Dear Marcus and Sariah,

You've recently turned eight years old this past April and June and have come a long way from being little stink pots. The both of you are thriving in elementary school, socially and academically.

I know you guys are still young, but it’s going to become increasingly hard to shield you guys from the media that portrays the African American community in a negative way. As black people, we have been fighting for our rights since the day we arrived on the east coast in shackles. We had to fight after slavery was finally abolished, and after civil rights laws were passed in our favor, but we still have a long way to go. On the scale of social and racial hierarchy in America, blacks are at the bottom. It’s as if when you’re born a black man or woman in this country, you’re life is already ruined.

To my nephew, you’ll probably have to deal with people assuming you’re a thug or looking at you suspiciously when you walk to the local store because you have a hoodie on. They just don’t know that you’re wearing it because it’s cold. You might have to deal with store employees following you around, as they assume you’re going to shoplift. Teachers and counselors might not think you qualify for the top-notch colleges in the country. But I know that you’re bright; you even taught me Spanish and French. They’ll even be micro-annoyances, like when someone assumes you must be a Kanye West or Future enthusiast, but who knows, you might love Beethoven. However, it’s your choice, as you don’t need to be conditioned into what popular culture to consume. It doesn’t hurt to learn more about African American arts and media. If a police officer stops you for no valid reason when you’re driving or walking out in public, don’t pull out anything, don’t run and comply with him. Not because he’s right, but because we don’t want to see you on the 6 o’clock news as another tragedy.

Last piece of words to my nephew. Just know that in life, there are no handouts, you have to work for what you want. When it comes to dating, it’s okay to be with people outside your race, but never ever bash black women. It’s ignorant and insulting to your black mother, grandmother and soon to be little sister. Also, be very accepting and tolerant of the LGBTAQ+ community. They may identify different from you, but they’re just like everyone else.

To my cousin, even Malcolm X said it himself: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” As being a girl in general, you're going to go through other troubles, aside from being black. People will try to put down or mock your beautiful locks, braids or afro you have on any given day. Just stay strong and bold, however, never let white people feel on your hair. You are not a pet and this is not a petting zoo. When you’re young, unfortunately, you have the tendency to care what people think. The media or even the people you run into might say “Black girls are ratchet, ”“black girls are loud,” “black girls are money-hungry.” Try your best to curve these ignorant comments. Always think of the phrases “Black girl magic” and “Black girls rock.” Because these phrases are completely accurate. Always think about the endless opportunities you have in life. The best cliche around is doing anything you put your mind too. Always strive to do your best in school, even when the work gets harder. Know that black woman are in every career that you think of. Serena Williams is in professional sports. Mae Jemison is a successful astronaut and scientist. Oprah Winfrey, the biggest entrepreneur. Alexa Canady, who became the first African American female neurosurgeon. Beyonce, the biggest musician in the world.

Despite you living in a crime-filled neighborhood, always do the right things. Which means, be careful of who you hang out with and stay out of trouble in and out of school. Black women are sadly also targets of police brutality, as exemplified by the unfortunate death of Sandra Bland. Always put people in their place when asking stupid questions like: “Can you teach me how to twerk?" or “Are you wearing a weave?” What hairstyles you rock is your business, and if you feel like twerking, then that’s your choice. It doesn’t make you any less a person. Lastly, always love your chocolate skin complexion. Like J.Cole said, “There’s no need to fix what God put his paintbrush on."

Someday you will understand.

Love, your cousin/uncle Khaaliq