Saturday, November 03, 2007

IN PRAISE OF GOOD BLACK FATHERS . . . A Few Comments & A Call For Submissions . . .

Recently, while reflecting on "Carl" the male protagonist in my novel, After The Dance, I drew up a list of some of his more positive traits. The list included some of the following descriptions:

1) He's an old school romantic -- he draws a considerable amount of pleasure from love songs and slow dances;

2) He's hard-working -- he juggles a 9-5 at FedEx and a part-time handyman gig;

3) He's smart and goal-oriented -- he takes night classes & is working toward an MBA;

4) He's silly & fun-loving -- he appreciates the humor in life and isn't too proud or uptight to make a fool of himself every now and then;

5) He's a good father -- his children are, without a doubt, his pride and joy.

Of all the traits on my list, I think the last one may, ultimately, prove the most intriguing to many readers. In After The Dance, I paint a portrait of an adult Black male who not only provides for his children, but also plays and prays with them too. When was the last time you read about a brother like that? Much less saw one on television or at the movies?

There are some in the media, Hollywood, the publishing world, the music industry, society in general, and heck, even within the African American community who would have us believe the type of Black man I just described doesn't even exist. I know better. And as the saying goes, it's never a bad idea to "write what you know." (smile)

So for the most part, that's what I did in After The Dance. I wrote about Black men (and women) who though flawed and at times guilty of outrageous, if not down-right morally reprehensible behavior, are still basically good at heart, capable of seeing the error of their ways and open to changing for the better.

I come from a family full of men like my protagonist, Carl. Though not "perfect" by any means, most of them were/are hard-working, God-fearing, loving and devoted to their families. I'm also proud to say I come from several generations of Southern, working-class, but largely "intact" Black families. I grew up in a household with a Black father. My father lived in a household with a Black father. I grew up knowing both of my African American grandfathers. My own father grew up knowing both of his African American grandfathers, both of whom lived within walking distance of him and his siblings.

My grandfather and his children on an outing. My father is the babyboy seated on the bench. (From Lori's Picture Collection)

No, my father didn't come from Black middle-class, college-educated people. He came from Black Southern farmers and laborers, who though "land-rich" were by most standards "dirt poor." But the way some folks talk, people like me ought to somehow feel guilty about our so-called "privileged" upbringing. Well, forgive me, but I don't . . . not in the least.

My grandfather (mother's side) and my son.
(From Lori's Picture Collection)

What I do feel, I'm not ashamed to say, is special . . . thanks in large part to the presence of a loving, caring and supportive Black father (as well as a couple of grandfathers, a bunch of uncles and a slew of male cousins) in my life.

My Dad and my son. (From Lori's Picture Collection)

If you have a "poignant" story about a Black father you'd like to share, The Five Sisters Publishing Company out of Sacramento, California is looking for essays (350-1500 words) for their "Father's Project." The deadline is November 15, 2007. Authors of selected stories will receive a $25.00 honorarium, a copy of the book and a byline. Check out the following link "Our Black Fathers" for more information.


Keith said...

This is the kind of post that I like to wake up to on a Sunday morning. The dad character you describe from your novel makes me want to pre-order the book.

Seeing the pictures of the fathers in your family with their kids and grand kids really made me smile. The photo of your father on the bench is amazing to me. I have never seen anything like that in my family. You are blessed, but you already know that.

Can I submit something? I'm not sure if I have anything poignant though.

Lori said...

Thanks for the positive feedback.
I'm gonna hold you to that "pre-order" comment (smile).

Actually, I discovered the info about the "Father's Project" via one of the links (Encourage A Brother) on your blogroll . As well as you write Keith, I'm sure they'd love to include one of your essays. After all, being an "African American Dad" is one of your areas of expertise (smile).

Go on represent, brother! Represent!

shelia said...

My dad was a good father. He died on November 4, 1996. I thank God for every day I had with him because so many people never got a chance to know their dads.

Lori said...

Sorry to hear about your father. Yes, the fact that we had our fathers in our lives, truly makes us blessed.

plez... said...


i didn't even read your post, i was mesmerized and my heart was warmed by the love displayed in the pictures of your father and grandfather.

like your family, my father was born of southern dirt farmers (sharecroppers), picking tobacco and cotton. i lost him 8 years ago after a long sickness... and still miss him immensely. your pictures brought back so many memories of bouncing on my father's knee and getting tickled by him until i laughed so hard i would almost pee on myself! *smile*

thanks for sharing!

Lori said...

Sorry to hear about your father. Hold on to those good memories. No doubt, a part of him still lives on in you (smile).

SharonAnn said...

Hello Lori:

I am also a LeMoyne-Owen graduate. My daddy was a WWII Vet. Before I got my car, my daddy would come to LeMoyne to pick me up for work or help me get to a field placement for my social work classes. I also have wonderful memories of him telling the most funniest, old time, jokes! In the 1970's, I once caught him wearing his old paint overalls, holding the fridge door open with one elbow and balancing the old milk jug on his knee to pour in the new, "wrong" milk he had just bought!. He was such a character, a very good provider, and we all knew he loved us. My mother still talks about how she would fuss at him for giving things away. He would help other people and he would never tell a soul! I miss him so much.

Lori said...

Hey SharonAnn,
Welcome to the "Mix." My grandfather, the one you see in the picture with my son is also a WWII vet. He's in his 90's, by the way (smile).

Nice to see some LeMoyne-Owen folks on my blog. While I did attend, I ended up graduating from the U of M. My hubby and two of my sisters-in-law are LeMoyne-Owen grads though.

Thanks for sharing those memories of your father. Talking about our folks keeps them alive in spirit, if nothing else, you know. And given that "milk story" your dear old Dad does sound like he was something of a character (smile).