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Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Black Fathers and Daughters Sparkle at Georgia Aquarium

Atlanta – With a daughter enfolded in each arm, Reggie Gentry clearly had his hands full. But though he was trying to figure out how to slow dance with two daughters at the same time, Gentry’s smile was as bright as the sparkling tiaras on his daughters’ heads.

Gentry and his daughters Rianah, 11, and Raye, almost 13, stepped out on the dance floor together last night to the sounds of Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father.” It was the first dance at the 10th annual Father Daughter Dance, sponsored by popular V-103 Atlanta radio DJ Ryan Cameron and his Ryan Cameron Foundation. Held for the first time inside the Oceans Ballroom at the Georgia Aquarium, the annual Father’s Day event offered the adorable, once-in-a-lifetime sight of hundreds of African-American dads and their daughters—some barely out of diapers and some in their 20s and even 30s—swaying to the music alongside enormous glass windows where breath-taking whale sharks, Beluga whales, manta rays and harbor seals cruised by, just a few feet away.

The spacious ballroom was packed with dads in tack-sharp suits and lovely young ladies in a dizzying array of taffeta, satin and silky gowns. And not a mother in sight—though the mothers were there in spirit.

Reggie Gentry said it was actually his wife’s idea to surprise him with tickets to the dance as a Father’s Day present.

“I give credit to my wife,” he said. “A couple of days ago she told me, ‘Make sure you don’t have anything planned for Father’s Day evening.’”

While Rianah said everything about the evening was “exciting,” and Raye said it was “fun” to dance next to the Beluga whales, Gentry was ecstatic that he was getting a chance to model for his daughters what it felt like to be treated special.

“After this, it’s going to be hard for some guy to come along in a few years and think he’s doing something special,” Gentry said as his daughter looked up at him, wide-eyed.

With his own inimitable sense of humor, Ryan Cameron came on the mic to tell the dads and daughters to be seated so that they could partake in the food that “y’all paid all that money for.”

“Cause you can’t eat any of those fishes in the tank,” Cameron joked.

The proceeds from the dance go to benefit the many programs of the Ryan Cameron Foundation, which works with schools and community groups in and around Atlanta. The printed program for the event contained congratulatory messages from former President Bill Clinton, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, while ads from sponsors such as Porsche, Tiffany & Co., Wade Ford dealership and Marriott Atlanta were also prominently featured.

“While this event allows father and daughters the special gift of time together, it also allows everyone to give something back to the city of Atlanta and beyond,” said Clinton’s message, which was dated May 30.

“There are few bonds as important and formative as the relationship between a daughter and her father and I applaud your foundation’s efforts to cultivate role models for our youth,” Gov. Deal said in his message.

Mayor Reed said he commends the Foundation “for empowering men to continue the legacy of fatherhood through love, strength, excellence, wisdom and true compassion for their children.”

Bianca Knox, 24, surprised her dad, Lewey Knox, 53, by buying tickets to the dance as a Father’s Day present.

“It’s nice that there are so many different ages here,” she said as she gazed around the ballroom while seated next to her dad.

Lewey said he was excited when Bianca told him about his present.

“I was excited and proud that my daughter thought about me like that,” he said. “It’s so nice to see something like this. Unfortunately nobody in the media wants to talk about the good stuff that black fathers are doing. But this just shows that there are a lot of great dads out there.”

On that note, Bianca wanted her dad to know that he was one of them.

“Yes, he definitely is,” she said, beaming and nodding her head with vigor.

Lewey tilted his head back and smiled broadly.

 

 

About Nick Chiles

Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He has written or co-written 12 books and won over a dozen major journalism awards during a journalism career that brought him to the Dallas Morning News, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey and New York Newsday, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Couleur travel magazine.

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