Single-family households are the norm in the Black community, but single father headed households are an aberration. I was raised by my single Black father. My father taught me lessons in his own particular unorthodox way, which has stuck. My father protected me, was the consummate provider, and sugar coated little.
I got my first pair of diamond earrings as a newborn from him and a diamond tennis bracelet for my 13th birthday. He bought me a car at 17 that I didn’t accept because it wasn’t fancy enough for me. He brought me flowers every Friday, and taught me the importance of keeping my money in order, literally. He scoffed at what he referred to as ‘ho money’, explaining that only women of ill repute carried their money balled up, elaborating that it was a manner that prostitutes hastily accepted their money from their clients. Until this day I make it a practice to have all of my paper currency, with the bills face up in order of denomination, lest I be perceived as a whore. When I misbehaved, I was chastised in a way that solidified the lesson. In middle school, during my pubescent years when I began smelling myself and showing out in school, he took off of work and sat in every single one of my classes, 1st-7th period. He found weed in my room, and when I became grown taught me how to distinguish between high-grade marijuana and ‘dirt’. He taught me that when a man loves you he does whatever it is you require, and a woman is never to walk on the outside of the sidewalk.
Edification was important in our household. I was encouraged to be veracious in my learning. Louis Farrakhan and Frances Cress Welsing videos were staples in our home. We were something of the militant household on the block. It was made clear to me at an early age that “No fat man was coming down the chimney bringing little Black kids sh—t in South Central.” Thus any notions I had of Santa Claus were dashed. When the administration at my all white high school accused me of being in a gang for throwing up the ‘W’ (Westside) in a high school dance photograph, my father made an appearance in a suit and tie and eloquently gave the administration the business. At 16 as a senior in high school I wanted to drop out of school and start college because I felt that the education and the socialization that I was receiving was not of benefit to me. He supported my decision and arranged a face-to-face meeting with the President at the local college.
At 22 when I called and told him that I had eloped and had gotten married, he was livid and boarder line had a heart attack; So my most recent big news that I was quitting my secure job as an Educator in the public school system, to move to Brazil and write was easy for him to accept. He quizzed me on my game plan, and offered me some sound advice and then cut a check for the first leg of my adventure.
You see, I am almost 30 years old, and my father’s lessons have made an indelible impression on my life journey. He has been my support every step of the way. Often Black father’s don’t get the praise that they deserve, and are painted as all being absentee sperm donors. Not so for mine, and many other Black dad’s. Father’s day should not be the only time we sing dad’s like mine praises.
As I continue to dream big for myself, and embark upon this road less traveled I am constantly reminded of his most repeated axiom, “Don’t look down unless it’s money on the ground.”
What life lessons, did your father teach you?