Nominated by Summer Merrick
By Ashley Kang
Q: What did it feel like when you became a father?
A. Excitement. Joy. Just to know that you are able to bring a life into this world is definitely one of the best feelings in the world. I was there for the birth all the way. I cut the umbilical cord and everything. No fear, and no fainting for me.
Q. What can you share about your daughter?
A. Semaja is 5. She’s a light bulb, full of energy and bubbly. She’s my heart.
Q. Does her name have a special meaning?
A. It’s my name — James — spelled backwards with an a at the end.
Q. What was your relationship like with your father?
A. My dad wasn’t there in my early childhood. For whatever reason, he and my mom decided not to stay together. As I got older, we rekindled our relationships. Now it’s mainly my hope that he’s intimately involved and there for my daughter. I’m not looking for him to make up for lost time between me and him. I just prefer that he spend the quality time with my daughter now. He takes her to the park, bike riding and enjoys doing puzzles with her.
Q. Did he or others have advice that stuck with you?
A. When my dad wasn’t around, I had plenty of uncles, grandfathers and great-grandfathers in my life. One grandfather and my great-grandfather were both staples. My great-grandfather told me to always keep God first. If you do that first, everything else will fall in order.
Q. What makes the role of a father special?
A. Your presence. Your presence is very special and important in a child’s life. Naturally a child gravitates to their mom, but to also know that you have a father out there as well. You can learn many life experiences from both parents, but sometimes a child needs their father just as much as they need their mother.
Q. Is there a special tradition you have with your daughter?
On the weekends, we go to get ice cream and fly kites. It’s something she looks forward to every week and something we regularly do. We fly the kites and then stop to get ice cream — that’s our Saturday ritual. If we happen to not do one of them, we must at least do the other. With COVID, the only things that have changed for us is no more visits to family members’ houses and actually playing on the playground. We still go to parks and she runs around or bikes. And when I’m working, she’s with her mom. We have a tight ship, as you can say.
Q. Any advice for first-time dads?
A. There’s no book on being a father. It’s definitely a learning experience. Take everything in stride. Don’t give up because that’s easy to do. Ask questions, because there are others who already went through what you’re going through now. So treat them as a resource, someone that you can combine different things and lessons from. Make sure you’re asking questions of older individuals so you can know you’re not out here alone. And continue to try and do your best.
Q. Final thoughts?
A. The Fatherhood program has been around for some time, and I stepped into the position recently. I work to help promote the program and the services we offer dads in the city of Syracuse. With COVID-19, I post our pamphlet in different stores where I know there will be heavy foot traffic. We also have a phone line at (315) 435-2000 for fathers to contact us.
Ashley Kang is the director of The Stand newspaper