5 things my dad taught me about being a black woman in America.
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Fathers Everywhere

On my first day of preschool, my dad tied my shoes.

He gave me an Arthur lunch box and held my hand as we walked across the parking lot to the St. Nicholas preschool. Just before we got to the entrance, he got down on one knee, placed his huge fan-sized hand on my pint-sized face, looked into my eyes, and said:

“Your skin is beautiful, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”


Honest dads rock. Image via iStock.

At 4 years old, I just stared at him. I waited for the next part of the sentence, which I assumed would be an offering of a toy, a juice box, or playtime. But it didn’t come. This was my introduction into the real world.

This world is a world where I'm often the only black person in the room. It's a world where blackness, especially my extremely dark black skin, might be mocked by people from all backgrounds.

My dad was born and raised in the Deep South. He was raised at a time when lynchings were the norm and when calling black employees the n-word was just part of being in the boys club.

He did an amazing job raising his four black kids, parenting that spanned three decades. And I, his last child, ended up morphing into a young adult during the Black Lives Matter movement.

From my dad, I've learned five lessons about what it means to be a Black American.

On Father's Day this year, I wanted to thank my dad for these lessons, and I also wanted to share them with you:

1. My blackness is my pride and glory.

My parents used to play Stevie Wonder after they were done listening to NPR on the way to school or the store. My dad, a fan of gardening, talk radio, and collards on a Sunday, boasted his black manhood as a point of pride, setting a resounding example on how I should view my black womanhood. We went to a Southern Baptist church on Sundays, and I spent part of my summers with my grandmother in Baton Rouge, visiting my dad's siblings during the week, progressively understanding the journey it took my parents to get our family to where it is.

Many of those experiences shaped me into who I am today. My parents made sure I understood my history and culture, and in turn, I dove deeper into what black identity meant for me at a young age.

Image via iStock.

I found that my blackness, the physical and mental aspects of it, are what makes me who I am. For that, I’m thankful.

2. Hard work is the only way to move forward in this world.

My dad grew up as a young boy in Mississippi during the Jim Crow South. As the oldest of eight children without an active father, he was responsible for getting himself to a better, less dangerous life and carrying his siblings with him. He ended up becoming a CPA and working as a community college professor because he had to put four kids through school. I never saw him complain, I never saw him be late to work, and I never saw him in a wrinkled work shirt (or gardening shirt, for that matter). The man has some serious pride.

He valued his work, and he valued the lives of the kids he was responsible for raising. Because of his example, I got my first job the summer after junior year, and I haven’t stopped working since. I'd like to think some of his work ethic has carried over to me.

3. Love yourself.

My dad is a Vietnam veteran. During the time of isolation and imminent danger in a country far different from his own, he learned how to cherish the things he loved — like the Four Tops and his alone time — and to cherish himself. This lesson, loving yourself at times of strength and weakness, is something he wanted his kids to know as well.

Love your weirdness. Love your Americanness. Love your blackness. Love your flaws. Love the possibilities.

According to my dad, you’d better love yourself before anyone else does. He is right.

4. Family is key.

My family members are very different. Our personalities and beliefs vary, but from my dad, I've learned that it's important to never forget and always acknowledge the people you love, however you are able to do so.

Whether your family consists of blood relatives or good friends, respect them, love them, and care for them. Chances are, they’ll probably do the same for you.

Image via iStock.

5. You are beautiful, whether the world acknowledges you or not.

As a dark-skinned black woman, I was mercilessly taunted during middle and high school. Discussing the complexities of colorism was never a thing in our household until the teasing began, so my parents had to do some intense work to keep me grounded when all I wanted to do was yell.

My dad, with whom I share the same skin tone, was particularly encouraging. He knew what it was like to be dark in a world that values lighter skin, and he shared his ways of getting through it with me. He's not the most emotional nor most affectionate guy on the block, but he made it very clear that either I could understand my beauty or I could let the world make the decision for me. I chose the former.

Photo used with permission from the author.

For all these things and more, I thank you. I love you, Dad.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

But that doesn't mean working under those conditions wasn't occasionally insulting, frequently embarrassing, and endlessly frustrating.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.