My love for books and reading was instilled at an early age. I grew up with a lot of books, a dictionary, a complete set of encyclopedias, and medical journals. Anytime I would ask my dad what something meant, he would always say;
“Can you spell it?”
If my answer was “Yes”, he would then tell me, “Go look it up.” Anything I couldn’t spell; he would tell me to get the dictionary so we could look it up together. He encouraged me that no matter what information I received or where I received it from; verify for my own understanding, and to not let anyone else think for me. His lessons taught me to always seek knowledge for myself.
My mother’s influence was one of representation. I grew up in the 80’s; and even though children’s books with Black characters were very scarce, all my childhood books had Black characters in them. How was this you say? Little did I know, my mother would color all the characters’ faces and bodies with a brown crayon. Every little boy, little girl, mom, dad, every character that I was introduced to through books, looked just like me! This enabled me to relate to the stories that I read on a more personal level. I was even introduced to a Black Santa Claus as all the Christmas decorations we had were altered in the same way. Can you imagine my disbelief when I saw a non-black Santa? I thought he was a fraud because I had never seen any other version of this character. Both of my parents’ efforts and instruction taught me that I always belonged and should be proud of who I am.