I am sorry that you have been so tremendously let down.
You have been failed. Your father was taken too soon, in a manner that was violent and unnecessarily vicious. I wish that I could say that the way he died was something we haven’t seen before—but it is. Because of his skin color, your father was a target.
Because of your skin color, you may be seen that way too.
Do not believe it, Gianna—don’t believe it. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are undeserving of any such treatment.
But even though you are undeserving of malice and hate, you may face it. Even though you deserve to be treated with respect and equity, you may not receive it. Unfortunately, our country has a long history of racism and discrimination that has yet to be resolved. Black people, in particular, suffer from disproportionate amounts of force by the police. Black people are disproportionately incarcerated. Black people suffer from health disparities that take many of us away from those we love too soon.
I am sorry that you have been so tremendously let down. You have been failed. Your father was taken too soon, in a manner that was violent and unnecessarily vicious.
But even so, please know that you that there is hope for you—hope that you will rise despite the realities that face many of us.
See, the fact that your mother had you is a feat. You are a miracle. Because of the unfair medical treatment Black women receive in conjunction with the chronic stress that we carry in the face of discrimination and racism, maternal mortality rates in this country are indefensibly high. Birth outcomes for Black babies are indefensibly poor.
But you’ve already beat that probability, and I know you will rise. You will rise. You will rise.
The journey ahead is going to be challenging. I too, lost my own father when I was 6 years old. The tears that your mother shed about your dad missing all of your events are tears that my own mother once shed. It is going to be hard. You will see your friends with their fathers and daydream about what it would be like to have him by your side. You will wonder what he smelled like. You will wonder if he told good jokes and if he was funny. You will wonder what his favorite food was. You will wish that he was by your side on your wedding day. You will wish that he was there to see your babies grow.
You will also realize that you’ll probably never stop grieving, and that is OK. Grieving isn’t linear, and your grief journey is your own.
You once said, “Daddy changed the world.” You are absolutely right, he did. And you know what else, you will too. In fact, you already have.
Please know that that in the months since your father’s death, you and your father have made a lasting impression on this world. Cities around the world are rallying around us in the fight against police brutality and racial discrimination—from Nairobi to Sydney to Istanbul—the world is watching. The world hears our cry and our plea for change and for justice.
Please know that you that there is hope for you—hope that you will rise despite the realities that face many of us … I know you will rise. You will rise. You will rise.
Even as some police departments begin to take some actionable steps, we know the work is not over. Even as peaceful protests continue, violence against protesters continues. There are attempts to dilute and undermine this historic movement against police brutality and against those calling for tangible change.
But we won’t be discouraged.
Soon we will celebrate Freedom Day on June 19, which acknowledges and celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation of Slavery in the United States. It is paramount for you to know that you are free. You are free to succeed. You are free to make your imprint on this world.
Please always know that you are beautiful. You are worthy. We will not let your father or the suffering that his death has caused you be in vain.
There is a chance that you may read this as an adult. If you do, I pray that we haven’t failed you. I pray that your father’s legacy has lived on. I pray that the structural and institutional paradigms that facilitate racism and police brutality are fully dismantled. I pray that you can jog outside without being hunted. I pray that you can walk into a store without being followed. I pray that you can wear your hair however you choose and not have to defend it. I pray that when you have babies, you do not have to fear for their lives. I pray that when people see you, they see love and strength—not fear or hate. I pray that you can aspire to be anything you would like to be, without being discouraged.
I pray that you can exist and thrive in peace.
But most of all, I pray that when you look in the mirror, you see beauty, pride, power, worthiness, and inspiration—because that is how we see you.
This article was originally published on June 9, 2020, and has been updated for timeliness.