Over the weekend I called my father to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Almost a decade had passed since the last time I chose to give him a holiday celebratory call. In my protest over those years I celebrated a sports coach, father figures from my community, and I even wrote a letter to my future self. In the letter, I sang high praise to the man I had become by being the opposite of the man who birthed me. The letter was lengthy in pages, but halfway through the first page, the positive remarks drifted from me as a father, into me as an individual. This year I put my pride aside, and with a lump in my throat and I rock in my chest I uttered, “Hey Siri?” Mesmerized by the ROYGBIV spectrum of colors pulsating in the lower portion of my phone screen, I managed to say, “call dad.” The error message saturated in a computerized accent reminded me that his number wasn’t saved under “dad”. Scrolling down in alphabetical order I see his government name and proceed to make the call. Lamenting with THE Father for the opportunity to escape this situation by leaving a voicemail was interrupted. God didn’t answer my prayers. He answered, and after playing three rounds of “Simon Says, Hello”, our conversation shifted into full small talk mode. The loud, booming silence was occasionally interrupted by moments of chatter which caused our 17 minute and 34-second conversation to feel like it had lasted for hours.*Spoiler alert* for those waiting for the prodigal son/father moment where we spent hours on the phone apologizing and weeping joyously over healed wounds, that isn’t how this story ends. Sorry. I had to break that news to you because at this moment I have no idea how this story ends because I’m currently acting this thing out. Reading through the script making notes here, scratching out there, and wadding up groups of pages for the use of our trashcan basketball three-point contest. None of which are wrong or right, they are just the way life plays out. Understanding the necessity for correction and adjustment are what made me reconsider my cold approach to a man who made a series of mistakes but has a mindset to rectify those wrongs. “Life’s too short…” is the sentiment overtaking the conversation in my post-phone call discussion with myself. I looked myself in the eye and expressed how these hard feelings toward my father could have a negative influence on the process of me raising my future children. So why not begin to forgive? Forgiving doesn’t mean I walk around telling the world, “that’s my dad!” but it does allow me to be at peace with all the past trauma.There is a difference between a being father and being a dad. A father is someone who has birthed a child. A dad is someone who is actively present in raising the child. Any male can be a father, but only dedicated fathers become dads. I can no longer grieve over the father I didn’t have growing up, because the father I may have now will be able to help me in ways I’ve never imagined. So, as I grow further from my father, I’m growing closer to my dad. Happy Father’s...
Let me start off by saying that I love my dad. We have a great relationship full of laughter, hugs and jokes. However, there was one time when he had to basically kick my ass because I thought I was grown.When I was 17-years-old I was struggling with figuring out my identity. I was Philadelphia native with parents hailing from Trinidad and Tobago. At times it felt as if my parents were in an invisible war. Not with me, but with the American ideology. My dad wanted to raise me with the same conservative Trinidadian values he grew up with, but he had to compete with my friends, teachers and the media. He grew up with the understanding that when the street lights came on, it’s time to come in the house. Meanwhile, I had friends that could stay out until 1:00 a.m. on a school night.I didn’t mind the rules until I became a senior in high school with an 11:00 p.m. curfew that wasn't flexible. My parents made sure I was home at 11 p.m. every night, including weekends. It was horrible. There's nothing worse than kicking it with your crew on a Friday night and getting the side-eye when you ask someone to drive you home at 10:30 p.m.As time went on I began to feel myself and independently decided I was going to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and who I wanted. To hell what my parents thought! Remember when I said my parents were Trini? Well one night, I came home around 1:30 a.m. No phone call, no text and I think I may have been slightly buzzed. When I walked in the house I knew there was going to be a confrontation and I was mentally prepared. I said to myself, “I’m going to walk in there, put my foot down and tell my parents my curfew is canceled”! My dad was already close to 65-years-old, I didn't think it would be hard to assert myself. I had to be stronger than him by now with my youthful, athletic frame, right? Wrong! My dad beat the shit out of me. And it wasn’t one of those “this hurts me more that it hurts you” type of beatings. It was more like a “N*gga, you must’ve lost you damn mind” type of whoopings. It was a coming-of-age beat down. It was an experience that immediately made me reconsider every decision I’ve made leading up to that moment. The biggest lesson I learned from that situation (other than old man strength is REAL) was that I can’t compare my situation with my neighbors or my friends. The truth was that my friends were able to stay out late because there was no one at home who cared enough to beat their asses when they came home in the middle of the night. My father undoubtedly believes that it is his responsibility and his duty to keep me safe and he wasn’t going to let anyone, not even me, prevent him from doing his job.Brought to you by Fences, in theaters nationwide Dec. 25....
Let's talk about our daddy issues. Come on, we all have at least one. Better still, let’s talk about fatherhood, because after this weekend and if the media has its way, the man who helped bring you into this world will no doubt fall back into the shadows once more.
During my childhood and that of many young, black males of my generation, the relatable faces we saw as we lay spread-eagled in front of the television were the likes of Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Desmond’s (Barbershop) and Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show).
From a young age I grew up without a father. He was unlawfully murdered when I was only a few months old. Male role models in our household were, unfortunately, thin on the ground. My mother had a limited support network due to migrating from Trinidad to England in 1969, so she turned to keeping us active through extra curricular activities such as school social groups, Scouts and football summer camps.
As Father's Day approaches, I am stepping out from the 'status quo' in that we not only celebrate fathers but we evolve a little and celebrate all male role models, godfathers, uncles and men who actively provide guidance, support and teach these young leaders of the future.
Father’s day is never rightly appreciated as much as Mother's Day by the media, retailers and society in general. Any plaudits appear to be isolated and low-key token gestures of gratitude as the media continues to focus on the negative stereotypes of black fathers, using damaging anecdotes such as 'they are invisible within the family unit' and at best 'glorified babysitters.’ So, to advance the revolution to create a new black stereotype and show men as motivated fathers who deserve to be recognised, I am sharing a collection of photographs captured during time spent with three active fathers.
I'm not disregarding the issues we as a black community are dealing with around young adults growing up without fathers/role models in the home. Nor am I ignoring the problems developed from young men leaving education early to engage in crime from an early age, which compounds this issue further.
If people are only exposed to only stereotypes of black fathers, this is all they will believe and continue to perpetuate, creating a model which will keep this everlasting loop of solecism.
Stereotypes are, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aptly describes them...
These men are all motivated black fathers and role models in their own right. However, they seem, in part, to be invisible to the media. As you look around during the days preceding Father’s Day, just look and see how many advertisements, news articles and blogs show pictures or share the perspective of a black father.
"If people are only exposed to so-called stereotypes of black fathers, this is all they will believe and continue to perpetuate"
These men have fully embraced their responsibilities as a parent and work daily to maintain and develop their relationships with their children. They assign a level of importance to nurture, be present and dispel damaging stereotypes by being a man their child can proudly call Daddy.
All images available on Instagram www.instagram.com/nbsldn/ Photos: Kiran Cox (@kiranbcox) & Jessica Hope (@jess_hope_shoots). This is the newest collection of photos from The New Black Stereotype London (NBSLDN), a movement inspired by The New Stereotype.
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Dad, thank you for making me ignorant. Thank you for depriving me of that first-hand knowledge. I never learned what it would feel like to have a father who voluntarily spent more time making me than raising me. Even though you were also singed by racism that affects people to varying degrees and can sometimes literally burn people alive, I know that I am fortunate that the “heat of oppression” never evaporated your sense of your own flesh and blood.
Instead, you gave me fishing on sunny days, an interest in sports, and help with science fair projects about friction and plants. And when I got straight As, you gave me handshakes. After all, that was what you expected.
Growing up in the majority-black public school system of Prince George’s County, Maryland, I never had a full-time black male teacher in an academic subject in elementary, middle, or high school, but I had you, a PhD in biochemistry who embraced three other letters even more closely: 'Dad.' I know that I was lucky to have a father who was actually put on a school-to-lab pipeline rather than the school-to-prison pipeline which can be so viscerally heart-wrenching as to separate even loving fathers from their own DNA.
Thanks to you, I can't fully imagine what it’s like to be one of the many black children who are starving for concrete evidence that people who look like them can excel in school or praying for personal counterweights to the idea that academic success is bleach, i.e., the better you do in school, the whiter you become. Before I had ever heard of stereotype threat, I subconsciously learned from your example that I could do well in school because of — not despite — my blackness.
Thank you for putting up with me as well.
I remember when you were helping me with a science fair project in elementary school and you wanted me to pose for a picture, which would eventually be placed on my science fair project backboard. I think I was getting antsy, so I said, “This isn’t a fashion show.” You had to raise your voice at me, but I posed for the picture and I learned my lesson. Or at least I thought I did.
It's not until I really think about it now as I write this essay that I recognize how foolish I was to complain about your fatherly photography when far too many dads act as if their kids are Medusa’s strange clones; as if one look at their children would turn them to stone, stop them dead in their tracks and force them to reflect on the true meaning of their manhood. There I was, grumbling about taking a science fair picture under your guidance when many kids never actually get a chance to see eye-to-eye with their fathers at all.
Several children might even feel that their fathers are experimenting on them to see what happens when you plant a seed, give it plenty of time to water itself with the tears of loneliness, and, with clinical precision, deprive it of the beaming pride of a father. Granted, with a superhuman mother, grandparent, and/or community’s touch, some resilient seeds are able to thrive like roses that grow from concrete. However, the absentee scientists in these trials often fail to realize that just as one needs to take care of a plant in order to benefit from the essential oxygen that it produces, fathers must nurture their children if they really want to be within breathing distance of vital respect from outside and within.
Unlike other men, you didn't run away from your planted nation like a slave wearing track shoes. You did not view me as something that would restrict your freedom. To the contrary, you treated me as a crucial part of life. And for that, I thank you today and always.
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I hear black fathers are the new wave.
That they’ve changed. They’re home more, they do the hard things, they support mothers, they disappear less often. I applaud that. I applaud DeAngelo Williams for doing his daughter’s hair in a Pantene commercial. I applaud dads who don’t need a court to tell them to help feed the children they create. I applaud dads who show up to the carline at school with snacks and the alphabet song playing and questions on their tongues about schoolyard adventures. I congratulate every little black girl I know who holds the hand of a man who will always represent unconditional love to her.
But I’m not here for those black girls. I’m here for the black girls like me. The ones who questioned their own worth and searched for it in the eyes and minds of boys and in mirrors. Who patched up holes with copper wire and cotton. Who accepted things she shouldn’t have because they came easy and felt warm. Because when you feel you don’t much matter to your father, when he is lost to you, you tend to search for him. You look for him in corners and in between sofa cushions. You pick apart dialogue and record inflections, trying to reassemble him in places he doesn’t belong. You might take on too much at times, struggling to complete an equation that doesn’t add up because it’s missing numbers. If you have ever felt this way, if you still feel this way, let me inform you of our truth.
The thing about lost fathers
We will never find him. Fathers cannot be replaced. No boyfriend, no husband, no lover, no child can fill the gap of a father figure. No amount of chin-upping, no dose of endurance will fill your cup. The trick is to accept that. The trick is to allow yourself to be less-than.
For a moment.
There’s a hole in your heart. It might be small, perhaps gaping. Holes are funny things. We can walk around them or fall into them. You’ll probably fall in for a while. You might rage against the unfairness but try to convince the world you don’t have open wounds. Then rage will bubble out of you at unworthy moments. If you choose a lover who feeds you, who does his best, who compliments you — part of you won’t believe him. Or perhaps you’ll expect too much of him and refuse to accept that he’s just a human person with flaws and damage who will hurt you from time to time. But you might not see that. You might only see your father. You might only feel your hole.
Or you can accept it. You can try to understand that things we don’t have now, we never had. You haven’t lost anything at all. Your heart is simply shaped differently. Some people have no arms, some people have short hair, some people can’t roll their tongues or eat peanut butter without dying. You are fatherless.
The hype is a lie
Know this too. No one’s love can heal you. No gesture or reassurance or kiss to the collarbone can provide you with what you feel you missed out on. You don’t have to spend time waiting for this to come because it won’t. And if you ever find something that looks like it, know that it is actually codependency. You do have to, however, love yourself harder. Love yourself enough to see good intentions everywhere because that’s what you deserve to see. Love yourself enough to feel confidence and certitude, even when it’s blurry or quiet, because that’s what you deserve to feel.
And lastly: Don’t believe this bullsh*t that you’re not strong. Don't believe that fathers or mothers or that pet you never had are the things that would have made you a better person. You’re a dope person. You’re probably perfectly flawed and interesting and see the world in ways other people can’t.
Fathers are important. Parents are important. But they are just bits of our story. Being happy does not require that you be made up of fairy dust and unicorn hiccups. Being strong does not require that you have the same working parts as the girl sitting next to you. It just requires you to love yourself.
But you must indeed love yourself. All of yourself, holes included.
Ashley Simpo is a freelance writer and digital strategist living in Northern California. She is also the creator of Bare Frut Collective, a digital directory for creative Black women launching Spring 2016.
YouTube creator, La Guardia Cross is a new father and thankfully has decided to use the internet to show some of the hilarious trials and tribulations he faces. In his latest installment of "New Father Chronicles" he details some of the milestones of his adorable 14-month old daughter, Amalah. Between Cross' honest questions as a first-time parent and Amalah's witty expressions and answers, it's clear that she has definitely moved into the toddler stage.
If you laughed as much as I did watching this, you can tune in every Wednesday to see Cross and Amalah deliver more tales from the crib on...
Black people deal with a lot of scrutiny and criticism on a daily basis — but we all need a break from that. We've reached out to our moms and to black men in general, but now we've got some words of encouragement for the black fathers out there.
Thank you for being the first man to introduce me to sports!
Thank you for making my standards for relationships and dating so high that I don’t bring just anyone around to meet you. If a partner meets you, they're likely “the one.”
Thank you for teaching me how to be a man when society only saw me as a thug.
Thank you for pushing me to learn more about black history and culture so that I grew up knowing who I am and whose I am.
Thank you for teaching me the value of hard work but also reminding me not to take myself (or life) too seriously
Thank you for making me listen to your music on road trips, even when I rolled my eyes as you told me about the “good ol' days.”
Thank you for always believing in me and cheering me on, even when I didn’t ask or expect you to.
Thank you for being on the frontlines fighting for your family.
I didn’t always show appreciation, but your advice about careers, school, finances and more has been so helpful for me.
You provided an example of what a man is, not only for our family but also for the other families that interacted with us.
You taught me how a man should really treat a woman.
Thank you for always fixing things for me! From household things to finances and more.
You sacrificed more than I could have to make sure that my education was a priority, and not an afterthought.
It’s okay to cry or be sad. Many people in our society say being a man and being black means showing no vulnerability, but don’t limit yourself and your feelings for them. Being strong is about expressing your essence despite what ignorant people will say.
Fatherhood is too quickly stripped from your body. Your love is too often not spoken about.
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