Let’s give it up to all of our Black fathers!
The 2019 Black Love Summit celebrated couples and singles, but the event couldn’t conclude without acknowledging the amazing work our Black dads are doing raising the next generation of kings and queens. The “Dad-ish” panel was all about creating a safe space for our brothas to share the joys, pains, and lessons learned from fatherhood.
The event included a live podcast taping of “Dad-ish,” which was facilitated by none other than “crib to college dad” Jeff Johnson, the host of BET’s “Mancave.” Surrounded by writer, producer, and father of three Chris Classic, and actor, husband, and father of two Dondre Whitfield, this dad squad was equipped to share their perspective of growing up “dad-ish” in America. If you’re currently a father, a soon-to-be dad, or even a mother, there was something there for you. From surrounding yourself with other dads for support, to rising above past generations and stereotypes, here are some highlights from their honest, unapologetic conversation.
Dad-ism #1: “Become revolutionarily more than what our fathers had the ability to be.” — Jeff Johnson
Jeff suggested that men should simply commit to being better fathers than the men who came before them. This commitment, he shared, will lead to the positive development of future generations and healthy family relationships. Chris raised the point that there are young men out there who are “peacocking,” and when things don’t go their way or they no longer feel in control, they “commit emotional suicide and become detached from the family.” This perspective offered insight into why some men abandon their children, although Jeff pointed out that he “knows more men who show up than men who don’t.”
Chris opened up about the restoration achieved when he first introduced his father and his grandfather to his daughter. “It was a healing process to see their offspring’s offspring,” he recalled. Similarly, Dondre’s childhood adversities have given him the wisdom and determination to be for his children what he did not experience in his own youth. “I’m resuscitating little me for them,” he said. “I can’t imagine my son’s life without my guidance. I love that I’m changing the pathology. My son is going to be a better man sooner than I was.”
Dad-ism #2: “Every father is a dress rehearsal for the relationship his daughter will have in the future.” — Dondre Whitfield
“Dating can be a distraction,” Dondre told his daughter during a discussion about having a boyfriend. “A relationship is time,” he shared.
The men emphasized that it’s important for all fathers to understand the role they play in shaping their daughter’s perception of men and the relationships they will attract in the future as a result of it. For Dondre, he insisted that before his daughter can begin dating, the “young man” must sit down with him and explain his intentions — which is a far better option than his initial response, which was in another lifetime!
Dad-ism #3: “Have a circle of brothers around you to be an ear.” — Chris Classic
The question was posed, “How do you do the rehearsal as a stepparent if you never knew how to? How do we model what we’ve never seen?” Chris sat on the edge of his seat and was confident in his response. He shared with the audience that having “your brothers come in” and consulting with the other fathers is key. “Have other men around to discuss those things during your guy time,” he suggested. “Have them take you out—but also hold you accountable so that you return home.”
Before wrapping up his response, Chris also offered that “fathers are the cornerstone of the family, and if the cornerstone is weak, the foundation is weak.”
“God will never allow you to go without getting what you need,” Dondre added. “You got to go get the supplement so you can give [your children] what they need so they don’t go without.”
Dad-ism #4: “Understand the level of presence necessary to give your children.” — Jeff Johnson
Chris shared with the audience that his father wasn’t a presence in his life until after he ran away at the age of 15, and his stepfather wasn’t around all the time either. “The knowing of being present came from the notion of knowing what it feels like to be missing something. It’s imperative that we take all of those things we felt we were missing and create them for our children intentionally,” he said.
This highlighted Jeff’s suggestion to become more than their own fathers. The intention to do better, in spite of adolescent hardships, is what sets the foundation for the type of father a man becomes.
Jeff simplifies this concept by reflecting on the question, “How can I be present enough and patient enough to know what their individual needs are independent of what the other children need?” Understanding that each child is an individual with his or her own specific needs, he says, is necessary to ensure you’re giving your kids adequate support, love, and attention.
Dad-ism #5: “Create a separate space for your woman. She deserves it.” — Chris Classic
And ladies, they had to include us in the conversation too! Chris stressed the importance of men ensuring that their woman’s needs are taken care of too as you both make strides in your parenting partnership. “Realize your woman is going through her own thing. You have to figure out a way to make it back to her. The balance is when you can respect that the woman is an individual who is treated as the person you dated, courted, and sexted,” he said.
This was the perfect opportunity for Dondre to dive in and share a strategy he and his wife use when they need some “mommy-daddy time” away from the kids. He tells them, “Mom and Dad have a conference call. We’ll be on for about an hour. Don’t disrupt this conference call.” (I’m taking this strategy and applying it! It will definitely be in my “keeping the babies at bay” book of strategies.)
A second commitment that Dondre made to his wife is to abide by the “3-day rule,” in which the couple must have sex at least once every three days. “I’m creating intimacy all of the time,” Dondre said. “My job is to keep me out of the street; [her] job is to help me make it easier.”
Attending the “Dad-ish” discussion panel felt like walking into a men’s barbershop as a woman, but the men just continued to talk — which never happens by the way. I felt welcomed and engaged in their space. Fatherhood, and its complexities, shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it is quite apparent that there are men who are prepared to guide others who may be lost on this fatherhood journey. And for that, we salute you.
Be sure to check out more stories from the 2019 Black Love Summit here, and tune in to season 3 of Black Love, premiering on OWN Saturday, August 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.