Monday, June 19, 2006

Brothers on Fatherhood

Black Fatherhood. A complicated topic to be sure. As I contemplated what this week's Musing would be, I found myself troubled by the disparity between the messages I receive -- essentially that Black Fatherhood is an oxymoron -- and the reality I see with brothers throughout my life who, as fathers... sons... cousins... brothers... mentors... simply as Black men, have illustrated for me the beauty of Black Fatherhood. And there are so many men out there, so many whom I do not know. They prove every day, in many ways that Black Fatherhood is far from an oxymoron. It is a beautiful reality.

So, I decided to have the brothers speak (or write) for themselves. Enjoy.

What is a father…it is someone who takes care of his family and makes the sacrifices necessary for them to achieve the dreams that they may not even know that they have yet.

My journey to fatherhood began long before Thursday May 26th 2005 at 22:22, the time I officially became a father to a 5lbs 6.7oz beautiful baby girl named Jazz Laura Dow. It began long before my brothers and sisters combined produced my 8 nieces and 1 nephew…each of which I love like my own. Yes, I said 8 girls and 1 boy…by the way another one is on the way (my brother and his wife not Nik and Me) so if you’re counting, including Jazz that’s 9 to 2….yes it’s a boy. It began long before I was a Big Brother for Big Brother’s Big Sisters. Long before I was a mentor to children in the village outside of my Alma Mater Lincoln University in PA. It began long before I physically could produce a child. My journey to fatherhood began with my Dad.

August 1978 my father at the time 38 decided to move his family from Guyana, South America to Long Island, New York. Why would anyone do that at 38…let me set the scene? Frank Theodore Dow is a manager at the Sugar Estate; they pay him a very nice wage complete with a housing allowance. He is well respected in the work place and the community. His wife Winona “Molly” Dow is a stay at home mom who takes care of their children the youngest of which is 4 (Me). By all accounts Frank and his family are living a very nice life. Why move to a country thousands of miles away? Why put yourself in a situation where your wife now has to work outside of the home so you can make ends meet? Oh yeah not to mention you don’t have a job yourself…totally different culture, and then there is that thing that you have never actually seen live…snow…why do it? Education! You see Frank could have stayed in Guyana and his family would have been OK. His sons would have most likely followed in his footsteps working in the Estate. His daughters would have gotten married and raised families of their own. Sounds like a decent life to me…but what if he makes the move his kids could go to college become whatever they want to be…they could open a restaurant (Winnie’s Caribbean Café) be President/CEO of their own companies (Dow Mazur Group) (Body Sculpture International) or even teach the next generation of children. For Frank…I mean my Dad that was reason enough. Now don’t get me wrong this decision was not made solely by him. Part of being a responsible father and man is knowing that all decisions must be made jointly with your Wife.

Fast forward 28 years and my parent’s dreams have come true.

If I am 1/10 the father to Jazz that my father was to me she will be fine.

Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!!!! Frank Theodore Dow

You’re Son,
Kwame Jipco Dow

Hello Orlando,

Fatherhood just like ministry is a calling. I knew myself called to be a minister while still in my mid teens. I felt myself distinctly not called to be a father even before then. I had no way of knowing that pastoring a church for 18 years would provide a way of enfolding many father roles into my life.
I am grateful beyond words for the emotional and spiritual connection I have with several men and women I met. The reciprocity of ever growing affection and respect is a gift I cherish with all my heart.

(Rev.) Edward (Goode)

My little league team sucked. Really. But that never stopped my father from coming to my games, from playing catch with me, from squatting down like a catcher out in front of the house and calling for my fastball. (I was convinced at age nine that I had two great pitches. One was a “smoking” fastball. The other was a Ron Guidry-like slider.) It never stopped him from coming to the games and rooting for us, rooting for me.

It was an evening game. And we had a chance to win. I don’t remember the score, but I was the go-ahead run and I was on first base. The batter hit a weak grounder back up the middle and it got out of the infield. I took off running and decided that I could get to third base. Once I rounded second I knew that was a bad idea. My coach was waving for me to slide before I was halfway to third. And behind my coach, beyond the fence, my father’s eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger and…I ran as fast as I could. I slid. “Safe!” I later scored the winning run. We won that game.

As I walked off the field, I yelled, “We won!” “Yeah you did,” my father smiled back, his melodic baritone dripping with pride. On the way home, as a treat for finally winning a game, my father stopped with me at a pizza parlor on Flatbush. I had a slice and an orange soda. I don’t remember much about being in the restaurant. But I do remember Pa laughing that I had no business going to third. I remember feeling that he was proud of me, proud that his son was the kind of guy who would take an extra base. I remember feeling like I had shown him I was a winner. I remember that was the best slice of pizza I’ve ever eaten. And I remember how good that orange soda was going down.

Every now and again, I will find myself in a pizzeria. And when I’m in the mood, I order orange soda. It’s never as good as it was, but it serves as a nice reminder of a little boy who took an extra base, giving all he had to be a winner…and of a father who took an extra moment, giving of himself to say that he was proud.

Orlando Bishop

[Celebrating his connection to his father, Gaspar Alejandro Bishop, Orlando Gaspar Bishop invested in some very personal body art. The canvas is his right shoulder. The Minister of Propaganda was inspired to create some art of his own based on that tattoo. Here it is.]

Hey Orlando,

Here is the poem that my father wrote for me when I was a 3 years old:

My Son

little guy, smiley brown

you've turned my whole damn world around

your curly hair and big, bright eyes

makes just seeing you each day

a grand surprise

your little hand, squeezing my finger tight

while we walk along talking

makes my life alright

you've trust and wisdom and innocence and joy

my son, my life, my little boy

"my daddy, I'm probably lonely,

will you come and play with me?"

why sure I will sweetheart,

right now and for always

may God grant that I'll always be around

to wipe your tears, guide your steps

and offer you a hand up

when life chances to tumble you down

we've got big plans and adventures

you and I

and the oceans, trees, mountains and the sky

will be our playground, while we grow

toghether - a man and his son,

a little boy and his daddy.

Marshall S. Gordon, 1976

and here is one that I wrote recently:

When It's Time to BE There

When it was time,

a simple man,

who wasn't offered

many choices

and wasn't exposed

to many voices,


to his soul.

'Cause no one

could control

that part.

And what he heard,

for some reason,

seemed absurd

to both those above

and below.


giving them all the finger,

he cashed in all his chips

for one little boy,

one little kid.

He gave up his job.

He gave up his wealth.

He gave up on this cold world

for sanity and health.

So that he could BE there.

He moved to a new land

where he worked with his hands.

And those hands gave

everything he made

as an offering

to the forgotten bond

of father and son.

Why do we make it so hard?

Why must it be a sacrifice?

I'd go through hell for my boys.

I'd fuckin' do it twice.

Or as many times as it takes

so that I can BE there

to put the locks in their hair

and give them trees to climb.

To listen to their stories

and have time

for their worries.

I was lucky

to have learned from the source.

An incredible, unmovable,

embraceable force.

Shown to me

by a man

Not afraid to love

And holding nothing in.


was my dad,

and now

I am him.

Here, always.

With my two little men

Who will BE there for theirs

when it's time.

Jason Gordon, 2006

Thanks to those who shared. And thanks to the fathers... sons... cousins... brothers... mentors... men who made that sharing possible. Happy Father's Day!


Anonymous Radiah said...

This is so beautiful. Thank you to all of you who contributed. There are tears in my eyes for my own father who didn't stay. There are tears in my eyes for my step-dad who stepped in and raised two who were not his own - sacrificing EVERY step of the way. There were tears in my eyes for my own son whose father is not there.

However, through the tears there is a smile knowing that he has a roadmap to follow that will teach him how to be a good father - by looking at his grandpa - who couldn't love him more if all the blood coursing through his veins were his own - and by reading this blog entry - that I will keep for him for a time when he will understand.

Happy Belated Fathers' Day to all of YOU!

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Radiah said...


I want to correct something I said in my earlier post. My brother and I actually refer to our "father who didn't stay" as the "biological" - and refer to our "step-dad" as our "father". I want him to see this post and I do not want him to be offended at the term "step"- because there is absolutely nothing "step" about him. The reference in the earlier post was just for the sake of clarity - but I want to make sure that my Pappy - that is what I call my father - knows that the whole world knows that I love him as if his blood were coursing through my own veins.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful Bro. Maya and Alex are very lucky. Don't tell anyone I said that. Crap..this is an online blog.
Happy Father's Day to all of the great fathers who contributed and all the other great fathers out there!


12:31 PM  
Blogger JGo3000 said...

Thanx again for putting this together. It meant a lot to me personally, and I'm sure for others too.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so great.

I have to say that I give Kwame Dow tons of credit for the reason Jazz is here today. When things were rocky during the pregnancy, I literally had to default my faith into his. When noone else thought there was chance in hell that our girl was going to be birthed, he never flinched. His faith alone willed Jazz into existence. He's amazing. And now when I look at him with her, I see in his eyes that there's nothing in the world that he enjoys more than being her dad.

Happy Daddy Day!


1:12 PM  
Anonymous Kwame said...

Congrats to all the men that are lucky enough to be fathers and to those who one day will be...not sure it gets any better than this...actually I am, it doesn't!!!! Happy Father's Day...from the official sponsor of Father's Home Depot

9:48 PM  
Blogger New Millennium Nigga said...

Home Depot. LOL!

I've been reading the comments all day. I'm glad that we've all had a chance to hear these voices (the contributions and the responses). As A New Millennium Nigga I declare that this millennium should be one in which fatherhood is embraced and celebrated. Spread the gospel. No man should miss out -- especially voluntarily -- on anything that feels this good. What a blessing my niglets are to me.

10:06 PM  

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