I WROTE THIS LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER CELINE ON THE DAY SHE GRADUATED FROM WEST BLOOMFIELD HIGH SCHOOL AND I WANT TO SHARE IT ON FATHER’S DAY
June 4, 2017
Today is graduation day and I want you to know that dad loves you very much and I am proud of you. My love and admiration for you began before you were born and I was so happy to go to Baby’s R Us to purchase your first outfit, a yellow jumper that you wore home for your first trip home from the hospital.
You are a fighter and activist.
You are an athlete.
You are smart and you are driven.
You are beautiful.
You even speak backwards in full sentences
The first time I saw you, you were in mom’s womb. The doctor took DNA samples to see if you were OK. I saw the whole thing play out on x-ray. You were sleep when the doctor stuck a needle into the sac where you lived.
You woke up agitated just as you do today. You angrily reached for that needle as if to say “get this damn thing out of here. Can’t you see that I am sleeping?”
You were a ball of fire even before you were born and the doctor stopped the procedure until you settled down. You remain a ball of fire and I want the burn to continue as you attend Stanford University.
I was proud of you when you brought home all A’s for the first time.
I was proud of you when you read to a second grader on Belle Isle in Detroit. I remember the girl screaming to her mother.
“This girl can read and she is just in kindergarten,” she said.
Sadly, that girl could not read yet.
I was proud of you for leading inner city kids who lacked your work ethic during the Wayne State University camp. You pushed them to finish their project even though pizza was being served in the next room.
I was proud of you for showing white kids that there is a different world and different circumstances for other kids during a tearful discussion at Albion College. You told them the world is not equal. You talked about a girl who got pregnant at 15, but realized a year later she wanted to make something of herself. Do not give up on her you told the room.
Half the room was in tears after you spoke.
I did not do a good job as a dad when I had heated meetings with your high school soccer coach, AD and principal about why you were not a starter on the varsity soccer team although I believed you were the best player on the team.
You had that Kobe and LeBron in you. You did not try out for the team to play soccer. You tried out for the team to win championships. I earned a living arguing sports, but could not keep my cool when you were the victim. I was told you did not start because you were unfit even though you are an energizer rabbit that never stops. Then I was told the coach did not like the way you ran even though you are the fastest player on the team.
And I was finally told you were not one of the top 12 players on the team. I knew that was baloney. My response was that if you became a starter that you would bring a championship to the school. That’s how much I believed in you because you did it before against stiffer competition in travel soccer.
You finally got your shot to start as a junior only because four girls were injured. And you did what Celine does. You led the team with 14 goals, five assists, made All District, All County and All League. And you scored the game-winning goal in the conference championship game against Birmingham Seaholm. Not bad for the 13th best player on the team.
That night we shared a moment when you broke down and cried: “Why did it take three years to show what I can do? I was ready to do this on day one.”
I knew that night you might never play soccer again. You did not play your senior season and never regretted the decision because you had so many other things in your life.
I was even proud of you when you punched a girl in the stomach who tried to injure you on the soccer field. You came over to me thinking I would be mad. Maybe this is not the right way to think as a parent, but I said to myself “Daddy didn’t raise no punk.”
As an 8th grader I took you Stanford University to see your dream campus. I might have said “take a good look at this because this might be the last time we see this school.” And then you shocked the world and shocked even yourself by being admitted to Stanford. I am not even mad that you are turning down a fine education at prestigious Central Michigan University.
I am proud that you have friends of every race, nationality and religion and try to understand their problems and celebrate their triumphs.
Mom and I were stunned when you called from the Crump Law camp at Howard University and said you did not make the semifinal round of the Mock Trial competition. The process began with 64 students and I knew you would make the Final Four. We don’t expect you to win all the time but we expect you to be among the best.
The next day you called and said you made a mistake. You actually made the Final Four, but you also threw away your notes for the final competition because you thought you were out. You still won earning a college scholarship and new computer.
One of the judges wrote “I knew you would win when you said hello.”
I am excited about your future and I will do everything to make sure you realize your dreams.
I grew up poor and some of my friends still live at home. My goal was to have a family and make sure my children had better opportunities than I. You exceed my expectations. It was a really big deal that I attended CMU as the first in my family to attend college.
When I love someone I give them a nickname and sing about them. Do we even have time to count the nicknames and songs I made about you?
Yes I love you and am proud of you. But I am also excited.
I am excited about how you will tear up Stanford and make it a better school.
I am excited about your impact on the world.
I am excited about your career and your future.
Keep that fighting spirit. Although you will be far away you must know I will be standing beside you in spirit during every lecture, every debate and every win and loss in life.
One of my names for you is X. As a black female you must be Super X and be twice as good as your competition to be respected. You sure bought into that.
Keep it going my sistah. Daddy is proud of you and he will always stand by your side.