Choose Freedom Over Comfort

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: Emelda  De Coteau
Photo credit: Emelda
De Coteau
In each of our lives, there is a distinct moment when we choose between the certainty of fear or invigorating freedom. Earlier this year, sitting in an office, alone, cloaked in deafening silence, I learned about the power of choice.

God has a way of extricating noise from our lives, past priorities become irrelevant; clarity, I believe, is the root of freedom. Without it distractions imprison us and liberation becomes an illusion, a mirage in the dizzying mundaness of life.

Years ago, I discovered Pamela Sneed, a talented poet and actor whose arresting book title, Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery?, peaks out from my mahogany stained bookcase, an ever present challenge.

Far too many of us convince ourselves these chains are necessary, the standard rite of passage into adulthood. Everyone treks to jobs they hate, right? We live for the weekends, and grudgingly endure the weeks. I did it for years.

Others were far more deserving than me of happiness, I told myself; they were smarter, prettier, bolder… I dreamed big, but took small actions. Afraid of freedom, yet desperate to soar.

Then my choice presented itself one afternoon. I could stand in the smallness of convention, holding fast to others opinions, their direction for me, or I could embrace new possibilities, in spite of fear and those insistent voices of defeat and doubt. I started a new journey in that moment.

Each day God teaches me this is a journey of surrender. It’s an arduous concept to wrestle with because on the surface it sounds like giving up, but in actuality its the opposite. Peace emerges in this quiet place, there is no room for superficial markers of self, only authenticity.

Several weeks ago I came across a C.S. Lewis quote, an ever-present reminder that we must remain wiling to abandon ourselves, or who we think we are in order to live fully, submitting to  communion with God.

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Reexaminig our lives is messy, and at times confusing, but without this courageous action, we are sleep walking, living a life unworthy of our potential.

Lessons from my Obsession with Beyoncé by Shannon-Eli Braxton

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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Beyonce and Jay-Z in Cuba
Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Cuba

For several months this year, I’ve been obsessed with Beyoncé.  If there was a new picture of her, I had to see it. A new YouTube video, I had to watch it. But as spring started to bloom and the winter chill lifted, I noticed my obsession was making me depressed.

Though I would never admit this to anyone, I didn’t just want to see Beyoncé,  I wanted to be Beyoncé.  I kept trying to talk some sense into myself, reminding myself that no one has a perfect life no matter how perfect it may look online, on TV and in magazines. Then she went to Cuba and wore the cutest outfit EVER!

My next strategy was to harshly judge her lack of modesty. “I would never wear such revealing clothes.” And, “How could she promote the objectification of women after all we have to fight for?!” But that didn’t work either. Just when I thought I was over her, she became the spokes model for H&M, released a song called “Bow Down” and dyed her hair jet black.

So, a few weeks ago, as I sat staring at her latest citing, I whispered a confession to my co-worker; “Dan,” I said, “I’m really jealous of Beyoncé; she has the perfect life and no matter how hard I look for some proof of human flaws, I find none.”

In comes divine intervention…

Photo Credit:: Shannon Braxton
Photo Credit: Shannon Eli Braxton

Last Sunday afternoon my mother sent me a text that said, “The intersection of Park Avenue and Lexington Street is being named after your great grandmother today at 3pm.” Why she waited to tell me this and only gave me 2 hours notice, I wasn’t sure. Still, I headed to the street naming ceremony.

My great grandmother, Vashti Turley Murphy, was an activist for women’s rights and the co-founder of a large sorority with a mission to create equality, Delta Sigma Theta Soroity, Inc.

I grew up celebrated for being the descendant of civil rights leaders. Quite frankly, I never really thought it was that big of a deal. I mean, her accomplishments happened so long ago; I could never understand why people wanted to take so many pictures of me, her great granddaughter who was obsessed with Beyoncé.

Then, as if great grandma herself descended from heaven and disconnected my Internet, I got it. I totally got it. While members of Delta Sigma Theta encircled my family and guests, holding up pictures of young black women behind bars and groups of women standing in the cold with protest signs, a message became clear.

And as if those images weren’t touching enough, one of the oldest members of the sorority  stood behind the mic and asked, “What will YOU do to continue the legacy, and keep the civil right movement alive?”

After the ceremony, our family marched to see the unveiling of the sign and my life completely changed. What really matters is not Beyoncé, being pretty, funny or popular.  What matters is becoming a part of the solution for our world’s problems. It matters so much that only people who make huge contributions to creating a better society become immortal celebrities.

Not to diss Beyoncé, she is one of the greatest performers of all time, but all the booty shaking in the world ain’t gonna get a street named after you.  My new obsession is my
nonprofit to end the harassment of women. Please follow the movement: Help Stop Street Harassment.

Listen to the Poets

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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More than ever, particularly during this time of economic turmoil and militarism, our hearts must remain open to the poets. Some whisper, others yell and scream; many are challenging us to re-examine normality and look deeply at the world around us.

Public domain photograph of Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman, widely considered one of the great American poets, absorbed the complexity and beauty of New York City by simply walking. His groundbreaking slim volume of poetry, Leaves of Grass, is a testament to this boundless curiosity about those around him – celebrated and anonymous, wealthy and poor, artists and everyday working people. For an artist sees the world not merely as it appears, but as it does not.

Like Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks drew inspiration from sidewalks and city streets. Brooks once said, “If you wanted a poem, you had only look out of a window. There was material always walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing.” Within “Kitchenette Building” from her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, she wrote:

“We are the things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, Grayed in, and gray. ‘

During an address at Mt. Holyoke College in 1978, Audre Lorde, brilliant poet, essayist, activist said: “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” When I become despondent or reflective, poetry becomes my solace, and reminds me to awaken. Yet it exists not only in words, but through mundane motion, rhythmic speech, the innocuous laugh of a child, or the subtle patter of rain drops against a window. Poetry is powerful because it is tangible, palpable and relevant.

Photo by Heather Conley

The poet Ai introduced us to countless characters – wounded, conflicted and complex. Like all moving poetry, her work forces audiences to confront what is easier to ignore, such as “Riot Act, April 29, 1992” (partially included below):

I’m going out and get something.

I don’t know what.
I don’t care.
Whatever’s out there, I’m going to get it.
Look in those shop windows at boxes
and boxes of Reeboks and Nikes
to make me fly through the air
like Michael Jordan
like Magic.
While I’m up there, I see Spike Lee.
Looks like he’s flying too
straight through the glass
that separates me
from the virtual reality
I watch everyday on TV.

Lucille Clifton, another prolific voice, listened and watched intently, too. Her poem “The Killing of the Trees” questions why we do not value living beings – particularly those who do not look like us. Its message lingers long after the words end.

Poets also draw on the evolving nature of human perception. Rabindranath Tagore, playwright, poet, novelist, musician, and painter, left us with three sentences whose truth is arresting: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Pushing us beyond the boundaries of formulaic thought and convention, the greatest poets provide subtle beauty, light and compassion. They have so much to tell us, if we will only listen.