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A letter to the woman who told me to stay in my daughter's life after seeing my skin.

'I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men like me who love fatherhood.'

A letter to the woman who told me to stay in my daughter's life after seeing my skin.
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Fathers Everywhere

This article originally appeared on 06.15.16


To a stranger I met at a coffee shop a few years ago who introduced me to what my life as a parent would be like:

My "welcome to black fatherhood moment" happened five years ago, and I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I doubt you'll remember it, though — so let me refresh your memory.


It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Los Angeles in 2011, and I decided to walk my then 3-month-old daughter to the corner Starbucks. That's when I met you — a stylish older white woman who happened to be ahead of me in line.

You were very friendly and offered up many compliments about how cute my daughter was, and I agreed wholeheartedly with you. She's cute.

But after you picked up your drink, you delivered this parting shot:

"No offense, but it's not often that I see black guys out with their kids, but it's such a wonderful thing," she said. "No matter what happens, I hope you stay involved in her life."

And then you put on your designer sunglasses and left.

Meanwhile, I was like...

GIF from "Live with Kelly and Michael."

Here's the thing: I'm not angry with you, but I want you to understand the impact you had on my life.

Do I think you're a mean-spirited racist? No, I don't. Actually, I bet you're a really nice lady.

But let's be real for a second: Your view on black dads was tough for me to stomach, and I want you to know a few things about what it's really like to be me.

1. I want you to know that we have challenges that other dads don't experience.

I know what you're thinking: "Oh boy — let me brace myself while he 'blacksplains' how hard his life is while shaming me for ignoring my white privilege."

But that would be missing the point. We all have our challenges in life, and I'm not about to bring a big bottle of whine to a pity party.

Instead, as you probably know, today's dads are trying to shed the stigma of being clueless buffoons.

Kid, you're gonna love this! Wheeeee ... uh oh.

But black dads have an additional obstacle to hurdle in that we're often seen as completely disinterested in fatherhood. Trust me, it gets old when people automatically assume you're not good at something because of the color of your skin.

Our encounter was the first of many examples of this that I've witnessed, directly or indirectly, in my five and a half years of fatherhood, and I'm sure there will be more to come.

2. I want you to know that I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men just like me who love fatherhood.

During the months that followed our brief meeting, I felt a need to prove that you — a complete stranger — were wrong. I needed to prove there were plenty of black men just like me who loved being dads.

I knew a lot of these great men personally: My dad, my two brothers, and many others embraced fatherhood. But could any data back up how much black dads embraced fatherhood? Because the examples in mainstream media were few and far between.

Thankfully, the answer is yes.

A few years after I met you, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 70% of black dads are likely to engage in common child-rearing activities such as diaper changing, bathing, toilet training, etc., on a daily basis. That's a higher percentage than white or Hispanic fathers.

Full stop.

This isn't about black dads being "the best" because parenthood isn't a competition. It's about showing that we're not even remotely as bad as society makes us out to be.

And outside of the CDC study, I saw firsthand how hands-on black dads are when I was thrust into the public eye, too, because a lot of them reached out to me to tell their stories.

We nurture our kids.

Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed and used with permission.

We're affectionate with our kids.

Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed and used with permission.

And we do whatever our kids need us to do.

Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed and used with permission.

And none of that should come as a surprise to anyone.

3. I want you to know that I believe you meant well when you praised me for being involved in my daughter's life, but that's what I'm programmed to do.

I will always be there for her and her baby sister.

Princess dresses at Disneyland? You bet.

Even though I just described how black dads are different from many dads, I hope the takeaway you have from this is that we have a lot of similarities, too.

Please don't fall into the trap of saying that you want to live in a colorblind world because it makes it harder to identify with inequality when it happens. Instead, I hope you can recognize that we have the same hopes, dreams, and fears as other parents, but the roads we travel may not be the same.

And no, I don't want an apology.

But I hope when you pick up your next latte and see a dad who looks like me that you'll smile knowing he's the rule rather than the exception.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


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Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

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