Monday, April 17, 2006

State of the African American Father

Once, I was asked what being a father means to me. The question was asked of me one night before I was to leave on the overnight business trip the same night that Indiana and L.A. were playing game three of the NBA playoffs. I had never really thought about it before – probably because I knew that “IT” (fatherhood) was something that must be done rather than just thought about. And there was always something to do: to PTA meetings, taking my son to practice, ironing clothes, cooking meal and listening. What does it man to be a father? I mean it has to be a bit more than introducing a sperm cell to a precious ovum. It has to be more than seeing one’s child once or twice a week or month. What does it mean, and what is the state of fatherhood in our community? This was the question and I thought hard.

I thought hard about the fact that I was a single parent; I had been married, but it did not work out a result of unforeseen circumstances. But, mulling the questions of parenthood, I found it difficult to try to conceptualize something that I live; something so paramount and significant that words and thoughts can’t adequately depict its essence. It seems when you become a father – which is no less true for mothers – that you effectively begin a phase of having no social life. For the single father, this is mostly by choice, for you come to realize and internalize that there is no one thing or event more valuable than your children. I came to see that time really does fly by, and my infant son has become a little man with only one month until his eight birthday. I love cherish every moment of fatherhood, and I love having a son. For me being a father is responsibility that is earned with a combination of hardwork and effort, dedication and most importantly, love. It is an endless season in which summer, fall, winter and spring become one and the years often form a conglomerate book of memories and photographs.

Anthony T. Stringfield is CEO of the Living Room Media Group. an Oakland, California transplant, he has been in Atlanta for roughly nine years. “For me,” he says slowly, “I’ve been with little Tone for about 10 and a half years. Being a single parent for all that time has had its trials and tribulations for sure, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. When he came into the world, it just completely slowed my roll.” He says that his son is like a brother to him and that their relationships has steadily grow over the years. “His mother didn’t ever get involved in his life. She calls about twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it has not turned into any real experience for him. She being 3,000 miles away in France did not allow for him to have that access, that immediate access to her.

“Being a father means a lot to me,” Stringfield continues. “I would expect it too mean a lot to a lotta brothers out there. I want him to learn the streets, but at the same time, I don’t want him to earn the streets. Fatherhood slowed my life totally down.” Stringfield admitted that if it has not been for becoming a father, he would have probably ended up ubiquitously wither “dead or in jail”. Parenthood granted him something else that he needed: stability. “I guess God moved inside of me,” he says.

“It was really pride at first, but as pride turned into something that I thoughts was more than I could chew. But in the process, I realized that if I just took small bites, it wasn’t that hard,” Strinfield says. “And now since I am recently remarried, I can see how valuable the dual parent situation is. Looking back on it all, I say being father is a blessing that I would not trade for anything in the world. I wouldn’t trade the frowns for the smiles. Most definitely its been real.”
“My baby is like all the money in the world for me,” says Clarence Harris, founder of the check First Mortgage of Cincinnati, Ohio. “My wife and I had problems, so the doctors had to actually merge my sperm with her egg. It took about for or five attempts. Harris smiles as he continues. “The day I found out, I was in a car accident,” he says. “I was sitting there and all mad and she comes driving around the corner smiling and says she was pregnant. I cheered up immediately.”


He admits that he was hyped and that he “read a “hupla” articles and books” but that was short lived. “I figured that instincts would start to kick in because in all actuality I didn’t want to read a lot about white babies, because all of the books were written by white men,” he says. “I just figured being a man would make my father instincts come out.”


“When I found out I was about to be a father, I zoned, it was like I was thinking about names, him being a boy, what instruments he would play, how he would laugh and every thing else,” he recalls. But like most men staring down fatherhood, his attitude changed. Harris admits, “After I knew my wife was pregnant, I became concerned about her eating habits and everything. My wife worked practically right up until she gave birth, and I didn’t like that, knowing how hard we had been wanting children.


“Now my baby is one month old, he says with pride. “The biggest thing about the delivery was that I had never prepared to see something come out like me, round head and all, it was like looking at the mirror. I got here in my hands and forgot all about my wife.” He says that fatherhood based on his experiences could be broken down into one are: protection. Harris feels his job description with respect to his little girl is to provide support and protection for her forever.

These faces of fathers are often neglected in the real world with respect to media and the overall image of African American men. Let’s not forget; as the descendents of slaves were frequently removed from family responsibilities for the sake of profit by rapacious slave masters, brokers and merchants. Many young men like myself have inherited this sordid legacy, and never really knew or ere raide in households with their biological male parental units. Being basically inaccessible and/or available, we have managed to define being a father in a different perspective.

I will not blame history alone for these occurrences. Self-determination would have manifested another result if many fathers were steadfast in their belief of the family. And for the record most African American men were determined to preserve their families for we as people have survived conditions no one else has confronted. Therefore, it is not unusual when men are overlooked, as Harris was when he was at the hospital. The doctors and nurse always seemed to speak directly to his wife. “I had to straighten them out a few times and explain that the baby’s father is here and got just as an important part in this baby’s life as the baby’s mother does,” he says.


Many have viewed or felt this invisibility either first hand or vicariously. In all truth, church of the world in which we reside, through various news speak sources, purports consistently that men such as those speaking within this article and others such as myself do not exist. Often they talk about us, “black fathers” as if we were invisible. As if we were invisible. As if speaking of African American men as being fathers is taboo or politically incorrect. But the record is otherwise. We have demonstrated that we do exist and that is not because we are individuals. I coach both Little League baseball and basketball and see fathers all over the place, actively involved, from all walks of life.

To say it is troubling that we are often overlooked is an understatement. In our own communities, it seems as if we can only see ourselves. And we see ourselves often,. We see each other at MARTA stations, parks, PTA meetings,school plays and birthday parties. We seem to bon on site, exchanging looks and facial expressions tat only our kind can know. Marvin Davis, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, is that father of tow boys ages eight and five years old. Martin says being a father “is definitely a responsibility that I take strongly.” The business executive continues, “what I mean is that I see that as of now, I ma here to raise two black boys to not doubt themselves for any reason, economics, skin color or nothing.”



Davis reinforces his perspective by saying he is “trying to build string minds that can work and function in a structure and system designed to defeat them.” With all of the may roles he must play, he's says that he can definitely tell you want fatherhood is not. “It is not just bringing your check home and saying ‘I am clothing and feeding my kids.” He says that fathers help children to know that no matter what, there is and will be one main person that they can go to “who ain’t got no other motivations but to help them be better.”


So what is being a father about? I can’t really say, but these men have given us some food for thought. Being a father is a commitment. It is a commitment to supporting a family and working hard in spirit and time to make certain nothing will manifest that brings harm to ones seeds and they may grow, they may never develop or survive without consistent and compassionate care. Fathers, we salute you, for we truly know that we need no reward for what we do, either hand what we experience through daily interaction with our children.

40 comments:

Love said...

That was a great essay on fatherhood. Although I can not relate to being a father or what being a father means in that aspect. I can relate to that perspective being a single mother. I can also relate on the strength that I had no father growing up actively in my life, and I can give a list of what I think being a father means. Being a single mother, I am their mother and their father. I tip my hat to all those men that have stepped up to the plate and has taken on the responsibility to be full time fathers. If it doesnt mean anything to anyone else...it means a bit of everything to me. I have three sons and one girl, and seeing my children grow up without a father hurts me because I can never teach my sons how to be a man, they will have to learn that the hard way on their own. I can only teach them what characteristics make them a good man from a womans perspective, but that is not enought to get them by. My one girl, for the most part, I can hold her down, but when it comes time for her to look out in the world to choose her partner for the rest of her life, usually this guy would fit the image of her father, an area that I once again can not touch. My job as a single mother is a very intricate one, and like I said earlier I tip my hat to the brother who has taken a step down in life to care for and raise his children, I aint got nothing but Love for you. Keep up the good work, keep motivating and keep shining. You may not think anyone recognizes you, but I do. T, I think you are doing a wonderful job with your two beautiful children. Much Love..

Love said...

That was a great essay on fatherhood. Although I can not relate to being a father or what being a father means in that aspect. I can relate to that perspective being a single mother. I can also relate on the strength that I had no father growing up actively in my life, and I can give a list of what I think being a father means. Being a single mother, I am their mother and their father. I tip my hat to all those men that have stepped up to the plate and has taken on the responsibility to be full time fathers. If it doesnt mean anything to anyone else...it means a bit of everything to me. I have three sons and one girl, and seeing my children grow up without a father hurts me because I can never teach my sons how to be a man, they will have to learn that the hard way on their own. I can only teach them what characteristics make them a good man from a womans perspective, but that is not enought to get them by. My one girl, for the most part, I can hold her down, but when it comes time for her to look out in the world to choose her partner for the rest of her life, usually this guy would fit the image of her father, an area that I once again can not touch. My job as a single mother is a very intricate one, and like I said earlier I tip my hat to the brother who has taken a step down in life to care for and raise his children, I aint got nothing but Love for you. Keep up the good work, keep motivating and keep shining. You may not think anyone recognizes you, but I do. T, I think you are doing a wonderful job with your two beautiful children. Much Love..

Yolanda said...

WOW! And the father of the year goes to....drumroll please.......TORRENCE STEPHENS!! Sweetie I just adore your essay here it gave me a lil insight about who you are and the things you care about. I'm a single mother and father and I know where ya coming from. Big huggs and Kisses from Illinois and my hat goes off to you hun...muaaaah ..two fingers and I'm out

BashfulT said...

Raising children today is hard, (not having any experince), but by watching other parent around me. Being in a black two parent home is tough enough; I know that in a black single parent home is even tougher. My mom became a single parent after my father died. She worked hard to give my sister and I the best she could and as much love possible. So,I applaude you on the effort you are taking with your children. Black men in america have a bad reputation as being dead beats, it is good to see one african american man who cares about fartherhood. Keep giving as much love as you can to them.

Anonymous said...

What so many parents fail to realize is that in the eyes of their small children they are gods. With all our faults and weaknesses, most kids still want to grow up to be "just like daddy" or "just like mommy." Unfortunately, the admiration and love often are not enough to convince parents to set a good example and walk a path they want their children to follow. Thank goodness for fathers like you that do.

kutiepiekarla said...

Speaking as a single parent raising a son, I tip my hat off to all of the men who can stop running the streets, and raise their children. This sometimes means giving up their social life, or by being more selective about the woman who they bring around their children.(All sacfrifices that a good mother must endure as well). To all of my single fathers keep ya head up. There are women that support you and applaud you.

chele said...

You know what's funny? I don't know one full-time parent that has time to think about parenting. We're all too busy raising our kids! We do what we have to do because it just has to be done. We don't expect applause or a pat on the back. We just do the best we can and pray our kids grow to be productive adults. I loved your essay.

i like liquor and tv said...

What's fatherhood? I guess look at my dad and do the opposite of everything he did and there's your answer.

I know if I had kids I'd suck as a mother, so I probably won't have any.

I admire anyone who puts the time and effort into raising kids.

Sorry what was the question again? lol

MsJayy said...

That was a beautiful commentary. Sadly enough, I don't think we give parents (whether single or not, male or female) enough credit. It's good that you were able to pause & really think about what it means to be a father. Sometimes we get so caught up in the "doing" of a particular task or role that we forget what it means to simply "be".

NegroPino™ said...

I think Fatherhood is SEXY.......ANd thats not from my father neither.....

Anonymous said...

i think fatherhood is where you set an example for your kids and you show them there's orther ways of handleing situations my dad is awsome and he told me that being a father was a blessing from god he said that your husband should be like your father loveing,careing,and would go to the end of the earth for you and that's my husband i think my husband is a great dad and best friend to the kids he teaches them values and respect and let's them know that he's their best friend and he is always there for them.He's a mom and a dad when it comes down to it.

tianne_x said...

it would be a better world if many other men out there stepped up to the plate and could see the importance of fatherhood in the same light as you.....i loved this blog of yours...and of course this quote:

"For me being a father is responsibility that is earned with a combination of hardwork and effort, dedication and most importantly, love. It is an endless season in which summer, fall, winter and spring become one and the years often form a conglomerate book of memories and photographs".....

i loved that definition..it clearly shows ur strength....the pics of you and your kids one word is needed only.....BEAUTIFUL

Miz JJ said...

I liked your essay. I wish more men would see fatherhood as a joy and a priviledge rather than as a burden, or something to escape from.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

i wrote this 6 years ago. good lookkn folk

ProfessorGQ said...

I am so impressed with this subject you brought up...My dream is to see more fathers (race doesn't matter) to take their responsibilities more seriously.

Paula D. said...

This is absolutely wonderful! I smiled the entire time while reading it. Brotha, you are a rare jewel. I commend you on your commitment to fatherhood.

Anonymous said...

Let me first say.. bravo... pontificating about fatherhood can neva be wrong.. during my fifth or sixth year of marriage i had discovered that i was fighting my husbands fathering skills... because he didnt do the same things my father had done for me... not realizing that "lady he aint yo father"... i had to let him be the father he so anxiously wanted to be and become... my father wasnt around.. my mother made it difficult and he just sat back and let her... i still hold fond memories of our short relationship... a child is a blessing... my hat goes off to all fathers ... black fathers... we need you...

rcookalicious

BBB_0202020 said...

Nice thoughts on fatherhood, I am happy my dad is in my life!

Stephen Bess said...

That was fantastic! It's important for fathers to spend quality time with their children. The results of this has always been positive from my observations.

G Bitch said...

Wonderful. Growing up in New Orleans, even though my own father was not involved, fathers filled a role--fathers took you places, taught you things, got you out of the house, hung out with you on holidays or all weekend long. I saw young fathers with their children on a daily basis. I see fewer of them now (for way too many reasons to list) but when I do, I feel like this essay made me feel.

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obifromsouthlondon said...

great post. growing up I spent alot of time fighting with my ol' man. never for once stopped to think his role in my life. a given. Now I'm a father. everyday is a revelation and like you i don't really stop to think. I do what should be done.

food for thought.

2dabone said...

Wow Dude,

That's some amazing shit, that you would post an interveiw we had what? eight years ago. Thanks love. It's a real honor to be your freind and brother.

Looking at you and Biti b, and the baby just confirms how sweet it is to be a father. In every since of the word. I think back on all the trials and challenges we've both overcome as Dads and I can say it's been one hell of a journey. We both have reared amazing men who will no doubt go on to impact their generations in a profound and positive way.

You are truly the General and a Conqueror in a war that many so called fathers refuse to join. But be assured though the men be few, Victory is assured.

As we prepare to send our young men in to battle we can rest comfortably knowing that they are well equipped with the game, knowledge, and love that is neccessary to compete in this sometimes cruel and cold hell that we refer to as world.

As the cliche' goes. You are a Gentleman and a Scholar, and rest assured that yo' boy is down forever. Peace Nigga Always.

Love,

Tone

P.S Kiss the babies for me, and hug the misses too!

somemeofbeauty said...

Oh my gosh! They are soo beautiful! They both have your eyes! See you make me reconsider this breeding thing. :) Ive been away for a while just getting caught up with my reading.

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Anonymous said...

So you choose a while girl for this kid over a black woman, and you wonder why we pissed?

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