Uffda: Interjection signifying exhaustion, weariness, resignation, or overwhelm, especially used by those of Norwegian descent; see 'oofda'. (The Norwegian-American slang equivalent of the Yiddish term oy.) Black: Me
So, I had this idea: why don’t I use my non-profit as a vehicle to create an opportunity for fathers or father-figures to read to their children. Afterward, both could go to a local restaurant and enjoy a root beer float together.
…And so I planned, I networked, I advertised. I played and replayed all possible scenarios, which all pointed to a successful event.
On the day of the event, I waited at the venue for people to flood the event. Slam Dunk!
One hour in and only one person came to enjoy the opportunity.
What the Hell?
This seemed like a slam dunk to me. Why wouldn’t a person take 15 minutes out of their schedule to read to their child? The way I see it, it’s a win-win for our community! Kids are read to, thus increasing their brain capacity; the local public library gains more readership, and a local restaurant gains patrons. I sat on the step wondering where I went wrong.
One hour in, I was ready to walk away.
But, just then, I see a father and his daughter walk in and grab a book.
Shit! A glimmer of hope. Would you look at that?
After choosing a book, they both walk outside, sit together under the gazebo, and read together.
…and that made it all worth it.
Maybe the event did not work out as I wanted it to…
Maybe I should have done a better job planning within the logistical side…
Maybe I should have been more aggressive with my advertising – shook a few more hands/handed out more materials.
I could “maybe” this thing all day. Grasping at what went wrong.
What I do know is that I possibly helped make a difference in that little girl’s life. She got to spend quality time with her father, under the gazebo.
Yes. Discrimination is everywhere. Racism is everywhere.
But, it is no longer the person who stands outside your house and burns a cross in your front yard; it is no longer the person who calls you a nigger (or some variation of it) to your face; it is not in the signage around town that prohibits you from using a certain fountain, or entering through the front door of a business. It is systematic. It is when people accept the status quo; It is when people say, “Well, that is how it has always been.” It is when people stand by and refuse to get involved because it is “none of their business.”
There is one line that hit me really hard in this article.
“I can’t imagine anyone is going to be applying for anything in that city anytime soon,” Fuller said. “I can’t imagine businesses are going to want to move in there with the current leaders in City Hall.”
This is where I will concentrate this post.
I live in a town where few African Americans live. Are there people in the town who are blatantly racist? no. Have I been discriminated against and denied opportunities because of my race? yes, but mostly because of the ingrained ignorance that sometimes exists within the community. Ignorance that allows people to discriminate against ethnic minorities.
Most unknowingly. But they do not get a pass.
…which is why it is my duty to make sure that they have no choice but to see me for who I am.
Young, Gifted, and Black.
I did not ask to be black, but I am. My parents taught me that being black comes with responsibilities:
You must be the best.
You must work the hardest.
You must put yourself in a position where saying no hurts them, not you.
If you can help it, you must live to see another day.
When they told me these responsibilities, they did not say:
You must be better than white people.
You must work harder than white people…
It was indiscriminate. They meant all people.
My parents made me realize that being black was the best gift my ancestors ever gave me. I, along with others, get the responsibility of carrying centuries of history on my back. My people were built for this; we made the world go around, we made economies grow, we built cities from the ground up.
And I am the fruit of all of that labor.
I will teach your children,
I will coach your children,
I will sit on your boards and councils,
I will create your businesses, and (God willing), I will be called Doctor.
I will do this because there are more like me. There are more blacks that are driven to accomplish the same goals that I want to accomplish. More brothers and sisters who believe that accomplishing these goals are a responsibility that is owed to our people – a responsibility to your people as well. Your community is not whole without us.
So, although the community in this article may not have been ready, I hope you are ready; you don’t have a choice.
Correction, I have always had a bucket list, but I started to actually write it down.
Get my Masters
Start a Foundation/Company (Non-Profit)
See Mount McKinley
Compete a Bodybuilding Competition
See the Iditarod…
I first started to write down the things that I have always wanted to do and completed.
Stay in a 4-star hotel
Eat at a top of the Line restaurant
See the MLK Memorial
Get a passport
Fly an airplane…
Then I realized that I have had a pretty good life with a ton of positive experiences.
Go to Hawaii
Watch a Cirque du Soleil show
Buy a tailored suit
Walk across the Edmund/Pettus Bridge
Go to an ethnic festival…
Experiences that many people live their entire life and never have the opportunity to do.
Get into a Hall of Fame
See MLK Church
Go on a Civil Rights Trip
Stand in the spot that MLK gave “I Have a Dream” Speech
Hike a Mountain…
But then, I realized that my list kept growing as I got older and had access to more was of funding my adventures.
Become a Black Belt
Have a structure/scholarship named after me
Own a BMW
Buy a Rolex
Become a Pokémon Master…
I also noticed that I have a shit-ton of things that I still want to do.
See the Great Wall of China
Go to Comic Con dressed up as a comic book character
Watch a Premier League Game
See the Gate of No Return
Drink Beer in Germany…
The older I get, the bigger the world becomes. The older I get; I have more responsibilities that derail me from checking some of these things off.
Walk across hot coals
Take the kids to Disneyland
Stay at the The Kakslauttanen Hotel
Go to Cuba and smoke a Cuban Cigar…
Here is my dilemma: I grew up in an environment where it was worth a celebration if you, at the age of 25:
Had no previous or current convictions,
Did not have children, and
Graduated with a college degree.
Yes, it sounds funny. But those are serious aspirations for a group of Americans. The problem is, once you get to the age of 25 and have met and surpassed those goals, there is a ton of confusion on what to do next. I have been so narrow-sighted about accomplishing those goals (ones that many unfortunately do not meet and/or take for granted), that I failed to see just how big the world actually is.
So, why not now? I, now that I am older and have a career, should be able to do many of the things that I want?
Not so fast.
For starters, I have children and it is damn near impossible to find someone who will care for them while I am on an excursion. Side note: There is no way in the hell that my wife will let me take a “life goal” trip while she is at home with the kids; not happening. Also, it is too damn expensive and too damn painstaking ape-shit to take our entire family on a plane. So, for now, my plans to see the world and experience different things are on hold.
For the items that require a purchase (own a BMW, own a Rolex, become a blackbelt), the older the children are, the more those things seem like they will never happen. Really?! Buy a Rolex?! I spend that same amount of money paying for travel team, camps, concessions, and equipment.
It looks like I will have to put some of these ventures on the backburner until retirement.
This is my son’s doll. He is very protective of her and demands that she is in bed with him at night. I don’t care that he has a doll, I am just glad he has a sensitive side.
The ladies love a sensitive man.
This post from four years ago set off a friendly debate amongst people who read my social media post.
A little background:
Before my son was born, both of my daughters had an American Girl doll. They promised anything and everything to have one, and when they received it, my wife and I were the best parents ever. But soon after, as with all toys, they lost interest. Sure, they took it to bed with them at night, but months after purchase, it was not cared for with the same love that they once had.
Enter my son. He found the discarded doll and really took to her. He named her after a newborn who attended his same daycare. He took care of her and demanded that she be in bed with him at night.
I am not going to get deep into the whole men vs. women, boys vs. girls, gender roles arguments, but I did have some takeaways from witnessing this experience:
It brought him closer to his mother: Every night when she would tuck him into bed. He would talk to her about his doll. She would talk to him about what his doll would like to do when they both woke up in the morning. She would talk to him about treating that doll with respect, often asking if that doll would appreciate him acting in a negative way.
It prepared him for any future younger siblings/younger playmates at daycare: We were not sure if we were going to have any other kids (we did), but we did know that there were younger children at daycare. So, we used the doll as a tool to show him how to care for a baby. Many times, he would gently rock the doll to sleep, exclaiming, “It’s okay,” only to drop the doll on its head when he felt his job was complete minutes later. We were able to show him that a baby is something to be continuously cared for.
It made him soft: Yes, I said soft. But really, what in the hell is wrong with that? There are definitely worse things that could happen to a young boy. I highly doubt that having a soft spot for a favorited doll is one of them.
You are the kid that does not have to newest gadgets.
You are the kid that has to check in all of the time.
Sorry, Kid, but your Dad is an asshole.
It is not that I am trying to be mean to you, really it isn’t. It is the fact that I believe that everything should come in its own time. You do not have to grow up too fast, you do not have to get everything quickly, and you do not have to make the right decisions all of the time. And that is the thing, you are not equipped to handle a society that will hold you accountable for your actions. You are not equipped for a society that will record you, store the video, and bring it out to use against you thirty years later when you are being considered for a career. The world is not that same as it was 10 or 20 years ago – the level of personal accountability has been heightened.
You want to be out a few more hours past curfew? No!
You want to host a sleepover? Uh-uh.
You want the newest cell phone? HELL NO!
I am sorry that you have to be asked, “What’s with your dad?” or “Why is he so mean?” On second thought, screw that – I am not sorry. I am not their parent!
You have parents who are highly involved in your life, you Lucky Duck. I cannot control what you do when you leave the nest; but, I hopefully have some sort of influence on how you choose to live your life after you leave it. I am your parent and I take that role seriously because I have a sole duty to society to place a responsible, resilient, and reliable person who carries my last name amongst the community.
It may seem like I am doing this to punish you; but, believe it or not, I am doing this our of love.
And some fear. Lots of fear.
Fear of you being in the headlines. Fear of being a part of a scandal. And I’ll admit — fear of someone saying, “Where were the parents?”
Think of your mother’s heart.
Now, go play outside and have your ass in here before the street lights come on.
Prerequisite: Watch the Blackish Episode “Chop Shop”
Today, my kids experienced something that took them out of their comfort zone. Something that is their birthright. Something that I got to experience as a child and hold dear to me to this day. Today, I took the kids to The Barber Shop.
We are not talking to any barber shop. No. We are talking about Thee Barber Shop. A place that is a staple in the community. A place where people congregate to talk about a plethora of topics that may have nothing to do with hair – regardless of education (or actual knowledgebase of any particular subject). A place that is the center of fashion, social status, and well-being. A place where it is okay to own your individual style (especially if you are able to take some shit from everyone because of that style).
What my kids walked into that day was a venue like no other. They had no idea of the type of culture that existed in front of them. Laughter, loudness, languages, and hair. Braids, tapers, edges, fades, and braids. Hair lotions, spritzes, sprays, and gold chains. The smell of burnt African ancestral hair everywhere. They stood there, looking around – astonished and wide-eyed. And I, well I stood there like a proud father who had just walked his kids into Disneyland.
A taste of my childhood.
As per custom, simply walking into The Shop initiated the rituals of salutations – Acknowledging everyone in the building. There were enough pounds, head nods, daps, points in the direction of, and “wassups” to go around. As I turned around, I noticed the look on my kids’ faces, they now saw me as some type of celebrity.
“Do you even know these people?”
“Some. But that doesn’t matter when you are in The Shop. Everyone gets some sort of acknowledgement.”
We managed to find a place to sit down. As usual the place was damn-near standing room only.
“Walk in, or appointment?”
You damn right appointment. I sure-as-shit know better than to walk in an establishment such as this without an appointment unless I had half of the day to wait for an open seat. Don’t get me wrong, if you got the time, the barbershop is the place to sit and bullshit and/or catch the game, whether you need a haircut that day or not was of no importance. The wait was well worth it if you had a favorite barber. Plus, that kind of wait speaks to the quality of the shop. Longer wait = better haircuts.
“Dad, why do you have a winter cap on your head?”
I believe that this would be the perfect time for us to discuss barber shop etiquette. When at the shop, you:
do not switch barbers within the same shop. You must stick with the barber that cuts your hair. If you decide to switch to a different barber, know that your actions are giving a clear sign that you think that he or she sucks. This will diminish your loyalty in the entire shop. Now, every barber within the shop will look at you with a side eye.
always tip your barber. If you don’t have time to sit, make an appointment. But, if you tip your barber well, he or she will have your back when you are in a bind.
never, ever, ever (ever, ever, ever) come inside the shop with a fucked-up hairline. At 38, my hairline runs faster than I do, so I save the money and shave it bald myself. I wore a winter cap because I wasn’t about to be the subject of ridicule on that day, or any other.
“It’s because your hairline is messed up, isn’t it?”
She got me.
I was not going to honor that with an answer. She knew what the problem was. The asshole smirk she gave me — my asshole smirk that I give out regularly — was very telling.
My son was called up to his seat. Having had his hair cut before at this shop, he was somewhat of a veteran.
He was still clearly out of his element. Every time he would look up, he would give me a nervous half-smile as if he were saying, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I can do this…” But it seemed too much for his anxiety.
“Why is he making that face?”
Twenty minutes later – a quick cut by any means, being that hairline perfection and presentation is key, and conversations are to be had both by barber and those in the vicinity – my son hopped off from the chair with a fresh cut that made him look much older, and much cuter.