05 Mar Why Bet on Black Touches Home
When I got the initial e-mail asking me to come on board as the publicist for the groundbreaking anthology, Bet on Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood in the Age of Barack Obama, I was excited. The book, written by 20 women, aims to wrestle back the much-maligned image of the Black father.
Inspired by President Barack Obama’s commitment to encouraging and supporting responsible fathers—he created the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative to do just that—Bet on Black endeavors to shift the way Black fatherhood is viewed, portrayed and discussed in America. It seeks to expose the Black dad as something that, while not perfect, is a human, loving presence in the lives of his children – just as the fathers of nearly every other race are portrayed.
When I talked the book’s launch details over with its publisher, Kifani, Inc. Executive Director Ashley Foxx, I was ecstatic. Not only would the book feature some of my absolute favorite writers – some of whom I grew up reading in the pages of Ebony, Essence and Jet magazines (shout out to Harriet Cole, Corynne L. Corbett, and Karen Good Marable) – it also thoroughly discussed a topic I hold dear to my heart. I smiled as I read each of the women’s touching stories about the fathers in their lives. Their stories moved me because I know for a fact that good daddies, regular dads – not sperm-donating deadbeats – just aren’t lauded enough.
If you watched The Maury Povich Show or listened to Paternity Test Tuesday on the radio, you’d think that all Black fathers are the same – absent. But there’s more to the story.
I cannot talk about my biological father in the same terms that some of the women do in Bet on Black. The reason? I don’t know him. Not really. In fact, I connected with him via Facebook about three years ago. My crazy uncle came into the house on Christmas Eve and said, “Your Daddy is on Facebook.” I found him. I debated contacting him. My dear friend Kamaria helped me craft my message to him on the social media platform. He was receptive. We keep in touch occasionally through that medium. I’d like to meet him one day. I’m nearly scared to death of his response. …
I can talk about the wonderful relationship I have with my Daddy. He’s been there for me since I was a curious 6-year-old. Daddy married my Aunt Karen, who was the youngest of my grandmother’s three children. I lived with my grandmother since I was born (she tells me I refused to live with my own mother – I’m still attached to my Granny’s hip). Granny and I lived with my great aunt Stella. One day our house burned to a crisp and we first moved with my biological mom and her husband. A short while later, we moved in with my Karen and Daddy.
Karen married her husband, Robert, at age 19. He was 22. When they took in my grandmother and me, it was a lot of responsibility for newlyweds. That was a world of change for such young people, but they handled us with the care and finesse of people twice their age.
When my aunt became pregnant with her daughter – who I lovingly call my sister – she thought it would be best if my younger sister (who had also come to live with us) and I called she and Robert “mama” and “daddy” as to not confuse her little one. We agreed.
We’re a non-traditional family. We all understand this. What is strikingly beautiful about our family dynamic is that I am blessed enough to have TWO mothers and a loving father. What’s most amazing about my family is how my Daddy just accepted me as HIS, right from the start. His love for me expanded after his own daughter was born.
He made no difference between us. He was at most of my functions for band and cheerleading YOURURL.com. He encouraged me to do well in school. He rewarded my behavior and was genuinely happy for whenever I accomplished anything. He was – and still is – there for me financially and emotionally. He’s my EVERYTHING.
I’m his girl, and he’s my Dad.
And, it is because of Robert Owens that I am so in awe of everything that has to do with Bet on Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood in the Age of Barack Obama.
I know there’s more to the story about Black fatherhood.