African and american

My little Habesha baby. There’s nothing I love more than seeing her twirl in her traditional clothing. She knows exactly who she is and where she comes from. That’s part of what makes her so confident in who she is.

I didn’t have that experience growing up as a light-skinned black girl with no connection to my ethnic background. I was asked many times “what I was” which is a not-so gentle question about what ethnicity I was.

Many people assume I’m Ethiopian now, and while I’m not by blood, many of you don’t know that I married into a beautiful, large, African family. Inheriting Ethiopian culture through my marriage is something I’m extremely grateful for. I had never been exposed to African traditions in a way that extended past reading about it in a history book.

Being African-American and being African and American are vastly different things. It’s largely due to the culture of each and what factors shape each culture.

Being “African-American” or black means your family members are descendants of Africa. The term “one-drop” has historically meant any trace of African lineage meant you would be considered black in this country. My family has been here for generations. Our African culture was almost completely wiped out with factors like American slave trade and the pressure to assimilate.

The aftermath of slavery left blacks with a pseudo shell of our bold African culture. Things like soul food, Baptist Christianity, the love of classic R&B music, and the innate social cue to assimilate or “blend in” is something many of us share. It is not common for black Americans to embrace strangers even if we share the same ethnicity and standing out will get you pushback even from your own family. Not being “accepted” is a common theme in a black American household.

Black Americans are plagued with traces of slavery. The biggest being the instilled mindset that some of us are “better” than others. That mindset breeds jealousy, hate, and toxic relationships between families and friends. That mindset also affects how we look at each other and support each other when one of us has a moment to shine. It is a problem I see time and time again at prominent universities like Hampton University and Howard University which I was a student at, and as an adult living in the outskirts of Washington DC.

In many ways Black culture lacks unquestionable loyalty that binds us. We could push each other so much further if our commonalities-the shared struggle of all of us facing discrimination-could connect us more than our differences separate us. We lack the instant brotherhood/sisterhood connection that is at the center of African culture.

Black Americans could do more to encourage each other instead of competing against another. In my eyes, if one of us is successful, it opens doors for more of us to be just as great. This is not to say that there is no value in black culture. We are strong and we are resilient. As a people, we have overcome lots of social challenges when we’ve come together to collectively work for the same causes.

My kids are both African-American and African. They are product of myself and my husband who is Ethiopian-American. His Ethiopian heritage is something he wears proudly and his family ties are incredibly strong. Most of all his family now resides here on the East coast but a few still live in Africa. The closest relatives of his in Africa are his two sisters, one lives in Ethiopia and the other in [one of my favorite places] South Africa.

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Over the last 10 years together, his Ethiopian family has taught me so much about Amharic language, the love of traditional food, festive parties that happen often, and treasuring deep, deep bonds that cannot be broken with time or age. The bonds are rooted in their love for their heritage which is something that connects them. I should say us now because I may not have been born Ethiopian but I have definitely been adopted into the culture.

Part of the “blending in” problem present in Black culture is the unfortunate reality of assuming traits of who you’re blending into. Black Americans emulated European society structure. By doing so, they hoped to assimilate into white neighborhoods. Mimicking the white-American mold to some was the only way to be able to provide for their families and move up on the social ladder. Saying so could be controversial, but I have core evidence to support why I feel this way.

For too long “black” was synonymous with things like “uneducated”, “ghetto”, “poor”, “second-class” and the ideology stuck. Not just to white Americans and non-African-Americans, but to black people too. To counter the stereotype, many families like mine, stuck to a rigid path to be considered acceptable in society. Their values include traditional avenues into adulthood like college and a job in corporate America. This is worked for a brief period of time to get my grandparent’s generation to get them out of poverty-stricken segregated suburbs and into gated communities like they live in now.

By doing so, my family’s lost pieces of our ancestry and lost our connection to African culture. My family raised me in all-white neighborhoods and named me Ashley. Needless to say, my family was far from wearing dashiki’s or embracing their African roots. Trying to get my black family to understand why it’s so important for me to root my kids in both cultures- African and American is difficult because they don’t understand African culture and don’t understand the significance of what our kids will learn about themselves by understanding their African heritage when that knowledge of heritage can offer them a deeper connection to their own identity.

I love and value both cultures and understand them deeply. I’m hoping that through learning about both cultures-both Ethiopian and Black American culture, my children will have a strong sense of self and appreciation for both cultures that shape who they are and that they can find a way to connect with all of the people they share common heritage with.

The identity of being an Ethiopian is so strong that even strangers are greeted like brothers and sisters. It’s a love like no other to be embraced by a kinsman or woman who doesn’t know you at all. The bond is just the common love of your heritage.

Terms

Habesha: Term to describe someone as Ethiopian or Eritrean.

Amharic: The official language spoken in Ethiopia

“One-Drop”: Prejudice American ideology that meant any amount of African bloodline means you’re considered black.

Black: Synonymous with African American

A. Cole
5 must go family-friendly spots in DC

My favorite memories as a child are going on awesome adventures with my mom. I know it sounds cliché, but Washington DC is still one of my favorite cities to explore because there is literally so much to do with your little ones. Besides the plethora of international food festivals and summer events going on, there are a ton of awesome places to go on family outings, many of which have free entry. Don’t worry if you have kids of different ages, these locations have things to see and explore for all ages! These are my 5 must see family-friendly spots to visit in the DC metro area.

  1. Smithsonian ‘National Zoo’

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Lions, hogs, and pandas? I’m sure if you’re a parent of a toddler, yo'u’ve “roared” a time or two with your kids. You can see lions and pandas up close at the National Zoo in safe exhibit viewing areas. The zoo is one of my favorite places for the whole family because the animals are interpreted differently by the whole family. Aria was soaking up all the information in the park “fact” signs for the first time which was really exciting! She used to only mock the animals and run around in the mist machines for fun. Make sure to bring $5 cash for the paper map so you can navigate your way around easily! Admission in the zoo is FREE. Take advantage of the open parking close to the entrances! More info.

3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

 

2. The Museum of Natural History: Wegman’s Wonderplace

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The Museum of Natural History is amazing! Besides the very well executed exhibits on the upper floors, this museum is home to two really fun activity centers. Wegman’s Wonderplace is an interactive play center for infants to kids 5 years old. Wonder place is great for kids who love play kitchens, puzzles, and a little bit of company to play with. The Q?irius center is a science lab for tweens and teens 11-15. They can view specimens under a microscope, solve challenging brain puzzles, and play interactive games on devices in the lab! Admission for this park is FREE. More info.

10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW  Washington, D.C. 20560

 

3. Dave & Buster’s Arcade

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Dave & Busters is a fan favorite in our house. The reason? My husband is pumped to play arcade games with me and the kids, especially Aria who has taken a liking to the bright lights and excitement of collecting tickets for a prize. Eat first! Their dining area is surprisingly kid-friendly and the food is really on point. You can “supercharge” your meal to add bonus tokens to your D & B card to play more games with. The best part of D & B is their prize room so the kids can take home a souvenir from their visit with us! Admission for the arcade is FREE. Food and games are NOT included. More info.

8661 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

 

4. United States Botanical Gardens

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The Botanical Garden is definitely in the running for the prettiest DC park, right behind the National Arboretum. The garden is full of plants from all biospheres and walking through it feels like a trip walking through all the seasons that are happening in one place. Ages 9+ can ask for a Junior Botanist Kit to spark their interest in gardening and plant life. The Children’s Garden is a place where small kids can plant real blooms and get hands on experience gardening from the pros. Admission for this park is FREE. More info.

United States Botanic Garden Conservatory
100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20001

 

5. National Museum of the American Indian

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The National Museum of the Native American is a little-known of gem in DC. American Indian culture is hardly touched on in American History so a trip through this place is fascinating to get a different perspective on American’s settlements and sections of tribes living throughout the country up until today. The coolest thing hidden in there is the imagiNATIONS Activity Center that has experiments and interactive activities you can play to learn about Native American culture including state-of-the-art simulation videos. Admission for this park is FREE. More info.

National Museum of the American Indian
National Mall
Fourth Street & Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20560


These adventures are where childhood memories are made! There are so many ways to explore the city in a new way now that a lot of us have children! There are a ton of free admission parks that you could easily pack lunches for if you wanted to skip the pricey cafeteria-style food & vending trucks for lunch. Be sure to take a lot of pictures, the last time we were with Aria at the National Zoo was when she was hardly older than Sire who’s now seven months. Time flies!

xo.

 
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Family

Those who play together, stay together. Get active with the kids outside of the house to make long-lasting family memories.

Podcast: Justice Makes A Difference
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Thank you so much for tuning into our brand new podcast for #diversebooks4diversekids.

This week we have a special podcast for our Instagram Giveaway winner, Dr. Artika Tyner. Her incredible book, Justice Makes A Difference, is about a brave little girl named Justice who is inspired to change her community by advocating for equality. Justice was inspired by inspiring leaders she read about in books given to her by her grandmother. Justice feels the pressure of bearing a name that has such an important meaning and seeking ways to find how she can make a difference as a little girl. She bravely chooses to become her own superhero in a fight for justice so she can uplift her community through social change.

Follow children's book author Dr. Artika Tyner on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

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Bravery

It takes a lot of courage to be a voice for your community. You can do your part by volunteering to help those less fortunate than you!

10 Common Reasons A Marriage Can Fail

Marriage is HARD AF. In my twenty-six years of life, I have done a lot of hard things between publishing books, naturally delivered two babies, and started a business, but nothing could compare to the ultimate life test which is marriage. Many of us seem to be in a rush to lock down our life partners to have the security of a committed partner, but if you think planning a wedding is hard, planning for a lifetime is a million times more difficult. 50% of all first-time marriages end in divorce but they all center around easy to identify problems. These are 10 common ways you could possibly kill your marriage.

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10. Don’t stop dating!

Ah, remember the days when you could run out together and get a bite to eat or go on a really dope adventure outside? Those are the moments that help keep you bonded together in friendship. Date nights are an absolute must because it’s your time to laugh and have fun together. Even if it takes some planning in advance between coordinating schedules or finding a sitter, find the time to do it once a week or at least twice a month, you’ll thank me later.

9. If you can’t compromise.

If you ask my husband, he’ll say “my wife is always right”. Cheeky, but true. Unfortunately, I am the harder one of us two to settle on a compromise. Compromise is important so both partners feel heard and no one constantly feels that their opinions or needs aren’t important. Compromising does NOT mean one person is always right! It just means you have to meet your spouse the middle.

8. You lie to your partner.

Lying is one sure way to set your marriage on fire. It doesn’t matter if the lie is big or small! Lies will come back to haunt you and you will make the problem worse if you lie to cover a lie. My truest and simplest advice on commutation is say what you mean, and mean what you say. Your partner always needs to have 100% confidence in you or your relationship will suffer from jealousy, resentment from your partner, and overall hostility between you both on a day-to-day basis.

7. Your life goals are unclear.

What am I working towards in life? What are we working towards in life? It is important to lay out your personal and joint goals to your partner so that you can hold yourself [and them] accountable for not doing their part. Set short and long term goals together so you can crush your goals instead of being upset that you are sitting on that dream, scrolling past your dream house you can't afford yet, or whatever else you aspire to do in life. These goals can change over time so when and if they do, be open about what your new aspirations are so both of you are on the same page.

6. You’re unwilling to change.

Life is full with unexpected challenges. It is impossible to stay the same person you were 10 years ago (I know) because the rest of the world is growing and changing everyday! Bad habits like having a hot temper or jealous streak can be hard to break but those habits are toxic and must be broken.

5. Emotional needs aren't met.

Communication is so important to communicate how we’re thinking or feeling. For a lot of men, connecting in this way is extremely hard and women get frustrated with their “robotic” and over-analytical personalities. Many lost marriages fall victim to lack of emotional fulfillment.

4. Finances fall on one.

Let’s face it, it is too damn expensive to afford many places in US, especially for a mid- sized family of four or more. It is extremely difficult to take on the burden of supporting a family alone. Having two incomes is helpful to avoid financial arguments and the strain feeling you’ll endure if one person is financing everything.

3. Poor attitude.

Bad attitudes are contagious and it’ll bring everyone around you down. Part of having a happier relationship is checking the attitude and ego at the door after a long day or a frustrating situation so your mood doesn’t affect your partner’s or family’s.

2. Meddling family members.

If it weren’t for those meddling family members! Some families over-protective anxieties and controlling behavior can infiltrate your marriage, especially if you seek advice from relatives who may not always be as forgiving of your partner as you are. Keep negative opinions of your partner and relationship out of your life!

  1. Infidelity.

    Marriage is a sacred bond between two people. Once you introduce anyone else in the mix, it’s the final blow and the beginning of the end. Marriages crumble to pieces without trust and intimacy with another is the ultimate betrayal.

At at the end of the day, my marriage is definitely not perfect. No marriage is perfect. My husband and I call our relationship #dailygrind because our relationship is a daily choice to prioritize each other and being excited about improving ourselves.

After almost ten years, Dez and I have been through heaps and bounds of obstacles which is a testimonial about what you can overcome together!

.xo

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Marriage is not for the weak.

A long-lasting marriage is no easy fete. You sign up for a daily commitment to be positively committed to your “teammate”.

A. Cole Comments
Getting 'Unstuck' From The Rut
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Here I am pulling myself out of the huge, gigantic, rut I’ve been sitting in for the past few months.

I used to have so much energy to actively snap pictures with thoughtful posts and the ability to write and edit children books for hours on end. Now, I find myself unable to write and unable to tune out all the noise and distractions in life to write anything at all.

I am a writer who has stopped writing altogether. Nothing could be more damaging to my professional skills and my sanity to stop doing what I love. Navigating life lately has been like sitting in a lifeboat on an ocean and each challenge has been a bigger wave that could take me under. As soon as I recovered from one wave, another was on the horizon.

Finally, the rocky waters cleared and it felt like I could breathe and recover when we finally moved out of my in-laws’ home. The pressure of trying to find a house, find a nanny, find a new school for Aria, establish Sire’s sleep schedule, make time for my new husband, manage the housework, keep a fridge full of food, spending time with the dogs, all while working full-time with NO vacation in sight was absolutely crippling. Even my outlet, writing, began to feel like a chore and God knows I already had enough of those.

I have had enough of this dark place I had been dwelling in and I am determined to start back writing and creating by remembering what had driven me to become a professional writer in the first place, my family. In 2016, I published my very first book ever and dedicated the story to my daughter, Aria and my husband, Dezmond.

They both inspired me for different reasons to put my work out there for kids and families to read. Having Aria inspired me to write books for kids of color so they would see themselves in the books they read and Dezmond inspired me to pull the trigger and release one of the many manuscripts I’ve been hoarding over the years.

When I finally published my book, I got such a high from seeing my words come to life with the illustrations and visiting classrooms, guest appearing at radio programs in DC, and having two professional readings at Barnes & Noble which is a huge fete for an independent author. I was even a nominated as Author of the Year in Social Awareness at the Indie Author Legacy Awards in 2018. I went on to publish 5 new books in 2018 under my business, A. Cole Books, and have mentored countless new indie authors since then. I know how incredible it is to create art, inspire kids, and challenge myself, so why did I ever stop?

Well the truth is, I had to move out obstacles out of my life that affected my creativity. I was living in the wrong place, hanging with incompatible people, and had the wrong mentality to take on new projects. We finally found a house, we found a nanny, we found a school for Aria, and all of a sudden, it felt like I could breathe again!

Moving to a new area allowed us to get a fresh start in a new home that my husband and I have already had a ton of fun decorating together. Eliminating my major ‘stressers’ allowed me to want to get back into my lifestyle as a blogger and an author because it’s who I am and what I love.

Have you ever been in a giant rut when life took over? What helped you overcome it?

Here’s what I’ve learned

Getting out of a rut is 99% about changing your mental state and 1% about the physical effort to do what you enjoy.

XO

Black History Month Podcast: The Biracial Butterfly
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Happy black history month to you all!

Welcome back to #diversebooks4diverse kids which are podcasts dedicated to sharing stories about diversity from independent authors from around the globe.

Today, I’d like to share with you a special podcast for a book called The Biracial Butterfly by Lennox Benson. The Biracial Butterfly is about a mixed-race boy who was born to two loving parents, an African mother from Kenya and an Caucasian father from England. This story is told from the perspective of a boy who was able to appreciate and find value in both cultures that are unique to who he is.

This book is wildly important, like a lot of the books shared on diversebooks4diversekids podcasts, because many biracial children and adults feel marginalized like they have to choose a race to “fit in” to society. What many people forget, is that race was an idea that was socially constructed to make people feel different or superior to one another. This book is a fantastic reminder that each of us is different and born with unique genetic makeup, but that is what makes all of us so beautiful, like little butterflies!

Listen to the audiobook of The Biracial Butterfly.

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What I’ve learned…

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