An Open Letter to a Single Father: Thank you, Papi.

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.

Jim Valvano

You know, it is truly difficult to put into words how appreciative I am of you.

I will never have enough words. Enough gratitude. Enough love to truly express how valued and respected you are.

Papi…I know I don’t always tell you. I know I don’t keep in touch as often as I should. Or visit more. I know I should do more. You are allotted a certain amount of time on this Earth and it seems like life is constantly moving way too fast. I promise I will work on that.

I know I don’t always tell you, but you are on my mind at least once a day. I know I don’t always tell you, but I pray for your safety and health. I know I don’t always tell you, but I beam when I tell others the story of how my father, a single father, raised one hell of a daughter since the age of 13. I know I don’t always tell you, but you are my hero. You truly are. I am not sure how I would have turned out if you did not play such a critical part in my upbringing. I should tell you more.

Not many people know this story…

but it is the story of our lives and I find myself replaying certain events when I reminisce. I don’t think anyone will truly understand the weight of your sacrifices to raise me on your own. All that we went through together. It was you and me, against the world. I can’t help but tear up as I write this. I owe you everything plus so much more.

Some people may hear this story and feel pity and sympathy. But at my current age, as I reflect on what has taken place decades ago, I do not feel pity nor sympathy. Because I feel this is a story of triumph. And although the story saddens me from time to time, I truly feel it has built me into the person I am today; a reflection of you, a reflection of everlasting resilience. And I pride myself on that every single day.

Nothing could have prepared us for my mother falling ill. Nothing could have prepared us for the very core of the person we previously knew her to be would change. Those years you stuck around when she was probably the most difficult person on Earth to deal with. The years I watched you pull the sleeping cot out of the closet and set it up in the living room every night. She really tried to make your life hell…our lives, I should say. She was not the same mother or wife. For years, I was terrified of her. She continuously pushed you away and you still stayed…until she left.

We were forced to pick up the broken pieces and revise the version of life we have become accustomed to.

I know that was not easy for you. I know that some days you wondered how you can provide for me. Nights you stayed awake racking your brain. The tears spilt from trying to repair a broken home. We moved into a one-bedroom apartment and you gave me the bedroom. You worked full time, yet your presence in the household never lacked. Your guidance never lacked. Your love never lacked. I never went without, ever. Every morning and evening, breakfast and dinner was made. Every homecoming and prom, you provided. You kept a close eye on me, to keep me safe. And although I felt you were overbearing during my teenage years, you never stopped me from having a social life. I just had to abide by your rules. Too many gestures over the years to name. But I remember it all vividly and because of that, I will always be thankful for being blessed with a father such as yourself. You are truly a God sent man.

Not many people know this, but I am positive that my skill of writing came from you.

I am not even sure if you know that I am a writer because I have never directly told you. This is probably the first piece of mine you have ever read…NO PRESSURE, right? I remember the time you would spend on your poems. I still question how you were able to fill up pages; I struggle filling even one page of poetry. I remember you would translate them into Spanish and English.

But writing is not the only trait I have inherited from you. I have inherited your strength. Your common sense, a term I heard frequently throughout the years. I pride myself on being resilient, but I am sure that comes from you as well. I have DEFINITELY inherited your ‘no bullshit’ attitude and mouth LOL. I question everything because you taught me to. I stand up for what I believe in because you taught me to. I do not back down. I stand my ground because you taught me to. I am honest about the good, bad, and the ugly…because you taught me to. You taught me the importance of humility and humanity. You taught me the importance of hard work, that nothing comes in this life easy or free. You taught me that the concept of gender norms is ridiculous because not only women should hold the responsibility of cooking and household chores. You taught me that the worship of God can take place in your very home, a difference between religion and spirituality. But most importantly, you taught me the importance of maneuvering through life with love, dignity, and morale. My level of respect and standards are placed on a pedestal because you taught me from a very young age that I deserved nothing less of that.

So, you see, I turned out pretty great and it is because of you. You did an amazing job and you have very big shoes to fill for fathers to come. I love you, forever and always. I can never repay you. Thank you. Happy Father’s Day. ❤

Author’s Note:

I feel fathers get a bad rep. Many people expect a father to be dead beat, absent, or clueless when it comes to parenting. Maybe the majority of broken homes have shown this. But in my case, it was far different. My mother left and my father handled this ‘single father’ thing like a champ. I felt it was important to shine light on this. For the fathers that are active and present in the parenting of their children, whether it’s co-parenting, in a happy home, or single, I see you. You are appreciated. Enjoy this day, King. You deserve the love and recognition as well.

Land of the Free?

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”

Kofi Annan

I have debated heavily with myself…

as to whether or not I should write about this sensitive yet very important topic.

Not because I am blind to what is taking place, or scared. I often wonder if I am credible enough to write about this. I would never want anything I say about this topic to be misconstrued. I would never want to appear as uneducated or ignorant. I would never want to offend anyone who is greatly impacted by the disgusting hate crimes displayed in our country.

As I watch what is taking place, more recently with the MURDERS of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, I can no longer remain silent. And I hope that my voice makes a positive impact in a way that it educates the ignorant and supports the oppressed. To the Black community: I hope you read this and know that not only do you have an ally in me but a friend and a confidant as well. To the people of color who are not Black and to the White community: I hope when you read this, you feel so uncomfortable that you have no choice but to no longer ignore what has been taking place and decide to stand up and support those who need us.

I am a Hispanic woman, Puerto Rican specifically.

I am in an interracial relationship with a Black man. We are soon to be married next year. My soon to be step daughter is a young Black woman growing up and witnessing this oppression. My nephews who are half Black will be faced with the harsh realization of what it means to be Black in this country. My future child will also be a target. And although African roots run deeply in my heritage, I refuse to overlook the fact that because my skin is considerably fair, I do hold privilege in America.

You see, as a Hispanic woman, I have encountered racism to a small extent. Racial slurs and stereotypes have been thrown at me like daggers. And yes, it is hurtful. But I have NEVER been physically assaulted without a just cause. I have NEVER been randomly pulled over by law enforcement just because I look ‘suspicious.’ I have NEVER had to fear that my life would be taken because of the color of my skin. And THESE reasons is why I refuse to be blind to my privilege in America. Because of THIS, I will use my privilege to advocate and stand up for the Black community.

I have seen the hashtags #AllLivesMatter splattered on social media like sloppy ink blots. I can assume the people posting it have no malicious intent (although, I do have to be honest- I can assume, but cannot confirm). I’ve witnessed the debates as to why this statement is defended. How one race is not superior to the others. How all lives should matter. Yes…it should matter but it does not.

I have witnessed the hurtful and ignorant comments. The judgements placed on the lootings and protests that have been occurring. I have witnessed the silence. The hesitation to speak up. Speak out. To support our Black people. I am not here to pass judgement on you. Only you know why you are choosing to respond in the way that you do. Maybe your support is silent and through prayer. And that’s okay too. But if the current state of our country…the racial divide, the tension, the pain, the anger, all of it…if this does not shake and rattle the very core of your being, you have some serious digging and self reflection to do.

Let me put this into perspective for you…

For centuries, Black people have endured various forms of slavery. They have endured violence. They have endured the pain of loved ones taken mercilessly away by the hands of White supremacists. Their rights are constantly stripped away in some form. And you may think this went away once segregation did, but it has not. Even when the Black people were declared ‘free,’ they are still being passed for jobs they are more deserving of. They are still misjudged by their appearance. They are still wrongfully accused for crimes they did not commit. And they are DYING on OUR streets in OUR country by the hands of those who are supposed to be protecting the people of this country. They do not have the privilege of innocent until proven guilty. And to add insult to injury, despite many efforts to remain quiet, compliant, and peaceful, once they can no longer do this because of the complete disregard this country continues to show towards these people, they are labeled as thugs, a danger to this society. So let me ask you this, is it really All Lives Matter? Are Black lives included in this?! I would really like to know.

Black Lives Matter is a movement. It’s a stand that says, “I am here for my Black brothers and sisters. I see your pain. Your struggles. The adversity. The injustice. And IT IS NOT OKAY. Change has to happen.” This movement does not take away from the lives of the other races. It is an acknowledgement that Black people have always been and continue to be at a major disadvantage than the rest of us. It’s acknowledging that the Black community needs our support. They should no longer carry this burden alone. THIS IS OUR BURDEN. They are valuable to our country. They need air to breathe. They bleed the same. The color of their skin should not be considered a crime in a country that claims Land of the Free. We must help to ensure that the Black race are given the proper love, respect, rights and LIFE that they deserve. This is a fight for humanity.

Until Black lives matter, all lives do not matter. Actions have to show that they are inclusive in this. And in the year 2020, it is obvious that they are not. We have failed them as a country. So I’m sorry, you cannot convince me otherwise. It is blatantly and disgustingly obvious.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Beautiful Black people:

Who have contributed immensely to build this country on your very own backs, who have fought in our wars, who have evolved and transformed our culture, one of the most resilient groups of people I have ever laid my eyes on- I see you. I hear you. I value and respect you. I love you all so much. You have my full support. And I am so so sorry that you were never given a fair chance in excelling in this country. You have to work twice as hard just to receive the same chances as others. You are so powerful that a country is so adamant about eliminating your very existence. That speaks volumes. We’re way overdue for a change. This has to stop. Let’s all be a part of that change. The solution and not the problem.

Praying for America. Be safe and walk with love, purpose, dignity, and with your head held high.

With sadness in my heart,