family · fitness

To Black Fathers and Daughters on this Juneteenth Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day in many places around the world. In the US we are also celebrating Juneteenth, which is now a federal holiday and in many states (including mine– MA). Here is some information about Juneteenth, from this NYT article:

Juneteenth, an annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War, has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s.

President Biden signed legislation [in 2021] that made Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, a federal holiday, after interest in the day was renewed during the summer of 2020 and the nationwide protests that followed the police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

On June 19, 1865, … Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. [This] put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued almost 2 1/2 years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

Early celebrations involved prayer and family gatherings, and later included annual pilgrimages to Galveston by former enslaved people and their families, according to Juneteenth.com.

Today, while some celebrations take place among families in backyards where food is an integral element, some cities, like Atlanta and Washington, hold larger events, including parades and festivals.

What better way for the blog to commemorate this double holiday than to celebrate black fathers and daughters? So, let’s look at some father-daughter teams that celebrate family strength, grace, power and speed of movement.

“The Greatest” Muhammed Ali and his daughter, boxing star and champion Laila Ali. In an interview not long after her father’s death in 2016, Laila Ali said this about him:

“Not too long ago, I said, ‘Mom, you know, do you really think daddy was really, really proud of me? Or do you think he was just trying to make me feel good, like, girl, you’re bad and all that kind of stuff?’ She’s like, ‘No. Your dad really was proud of you.’ She’s like, ‘You changed his mind about boxing and women in sports.’ And then she’s, like, ‘That was big because you know your father, he’s very hard headed.’ And I was like, ‘You’re right. I did. You’re right. I won that battle against Muhammad Ali.'”

Pro tennis star Sloan Steady, daughter of NFL running back, the late John Stephens. They were not in contact with each other until Steady was 13. They stayed in touch until his death in a car accident when she was 16. You can read more about their relationship and her growth as a top-level tennis player here.

Venus and Serena Williams and their dad, Richard Williams. There is a lot written and broadcast about the tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams and their father’s role in developing and supporting their tennis careers which I won’t try to summarize here. I like the hugging, though.

Finally, here’s former NFL offensive lineman Bubba Paris and his daughter, pro and Olympic and college basketball powerhouse Courtney Paris. Bubba helped the San Francisco 49ers clobber the Denver Broncos in the Superbowl, 55-10. Ouch.

Courtney  is the only player in NCAA history, male or female, to have 700 points, 500 rebounds, and 100 blocks in a season. She was a star player for Oklahoma, an Olympian, and then played for the WNBA, leading the league in rebounds two years in a row. She’s now an assistant coach back at Oklahoma. Courtney’s dad isn’t at all surprised at her success. Below is from a 2004 interview, when she was still in college:

 “I knew at an early age that basketball wasn’t for me,” Bubba said. Courtney Paris put her father’s hoops skills plainly: “He’s a horrible basketball player!”

On the other hand, “Courtney is so gifted; she has the ability to be the next Michael Jordan, the female version,” Bubba Paris said. “She has a mental toughness she is prepared to face anything.”

Bubba Paris and Courtney Paris. I think she gets her focus from him...
Bubba Paris and Courtney Paris. I think she gets her focus from him.

To all the fathers and daughters (including my own late father Billy Womack, who was an amateur golf champion), I wish you a happy Father’s Day. And to all of us in the US, Happy Juneteenth!

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