What does being a father mean to you?
For me it’s developed over the years, when my kids were young I thought it was about “giving them what I never had” when it came to material items, but as I got older I realized it’s more about raising them to be beautiful, compassionate and caring individuals who even with their “privilege” always treat each other and those around you fairly.
I obviously still worked to give them a great life but learned that it was less about presents and more about my physical presence. It also means that I do everything I can to give them the tools they need to be successful. I want to help them build up their armor to sustain whatever the world throws at them. It means trying to make sure they’re safe as much as I possibly can and do everything in my power to let them know that I would move heaven and earth for them.
It means letting my son see me role model behaviors that are important for a black man to exhibit in today’s society. He needs to understand the importance of protecting his mother and sister if I am no longer able to. It means teaching my daughter how important it is to be able to stand on her own and never allow a man to treat in a way that is any less respectful than the way you were raised. It also means being able to protect yourself against any and all threats, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Describe your experience with your father growing up and how that impacted you today.
My father struggled for years with substance abuse and was in and out of jail the years I needed him most. This led to me being on my own early on without a lot of the necessary tools needed for a black boy to navigate a world that seems to hate him for simply the way he looks. This contributed to me engaging in lots of self-destructive behaviors as a youth. Luckily, God had other plans for me and allowed me to find myself and become the man I was meant to be. Even as an adult I found myself looking for his approval and wanting his to see the man I’d become, to no avail.
What things did you take from your experience growing up into your own fatherhood journey?
A vital lesson for me was the importance of trying to break the cycle of addiction in my family, for that reason I don’t drink, have never smoked anything in my life, even as a former “dealer” I refused to allow drugs to creep into their lives, at least through me. I was always 100% open with them about my past and our family history, those “family secrets” that a lot of black families keep would stop with me.
One of my other lessons was that I would never miss anything my kids had going on, basketball, dance, soccer, PTA conferences, ANYTHING. Our kids need to see that we will always be there to support them as much as humanly possible. Child-rearing is not just the job of the mother, be there and be visible.
Have you had any obstacles on your fatherhood journey?
Every day we face obstacles as a black father raising children in today’s society, but nothing that would ever stop me from handling my business.
What advice would you give others new on their fatherhood journey?
Allow yourself to make mistakes, nobody’s perfect. Also, allow yourself to be vulnerable. A lot of us were raised under the guises of “man up” or “real men don’t hurt/cry”. This has created a population of men that the only emotion they learned to express is anger and it’s just increased our numbers of men incarcerated or dead. Lastly, listen to your OG’s, if you don’t have any, find some. Stock certificates, life insurance, and bonds will always outlast Air Jordan’s. invest in your kid’s future, not just their present.
If you could write a quick letter to your father, starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?
I forgive you.
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