Journal Entry: Saturday, July 12, 2014, around 9:00 am
Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 76 years young had he lived until today.
How very fitting it is that I have my first ever poetry performance feature in Harlem of all places where so many of my artistic ancestors and influences harvested their ambition and lived out their dreams (Zora, Langston, and so many others). There were my inspiration in books and literature classes for years.
How incredibly beautiful it is that I am reading in Harlem on my father’s birthday. He too is now my ancestor, my father, who exampled hustle, ambition, and the fruition of dreams for me personally.
Daddy, I thank you dearly for your example. I thank you for having the courage to do what many would never ever dream of doing. I thank you for challenging the color lines, confronting prejudice and ignorance of all kinds.
I thank you for rescuing me in the hospital that day when the staff wanted to keep me and Grandmother on cots in the hallway despite our suffering pneumonia. There were no “colored rooms” available. Because of your audacity and insistence, they “found” room and the service was impeccable. I thank you for your courage and your example.
I thank you for challenging me to find a way to do it rather than be told that I could not when it came to anything. I thank you for encouraging me to find another door open when one closed in my face. I thank you for reminding me to step firmly on bridges but never burn them because I just might need to tip toe across them again.
I thank you for rising most days with a smile to face a world that spat in your face on a daily beginning with your very own father who walked away and never returned to raise you, shape you, love you, face you with answers but left you to figure it all out on your own.
I thank you for being a father anyway, my father, my sister’s father, even my ex-husband’s father all day, every day. Though the monkey harnessed on your back always poured you another drink, festered your fears, and enticed you to leave, you stayed. You stayed for graduations, births, deaths, divorces, and the ordinary—determined.
Forgive me the arrogance, ignorance, and stubbornness of my youth. This day they yield to my compassion, my grace, my thanksgiving, my happy birthday to you. May your soul be sweetly released. Rest in peace.
To my ancestors, angels, guides, I thank you for your sacrifice, your shine, for the dreams you carried despite the lashes on your backs.
I thank you for your hands on my shoulders and around my heart.