CNN’s Don Lemon once interviewed retired Gen. Colin Powell about the pressing issues facing black men in America. The interview was conducted during the Barack Obama presidency.
Powell, born in Harlem, a son of Jamaican immigrants who would become a four-star general and this nation’s first black secretary of state under President George W. Bush, answered one of Lemon’s questions this way:
“Fathers have got to start doing their jobs. Every child has a father, and some of those fathers don’t want to live up to the responsibility of being a father.
“Whether it’s a father in a marriage or a father in a good home, that father is a father and owes that child financial support, owes that child companionship, owes that child an example in life.”
The scarcity of black fathers in the home has been documented and discussed throughout the black community. But, with Father’s Day two weeks away, I want to praise those fathers who are doing the things Powell said should be done to have a positive influence in their children’s lives.
First, he mentioned the word responsibility. There are many black fathers in the Mahoning Valley who are making sure their children are loved, disciplined, protected and given the opportunity to grow and thrive.
Black fathers are coaches and mentors. They set an example their children can emulate.
Last month, a good friend of mine and his wife turned 60. Their children surprised them with a birthday party at the Jewish Community Center on the city’s North Side.
During the remarks from their daughter, who is single, she said that if she ever does get married, she would want to marry a man who was like her dad. What higher praise can a father receive?
Powell also said a good father owes his child financial support. I know a man who has spent much money over a period of years to make sure his children had a chance to succeed.
Notice I mentioned the word chance.
Not every child will take advantage of the opportunities presented to him or her. But a good father will make that financial sacrifice to provide his child or children with what they need.
Powell next mentions companionship. I fondly remember the times my dad took my brother, my sister and me to Idora Park, steelworker union Christmas parties at the old Palace Theater downtown, fireworks displays and baseball games.
Again, don’t be deceived by the headlines.
There are so many black fathers spending that quality time with their children like my dad did with my siblings and me.
Finally, Powell said a good father owes his child an example in life. Children should seek to pattern their lives after a man who
is responsible, reliable, caring, committed, not afraid to discipline, not afraid to admit when he’s wrong and man enough to say he loves them.
I also believe fathers should take the lead in establishing a strong religious base for their children. This is not popular in the 21st century in many parts of our land. Some believe faith in God, or Allah, or a supreme being is no longer relevant or necessary.
But one of the principles that made our country the envy of the world is the freedom to practice religion, even the freedom not to worship.
Fathers today should be, and many are, living a life of faith for their children to follow. It is another example of being a responsible parent.
Perhaps the greatest example a father can give to his child is that dad showing his love, care and support for their mother.
I don’t know why this has become such a sore spot in some portions of the black community, but there are fathers who are making sure their wives are loved, protected and esteemed in the home.
We all know fathers who are working hard, spending time with their children and wives, and living productive lives as they build up their community.
And, dads, if you have fallen short, don’t give up. Fatherhood is much more than just making babies. It is a noble calling that requires hard work and discipline. But, in the end, it is worth it.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org