Denesha Copeland, Roxbury

It took Denesha Copeland a little while to get there. She was not convinced, in the beginning, that she was worth that much. But the words of another woman nudged her along. She started to see the beauty in what she had to give. And then she couldn’t stop giving.

Now she hands out all kinds of wellness knowledge from behind the counter of Essential Body Herbs in Dudley Square. She also gives her wisdom: as a woman, as a mother, as a neighbor who knows how hard times feel. Customers call at all hours, looking for advice—sometimes just a single word to power them through.

Here, in Denesha’s own words, is how she came to find her “everyday purpose.”

“When I started doing word of the day, I just started doing it for one man. And I didn’t realize what he was doing. And then I was like: ‘You keep asking me for these words!’ And he said: ‘Come on, D. You don’t know what you do to me with these words. It helps me get through my day.’

‘Okay, Mr. Calvin, that works for me.’

So now if somebody comes in, they’re like: ‘D, give me a word of the day!’

Power.

Strength.

Self-esteem.

Truth.

If I personally know you, then I kinda already have a gist of certain things you go through with your personality. So I can figure it out. I tell you words that I know will help you. If you tell me something you’re going through in the day, or you have been going through, my words will focus on that.

Right now, what I do is a lot of consulting. My phone rings, 6:30, 7 in the morning, people either asking me for word of the day, or some type of inspirational word, or they talk to me about their problems. As you guys just witnessed, a customer coming in here speaking to me for at least an hour and a half, talking to me about serious issues. But that’s just what I do right now. I’m there for people, in any way I can be.

For me, I myself have gone through witnessing domestic violence in my household, drug abuse, self-esteem issues, no ambition—like, I went through this myself. I know what I’ve encountered, and what people I’ve encountered to help me become the person I am today. And so I know what I do here at the herbal shop, if I can’t help people—I feel sick if I cannot help. Just genuinely.

I never strayed, I never was a problem child, but the way of thinking just wasn’t always right, I was always angry, because things weren’t going right. But one person who never lost faith in me, even through me not believing in God, even through my doing what I needed to do, was my aunt.

Even before she married into my family, just as a woman, she always uplifted me, she always kept me focused, she always talked to me about how my day was going—just regular conversation, but to get that from someone who was married into my family, and not to get that from my biological family, is what made it that much more important to me.

There’s men that I see that I appreciate for being honest, true men. Getting up, going to work, not bad mouthin’, not calling females bitches. But I’m a woman, so I’ve got to see myself through a woman. My aunt would always tell me I’m special, I’m beautiful, I’m smart. She would always tell me how important positivity was. To smile.

She is Muslim. So she always had a certain outlook on certain ways of life. Right now when she comes out, she’s wrapped from head to toe. Before it wasn’t always like that. But even through that, that positive frame is what she always kept. Building my self-esteem, helping me to stay positive about myself.

And my mother, what I’ve seen from her is to never give up. My mother has been through so much, and as her child, I’ve gone through it with her. But her power that she has for herself and her ability to continue to have faith and goodness. No matter what she has gone through, no matter what she has lost, no matter what she does not have, she still someway is able to get up and still call me every morning and tell me have a good day. Love her grandchildren as much as she loves them.

She doesn’t dwell on what she doesn’t have, but I know what we’ve been through. Nobody else can see it. But I know. So for my mother to still be as strong as she is as a person, that’s what’s important. That’s my mother.”

Last spring, Denesha started an organization, “I Appreciate Me,” which focuses on strengthening self-esteem in individuals. You can email her to find out more. 

Denesha was interviewed and photographed for Everyday Boston by story ambassador George Powell. The interview was then transcribed and edited for length, clarity and flow by Cara Solomon, founder of Everyday Boston, in partnership with George. Cara wrote the intro text.

Our story previously referred to Denesha as “Denesha Love,” which is the name she goes by on Facebook, but we have since changed it to reflect her full name: Denesha Copeland.

Essential Body Herbs is located at 30 Warren Street in Roxbury.