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 sixth story in the series, by Kathy Barrett Carter, focusing on the unheralded work black fathers do in the community, serving not only their children but the children of others.
Without his coaches, Michael A. Davidson, Sr., now in his 40s, is not sure where he would be today. He candidly admits he had terrific female role models, but the male role models in his life fell short. That’s why this father of two from Piscataway, NJ, spends so much of his time trying to make a difference in the lives of boys. He is an AAU basketball coach, but his coaching isn’t limited to the basketball court. His organization, called More Than That, Inc., teaches academics, public speaking and etiquette. In short, he aims to prepare boys to be successful men.
He is among a large, impressive, committed group of black fathers across the country who don’t just parent their own children but consider molding other kids part of their purpose.
James Hunter is one of the founding members of the Somerset, New Jersey-based New Jersey Orators. For more than 25 years, he has been working with African-American youth, teaching them to speak with skill and confidence. The 40-week program started with just a handful of children. Today, there are 15 chapters in New Jersey training 500 children a year. Thousands of children have benefited from the program, which includes a long list of successful graduates.
Serving and helping to shape the lives of African-American males is a calling as varied as our youth. My late father, who was a prison chaplain, devoted much of his life to trying to turn around men who were incarcerated. He believed in redemption and positively influenced many lives. My husband’s commitment—just as passionate—was limited to our two sons. Bruce Carter isn’t likely to organize mentoring program for boys. It’s not likely that he’ll offer any long-winded speeches on how to be a role model. That is not his style. His parenting is quiet, yet direct. On this Father’s Day weekend, I salute him.
Our Father, Our Heroes:
- Join Us As We Honor Black Fathers
- When Looking for Leaders, Look No Further Than Black Fathers
- Black Fathers: Building and Sacrificing to Life Their Families
- Black Fathers Provide Their Families, Communities Much More Than Money
- What Beauty Looks Like: A Black Father Caring For and Nurturing His Child
- For Black Fathers, Protecting Family is Priority Number One
- Ryan Cameron’s Father-Daughter Dance Celebrates 10-year Anniversary
- Real Men Cook for Father’s Day
Bruce and I have two sons: Jason, 28, and Aaron, 26. In addition to being handsome, witty and all around good people, they are accomplished. Jason is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Management . He went on to earn an MBA from Wharton School of Business. He is currently working for a nonprofit. Aaron is a graduate of Princeton University. After spending four years working for the Obama campaign and other Democratic candidates and causes, he returned to law school. In May he completed his first year at William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Va.
The fact that my husband has had a measure of success as a father is a testament to the goodness of God. As the old adage goes, kids don’t come with instructions. Getting it right isn’t easy. He knows that. When people praise him for his parenting, he is quick to say, “We’ve been blessed.’’ We have. I wish I could say there was some magical elixir used by my husband to shape and mold my sons into the men they are today, but I do believe he has done three things very well:
He has been there. From T-ball to PTA meetings and back-to-school nights, Bruce Carter has been a constant presence in their lives. When they were little he picked them up from the after school program, ate dinner with them, attended their games and spent his vacation with them.
He has a strong sense of humor coupled with a strong sense of discipline. Our home is filled with laughter, but my husband never shied away from the role of disciplinarian, even when it was unpleasant. He set rules and enforced them. He taught them not to complain. Life is hard. Life is unfair. Get over it. If they were on a team and they thought they weren’t getting enough playing time, he told them to play better. If a teacher was hostile toward them, he would say, get A’s instead of C’s.
Most importantly, he gave them the greatest gift a father can give his children: He loved their mother unconditionally. When they talked back to me, he would quickly admonish them, “Don’t to talk to my wife that way.’’
In preparing this Father’s Day tribute to the man I have been married to for 31 years, I asked my sons to tell me how their father shaped them into the men they are today.
Jason said, “My father taught everything I know about what it means to be a man. He taught me when to stand my ground and fight; how to have a strong opinion and stand behind it. He taught me about loyalty, honesty and respect. And most important, he taught me how to treat a woman. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model.”
Aaron asked if I was referring to the man who still expects him to mow the lawn.
Kathy Barrett Carter is a writer and journalist with more than 25 years of experience in daily newspapers but currently works in the public sector.