Happy Fathers’ Day!

I’ve been blessed to have the most amazmeanddading man to call “Dad” and I am so blessed that my daughter will be able to say the same thing about her own dad, my husband, one day. They both are the definition of ‘selfless,’ always putting their daughters first and doing everything they can to make sure they are happy, healthy, and invested in emotionally and intellectually. As an adult – and now a parent myself – I have hindsight and appreciation for all that my father did for me growing up and even now. Having him as an example meant knowing a real man when I found one and marrying beyond well.

Watching my husband interact with our daughter now, I revel in the closeness they share – the silly moments, the caring cuddles and kisses, the piggyback rides, the tickle wars, the silly inside jokes. At just three-and-a-half years old, I can already see how her closeness with her daddy will only grow and how I have (God willing) many, many years ahead to watch their relationship unfold from a front row seat. It’s humbling and beautiful and I am honored by the blessing, truly.

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Fathers hold a special place in our families and today we honor all the great ones on this great day. I know the two in my life deserve all the praise!

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Love,

El

Parenting at The Polls

Standing in line to early vote today, I turned to my husband and noted, “You know? This is her third time voting in her two and a half years on this earth.” Her would be our daughter, Emmanuelle. She doesn’t let us call her “Emmy” anymore. She’s way too mature for that, it seems 🙂

With the exception of voting in the primaries (which I do, but my husband doesn’t since he votes independently of party lines), we always go to the polling places together as a family and exercise our civil liberties. Of course, I think of the African American freedom fighters before me who helped secure our right to take part in these elections, but I also think of my daughter’s generation and the generations to come.

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As a woman, I also feel that it is my responsibility to be a good role model for other young ladies when it comes to practicing my civic duty and that that starts at home, with my own child. There are so many issues that affect us as women today that we need to take a stand on, lest someone else does – and by ‘someone,’ I mean someMEN.

When you vote this year, I encourage you to bring a young person along – be it your own child or a neighbor or a family friend. Explain to them what the process of voting looks like, what research you did into the candidates and referendum on the ballots beforehand, and why you feel the way you do on whatever topics you feel strongly about. Encourage questions and dialogue and be open to educating and being educated. Who knows when a question can turn into more.

Happy Voting!

Love,
El

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Beautiful

Growing up, I was the only black kid in my class – from 1st grade through 8th. Actually, I was the only Person of Color period (save for when when one other black student came and left for a year in 4th grade and another came and left during 7th grade).

My class was small – just 17 to 18 students at one time – and my classmates were nice. The class was too small to not all be friends, really, so by and large, it was fine – except the feeling of being “other.”

The questions I would get were the isolating factors.only-black-kid-in-class

“Why is your hair like that?”

“Why are your lips so big?”

“Why is your butt so big?”

“Do you tan?”

All questions I was asked repeatedly over the years. The problem was not only with the questions, but with my lack of answers – not for them, but for myself.

Because I did not see myself reflected in my immediate environment, my child mind did wonder:

“Why IS my hair like this?”

“Why can’t my lips be smaller?”

“Why do I have a booty already and curves when the other girls don’t?”

At least I understood that I do tan – and burn, even. So, I guess there’s that.

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As confident as I was – and I was confident, being the top of my class and super outgoing and involved with everything – my insecurities about my racial identity were rooted solely in the fact that I saw very little positive imagery of blackness around me save for my own outside circle of friends and family.

TV shows weren’t showing it. TV News surely wasn’t. And the books I read all had white protagonists for the most part. People of Color – especially children- were largely depicted in unflattering ways if depicted at all.

In high school, there were more Black people and now finally Hispanic and Asian as well, which was refreshing. There still weren’t a lot at my school, but I was happy to finally not be the “only anything” in class. High School and beyond was really when I felt the coming of me – bold, challenging, assertive, and no longer insecure about my own personal pride or beauty.

I made a couple promises to my future self at that time as well, recommitting to those promises again in college, and again post college as a young working woman, and yet again as a wife and mother.

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Those promises included making sure that my future children went to a school that was culturally and racially diverse, as well as being top-performing academically. I vowed that my children would never be the “only anything” in school and that any school that they went to would be representative of the United States at large. If the Black population of the nation was at 13%, then the school’s student body population would have to be at least that too.

The second promise I made to my future self was to bombard my children with positive imagery of their strength and beauty as Black people from infancy. I mean, I was reading children’s books with black protagonists to my baby when she was still in the womb and had an entire library of said books on the shelves before she even came home from the hospital. Beyond that, at this age – almost three – when her concept of beauty and self is still just forming – I make sure that all of her dolls are Black as well. While I truly believe all people on this planet are indeed beautiful and all women in particular should be celebrated, there’s such a lack of appreciation for Black women and girls’ beauty in this world, I want her perception of beauty to be planted early and by ME, not by what she will see in most TV commercials, movies, books, toys, games, etc. etc. Eventually, as she gets older, I am sure that my daughter will have a whole beautiful rainbow of colors from the palest white to the deepest hue of black, but for now – it’s all about the Black dolls alone.

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I was so happy to come across Malaville Dolls yesterday – a line of fashion dolls in the vein of Barbie, but that celebrates black features, including big, fabulous afros and coily curls galore. Made in South Africa, the dolls ship all over the world for a $28 shipping fee and come in at just $20 a pop. I bought two yesterday as presents for my daughter and will buy more as they become available if my daughter enjoys them, which I feel like she will. I was never big on dolls, but my daughter? That’s another story! lol!

I am so happy that dolls like these and hashtags like #blackgirlmagic are investing in all of our children and teaching them that Black is indeed Beautiful and shouldn’t be maligned.  I am also happy to see my white friends and other POC take to the dolls as well for their children, which is heartwarming and necessary too, and helps to balance out the singular image of beauty that we see for the most part. Kudos to them! It’s tough to think outside of your own experiences sometimes and parents who do this do just that. These movements of self love and these parents who embrace the universal beauty of all people, make it just that much easier for me to raise my daughter as the gorgeous little miracle she is, brown-skinned and coily, curly hair like her mom and maybe even her own child one day down the line…

Check out this video from NowThis about the Malaville Dolls and don’t forget to buy them online at malaville-toys.myshopify.com for you and the children in your life!

Love,

El

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Being a Better Friend

Married people at times, especially happily married people, can make very crummy friends. It’s true. I’m guilty!

We don’t mean it. It’s just that you get caught up with the day-to-day hustle and bustle of managing work, home, and just basic survival and your friendships start to sustain by text messages and Facebook. You feel like you caught up with your friends, but you really haven’t. Maybe you haven’t talked to them in several months. Maybe you haven’t really talked to them in a year!

Last week, I had the opportunity to catch up with a dear friend of mine, Imani, whom I hadn’t seen in about that long. My daughter’s godmother wanted her overnight, so I thought it would make for a great date night for me and the hubs. Only, my husband had a reunion with his frat brothers on the books that slipped his mind, so I quickly realized I would have no hubby and no baby for an evening. It hasn’t been that way in ages! vibetribe

I reached out to Imani, and, like the beautiful, awesome woman that she is, she didn’t make me feel guilty for not reaching out sooner or with more regularity. Instead, she was the sweetest and most gracious friend I could have asked for, making time to meet in the midst of her own uber busy week so that we wouldn’t miss each other again.

We had great conversation, thoughtful differences of opinion, and more times than not, just good, symbiotic vibing! That one night out with my girl reminded me of how much my friends matter and how we have to make time for ALL THE PEOPLE who count.

friendstarIt’s easy to put family first – as we should. No one would challenge that. However – it is important to put friends up there too. Friends understand us in a different way than our spouses even… not better, but different. There’s a comfort in these relationships that is akin to a sisterhood or brotherhood, meaning it needs to be invested in and nurtured as well. The only way to do that is time – true, quality time. Sure, make time to talk and text and facebook or whatever, but do more – meet, greet, have girls’ night, guys’ night, etc.

I am making a commitment to myself and to my friends to just be a better friend. I am sooooooo very blessed to have these people in my life – people who know and love and support me whether it’s that they see me all the time or hardly at all. That is a gift and one not to be taken for granted.

Love,

El

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