Last week, we received a lovely comment from our friend & TBP photographer Elisabeth Michel about the power of posting these beautiful #dearblackgirl letters at the start of every week. She said that the letters are inspiring and great ways to reinvigorate our passions. We wholeheartedly agree. This week’s letter is penned by the lovely Lenora Helm Hammonds who is a jazz musician from Chicago. In this letter, Mrs. Hammonds shares so many jewels of wisdom. Read it, send it to the girls and women in your life, bookmark it for times you need a reminder that you have permission to be. Thank you Lenora, for sharing your insight with us and taking up your pen!
Dear Black Girl,
I offer you this letter as a salve for your soul’s journey. I bear these words as gifts from my journey, and trust that the fragrance of these words will be sweet–though sometimes bittersweet–and that your road will be less arduous and all the more richer for this sharing. I hope you will receive it with the compassion and love with which it was written. Writing you this letter was the first time I had to think about giving a young woman advice about what it means to be a Black Girl. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for reading.
My parents taught me to love God and respect myself and others, and what it means to love your Blackness. In doing so, they taught me how to maintain my dignity in any situation. This covered me and undergirded me when I grew old enough to see and feel how fiercely the forces in the world, that won’t see you as other than Black, will attempt to deny your womanhood, lie to you about your even deserving girlhood and even your utter Goddess-ness.
You are beautiful, infinitely powerful and amazing. No one is quite like you. You have permission to be. There is no need to wait for the permission from others. God granted this for you already. Be Bold. Choose Truthfulness and Gentleness. You will need many tools to develop the wisdom to build the capacity to have a life well lived. If I had to choose the tools most useful to my journey they would be Intention, Discernment and Courage.
You will not have to find a job if you seek to serve humanity with your innate gifts. You may have many gifts, but only one True Purpose. Allow your True Purpose to be fully expressed; you will find it through that which brings you the deepest joy. My art, my music, found me at 8 years old. I dreamed a big dream and refused to hear anyone who said “no” to that dream. (Anyone who is a non-believer in your dream will either eat you whole, or be removed from your life by you or God or both. Discernment will help with this) Music is where I found a place to be a Black Girl who could serve and teach. We are all artists in some way. Find the artist in you.
Learn how to laugh, out loud and hard. Learn how to dance, sing, and express your joy and sorrow. Run in the sun, and splash your feet in the mud. Be nine years old whenever it is necessary. Eat your dessert first. Embrace challenges. Be fearless!
By God’s grace I managed to emerge whole from a chilling number of narrow brushes with death; everything from swallowing an entire bottle of baby aspirin at the age of six, to two head-on car crashes to surviving a high-rise elevator fire and being pulled out by the jaws of life, to being hospitalized with meningitis. Healing a broken heart, grieving the lost of two unborn children and the death of both my parents I thought would kill me for sure. All of these experiences bought me to one the true understanding of Intention. God had an Intention for my life, and I could come to understand this fact only if I had the Courage to pay attention, and to ask for gift of Discernment to know clearly what that Intention was. God has an Intention for your life, and you only need to ask for the Courage to develop the Discernment to see it and grant yourself permission to see it.
Many times you will doubt your very existence. This is normal and very human. If you cleave close to the Creator, you will become aware of the answers you seek; they are already there, on your shoulder, like an elegant butterfly, your Spirit Guide. These answers are available in the Stillness, they are not in the busyness, so youmust come to know the power of meditation and prayer. You must learn to know God for yourself.
When I made the mistake of using any person or circumstance as the axis around which my life would turn, I would hit a wall. This will feel like someone took the rug out from under you and you were asleep at the wheel of your life. It could be something that seems to come out of nowhere and knock the wind out of you. (By the way, nothing comes out of nowhere. You create your Life). This will be your clue that you have become disconnected from Source. At these moments, be still, find your Courage, seek the Intention revealing itself amidst the circumstances, and peel away any emotional, physical and mental scaffolding (read: B.S.) preventing Discernment.
The door to Intention, Discernment and Courage is personal development. Burrow a tunnel into the deepest recesses of your heart. Get a Ph.D. in the subject called You. Know who you are so you can express yourself unapologetically. Dig up your mother’s, grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s gardens. They had dreams too. Did they find them? Answer those questions for yourself, and compare how you saw them when you were younger. The questions will alarm you and be a clear path to understand Discernment on a visceral level. Find your questions by looking into every crevice of your Spirit that may be hiding underneath. Honor those things that people may point out as flaws. Dogs don’t bark at parked cars, so your critics are evidence that you are traveling to your True North. People will show you who they are, and you must believe them the first time. The only two questions to ask yourself after you encounter disappointment or heartbreak is, 1) “Are you surprised?”, and 2) “What did you learn?” We are incredibly intuitive. If you are surprised, you perhaps didn’t pay attention, or lied to yourself. Then take a tally on what you learned.
Men. They join your life, not the other way around. Until you learn that, you will always have man trouble. Some will try to swallow you whole. Some will honor you as a precious queen. But only when you decide that you are already complete. When I learned these lessons about men, my real husband showed up. He is my greatest blessing and my deepest joy.
Friends. Be a friend to yourself first, and you will teach your friends how you to treat you, and you will know how to best treat others. You will not want to keep friends who don’t treat themselves well, or insist that you fix them or keep them comfortable. It will be hard to recognize this distinction but if you observe and don’t transfer your expectations of them to the relationship, this truth will reveal itself.
Family. They will be both a source of great happiness and great despair. We don’t choose family, (including children) only our response to them. Again, Discernment, Courage and Intention will be the doors for managing these important relationships. Your tribe shapes you in your early years, and some of this shaping takes years to undo. This is why personal development will be the difference between success and failure as you navigate your opportunities. God gives you the key to mastery when you arrive and your lifetime is spent learning to believe that you have that key in your hand.
Good luck. I love you.
Lenora Helm Hammonds
Lenora Helm Hammonds is a Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Jazz Musician, Music Professor, Composer. She is from Chicago, Illinois and is 54 years old.