Remembering dads and the causes worth fighting for


My Dad, Christmas of 1979, I think.

I was ten years old when my father died.  It was a rainy day in early November when my Mom told me and my younger sister that “Daddy was no longer with us.”  I remember where I was sitting and the feeling I had inside when I heard those words.  First confusion, then sadness and then anger.

Why did this have to happen to me?

I thought that losing someone would get easier as time passed and in some ways that is true.  But in some ways it’s quite the opposite.  It gets more difficult.

When your memories begin to fade, you can feel guilty and scared that it’s just a matter of time before you forget everything.  Then what will you do?

In my case, I have four beautiful children and a husband and friends who I love that my Dad never had the privilege of meeting.  And they only know my Dad through my fading memories.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve longed even more for some sort of connection with the harmonica-playing man who sang “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” to me, the man who took me to the Orioles spring training in Florida, the artist who would sketch, use pastels and paint and the Dad who let me lay on his back while he slept in his La-Z-Boy chair.

Just yesterday, at the perfect moment, my Mom shared something beautiful with me.  My father was a leader of the multi-faith group Prejudiced Anonymous,  along with founder, Leo Bretholz. They spoke against segregation and in my Mom’s words:

“They organized a group of men with different backgrounds and they visited organizations to discuss prejudice and how they felt they had been part of the problem in their life.  They would share a story of some way in which their own prejudice had reared its ugly head and how they were trying to deal with what they knew was wrong.  Your Dad told about why we moved from our first house.  A Black family had moved into the neighborhood and we were afraid the property value of our house would drop if we stayed until more moved in.  It wasn’t about the people.  It was about our investment in the house.”

I think my Dad would be proud to know that his tomboy daughter is wrestling with her own heart, so easily bent toward prejudice.  I think he would have loved having Black grandchildren and Black great-grandchildren.  And I think he would have been grieved over the injustices that still exist today, yet thankful for people like Wesley who are not afraid to speak up.

On this Father’s Day, I remember my Dad who is no longer with me, but very much a part of who I am and the woman I am becoming.


Three generations:  Wesley, baby Oakland and Wes. (Photo provided by Sierra Harris)

One of the ways I can honor him on this Father’s Day is by shining a light on causes that were important to him as a human being.

Wesley’s interview does this.

And at the same time, it is a heartfelt tribute to his own father, and the continuing impact that Wes has on his life.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad…

And Wesley…

And Wes!

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers for the many sons and daughters that are missing a parent that died.  Father’s Day can be tough, I get it.  Remembering something special about them, even if it’s small, can help.

*this post is dedicated to those who lost a parent due to some sort of injustice rooted in prejudice.






A tale of two sons


David (10) and Stephen (19) with their favorite magical rodent. (Photo by: Tracy Smith)

When my son Stephen passed his driver’s test and got his license, it was an exciting day.  He drove me home in the minivan, we celebrated and of course the second we arrived home, he went right back out to drive around by himself.  Freedom!

As he pulled away in our Honda Odyssey, I stood at the front door a little freaked out.  Like most parents of new drivers, I worried about him getting into an accident.  That was literally my only concern.

Stephen is White.

That is the only reason why it never occurred to me to worry if he was pulled over by a police officer.  I didn’t know that then, but I know that now.

“In many ways that is the insidiousness of white privilege, in that those who live within its cushion, just see it as the norm.” – Mark Sullivan

Stephen lives safely under the protection of his white privilege.  And as his White parents, so do we.  If our son gets pulled over for speeding, he’ll get a warning or a ticket.  We’ll chalk it up as a good lesson.

When it comes to his interaction with police officers, I have no concerns for his safety.


However, I have another son, David.  Thankfully, he won’t be driving for another six years, but when he does, everything will be different.  I’ll have extra reasons to worry as a mom and we’ll need to have “the talk” with him.  Why?

David is Black.

We’ve all read the news and have seen video footage that exposes unjust treatment of African Americans by law enforcement.  It’s hard to watch and understand.  And of course not every Black person has had awful experiences.  But many have.  It’s also unfair to demonize all police officers.

That’s why I was grateful to have the chance to ask Wesley Harris a few questions about his interactions with law enforcement.

“Dear white people: no one is saying your life can’t be hard if you’re white but it’s not hard because you’re white.”  (Twitter user, Austin @kvxll)