Since I plan to answer the question honestly the commentary you are about to read maybe disappointing, disturbing, and/or not uplifting. Now, if you want the truth and a dirty version of the reality of Father’s Day for millions of black men in America stay with me for about five minutes. I assure you by the end of the five minutes you will be pleased and thankful I shared my story with you. It is a story of “beating the odds”.
On July 3, 1989 a woman looked at me as I bagged her groceries at the local supermarket. Actually, she was staring. I became uncomfortable after about 30 long seconds, so I asked “How are you today?” She replied with, “I am fine. Are you JB’s son?” I said (with excitement and pride), “Yes, I am.” She preceded to pick-up her groceries and walked away. Then she did a 180, and yelled to me with disdain. “I hope you don’t be nothing like your daddy!”
I was 19 years old. I was working on my birthday. I was trying to earn enough money to purchase my college books. I was trying to do the right thing. I was trying to do what my mother told me to do (“work to get what you want”). However, at the very moment this women finished her sentence with “daddy” I was devastated.
No one reading this can probably understand the sting of that statement because you don’t know my father unless you have heard of him by way of gossip. Those of you from Thomasville, North Carolina know of him, but you don’t really know him. You have heard the stories of how mean he was and how most people in the Ville were terrified when and if he got angry, but you don’t really know him. Despite what has been said about him he can be a kind man.
He is the man that I have “run away” from for years. I ran from looking like him. I ran from being like him. Ultimately, I tried everything in my power to shake his genes. Over time I discovered that running away from this man meant I was running away from myself. I had to admit to myself and others that I am just like my daddy. The resemblance is amazing and my behavior at times was unique only to JB Taylor. However, one thing sets us apart. One thing: I am a devoted father.
On this Father’s Day and for the past six 3rd Sunday’s of June I have been Judah Mordecai’s father. I have been like Johnny Johnson, Alexander Watson, Charles Brown, and numerous other black men who have remained faithful to fatherhood, but on June 18, 2006 it will be a little different for me. I have finally summoned enough courage to say to the world, “I am who I am because of what that woman said to me back in 1989.” As I fought to be someone different, I, in turn became a man who wanted to prove to that lady I am the essence of my father, but I am what he was not: A father.
On Father’s Day continue to love, cherish, and respect the black father. More than likely, he is being a father without any fatherly guidance on what is necessary to be a great dad. Help his children answer the question: What can I say about my father? differently.
Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by the vow I made over ten years ago in a High Point University dormitory room. I would like to ask every man reading this piece who has children or plans to have children to repeat the vow with me. The vow: I will be a father to my children no matter what the circumstances are. Not having a father is not an excuse to be absentee.