You always taught me to open with a joke. Sorry, dude, but I couldn’t quite muster that today. I do want to say: Thanks for ALL the witty repartee. I’m gonna be like you when I grow up. And has a white man ever lied to you? Yes, many times, but never you, Steve. You spoke truth, always. You walked the talk, always.
Science projects and sweltering soccer games. The car with the hole in the bottom. Hot fudge sundaes at Margie’s Candies, so delicious your brains could literally just fall right on the floor. My Cousin Vinny. The Large Chair Plan/List. CEML meetings in the living room at Newport. Index cards. Honey Nut Cheerios for dinner. Solidarity. Sleeping on the floor with the relief of the air conditioner you bought us.
Demonstrations at Lexington, Marion, Chicago, Washington D.C.: to free political prisoners, to free Palestine, to free Puerto Rico. Visiting Yaki at Dixon. I used to joke around with you that most of our family vacations were demonstrations and prison visits. But sharing these trips with you was more precious than any family vacation could have ever been.
You, me, Michael, Nancy: the only 4 white people at the packed concert: Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff. I think it was the Aerie Crown Theater circa 1989. I was 13. Their song was “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” But YOU did understand.
You made us laugh constantly. You were always there for me when I cried. When I was confused, you knew how to calm me down and help me figure shit out. You somehow knew just the right way to support me under all circumstances. You asked for nothing in return. Mellow was your middle name. You epitomized words like humble and selfless.
You repeatedly made it clear that you CHOSE me for your daughter, and that you CHOSE to love and care for me not simply out of obligation but out of a whole-hearted appreciation for the person I am.
When I doubted myself, you lifted me up. You made me believe in myself, in my intellect and in my potential.
You showed me how to be as human as possible as a white person in this fucked-up world. You showed me what daily manifestation of love really looks like. You showed me how to treat every human being with dignity, except of course for the motherfuckers who choose to use their powers to dehumanize. You showed me what mattered in this life.
You made my beautiful, perfect mother Nancy glow with joy every day for over thirty years. You fought alongside each other, relentlessly.
You understood profoundly the savage inequalities in this world, and yet you lived every moment with a joy of life. What can I say, you definitely had a certain “je ne sais quoi”.
You shared your world of books with me. Morrison, Salinger, Kozol, and on and on.
You have been consistently vocal about your admiration of my years of teaching in East Oakland. Whenever I told you of my frustrations with the problematic Oakland public school system, you, atheist to your core, would adamantly insist to me “You’re doing God’s work.”
You were always on a first-name basis with your heroes: Malcolm, Che, Ho, Oscar, Yuri. And I came to share your admiration for them. I’d like to think that you’re sitting around laughing with them somewhere right now. But my hero, Steve, was YOU. You were in the top 99th percentile. On a scale of 1 to 10 you were an easy 11.
I can hear your laugh still. I can hear your crazy sneeze still. And I can hear you saying, “Shut Down Lexington Control Unit. Smash the State. End the Occupation and Free Gaza.” But mostly I can just hear you saying, “Ro, I love you so much. All I want is for you to be happy. You’re cute as a button.”
Thank you for being my friend, comrade and mentor. Thank you for choosing me as your daughter, and thank you for being my father. Fist-bump.