Why Praying with Our Feet Matters More Than Ever

Follow Me:
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
Follow Me:
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

Why the #SayHerName Movement Matters

Follow Me:
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
Follow Me:
Why the #SayHerName Movement Matters
Cover of the #SayHerName report, African American Policy Forum

“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.”

― Audre Lorde

Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a beautiful 7-year-old girl with a soft smile and skin the color of copper,  loved Hannah Montana and Disney princesses. Yet we will never know the woman she would become. Five years ago, police entered her home searching for a murder suspect. In a matter of seconds, officer Joseph Weekly fired his gun, shooting the youngster as she lay sleeping underneath a blanket. Later Weekly insisted he did not realize his gun went off. Although indicted, he was later acquitted.

Did you know her story before reading this column? I certainly did not in 2010.  The cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and other black men make front page news (as they should), and ignite protests nationwide, but we hear little about police brutality and its impact on black women and girls.

While the now infamous image of officer Eric Casebolt with his knee lodged into 15-year-old Dajerria Becton’s back in McKinney, Texas is beginning to widen the conversation around police brutality, many people are ignorant about how this violence decimates the bodies and spirits of black women and girls.  You see, wearing skirts, lipstick or high heels does not protect us from structural racism.

Black Women and Girls Pushing For Change, a Long History

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Since the first Africans were brought to these shores and enslaved, black women and girls have stood up to systems of oppression, fighting behind the scenes for progress. From Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth to Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, and more recently Alicia Garza (one of the founders of #blacklivesmatter movement), there is a long history of black women actively resisting.

When Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others were murdered by police, again, black women and girls stood on the front lines, holding signs, organizing marches for days on end; the academics, writers and artists among us spoke to the palpable pain reverberating around this country in myriad ways. Three black women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, started the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on social media following George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin. As we all know, it’s since emerged as a rallying cry for changes in policing.

Yet when a sister dies, is injured or sexually assaulted at the hands of police, there is often deafening silence., If black lives matter, where is the collective outcry – the mass marches, vigils and viral posts on social media for women and girls who look like me? This apathy signifies the reality of living in a society which is resigned to view us through the narrow lens of nefarious stereotypes – super women incapable of feeling pain, angry, hyper-sexualized or unfeminine. Yet perhaps even more saddening (because, frankly, I expect this from mainstream America) is the unwillingness, by some within our own culture, to examine and call out sexism; this hesitancy seeks to erase the suffering of black women and girls, dishonoring the fullness of our humanity.

The Report – #SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women

Two months ago, the African-American Policy Forum, the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia University and Andrea Ritchie, Soros Justice Fellow and expert on policing of women and LGBT people of color released #SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women. According to the African-American Policy Forum’s website, this document focuses on the stories of Black women who have been killed by police, specifically calling out “the forms of police brutality often experienced by women such as sexual assault.”

“Although Black women are routinely killed, raped and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality,” said Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, Director of the African American Policy Forum and co-author of the brief. “Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.”

Why We Must #SayHerName – Honoring Humanity

Hundreds of  years ago freedom fighter Sojourner Truth asked “Ain’t I a woman?” In 2015, I say,  are we not human beings whose perspectives matter? We must name black women and girls across the spectrum of identities (heterosexual, LGBTQ, along with those who struggle with mental health issues and intellectual disabilities) within every sphere – public, private and online. Without proclaiming these authentic truths the struggle remains one dimensional, ultimately stifling a part of the community it seeks to liberate.

Calling the names of black women and girls, while actively listening to their stories, does not  divide our community along lines of gender, or dismiss the toxic racism black men confront daily. Instead, it’s an opportunity for our brothers to understand the unique ways we are affected by police brutality and various forms of assault. This is essential if we are to begin candid conversations which lead to collective healing. All of us wrestle with trauma in some capacity.

Black women are the backbones of our community, often heading households, juggling childcare with work and school. According to a recent documentary, 72% of homes are led by single mothers. Ignoring us, or pushing aside the validity of our experiences teaches black boys to disregard the voices of women and girls they see each day – their mothers, sisters, aunties, classmates, girlfriends and wives.

Each life is precious, our worth is immeasurable. Let’s not stifle the conversation through exclusion. Join me today in embracing an expansive truth that affirms the suffering of each individual, while seeing possibilities for deep empathy and radical love. We are here. We matter. And when you see us fully, you see yourselves.

I leave you all with a quote from the great thinker J. Krishnamurti about the power of connection: “Listening completely, without resistance, without any barrier is the miracle of explosion, shattering the known, and to listen to that explosion, without motive, without direction is to enter where thought and time cannot pursue. The seeing is not only with the brain, but also beyond it.”

Photo source: techonfleek.com
Note: This was originally published in July  for Beautifully Said magazine.