Thursday, July 16, 2009

Daddy's Little Girl

Originally from Ethiopia, Miriam Tigist Green, 4, was adopted by Emory professor Clifton Green and his wife in 2005. This is her hair unbraided, before her father applies his weekly loving touch. His care and attention to detail show mastery of a task few white men ever contemplate.
---Joey Ivansco / AJC

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Perfect braids show depth of dad's devotion
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/15/08

Clifton Green waited a decade to become a dad, imagining he would be like the man who raised him and made him feel like the most special kid in the world.

That day came in 2005, when Green and his wife adopted daughter Miriam Tigist from an Ethiopian orphanage.

Suddenly, fatherhood demanded a task few white men ever contemplate: hours of cleaning, combing, twisting and braiding African hair.

Such skills typically are handed down from older family members and, as this Emory University associate professor of finance discovered, take hours of practice. In the wrong hands, hair like his daughter's can break off.

"Besides the color of her skin, her hair is one of the few ways we are different," Green said last week as he twisted the thick curls of Miriam, now 4. "The more tangled it is, the more it hurts, the more she protests — in that way, it's pretty universal."

By knowing how to make straight parts, neat twists and careful braids, he has earned high-fives from stunned African-Americans.

"That meek and mild guy? He does not do her hair! You could have picked me off the floor when I found out," said Latise Egeston, an African-American counselor at Miriam's preschool. "Her hair looks fabulous every day, and I know what it takes."


Friends with children from Africa lent books and support. Their Ethiopian baby sitter showed him cornrows, a daylong task he hopes to master some day.

He stopped trying new styles before church, because haste led to bad hairdos. "We wanted her to know her hair isn't a burden but something really wonderful, something beautiful to be celebrated," her mother says.

"I can do it, but it looks better when he does it. He's more creative, and he cares more about changing it up. It's a little gift he gives her, the little joy of feeling nice and getting good vibes from other people."

At stake, the Greens learned, was far more than hygiene or looks. Her hair was a litmus test of their parenting, he and his wife read in books such as "Inside Transracial Adoption."

"There is no tolerance in the [black] community for not taking care of a child's hair," the authors write. "The end results of your efforts will be judged by the high standards of the black community and not the laissez-faire white model."


You all know you've said the same thing.

Rest of article at link above.

Judge for yourself:

Miriam had short, patchy hair when Green snapped this photo of her in an Ethiopian orphanage in March 2005.
----Clifton Green / Special

Dad Clifton and mom Jennifer initially were uncertain what to do with Miriam's hair after bringing her home. They considered just letting it go, as a sign of freedom. They wanted others to accept her, regardless of her looks.
-----Joey Ivansco / AJC

At one point, Clifton Green stopped trying new styles on Miriam before church, because haste led to bad hairdos. "We wanted her to know her hair isn't a burden, but something really wonderful, something beautiful to be celebrated," her mother says.
---Joey Ivansco / AJC

In learning how to take care of Miriam's hair, the Greens learned that what was at stake was far more than hygiene or looks. Her hair was a litmus test of their parenting. Here, half an hour into the braiding process, Miriam lets out a yawn.
----Joey Ivansco / AJC

"By and large, most whites are oblivious to the cultural minefield young black girls are born into, just by virtue of having hair that doesn't bounce and behave," one journalist wrote last year. This is the drawer in the Greens' living room that holds all the tools Dad uses to care for Miriam's hair.
-----Joey Ivansco / AJC

Hair like Miriam's takes a lot of time and the process of caring for it is also a way for father and daughter to bond.
----Joey Ivansco / AJC

Rest of the pictures HERE.


The Angry Independent said...

Interesting article.

On the wider issue of adoption... on one hand it is great to see that good people are adopting kids from Africa, and other parts of the developing World dealing with hardships. But on the other hand, it's disappointing that more successful Blacks, particularly in this Country, aren't adopting more of these kids. Even within the U.S., there aren't enough good/able Black couples coming forward to adopt Black children.

How could this be? I understand that because of crime, drug addiction, and socio/economics, Black children are orphaned at higher rates....or somehow fall into the State social service systems across the Country. But there should still be more families available to adopt. Even with the R(d)epression, Blacks are more successful and more financial stable and able than ever before... yet the adoption numbers are poor.

One issue that I keep hearing has to do with the age of adoptees. Many Black children available for adoption in this Country and overseas are above the ideal age. Blacks seem more fixated on having infants. But there has to be more to the problem than just that....

Fascinating issue. Although I haven't had much time to really delve into it.

rikyrah said...


the child overseas is just poor. That's pretty much their reason for being orphaned.

Just poor is one thing.

Too many Black children, that should have been available for adoption aren't, because they're given to people that shouldn't be allowed to raise goldfish. And, by the time that child is ' available' for adoption, they're not 'just poor'. They're poor and been mistreated, and now, you're asking another family to deal with the ramifications of that abuse.

One of our local radio hosts is trying to help a young Black man and his wife in one of these situations right now. He's a teacher, his wife is a businesswoman. They've been raising this child pretty much since birth, and now that they want to take the final steps of adoption, the ' mother' wants to keep the child for a check. She's a gangbanging junkie, and folks are actually defending her ' right' to be a ' parent'.

I dont want to get into it, because I'll go off the deep end.

Anonymous said...

Just as adoption for Blacks in the US is difficult it's even more so when trying to do it with children from oversees... there is the same barriers or finances and the unfortunate thought that Blacks don't have enough money to ably raise that child... and that is sadly based on the notion in many underdeveloped nations that who only see Whites coming in as Saviors, the same stereotypes we're fed here they are too so that's the catch 22 when you ask about why more Blacks aren't adoption from these nations.

::rae:: said...

I don't think this family is trying to make a statement or be the "savior" in this situation. I think this is just what the story stated. She is "daddy's little girl"! I love the story and have shared the link with others to see. this is just about a father who cared enough about a little girl to learn to take good care of her. My husband STILL can't do our 2yr olds hair and I can't even think of the last time he tried.

Mekia said...

I love this article. It is so amazing. I am African American and my husband is white and soon he will have to deal with our baby's hair. It's so nice to have proof that other men do it. It's really not about her being black. It's about her daddy spending time with her and learning about her culture so she too can learn and grow. :)

Anonymous said...

I love this article and those parents seem really wonderful. I love that they are taking the responsibility and honor of raising her very seriously.

D.Matthews said...

Here is a helpful link for other adoptive parents about haircare.