Friday, June 22, 2012

What My Father Taught Me

June marks Father's Day, Loving Day, Juneteenth, and my dad's birthday. All of these special days remind me of my father, who passed away eleven years ago at the age of 71. Just like everyone, my father had demons, challenges, and setbacks. What he also had was an innate awareness of human interactions and a philosophical depth always two steps beyond his years. He was also wise, proud, stubborn, and loved his little girl to pieces.

Here, in no particular order, is what my father taught me:

1. Make copies of everything.

While this advice may be pretty obvious, it's served me well over the years. I make copies of all documents and forms before sending them to their recipients. If I need my tax information from 7 years ago or a bill from 7 months ago, I know just where to look.

2. It's better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.

I remind myself of this favorite line of his whenever I question whether to grab my coat, sweater, scarf, etc., before I head out the door.

3. Follow politics.

My dad knew everything -- or at least it seemed that way to me. He read law books and studied history and watched the news. He knew that I, as a black female, would be affected by politics, and that knowledge is the best weapon a person can have.

4. Don't drink the Kool Aid.

My dad knew ahead of time that Jim Jones was going to do something horrible both to and with his cult followers. He has taught me to question everything, no matter how innocuous it might seem to be.

5. Blacks should support gay rights just as much as they supported the Civil Rights movement.

In 1993, a gay student at my California high school wasn't allowed to bring his partner to the school dance without a fight; but my dad already understood that his own gay neighbors should be awarded the same respect that blacks had struggled to obtain in the 60s.

6. Have no regrets.

I could tell my father had regrets as he lay dying. The most important thing he's taught me is to have confidence, fight for what I believe in, and never take a single day for granted. Dad, this one's for you.


  1. Beautiful Shannon. I wish I were that organized!

  2. Great advice, and a wonderful reminder to those of us who know these things but have slacked off.