It was August 29th, 1990 when I lost my father to violence.
My Father, Gregory, was an enigma; a hard, stubborn, young man who was too intelligent, too young, and too aware of that fact to be swayed by course of reason external to his own thought processes. He hated my Grandmother’s old, overbearing southern ways and her constant religious ‘henpecking’ of my Grandfather, whom, in his eyes, lost any semblance of manhood during his battle of being a darling lite brite to his black country men, being negro to segregating whites in the midst of flight, being other to everyone else who never saw the man who survived the Great Migration from Arkansas to Milwaukee, WI. In the 70’s, at the tender age of 14, he left home with a woman who was 10 years his senior. A bitter seed took root, as he witnessed women as evil, feminine ends to the means…a straight misogynist’s dilemma. A heartless locust who wooed his discriminated targets long enough to nest, feed and protectively gather stock before moving on to more naïve soil.
Gregory was a rarity in the Midwestern community, both black, white and everything in between; he loved computers. Not just a fan boyish whimsy, but as he worked menial jobs during the day, he read books about PASCAL and Basic at night. He dabbled in MATLAB while watching Star Trek and scheming of ways to get out of the Milwaukee ghettos, to get away from women who never wanted him for his logic, his dreams, or goals; just for his bright yellow skin, his 6’3 muscular frame, for the ‘pretty’ genes he could provide for their fantastical future babies. He was a self taught learner who craved to use his mind with his white, educated counterparts…but what college would accept a yellow boy with a fetish for space and science, yet used the worn, marred tools of the ghetto to survive? Sadly, no one.
My father’s heartlessness came to karmically roost in 1980. I was born. A girl. He wished for a boy, but he got a girl. He and my mother were not on speaking terms; honestly, they hated each others guts. She despised him for his lack of commitment. While he respected her strength and ethic, he despised her ‘neediness’ for acceptance.
But when he saw me, he used to say, he knew I was different. When I was born, I didn’t cry, according to both my parents on separate occasions. My first breath was done in silence…curiousness; the doctors briefly thought I was stillborn until I gently wiggled in their hands, struggled to lift my head and just observe the strangeness that flooded my senses. “You had my awareness”, he said. “You had my awareness and I had to get to your bright mind first before the clutches cyclical ghetto mentality did. No matter what the cost.”
This was his penance for being a selfish asshole and, being a man of self imposed honor, he aimed to pay it.
The few years I remember with him were filled with chess games, computers, science fiction, Japanese cartoons and books. I remember watching The Never Ending Story in his living room and him rocking me to sleep when I was terrorized by the menacing stillness of the dark. He did treat me to pizza and a few dolls, but they were few. He was the only adult I can remember who spoke to me as an equal. I was oblivious to his rush against time. I was oblivious to his personal and professional life eroding underneath his feet. I was oblivious to the rabid snapping of karma at his heels. He preferred it that way.
My last moments I remember with my Father were in the early summer of 1990; I was 9 years old. The last movie we enjoyed together was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. To this day I can not watch that movie again. Yet, the last show we watched was Star Trek: OS, specifically Charlie X. In the mess hall, I watched the crew of the Enterprise watch this beautiful brown woman, the human embodiment of most sleek of nightingales, sing to Spock in mystic wonder. She looked like the women I saw in the hood, but simultaneously she did not. She had too much poise, too much pride, too much self assurance to resemble the women I saw in the wards. Her voice rang in my ears and it confused me. Who is this woman that my Father wanted me to see?
“Do you see that woman?” he asked neutrally?
“Yes, Dad.” I replied, confused why he would ask such question.
“When you get older, I want you to find out who she is.”
“She is Lieutenant Uhura,” I mechanically repeated from the credits we watched earlier.
“Yes, she is that…but I want you to find out who she is in real life. What her real name is, what she has done and I want you to be that.”
I had no idea what he meant by that. I can’t be Uhura. Uhura isn’t real. Star Trek isn’t real, it’s cool, but it’s not reality. But my Father rarely said frivolous things, so I sat silent…gathering my thoughts.
“Why? Why not be like Mama…or Granny…are they not good enough?”
A darkness crept over his face and his jaw clenched as if he swallowed something terrible, vile.
“Jada. There will come a time where you will see that you will not fit anywhere. You are too many things for people to understand. My family and your Mama’s family will not understand you; but there are women out there who modeled themselves for people like you. That woman you see, is the woman I want you to become. She is the only one good enough for a mind like yours. Promise me that, okay?”
I sat stunned. This was the most I ever heard my Father speak and he was choking back tears that I did not understand. I gave an obligatory promise and we watched the rest of the episode in silences.
Two months later, my father died protecting his brother from an armed robbery. He was 33 years old.