Hamzat Sani, Brigette White, Special to the AFRO

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been petrified of being a father. Between all the talk about Black men being absent from the household, being wife beaters and being unable to provide or be emotionally available to their families due to the difficulty of walking through this world with Black skin I wasn’t itching to get into the game.

I did everything I could to make sure that I didn’t have a child early in life until I knew I’d be absolutely ready to feed, nurture, clothe, shelter and adequately educate them to the fullest. I took women’s studies class in college so when I had a daughter I could at least have some language to connect with hardships she would endure; I talked to older friends about fatherhood; I took up exercise regularly with the vision of being able to thoroughly woop my grandkids butts in a competitive game of Basketball; and I worked, volunteered and mentored youth throughout the DMV to build the muscle memory required to have the eyes in the back of your and the mental agility necessary to help guide a teenager. I wasn’t playing no games.

Local Black fathers with their families. Top Left- Kevin Guyton, Center- Rodney Caldwell, Far Right- Jesse Epps, Bottom Left- Sean Gatewood. (Courtesy Photos)

The thing is despite the work, worry and wonderment inherent in becoming a father, I knew one thing for certain, I love children. Bring me a baby, pre-teen, teenager or young adult and please believe we goin find a way to vibe. So when I got ready to marry my love, knowing she came with a son ready to go, I approached with both the eagerness of being blessed with a child and a humble respect for the task at hand. Being a father to my son is both one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve ever embarked and as cliche as it sounds the absolutely most rewarding.

With Father’s Day approaching, The AFRO posed two central questions to a few fathers in the DMV.  Below are there answers to the questions:

  1. Why do you feel it’s important to be involved in your child’s/ children’s life/ lives?
  2. How do you approach fatherhood knowing the absent father stigma associated with Black fathers?

Rodney Caldwell age 30, from Seat Pleasant, Maryland, father of four children; Josiah Caldwell age 5, Eli Caldwell age 4, Nathaniel Caldwell age 2, and Abigail Caldwell age 1

1) I feel like fathers help children discover their identity. Not having a father myself created brokenness, pain, and hurt in my childhood. When you see “gang bangers” a lot of times they have come from broken homes. I want my children, especially the boys, to be healthy contributions to society. I want my kids to know Jesus. I want to be a role model/road map, if you will, to their own personal relationships with Jesus.

2) I want to give them what I didn’t have. I want them to see me love their mother; I didn’t have that. I want them to see me go to work and provide for the family. Sometimes I feel like I could be better but then I see that I’m giving them is what I never had and I am more gracious to myself. I know how important it is just to be there for them.

Jesse Epps age 34, from Laurel, Maryland, father of one child; Jaylen McCoy age 12

1) You have to give children a foundation. If they don’t have anyone to follow they might go astray. It’s very important to be involved in your children lives and I don’t respect anyone who is not in their child’s life.

2) You just know you have to be there for them. My Dad was there for me. It doesn’t make sense for me not to be there for my son. I just know I want to be the best father there is. When he thinks of me I want him to know that his Dad was there for him. You have to want to be the best father.

Kevin Guyton age 32, from Silver Spring, Maryland, father of one child; Keo Guyton age 1

1) In the 1950s and 1960s families were everything. The first thing they did to us in slavery was to separate our families knowing the power of the family unit. We could never accomplish much without the family structure. I want to teach him what my father taught me.

2) I mean I don’t think about an approach. I just try not to work too much. I pay him attention by not being on my phone too much and being intentional about what I say to him. My father was there for me so I just want to go a step further. My father helped me get to college and I know how important that is in my life. I would like for my son not to have to pay for college or his first car. I want to teach him about credit and making sure he knows everything. I love him and I want to keep doing and providing for him.

Sean Gatewood age 32, from Oxon Hill, Maryland, father of one child; Nasir Gatewood age 5

1) He is a reflection of me. I want him to do right by women and men and not get in trouble. I want him to have goals, a career, and be his own boss.

2) My father was a good father but I want to be more active in my sons’ life doing sports like baseball, football, soccer, golf, or Ping-Pong whatever he wants to do. It’s important to support your child in whatever they do in life.

Happy Father’s Day to my father Mohammed Bashir Sani and all the men that have helped to and are helping to father me in one way or another. Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s, step-fathers and others that provide the presence of a father to our children. Your love, presence and work do not go on unrecognized or unappreciated. Thank you!