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BGLH interview with Clifton Green

Avatar • Jul 31, 2009


Last week we were all captivated by the images in the Atlanta Journal Constitution of a white dad — Clifton Green — who learned to take care of his adopted Ethiopian daughter’s hair. (Click this link for the AJC slideshow: http://projects.ajc.com/gallery/view/living/braids/) I was so amazed that I tracked Clifton down and asked if he would do a BGLH interview. He agreed! Clifton is a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has shared his personal photos of him and his daughter, Miriam. He did all the styles you see on his baby girl!





The entire family

Clifton: Let me first speak as a white adoptive parent of a black child. We know that love alone is not enough to raise our daughter. She will have experiences as a black person that we can’t relate to as white parents, and we need to reach out to the black community to help us raise our daughter into a woman that is proud of her culture and heritage. We live in Atlanta, and we have black friends in our lives and go to a church that is roughly half black, but we didn’t anticipate the support we’ve received from the online community. It’s been really nice.

BGLH: First off, we thought it was cute that you were using a fork. I’m assuming it doubled as a comb?
Clifton
: I used to use a fork to make Miriam’s parts. The rat tail comb I had at first wasn’t very pointy and I was more happy with the fork. I thought it made nice, sharp parts. I have a better rat tail comb now and I’ve gotten used to it so I’ve done away with the fork.

BGLH: How often do you do your daughter’s hair? And how long does it take?
Clifton
: On average we wash her hair every 10 days, but sometimes it’s once a week or every two weeks depending on what we’ve done that week (like playing in the pool or the sand box). I often re‐do the braids or twists during the week depending on how they’re looking (smaller braids last longer) .

BGLH: Where/how did you learn how to take care of her hair? Why did you learn to take care of her hair?
Clifton
: We’ve always had black babysitters, and I loved it when Miriam’s hair started getting long enough for our babysitter to braid or twist (Miriam came home at 1 year old with very little hair). Our babysitter moved away and our new sitter wasn’t comfortable doing hair, and I missed how nice Miriam’s hair looked. My wife and I started doing it but gradually over time it became my thing, at least partially because we also had a baby boy that my wife was breastfeeding. We learned from books like “It’s All Good Hair,” from other moms, and of course practice which I’m still doing. Our goal has always been to help her fit in among other black girls and to feel good about her hair. I’m not an expert, and we’re always open to advice and suggestions 🙂

BGLH: Emotionally, how was the process of learning to take care of her hair? Was it ever frustrating or discouraged? Or was it a joy?
Clifton
: Learning about hair care and styles has been a joy. Sometimes the doing can be frustrating 🙂 I would say the worst has been my attempt at cornrows. They look like they’re two weeks old as soon as I do them, and when I spend an hour or longer on her hair I want it to look perfect. So I haven’t tried them for awhile.

BGLH: If you could describe your daughters afro textured hair in three words, what would they be?
Clifton
: Curly, coily, bouncy.

BGLH: I’m assuming you’ve been around caucasian hair all your life. This may be a kind of silly question, but what to you, is the most striking difference between the texture of your daughters hair, and the hair you were used to?
Clifton
: I would say perhaps the most striking difference is how dry her hair can get. In my experience, white people’s hair tends to get oily between washings; with Miriam her hair dries out instead.

BGLH: Do you find anything uniquely beautiful about afro‐textured hair?
Clifton
: My favorite is the way it looks with two strand twists. It seems uniquely black and beautiful to me.

BGLH: Do you think the care you take in nurturing your daughter’s hair is having an effect on her self image? If so, in what way?
Clifton
: Miriam is 5. Right now I think we’re laying the groundwork for when she’s older and starts to think about her identity as a woman of color and what that means.

BGLH: And finally, I saw you have a young son. What does he think of his big sister’s hair 🙂
Clifton
: Our non‐adopted son is 4, and although we have discussions about skin color (they refer to it as brown skin and yellow skin), we haven’t talked much hair specifically. Although he says it’s beautiful sometimes, right now I would say he loves Miriam’s hair mainly because he gets to watch TV when I fix it. He also likes for Miriam to fix his hair with her barrettes and hair balls, and he’ll sit still to let her do that. Our 2 year old son also enjoys Miriam’s hair stylings. We’re on the wait list to adopt again from Ethiopia (another girl). So I’ll have more chances to practice my skills, and hopefully the girls can appreciate each others hair and practice styling on each other as they grow up.

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Anonymous
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Anonymous

Awwww. Cute story!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

So great…aww i’m trying not to cry.

...:::BEAUTIFUL...BROWN...SKIN:::... Bianca
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...:::BEAUTIFUL...BROWN...SKIN:::... Bianca

This was a truly beautiful and touching story. I really commend him for sharing his story and parenting a black child. I absolutely love this post!!

Vixen
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Vixen

So beautiful! I think this is the most heartwarming thing I’ve ever read on this blog.

Sheila
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Sheila

Leila, you have done it again! Wonderful interview‐I think he is doing a fantastic job with his daughter’s hair. Its refreshing to read about his approach in regards to wanting Miriam to identify with her culture.

Moni
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Moni

I love this interview! I was going to email you and suggest you contact Professor Green for an interview, but obviously you’re two steps ahead of me! She’s a very lucky girl to grow up with parents who will teach her to love her beautiful natural hair.

rox
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rox

I love this interview! I really like that Mr Green is doing what he can for his adorable daughter to know where she comes from culturally. I wish him all the luck in his wait for the upcoming adoption!

soukho
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soukho

Waw, this is such a nice story, I am new on your blog and I am loving it, I went natural a few weeks back so I am going to read more posts of yours. Best wishes.

Olivia
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Olivia

He seems like a very caring, positive man. I hope the best for his family! I am glad he is so involved with his daughter’s hair and does not see it as a burden, but a beautiful gift.

p.s. i love her little twists, she’s beautiful!

Milan
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Milan

Awww, what a wonderful interview! I luv that they learned how to care for and style their adopted daughter’s hair. You go man!

I also luv the father’s description of her hair. More positive than what some black people would say about their own children’s hair.

Brie
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Brie

I thought the AJC story was great but this interview just takes the cake! It is really a lovely story and I’m sure Miriam, when she gets older, will truly appreciate everything her father did to make sure that she always looked her best, and therefore, felt her best.

Jadeite
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Jadeite

This is such a great story. I love that he’s really trying, and that her hair is on point.
This goes to show that many more white parents of black and biracial children (that means you, lady on Tyra’s :Good Hair Bad Hair”) can adapt to taking care of our little brown babies. <3

SA
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SA

Awww! I read the story when it first came out in the AJC and it’s still one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read. I just want to give them all a big hug. 🙂

yours truly
Guest
yours truly

swear i am so proud of him for this interview. she’s a beautiful little miss. and he is the poster guy for good parents everywhere. love love love his mindset on parenting, especially when it comes to children of colour.

Sugabelly
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Sugabelly

Too. Much. Cuteness.

Can’t. Breathe.

Death by Cuteness Overload strikes again.

Jc
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Jc

Lovely. I think that my parents had a huge role in my view of natural hair. I always saw my hair texture as normal and myself as beautiful.

There are so many people who have a fractured relationship with their hair, we need more parents like my own and like this gentleman so that many more black women will not have to apologise for their hair texture.

jenteel
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jenteel

i’m so in love with this whole situation! <3 <3 <3 leila, you killed this one!

@ clifton green:
thank you to you and your wife for opening up your home and hearts to the prospect of adoption and for your efforts in fostering a positive self‐image for your daughter. little girls of all cultural backgrounds need more of this. your children are very blessed to have so much love in their home.

Chai
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Chai

still not tired of hearing this story! A beautiful young girl with such loving parents is really a great thing to see…which is why I think we need more…lol! Parents who make a conscious effort to groom and take care of their daughter’s/son’s hair all so they can feel validated and worthy…too sweet;-)!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

What an amazing story! I am so touched! She is absolutely beautiful! I think it is great that he and his family are making it a point to keep her involved with other people of her race so that she will also be informed about her own culture. Wonderful, wonderful!

cjbrownsc
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cjbrownsc

This interview is one of the best that I’ve read in a long time! This father, and family, have truly embraced Miriam and I can almost feel the love when he says anything about her. Any reference that he made to her hair were positive and beautiful. I love the Greens for that.
We’ve all seen the infamous YT of the mother cursing and abusing her young daughter while trying to comb her hair. I wish that mother would find this blog and realize that her way is absolutely the WRONG way and that she is abusing her daughter.
Bravo BGLH!!

Skibies
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Skibies

I was so impressed when I saw this story, I appreciate him not putting a relaxer in it but doing research. This is what my mom did because it was the norm and now I wish I never had it. I think he is a role model and since his has a little publicity, he needs to head over to Brad and Angelina’s house. Angelina wants a doll that has hair like her daughters but her daughter would love her hair if it looked liked this little girl’s. I want hair like this little girl’s and she is only five.… Read more »

medinaGreen
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medinaGreen

Oh it was such a delight reading this story. It is wonderful to see the father not only take care but take interest in his daughters hair and the life she leads now and will lead as a Black/African‐American women in this world. Not to mention is two‐strand twist look A‐MA‐ZING!!! he should open a shop lol.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

This is truly an amazing story…but in contrast there is a video circulating online which presents a case of what some would deem child abuse in which a black mother using expletive language is harshly combing her daughter’s natural hair. When you have these two stories in mind..one has to wonder what will it take to educate some parents on how to care for their daughter’s natural hair? Obviously, as in the case of this professor, one must be willing to learn and accept the natural aspects of the child (specifically the hair and its texture among other things). It… Read more »

Princess Nasa*
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Princess Nasa*

Wow. Im in awe with this interview I am so happy that the child is blessed to have parents like Professor Green. I’m just so speechless and happy right now. Wow.

TheDailey
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TheDailey

this is an amazing story :] i love that they want her to have knowledge of her background and to be proud of it!
wonderful parents :]

danniebella
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danniebella

Lovely interview.

Steph
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Steph

BEAUTIFUL!! and lol @ the fork thing…I was slightly confused at first when I saw it. Great interview.

Patricia Grannum
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Patricia Grannum

wow, this is such a great idea!I really enjoyed the interview. If a white man can learn to take care of his black daughter’s hair why are black mothers still perming thir daughter’s hair at 3 yrs old..just sayin..

http://womanofcolour.blogspot.com

Angelyca
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Angelyca

“one has to wonder what will it take to educate some parents on how to care for their daughter’s natural hair? Obviously, as in the case of this professor, one must be willing to learn and accept the natural aspects of the child (specifically the hair and its texture among other things)” So true! I think that this is issue with most parents that don’t want to learn how to do natural hair. It takes time to learn something that they probably never knew especially if they’ve been relaxed all their life. I love this interview, I wish that my… Read more »

Jc
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Jc

@anon — I have seen that video and it is quite traumatising.

I have to say that I wouldn’t like to see it featured on BGLH following this piece because undoubtedly comparisons on a race level would be made that wouldn’t necessarily be true.

I would love to see more positive examples instead. Perhaps like the youtube ‘family going natural’ or other fotkis where parents feature their children.

I think showing positive examples is the way forward.

augusta
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augusta

great job, one of the best interviews yet!

like patrica said before me, it makes you wonder why some black women are still relying on the box perm to do their daughters hair.

Krystal (aka Pirouette)
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Krystal (aka Pirouette)

This was such a wonderful interview. It’s great to hear his perspective!

Ivy
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Ivy

cornrows are hard for many lol. maybe he should try parting them smaller if he wants them to be neater. I think that twists last longer and look cuter anyway, but if he wanted to try again that’s be my tip.

this whole family is so beautiful! yay!

Broadbandette
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Broadbandette

Bravo, BGLH! Fantastic interview and touching story.

Black girl with long hair
Guest
Black girl with long hair

@ Jc… I agree with you 100%! I watched that video, of the mom abusing her daughter’s hair, and I don’t want it on BGLH. I do feel that positivity is the way forward. We already know a lot of black people have issues with their hair. I’d rather discuss solutions. And you’re also right that the point of this story IS NOT to say that white people love afro textured hair more than black people do (Claire from the Fashion Bomb just came on BGLH with strong evidence that that is NOT the case on a macro level!) I… Read more »

Brandy B. Wine
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Brandy B. Wine

Love it. This is a great story.
I’m so happy you did this interview. Her hair looks awesome. I think he does a good job.

Coily Crowns
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Coily Crowns

Love it! Great interview. Thanks for tracking him down. When I initially heard this story, I definitely wanted more. Good one L.

CurlyKye
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CurlyKye

Simply put…LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

Ms. Crown of Hair
Guest
Ms. Crown of Hair

This is such a lovely story! The fact that he took the time to learn how to care for her hair in its natural state shows how much he loves her and wants her to love and appreciate the way God made her!
I want the father of my children to learn how to do the same, regardless of his ethnicity!

Jai
Guest
Jai

Another great interview and such a touching story too. You can feel the love from the interview!!!!

Izzy
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Izzy

Leila, u friggin’ rock! I love the subject matter. I applaud the families openness and willingness to learn. I may steal that fork idea, chile! My daughter’s texture looks similar to his daughter’s. All around feel good story.

Courtney
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Courtney

This is simply amazing. I am so happy that these parents are embracing their child for who she is, while laying the groundwork for who she is to become: a strong, grounded, and proud black woman. Kudos to these parents. I will also say that this inspires me for my own hair and my own future children. This story has made me realize that caring for natural, textured black hair is possible for everyone, so I should have no excuse!

Da Jadedpoet
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Da Jadedpoet

Its very heart‐warming to see how love, patience and great care is shown physically in this little girls hair from her father’s hands. Its so odd I never would have thought deeply about seeing something like this until I went natural and understood the stigma people had behind natural hair. I was natural as a young teen and had hair down the middle of my back and after getting out of braids only had people call my hair unmanageable and watched perm after perm how my hair shrivel up to my shoulders. I didn’t hate natural hair *just perms for… Read more »

Aisha
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Aisha

Clifton Green, you rock!

honeysmoke
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honeysmoke

my goodness. he sure does get it. you can tell he and his wife gave a lot of thought to adopting their daughter.

Naturally Beautiful
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Naturally Beautiful

Thank you for a sweet and beautiful story.

Mel
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Mel

Very nice interview. It seems like he and his wife are doing a fantastic job raising Miriam (and doing her hair)!

EclecticJam
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EclecticJam

I LOved it!!! such a good story!!

Missy Harris
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Missy Harris

I am a Black, Jamaican woman, and I shared the original article with my friends and family when it first appeared in the AJC…even my male friends were touched. Most of the women who read it were moved to tears (including me). I wish this family all the blessing in the world. It just goes to show that sensitivity to another person’s culture is what is important when our lives intermingle. It’s ironic that this little Ethiopian girl is going to have better Hair (and I sure all‐round) self‐esteem than many little girls who have grown up in their own… Read more »

Jae
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Jae

Aaawww, I loved that. Now if he could only teach me to do cornrows half as well as he does. Mine are horrendous, lol. But I wish more parents were like this. Good job!

hairepy
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hairepy

Beautiful story.…I think that his daughter will always have memories of her daddy doing her hair. That will be such special memories for her.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

this made my heart melt

.black.girl.
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.black.girl.

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww this put a smile on my face 🙂

AfroButtafly
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AfroButtafly

Awwww…this is so wonderful. I never expected like a follow‐up on this story. Great work. It’s even MORE heartwarming to read his personal expressions about his daughter and her hair. She is so beautiful and receiving some TLC. 🙂

serenissima
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serenissima

Amazing story… I love it.
And at Medina Green, I thought I was the only one thinking he could do my two strand twists any day of the week! Dude has skills!

Coffey0072
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Coffey0072

Outstanding article! I forwarded it to my mother and she loved it as well. Also, THANK YOU re: I honestly don’t buy the mentality that seeking white people’s acceptance of our hair is somehow the way forward. It isn’t. BLACK PEOPLE need to learn to accept THEIR OWN HAIR. THAT is the way forward! I sorta get sick of going on natural hair forums reading threads about how people get “so many positive comments from white people” about their natural hair. Positive reinforcement starts within one’s self. Not a valid enough reason for one to wear their hair in its… Read more »

Imani
Guest
Imani

This was such a touching story. I’m headed to Emory in the fall as a freshman. I’m majoring in neuroscience and he’s a business professor so I definitely won’t have him but I will be stopping by his office to commend him. He’s an inspiration 🙂

Kelly
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Kelly

::wipes tear::
And don’t be discouraged by cornrows. A lot… A‐LOT of people I know including myself cant do them:)

Curly Kew
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Curly Kew

Hello Clifton,

You are doing a great job! She is a chocolate beauty. I wish I could be your babysitter too. Thank you for embracing her heritage. Please do me a favor though and step away from the Vaseline, it is a poor clogger and totally unnecessary. Here are a fewer healthier alternatives: Jane Carter solution (Whole Foods), Diva Curls (Ulta), Giovanni (Whole Foods & Kroger, Nubian Heritage products for skin and hair (online)

Jen
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Jen

Clifton, I hope you know how much this gesture will contribute to your daughter’s emotional well‐being as a child, as a teenager and well into her adult life. There is a special intimacy that involved in styling a little Black girl’s hair because it is such a time‐intensive and careful process. It is such a unique thing for a girl to share these moments with her father. There can be no more positive influence on the life of a girl than a close and loving relationship with a father who has always let her know that she is beautiful. I… Read more »

Alicia
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Alicia

OK, I have tears in my eyes. That was so sweet and thoughtful. What a father! Thanks for tracking him down and doing this interview!

DNLee
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DNLee

this is a really nice article. came here by way of the 2009 Black Weblog Finalist list — congrats.

K. Julien
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K. Julien

great post 😀

debtfreeme
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debtfreeme

She’s beautiful and her hair looks awesome. Good job dad!

mahoganycyrah
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mahoganycyrah

This is awesome.…..I have a white friend with a multiracial child and her daughters hair looks exactly this.…..no matter how often I show her, that little girls hair is all over her head and it offends me when I see it and it is really degrading to her child…I am sending her this link.…thanks…you are wonderful!

oliveoil_DaNewbie
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oliveoil_DaNewbie

Awww! I absolutely loved this post!! Kudos to the dad for actually sitting down doing and understand his daughters hair!! I love this!! =]

Laurel
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Laurel

she’s a beauty..get your shot gun ready, Prof. Green..lol

seriously tho’..I think this is great; like everyone before me said, it’s wonderful that he has taken the time and energy to understand her hair..too many times, even we ourselves get lazy..I know I do sometimes but people like him are inspiration..

like Jen said I only wish more little Black girls had this experience. period.

one more thing to ask God for in my potential mate..:)

T.Allen-Mercado
Guest
T.Allen-Mercado

This is a beautifully touching story. The connections he’s making with his daughter culturally as a black woman and as a father/daughter bond are lifelong and priceless. Kudos.

Natural Hair
Guest
Natural Hair

I love that you tracked him down for an interview. Thanks for doing this.

This just shows natural hair care really takes patience, willingness and a commitment to learn.

Kara {Must-Have Boutique}
Guest
Kara {Must-Have Boutique}

This follow‐up interview is the best! :o) What a good dad… I wish more little girls could get this experience with their hair.

Natural Hair Rules!!!
Guest
Natural Hair Rules!!!

OmG… This is beautiful.

Daphadil
Guest
Daphadil

This is what any white parent of a black child should do. Research and figure out ways to deal with it not slap a perm on a child’s hair because you dont have the patience to do it. This is very exciting to read. We need more ppl like him, willing to learn!!!!

Melly
Guest
Melly

Beautiful story!!

I think he does an awesome job with her hair 🙂

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

thats my finance professor, hes soo cool!

Mikaela B.
Guest
Mikaela B.

wow.. he did a good job with those styles

relaxedhealthyhair
Guest
relaxedhealthyhair

What a great man. It is sad to see for example, a mixed race child with such unkempt hair and you think to your self ‘mother must be white’ and sadly one is right 100% of the time. He just goes to show that if you care enough, you can learn to do a black or mixed race child’s hair whatever your race and background. Brilliant interview!!

NEA
Guest
NEA

Fabulous! Wonderful! Beautiful!

Christine
Guest
Christine

This was wonderful. I must share!

Trai
Guest
Trai

This is an example of the unconditional love a parent has for their child. Not only
was this couple unselfish enough to adopt her, they are raising her to love all aspects
of herself. Kudos to this fabulous Dad.

Dee
Guest

wow…my heart got all fuzzy and warm…that is soo sweet

Tena
Guest
Tena

I must say that you have mad skills! Her hair is beautiful! You need to teach me some of those techniques so I can use on my own hair…and I am a woman of color myself! 🙂

Kenya
Guest
Kenya

This was a LOVELY story. I am sooooo glad he understands the importance of his daughter having a good self‐image of who she is as a black woman! GREAT STORY! We need more dads like this!

Jchemela
Guest
Jchemela

This is a great story. More fathers regardless of race should learn how to do their children’s hair.No matter what your ethnic background you have to LEARN how to do hair. I haven’t met any one yet that knew from birth how to do hair. That’s why dolls have so much of it. lol Though I don’t have very much contact with my own father right now. I have very fond memories of him doing my hair. He and my mother both cornrowed my hair and I had a beautiful head of long natural hair. As this was in the… Read more »

Kisha B
Guest
Kisha B

THis story was awesome. i so appreciated the honesty and could feel the love. i couldn’t Believe it when i saw her hair! dad is doing a great job!

Treacle
Guest
Treacle

This man is a GOOD man when it comes to this issue.

I hope he reads all the comments.

Being able to take care of afro‐textured hair is not an inherently black trait, I couldn’t do cornrows until I was 18 years of age — nevermind having afro‐textured hair from the day I was born.

Congrats to him and his wife, they are unique people, the world needs more people like him.

He doesn’t sugar coat anything or say things to please, he is just GOOD at heart.

Ethiopian Girl
Guest

I’ll immediately grab your rss feed as I can not find your e‐mail subscription hyperlink or e‐newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please allow me know in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

DejahAndMe
Guest
DejahAndMe

at least he taken the time out to learn to do his childs hair, unlike the many black mothers that drag they daughters as young as 3 and 4 years old to the beauty parlor to put that fake garbage in it…

kalexa1
Guest
kalexa1

White ones too, with biracial daughters.

Gwyn
Guest
Gwyn

saw a short blurb online on this and to hear the full story…loved it!. What a great thing to see this Dad go the extra mile for his daughters self‐image. LOVE,LOVE LOVE IT!

Tenisha
Guest
Tenisha

Her hair looks awesome..I really wish he would make a youtube video. Good job Dad!!

trackback

[…] picture is definitely touching, and brings to mind Clifton Green, another white father who adopted an Ethiopian girl, and soon became responsible for her hair […]

Janet Holmes
Guest
Janet Holmes

He does hair better than me

Emmeaki
Guest
Emmeaki

Glad to see an update. What a beautiful little girl! He’s better at doing hair than the lazy mothers who destroy their little girls’ hair by putting chemicals and weaves in it.

FedUp
Guest
FedUp

i think i love him…what an awesome Dad!

MyTake305
Guest
MyTake305

This is a cute story. The cornrow situation made me laugh. Reminds me of my attempts. Practice does make perfect, so he should keep at it. Black people’s hair is really very different across the spectrum. And even if you’re an expert at doing your own hair, if you try to do someone’s hair who’s texture is different than yours, you could feel nearly as clueless as a white person trying to do a black person’s hair!! I’ve experienced this first hand when I tried doing what works on me to other people. Now I will tell anyone who asks… Read more »

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