Always Smile at Babies: Lessons From My Father
June 17, 2018

Perhaps the most important act a father can do for their child, is to inspire them. Inspire them to strive for greatness, to make something of themselves, and to work toward leaving a mark in their short time on this earth.

In this, my father has succeeded. The inspiration I take from the way he lives his life is immeasurable.

I owe so much of who I am to my dad.

He’s taught me, by example, a certain type of responsibility. A responsibility to be empathetic to the plight of others. To never look down on someone because of circumstance and to help those who are less fortunate.

The life lessons he has bestowed upon me were both explicit and a product of observation.

As a kid, he made me write book reports during the summer. There was research on civil rights heroes and Black icons. We set aside weekends to try the food of a different culture each week. He inspired me to make something of myself (it’s a process) and impressed upon me the challenges I would face as a person of color. He doubled and tripled down on the importance of education, and not becoming a statistic.

“He’s taught me, by example, a certain type of responsibility. A responsibility to be empathetic to the plight of others. To never look down on someone because of circumstance and to help those who are less fortunate.” 

I never wanted to let him down. But, I found this to be healthy motivation, as I always felt like the only way to do so would be doing wrong by others or failing to follow through on our unspoken deal of completing my educational journey.

I’ve learned from my dad (and my mom as well) that such a large part of parenthood, especially when you have kids young, is sacrifice. Sacrifice of resources and time to make the life of your child better, and easier than your own. And even sacrifice of dreams, goals and the life you may have previously envisioned.

My dad made those sacrifices, and committed himself to ensuring I (and now my younger siblings) have everything we need to succeed in life.

Seeing my dad’s embrace of Black fatherhood convinces me of the importance of highlighting successful black fathers. Every kid out there deserves the same life lessons, inspiration, and expectations i’ve received. We deserve to see these stories of exceptional Black fathers that we know exist, even if the narrative is that they don’t.

I’m no longer a kid, but i am still learning from my dad, even in his old age (he recently passed the big five-o).

In a society that has somehow gotten to the point where “social justice warrior” is a derogatory term, my dad persists in fighting for those who are most vulnerable, and encouraging others to do the same. He’s dedicated himself to making whatever impact he can in the lives of the marginalized, discriminated against, and systemically punished in our society.

As the founder and CEO of the Wayfinder Foundation and Citizen Education, respectively, he works to invest directly in the activism of women of color, knowing they are often the most systemically punished demographic in our society, as well as aiming to dismantle the status quo in a system of education that is failing our most vulnerable children.

For father’s day, I wanted to highlight the person i’m lucky to call dad. To put out into the world at least one more story of Black excellence in fatherhood.

My favorite line of advice he’s ever given me?

Always smile at babies. 

I love you, dad.

 

1 Comment

  1. Congratulations Josh on your well written tribute to your father Chris. Black fatherhood is a real challenge and when it’s done with excellence and worthy of acknowledgement by your son is commendable. I’ve met you both and I’m proud to see the example you both set. The stage is set for you to go forth and make your place in the world, your father has seen to that. I look forward to keeping up with your journey through this troubled world. Continue to be blessed!

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