At a time when fatherhood seems to be so devalued, this beautiful
coffee-table book is a breath of fresh air. It celebrates Black
fathers, but its positive message about the joys and challenges
of fatherhood is universal.
According to the book jacket, "The father is often perceived
as someone absent from the African American family ... This book
shows another side to that image, a positive one depicting black
men who are supportive and nurturing parents. ... These portraits
... deliver an important message to everyone, especially young
people, about parenthood and the obligations and responsibilities
attached to it."
The 50 black-and-white photographs of fathers and sons and daughters
are beautiful and moving. But the power of the book is in the
words of the fathers - fathers who speak their own Truths, but
speak for all fathers.
Hear the words of 38-year-old Thomas Stubblefield, from Yazoo
City, Mississippi. "I want my children to see the real me,
the person that I am, and love me for who I am." "Having
my baby daughter made me open my eyes and see that I can't be
any good to her whatsoever if I continued to live the way I'd
been living." "I don't want a family like the Partridge
Family or anything like that. I just want a very close-knit family.
I just want to live a comfortable life. I don't want to be rich,
I just want to know that my family is taken care of. I don't want
to be able to give my kids everything, but I do want to be able
to provide for them and I want them to grow up to be responsible."
Gerald Russell, born in 1942 in Little Rock, was the first black
high-school all-American. He couldn't play football for the segregated
Arkansas Razorbacks. He was going to join the stellar track program
at the University of Tennessee (home of Wilma Rudolph) when he
found out that his now-wife was pregnant. "The way I was
raised, if you plant a seed, then whatever you do, stand behind
it." Son Derek is a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos,
and now the Houston Oilers. Gerald says, "I think a real
man is a person who goes to work and supports his family and do
what he can in his neighborhood to help. What a man is supposed
to do is take care of his obligations, take care of his family,
eve if he has to sacrifice himself. I never got to see Derek play
basketball, and they say he was a better basketball player than
he was a football player. I missed all of that working. He was
in Hot Springs and broke the Arkansas record of 13.7 in the meter
championships. It was a world-class feat, and I missed all of
that working. It's rough being a father, especially when you are
trying to work so that you can help your kids."
Timothy Edward Record, 28, was born and raised in East LA. "I
will always be there for my son, because I don't want him to go
through what I went through." His mother was still smoking
drugs when he went outside on his 15th birthday
and suddenly realized what smoking crack was doing to him. He
was in an active gang, and the youngest drug dealer in East LA.
He never had a father in his life. Thanks to Father Tom Boyle's
Jobs for the Future program, Timothy is office manager of the
company that produced Forrest Gump.
Lawyer William E. Hickman, 52, also from Los Angeles, is President
and CEO of Avis Capitol Group, Inc. "I loved getting in the
car with my father, just riding and having a talk about things.
... My father personified what it means to be a man. He wasn't
afraid to show his emotions, to cry at the beauty of a sunset,
or to express his joy with his family by tearing up. ... My father
died when I was a sophomore in high school. There is no way to
describe that day." He continues, "One has to sped time
with children, that's where it begins. We talked an awful lot
as a family and it helped to keep them grounded. I don't know
if there is a secret to anything; it was just being able to spend
time and to talk to your children."
There's also a chapter on the Responsive Father's program under
the auspices of the Philadelphia Children's Network. This program
circumvents the belief that unmarried fathers are "worthless
and dispensable." While it recruits through churches and
community centers, the biggest draw is word-of-mouth, young men
talking to other young men. These guys want to do the right
thing. Founder Tom Henry says, "What gets left out of he
equation is how much these guys care about their children. They
think about them. They worry about them." The Responsive
Father's program 's goal is to help fathers recognize the costs
of parenting, not just in money but in emotional involvement.
If Father's Day is about acknowledging and honoring fathers, this
book is a wonderful way to do it.