Q&A with Michael Bundrage

Nominated by Gwendolyn Fagan for his work organizing Father/Daughter dances

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MEET FATHER MICHAEL: Bundrage, 40, has worked as a FedEx driver for the past 15 years. A father of six, he holds his youngest son, Micah, 3, whom he describes as “just like me.” | Ben Cleeton, Staff Photo

Q: What can you tell about the Father/Daughter dances?
A: They were something my aunt organized over at Kirk Park many years ago, and I got involved. They aren’t just father/daughter dances but are for the moms and sons, too. We hold them each August and open it up to the entire community to show that there are people who play roles in their kids’ lives.

Q: What did it feel like when you became a father?
A: At first I was shocked, but then I embraced it. I knew I wanted to one day be a father when I met my niece. I was 14, and I came home and saw this little bundle of joy on our couch and I just knew this was something special.

Q: What can you share about your children?
A: The oldest, Makayla, is 21. She was a lot of fun growing up. I always told her you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. And now she is working and going to school full time. Mike Jr. is next. He’s 18 and the humble one. Kaydijah is 17 and a senior in high school. Elijah is 15 and in his second year of high school. Lynyce is 10 and a fifth-grader, and my little guy, Micah, is 3. He’s exactly like me: acts just like me and looks just like me.

Q: What was your relationship like with your dad?
A: There was no relationship. I grew up in Central Village, and 80 percent of the kids that lived there didn’t have a father in their life. Having a mother who kept food on the table and took care of me was all that mattered. Not having a father … I didn’t even think about it much. It wasn’t until I got older I really even thought about him. (Then Bundrage’s wife, Millicent, interjects: ‘You had no father until you married me, and my father became your father.’)

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Q: Why are fathers important?
A: Because they lay the ground rules. They are the tough ones. The mothers are always there, but I think we love even harder than the mothers. It’s just important for us to show our kids they are loved.

Q: Is there a saying or advice you always give?
A: It really depends because each kid is an individual, and they are all at different ages. The strongest message I can convey is the message of love. I preach and teach success all the time. It is important for my kids to work hard and attain an education. I am so proud of my kids now in college. I tell them that I can’t live their life for them, but I will always be there to support you and your hard work.

Q: What do you think about assumptions held about black fathers?
A: I have nothing to say to that. There is only one judge. I’m a genuine guy, and I will tell it like it is. All I can say to fathers is to love your kids and be there for them.

Q: As a father, is there anything you do that would surprise people?
A: That I stopped drinking. I never drank to excess, but recently I just thought, I don’t need this and stopped completely. I think many people would be surprised with this.

Q: Any advice for other dads?
A: Just love your kids and don’t ever stop teaching them.