Educator, author and speaker, Dr. Jawanza Kanjufu, says, “We encourage every man to be a responsible father. There has never been a time when we did not need our fathers.”
As Father’s Day rolls around, we reflect on the brothers, uncles, cousins, and friends who have become dads over the years and vowed to take care of their children. In interviews this week, we talked to Black men on their perspectives on fatherhood, what they want their children to learn from them and the most essential lessons they learned from their own Dads.
Howard John Wesley, 42, is a born-and-raised native of Chicago. He moved to Washington, D.C., to become the pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Despite his service to his roughly 7,000-member congregation and to the community, it is fathering his sons that’s among his most greatest callings.
Rev. Wesley is a father of two young boys, 13 and 6.
“Being a father is one of the best roles I have, it is an honor to raise my two sons and no matter how trying being a dad may be sometimes, I always do my best to remember that,” Wesley said.
Charles Reyes, 43, is an assistant principal of a high school in Philadelphia. He has been a father for 19 years and is the proud father of five kids. He grew up in a two-parent home and had a close and personal relationship with his father. Reyes appreciates his father for setting the tone and being a strong man of the house hold. When asked how his relationship with his father affected his personal relationship with his kids he said, “I am the kind of father I am today because of the sacrifices my father made for me years ago.”
Also, from Philadelphia, Wade Gordon, 55, has been a father for 31 years and is a father of two adults children. His father passed away when he was very young, but he has amazing memories of him. On this upcoming Father’s Day, his advice to all the fathers is to “always cherish the time you have with your kids because you never know when that time will be no longer. I always do my best to be extremely proactive in my kids’ lives.”
Three fathers in particular stood out the most in interviews. They are Cortez Holland, 23, Tracy Garrett, 56, and Kirk Riley, 51. All three of these dads experienced unique and traumatizing situations with their children.
Cortez Holland had his 5-year-old daughter when he was just a teenager. He says nothing was planned. But his daughter has become his world.
“Having a daughter at a young age forced me to grow up and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a wake-up call for me and her mother.” He and the mother didn’t always get along at first and with both being very young, raising a child alone was a struggle. He said his relationship with his father was not the best because his father was not around. But that only encouraged him to be the opposite.
Tracy Garrett on the other hand had a pretty good relationship with his father and says he has an outstanding relationship with his son. He always pushed his son to follow his dreams and when asked what important lesson he wants his son to always remember him by, it is to never let anyone stop you from your success. Garrett’s father has always been an advocate for higher education so when his own son received an acceptance letter from Howard University he was thrilled. A year into his son’s college career he became aware that his son’s GPA had dropped severely and that he could no longer attend school.
His son being a college dropout definitely put a strain on their relationship. But Garrett now looks at it as an unexpected blessing. He said the situation forced him to be less hard on his son and through it all, he discovered his son’s hidden love for music. His son, Trey, enrolled in classes at community college and now Garrett is working hard to pay for his sons’ music lessons.
And then there’s Kirk Riley, born and raised in New York City. Riley is a father of four and recently experienced one of the most heartbreaking stories a parent can go through. A few months ago, his 21-year-old daughter, Joy Riley, was in a terrible car accident where her entire body went through the front windshield and she was hospitalized for three months.
“When I got the call, my heart dropped. Me and her mother co-parent and we are no longer together. But this accident brought the entire family together. I called her mother up and she was on the next bus to New York. I prayed every hour — night and day — and I never left her bedside. Now that she is healed, I hope and pray if she learned nothing else from me as her father, she knows the power of prayer and her relationship with God is greater than all.”