Inspired by Oprah

A few weeks have passed now since Oprah delivered her powerful speech at the Golden Globes.

A night that everyone thought was going to be dominated by the black dresscode but then our Oprah decided it was time for her to speak. Her impeccable tone, her unwavering passion and her on point turn of phrase inspired millions. Her ability to speak to the hearts of many while directly addressing you as an individual was on full display.

The focus of the speech was empowering women in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal that has thankfully been exposed, but she spoke to so many more, about so much more. Like me.

I didn’t actually see the speech as it happened and it wasn’t until the next day when I was at work I heard the fuss about Oprah running for president (I don’t think that’s a good idea by the way!!) that I became intrigued.

I was trying to find a clip all day but never really found the right moment to watch it. I didn’t want to watch it in the open plan office through fear of becoming so empowered and passionate about my potential that I do something radical like stand up and quit my job there and then.  I wanted to spare myself the embarrassment.

I started writing this post the day after I saw the speech but for whatever reason (2 young boys most likely!) I haven’t had the chance to finish and post.

Last week our good friend Zen over at Dadultlife wrote a piece on how this impacted him and his vision for his daughter and as soon as I saw his post on Instagram I excitedly Whatsapp’d him as I was mid-way through formulating this post. Once I read his post I realised that our thoughts are pretty much exactly the same. Our main focus being, the future world our children will grow up in.

So that’s 2 British, mixed race, educated, frighteningly handsome young fathers inspired by the American Queen of chat shows. Its 2018 people, anything can happen.

When I got home the day after the now famous speech my wife and I found the clip on our TV and kind of sat down like it was a movie. I’m so glad I invested the 5 or so minutes into seeing/hearing this speech in 4k Ultra HD (yes I was excited because I’ve got a new TV).

The whole monologue was captivating but the point that really started to get me thinking and inspired me to write this post was when Oprah started to talk about when she was sitting in front of the TV as a little girl watching the Oscars as Sidney Poitier got up to collect his award for Best Actor, the first black actor to win an award of its kind. She realised then that she could be something. By her receiving the honour that she did a few weeks ago, she wanted to inspire another generation to rise up.

I started thinking about a pivotal moment that I have witnessed in my life, outside of my bubble, which has let me know I can achieve great things and where I have been moved by something that may seem in a different world.

My moment actually came on 20th January 2009 when I was 24, the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. I remember leaving work early to get home in time for the live coverage and feeling strangely emotional about the whole thing. The live coverage was on for hours before the main event and kept cycling over the same topics over and over again, interviewing guests until they started talking utter rubbish, but I was hooked.

When the main event came i watched in awe with a lump in my throat ready to burst into tears at any moment. There was this guy who had the same complexion as me, from a mixed heritage background officially becoming arguably the most powerful man in the world. He was not someone who had made it by default, used controversy or by a military coup. He was someone who was celebrated by millions of people. He was someone who had moved people and united a nation with his intellect, passion and compassion. Amazing.

I cannot vote in American politics, I do not live in America and I am not an American Citizen but none of that matters, because for me it represented an acceptance and a confirmation that, as much as there will be people who don’t trust me or believe in me because of my complexion, I cannot be held back unless I choose to.

9 years on I am operating at a higher level, I have achieved and I am confident to achieve more. No this isn’t solely down to Mr Obama and yes I have encountered subtle racism in my time. The times I have been introduced as the manager of the department and received that reaction (the one that people of colour will know only too well), or the times in meetings where it’s clearly been hard for some to acknowledge me. This stuff always pushes me to prove my worth and I aim to pass this ethos on to Jovan and Ranen.

As a father I look at my sons daily and wonder what will be their moment? Or have we moved on enough that they won’t need a ‘moment’? Let’s take a look at some key figures and hopefully reasons why my sons can prosper:

Soon we will have a person of dual heritage in the British monarchy (Go on sis!). Lets face it, we always knew Harry would be the one to do it. Meghan Markle has raised eyebrows among the elite, she’s American, a divorcee and…wait for it…in their eyes, she’s black!

Despite displaying only poise and grace in a pretty crazy situation, the talk has been dominated by the above aspects.

Her work as ambassador for World Vision, her campaigning for gender equality and modern day slavery have both been replaced by her fashion sense.

Her intelligence, strength and independence have been replaced by the ‘rift’ with her sister that has been sensationalised.

Clearly there’s still a lot of work to do here, however, a world where a Meghan Mountbatten Windsor/’Duchess of’ is even possible is a world that I want my boys to be.

The mayor of my home city of Bristol, Marvin Rees, is making waves. An educated, accomplished father who through his work as mayor has pledged to tackle inequality and create a fairer city. He is of course, of BEM background. What’s really great about this is that it’s his credibility, not his colour that is at the forefront.

The fashion industry has taken a leap with its first Black editor in chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, bringing a black face to the very heart of the industry. The controversy of ‘Black models don’t sell fashion’ that Vivienne Westwood previously addressed should be helped with this high profile appointment.

Then there’s the rise of black CEO’s in huge firms like Karen Blackett of Mediacom and Sharon White of Ofcom who are blazing the trail for not only people from BEM community but for women also.

We’ve got a long way to go and for my sons I scream ‘MORE PLEASE!’. I want to see more leading and successful figures that look like the people I mention above, so they can grow up unlike my generation and the generations before me with sense of belonging. A sense of whatever you want to do and wherever you want to go is fine! Just have the skills and ability to do it. I want them to be a natural choice for a job, not a forced choice to fulfull a quota.

We still live in troubled times where outlets like the Daily Mail post headlines such as ‘Black Children as young as FIVE can be seen as ‘dangerous and violent’ because of racial stereotypes’.

I didn’t want to click on the link but I did attempt to read, I got so annoyed by it that I stopped a few sentences in.

By producing stories with headlines like this only further promote the problem and do not give enough time to promoting positive images of black children, particularly boys. Jovan and Ranen will undoubtedly be up against this kind of stereotype

As parents I think we all want the same for our kids regardless of race, although depending on your cultural experience your vision and expectation will differ. I want the boys to understand and appreciate the sacrifice, the suffering, the pioneering and the incredible achievements that have gone before in order for them to feel comfortable with success.

So thank you Oprah for the inspiration. For many, you were their ‘moment’.

And thank you to the people I mentioned in the post who are providing, knowingly or unknowingly, ‘moments’ for many more young people. Continue to be great.

Love and Blessing, Robert.

I’d love if you’d hop over to Instagram and follow me for more ramblings @this_father_life

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