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The School of UnLearning: Activism

Honoring an Inclusive Father's Day

Thinking of and breathing for all of you this Father’s Day

By Eric Mosley

According to retail advertising companies, Father’s Day is the summer holiday where we stock up on socks, neck ties, and the “big boy toys” from our pseudo-craftsman dad’s favorite home improvement store. It’s a day where we let the Old Man enjoy his Sunday of sports, beer, and the color blue because… he’s a man, and men like the color blue.

For my Texan family, this weekend is historically spent in the country, over a spread of barbecued smoked meats and other cookout fixings, cousins running around and playing, the teenage boys and men going to go “shoot” (a rites of passage that involves driving deeper into the country to shoot an arsenal of guns at trees, cans, and other small objects to showcase a skillful shot), while the women talk around the card table.

For many years, Father’s Day and Juneteenth (the holiday that honors the abolition of enslaved African-American people in the state of Texas some two years after Abraham Lincoln drafted and signed the Emancipation Proclamation—which also happens to be the most recent holiday to be recognized federally while the teaching of its actual historical significance is being banned across states throughout the country) are celebrated together as they sometimes fall on the same weekend or within the same week of one another.

And since most of my adult life I’ve lived in NYC away from my father, I usually celebrate by giving him a phone call in the morning or afternoon to wish him a happy Father’s Day, texting him the screenshot of my Instagram post, and emailing a Pappadeaux gift card… usually.

This year, after(?) two of the worst dueling pandemics in history, COVID-19 and racism, I can’t help but pause and consider 1) how this holiday may feel different for so many and 2) those who also deserve a seat and party hat at this Father’s Day table.

As a mindfulness instructor and founder of Black Mat Yoga, I work with so many students and clients who are navigating the world while bracing for impact. These are individuals bracing themselves for the next moment where they’ll have to confront a hard truth, overcome another hardship before really healing from the previous one, or have to shoulder another burden while their shoulders are already full.

As I pause this year, I’m holding space for and sending loving breaths to my actual friends (and others) who will be grieving the loss of their fathers for the first time, or those who brace themselves each year for the flood of social media celebrations of relationships with fathers that they’ve never experienced.

This year, I’m also thinking kindly of those father figures who both knowingly and unknowingly fill the role of a father in someone’s life. I’m talking about the teachers and coaches who go the extra mile or stand in the gap of fatherhood just by being themselves. I’m thinking of the uncles, cousins, brothers, and grandfathers who may have inherited kids or were unexpectedly called into action. I’m thinking of the stepfathers and adoptive dads who may have fraught relationships with their step-kids, adoptive kids, or their own kids because relationships and life are so complex.

And I’m always thinking of those queer kids and fathers that may not look like the image of fathers that the advertisers market to us. I was fortunate to have a father who accepted me after I was outed to him by a messy cousin who heard it through the grapevine and couldn’t wait to share. I was fortunate enough to have a father who tried the best he could to protect me in that moment and wrap me in love. I also know that so many children are not as fortunate.

If you find yourself bracing for impact this year, know that I’m breathing for and with you. To my gay, trans, femme dads and house fathers, know that I love you. The world needs to celebrate you too.

If you’ve had to exercise boundaries because engaging with your father or dad caused or causes you harm, I see you. I’m wishing you both healing on your journey. And if your dad is still here with you, and engaging with him doesn’t cause you any harm, make sure you give him his flowers this year… and maybe a pair of socks, or a neck tie, or a power tool… because, it is Father’s Day.

About the Author

Eric Mosley is an educator and consultant committed to addressing inequities in wellness spheres. A registered yoga and meditation teacher, he founded Black Mat Yoga with a mission to create accessible spaces for individuals to connect with their communities and their most authentic selves. A graduate of Morehouse College, Eric trained and is based in New York City. Get into the practice on IG and follow Eric's journey @e_mosley.

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