The “You” Who’s Within

Jeff and Valerie Alexis, Then

“So whenever you look at your beautiful skin, from your wiggling toes to your giggling grin… Think how lucky you are that the skin you live in, so beautifully holds the “You” who’s within.”

~ Michael Tyler, The Skin You Live In

A Letter to My Daughter  

My darling daughter,

I wish that I could say that you don’t have to worry about the safety of your brother and me. But sadly, given the history of how America treats black men, I can’t.

Growing up, I was taught by the significant people in my life that moral consciousness, education,  and abiding by the law would keep me out of the clutch of the judicial system and protect me from being a victim of ‘police brutality.’

But given the atmosphere of Justification by Police and Stand Your Ground, your brother and I are ‘at risk’ for no other reason than being black men in America.

I know that my family, teachers, ministers, friends, and coaches have given me great advice. That advice has kept me alive and allowed me to see you grow up as the highly intelligent and empathetic young woman, that you are today.

Use your awareness to show that social justice is more important than materialism. Show them that any change in our country will only occur with a systematic approach that requires people to become leaders or to vote for leaders that represent their beliefs.

Father and daughter, Now
Father and daughter, Now

As long as young people are more concerned with what brand of smartphones or sneakers they own , then the racist culture will not change.

I have challenged your brother to become more of a leader for change. But in the next sentence, I have to warn him to be careful daily.

Unfortunately, this is the conversation that all boys of color must have with a loving adult in their lives, simply because they are male.

Please continue to pray for us. We know that “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Love always,


Jeff Lavar is a math colleague and a mentor to young black men in a New York City high school. He wrote the letter to his daughter Valerie Alexis, in response to her expressed fear for her father’s safety. “Baby girl”, as she is fondly called, is anxious for the safety and well-being of her father and brother due to the incidents involving black men and the police.

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