How one dad is teaching his first-grader to love herself and know her power
My 7-year-old daughter, Najya, has always known Barack Obama as the President. When Trump was elected, she had a lot of questions: "What about Barack Obama? Well, where is he? Is Donald Trump President? How did he get to be President? Daddy, did you vote for him?" I did sense that maybe she was panicked about it—I know she's worried that he doesn't want people from other countries to come into our country.
My anxiety for her is that some of the things my wife and I try to teach her will now be diminished. We tell Najya that there are no barriers for her—if she wants to try something, she should try. Look at what Hillary Clinton did. Even though she didn't win, she fought, and we all have the right to fight. There's something to learn from losing. It doesn't mean you stop. You keep going. If as parents we're educating our kids about slavery and how Black people are oppressed, we can't teach that without telling them about the rebellions or without showing them what protest looks like. We want Najya to be able to feel it, to be in the atmosphere of what is happening.
When I had a daughter, the first thing that came to my mind was, I'm not just raising my daughter, I'm raising someone's wife, someone's mother. She can be anything she wants to be, but I also understand what she's up against. And I know that I have to use my own adversities as a Black man to help her overcome whatever stands in her way. To other fathers of girls, I would say place your daughters on the highest pedestal that you possibly can. Keep instilling the values that you want for them. And for those who have sons, teach your sons to respect girls and women.
take Najya to the skate park and point out the young girls who are out there skating. I want her to see them and talk to them, because that's part of teaching her about her own empowerment. No matter who is in office or what barriers are in your way, you have the tools to bring those barriers down and you don't have to do it alone, because there are other girls like you who are doing the same thing. That's what the Trump presidency should ignite—it shouldn't discourage young girls; it should encourage and empower them to fight.
This feature originally appeared in the June 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.