An Open Letter To My Influences

Black History Month is the time to salute and remember the impact of black historic achievements. The time for making a statement of black excellence.

They say ‘lead by example’, you can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. The world is changed by those who would rather do than speak.

I mean this as a journalistic paean, for Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and all the idols who are so rightfully lauded during Black History Month – thank you for your influence and hard work. For making it possible for my generation to stand on your shoulders, earn our freedom and say ‘our lives matter’.

Parenthood is the most important job in the world. My black male role models taught me everything I need to know about being free, brave and successful. I’ve not only got public figures to look up to, I have had living examples in my day to day life of how to be a real man and how to take all the bullsh*t that being a black man brings.

There are a plethora of public interviews in which sportsmen, celebrities or rappers discuss not having a father figure in their lives and how it was challenging for them.

This isn’t my story. I would consider myself lucky, purely because we so often are subject to the adverse narrative. This article puts my point across very well.

My father is so intelligent and creative that I can and will always be learning from him. His honesty and meaningful explanations about some of the things he has been through have, at crucial times, brought me back down to earth and helped me realise I am not alone in my struggles.

My paternal grandfather brought his family to England for a better life. Whilst blind from glaucoma, he raised a 5-child family – a simple purpose many physically able men fail to rise to. He taught me not to care what people think about you or what holds you back.

My maternal Grandfather taught me that life is for love, having a pure heart and letting your ‘light’ shine. He was in the RAF, worked until the age of 88 and did amazing things too numerous to mention. Watching him never falter in all his achievements inspires me to overcome stereotypes like he did.

My father is dedicated to his woman and that is a direct example to me. Because of this I feel I have always had a mature view on relationships and it was less daunting to pick myself back up after experiencing heartbreak.

My father and grandparents are real, strong, passionate, powerful, humble and honest.

Before you label this as a shallow showcase of the fortunate position I happen to be in, I write this as what I view to be a necessary thank you to my influences. To emphasise that as much as celebrity black males and rappers influence us, they’re not who we need to follow.

I feel it’s necessary to honour the everyday black men who impact me but don’t get mentioned during black history month. Because of you I’m inspired to beat the odds. I’m inspired to overcome stereotypes. And I’m going to make sure one day I influence my children to do the same.

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