When I was a child, I loved to spend time with my dad. We played basketball together and often I would tag along with him as he ran errands. My recent visit to Los Angeles, where my dad lives, reminded me of how much I appreciate the man who has made a significant impact on my life.
We exercised together, went to lunch, and just hung out. During our time together, my dad told me that my grandfather died when riding in a bucket truck and coming in contact with a live wire. In my book, I wrote he died when falling from a tree, which was the version of the story I remembered from my childhood. My follow-up blog provided another account that my mother offered me from her memories. It was good to finally get the real cause of my grandfather’s premature death before I transitioned to the next leg of my family's journey.
As announced live on Facebook, I accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Education at a university in the Caribbean islands. I am responsible for strengthening the study skills for students from underserved communities to be successful in medical school, their personal lives, and future professional careers. My role in the education department also includes serving as a facilitator to help students understand how to apply what they learn in classrooms to impact the lives of people from diverse backgrounds. The time with my parents was the perfect gateway to preparing for my new job.
My mother and father moved to Los Angeles eight years ago, after living in Chicago and the south suburbs for twenty-seven years. Although my mother was born in California and many of her family continue to live there along with my grandmother, it was my father’s decision to relocate to Los Angeles that placed them in the home where they reside today. My dad who pastored a church in Chicago's Roseland community for many years decided he wanted a new challenge.
That challenge included the revival of a church in south central LA. The church, located in a community where young people attend schools with limited resources and where criminal elements discourage politicians from creating more equitable opportunities for residents, continues to demonstrate much potential. There exist advertisements for positive non-profit organizations' initiatives and a vibrant arts scene. With my father's history as a leader in lower-income communities, he was pulled from Chicago to LA by his calling to serve other people in need.
My father is a servant leader. For years, I watched him give money to people who are homeless. I observed him on multiple occasions, put the needs of others before his self-interests. My dad is the type of honorable leader who former Coldwell Bank CEO, Greg Campbell describes in his book, The 5, 2, 1 Principal, as an individual who strives for growth by learning about and listening to the population he wishes to serve. I witnessed my father’s approach to leadership as a child and spending time with him in Los Angeles last week was a reminder of why I have come to respect him as a man.
Regardless of the ups and downs that came with being raised by a preacher’s kid, I am grateful for the man I call dad. He taught me discipline and the value of working hard. In his relationship with my mother and sisters, my father taught me to respect women. Through his constant reading at home, he instilled in me the value of education.
From the United States to Mexico to the Caribbean Islands, I am grateful to have my father as part of my life. This week, I would like to encourage you to take a moment and recognize a family member in your life. It could be a father figure, mother, or anyone who has consistently shown up in your life.
To read more about my relationship with my dad, check out my book Critical Race and Education for Black Males: When Pretty Boys Become Men.
* A previous version of this post appeared in my column at The Good Men Project