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Remembering My Dad 

I’m one of the lucky ones who has wonderful memories of my father.

My father, Percival Borde, was a professor of theater arts and black studies at SUNY Binghamton. He ran the Perry Street Theater and performed there as well as in venues all over the US, the West Indies, and he and his wife, Pearl Primus, were the first directors of the Performing Arts Center in Monrovia, Liberia.

My dad was an absolute blast. The party started when he showed up. I remember that my mom always kept an evening dress and a pair of fancy shoes at the ready at her office, because he would often show up to surprise her on a week night for dinner and dancing. He was always up for anything kid related too – Coney Island, the movies, McDonald’s, you name it, Once, he and I drove all the way upstate to a farmer’s market just to get some particular oranges my mom wanted. He drove fast and for a little kid in those days (no car seat, no seat belts!) it was thrilling. It made my mom nuts when he sped and weaved around cars in New York City traffic, but I loved it. With him at the wheel, I was never scared; I was safe.

When you read his obituary, neither me nor my mom are listed as surviving family members, because my parents were never married and their relationship was unorthodox to say the least. But he was present and loving, so much so that I had no idea that our address was not his home until after his death. The revelations of his complicated life taught me that families come in all kinds of formations, and all we owe each other is respect for people’s choices, especially those of dads and men who rise to the challenge of raising children.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads, stepdads, foster dads, and men who are like our dads, who create safe and happy homes for us. We could never have made it without you.



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