We all grew up watching classic black fathers on our television screens; whether it was Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Michael Kyle from My Wife and Kids, Desmond from Desmonds, Bill Cosby from The Bill Cosby Show, the representations were sufficient for us to see examples of black fatherhood and aspire to be like them. These men showed us what it meant to provide for your family, to be strong, loving and supportive, through ups and downs, all the while seeming to have a very enjoyable time. This was the classic era of the 90s, these were the men we were supposed to grow up to be like but then came the decline. The stereotypical myth of black father absenteeism and the rapid decline of representation meant that we saw less and less example of black fathers, and thus became disillusioned about their existence in the everyday lives of black children. This then became a stereotype that crippled and tarnished the image of black men, normalising this absence, as if it were more prevalent than the presence of a black father. It wasn’t. It isn’t. There are many examples in our community, there always have been, long before the aforementioned sitcom TV shows and there always will be, long after it. Where we once looked to mainstream media for representation, we now have to move away from that, as we have reached a point where media representation does not suffice.
We should move towards looking to the community, and the people around us. There are beautiful examples all around us, particularly of black fatherhood. So, instead of making this article a socio-political analysis of black fatherhood, I thought to, instead, make it an appreciation by highlighting the examples of those around me. I decided to ask my friends who are fathers and have grown up to become the men we were raised by or watched on television, who are not only providing the kind of love and sustenance that their children need, but, by doing so, are also removing the stereotype of black father absenteeism.
“Being a father is both the most joyous and the most scariest thing I have experienced. No joy is greater than your child's laughter. No fear is greater than your child's safety.” – NII ODARTEI
“Being a young single dad isn’t that hard, life throws you a challenge and you just deal with it” – BATUALA
“Being a father is something I cherish, I work a lot but knowing that my princess is depending on me really keeps me going.” – TRAVIS JAY
“The only thing I can say about being a father is that words aren't enough to describe the feeling, you have to experience it for yourself. Then you'll realise that you can never imagine life prior to being a dad. The way I see it, I'm already rich. My family is priceless, my time is gold and my health is my wealth. Life really is simple as this.” – DAVID
"Each cry is like a mystery to solve, the best thing is remaining calm and tuning into what your child is trying to say. Fatherhood is as much about patience, as it is supportive/protective/loving." – YOMI
When I speak of looking in our communities for examples, I speak of this. Each heart-warming image of fatherhood above is made more beautiful because they are all friends of mine, in the community who I know. So let us celebrate black fatherhood and those who are silently persevering in the art of fatherhood and bringing hope to the next generation.