As a black woman, I’ve been fighting to be seen, valued, and heard all of my life. As a child, I was abandoned by my father. I was raised by a mother that longed to be seen, valued, and heard, and because she was so narrowly focused on getting her own needs met, she completely ignored mine. I quickly learned that in order to get any attention, I had to take action to be more, do more, and accomplish more. It wasn’t enough to just be, and I would never be seen, valued, or heard by just existing. That conditioning led to years of pouring out my energy, time, and potential into people in hopes that they would eventually see, hear, and value me. The energetic effects of being in a constant state of giving are more than depleting. It sucks the life force energy out of you. No one should have to fight to be seen, valued, or heard, but that is too often the case for many of us.

Family and relationship dynamics are complex. It is safe to say that people of all backgrounds and cultures fight to be seen, valued, and heard in their homes. For BIPOC, especially black women, we fight to be seen, valued, and heard in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work, in our doctor’s offices, in politics, in our communities, by our leaders, by decision-makers, and by our loved ones. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of fighting.

The greatest obstacle to making any type of meaningful change, the type of change that has the potential to have lasting effects and enhance the life experience for generations to come, is the one you have to overcome in your own house. For me, that obstacle was acknowledging and accepting that I was never going to be fully seen, valued, or heard by the people that I loved, but I had the power and potential to change that narrative for my kids. By healing my heart, my wounds, and my trauma, I could create a safe environment for my children to feel seen, heard, and valued simply because they exist. I knew that any positive change in me would ripple out and have lasting effects on my kids, the next generation.

Too often, we give our power away to the same broken systems in hopes that some external force or being will change it. Very rarely do we look in the mirror and ask how we can create change ourselves. We avoid the hard conversations. We avoid doing the work. We avoid going against momma’s “truths.” We avoid being accountable. We avoid doing anything differently. How can anything change if no one wants to do anything differently?

The truth is that any meaningful, lasting change has to begin with YOU. You have the power to do it differently than those that came before you. No longer do you have to subscribe to an outdated belief system. It is not enough to merely survive on the same ideals of those that came before you. It is your responsibility to create more space, freedom, and opportunity for the next generation to thrive.

Here’s what that means:

White/Non-BIPOC: It is your responsibility to educate yourself, your children, and your community on the long history of racism in the U.S. It is not enough to say you aren’t racist. You have to acknowledge and understand how you benefit from the system so that you can educate yourself and your kids on how to dismantle it. Teach your kids empathy. Teach them to listen. Teach them that the world is full of voices other than theirs. Diversify your circle, office, church, media, spending, school, and clubs. Surround yourself with people, ideas, art, and voices that are different from your own. LISTEN TO THEM. Listen to understand, not to defend your position. Start having the hard, uncomfortable conversations that you’ve been avoiding.

BIPOC: We must focus our energy on HEALING. We have a long history of trauma. We grow up in households that breed dysfunction and kill our potential. We are taught not to discuss our feelings, needs, and pain. We must take a look in the mirror and see how we cultivate toxic home environments that diminish the people in them. How we don’t equip our kids with the tools to own and step into their power. How we feed our youth into a system that devours them. How we poison our own people with images and false narratives that wealth is the only goal. How we don’t listen. How we abandon ourselves and the people we love. WE MUST HEAL. When we heal, we make space for our kids to feel seen, heard, and valued at home. This empowers them to grow into adults that believe in their own potential.

At a basic human level, we all just want to be seen, valued, and heard-to know that we matter in this world. I don’t have any answers. All I can do is acknowledge and share how I feel in hopes that it inspires someone else to SHOW up to do the work. If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to start at home. Dismantle the oppression that begins there.

With Love, Ashley B.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive.”

~Maya Angelou