“My dad really encouraged me to follow my dreams. He taught me that if I wanted something badly enough I could have it. When someone puts that in your head and makes you believe it’s a fact, it becomes a fact.” – Meagan Good -excerpt from Daughters of Men: Portraits of African-American Women and Their Fathers (A Black woman who be knowing)
Peace Fam! Happy Juneteenth Weekend! Happy Summer Solstice! And of course, Happy Father’s Day to all the men holding it down!
This has been such a crazy past few weeks in devastating and inspiring ways. I, like many of you, have been drifting between depression and hopefulness. On one hand, I’m seeing the constant killing of Black men and women. On the other, I’m seeing the protests that have resulted in concrete changes. I have been uplifted by the global solidarity with Black lives and completely turned off by the performative ally-ship that has been displayed by some yt folks. Miss me with the virtual hugs and “I still have so much to learn.” Well then take yo ass on and get educated and leave me TF alone.
As I think about George Floyd who was so callously murdered in the street for folks to witness, I think about him as a father and as someone who will not be honored in the flesh. So today, I honor him! I, along with my sisters, am also honoring my own dad, who’s centered in today’s post.
We are dropping many of the gems that our dad dropped on us. If you’d like to hear what we think our dad would have said about the current racial and political climate as well as his crazy ass nicknames for us, you have to listen to the full episode on the Soundcloud link.
As always read, listen, comment, share, discuss and subscribe/follow on IG.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
BWBK: Black Women Be Knowing, episode umpteenth, cause I don’t even know how many episodes there are. This is a special episode. I say that all the time but I mean it this time because I’m sitting with not one of my sisters, not two of my sisters but ALL THREE of my sisters for a special reason. We are here to honor my daddy, our daddy who [was] the best daddy ever.
We’re gonna talk about how he shaped us and what we most love about him and just gather in a way we have never done- just the four sisters. I’m glad that you are all here to share this moment with me. I was originally thinking about writing a piece but then I thought, Nope, that’s selfish. I wanted to share this particular moment in time with all three of you. So I’m glad you all responded because it’s hard to catch all y’all motherfuckers.
In terms of introductions, we’re gonna start with the baby [sister] and move up to the eldest with the [full] and correct pronunciations.
Kha’Tia: So hi guys, my name is Kha’Tia (Kah-Tee-uh) Hopkins. I’m 24 and the baby, as Khalya put it. (She will be referred to as Tia for the remainder of the piece.)
Kai’Yalla: I’m Kai’Yalla (Ki-Ya-luh) Hopkins. I go by Kai- you know keep it simple. I’m 27, gonna be 28 [next month]. I’m the fourth child but the second to last sister. (She will be referred to as Kai.)
Kaj’Yana: Hi everyone, I’m Kaj’Yana (Kahj-yah-nuh) Hopkins, even though I say my own name wrong according to our mother. That’s how I like to say it but everyone calls me Kajy and I’m 29. (She goes back to state her age because she’s the sister who doesn’t follow directions. She will be referred to as Kajy.)
BWBK: And I am the oldest. I’m Khalya (Call-ya). I am 35 and I have really been embracing the correct pronunciation of my name for the past few years because motherfuckers like to violate.
We are here and gathered to celebrate our dad, Sterling Hopkins and talk a little bit about who he was and who we are as Black women as a result of being [raised] by him.
How would you describe Dad in 3 words for those who don’t know him or just wanna hear your perspective? Anybody can start.
Kajy: There’s a lot of words I thought of that could describe Dad but the three I came up with are hilarious, without even knowing he is half the time; patient and a great story teller.
Kai: I said Daddy is altruistic, to a fault, stubborn but he’s also charming-very charismatic.
Tia: I automatically thought, a force because any time anyone comes around him they’re automatically blown away by his personality and the person he is. Another thing that I thought about was Black and not just because he was dark but because he was really strong and powerful and we’ve all seen that growing up. [Finally,] really, really funny.
BWBK: Because I don’t answer the questions in advance- I just play off of what other people are saying, [I am going to say that] he was a good listener; he was that dude (to borrow from our older brother, Kahlil) basically, there was no one like him; and he was an affirming person.
Any time you would go to him and tell him about something you wanted to do or how you wanted to be in the world, he was just always affirming. That was really important being the oldest girl and speaking to him a lot and him going through the shits with me the most. He never not affirmed what I wanted to do and who I was showing up as in the world.
So I wanna get right into it because we’re on a platform called Black Women Be Knowing and I wanted to know how Daddy contributed to you being a Black woman who be knowing.
Kai: They say that your same sex parent teaches you how to behave but your opposite sex parent teaches you how to love but for me, Daddy really did both. We can all say we’re just like Dad in terms of how headstrong we are and just how we react to certain situations. I know my baby daddy reminds me a lot of Daddy because he’s a leader; he’s very strong and there’s certain things he won’t accept like Daddy wouldn’t. That’s how [Daddy] has molded me to become the woman that I am right now.
Tia: I think I had a little bit of trouble because there were just a lot of things that came to mind. Growing up, it was very difficult for me to find my “thing” cause you all know that I hated school. There were just a lot of things I knew I didn’t like. Talking to Dad, he made me understand that I can embrace the things I enjoy. I can be proud of the things that I enjoy and I can show off the things that I can do…He let me know that I needed to know myself.
Kajy: You guys mentioned things that he’s done for me as well. I agree…I concur.
BWBK: Part of knowing yourself, as he always said, is having your own law. He always said, You gotta have your own law. These things that are unwavering; that you have decided for yourself that no one can convince you or persuade you or con you out of doing/being. That idea that you would never go against your own rule, within your own house, within your own self. He [believed] that the minute that you betray yourself is the minute that shit goes left.
Kaori and I have a lot of mother-daughter conversations and she’s an adult now. I tell her, you have to figure out what your law is and what you are unwilling to break for anyone- not for me, not for anyone. That’s what made Dad so dope because as a parent, he would not cause you to betray yourself, not even for him. Even when he wasn’t happy about a choice you made, he still didn’t want you to betray yourself.
So, Dad was a person and people are complex. What’s one of those things that you are willing to say to the public that made you wanna say to Dad, “No Sterl, you may wanna go back and get that fact-checked”? That may not have happened or it may not have happened that way.
Kajy: I think sometimes when he be talking about his mother- I wasn’t there- but I have to say, “I know [our grandmother] ain’t the greatest but she wasn’t that terrible.” I don’t know so I don’t go too deep into that.
BWBK: But that’s every parent. Every parent wanna tell you how crazy their parents were and you be like…but you’re still alive though LOL.
Kai: One thing that comes to mind and Kajy will remember this cause she was there. We weren’t taught how to ride a bike by our parents. This nigga gonna say, “Cause nobody taught me.” I was like, Sir that’s not how this works. We just don’t teach our kids how to do something because no one taught us. I had to learn [how to ride a bike] when I was 19 years old. That’s not an excuse.
BWBK: I think one of the funniest things he had said that everybody was just like, “Uh, no Dad I don’t think that’s how that works”- is when you would tell Daddy that you’re about to go on a trip and he would tell you how he went to Puerto Rico for the day.
Kajy: Ooooohhh, Puerto Rico for the day and then he added, “Back then, you didn’t need a passport.” I’m like, Daaad, you don’t need one now.
Kai: Since we’re talking about Puerto Rico, let’s talk about Dad’s Spanish. He was always talking about his great Spanish skills. For those who don’t know, our dad was trilingual.
Kajy: (interrupts) Dad spoke English, Spanish and German.
Tia: The only way he spoke all those languages is because his Spanish sounded like German.
Kai: He would speak English with a Spanish accent. (Everyone laughs)
BWBK: Speaking of Puerto Rico, where we’re pretty sure he did not go, what is something that you wished for Daddy? Something he could’ve seen or something you wished he could’ve done?
Kajy: I wish that we all could’ve gone on vacation together. I wish that we could’ve sent him on a vacation even if it was just him and [Mom]-a cruise or something. He worked his entire life and he didn’t get to reap the benefits of his [hard work]. As for me, if I ever do have [children], they’ll never get to know how dope he was- they’re just gonna know stories. That kind of bothers me. You can tell a great story about Dad but it’s not the same as experiencing him and being around him.
He dropped jewels for each of us and our own personalities and he could’ve done the same thing for his grandchildren and unfortunately they’re not gonna have that. I think about that everyday.
Kai: I agree. One thing I wish for Dad is that he could [have] forgiven himself and forgiven others because he would start talking about something and his lip would curl and get tight. You can tell he [was] still living in that space. I’m like, Sir, you gotta let that go. Certain things about his mother and his ex-friend [would be painful]. [Sometimes] it would be decades later and he would be determined to hate these people or hate the fact that he did things for people and it didn’t end up working out for him.
And that is probably why his health was so bad because he was stressing over things he couldn’t go back and change. He thought about it like it was still happening to him.
BWBK: It’s interesting because we just started getting all this healthy [mental health] language and I do think there’s elements of trauma that Dad didn’t call that; that we didn’t call trauma but [things happened that were] very traumatic for him. When people say trauma it’s not necessarily the worst shit that has ever happened to you in your life. But maybe just something that has shaped you and hurt you and hasn’t been processed the way it needed to be.
Dad was a man’s man. The last thing I would’ve seen Sterling do is get on a couch and talk to a therapist. I think his therapy was getting up in the morning, doing 100 push-ups, cursing at the ceiling and asking the Lord, “Why me?” (Everyone laughs)
I used to worry about how he was going to heal. That’s what I would’ve wanted for him- was to heal. And I think that could’ve happened if he would’ve gotten away from his environment more. Going on vacations does allow you to put shit in perspective. He did a lot of intensive labor and [needed a break.]
Tia: I think that’s where I would have a little more of a connection with Dad cause I work with my hands. I’m always getting burned and scratched up so I understand that about him…One of the things I would have wanted for Dad is for him to know that we are all OK and seeing that we all are really pushing forward on the things we wanted to do and trying really hard. All of us have gotten a lot further than we were from the time that he died. I would like for him to see that we aren’t forgetting him and using him in everything that we do- that would be amazing.
BWBK: I wanted to talk a little bit about Black men and stereotypes and how Black fathers are [treated] as invisible and it’s assumed that [Black folks] are always from some “broken” family. I think in a lot of ways, Dad was not stereotypical. I like the fact that [social] media now is doing a good job of highlighting the ways that Black men, in particular, are very much active in their children’s lives but that wasn’t always the narrative growing up.
What are some of the ways that Dad defied the stereotypical Black father?
Kajy: I guess this is about more than being a Black father, but a father in general- when we started to come into our womanhood, we came to Dad. Most daughters would go to their mothers. When we got our periods, we talked to Dad more than we talked to Mom. It wasn’t to shit on Mom; we just naturally went to Dad. That’s not the norm because most fathers/men don’t know how to have those conversations.
Most fathers don’t wanna hear that their daughters are liking boys or that they’re interesting in having sex. I’m not saying that Dad just wanted us to be out here fuckin’. He knew it was a possibility so he was more realistic and he would’ve wanted us to come to him or Mom before we started to venture out and do other things. A lot of young women aren’t able to do that with their parents or their fathers, especially.
Tia: I think something we can all kind of joke about was [being] ignorant to the fact that people [didn’t] have dads in the home. I remember when I met a [girl] and she said “That’s my brother but we don’t have the same father,” I was like, “Uhhh”. I remember even when I was 12, my teacher was pregnant and I [asked], “Oh you’re married?” And she said, “No.” I [asked], “Then how are you pregnant?” Looking back, that was rude but it just didn’t process for me.
I always knew Dad was amazing but it wasn’t until I had my own daughter [that I truly understood.] Her dad is so the opposite of what Dad is. That was my first time encountering someone who was not fully committed to their child. Even when I was pregnant, Daddy went with me to figure out what was going on.
Kai: Just to piggyback off of that, Daddy really loved our mother. That’s important [for] kids in the household, especially as a daughter, to know that your parents loved each other, and that your father loved your mother.
I remember I was in a relationship and I was talking to Dad and people would ask, “You’re talking to your Dad [about] that?” I think Dad knew he was on borrowed time with us and we [weren’t] his forever but he kept guiding us. He never said,” Don’t talk to boys” or treated it like this toxic thing. I never in my life thought Dad was a toxic young man or spreading his seed. We always knew he was with Mommy; he was going to work and coming home. We saw him every single day. Just that sense of normalcy and knowing every day what he was going to do and NOT do, I know a lot of people can’t say that.
BWBK: For those who listen to the podcast, I did a couple of episodes with my fiance, Keith and he was so astounded that I would have conversations about sex with Dad. I would say things like “Dad, I went on this date with this guy and he had such a little ass dick.” And Dad would say, “OH, HE GOT A LITTLE ASS DICK! LOL.”
It was one of those things that [Keith] could not fathom- me as a woman, talking to my dad about my sex life. [Dad] didn’t wanna hear all the nitty gritty but he definitely wanted me to enjoy myself as a young woman. Whether you were married, single or dating, you should enjoy sex because you shouldn’t be out here giving something for nothing.
You should have pleasure. You should enjoy your mate despite the relationship status and embrace your womanhood. You should want an orgasm. I think it’s difficult for many people to come to grips with the fact that you [can] have healthy dialogue about sex with your parents.
So I wanted to move in another direction. We all expect to lose our parents but what’s the hardest part about losing Dad?
Kajy: For me, Dad is the only man who ever loved me so it’s hard. You know I always deal with some ain’t-shit people. This is no pity party for me but all of you guys found someone that you love, that’s down for y’all and I have yet to find that. I only found the love of a man in Dad.
Dad ain’t never answer his phone but [I miss] just being able to talk to Dad about shit that’s going on. I would vent and complain to him and I just miss having those conversations with him.
Kai: For me, it’s two things. First of all, I think about Dad every single day. It’s almost been five years but there’s never gonna be a day that I’m not hurting. I got emotional being pregnant because [he wasn’t there.] He didn’t get to see Kasir but he did get to see Khalya pregnant [twice]. He was with Kaydence for three years and he got to raise Kaori.
When I was pregnant, I was really feeling that longing for Daddy even though I had Mommy and I couldn’t have gotten through that without a mother’s touch. [When] I was having moments with my baby daddy, when I was just being an emotional wreck, [I would have liked him to be there]. The second thing and Tia knows this cause she was there [with me]the day Daddy had his stroke. I was at the hospital everyday after that and to see him not getting better the way he used to get better was definitely the hardest thing.
Tia: I was actually gonna speak on that. Mom and I had just spoken about that the other day. She was not feeling that great and she was missing Dad. She said that she feels guilty living when he’s not here. It’s not that I feel guilty necessarily but when he died, I was becoming an adult. I just turned 20 and I finally started working and feeling like I wasn’t the fuck up I felt I was always being. I was finally starting to show him that I meant what I said about what I was gonna do.
That day [that he went into the hospital], I had worked the night before and I was tired. I wasn’t gonna take [my daughter] to school and he had just cussed me out that morning saying, “Get yo ass up and get that baby to school.” That was the last thing he said to me and even with all my good thoughts of Dad, I can’t get that last image of seeing him out of my head.
BWBK: I wasn’t physically there when he had the stroke. I was [at the hospital] a couple of times, definitely there the day that he took his last breath. He had his stroke two days after I had seen him. The last time I saw him, he came with me to my final ultrasound. It was so cool because it was him and Mom and me and Keith and afterwards, we went on a double date to celebrate his 60th birthday. And we didn’t take a picture that day. It made me so mad that we didn’t capture that moment.
[Dad] died three days before [my son, Kasir] was born and so the family came together for more than one reason. We came together out of death but also out of life. It’s just crazy how much Dad brought us together.
The other part that really hurts is that I am getting married and Daddy will not be there. I [also] just got word last month that I will be starting a Doctoral program and I had mixed emotions. I was extremely excited but I was extremely distraught because I have never been in school without Dad’s encouragement.
The hardest part about losing him is not having any new memories so you always have to keep rewinding past memories because that’s all you got to hold on to. I’m running out of stories about him and that’s painful.
Daddy is now like a myth. We’ve put him on this pedestal and this motherfucker was like Zeus in his stature, his [strength], he was like the god of gods and men. But he had his own growing to do. I think when he had gotten sick, we got to see him grow. He was a different dad from pre-sick to post-sick. I just wanted you to [speak] about one area where he changed.
Kajy: When he went to my high school graduation cause you know he ain’t go to graduations.
Kai: When Dad allowed himself to enjoy things. I remember when we would be watching something ignorant and he would look at us like if we weren’t watching the History Channel, it wasn’t worth being interested in [and that changed.]
He started listening to [modern] music. He stopped smoking cigarettes and he was so happy about that. When we went to amusement parks, he would actually get on the rides and have this child-like wonder. He would laugh uncontrollably and he would be goofy with us which, [when we were children], he would never do.
Tia: One of the things that I thought about was when we were kids and he didn’t wanna be bothered with a lot of noise. He didn’t wanna be bothered with kids either. Something I really loved is watching him with [my daughter] and he would give her this crazy looking comb over [as a baby.] Every child got that hairstyle. He was a lot of fun.
BWBK: Dad definitely became more fun. I remember as children, Kahlil and I used to tip-toe by Dad’s room so we wouldn’t make any noise… Dad wasn’t doing the Mother’s Day celebrations, Father’s Day celebrations, graduations- he was the dude to leave the money on the table, tell you to get your cap and gown and see you when you get back. But after he got sick, he went to all of the restaurants, [celebrated] every occasion. It was like, Oh wow, you fun!
When he started wanting shoes instead of work boots, I knew he was different. And the last thing was when he got baptized, I was like, Oh shit, he ready to meet his maker. I was really glad to see that level of growth and he showed me that people can definitely change and change on their [own] terms.
As we come to a close of uplifting and celebrating him, in what ways do you keep Dad alive?
Kajy: By doing stuff like this. This is part of it and having dinners for his birthday and Father’s Day, speaking his name and keeping his memory alive.
Kai: And when Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” comes on, you gotta do the dance.
Tia: I think keeping him alive is about what I said before- all of us pushing forward and even though he died we can’t use that as an excuse not to get done what we need to get done. That’s something we all said about Dad-once he committed to something, he committed.
BWBK: I have my altar for him; I buy him fresh flowers every week; I keep a candle lit for him. I keep a glass of water, his smarties, Twizzlers and coffee…like Kai mentioned, the way I chose my mate is another way because [Keith] is not like Dad in some ways but he is a lot like Dad in the ways I need him to be. He’s calm, a good listener and he’s an amazing dad. And even though we don’t have any new stories [about Dad], those memories sustain us.
If you could say something to Dad face to face, in one sentence, what would you say?
I would say, “You did a fucking amazing job!”
Tia: We’re doing our best to take care of Mom and I’m trying my best to move out and not be a liability.
Kajy: I’m taking accountability and I’m making the changes I need to make.
Kai: I’m making changes and my best and worst qualities, I get from you. I’m proud of everything [you’ve] given me and I just wish to be a better person for myself and my son.
BWBK: Thank you and with that being said, I’m wishing all the men out there a Happy Father’s Day! We’re holding space for our Dad today and everyday. I hope everyone feels connected and uplifts the Black men and Black fathers in their lives. If your father has made you feel as special as our dad made us feel, drop comments…
As always, Black women be knowing.
Black fathers be loving their daughters.
Black fathers be lifting their daughters up.
Black fathers be leaving a lasting impression and amazing legacy.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.