Nominated by Tedd Perry
Q: What did it feel like when you became a father?
A. When I became a father to my first child, Janna, and she was a girl, I felt on top of the world. Her mother got mad because I left the hospital and went outside to call everyone in the world to announce my baby girl had been born. It was the greatest feeling on this earth.
Q. What can you share about your children?
A. My daughter, now 20, is an amazing singer, and she’s creative. She likes to draw and paint. She’s incredibly introspective and she’s a carer. She cares for the world and for people. My son Jayden, who’s the middle child, is an amazing artist. He actually does graphics and drawing. He’s incredibly intelligent. Jayden is an athlete. This kid’s body, I don’t know what he’s eating, right? He’s incredibly gifted at sports, and he’s also highly creative and introspective as well. Amari, my youngest, is an amazing dancer. He’s fearless. He has actually gotten in front of a crowd of a thousand people and just danced fearlessly with no worries in the world. I admire that about him. And, he has and incredible heart. He’s the kid that wants to take care of mentally disabled people and to make sure everyone’s OK and will walk the old lady across the street. His heart is bigger than everybody in the world combined.
Q. Can you tell me about your father?
A. I have an amazing relationship with my father. He is one of my best friends. I honor and admire him as a man. He taught me a lot about how to be a man but also deal with poverty. One of the biggest things that I remember from my dad is that he taught me that just because you grow up poor doesn’t mean you need to act poor. That stuck with me. One of things that resonated with me most was that we’re born in these situations, we don’t have to become them. He’s incredibly loving and always sets an example. While he didn’t get as far in education, he always made sure that we would.
Q. What do you love most about being a father?
A. Oh man … I just think my kids are amazing. They are the most beautiful reflection of my best qualities but also my mistakes. And that’s not a bad thing. I also love the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned and multiply it. So, combine what I’ve learned from my parents with what I’ve learned from life and pass it on to them and then on to generation to generation. The opportunity to just help them do anything in their wildest dreams that I maybe wasn’t able to do. I want to show them and mold them to be able to be great.
Q. What advice do you have for first-time dads?
A. I would say two things. Become incredibly spiritual. It’s going to be a force that will help you through the hard times and guide you through the great times. Secondly, observe your life as the factor that is going to create who your children are. So, if you’re at the early end make sure you recognize that every single choice you make will directly impact your children. You can shift in time long enough before it becomes too impactful on that kid’s life. Kids watch, learn and repeat. You have to model your life, regardless of what you did before. You have to model your life after what you want to see your kid be.
Q. Final thoughts?
A. Fatherhood I think is one of the most important aspects to a child’s development. We have to be sensitive. Oftentimes fathers are very tough and hardened because we have to carry families. I think we have to be mindful of our masculinities and challenge that ideal as constructed by society to shift it to a more healthy and less toxic masculinity. Because, toxic masculinity negatively affects children in a big way. Whether it’s your daughter or son, it will negatively affect them. If you’re a father, you must step back and self-actualize to make sure that you’re the best role model or man your children could possibly see.
— Interview by Alex J. Rouhandeh, The Stand Intern