This week's post is special project I've been working on the last few months surrounding a poem I wrote about my father. Since today is Father's Day I figured why not share? Shout to my Dad and all the the present accounted for, and attentive Fathers of Color out there... Hope you enjoy :)
Awhile back I wrote a poem about my dad. He is this larger than life character that loved through his stories rather than his emotions. He told me the only time he cried was when my Mamaw died, when my brother and I were still too young to understand. He fought all his life. He was talked down to, talked about, and made fun of, all the hardships that came with being black, male and from the ghetto. But he told his stories with so much charisma and charm, you’d think he was an impenetrable fortress. Nothing could touch him, nobody’s tears, not our tears, not even his own. He laughed and smiled so big it warmed your spirit from the inside out. And he told his stories with the same vigor and conviction, unmoved by his own personal hardship, he laughed in the face of pain and struggle and animated his triumph. I was convinced at a young age that nothing could touch him, my dad was tough.
As I got older I carried the same notions with me, even when I left home. I worried about my mom more than I worried about my dad because he was strong and hadn’t shed a tear from what I could see since my grandmother died, I knew he’d be fine. My absence couldn’t have possibly affect him when he laughed in the face of matters much worse. He was my rock and a mirror of all the strength I wanted to convey to the outside world, taking on everything one story or song or joke at a time. I envied him and even modeled a cold demeanor after what I thought was his. I still cried, but I’d never let you see, I knew he’d be so proud of me. But as I got older and came home to visit, the stories I’d heard from him all my life started to sound different. As he repeated the same lines, same hand gestures and sound affects upon newly matured ears, they were no longer as funny. I listened harder and realized I had ignored an entire part of my dad that I didn’t even think existed. In writing off his emotion, without even realizing it I had written off the very innate part of his very being, his humanity. For someone to laugh so loud and smile so warm, it didn’t even register to me that he could be sad or hurt, and it hurt me to realize that I hadn’t seen it.
One night, my mother and I were having a conversation about my moving away from home and she brought up my dad. I didn’t think twice before saying he wasn’t affected by it. She expressed to me that he cried when I’d left and was even devastated when I decided not to come back, and while she prepared herself for my departure, he had not. On some occasions, he’d find himself praying or sleeping in my old room. In that moment, I understood how small of a box masculinity can put people in, especially black men. A box so small that we end up policing ourselves without even realizing it. All this time what I’d known as tough, was only allowing one side of my dad to flourish in my mind. I can honestly say I didn’t take full note of my father’s emotions until that conversation with my mom. So I wrote this poem for him, to celebrate him and all of who he is, even the parts I couldn’t see. I didn’t think I could love my dad anymore than when I was allowed to candidly know his struggle with sadness in my absence, being allowed access to the very epicenter of his humanity was the epitome strength to me. It is the first poem I’ve ever written about him. I hope through my words I can lift the burden of hyper masculinity if only for a second and let him know I see him for all of who he is… I love you, thank you for letting who I am change who you are… Thank you for letting me soften your heart…
This is to all the present and accounted for black fathers and fathers of color, blood or not, overtly feeling or not, but present nonetheless. I hope the men of color watching understand that the burden of masculinity is not your cross to bare, but an impossible expectation placed on you by the weight of oppressive systems. You are loved, you feel pain as well as joy, sadness, and delight and your tear ducts moisten just as mine do and it doesn’t make you any less. Love is just as much your duty as any woman, you are not exempt from feeling… Your masculinity is not tied to your humanity, your emotion is.. And whether the world sees it or not, know that I do. You are human first before you are man, I see you, your children see you and it’s alright to feel…
Hope this inspired you and #HappyFathersDay to all the fathers of color...
Until next time,