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

Why Leaving Our Cell Phones Home Some Days is a Good Thing

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: Greg Rakozy

“I imagine a world where we smile when we have low batteries, cause that will mean we’ll be one bar closer to humanity.”
– Prince EA, “Can We Autocorrect Humanity?”

The other day I left my house in a flurry, chasing a luxury which eludes me mostly (and many other women) –  a few hours for myself. Then I did something which is rare for this organized Mama – I left my cell phone home.

I panicked, y’all. You know the tense feeling that floods your gut, nearly overtaking you. Yep, there I sat, in rush hour traffic, praying for a red light so I could continue digging for my phone.

I remembered packing my Kindle, but soon discovered that battery was nearly dead, too. I know. I am an addict. Did I just type those words?

Finally, I made peace with the silence, and became present. No checking my apps or scanning for music. I simply sat, surrending to contemplation.

Funny thing happened along the drive to the salon… I noticed buildings previously ignored, rolled down my window and heard  the natural rhythmic movement of city life anew. Ideas for blog posts filtered in one after another – and all because I allowed my mind to rest.

Perhaps we should all leave our cell phones and mobile devices home more often; digital fatigue is real. And in many ways, friends, this push and pull to stay connected is changing us. Rest is becoming a mirage in a world obsessed with productivity and multitasking.

We fill our moments with checking emails and social media, jumping to answer text messages, and apologizing for late responses. Is it really that awful if we take a few days to reply to someone?

Spoken word artist Prince EA has a line from his song “Can we Auto Correct Humanity?” that comes to mind in this moment: “Did you know the average person spends four years of their life looking at a cell phone?”

Let’s take our years back now.

How Random Kindness Changed Our Lives In One Week

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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“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Ever travel with a spirited toddler? You know, the type who resists sitting still, sees life as one endless adventure, and is pratically swinging from the car seat with unbridled enthusiasm?  Yep, that would be our daughter Naima; those eyes, filled with ebullience and adventure widen exponentially at the thought of novel discoveries.

You can probably understand my bubbling apprehension when Mom and I decided to fly with her to Arizona for a few days. Oh yeah, full on stomach summersaults about everything from keeping her occupied to lugging a Britax carseat the size of another small child from layover to layover.

Well that Tuesday evening before we boarded our first plane, the miracle of kindness began to unfold. Complete strangers offered us help, often before we realized we needed it.

I am sure we were quite a sight, Mom and I, moving hurriedly, tightly grasping luggage, exhaustion showing on our faces.

When we arrived at the airport, a young airline worker in his twenties immediately  connected with us; we started to quickly explain we purchased our package online, and he calmly said, “I’ll take care of it for you.” He promptly checked us in without hesitation.

Not long after, making our way through the security check point, we turned around to see a young woman running behind us; she wanted to make sure Mom had her wallet which was left in one of the bins.

Remember that gigantic car seat I mentioned? Well on every flight (and we boarded four total), beautiful people helped us carry our carseat on and off the plane; it all started with a fellow Mom who sympathized  with me, “I know what it’s like to travel with a little one, “she said, her smile easy and instantly comforting. “We moved across country on a plane… I’ll  carry this seat on the plane for you.”

She urged Mom and I to move towards the front of the boarding line. “No, you guys are traveling with a small child, you should board now.” I would have hugged her if I were not holding Nai.

The phrase “random acts of kindness” is such a common way to describe what we experienced throughout our journey, but I don’t believe in random. I believe in purposeful.

It’s all connected, even if we cannot see it. God speaks to us through each life challenge, nudging us into a more complete trust.

Before we got to our last plane, we looked down at the boarding time on the tickets – less than 15 minutes to get to the next plane. The boarding gate felt as distant as China. Out of nowhere an airport worker, a Somali woman with skin the color of fresh toffee, said she would find someone with a golf cart.”You will never make it without help,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.

She called for one of her co-workers who drove a golf cart, and ferried other passengers to and from flights. Mom quickly hopped on with the luggage, and Naima and I ran behind.

At this age kids are delighted by the novel, what annoys us as adults is seen as a joyful play to them. So Naima squealed with delight as we jogged through the airport.

Miraculously we arrived in a few minutes, but had to get on the plane almost immediately. I panicked. How would we get Nai back on another plane so quickly without irritation? Mom and I began to argue. “Melda (one of her nicknames for me), she said, exasperated, “we cannot spend the night in the airport!” “But Nai has not eaten dinner,” I countered, no longer willing to mask my frustration.

“How can I help?”a man with a friendly face asked. Before we could fully digest this random blessing, this Delta pilot offered to buy us dinner, and make sure our seats were next to one another. There was such peace on our flight home, a tangible calmness enveloped us.

In the weeks since I have thought so much about kindness and how it manifests in our lives, particularly during times of fear and frustration. Ultimately kindness is courage, the determination to move from our own life experience and consider the needs of others. Only when we see with our heart, as God sees us, will we begin to embody authentic and radical love, the root of kindness.