Name: Shannon Cooper
Instagram Handle: @fitnessshannon
How did you and your husband meet, and what made you decide to raise your family here?
My husband and I met in elementary school in Rochester Hills, MI. We were friends though elementary, middle school, high school and college. We started dating in our mid 20s. We lived in Oak Park when we first got married and we moved to Troy after our first child was born. We moved because the school district has higher ratings.
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
We have two children together. James Edward Cooper III (Jett) will be two years old in July and Madison was born on April 4th, 2020.
What is your favorite family activity in the area?
We love outdoor activities! We spend a lot of time at the local parks and Troy Community Center.
How would you explain life as a black woman in America?
“The most disrespected person in America is the Black Woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black Woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black Woman.” -Malcom X It’s a battle of fighting stereotypes, racism AND sexism. As a black woman in America, I’ve never took walk or run with both earbuds in. I always check locks again, again…and again. I’ve got conditioned to uncomfortable looks and being followed around boutiques/clothing stores since I was a teen. Even though I have had nothing but EXTREMELY pleasant encounters with police officers, my body uncontrollably shook the one time I was pulled over because I didn’t know my taillight was out. I battle the stereotypes, racism and sexism with grace, kindness and professionalism because “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
What is it like to be the mother to a black boy (and girl)?
What’s it like to be the mother of a black boy? Lost sleep and a lot of tears. I hold him tighter now. I can’t take my eyes off of him for a second. I don’t even want to get in bed at night without him in the bed with me. As a mother of beautiful children I have to fight harder for change!!!! When is it that he changes from cute to a threat? My kids will be taught nothing but unconditional love for ALL. I encourage all parents to do their part in teaching your children the same.
Have you experienced racism?
With a mother from Detroit, living though the Detroit riots and a father from Mississippi experiencing the worst kind of racism- they did their very best to shield their children from systemic racism. Housing, education, etc. was the absolute BEST they could provide their children with. That didn’t exempt us from racism unfortunately.
What do you hope will change for your children in their lives?
I hope I will never have to explain protocol for dealing with the police to my children. I hope I don’t have to worry about their safely for simple acts, such as walking home with skittles. I hope my son is looked at as more than a potential pro athlete (we get this ALL the time because of his size). I hope the world isn’t against them. I hope for equality. I hope for what every parent wants for their children… for them to be happy.
Tell us about Band Aids 4 Change! How can we get involved?
My mother and I started Band Aids 4 Change to do our part in battling racism, bigotry and violence. Band Aids for change are handmade with LOVE. Each band is in honor of a life lost too soon to senseless violence and profits are donated to a fund and/or organization fighting for justice or combating racism in this country.
The bands are intended to remind us to love unconditionally while teaching our children to do the same. Visit bandaids4change.com to view the growing catalog and email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
As a white mother, what can I do to help? I previously felt good that when my kids played with black children they never noticed that anything was “different”. We always have said God made everyone unique, and it has never been an issue to us. BUT now I understand that it IS important to talk about the differences, and what racism is and how it impacts black children. This is sensitive for me, because I don’t want to say the wrong thing (to you, or when explaining it to my boys). I’m learning every day. So in your words, what advice can you give to white mothers, especially?
No person is born a racist. Racism is taught. Children don’t see color of someone’s skin and make judgement… that is taught. Depending on the child’s age and questions that arise, it’s important to have a conversation that teaches the child to not judge, make assumptions or treat people differently because of their race, gender or religion. Teach them love. Teach them kindness. Honestly, Zootopia is a GREAT movie to start healthy conversation about racism. Perhaps watch the movie, taking notes from an adult perspective and then watch it with your child/children and have a conversation after the movie.
Tell us about your profession. What do you do?
I am a fitness instructor. I teach interval training classes at Shred415 and indoor Cycling classes at CycleBar (both located in Troy on Big Beaver). Shred415 has child care, do most weekdays (outside of quarantine), I teach 9:30 am and noon classes there. I teach BRIGHT and early and after traditional work hours at CycleBar when my husband is available to be with the kids. I love changing lives though fitness and motivating people to be the best version of themselves.
Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you through motherhood?
I’d like to thank my Mother (and partner in bandaids4change.com). She always taught my to not judge and love everyone! She helps me so much with my children and continuously teaches me and supports me though my motherhood journey
What’s one thing you have learned about yourself during this time?
I’ve learned that I am resilient (just like my kids). Having a baby in the middle of a pandemic was indeed a challenge. Most are accustomed to the support of family and friends when a new baby comes home, but that didn’t happen with the stay at home order. Pandemic, child birth, two under two, more senseless murder of blacks and a world wide revolution…. yeah, I learned I’m resilient.
Shannon- Thank you, thank you for sharing your powerful words with us. May we all raise our children to be loving and accepting, and to speak out against racism. We appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.