Nominated by South Side writer and actress Tammy Reese
Q: What did it feel like when you became a father?
A: Adrenaline. Then responsibility. The maturity side is the sacrifices of your own freedom for the greater good of your child. Working when you know you have to because it’s no longer just for yourself.
Q: What can you share about your daughter?
A: She’s an avid reader. She genuinely loves to read. She’s very polite, and is a huge daddy’s girl. And she understands that she has that power over me. She can say, ‘But, oh, daddy,’ and her voice will change … so now I go to the stores, and I’m always buying extra stuff. Her name is Natahj.
Q: What stood out over the past six years?
A: The satisfaction of seeing the smiles and hearing dada. I just like how everything is new to them. I showed her a cup when she was a few months old. She didn’t know what a cup was. Just showing her any object and watching her be fascinated to see it, examine it and learn. Then when she got older, learning colors. We’d take walks and then point out colors — this is black. Then to see her look around and start to point it out, then notice no, that’s not black, that’s another color. Oh, wow, daddy I learned a new color. Just watching her because everything is new.
Q: What was your relationship like with your father?
A: Our relationship was about activities and very sports focused. Ev- ery time a season was going out, a new one would begin. He kept me active because that was his way of keeping me out of trouble.
Q: Why are fathers important?
A: Mothers are nurturing, and fathers are the rule enforcers. Dads must be stern and lead by their example. They are the person to look up to in the household and that motivates me to go harder with my books, to be successful for her. Every book I write, I dedicate to her and put her picture in it. It’s a silent motivation. When everything else fails, you know you can’t give up because someone is relying on you. They don’t know about stress, consequences or responsibilities. All they know is you. That keeps me awake a lot of nights and makes me wake up early many mornings.
Q: As a father, is there anything you do that would surprise people?
A: I’m the biggest kid with her — Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, coloring books, monkey bars. I have no problem laying down on the floor with a coloring book and seeing who can color the best. I color outside of the lines and mix green hair with red hair … and she loves to see that silly side of me.
Q: What’s your opinion about commonly held stereotypes about black fathers?
A: I think when people blame African-Americans for faults that happen across races, I don’t condone that. I believe that everybody is equal. So if a father is going to be there, he is. And if a father is not going to be there, then he’s not — that happens in every race.
Q: Any advice for first-time dads?
A: Be the biggest kid because memories last a lifetime. My number one tip is to always call mom or grandma. They can answer any question because they have experienced everything. So when in doubt, call grandma. You can’t go wrong with elders’ advice.
Q: What has been a favorite moment?
A: When they fall asleep in the car and you have to carry them in the house. I don’t know what it is, but that makes me melt. The whole droopy body and arms wrapped around you … their head on your shoulder and the weight of their body. Then you have to carry them to the house and open the door with the key, then lay them down and get them into pajamas. That gets me every time.
– Interview by Ashley Kang, The Stand director