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Black Fathers: Building and Sacrificing to Lift Their Families

At Atlanta Black Star, we are spending this entire week celebrating, honoring, exploring and uplifting Black Fatherhood by examining it through the lens of 7 themes: Lead, Build, Provide, Care, Protect, Work and Love. This is the second story in the series, by author Joyce Davis, examining the impact of black fathers by looking at how they sacrifice to build a legacy in their families.

There is nothing more attractive to me than seeing a black man spending time with his children. If I spot one at a PTA meeting, it takes all the effort I can muster not to stare.

Now I don’t recall ever seeing my father at the PTA, but he is definitely what I’d call a good man. Not perfect, but like many black men, well intentioned, sincere, respectful and responsible—all qualities I think make an excellent father.

From early in his life he understood the meaning of sacrifice, working three jobs (an elevator operator, a taxi driver and a postal employee) to complete his college education and build a strong legacy of education in the minds of his children. There wasn’t much time for kicking it with that load. While I know he loves sharp cars, he drove used or basic rides until I was in my 30s. He went 20 years without playing golf, which he adores, because, as my mom says, he knew that “every bit” of those green fees were needed for his kids’ education.

And it wasn’t just financial sacrifices he made. Even though he was a successful electrical engineering entrepreneur, devoting long hours to build the several firms he ran, I don’t remember him missing any important events in our lives. What I do remember is him helping me regularly with tough math homework, working late hours after we went to bed, and cooking breakfast for us many mornings.

He coached my brother’s baseball teams and pitched in shuttling us from ballet and basketball to choir rehearsal and SAT prep courses. Now my mother was the primary for many of these activities, but as well as being the head of our household, my dad more than did his share.

I adore black men who embrace the importance of sacrificing for the betterment of their families. They realize they are instrumental in building a solid foundation for their children. And despite the headlines constantly screaming about the sorry state of the black family, in my own life I see examples of involved black fathers pretty regularly. Maybe not at the PTA, but there are tons of black men who are visibly committed to their families.

Our Father, Our Heroes:

When children know their father will be front and center in their lives, they feel loved, safe, important, and more confident about who they are in the world. I’m mystified when I hear unfortunate stories about black men who don’t value quality time with their kids. Honestly, I wonder what is wrong with them.

I know black men who had absentee, violent or just disinterested fathers, but grew up to read bedtime stories, attend father-daughter dances, and take numerous school tours. Of course contentious co-parental relationships and family court systems can seem insurmountable, even degrading. But there are countless numbers of black men, separated from their children’s mothers, who make it a priority to find a way to stay in their kids’ lives – even if they have to sacrifice their pride, spend their money, and work like the devil to make it happen.

To sacrifice means to give up something you really desire for something else you value more. But sacrifice doesn’t always have to be as monumental as that of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Sometimes it’s the small things I’ve seen black fathers do, like ditching a night hanging with the fellas because they’re needed at home. I know a brother who took a braiding class so he could hook up his daughter’s hair.

What’s so great about being a parent is that it’s not new. I admire the black fathers who belong to parenting groups or who connect with seasoned fathers to listen, learn and share best parenting practices and even ideas about how to get by without some of the things they never thought they could put on pause.

Black fathers get significant reward from their sacrifice, from their efforts to build a legacy in their families. As they get older, they find that they have paid it forward—their little boys grow to become great black fathers and husbands themselves, their precious little girls grow into smart, strong women who marry good men.

Plus, their sacrifice isn’t forever. Just ask my dad, who’s nearly retired, plays golf four times a week, and rolls around Atlanta in a shiny new red truck.

Joyce E. Davis is the associate director of publications at Spelman College and blogs at Enjoyceinglife.

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