Raevon Isaiah is a firm believer in God not putting more on a person than they can handle. Even in his darkest days, clinging to his family teachings and religious beliefs turned the impossible into doable. Raevon grew up with an immense love for music. He was singing at the age of 5, playing the drums by 8, moved on to violin at 10, and by 13 he was playing the piano. One of his fondest while discovering his musical talents was the enjoyment of his father’s presence.
“My dad wasn’t an arts guy, but he was always invested in whatever his son wanted to do.”
As the son of an NFL player, expressing interest in something other than sports, yet having his father’s undivided attention was important. Having a strong male presence throughout his life gave Raevon a foundation he would need much sooner than expected.
Becoming a father is role a you get to prepare for if you are lucky. Many books have been written but there is no guaranteed formula for success when it comes to raising children. At the age of 26, Raevon Isaiah embarked upon a life changing journey in an unconventional way. For him, moving to Atlanta marked the beginning of a new chapter in life that was supposed to feature personal and professional growth. After starting off as a substitute teacher for Clayton County Schools, Raevon was directed to KIPP Schools Charter Network. It wouldn’t take long for him to start making an impact on his environment.
“I felt responsible for every kid in the building.”
That attitude became evident to everyone at the school, including one student in particular that grew to become his biggest fan.
When asked about Demarko, his 18 yr old son, Raevon described him as mischievous. “He wasn’t a bad kid, but he didn’t always exercise the best judgment”. The tone in which he spoke of Demarko sounded so familiar, like the voice of a parent that’s realistic with who their child is but at the same time fiercely protective of him and the context to which his actions may fall upon. Raevon also started noticing the consequences Demarko received for violating school rules and policies always seemed more severe than that of other students. Quickly becoming an advocate on Demarko’s behalf led to the formation of a real bond, that would only become stronger with time and experience.
“I wanted to take a step back and really understand him, and really understand why his upbringing has caused some of the behaviors and emotions he experiences today”
As time went by the relationship between Raevon and Demarko became apparent. It evolved from a very endearing teacher-student relationship to coordinating time out outside of school to spend together. Once given the okay from the school principal and Dermarko’s biological mother they would begin spending time together. The two of them began bonding and really creating the groundwork for a great father-son relationship. Having the ability to develop a meaningful relationship was important for Demarko at this point in his life. The teenage years can be extremely turbulent, having a consistent presence that sets expectations and also leads by example paves the way for love and respect. Raevon has been able to build such a tremendous bond with his son because of his commitment to being a great father and constant source of motivation.
An environment inclusive of love, compassion, and security is nourishment for development of children. Though the road may not have been easy, Raevon has greeted his son with unconditional love at the turn of every corner, not realizing that same love would be reciprocated in a time of need. March 2017, Raevon lost his grandfather. While dealing with the pain of losing a loved one, Raevon was reminded that while one meaningful relationship comes to an end, another too may blossom. Demarko showed the type of love and compassion during Raevon’s time of need he had not received from his own father throughout his life. This proved that unwavering love and support is a tradition that can be taught as well as passed down.
In July of 2017 Raevon was granted full custody of Demarko, making him a full time legal guardian. Even though their bond had been forged, there was still an adjustment period. This transition would require Raevon to closely examine some of Demarko’s friends and activities. The two of them mutually agreed that in order to see progress, he had to make a conscious effort in regards to his decision making. They also had some very tense moments that galvanized the trust and reinforced their love for one another. One of those moments surrounded Demarko being shot in an incident after school. While it was extremely troubling, not once did Raevon second guess his decision to take upon the responsibility of being Demarko’s parent. That night he got home and let out a cry that could only come from the depths of one’s soul. The agony of watching your child experience pain coupled with the confusion of not knowing what he has stepped into was very overwhelming.
That night was the catalyst for growth and development necessary to continue moving in a positive direction. Raevon’s actions were speaking much louder than any words could imagine. Instead of saying he would be there, he was building an amazing amount of rapport by doing what needed to be done. Without having a clear vision of how things were going to turn out Raevon led with his heart and has been able to play an instrumental role in the life of a young man that wanted be there for him as well.
“Breaking certain habits, behaviors, and hurts was difficult”
Raevon’s, Demarko’s mother, as well as Demarko agreed that attending Westlake High School would be in his best interest moving forward. While experiencing personal development, he exceled on the field of play. His outstanding performance on the field eventually led to an athletic scholarship from the University of Mississippi, a power five conference school with title aspirations and a long list of NFL players. Raevon was right by his son’s side throughout the entire recruiting journey, taking trips to Alabama, Clemson, and South Carolina to name a few of the schools that courted the idea of having Demarko join their programs.
When Demarko met Raevon’s family it was overwhelming. They were an extension of Raevon so they led with love and immediately made him feel like a part of the family. Adding another grandson to the family means being intentional about family trip planning as well, Demarko’s football schedule has been taken into consideration for the next family trip. Being able to have that type of support and consideration from his home team continues to give him strength to be a key contributor to any team he encounters.
His on field production has been a culmination of hard work, dedication, and growth. As a father Raevon is proud of his son for being an over comer. Instead of allowing the hardships he’s endured given him a sullen outlook on life, the Mississippi’s hard hitting safety decided to attack his issues like a running back in the open field. Which brings a tremendous smile to Raevon’s face accompanied by a laugh and a smile of pure joy.
Counseling has been the foundation of a lot of growth and development individually and as a family for Raevon and Demarko. Raevon has continued to seek counseling. Through counseling being able to discuss thoughts of suicide helped Raevon realize that his issues could no longer be avoided. The responsibilities of having a son, not being where he wanted to be in life, and just feeling overwhelmed overall led Raevon down a pathway of despair.
Taking his mental health seriously has allowed Raevon to unload some of the package life presents us. It has helped him become a better person to himself and a better father to Demarko. He also thanks Brad and Dear Father’s for being an outlet to speak upon his experience. He was finally able to tell his story in a safe space, no longer feeling like he had keep his story close to the chest. Raevon also embraced the idea of Dear Father’s being a platform that allowed him to be able to control the narrative based around his story, it was important for this story to be told through the lens of man who has experienced growth personally while becoming a great father.
“Doing the work on myself has allowed me to not project my fears and failures to my son”
When asked if he could pen a letter to his father smiled and simply said,
“First, I understand things now that I didn’t understand then. I have a different lens, now I appreciate you even more. I’ve been able to apple and adapt the lesson of manhood you gave. The way I saw you conduct yourself as a father, husband, brother, pastor, and football player. Don’t regret anything because you instilled somethings in me that I carry today. I can pass down valuable lesson to my son that you’ve taught me. I love you and appreciate because now I understand that this is not easy. I know how to operate as a man in society because of valuable lesson you have given to me. Thank you for sticking it out and not giving up on me. And thank you for not stopping being a dad. I love you.”
Raevon exemplifies a life of service and dedication. Through his foundation in faith and family his heart has shined light on a young man’s life.