Q&A with Father Timothy Jennings-Bey

Q&A with Father Timothy Jennings-Bey

Nominated by Helen Hudson

Q: What did it feel like when you became a father?
A: I was ecstatic. I didn’t have a preference for a boy or girl. I just prayed the baby would be healthy. We were going to have the sex be a surprise, but the nurse didn’t know. When they did the sonogram she announced it … “I think I see a little …” Surprise went out the window and then we knew we were having a boy.

MEET FATHER TIMOTHY “NOBLE”: Jennings-Bey, 44, serves as the director of the Trauma Response Team and is CEO of the Street Addiction Institute, Inc. (SAII). Recently, the Central New York Community Foundation award SAII with a $50,000 grant to expand its efforts. His son, Samir, is 9. | Ben Cleeton, Staff Photo

Q: What can you share about your son?
A: I named him Samir after my father Sam, who was a heavy influence on my life. He is 9 and in fourth grade at Syracuse Latin School. He is strong-willed, which comes from my wife. He’s a champion for justice and doesn’t like to see anybody wronged. And of course he’s got my charm and silliness. From my father to my son, I see that same charm. And my son’s demeanor, especially if he puts a hat on a certain way, I can see my dad in him. My father died in ’98, so he never got to meet Samir.

Q: What was your relationship like with your father?
A: He is why I’m a good father. He’s like a man of steel and a man of velvet, all in one. My admiration for my dad is large in part because of that. He never sat me down and explained this is how you become a man. He just modeled by behavior.

Q: Is there a saying you remember hearing growing up?
A: My father asked me one day if I wanted to know the secret to living a long time. His answer: Mind your business, which I come to find to be profound.

Q: What is unique about the father’s role?
A: I’ve come to find out fatherhood is a very fine line to walk. But it is necessary, especially in the environments we come from, to be able to be stern and then to give a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which is also rare for men in our culture.

Q: Is there anything you do as a father that would surprise people?
A: I think my affection. He’s still young, so I try to get it all in now, because I know as he grows older there will be a time when it won’t happen. It’s important because of the bonding. I’ve tried to create memories so he can hold on to them and smile, just like my dad did with me.

Q: Are there any special moments or traditions your family has?
A: The funniest is the cake smash. Doesn’t matter how young or how old, you’re going to get a piece of cake smashed in your face on your birthday. And just like any other family, we unite for the holidays and have cookouts in the summer. We reminisce, and I talk about my dad a lot because that’s a huge gap for the family during those times. Summer is the best because we have extended family over and sit out and talk all night.

Q: Any advice for first-time dads?
A: Be present. Be in the moment. Those years, you won’t get back. From 1 to 4, you can’t get those in-between years back. So cherish every moment and every year.

Q: Final thoughts?
A: I know sometimes marriages or relationships don’t work out and children are born out of those unions, but stay loyal to the process and the child. As men, we can never put ourselves on the level of women, because a woman is the gateway to this reality. If nothing else, respect that. If you ever run into a situation where you can’t get along, just remember that, because ultimately we all came through women. You came from your mother. I see a lot of times people put children in positions where they become bargaining chips, when in actuality they should be treated like jewelry. You wouldn’t take your finest necklace or rainbow watch to any jeweler. You’d make sure you took it to the top of the line. So that’s how I treat my son. I make sure I spit-polish him every day.

 

 

— Interview by Ashley Kang, The Stand director