HENA'S STORY - THE IMPORTANCE OF FATHERHOOD
We Got Us Now | Guest Contributor: Hena Ali-Bernard
Father's Day is a day meant to honor and spend with your paternal caregiver. For the first 12 years of my life that foundation has been set by a failed criminal justice system that gave a non- violent, first time drug offender a 25 years to life sentence. As a daughter of an incarcerated father, I have spent 12 Father's Days writing and re-writing cards to perfection. My identity has been built from my life experiences. How do I say everything I want to say on this one card that can articulate how much I love and need you Dad. I would cover it with scents and glitter so that Dad can have a part of me with him. I would hate making these cards in school because I didn’t want to have to explain that my card had to be mailed over a week ago. Why can’t I see you today. I know you can’t be home but I am okay with going to see you in prison. I just want to see you. Today is your day for me to tell you how awesome and strong you are for living the life you live; whether by choice or judicially determined.
Being away from your parent on a day that is nationally proclaimed to be dedicated for that parent is an injustice and by far inequitable. My strength and need to advocate comes from what a new born to pre- teen child would witness from trials, appeals, visiting rooms, among many other experiences that no one would understand unless you have experienced this life.
As an educator and social justice advocate, my goal in life is to bring awareness to this under represented community that built me. Systems are meant to serve there purpose and rules are meant to be followed. Crime and punishment is the law of the land. But, we must take more consideration into holistic approaches and fair sentences. Societies, communities, and households are breaking and remain broken generation after generation because of systems that refuse to change. Fairness and justice must be surfaced and become the new law of the land.
Hena Ali-Bernard, a clinical social worker, advocate at WE GOT US NOW, daughter of a formerly incarcerated father, and hopefully a voice for anyone that shares a similar story to mine.