Why Black Love 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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http://liveincolor.org/2016/04/08/why-black-love-matters-more-than-ever/
Photo via Pixaby

We scream black lives matter (and rightly so), but if we ignore the fundamental role of black love, we have lost our way. Love is at the root of revolution, no progress endures without it.  And when black folks authentically love ourselves, families, and communities, we defy a society intent on destroying us.

Beginning at birth, American culture baptizes us in self-hatred. Young girls and boys quickly learn to equate beauty and intelligence with whiteness. Even within the most supportive and progressive families, some kids begin to question their value and worth. The hegemony of structural racism is far reaching and impacts us all in innumerable ways.

Loving Your Color, Yourself

Therefore coming to love yourself, despite all of these toxic messages, becomes an act of courage and determination. Scholar and teacher bell hooks writes in her book Killing Rage: Ending Racism: “Loving blackness as political resistance transforms our ways of looking and being, and thus creates the conditions necessary for us to move against the forces of domination and death and reclaim black life.”

These days it’s tough to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed without seeing the latest hashtag for a man, woman, boy or girl killed at the hands of police.  According to the website Mapping Police Violence, “police killed more than 100 unarmed black people” in 2015. This number stands at five times the rate of unarmed whites.”

As we battle such blatant disregard for black life, we also contend with our children being harshly disciplined throughout educational institutions, thereby continuing to fuel a school-to-prison pipeline. Hundreds of school districts across the country punish students of color not in the classroom, but instead, push them directly into correctional facilities.

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, cites an alarming statistic in a 2013 blog post: “African-American students are 3.5 times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Black children constitute 18 percent of students, but they account for 46 percent of those suspended more than once.”

Living under these conditions certainly takes a toll, and although research is ongoing, there is a growing body of work examining the ramifications on our physiological well being. And so, now, more than ever, during an era of mass incarceration, police violence, bitter wounds from drugs, poverty, and violence perpetuated both outside of our community and within it, we need love. Labels of class, sexual orientation, ideology or religion should not divide, but rather connect us as we realize the fullness of a shared humanity.

Love Is Radical Resistance to Despair

Love is radical resistance to despair, a pathway to compassion which ignites transformation. Once you and I begin to see one another, looking earnestly with our hearts, we will consistently stand against any form of violence or exclusion (sexism, homophobia, those who are differently-abled), perpetuated outside of the community or within it.

The challenges facing us may never subside. Yet we must actively choose to create spaces which honor love. I believe the most profound healing emerges through excruciating pain. The first space is the mind. Are your thoughts focused on irritation and mistrust, or openness and peace? Are you gentle with yourself or harsh?

Our second opportunity to nurture love is within the home. When is the last time you said I love you and hugged or kissed your family? The final part of the journey is extending love to those with whom you are unfamiliar – not your friends, co-workers, or spouse. Can you come to view these “strangers” as your brothers and sisters?

I read a Facebook post a few years ago that said: “there isn’t a person you would not love if you knew their story.” If you and I are brave enough to bear witness and listen, we may find pieces of our truth in another’s experience. This the essence of authentic love, coming to fully connect with others.

The liberation of black folks then depends not only on political and economic might, but our willingness to love one another and ourselves with an unwavering commitment.

The video below is a collection of photos (folks I know) which demonstrates some of the ways we love one another  – mothers, fathers, children, and couples. I purposely chose not to show celebrities; for me, it’s about recognizing the love which manifests everyday among our friends, co-workers, and neighbors. All of us can choose love.

Video produced by my awesome hubby, Kes, founder of Keystone Productions.

This piece was first published by Beautifully Said magazine where I am a coulmnist.

Talk to Me!

How are you welcoming love into your life? How do you cultivate self love as a person of color?

 

Blog Chat: Cultivating Self Love with Shan, The Free Gurl Club

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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Shan & Emelda, Live In Color Blog, The Free Gurl Club

Every other month, Shan and I are going to dish all things inspiration in our  blog chats. 

This month seemed fitting to explore love, especially  self love, as we are often taught, particularly women, to love everyone but ourselves. 

Shan and I are both on paths of healing, love and discovery. We are seeking to honor the light within ourselves, and want those same feelings to manifest for everyone, especially women.

Shan is the creator of The Free Gurl Club, an awesome online space dedicated to empowering women. She hosts a weekly show on YouTube and shares life affirming daily affirmations via Instagram

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Listen to today’s blog chat on Soundcloud. Tomorrow we’ll share on YouTube.

Audio editing by Keystone Productions

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Check out our show notes (including 3 core ways to cultivate self love – listed below first), followed by links to books and other resources we mention: 

1. Make healing yourself (from wounds, past experiences, etc.) a priority! This could be tied to your faith (for me it’s inextricably linked) and include daily and / or frequent time alone (5-10 min.) for reflection. Even if you its initially one minute alone, begin there!  

2.  Post positive self affirmations around your home and work space, or even on your phone. Say them aloud throughout the day.  These may include statements like “I am beautiful. I am worth the life I seek. I am created in the image of God and my life matters. Abundance and joy are my birthrights.” 

Check out this powerful daily affirmation from The Free Gurl Club:

   

3.  Say NO to what drains and depletes you as these people, places and / or choices are creating feelings of being overwhelmed. 

When we are overwhelmed,  we often self medicate in unhealthy ways – excessive drinking, working long hours, overeating, etc. 

  

Further Reading:

Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks 

Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant 

Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery by Pamela Sneed 

Commanding Your Morning by Cindy Trimm

Adalmar Life by Nellie Russell (insightful blog) and piece on the importance of self care and healing. Nellie is one of my blogging besties!  

 

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightment by Eckhart Tolle  

The Audre Lorde quote I referenced on self care. You might also enjoy this blog post about Audre and her intellectual work.

    

What Judging my Hair Says about You

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: Carrie Mae Weems

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

 bell hooks

If you are a woman of color, no matter how you style your hair, someone will be offended. Rock a perm? You have no idea who you are. Love your weaves? Well, you just don’t love your hair. Embrace your natural hair texture? Some women and men of color label it as unattractive. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on women of color and our hair.

This topic remains a staple in conversations with my girlfriends, Mom, co-workers, and of course at beauty salons across America, and no doubt, around the world. Countless books by renowned authors such as bell hooks, and profound visual artists like Carrie Mae Weems address how beauty for women of color is defined in a Eurocenteric and patriarchal culture.

The Afrocentric among us view loving our natural hair as a panacea to the lack of self love. If we begin by understanding history, and reject the chains of self hatred, we can change so much in our community, they proclaim.

Folks on the other side of the argument articulate, at times, a kind of historical amnesia. It’s just hair, they scream. How I choose to wear my hair has little to do with white supremacy, racism, capitalism, or any other ism. This of course ignores the real impact of colonization on the collective psyches of people of color.

Still, for me, both of these perceptions are somewhat limited; human nature and our view of ourselves is richly complex with multiple layers. Any kind of fundamentalism, which by its nature must define one or several kinds of behaviors as wrong, limits our humanity and freedom to empathize with others.

When you place me in a box, because I do not adhere to your myopic definition of beauty or self acceptance, you speak volumes about yourself, and a need to define an “other” as inferior to your “enlightened state.”

We are all on a journey of self love, whether you are walking along that road with an Afro or weave, it remains a journey none the less. My way is not your way, but why is that wrong? Rants never produce more understanding, only greater division.

Live In Color – Emelda

Photo Credit: Emelda  De Coteau
Photo Credit: Emelda
De Coteau