As Texas and Florida try to recuperate after being struck by two of the largest hurricanes of the decade, Media Studies first year graduate student ‘Pennie’ Kerubo Anassi continues to soak up the internet fame she received from a tweet about her dad attending class with her when he couldn’t fly home during the peak of the storm.
During the first week of classes, Category 4 Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Gulf Coast, predominantly hitting Houston, where Anassi and her family are from. The family was in the tri-state area for a cousin’s wedding in New Hampshire, and the original plan was for Anassi’s father to fly home after a few days, leaving her mother to assist Anassi with her move to the big city.
As the hurricane progressed, it became obvious that Anassi’s dad would not be able to fly back to Houston. He ended up staying with the two in their hotel and helping her seal the deal on an apartment on West 113th Street in Harlem. “He lived here before, so he was actually a really big help with everything,” she said.
One of the days they were looking for apartments, however, Anassi had class and told her parents to wait in the University Center lobby until she got out. “My mom had her books and stuff and she was ready to chill,” Anassi said. “I was walking to the elevator, and next thing you know [my dad] just walked in with me. I was like, ‘Yo, where are you going?’ And he said that he was going to come to class with me.”
While most who saw the post thought the act was an adorable expression of a father’s love, the motivation for the act actually stemmed from his curiosity about her daughter’s future. “He’s African, and most of us are expected to have a profession such as a doctor or a lawyer, so he hasn’t really grasped the concept of Media Studies and what a career in that would be like, and most importantly, where is his money going,” she said.
In the moment, Anassi felt that if her father came to class with her, her colleagues wouldn’t take her seriously, and immediately think she was still just a kid. They arrived to class ten minutes early, and once the professor and the students started rolling in, she asked him if he was going to leave. “My professor handed him a syllabus,” she said. “So I start texting my mom like, ‘Come and get him!’”
When her brother found out about what had happened, he decided to take it to social media. “Twitter just blew it up. It’s Black twitter, and they just found it so hilarious,” Anassi said. After she had gotten out of class, she checked her phone to find thousands of notifications. That night, Huffington Post reached out to her, and E News, Essence and Buzzfeed all did features about her class experience.
My pops can’t fly back to Houston cause of the hurricane so he going to grad school with my sister 😂😂 she pissed 😭😭 pic.twitter.com/Avqj7SeGSV
— Omete (@ometeanassi) August 29, 2017
“It was a positive story during such a horrible time,” Anassi said. Their family home was not destroyed in the hurricane, and her little brother was able to take a boat to a restaurant where he stayed for two days. The only casualty was her dad’s car, which he had left at the airport.
When her dad began to process his status as an internet sensation, Anassi said that he didn’t understand social media and its impact, saying that she should have made him an Instagram account in the wake of it. However, it finally caught his attention when CNN and other nightly news programs reached out. “Now he’s been starting to feel himself,” she said. “He takes selfies all the time and sends them to the group chat.”
“I did learn to not take your family, or whoever you call your family, for granted. Sometimes he gets on my last nerve, but this situation made me realize how great of a father I had, when people don’t even have fathers,” Anassi said. “Our stuff could have been washed away, but we will always have each other.”
Photo by Jorge Romero.