in the kitchen, surrounded by plates and cups and cried. I nearly collapsed, knees aching, my stomach somersaulting with uneasiness and lingering pain.

I cried because when I looked at Philando Castile’s fiancée, her eyes, worn from grief and shock, mirrored my own in ways you will one day, sadly, know as a black woman, unless the conscious of America profoundly shifts. Your Mama is an optimist, and a Christian so I stand on the anchor of hope (Hebrews 6:19), praying we will begin seeing each other not as Americans but people, people whose individual truths are valid and real.

Frankly, I don’t know if this will happen in your lifetime, but I want you to extend the love your Daddy and I give you always. Allow it to take up residence in your heart, and fill it often as you come before God in thoughtful prayer and communion.

Kes, Nai and me Photo Credit: Wayne De Coteau

You will need this love to live in a country and world which insists on rendering you, your perspective and intellect, your unique truth, invisible. Mama wants so desperately to protect you from the pernicious sting of rejection, but I cannot. And when I am forced to acknowledge this grimness, the weight of it nearly crushes me.  But then I think of women of color like Dr. Maya Angelou whose sentence from the poem, “Our Grandmothers” rests within Mama’s spirit, eviscerating this looming mist of defeat which attempts to choke out hope: “I come as one, I stand as ten thousand.”

Say this to yourself, my love, often, especially when you think you cannot overcome an obstacle. “I come as one, I stand as ten thousand.”

You are the descendent of a people rooted in resistance and resilience, dear heart; they refused to allow the ideology of white supremacy to define their destiny. Madam C.J. Walker became the first woman millionaire in America because a divine vision, superseded manmade barriers of skin color and gender.

Your Great Grandmother started working at age 5, and did not stop until her 60s; her retirement from being a domestic worker came because her daughter, your Nana, held a fierce determination within her heart, shutting out the high school counselor’s prediction that she should sweep floors, instead, she graduated with honors from Morgan State University.

Nana became an educator, touching the lives of thousands of children in Baltimore city, opening their minds to a more expansive history of the U.S. And then she came home, every day, and poured these revelations of our past into her children so our futures would not become marred by defeat, but instead, armed with this biblical truth: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14

Each time you hear the lies of “not enough” (smart, beautiful or talented) echoed from American culture refute  these destructive words and live. Live because your life is a testament to triumph over fear and hatred.

Lucille Clifton, renowned poet, proudly declares, “come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.” These are your foremamas, Nai! Their struggle shall be your strength.

When you experience discrimination and meet others who do, waste no time bemoaning it, put your energy (all of the sadness, anger and frustration) into action. Allow these verses of scripture to dwell within your soul:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9

You matter. Your ancestors built this country, not as slaves, but as survivors whose sheer will birthed an unrivaled ingenuity spanning every field and occupation. Listen. You will hear it couched in the melody of the blues, rising in the triumphant praise of gospel music, and through the eloquent work of writers such as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis and many others.

You are always enough. God created you not to conform to this world, but to transform it.

And so, I leave you, my darling, with the words of Howard Thurman, a great African-American theologian, author and thinker (Jesus and the Disinherited) who inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other seekers of justice:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

My Love For You Is Eternal,

Your Mama

6 Things You Can Do Now to Reclaim Your Joy 

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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Graphic via Mallory Cruz’s blog

Years ago I heard a minister say don’t wish for happiness because it’s based on happenings, instead seek joy.

One of my good friends and I talked this week about some of our frustrations, and she mentioned how exhausting social media  becomes – managing your profile, keeping up with comments, but mostly she despises how miserable she feels after looking at everyone’s seemingly ideal lives. But are they perfect? Not really.

No one, no matter how intelligent, beautiful, or wealthy escapes issues or struggles. Some folks are just better at camouflaging.

Our conversation and my own week (an emotionally rocky one) prompted me to consider reclaiming joy, and what simple things (starting with 6) we can all do throughout our day-to-day lives.

Here are my thoughts: 

1. Practice Gratitude – Staying grateful (especially during difficulties) is transformational. It’s an instant mood elevator. My bestie Shan and I discussed this last night.

I believe what we focus on expands, so looking towards our blessings and thanking God for them ushers in more abundance (whether it’s through finances, relationships, etc.)

And when we put it into practice daily we permanently shift our mentality to a higher vibration.

2. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else – Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is the theif of joy.” Ever since I heard those words years ago, I held on to their power. Each one of us is at different places, and stopping to compare ourselves to others only breeds misery. Focus on your unique gifts, your voice, and you will illuminate the world.

Photo Credit: Roksolana Zasiadko

3. Take Regular Social Media Breaks & Filter  –  Our brains are miraculous, but there are limitations. They can only hold so much. Sometimes, actually quite often, we need a break from the incessant rate of images and text bombarding us on social media platforms.

No one says you have to scope, tweet, etc. everyday. And if you’re one of those folks who compares your life to others (or the version they show us), all the more reason to step away for a minute (particularly if you are in a tough season).

Filter what you ingest, too. Skip  dismal news stories some days, or debating with someone of an opposing political or religious view. I am not advocating living in a bubble, but we have to know what we can tolerate on an energetic level. It’s really that simple.

4. Rest –  I know this is a tough one, but your body and mind will thank you. I usually have to force myself to sleep, but when I do, the next morning I am much more capable of taking on the world.

As a Mom, I know there are times when it’s particularly challenging. Work towards devoting small chunks of time throughout the day   (5, 10 or 15 minutes, etc.) for rest, and do absolutely nothing.

My good friend Michelle over at Surviving a Creative Life is excellent at reminding me to take breaks and rest. I think accountability partners are key in this whole commitment to rest. Have someone in your life challenge you when you’re not resting enough, and then listen. Rest.

5. Take in Natural Beauty – Sounds easy but in the age of iPhones, Androids and other electronic devices this is difficult for many of us. Go for a walk, take a long drive, mediate in the park; allow the beauty surrounding you to nourish your spirit.

Photo Credit: Shannon Braxton

6. Read or Listen to an Inspiring Story Misty Copeland, Bessie Coleman, Lisa Nichols, Angela Davis and countless other women inspire me with their determination and strength. In pieces of their story, I see my own.

Bessie Coleman, pioneer aviator. In 1922, she became the first African-American woman to stage a public flight in America.

I am reminded that no struggle is eternal and I am equipped to walk and live in joy!

🔽

How do you reclaim your joy? Don’t be shy. 🙂 Share in the comments.