Since becoming a father in 2012, I have been afforded the opportunity to experience fatherhood in many different ways. Most recently that experience has come from working with a federally funded fatherhood program in Virginia, where I was introduced to a man who constantly referred to our work as providing “the picture on the box.” This phrase simply means providing fathers with a living blueprint.
Now initially I didn’t realize how important this is for the maturation process of many fathers who could benefit from having a consistent and concrete example of what being a “good” father looks like. More importantly though, how it would benefit those who consistently paint a false narrative around the perceived lack of commitment, concern and compassion of fathers – more specifically black fathers.
Working with the local health department, I have attended conferences and workshops where the character of black fathers is consistently castrated. I could go on for days speaking about the various ways used to tear down black fathers. This was the genesis for the creation of The Black Father Family, a vehicle for the broader public to experience, encourage and empower black fatherhood.
My deep love for black fatherhood led to the creation of this movement and simultaneously is the reason I’m infuriated over the recent backlash basketball star Lebron James has received over his “antics” at a basketball game of his eldest son. It’s not just simply that he has faced criticism, but the fact that majority of the criticism has come from the fraternity of black fatherhood. It was quite difficult for me to figure out why so many black fathers were upset, bothered by or concerned with Lebron losing his shoe in celebration of his son and his teammates. I just couldn’t figure out why. Then I was introduced to a term, internalized oppression, which simply means “when an oppressed people come to use against itself the methods of the oppressor.” For centuries the black father has been systematically removed from the family and made to feel inadequate in his care of his children so much so that even Black America has become uncomfortable with the sight of a father loving his children. Especially loving his children in the RADICAL and EXTREME way in which Lebron James does.
Furthermore, Lebron wasn’t even celebrating his own son during this time. He was showing the same level of enthusiasm and energy for a child not his own. Representing in real time that old term, “the village.” Here we have a man – a NBA superstar – preparing for a season, a producer managing multiple TV projects, an actor currently shooting a movie. Plenty of reasons to make an excuse not to be present.
Instead, he does what we hope ALL fathers do – put the world on pause for your children. Lebron’s level of involvement and “over the top” behavior as it relates to his children should only be described as inspiring, challenging, necessary, beautiful, full of love, hope, validation and a call to action.
A call to action for all my black fathers to go be Lebron James in your own way. Go inspire a father to be extra – a father over the top. I want to see black fathers close to being arrogant in the name of affirming your appreciation for every successful moment your child has. You are owed that right. Let this be all the reassuring you need to lose your shoes at every event your children have.
Bring the blow horn to preschool graduations. Show up with hundreds of balloons for winning a reading award. Yell that’s my kid after every golf swing. Run up and down the pool side while your kid swims in the state competition. Do EVERYTHING you possibly can to let the world know you are a black father, proud of the accomplishments of your children – unashamed, unhinged and pretty close to being out of control with joy.