Trayvon Martin: When “Suspicion” Leads to (Wrongful) Death

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On the evening of February 26th, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old high schooler who was visiting family in Sanford, Fla., was returning back from a trip to 7-11 to the residence he was visiting in a gated neighborhood.

He was a young, Black man who looked “suspicious” to self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman – a man who had a violent past, himself, according to other neighborhood witnesses.

Zimmerman follows Martin in his SUV. He calls the local police dispatch for back-up because Martin looks “suspicious.” Dispatch assures Zimmerman that they would be sending someone to handle the young man and instruct him to remain in his vehicle. Zimmerman ignores orders and exits the vehicle, armed with a 9 mm gun. There is an altercation. Someone screams for help just before one single gunshot is fired. That someone was Trayvon Martin, shot to death approximately 70 feet from his father and step-mother’s home.

It was dark.

He was wearing a hoodie.

He was armed with an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. 

Trayvon Martin suffered one fatal gunshot wound to his chest. He was listed as a John Doe and his body is transported to the coroner’s office, while his family reported him missing.

Once Zimmerman was in police custody, he admits to shooting Martin, claims self defense during questioning, and is released.

Meanwhile, it’s March 17th. There is no one charged with Trayvon Martin’s murder – 3 and a half weeks later.

The State’s Attorney has taken up the case – but only after public outrage of the incident. Still, no one – not even Zimmerman – has been arrested in connection with Martin’s murder.

I just wonder: what was Trayvon Martin doing that made him seem so “suspicious” to George Zimmerman? Was it his attire? Was it the questionable way he was carrying his ba g of Skittles and bottle of tea? Was it because he was a young man of color strolling around in a gated neighborhood?

Furthermore, what was it that made George Zimmerman ignore orders from dispatchers and exit his vehicle with his gun in tow? I mean, Zimmerman had an over 100 lb. advantage on 17-year old Trayvon Martin. It’s not like he was approaching a posse of young Black men loitering, or “posted up” in the gated neighborhood. No. Trayvon was by himself and was headed back to the place where he was staying. He was supposed to be in the neighborhood.

If you think that’s unbelievable, just think about the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other instances of young Black men and other men of color gunned down innocently by police, or those falsely believing they have the same power as law enforcement and seeking vigilante justice – much like George Zimmerman.

A few of those young men come to mind:  Oscar Grant III (2009), Sean Bell (2006), and Emmett Till (1955). The list goes on.

What’s sad is that it took a couple of weeks for mainstream news outlets to headline this case of wrongful death. What’s even more tragic is that I live in a society where suspicion justifies excessive force, unwarranted searches, and wrongful deaths of too many other nameless and faceless men of color. What’s deplorable is the fact historically in America, Black men and boys (and other men of color) have been viewed as public enemy number one and have been treated as such.

It pains me to hear the haunting 911 tapes recording Trayvon’s last stand with Zimmerman. Warning: it entails an innocent, unarmed child screaming for help.

In 1955, it was the way that Emmett Till allegedly winked/cat-called/spoke to a white woman in Mississippi. Today it was the suspicious looking clothing Trayvon was apparently wearing: a hoodie and sweatpants/jeans.

Is that all it takes to get murdered as a young man of color?

I thought it was just drugs, neighborhood/turf violence, HIV/AIDS, and incarceration that was taking them away from us. Turns out its police brutality and vigilante justice that also makes that list.

As a sister of a young Black man and hopefully, as a mother of one in the future, this grieves my very soul. Trayvon Martin could have been my cousin. He could have been my brother. He could have been my son. It saddens me that I have to warn my brother about the dangers of looking “suspicious” and make sure he’s mindful of these things to save his life. It angers me that one day in the future, I’m going to have to have the same talk to educate my sons.

Who knows what Trayvon Martin would have become? His life was cut short because of a wrongful assumption and it seems like justice is dragging its feet.

But what a lot of people neglect to realize is that what happened to Trayvon Martin is not a “Black issue.” It’s a Human Rights issue. Everyone should be outraged.

But for those of us who are filled to the brim with righteous indignation, it’s time to DO something. Today, I called the State’s attorney’s office (who is now handling the case because apparently the Sanford, FL police department can’t be trusted to do an appropriate investigation) to express my concern and disappointment at the fact that no has been charged for this murder. I urge any and everyone who feels the same way I do to not only sign the online petition going around, but to also call and express your concerns [407.665.6410 or 407.665.6000]. This is an issue too big not to make a move on.

Trayvon Martin and his family deserve justice.

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” -Frederick Douglass

What do you think about this entire shebacle? Weigh in the comments section!

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The Plantation...Where "Rev." Peterson wants us all to return...

Right on the heels of this year’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life, work, and legacy, comes what I can only label as a bunch of Uncle Tom-foolery. After being asked to comment on the verbal sparring between South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate moderator, Juan Williams and Presidential candidate Newt “I love to chide Black people about getting a job instead of collecting a welfare check” Gingrich, the African-American uber-conservative “Reverend” Jesse Peterson defended Gingrich’s earlier comments. He argued that Gingrich’s proposed suggestions were spot on accurate. In fact, he takes Gingrich’s ignorance suggestions to a whole deeper level, saying:

“One of the things that I would do is take all black people back to the South and put them on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working…I’m going to put them all on the plantation. They need a good hard education on what it is to work.”

There are so many disturbing things going on with his remarks, that all I could do was literally shake my head and hang it in shame. In my opinion, this is self-hate at it finest. I’m not sure whether all of this vitriolic, divisive, racist rhetoric going on this campaign season is a joke or if it’s the sad reality of how some of our GOP candidates (and their associates/supporters) REALLY feel about people of color. Are we being punk’d?  I know the muck racking gets unusually out of hand come campaign time, but this is the worst I have ever seen. And all this even before the South Carolina primaries, which is a known place for “down and dirty politics.”

…But, never mind the fact that “Reverend” Jesse Peterson is Black, himself. So is he going on this little field trip, too? Methinks he should. Because while he argues that Gingrich was “100 percent right” in his assessment of the plight of African Americans, and that Blacks “don’t want to hear the truth,” I argue that neither Gingrich nor Peterson have a clue. But oh, how all of that could change if “Reverend” Peterson was placed on a plantation…by himself. Why you ask?

1). Perhaps “Reverend” Peterson’s tune would change if he experienced the inhumane treatment and cruelty in nearly EVERY form that African Americans had to experience for centuries on the very plantations he wants us all to revisit. Maybe Peterson forgot that slaves were sold like head of cattle and considered 3/5th of a person according to the Constitution. Maybe Peterson forgot that slavery was not a positive experience for those enslaved because families were torn apart, women were raped, and men were emasculated. Maybe Peterson forgot that slavery was hard, arduous, back-breaking labor for men, women, and children that reaped absolutely no benefits for those who labored – be it in the Big House or in the field.

2). Maybe Peterson should take up plantation living to go back to the days where having a sense of autonomy and independence were only things dreamed of. Seems like he needs to revisit that experience in order to really “appreciate” getting crumbs from the GOP’s table. Since slaves aren’t compensated for their labor, but instead rely upon their masters to provide everything like food, shelter, and clothing, perhaps Peterson would enjoy having his very life depend upon the “benevolence” of his masters. Hey, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about those pesky bills, right?!

3). Living on the plantation could be great for Peterson because then, he could get a grip on reality. It may be the case that Peterson could gain some insight on the fact that plantation life is nothing like Gone With the Wind, or any other romanticized notion of sprawling mansions, sunny skies, green pastures, and happy, obedient slaves singing Negro spirituals.  Maybe plantation living would serve him well so he can remember how far African Americans have come in order for him to even have a forum to freely speak such ignorance and foolishness.

What do you think about “Rev.” Jesse Peterson’s recent comments? Weigh in the comments section!

Uncle Tom-foolery At It’s Finest: 3 Reasons Why “Reverend” Jesse Peterson Should Go Live On a Plantation…By Himself

5 Reasons Why the Occupy Wall Street Movement Is Important

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"One day, the poor will have nothing left to eat but the rich"

For the past couple of weeks, I have been watching and reading and salivating at the thought of an Occupy protest springing up where I am numerous news developments about the Occupy Wall Street Movement that’s emerging. As a recent unemployed college grad myself, I’m not only sympathetic to the causes they are protesting for and about – I consider myself one of the 99%ers who has seen how what Cornel West calls the oligarchs and plutocrats (read: the fat cats on Wall Street and at major corporations) have bought our representatives on Capitol Hill (both Democrat and Republican). Although many in the mainstream media would like for people to believe that the Occupiers are just young, jobless, whiny hippies forming a mob to disrupt the flow of Wall Street and other important hubs in other cities, I don’t believe that to be the case. It’s about the economic and human injustices that have occurred because of the love of the all mighty dollar. I’ve also been reading the hundreds of individual stories on the Occupy Wall Street Tumblr, and it breaks my heart to hear about the plight of others who have seemingly become nameless and faceless (some victims of uncontrollable circumstances) that have been silenced for far too long. Economic in-equality is real, ya’ll. Since I can’t join the Occupiers in taking it to the streets just yet, I’ve been very vocal using social media and radio and now calling the reps in NYC to stop the interruption of the movement to stand by my fellow 99%ers. Although I’m sure I can name a kajillion reasons why this movement is important, I’ll try to narrow it down to 5:

1). It finally allows people to get real and be unashamed about their economic situations. Like I said, reading these stories on the Tumblr has not only saddened me, it’s made me realize even more than before that people from EVERY race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, educational background, and nearly every income bracket has seen their quality of life diminish while the cost of mere SURVIVAL has increased. Ten years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find someone from the “middle class” posting something on the internet with their picture attached divulging to the world their “dirty fiscal laundry” about how they struggle to pay the bills each month, how they owe more on their houses than they’re worth, and how they haven’t been able to afford to see a doctor in months or even years. The middle class, ya’ll! Not to mention the working class who has been struggling with these issues for over 30 years (Thanks, Reagan!).  Now, critics of the movement argue that this is just a way for people to whine and complain about their “First World Problems,” (A la Herman Cain) but I respectfully disagree. I don’t think you’re whining or belly-aching when you share that you either have to choose between food or paying a long overdue bill. And, it’s not just a few people. It’s too many that have similar stories of struggle who have been suffering in silence and keeping it to themselves in an effort to keep up the facade that they are living the “American Dream.” Read any self-help book and go to any type of professional, and they will tell you that the first step toward bettering yourself is admitting that there’s a problem. Turns out that all of America has a HUGE problem and it’s high time to address it.

2). It’s changing the face of poverty and economic injustice as we have known it. The more attention this movement gains, the more people are starting to realize that poverty in America is not only real, it’s very pervasive. For so long, many people believed that poverty in America was akin to poverty in places like Haiti, certain parts of Africa, South America, and some parts of urban America. While I’m not into comparing struggles (a la Zora Neale Hurston), I think that many Americans have gotten the wrong idea about what poverty is. Newsflash: if you can’t afford to sustain your needs (not your greed) like food, shelter, and miscellaneous personal expenses, you’re poor. Poverty is so hard to define partly because people dip in an out of it all the time. But using credit cards to buy groceries because you simply don’t have cash on hand? Yeaaa, you’re poor. One missed paycheck away from utter financial ruin? Poverty! Many people have been deceived into thinking that just because one doesn’t “look” poor, they are not poor. No, a person’s clothes may not be tattered and they may not “look” homeless, but they can, in fact, be struggling with poverty. How does poverty “look,” anyway?? (that’s another post). I can tell you: mosey on over to the Occupy Wall Street Tumblr. That’s what poverty is beginning to look like.

3). It makes us realize that what affects one, affects us all. For too long, many of us have operated like what we do and what we have (or don’t) as individuals does not impact the rest of humanity. I’m guilty of it. We’re all guilty of it. But, we’re wrong. This emerging movement is making me realize that just because I can sustain my most basic human needs (for now), doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be in a situation where I can not. And, although I can, millions of people can’t and haven’t been able to for a very long time. This may sound cheesy to some, but we’re all connected as a human race. Why do you think crime rates have gotten so out of control in places like Detroit and Flint, MI? People aren’t able to sustain themselves and are desperate for a way out. When people don’t have enough resources to support themselves consistently, we see murder rates increase, robbery rates increase, and drug activity increase IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS. Studies show that poverty is related to crime. Not only that, when people don’t have the means to take care of themselves, we all pay the price. Ailing workers not able to do or complete their jobs. Family members who constantly borrow to make ends meet (well, that’s been happening since the beginning of time – at least in my family). More pressure on the system that we all must contribute to with our tax dollars because so many people are going without (ie: Medicare/Medicaid; Food Stamps, etc).  You simply can’t afford to write this off as another person’s problem if you’re somehow “making it.”

4). It’s bringing (even) more attention to how jacked up our economic legislation is. I won’t get into the gritty details about how the top 1% now own 40% of the nations’ wealth and how the middle class is shrinking exponentially, but the Occupy Wall Street movement is bringing to light what some people have been saying for a very long time: legislation is being bought and sold at the price of 99% of America’s humanity. There’s no way in the world that 2 out of ever 3 U.S. corporations should get away with paying NO taxes, while everyone else in the middle class and the working class has to pay or Uncle Sam comes a-calling. Some may argue that those who have gotten rich and have become successful have done it single-handedly without any help. WRONG. As Elizabeth Warren so eloquently states:

 I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is…” whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for.

Essentially, all the roads, bridges, and tunnels used and even the education that these corporate CEOs and exec have obtained to get rich have been all subsidized by the American people. Not exactly the “boot strap theory” some like to believe. But still, we’re seeing our representatives get bought left and right by corporate lobbyists to, in effect, sabotage most of us from getting “there” – to that big corner office in the sky, or from simply being able to live comfortably. So why shouldn’t corporations and those who make big money from them have to pay their fair share in taxes? Taxation legislation needs to change, and the faces of the Occupiers have showed us why more clearly and more aggressively than ever before.

5). It’s could very well be the Civil Rights movement of our era. I truly believe this. Why? Partly because there are far too many people fed up with how things are going in this country. It’s not a partisan thing – it’s a human rights issue. Also, because the gap is between the rich and the poor one that is widening seemingly at the speed of light. Income disparities haven’t been this drastic since the 1920s.  If the Occupy movement can organize to impact change at the polls, and subsequently with legislation, we could see the tide change before we all die. And, as comedian and cultural critic Dick Gregory suggests, although this movement resembles the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, it’s unique in that it contains people of relative privilege: educated and white – relatively privileged identities which could probably help the movement gain a foot-hold faster (if done right) than the movement in ’50s, 60s, and 70s, mostly made up of African Americans who were uneducated, and underprivileged, but still able to bring about drastic change.

For more information about the Occupy Wall Street movement, visit: http://www.occupytogether.org/

…Another Big Chop! [VIDEO]

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything hair-related on here, but I am happy to share another one of my “hair changes.” I recently did another “big chop” and decided to cut my hair into a style I have been wanting ever since I transitioned to natural hair. I got the inspiration for the new ‘do from the lovely Sunshine over at Natural Sunshine, and I’m so glad that I decided to go through with it.

After 2 years of going back and forth about whether I was going to cut it, I finally took the plunge and  I chose none other than the fabulous Joy Jefferson at Imagine Me Hair Studio in New Orleans, LA to do the cut. This is my first “big girl” hair cut…other than my first big chop, I have never had an actual styled cut in my 24 years! Since this was such a big deal for me, I made a video of the big chop, so take a look, and I hope you enjoy!

I had so much fun in the salon and I am in LOVE with this cut. I feel so edgy, sleek, and FIERCE! This style has renewed my love for natural hair all over again.

Marriage THEN Baby is the “Beyonce Way?”

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Last night, Beyonce stole the show at the VMAs with a huge announcement: she and husband Jay-Z are expecting their first child. After a passionate performance, Bey dropped the mic “Randy Watson & Sexual Chocolate” style  opened up her shiny, sequined jacket, did a diva-pose and rubbed her emerging baby bump glowingly. An ending to a performance, which I’m sure will go down in the annals of pop culture history.

What will also go down in history, I suppose, is the way Beyonce is choosing to bring her and Jay-Z’s seed into the world. Amidst the excitement, shock and awe of her very public announcement, people of Facebook and the Twitterverse noted, with some admiration, that Bey and J did it “right:” dating, marriage, THEN baby. Something I happen to agree with. Throughout the night I saw some tweeting and re-tweeting something along the lines of:

Beyonce dated, married, THEN got pregnant. Ladies, take notes.

Perhaps it the was the excitement. Perhaps it was relief.  Maybe it was a little bit of both, but I find this statement to be a bit problematic. While I do believe that Beyonce and Jay-Z’s choice to create a family within the bounds of matrimony is something laudable and something to be proud of, I don’t think that it’s anything new. BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com, anyone? It’s a beautiful thing, and I am happy for them. Yes, they did it “right.” Yes, she is an international superstar and role model for young girls. And yes, traditional, nuclear families are seemingly becoming extinct. But to suggest that ladies should “take notes” because Beyonce is having a baby with her husband seems a bit…I don’t know…EXTRA to me. You don’t have to remind me of the statistics. I already know them. But women everywhere have been doing the same thing forever. Why are we acting brand new? My mother did it “right.” Some of my peers, associates, classmates are doing it “right.” Therefore, I don’t need a superstar like Beyonce to reaffirm the values that I already know and plan to do for me. I know it seems more exciting because it’s “Beyonce,” but what I think we should be doing is celebrating the everyday women who are already doing it or have done it “right.”

What do you think? Are people doing too much by suggesting that women should take note of the “Beyonce Way?” Or, is it a reminder that society needs?

The Curious Case of Trigger-Happy Policing

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All of my life, I have been surrounded by law enforcement officers who have sacrificed their lives in the name of protecting their local communities and bettering said communities. My father was a police officer in the community that he was born and raised in for 23 years. I was always proud to see him in his crisp white Lieutenant’s uniform, and was proud to tell my friends about what my dad did for a living. As a kid, I was always taught that, without question, police officers and other enforcers of the law were my friends – they were here to protect and serve the people in their communities.

However, as I matured, the loyalty I felt toward police officers and being an African American often placed me in an odd position in certain discussions. Even knowing the brutal history – past and present – of brutality rendered mercilessly upon Blacks at the hands of police officers, I always gave them the benefit of the doubt because my dad was one. When some of my friends and acquaintances in college would express how much they disliked or distrusted the police, I never fully understood their seeming disdain for ALL people in black uniforms and in police cars. Until now…

Over the course of the last few years – this past week, particularly, I have begun to understand where that disdain comes from. Slowly, the scales started to fall from my naive little eyes as I read and watched reports on police brutality. From Sean Bell to Oscar Grant, I began to question what drove these officers – people who I thought had all the right intentions – to brutally murder young Black men.

On July 18th, I learned about a 19-year old Black man by the name of Kenneth Wade Harding, Jr. who attempted to flee a traffic inspection and was gunned down by the San Francisco police. All because he allegedly didn’t pay a $2 bus fare. What really grieved my heart was the video that someone captured of the ordeal.  To “subdue” this man, the police thought it necessary to shoot him in the back and watch him bleed to death before summoning medical attention. What I saw was disgusting, tragic even, and I was outraged. With guns still raised and angry, shouting crowds kept at bay, these San Francisco officers decided that it was best to watch this 19-year old man struggle for life right before their eyes while they did nothing to come to his aid. What’s worse were the news reports that followed. After the ordeal, the 19-year old man allegedly had a lengthy rap-sheet and had been identified as being a pimp who was a person of interest in Seattle regarding the murder of a teenaged girl – something which no doubt gave the news channels fuel for fodder and kept the attention off of the accountability of these San Francisco police officers. So, right before our very eyes, the story shifts from San Francisco police “subduing” and killing a 19-year old man over bus fare to a 19-year old pimp who allegedly (according some San Fran officers and a handful of unidentified witnesses – the credibility of these “witnesses” is up for debate) had a gun, brandished it toward the officers, and finally had to pay the piper. The thing is, the man was originally from Seattle, and I doubt that these officers knew of his rap sheet BEFORE they shot him. So, what does this young man’s past have to anything to do with how he was wrongly murdered?  And, just like that, the tide shifts. With a clever sleight of hand approach, the media turns a victim into a criminal.

Today, I learned about a 13-year old boy in Chicago who was 8 times fatally by the police for allegedly having a BB gun. Responding to a 911 call of shots being fired, the boy – who’s name is Jimmell Cannon – matched the description.  Now, if it is true, that this young boy did have a BB gun and did point it toward officers, and did not respond when they asked him to lower the weapon, did it really take 8 rounds of bullets to “subdue” this child? Some may say that in the dark of night, a BB gun could closely resemble a real gun. Still, I doubt that these officers felt that threatened to fire 8 rounds and riddle a child’s body with bullets. Sadly, like the above-mentioned case, this one is a matter of “he-said, she said” because family members insist that the boy had no weapon – not even a BB gun.

I could go on and on with the anecdotes. The theme remains the same. Police in some areas are using undue force and what Marvin Gaye referred to as “trigger-happy policin'” to “subdue” Black bodies. What’s disheartening is that it continues. Chicago, New York, Detroit, Oakland, San Francisco – it’s a sad reality that some will die, unjustly, by the hands of police. And, an overwhelming majority of those are Black men. While I don’t lay the blame completely at the foot of law enforcement for certain street behaviors and mentalities like the “Stop Snitchin'” campaign, I do believe that there is a very legitimate reason why some Black folk don’t particularly care for or trust the police. It’s almost becoming an inherent trait among us not to trust the men and women who are supposed to be protecting and serving us. But with not-so-routine traffic stops and unwarranted frisking, it’s clear why there’s fear.

I argue that there’s not enough personal investment in the neighborhoods and communities that these officers patrol on a daily basis. It’s easy to not think twice and empty a clip into people who you have no respect or regard for and then return to a relatively “safe” environment. It’s easy to have tunnel-vision when identifying the “bad” guys and the “scum of the earth” when you think the overwhelming majority of them are  people of color. It’s easy to be unresponsive to urgent calls for 911 in inner-city areas  when you think that those areas are destined to fail anyway.

Scenarios like these and others cause me to question the motives of these officers when they sign up for the academy. Furthermore, it causes me to question exactly what is being taught in these said academies. I think that this long disturbing national trend reveals a lack of awareness and understanding about those that are constantly considered the “other.” The solution to such a complex problem requires a complex approach. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but one of those approaches, I argue, would be to incorporate multi-cultural and diversity training into those police academies that don’t already have such a component. Whether we like it or not, our stereotypes, personal experiences, and perceptions can taint the way we look at things. Police officers can’t afford to let the various lenses they look through paint the entire picture for them. To continue to do so will result in more distrust and more disdain from the communities they are supposed to protect and serve.

Another solution would be to have these officers held accountable for their actions. Whether it’s by the communities, fellow officers, district attorneys, judges, the media, or all of them…it needs to happen. And, we can’t automatically take these officers’ word for what may have happened during questionable situations, just because they have a badge and are license to carry a firearm. Too often, it’s the officer’s word against the victim’s, and too often the officers go unquestioned. The point is, we are all humans, capable of mistakes and missteps. Not holding officers accountable sends a message to everyone that the justice system really ain’t just.

Lessons I Learned From My Father…

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Lessons I Learned From My Father…

My Daddy and I

As a self-professed “Daddy’s girl,” I often reflect upon the memory of my father fondly. Charles, or “Chuck” as he was affectionately called by many, was one of the greatest men I have ever had the pleasure to know and love. I often tell people that my father was the first man I have ever loved, and I am glad that I had such a great example for a father.

For anyone who knew myself and my members of my immediate family, everyone used to call me his “twin.” I inherited my father’s dashing good looks,  somewhat reserved demeanor, his wicked sense of humor, and his “book smarts” (as confessed by my mother). As a kid, wherever my father was, that’s where I wanted to be. I was even told that my first word was “daddy.” What I loved about him was that he wasn’t the type of guy that believed nurturing was reserved solely for my mother. He did everything for me…except for combing my hair, and was proud of it.  His lap was my safe space and his smile was my sunshine.

In a world where 70% of Black children are born or raised within a single-parent home, I count myself tremendously blessed to have had the positive influences of both my mother and father growing up. There are so many reasons why I admire this man and still thrive from the fruits of his hard work and dedication, that I think I could write a book. But, instead of doing that, I’ll share a few of the most important life lessons I learned from my father. He taught me…

1). There is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes while growing up, I used to get frustrated by how much my dad worked until I caught a glimpse of some of our bills. What I didn’t understand then, but what I eventually did grow to understand, was that providing for his family was one of my father’s top priorities. We were not rich by any means, which meant that my parents had to work to provide a comfortable life for their children and for themselves. My dad taught me that there is no substitute for hard work, and hard work does eventually pay off.

There were times in grade school where I would get so upset at myself for not getting an A+ on that paper or that project I worked so hard on. When I came home to tell him what happened, he would listen to me whine, and then ask one me one simple question: “Did you do your best?” I’d say “yes,” and he’d simply follow it up by saying, “Well, that’s all you can do.” My dad made me comfortable with the idea of putting my best foot forward and rolling with the punches afterward. He’d often say, “All I ask is that you do your best.” I truly believe it’s that same work ethic he helped instill in me that has gotten me to where I am today.

2). To demand respect and to voice unfair treatment. My dad was a very calm man who hated confusion and very rarely raised his voice. But, if he thought something was unfair, he’d speak up about it, and I’m happy to say that I learned that from him. He never took anything laying down, and taught me to fight for what I believed in. I remember the time when I was registering for classes in the 9th grade at my local high school, and my dad went along with me to help. The guidance counselor had my previous transcripts in front of him (which indicated that I was a student that excelled). Things were going fairly well, until the guidance counselor (who happened to be a White man) asked me if I needed to be enrolled in any remedial courses. I didn’t quite understand why he asked that, but I responded “No.” I looked over at my dad, confused, and I could see he was fuming. We finished the enrollment process shortly after and returned home. My dad was so upset, he could barely tell my mom what had just happened. Unable to contain his anger any longer, he decided to drive up to the high school that same day, with me in tow, to give that guidance counselor a piece of his mind. Needless to say, he raised hell that day. He expressed his discontentment to the high school principal and was adamant about the fact that the guidance counselor had unfairly questioned the intelligence of his child simply because she was Black. He demanded an apology, and got one. My dad was never afraid to speak truth to power, and I will never forget the invaluable lessons he taught me that day: to demand respect and to voice unfair treatment.

3). The necessity of expressing my love for those around me. For most of his life, my dad was a big guy, which could be intimidating especially for boys that wanted to take his daughter out. But he was one of the most sensitive men I’ve ever known – a big teddy bear, if you will. He was also unafraid to show this side of himself. He was the kind of man that not only showed love to his family everyday, but expressed it verbally, as well. There was not a day that went by where he neglected to say “I love you.” I knew when he said “I love you” that he meant it. I remember as a teenager, he would often hound me, saying, “You didn’t tell me you loved me today.” Being a hormonal girl with an attitude, I would get annoyed at this, but as an adult looking back, I can’t help but appreciate his loving nudges. I’m proud to say that those were our last words to each other, and he left hearing that from me…voluntarily and unashamed. Now I, too, am unafraid to tell those that I love around me that I love them, and I try to do it as often as I can, just as he did.

4). How to say “I’m sorry.” Another one of the things that I appreciated about my dad was that he was never afraid to apologize for something he may have done wrong. I remember the time when I was around 20 or 21 years old, when we got into an argument. He scolded me (wrongly) for something he thought that I should have done. Even though I tried, unsuccessfully, to tell him my side of the story, he wasn’t hearing it. I remember crying and storming away, frustrated that I hadn’t been listened to. But, minutes later, he came to me and apologized for yelling at me and not listening to what I had to say. He said “I’m sorry,” hugged me, and told me that he loved me. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to say that to me, especially since he was the “parent” and I was the “child,” but he did, which taught me to do the same, regardless of the circumstances.

I don’t hesitate when I say that I don’t know where I would be without my Dad. I’m the woman I am today because of him, which is why I try to honor his memory every day.

Happy Father’s Day to the best daddy ever.

-Love, Your Favorite Daughter