Dr. King, The Revolutionary – Why We Need His Thoughts Now More Than Ever 

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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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Americans like our leaders sanitized, captured in Pinterest quotes and witty tweets. We teach kids to swallow comfortable myths about historical figures, instead of thinking outside the box. But now in the age of Google, you and I can seek different narratives, rediscovering these men and women in the fullness of their humanity, not reduced to occasional  sound bites.

This is how I fell in love with Dr. King, the revolutionary. There I sat as the sun illuminated my childhood bedroom, tears streaming, college textbooks thrown haphazardly on the dresser, as I read what I believe is his greatest speech at the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, “Beyond Vietnam – A  Time to Break Silence.”

I remember running excitedly to my mother’s room that day, “Mom, listen to what he said!” ” Yes,” she shook her head calmly, smiling, after I finished. “I know.” Of course she did; she lived through all of it, and I didn’t. And yet as much as she told us about Dr. King growing up, there reading his words, I discovered him for myself, anew – a man  deeply committed to revolution, such a radical and courageous way of being in the world.

Friday, as Trump was sworn into office, I thought of that day I sat enraptured by King’s words. How tragic is it that we are content to reduce his legacy and vision solely to the “I Have a Dream” speech? Perhaps its because doing so makes us feel better about upholding this illusion of “colorblindness?” 

I mean, if Dr. King said we should not judge by skin color, but instead look at the content of character, well, those people caught up in our massive prison industrial complex, and oppressed by economic and educational inequality, have all brought it on themselves. This perspective completely absolves us from questioning how systems, laws and institutions are designed to oppress whole segments of American society.

Questioning the status quo takes courage; most people are drawn to the comfort of denial.  Dr. King challenged not merely the government, but intersecting forces of domination – economic and social, militarism, our way of seeing one another. He understood the path forward meant transformation from within, and a revolution of values:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies… True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. 

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.” 

Across the world people are waking up and they are resisting…

Not one of us knows what will happen during the next four years, but we can choose to cultivate values which take root in our hearts. We must begin to see one another in radical love, understanding there are commonalities within our struggles, while not denying the uniqueness of our truths.  

Perhaps in an odd way, the ascension of Trump is an advantage. It is giving rise to voices which have remained silent for far too long, and causing us to question the values in our society. But the even deeper and far reaching question is
this: How do we show up in everyday life? Is it with a heart of compassion, or one so hardened by our own pain that we cannot see ourselves in another living being?

Now, more than ever, we must become clear about what we value, so we can sow seeds of compassion and light, as we resist the toxicity of:

hatred

racism

patriarchy and white supremacy

homophobia / transphobia / xenophobia

social and economic equality

 

Further Reading:

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Michelle Alexander

 

Who are you all reading these days? What are you doing in your community to sow seeds of understanding and love?

 

Why My Word for 2017 is Rest 

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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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I fight sadness with busyness. There, I admitted it to you and myself. Somehow hurt seems to evaporate for me, even if only momentarily, under a mountain of to-do lists and phone alerts, that is until the pain catches up to me. And it always does…

No one talks about rest. Everyone I know is hustling, striving, pushing to arrive at the next level. I am not saying ambition is bad, but when it slowly robs you of peace, surrending to moments of stillness heals – even a few minutes alone each day, practicing deep breathing, slows the pace of frantic days.

For the past few years I chose a word to guide me annually. As my relationship with God grows, I now pray for direction in this regard; last year I heard breakthrough. In 2017, I hear REST.

Sounds rather dull, huh? Not quite as epic as breakthrough, and yet it is subtle in its depth. Rest not from a standpoint of passiveness, but standing within my faith, accepting the radical love of Christ, and the flow of grace I experience while reading the Bible, couched in verses like Psalm 46:5: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

If you know me, you understand I am a doer, often juggling multiple projects. Rest? What’s that? I want to do it all and solve problems.

I carry the weight of my own struggles,  along with a deep commitment to social justice. I cannot afford to become still. And yet God is saying draw closer, rest in me, take your eyes off the problems and confess my promises. Each day, I am learning to listen intentionally, as I meditate on this powerful verse:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

Do you have a word for this year? How did you come to it – through prayer, mediation, journaling, etc.? I want to hear all about it in the comments below!

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

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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