“Why yuh a fry dem hair? (Why are you frying their hair?),” my father would ask my mother on those rare occasions when she would press our hair out. He couldn’t stand the smell of burning hair coming from the sizzling hot comb on the stove. “Listen, nuttin’ nuh wrong wit’ yuh hair,” he would tell my sister, Sarah, and me.
My father was all about us keeping our hair in its most natural state: no additions, no alterations, no nothing. He would even get upset when my mom would braid extensions into our hair! “Unuh a put in di horse hair, again? (You guys are putting in horse hair, again?)” he would question. He didn’t think that any of that was necessary (even though the fake hair was actually plastic). “Jus’ plait it” was his recommendation.
My father, along with my mother, reinforced in our minds that our hair was fine the way it was. Our parents were both adamant about us not perming our hair until we turned 16. “Nuh bodda cream it (Don’t bother with perming it),” my Dad would say. And when I turned 16, I didn’t bother: to know that my father thought that my kinky, curly hair was beautiful made it so much easier to cope with the pressures to change it coming from outside of our home.
But it wasn’t only about hair, my Dad made it a point to teach us how to love the skin we were in—both literally and figuratively. “Look how yuh skin black and nice,” he would say. He let us know that our dark skin wasn’t a curse, but rather a blessing. My Dad knew how important it was for us to be proud of who we were. He would make us sit and listen to his vinyl records of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches; watch videos about the lives of Bob Marley and Nelson Mandela; and read books about Black history. He taught us to be proud of our Caribbean heritage and our African ancestry. He also taught us to be proud of our family: “You are an Anderson”, he would say, “you are great; and don’t let anyone tell you any different!”
Although my father may not have always loved me in the way that I would have liked to receive it, he certainly taught me how to love myself. Today, on Father’s Day, I thank my Dad for teaching us how to love ourselves, which is, as Whitney Houston declared, the greatest love of all. Now, as a grown woman, I realize just how fortunate we were to have a father who made sure that we not only knew—but more importantly, that we also loved—who we were. I thank him for giving us the affirmation that we would need to survive, living in a world where everyone and everything continually tells us that something is wrong with who we are and how we look. I attribute much of my success today to having a strong sense of self and confidence, which made me feel that I could do anything! So, for that, Dad, I thank you!
To all of the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day! Keep loving on your children. Remember to tell them who they are, and who you know that they can be, to counteract the lies that society tells us. The things you say about your children stick—words have power—so be mindful about what you say to them, both implicitly and explicitly, about themselves. Teach them to love themselves, so that they won’t have to look for affection and acceptance in the wrong places. Always affirm them, so that they can face the world with the confidence that they will need to succeed. Your kids love and are counting on you!
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
(Excerpt from “The Greatest Love of All”, written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed)
Happy Father’s Day! How did you celebrate your father today?