Birthday letter to my brown son.

Happy Birthday sweet 16th Lee!

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I am so proud of you. You have accomplished so much in your short 16 years on this Earth.

I hope I have not failed you by teaching you skin color doesn’t matter. I fear I’ve been naive and I haven’t prepared you for this current racial chaos.  Skin color does matter, and I struggle with feeding you the narrative that it doesn’t.

Who would’ve ever predicted 16 years ago that today we’d still be living in a racially charged climate ? I’m sorry you’ll have to work so hard to prove your intelligence and worth–perhaps even your humanity– because of the brown skin that houses your intellect and heart. We’ve tried to equip you with tools for success, regardless of race. But we’ve also coached you on society’s unwritten rules for black men. What you should and shouldn’t wear, how to show respect, how to conduct yourselves with dignity, and how to speak properly and confidently.


People will judge you based on these elements, and it could mean the difference between life and death for you.


I’ve never pretended that racism doesn’t exist. I’ve felt its sting.  I know humiliation. We all have prejudices. It’s part of our humanness. But know this: You can’t allow the actions of a few to color your view of the whole world.

You’ve faced discrimination in your own family so you know you’re not immune to it. The devastating stories we’ve seen in the media could’ve just as easily been about you, and your name could have become a hashtag to remind us of some horrible incident.

As your mother, I’m compelled to help you make sense of this craziness.In spite of what you see or hear, all white people aren’t “the enemy.” Don’t let anyone convince you they are. It’s simply not true. Know history, but don’t let it cripple you. A victim mentality will limit you economically and emotionally.


I wish I could return you to the womb, to warmth and safety. But I can’t. This has to be your experience. Your story to tell. Make no mistake about where I stand. First, you’re responsible for yourselves, your family. Second, you’re bound by the rules of society and law. I know you’ll respect that. I’ve raised you to be a man of character and integrity.


Most police officers want to help you. Be wise and remember what we’ve taught you. If the police pull you over, respect them. They deserve it. Comply with their wishes and pray it will be ok. If it doesn’t, I hope I’ve armed you with the tools to fight ignorance with grace.

Live without fear, but be aware of your surroundings.Even though you’ve heard this all before, I can’t risk leaving a stone unturned. You are too precious to me.

This is a low period in our country. This is not America at its best. But we still believe this is the best place in the world for you. As you transition become an adult, be beacons of hope & examples of what is best about America by treating everyone–regardless of race, social stature, or religious affiliation–with respect, compassion, and dignity.

I believe you will benefit by choosing content over skin color and love over hate. I couldn’t be prouder of the man you’re becoming. Allow others to see the fullness of America by being the best you can be.

Live strong, be safe.

Love you forever and always!

 

Your folding chair.

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When you feel unheard.

When you see someone disrespected or bullied.

When you see someone making you or anyone else feel small to make them feel bigger.

When you see someone shaming another. -


Pull out that folding chair.

Shirley Chrisholm, the trailblazing congress woman who was the FIRST African American woman in 1968 elected to the US House of Representatives when segregation had only ended four years earlier. The legalization of interracial marriage had JUST PASSED. She could have cowered away.  She could bit her tongue.

But instead she had the courage to stand up for what she believed in her heart was right.

We each have to ask ourselves...

Are we willing?

We WILL repeat what we don’t acknowledge.

Are you willing to bring out your folding chair even if it means you may make someone angry or feel uncomfortable?

That is the beautiful thing about this nation and what my husband and many of my friends risk their lives for as a part of the US military. The right to peacefully pull out our folding chair.

FUN-DAY

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Every once in a while it's nice to just take a step back from the serious stuff and get to know each other a bit, so here are 5 random things you probably don't know about me:

1) I love hostess cupcakes. (I could eat a whole box of cupcakes while binge watching Netflix)

2) Car dancing is a thing and I'm pretty good at it (but I'm really afraid that one day I'll be pulled over for speeding because my music was cranked up way too loud and I didn't pay attention to my speedometer)

3)I HATE country music with a purple passion. It actually makes me angry.

4) I hate wearing shoes. Especially ones I have to lace. I almost always just force my foot into the shoe without untying them.

5) I can't swim and I am deathly afraid of water.

Thanks for reading!

It’s okay

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I almost didn't choose this photo from my photoshoot

 

It was soft, quiet, and didn't have a power pose or large smile--anything that would shout: "I'm a confident cellist!"

 

But it's my absolute favorite photo from the shoot. Because it's the most vulnerable and real. It shows my love for this instrument.

 

The power of vulnerability and speaking my truth has been the only healing tool that has CONSISTENTLY moved me through moments that hurt my heart into moments that strengthen me. Vulnerability is that powerful 

It's okay to be frustrated

It's okay to feel ticked off and annoyed

It's okay to not immediately go into fix it mode

 

It's okay to feel sad

It's okay. It's okay. IT'S OKAY

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You don't have to immediately make lemonade from the fruit that this season bore for you--sometimes the bravest thing you can do is just feel it and witness it

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A season of okay is not enough to disrupt seasons of good and a lifetime of great for you --it'll pass ⚡️

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Believe me, it'll pass

What’s in a name?

Ylonda Navade Rosenthal-Greene

One of my best friends in college used to call me the "multi-cultural experience" because my name was culturally of all over the place.

From an EARLY AGE as a person of color raised in a predominately white neighborhood the greatest fascination was with my maiden name of Rosenthal. "How did your family get that name?" I would be asked at the beginning of the school year.

I could never answer that question.  I had no idea that Rosenthal was a "Jewish" last name. To me, it was just my name.


As the years went by and I married my Irish husband (Greene with an "E" at the end) I could not bring myself to drop Rosenthal.  Each time I tried to research on Ancestry I could only go back a few generations.  This is common for many people of color.  Because of slavery many had only first names and families were routinely separated.

Finally a few years ago a yoga student (Ted) overheard another student ask me where Rosenthal came from. Ted said, "Ylonda I would love to research your family and find out for you".

So the long pain staking process of research, DNA matching began.  He slowly put together an amazing picture.

Here it is: My father's side (The Rosenthals) were "ACQUIRED" as property (slaves) on a plantation in Alexandria LA.  We were listed on the same list as furniture, cattle and acres!

The plantation was bought by a Jewish man named Jonah Rosenthal in 1860.  Soon after buying the property, Jonah gave us a large amount of acres of this property, AND gave us his last name.  In 1865 slavery was abolished. Although slavery was against the law, many had no where to go and no education. If they did leave the plantation and were lucky enough to get a job they could not get loans to buy property. So the Rosenthal were very lucky to own land free and clear. We still have and live on this land.

I know we were very lucky. I will carry this name with pride. I understand and appreciate the sacrifice Jonah made.  My children have begged me to hyphenate their name too.  I have promised if they feel the same way at 18 years old we would agree. This picture is the first two black Rosenthal on record.

William & Ettie Rosenthal 

 

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What I Want

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This journal entry means a lot to me. I saw this quote somewhere last year and wanted to remember it. The difference between this time and last time is that I’ve seen the product. I re-read this journal entry as a challenge or “words to live by” for myself over that last year. Soon after I wrote this in my journal, i started seeing my life, my teaching, my confidence, and my relationships shift.So i’ll ask you... how different would your life be if you actually went after what you wanted? God is good, y’all. happy monday!

TRACEY’S CELLO

Last year I met a man, Peter Horn who was a violin maker. My children's school rents all their string instruments from him. I made the call to rent instruments for the kids. The first time we met, Peter told me that he lost his wife-the love of his life suddenly only six months prior. He showed me her picture and a picture of their two 16 yr. old twin boys. He also spoke about his daughter who has stepped into the family business to help since her mother's death and become a second mother to her brothers. He spoke of his entire family each time I saw him and how they were grieving deeply. 

It was clear to me that his family was full of love.

THEN

Sunday a student, introduced herself after class. She looked so familiar to me but I wasn't sure where I knew her. She told me that we had someone in common. Peter Horn was her father. I quickly realized her face was familiar because she looked EXACTLY like her mother from the pictures I saw. She told me that she followed me on IG, and knew I was a cellist and that I had a stroke two years ago. 

THEN she shared with me that her mother, Tracey was also a cellist and died suddenly of a stroke. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and continued to talk when she sent me these text messages in the pics below.

I have cried all week as I celebrated my 42nd birthday. Grateful to still be alive knowing that my life could have ended just as suddenly and tragically as Tracey's. I was lucky to still have the ability to tell my husband and children that I love them. •

I once asked someone the key to healing.

“You live,” this person said.

And that was it. No elaboration. No explanation of why. No telling me what that meant.

I didn’t understand it. I didn’t question it. I simply tucked it away. UNTIL NOW...I was walking out their meaning. I was becoming their definition. If I wanted the explanation, all I needed to do in that moment was look in the mirror. 

So I will play Tracey Rieman-Horn's cello and live for the both of us. I hope to help keep her love and memory alive. 

So much love to her family for trusting me with this beautiful gift.

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Happy Birthday To ME! 🎈

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Today I celebrate ME! The birth of Me! The person I have grown to be! The person I will become! The mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee; I am! I celebrate Me today!


I am grateful to God for the gift of this life. I know that I am blessed to be here on this Earth in this body and this life.


So...

Happy birthday to Me! I wish myself many more years of joy, love, laughter, health and prosperity. I wish myself strength and wisdom for days to come and success with everything I do today, and tomorrow! I can't wait to see what this year brings!


Photo Credit~ Thomas Sawyer