Monday, February 1, 2010

Fatherhood and Black History Month


Some recent thoughts of mine about fatherhood and February (aka Black History Month), originally expressed 140 characters or less at a time on Twitter.

Looking forward to teaching my daughter (who I last wrote about here) about some black heroes in February & beyond. At 3 she's smarter than she should be, a learning machine.

Her daycare has done a nice job of teaching more than ABC 123. She comes home talking about recycling & Haiti & Martin Luther King's dream. Way to go!

Still, her mom & I are her primary teachers as all good parents should be. Kids pick up everything so must be careful what info is put down.

Parenting a little kid is as much about re-teaching nonsense she picks up than about passing on knowledge of our choice.

The only President of the United States my daughter has ever heard of and knows anything about is a black man. How cool is that?

Actually that's not totally true. She's also fascinated by George Washington because he's on money, we drive over GW bridge regularly to visit family, & on account of his wooden teeth.

Ultimately I want to teach her that there should be no need for a month dedicated to black history, it's a year round thing to be proud about.

And while she happens to be black, I want her to know this fact is a segment of how she is defined, not the full scope of her world view.

I've taught her that music education begins with Stevie Wonder & Bob Marley, not because they're black but because, well, you've heard them so you know why.

I teach my daughter nothing is beyond reach or too good for her. No restrictions or barriers to her success. And that I'm the boss...for now.

My daughter has yet to express interest in becoming a doctor, lawyer, CEO or POTUS. For now a princess with a pink castle will do as top goal.

Prior to Tiana [star of The Princess & the Frog in case you're wondering] the princesses she saw (mostly courtesy of Disney) were fair skinned with long straight hair and rather wimpy, waiting on Prince Charming to come and save the day.

Eventually I found fairy tale book series by Jump at the Sun. Yeah, ownership can be traced to Disney, but a step in right direction.

After finding Jump at the Sun books (which cover fairy tales we’re all familiar with, but characters made black) I discovered HBO's Happily Ever After. International flavor.

So now my daughter has the option of seeing her favorite fairy tales told in multi-cultural fashion, with narration by Robert "Benson" Guillaume.

My daughter knows that presidents and princesses and Barbie dolls can and do come in a variety of shades, way more than I knew at her age.

If I was a dad in 1950 or '60 I'd have to work overtime to instill black pride at home because the world outside our door would reinforce opposite. 2010 is easier yet more complex to negotiate.

Rather than strictly praising blackness I'll need to focus on teaching that intelligence/creativity/self-esteem = beauty before she comes to associate beauty with booty shaking video sirens.

Right now America kinda promotes "black is beautiful" one month a year, but hip hop videos & housewives of Whore-ville are year round 24/7.

I'm smart enough to know the allure of the latest cleavage & belly baring pop star will blow away tidbits about Frederick Douglass.

But if I do my job early & well enough I'll give her a fighting chance to distinguish between flash & substance, self-worth & crafted image.

And as the praised images you'll find available for purchase by clicking on the link at the end of this sentence show, she'll know she's a princess by her own shifting definition of what true royalty is -

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Artwork provided courtesy of Erin Go Paint


1 comment:

  1. Get her the book by Kareem Abdul Jabbar as it has all the inventors who were black who are usually forgotten in history. A wonderful addition to your library.