Over the weekend I called my father to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Almost a decade had passed since the last time I chose to give him a holiday celebratory call. In my protest over those years I celebrated a sports coach, father figures from my community, and I even wrote a letter to my future self. In the letter, I sang high praise to the man I had become by being the opposite of the man who birthed me. The letter was lengthy in pages, but halfway through the first page, the positive remarks drifted from me as a father, into me as an individual. This year I put my pride aside, and with a lump in my throat and I rock in my chest I uttered, “Hey Siri?” Mesmerized by the ROYGBIV spectrum of colors pulsating in the lower portion of my phone screen, I managed to say, “call dad.” The error message saturated in a computerized accent reminded me that his number wasn’t saved under “dad”. Scrolling down in alphabetical order I see his government name and proceed to make the call. Lamenting with THE Father for the opportunity to escape this situation by leaving a voicemail was interrupted. God didn’t answer my prayers. He answered, and after playing three rounds of “Simon Says, Hello”, our conversation shifted into full small talk mode. The loud, booming silence was occasionally interrupted by moments of chatter which caused our 17 minute and 34-second conversation to feel like it had lasted for hours.*Spoiler alert* for those waiting for the prodigal son/father moment where we spent hours on the phone apologizing and weeping joyously over healed wounds, that isn’t how this story ends. Sorry. I had to break that news to you because at this moment I have no idea how this story ends because I’m currently acting this thing out. Reading through the script making notes here, scratching out there, and wadding up groups of pages for the use of our trashcan basketball three-point contest. None of which are wrong or right, they are just the way life plays out. Understanding the necessity for correction and adjustment are what made me reconsider my cold approach to a man who made a series of mistakes but has a mindset to rectify those wrongs. “Life’s too short…” is the sentiment overtaking the conversation in my post-phone call discussion with myself. I looked myself in the eye and expressed how these hard feelings toward my father could have a negative influence on the process of me raising my future children. So why not begin to forgive? Forgiving doesn’t mean I walk around telling the world, “that’s my dad!” but it does allow me to be at peace with all the past trauma.There is a difference between a being father and being a dad. A father is someone who has birthed a child. A dad is someone who is actively present in raising the child. Any male can be a father, but only dedicated fathers become dads. I can no longer grieve over the father I didn’t have growing up, because the father I may have now will be able to help me in ways I’ve never imagined. So, as I grow further from my father, I’m growing closer to my dad. Happy Father’s...
This Father's Day hip-hop recording artist and content creator Beleaf is encouraging dads everywhere to flood timelines with images, narratives, and videos of their personal experiences with fatherhood using hashtag #BlackFathersDay. With a YouTube following of nearly 24,000, you may recognize him from his Beleaf in Fatherhood video series where he shares comical stories of life with his wife Yvette and their “chocolate babies.” In a recently released kick-off video for the #BlackFathersDay campaign, Beleaf speaks to the necessity of the movement saying, “they say black fathers aren’t around. They know if they create that to be true, we’ll believe it. So, we have no choice but to flood culture with the images of black fathers being around.” Countering stereotypes around black fathers, black men, and the black family is a worthy cause given the pervasive negative messaging often associated with blackness. The unfortunate truth is, if your perception has been even remotely shaped by the dominant narratives portrayed in media, you’ve probably bought into the idea of the absentee black father. You may have regurgitated the notion that all “the problems in the black community” are the self-imposed result of the “crisis” of the broken black home. Maybe you've even used these clichés to justify the alarmingly disproportionate rates of incarceration and paranoid, violent policing of black men. The #BlackFathersDay campaign flies in the face of the notion that black men are somehow fundamentally inept, and prone to abandon their children. These messages, often repeated void of any social context or acknowledgment of their systemic contributors, are precisely what Beleaf seeks to negate.The good news is, through the power of social media, we have the leverage to create our own story lines and the #BlackFathersDay seeks to do just that. "The idea behind it is this," said #BlackFathersDay co-creator Austin Null, "black fathers share their experience and the joys of being a father, and highlight the idea that they are not what the media portrays them as." Null, who produces the wildly successful YouTube vlogging series The Nive Nulls starring he, his wife Brittany, and their three young children, produced the #BlackFathersDay vignette through his company Divergent Media. The Kansas City-based content creator often uses his own platform to speak out on issues of racism and social injustice. Null and Beleaf partnered on the campaign in hopes of sparking a movement. "We hope this video can be a good starting point to get the creative juices flowing to [encourage others to] tell their stories," he said. Check out the clip below:
Father's Day is June 18th and we'll be keeping an eye out for more #BlackFathersDay...
Let me start off by saying that I love my dad. We have a great relationship full of laughter, hugs and jokes. However, there was one time when he had to basically kick my ass because I thought I was grown.When I was 17-years-old I was struggling with figuring out my identity. I was Philadelphia native with parents hailing from Trinidad and Tobago. At times it felt as if my parents were in an invisible war. Not with me, but with the American ideology. My dad wanted to raise me with the same conservative Trinidadian values he grew up with, but he had to compete with my friends, teachers and the media. He grew up with the understanding that when the street lights came on, it’s time to come in the house. Meanwhile, I had friends that could stay out until 1:00 a.m. on a school night.I didn’t mind the rules until I became a senior in high school with an 11:00 p.m. curfew that wasn't flexible. My parents made sure I was home at 11 p.m. every night, including weekends. It was horrible. There's nothing worse than kicking it with your crew on a Friday night and getting the side-eye when you ask someone to drive you home at 10:30 p.m.As time went on I began to feel myself and independently decided I was going to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and who I wanted. To hell what my parents thought! Remember when I said my parents were Trini? Well one night, I came home around 1:30 a.m. No phone call, no text and I think I may have been slightly buzzed. When I walked in the house I knew there was going to be a confrontation and I was mentally prepared. I said to myself, “I’m going to walk in there, put my foot down and tell my parents my curfew is canceled”! My dad was already close to 65-years-old, I didn't think it would be hard to assert myself. I had to be stronger than him by now with my youthful, athletic frame, right? Wrong! My dad beat the shit out of me. And it wasn’t one of those “this hurts me more that it hurts you” type of beatings. It was more like a “N*gga, you must’ve lost you damn mind” type of whoopings. It was a coming-of-age beat down. It was an experience that immediately made me reconsider every decision I’ve made leading up to that moment. The biggest lesson I learned from that situation (other than old man strength is REAL) was that I can’t compare my situation with my neighbors or my friends. The truth was that my friends were able to stay out late because there was no one at home who cared enough to beat their asses when they came home in the middle of the night. My father undoubtedly believes that it is his responsibility and his duty to keep me safe and he wasn’t going to let anyone, not even me, prevent him from doing his job.Brought to you by Fences, in theaters nationwide Dec. 25....
She was six months’ shy of 17. Hair curly, face scattered with freckles, and her eyes were filled with fear. She’d never been in a hospital before, let alone to given birth to a child. Her first child. Her son. Accompanied by her best friend, she realized she had no one else. No signs of the child’s father. No brothers, no sisters, not even her mother or father were present. Coming from Brooklyn, she grew used to being alone, fending for herself. She shrugged her loneliness off and prayed hoped someone would show up.
Her mother left her when she was just 12. Her father owned the bodega and building on Star & Central. Everyone knew her because of her dad. Her dad, born and raised in Puerto Rico, migrated to Brooklyn to build his business and start a family. He was a hardworking man whose work ethic kept him away from home, though not too far because his bodega was only downstairs from their apartment. With the absence of a mother and the presence of a father who could only view his daughter as innocent, she was able to get away with everything. That’s how she met the father of her first born.
Hustler, gangster, businessman. The love of her life would soon drift away as the streets called. When you’re in the game, demand and supply are more important than love. At such an early age, you’d have a hard time understanding it unless you, too, were in the streets. After telling him of her pregnancy, he supported her but had doubts and thoughts of infidelity. By surprise, he showed up to the hospital as the mother of his first born was laying in the bed, groaning from pregnancy pains. He bent down, brandishing a pistol, and whispered in her ear “this baby better look like me."
My mother and I grew up together.
Because of her age, there were so many things she couldn’t teach me. Either they were never taught to her or she had yet to experience certain things to warn me about its effects. I’ve never seen a picture with her and I. In fact, I believe I have a total of about five pictures of myself as a child. I don’t know if it’s because she’s picture shy or if me being a spitting image of my father upsets her. This explains my obsession with my daughters: Cali and Kennedy. My iPhone has more than 2,000 pictures of the both of them, individually and as a group.
I didn’t realize how many lessons I wasn’t taught until I became a father. I started to realize how much I’ve learned from mistakes, from the old heads, and from the streets. Everything that I do know, I have to make sure to utilize in different aspects to teach my daughters. I have to speak to them with a softer tone than how I’ve been spoken to. I have to teach them using my experiences versus allowing them to make all of the same mistakes. Most importantly, as a father, I am required to raise them in a home where they feel safe, where they are comfortable enough to be themselves, and are confident enough to walk out of our home with their head high, proud of themselves, and full of prayer.
Tonight’s been rough. Cali is crying because her tablet isn’t working. Every time I checked it, she had mistakenly disconnected from Wi-Fi, stopping her from watching Little Einstein’s on Netflix. Kennedy keeps saying “SH*T!” and I’m too scared to pop her in the mouth. The last thing I want is for my precious little daughters to be scared of their father, the man they’re supposed to admire. I end up screaming at her, demanding she goes to her room and get into bed. She does. I opened my sticker-covered MacBook and begin to write when Cali tells me “But she loves you, daddy!” I can’t help but to put my heart in the hands of these little girls.
I decided to go upstairs where I kneeled next to Kennedy’s purple, tufted bed and she grabs me, hugging me, and holding on to me tightly. She’s only one and some change, but she’s so mature. I laid her down and grabbed her hands, my forehead against hers, and for the first time ever, we prayed. She repeated every word I mumbled to the best of her ability, both of us crying, and we thanked Him. We asked Him to grant me with patience and understanding and to help mold me into a better father and listener. We said amen and kissed each other good night.
My mind was going crazy, thinking of how I’ve never been taught to pray. I was the same age as my mother when she gave birth to me when I first spoke with God. I was two months’ shy of sixteen, laying in a hospital bed, with more than 120 staples in my body and no feeling in my right arm. At that very moment, I closed my eyes and I prayed. I asked for forgiveness for never building a relationship with him. I knew I was destined for something great, so I begged that he spare my life.
I can’t use the excuse of not being taught something anymore. I now have the knowledge and experience to learn on my own. I now have two little children who look to me for guidance, protection and security. I now know, as an adult that my mother was simply a child raising children. She did her best and allowing me to make mistakes was her way of letting me learn about life and its ills.
My mother might have never taught me how to pray, but unknowingly, she taught me that as a father, it’s my responsibility to pass my faith in God on to my daughters.
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I’m the broke friend.
You know, the one who always finds a way to the party but never actually pays for anything. The one who shows up for every birthday and graduation dinner (however dreadful) and orders water, with lemon of course, and tries to find the cheapest appetizer on the menu because *cough* I ate earlier and I’m really not hungry. Oh, the lies.
I’m the broke friend.
You know, the one who gets put into GroupMe’s for planned trips to Jamaica and Dubai and festivals like AfroPunk and Broccoli City Festival with all of his educated, engaged and successful HBCU graduate friends. The one everybody decided to add, just because you’re a part of the crew but knows he won’t make it. And the one who leaves the group several days later with no notice (even though everybody knows why.)
I’m the broke friend.
You know, the one who had the full athletic scholarship but never made it to the league. The one who walked across the stage. Twice. Slept out of his car and on YOUR couch. The one who worked dead-end jobs in pursuit of a career with the master’s degree he still has to pay for. The one who realized that his purpose doesn’t include a benefits and incentives package. The one with more influence than income.
Yep. That’s me. The dreamer. The one with more hustles than Donald Trump. The one who finds more comfort in burning the midnight oil than early morning meetings with a boss I can’t stand. The one who found himself raising a child in a world he has yet to fully discover — and one he definitely can’t afford. The one with a million contacts, not a mil….you get the point.
Yes, I’m the broke friend.
And you know what? That's okay.
Well, for the sake of this article it is — hear me out.
No one wants to be the broke friend, especially among young, successful black college grads who all have similar “started from the bottom” stories that include somebody’s mama having to work multiple jobs and surviving on chicken Ramen noodles (cuz beef is nasty) all through undergrad. But that friend is me. And although acknowledging that fact has taken a lot of humility and a few tears, it has also made me realize the value in being just that: The broke friend.
When you’re the broke friend, you learn how to find intrinsic value in what you offer and what you bring to the table. When you’re the broke friend, you can’t lead with what you have but instead who you are. You learn how to leverage personal and professional relationships in exchange for goods, services and opportunities. Being the broke friend has taught me, and most times forced me, to dig deep into myself and solve my financial problems through job creation, not job applications.
It's taught me the power of self-affirmation and knowing that my bank statement DOES NOT accurately measure my value.
But didn’t you say you were a father?
How can you proudly call yourself a father AND the broke friend?
Well…I don’t really have a good answer for that. But I do have my truth.
Being in a situation where my daughter is well taken care of financially, despite my financial shortcomings, has been a humbling one. From daycare to diapers, her mother and I have busted our asses to make sure that she's provided for in every way. But the reality that the primary financial responsibility for my child does not fall on me is something that tries to kill me slowly. Every meme, every gif that jokes about broke, deadbeat black fathers, while not applicable to my situation, sometimes finds me second-guessing and questioning my role as a protector, provider and leader for the daughter I love so much. I won’t lie, as I write this it brings me to tears simply because of that honest reality, but it has also does something for me that “financial security” never could.
As a licensed counselor, published author and entrepreneur, I have created a platform for myself in these years of “broke” that speaks to what it means for me to be a black father. It is a platform that finds my masculinity rooted in something other than my spending power. One that now finds strength in performing domestic duties, knowing that childcare is as important a job as any. Everything that I am, everything that I do, speaks to the life I wish for my daughter to have. One full of inquisitiveness, curiosity, passion and no limitations. One that includes a father being able to attend dance and tennis practices, practices that my mother never could due to a strenuous teaching schedule. One that not only says, but shows, not only directs, but demonstrates how to recognize that greatness isn’t something to be attained, but uncovered. And when I’m in my feelings (like tonight), my daughter reminds me that being the broke friend just means that I’m taking care of my responsibilities. Because organic, whole wheat Teddy Grahams don’t pay for themselves, you know.
I’m the broke friend.
And, on most days, I’m okay with that. Because on most days, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the things I’ve been able to accomplish with little to nothing are the stuff of legends. Yep. I’m a legend. At least this is the mentality that being the broke friend has created in me. A world where the next opportunity might just be THE opportunity. Being the broke friend has taught me how to remain focused on the work, because sightseeing is usually done in place and I have places to be. Being the broke friend keeps that chip on my shoulder and that fire under my ass. Because as genuinely happy as I am for my friends when they post their vacation pics from experiences overseas, I would much rather be the one holding the camera.
And if you’re the broke friend reading this article, please read this next line carefully.
"Just because you’re broke, doesn’t mean that you’re broken."
As the broke friend, I’ve spoken at a Fortune 500 company, published books, created a social engagement platform with thousands of followers, partnered with companies and city government on social events and initiatives, and counseled individuals in need of help in their daily lives among other things. As the broke friend, I’ve been able to spend time discovering myself and meeting the person I was created to be. And as the broke friend, you are able to tap into parts of yourself that you might otherwise have never known existed. You finally realize that this path we’re all on is more about self-worth and discovery than it is about net worth and deposits.
So yes, I'm the broke friend. You know, the one with all the options now. The one creating jobs and not looking for them. The one who didn’t focus on the money but knows that it’s coming. The one who found peace in poverty but also the motivation to never remain there.
I’m the broke friend. And that’s okay.
Because I’m only the broke friend for right now.
And if you’re anything like me, the same applies to you.
So keep going, with ya’ broke ass. You won’t be for long.
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Everyone knows that the father is supposed to traditionally walk you down the aisle and give you away to the new main man in your life. But what if there is no father to walk you? What if you walk alone?
What if you’ve been walking alone for a majority of your life, ignoring this gaping hole. Then, on a random Saturday, you have breakfast with your fiancé and break out in an unexpected cry about the fact that you can't avoid this void anymore. This is me. This is an issue that plagues some brides, and no matter how strong of a woman I am, I was no exception to this.
I come from a family of seven. I have 6 other siblings walking this earth with me — quite a rare thing in England nowadays, hence me stressing this point. Ever since I remember, my mum has been the one to struggle to raise all of us, but she's officially been my mother and my father for the past 10 years. Not once did I ever complain about this fact. Not once.
Of course, I found it hard to trust men after my dad left. What girl wouldn’t? That’s normal. But deep down, I had always hoped and prayed that my love story would be different than my mum’s and so many others. I tried not to let this affect my life and even started to believe this was possible. So much so that to this day I still speak to my father. I have no hate or malice toward him. I can’t allow myself to. I want to move on, so I choose forgiveness.
One of the hardest decisions I had to make was who would walk me down the aisle for my wedding. Deep down I wanted my mother. It was only right because she’s a huge part of my being. But some part of me believed I wanted my father. And the only reason for this was so I would fit in with society, so I wouldn’t have to explain to people my choice.
It wasn’t until the night before my wedding that I solidified my decision. My dad called me to say he wouldn’t be attending the wedding (simply because of pride, if I'm honest). When he said that, I don't think it was supposed to hurt as much as it did. But it did. Inside I was crying, I'm only human.
In hindsight, however, I think this was for the best. Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest moments in your life. For me it was. It’s a day I will never forget. We invited the people whom we wanted to be there and we did things our way, which in today’s society is extremely difficult. It wouldn’t have been right for my father to walk me down the aisle, no matter what society dictates as the norm. My mother took care of me and has contributed words of wisdom to the woman I've become.
I would have rather walk down the aisle by myself than let my father (who has no idea how I survived) walk me. Men can't have the privilege without the responsibility. From research, it's clear that the men of old took care of their family, so they deserved it — hence, the tradition. But my opinion is that if women are stepping up to the plate nowadays and doing "a man’s job" of taking care of the family, they should definitely see it as their right to give their daughters away.
I believe the privilege belongs to the one who has been responsible for your upkeep, simple as that!
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I’m 24 years old. When I think about what my grandparents and great grandparents were doing at my age, there are three things that come to mind, getting married, having kids and providing for those kids by any means necessary. And although times have certainly changed and many of today’s millennials are tabling the idea of starting a family in pursuit of professional aspirations and personal fulfillment, talk of marriage and kids still finds its way into everyday conversation. Like each of you, I have my opinions on the matter, but I’ve found that it’s a shared fear, rather than the differences in opinions, that’s causing some to reconsider the idea of starting a family. It’s the debilitating fear of raising the next generation of black men and women in what’s a far cry from the utopian post-racial society that many argue exists today. With headline after headline describing the all-too-familiar scenario of an unarmed black youth dead as a result of racially-charged violence, it’s no wonder we’re not rushing to claim the responsibility and heartache that comes with parenthood.
One could argue that our parents — while denied many of the opportunities and luxuries we’ve been afforded — compartmentalized this fear well enough to breathe life and love into our very existence. But it’d be naive to think that this fear didn’t consume them anytime we left the confines of the meticulously-crafted environment they provided for us. It’s the unconditional love, learned trust and inevitable fear that makes parenting a non-stop rollercoaster ride of emotions.
But what do I know? I’m a single, 24 year old woman with no kids. So, I thought I’d ask a subject matter expert. Known for playing some of the most iconic black father figures in Hollywood, Delroy Lindo is also the loving and devoted father to a 14-year old son. Fourteen: the same age as Emmett Till when he was brutally murdered, three years shy of Travyon Martin when he was tragically shot and killed, and the start of the most informative and impressionable years in a young person's life. I sat down with Lindo to discuss the rollercoaster ride that is raising a young black man in today’s America — the excitement, the fear and everything in between.
| Children are the clothes of men. - Yoruba proverb |
Kayla Conti: You’re known for portraying some of the most iconic black father figures in Hollywood. Films like Crooklyn, Romeo Must Die and most recently This Christmas come to mind. Did your on-screen roles influence your outlook on parenthood?
Delroy Lindo: When I did Crooklyn and Romeo Must Die, I was not a parent. We found out we were having our son when I was filming Heist in 2001, so I didn’t have any context when doing those earlier films. However, since becoming a parent, I have indirectly applied the fact that I’m a father to my work. One immediately looks at the world in much broader terms — it is no longer about me, but rather how what I’m doing will affect my child. Becoming a parent has influenced the type of work I take.
KC: Would you say you’ve seen your approach to acting change since becoming a parent?
DL: Oh, absolutely! For instance, I was recently on location in Park City, Utah for about six months and I made it a priority to come home as much and as often as possible; almost every weekend. I needed to come home for my son’s school events and basketball games — it was a priority. Had I not been a parent, I’m not sure I would have come home as often. Being present is the issue, because when I come home, I have to be dad and disciplinarian. There’s the physical, the psychological and emotional aspect of being present and it’s the small things like taking him to school in the morning that really mean a lot. Projects that allow for that type of flexibility are important to me.
KC: When you and your wife decided to start a family, did you have any preconceived notions about the differences between raising a son vs. raising a daughter?
DL: I didn’t think about it beforehand, but when your child is born and in my case, when I had a son, I became increasingly aware of the differences. Going back to the fictitious father I played in Crooklyn, I remember telling Spike [Lee] years later that those kids scared me. I really wanted them to like me in such a way that we could work well together and create a believable onscreen family. But I did indeed, throughout our rehearsal process and particularly at the beginning of filming, have a certain kind of fear that the kids playing my onscreen children wouldn’t like me. And honestly, I’ve always felt that fear caused me not to be as free and relaxed in the work as I would have liked. When one becomes a parent, certainly there’s still fear, but it’s a different kind of fear. There’s no playbook [for parenting], so on some level you have to respond as fully and as competently in the moment as you can and hope to God that you’re making the right decision. I’ve been very aware of when I’ve made a mistakes and I quickly try to correct them — I know I’m not perfect.
KC: So when you found out you were having a son, what were you most excited about?
DL: When we found out we were having a boy, my wife said “he will be born in order to teach you something as a man.” I remember her saying that and accepting it, not knowing the nature of the challenges and tests that were ahead. Her statement has proven true. This has been an ever-evolving process of trial and error for me.
KC: Flash forward to the present. What keeps you up at night when you think about raising your son?
DL: I’m concerned about the world he’s growing up in. It’s open season on young black men and that terrifies me. If ever young black men have had to comport themselves in a way that allows them to represent themselves well, I feel that even more acutely for my sons’ generation than that of my own, and no matter how well he does this, he’ll always be judged. But that has nothing to do with him or who he is and everything to do with how outside forces respond to who he is as a young black man. But at the same time, I’m also very excited and appreciative of the man he’s growing up to be.
KC: Do you think he understands the weight of that concern?
DL: No, and why should he? He’s only fourteen. It’s unfair to expect a young person to understand these things. I think more and more he’s learning to understand it, but when I think back to when I was his age, I, too, had trouble processing and understanding the things I was experiencing.
|Give advice; if people don’t listen, let adversity teach them. - Ethiopian proverb |
KC: Given the unique role of black fathers in America, did any of the male figures in your family pass down lessons or words of wisdom as you got older?
DL: My father didn’t raise me. When I look back on the few times he did come into my life, the experiences generally were not positive. However, those encounters showed me and taught me very clearly what not to do with my own son. For that I am very very deeply grateful. And when I look at the differences in how I’m raising my son, the hole inside me that represents my father’s absence makes me doubly appreciative of the fact that my son will never have to experience that. It enhances my awareness as a parent and reinforces the positive things I bring to my son. Sometimes it’s the missing pieces that are the most instructive.
KC: What have been some of the most powerful lessons you’ve learned from your son?
DL: I’m trying to be about the business of reconstructing how I respond in given instances because I know he’s watching me. If I respond badly in a given situation, I try as frequently as I can, though admittedly not 100% of the time, to stop and say “what daddy just did was wrong and here’s why.” I’m not perfect, but that’s an example of how his presence has impacted me. I’m aware of certain aspects of my personality that I have to reign in and modify. I no longer have the luxury of responding to things a certain way because I’m now directly responsible for another life.
KC: Thinking about the role that technology — access to information and social media — plays in your son’s life, especially as a young millennial. How are you navigating this evolving frontier?
DL: It’s scary! I’m very much in the process of negotiating it as we speak. I understand clearly that his generation has more access to information and different kinds of information that I ever did. I have to try as much as possible to work in tandem with him, regarding his interaction with social media; because obviously, it won’t work for me to somehow try and withhold that access from him. In a perfect world, I hope to instill in my son a certain set values so that he will conduct himself as responsibly as he’s able, vis-à-vis the type of technology he will be exposed to and overwhelmed with. I hope these values will stand him in good stead as he develops in relation to this new technology. The values I instill in him are a large part of what I have to offer him as his dad. My wife and I tell [him] and his friends constantly that once you put it on the internet, it’s out there forever. Your technological footprint and how you interact with this technology will have major impacts on your future, personally and in your careers. That’s what we tell them. More and more, employers are checking into the technological footprints of prospective employees. Black kids are already going to have obstacles placed in front of them just based on who they are and how they’re perceived or misperceived. So it’s ever more critically important that they’re aware of the impacts of this footprint.
| We have to give our children, especially black boys, something to lose. Children make foolish choices when they have nothing to lose. - Jawanza Kunjufu |
KC: I want to switch gears and specifically address race, since that’s been the underlying facet of this conversation. What was the first conversation you had with your son about race?
DL: My son was called the n-word in elementary school by a fellow student — he was 6. That’s the first conversation I recall having with him. I was out of town when it happened and my wife called me, so I was hearing the circumstance of the story over the phone. I felt helpless. Initially there's the rage and anger, but it’s so much more than that. When I came home, that was when I had the conversation with him and it was heartbreaking. When these sorts of things happen, it’s often the parents that hold on to the anger more so than the child. He sensed that it was wrong, but even at that age his character allowed him to let it go and move forward. I’d like to believe that my son is aware that he’s eminently worthy — he’s educated, well-traveled — and while it may not be conscious at this point in his life, he has a broad understanding of the world. In part because of how my wife and I are raising him, but also the experiences we’ve afford him. I hope he understands that he’s worthy as a young black man and that he doesn’t succumb to any insecurities around that.
KC: How do you think today’s generation has to think about race differently from those of generations past?
DL: Some things have stayed the same and some things have regressed. There are some aspects of race and racial dynamics that are as entrenched as ever, and while they may manifest themselves differently, they still show up. We may no longer be hung from trees, but the murders and violence that we see today, against young black men in particular, are an outgrowth of this open season mentality I spoke about earlier. There’s a racial pathology behind why these things are still continuing to happen in the 21st century and while I recognize the progress we’ve made, I’m also very aware of the entrenchment of certain racial dynamics. Young people need to understand this cycle and remain extremely vigilant.
KC: When you think about your son ten or twenty years from now, what do you want him to remember and pass down to his children?
DL: To never ever ever forget the tenet that says, 'you have to work harder and remember to comport yourself in a way that allows you to be represented in an exemplary manner.' [This] will never not be the case for young black men and women and they will never not be critically important to your value and self worth.
|Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. - James Baldwin |
This post is dedicated to black fathers past, present and future. May you feel loved and supported, and most of all, may your strength and wisdom continue to uplift generations to come. Happy Father’s Day!
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Let's talk about our daddy issues. Come on, we all have at least one. Better still, let’s talk about fatherhood, because after this weekend and if the media has its way, the man who helped bring you into this world will no doubt fall back into the shadows once more.
During my childhood and that of many young, black males of my generation, the relatable faces we saw as we lay spread-eagled in front of the television were the likes of Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Desmond’s (Barbershop) and Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show).
From a young age I grew up without a father. He was unlawfully murdered when I was only a few months old. Male role models in our household were, unfortunately, thin on the ground. My mother had a limited support network due to migrating from Trinidad to England in 1969, so she turned to keeping us active through extra curricular activities such as school social groups, Scouts and football summer camps.
As Father's Day approaches, I am stepping out from the 'status quo' in that we not only celebrate fathers but we evolve a little and celebrate all male role models, godfathers, uncles and men who actively provide guidance, support and teach these young leaders of the future.
Father’s day is never rightly appreciated as much as Mother's Day by the media, retailers and society in general. Any plaudits appear to be isolated and low-key token gestures of gratitude as the media continues to focus on the negative stereotypes of black fathers, using damaging anecdotes such as 'they are invisible within the family unit' and at best 'glorified babysitters.’ So, to advance the revolution to create a new black stereotype and show men as motivated fathers who deserve to be recognised, I am sharing a collection of photographs captured during time spent with three active fathers.
I'm not disregarding the issues we as a black community are dealing with around young adults growing up without fathers/role models in the home. Nor am I ignoring the problems developed from young men leaving education early to engage in crime from an early age, which compounds this issue further.
If people are only exposed to only stereotypes of black fathers, this is all they will believe and continue to perpetuate, creating a model which will keep this everlasting loop of solecism.
Stereotypes are, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie aptly describes them...
These men are all motivated black fathers and role models in their own right. However, they seem, in part, to be invisible to the media. As you look around during the days preceding Father’s Day, just look and see how many advertisements, news articles and blogs show pictures or share the perspective of a black father.
"If people are only exposed to so-called stereotypes of black fathers, this is all they will believe and continue to perpetuate"
These men have fully embraced their responsibilities as a parent and work daily to maintain and develop their relationships with their children. They assign a level of importance to nurture, be present and dispel damaging stereotypes by being a man their child can proudly call Daddy.
All images available on Instagram www.instagram.com/nbsldn/ Photos: Kiran Cox (@kiranbcox) & Jessica Hope (@jess_hope_shoots). This is the newest collection of photos from The New Black Stereotype London (NBSLDN), a movement inspired by The New Stereotype.
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Dad, thank you for making me ignorant. Thank you for depriving me of that first-hand knowledge. I never learned what it would feel like to have a father who voluntarily spent more time making me than raising me. Even though you were also singed by racism that affects people to varying degrees and can sometimes literally burn people alive, I know that I am fortunate that the “heat of oppression” never evaporated your sense of your own flesh and blood.
Instead, you gave me fishing on sunny days, an interest in sports, and help with science fair projects about friction and plants. And when I got straight As, you gave me handshakes. After all, that was what you expected.
Growing up in the majority-black public school system of Prince George’s County, Maryland, I never had a full-time black male teacher in an academic subject in elementary, middle, or high school, but I had you, a PhD in biochemistry who embraced three other letters even more closely: 'Dad.' I know that I was lucky to have a father who was actually put on a school-to-lab pipeline rather than the school-to-prison pipeline which can be so viscerally heart-wrenching as to separate even loving fathers from their own DNA.
Thanks to you, I can't fully imagine what it’s like to be one of the many black children who are starving for concrete evidence that people who look like them can excel in school or praying for personal counterweights to the idea that academic success is bleach, i.e., the better you do in school, the whiter you become. Before I had ever heard of stereotype threat, I subconsciously learned from your example that I could do well in school because of — not despite — my blackness.
Thank you for putting up with me as well.
I remember when you were helping me with a science fair project in elementary school and you wanted me to pose for a picture, which would eventually be placed on my science fair project backboard. I think I was getting antsy, so I said, “This isn’t a fashion show.” You had to raise your voice at me, but I posed for the picture and I learned my lesson. Or at least I thought I did.
It's not until I really think about it now as I write this essay that I recognize how foolish I was to complain about your fatherly photography when far too many dads act as if their kids are Medusa’s strange clones; as if one look at their children would turn them to stone, stop them dead in their tracks and force them to reflect on the true meaning of their manhood. There I was, grumbling about taking a science fair picture under your guidance when many kids never actually get a chance to see eye-to-eye with their fathers at all.
Several children might even feel that their fathers are experimenting on them to see what happens when you plant a seed, give it plenty of time to water itself with the tears of loneliness, and, with clinical precision, deprive it of the beaming pride of a father. Granted, with a superhuman mother, grandparent, and/or community’s touch, some resilient seeds are able to thrive like roses that grow from concrete. However, the absentee scientists in these trials often fail to realize that just as one needs to take care of a plant in order to benefit from the essential oxygen that it produces, fathers must nurture their children if they really want to be within breathing distance of vital respect from outside and within.
Unlike other men, you didn't run away from your planted nation like a slave wearing track shoes. You did not view me as something that would restrict your freedom. To the contrary, you treated me as a crucial part of life. And for that, I thank you today and always.
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The child support conversation (if one can call it that) frequently rears it's ugly head on Twitter. Sometimes it's as a result of a celebrity case, such as Future vs Ciara, Wiz vs Amber or some other high profile situation that we are all pretty far removed from. (Also ignoring the cost of living as a celeb, nannies and private schools...but #sleep.)
The crux of the argument is that moms/mothers/baby mamas don't deserve to be given child support for multitude of reasons. As a person charged with raising a human being - I feel like I have some insight to educate people once and for all.
Child Support shouldn't even go to the mother it should go to an account that nobody can touch except the child when they turn 18
— 3kFilms (@toys3k) June 8, 2016
Before I begin, let me preemptively say this: Yes, there are bad moms out there. But they are no more the representation for all single moms than deadbeat dads represent all fathers.
So let's break it down.
I'm going to skip pregnancy costs for a reason. People are very excited to give you things while you're pregnant, usually tiny adorable clothes that they grow out of within a couple of weeks. High ticket items such as a stroller, car seat and crib can cost hundreds of dollars at minimum. It's funny to me how people want mothers to bargain and spend less on tiny humans than they do on Yeezy’s they don't need. But I digress.
Baby is here! Yay! Hopefully, you've stocked up on diapers (they go through about 10 per day), wipes, and if you aren't able to or don't want to breastfeed, formula. The cost of formula is about $35-45 per tin, which lasts about three or four days. So actual math tells us that formula alone can run you about $245 per month.
Sure, you can go for a Walmart brand of diapers over Pampers, but if they leak through those (like my kid with Huggies) you make up costs in laundry. Which, if you don't have it in-house, has now also tripled (You have your regular load, your spit up load and your kiddos load). Oh, and don’t forget that you shouldn’t use regular detergent on newborn clothes.
If you breastfeed, the baby eats what you do. So you love spice? Forget it. Made a batch of chili in the slow-cooker? Good luck with that. You wanna eat healthy like you were forced to do during pregnancy? Anyone that grocery shops knows the price of real, healthy foods. But who has time to cook while you're a sleep-deprived mom of a newborn? Often your takeout budget will also skyrocket.
The infancy stage is the end of the honeymoon period. You might still have grandma to thank for some adorable clothes, but unless you have a great village around you, you're trying to figure out which clothes your kid grows out of quickly and which ones fall apart after one wash. Your child will start eating real food too. Great, right? Most infants are still breastfed and some still on formula when they start solids. Whether those purees are made or bought in jars, your food costs go up again. And remember, they're still in diapers at this stage (sweet-potato-colored poop anyone?) at around five per day.
Oh, and if you're in America you've returned to work by now. So welcome to the awesome world of daycare fees. Parents are charged more for younger kids because they require more care. The average cost of daycare is around $900/month (depending on your location). If your rent is also $900, you've spent $1,800 and not fed or diapered a soul.
Children can now have the occasional happy meal. They can walk, run (safety gates!) and talk. They get into things. They need toys and books to learn and grow (Yes, toys help them to learn). You might decide to put them in activities. They decide to have growth spurts (my 3-year-old is in 5T pants...). You gotta get them ready for school. They no longer fly for free. Up until last year, they weren't free on the public transit here either.
School-age until official adulthood
Clothes. School supplies. Field trips. Occasional treats. Birthday gifts for all their newfound friends. Birthday parties. Extra-curricular activities. Food. Growth spurts. Puberty (pads/tampons). Laundry. Groceries. Dentist. Glasses. Medical emergency. Braces. Hair.
All these things are just the bare minimum of raising a well-rounded human being — a costly expense that is cute but costly. This is ON TOP of regular bills such as rent, car payments, hydro/gas/water, cell service, cable, internet, etc.
Sometimes, you get tired of looking and feeling ragged so you get your nails done because that $35 for manicure isn’t going to break the bank. (Despite the fact that you still feel guilty about it). Or you get your hair done so that you can actually look presentable and remain employed, not because you're attending a gala. Because your pay went toward that unexpected child cost, you use some child support or baby bonus money — sometimes the accounting just works out that way. The child might not have new clothes from Instagram because child support went toward keeping the lights on.
Let’s put it another way — watch any home renovation show. Homeowners get upset when money has to be put toward electrical costs, plumbing or fixing foundation, the stuff that is VITAL FOR COMFORT AND SAFETY but isn't seen and isn't sexy or cute. Insulation or a new kitchen? What use is that new kitchen if your house is freezing in the winter and your heating bills are through the roof?
If I didn’t have a child, I wouldn’t need a two-bedroom apartment. I wouldn’t have daycare and child-related fees. A car wouldn’t be a necessity. Life is a heckuva lot cheaper when you are childless. Let certain people on Twitter tell it, though, and women are just looking for a come-up and to use the pittance to make it rain on some hoes in the club.
In the end, I know this will mostly fall on deaf ears. People see what they want and believe as they need to. Usually it's to assuage their own guilt and help them sleep at night.
I'm a single mom that has gone to bed hungry and has cheated transit out of some coin just to get to work. I've gotten up at ungodly hours and worked them as well. I've lugged my son in the rain and taken taxis in the extreme cold. I've considered $900/month schooling when daycare options were limited. I've looked around my house to sell things for a quick injection of cash. I've cashed in my retirement plan when on stress leave from work. I've taken my son to work when there were no babysitting options. I've spent $130 just to go to the movies.
The quiet, hidden sacrifices made on a daily basis are part of the package of becoming a parent. So child support is a small (in most cases) piece in helping make the best possible decisions for the child. I’d argue to call it FAMILY support, because it’s going to support the family. If the parent isn’t doing well, the child can't flourish.
I don't expect applause, sympathy or pity as a single parent. But I don't accept the vitriol and blame either. As long as it takes two to create a child, the responsibility should fall on two to build them up.
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On a day just like any other, @SINice posted an innocent tweet about his confusion as to why a father would paint his daughter's toenails, when she has female relatives. He isn't a father, so it's almost understandable that he's confused, but misogyny was just written all over this. Do you think that Twitter cared about him not having children?
In proper clap-back fashion, Twitter blew up his mentions with anti-misogynistic parenting lessons.
Exhibit A: the tweet that got class started
I just don't understand this personally. Why would I do this for my daughter when her mama or aunties can? pic.twitter.com/ZmDqTpTSvw
— King Ratch-It Ralph (@SINice) April 5, 2016
Some questioned the logic behind his thinking
@SINice WHY?! WHHHYYY?! Do y'all niggas make post these like and then say it ain't about masculinity when it CLEARLY IS!!!
— Trans-Vaginal Mesh (@Booda911) April 5, 2016
@SINice If your 3 yo daughter walked up to you with a bottle of nail polish and said, "Daddy will you paint my nails?" you'll say no. Why?
— Mother Bae I (@tiersaj) April 5, 2016
@SINice @tiersaj if ur comfortable in your masculinity I don't see why u would care...
— Messy Danii (@theheauxinpink) April 5, 2016
Others opened his eyes to the reality that not all daughters have mothers
@SINice what if hes a single father? wouldnt you want him to make his daughter feel like a girl? he has to take on the mom role if she aint
— ƙ ɛ ɱ ɱ ı ı ❣ (@Kem_NOT_Kim) April 5, 2016
@SINice maybe if you're the only one in her life? Or she asks for you personally 😂
— dariana (@deeeezus) April 5, 2016
The patient ones gave examples of how real parents parent
@SINice It means something to her. Why not bond with her in the way she prefers? I dgaf about legos, but I still play with my son.
— Mother Bae I (@tiersaj) April 5, 2016
@SINice if my son asks me to walk him to the men's bathroom, guess where I'm going ?
— She's Something Else (@missmeraki) April 5, 2016
(with a mini-lesson on how to be a good husband as well)
@SINice my husband is literally painting our daughter's toes right now and just painted mine 😁 pic.twitter.com/1fYaKX9pvk
— haleigh (@mamahailz) April 6, 2016
Not before getting to the real reason why this is necessary
Cuz you the 1st man ya daughter will ever love.. Set the tone for how she should be forever treated https://t.co/yVYLgT5K36
— Kev (@DonOf_NikeTown) April 5, 2016
Because what's the point of being a father, if you're not here for father-daughter duties?
@SINice Because she wants you too?
— Mother Bae I (@tiersaj) April 5, 2016
He'll probably never question fatherhood on Twitter again.
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Author's note: I'm not sure how far this will reach or how many of you reading this will follow it through to the end. It is a piece that requires a deep sense of sensitivity and attention I feel many of us lack. We are stirred by something only to forget about it as soon as it leaves our attention. I'm hoping to spark something in you that moves you to action, whatever that may be.
Has anyone else noticed a spike in fathers taking their children’s mothers to court for custody of their kids? Men are doing this and they are winning. From what I can tell, some are experiencing victories not necessarily because they deserve to win more than they have the resources to sway things in their favor. Some of the more recent cases include Dwyane Wade and Siohvaughn Funches, Usher and Tameka Raymond, Chris Bridges (Ludacris) and Tamika Fuller, Pilar and Deion Sanders, and Norma Mitchell and Tyrese Gibson.
Before I go further I want to acknowledge that every instance is different. I don't know any of these people I’m speaking on, therefore, I’m dealing with a small amount of information I’ve gathered from articles, videos and essays discovered on the Internet. Please do not take my account of them as gospel.
With that being said, these women and I appear to have a lot in common, as I, too, am battling for my children against their father in a court of law.
What do these men have in common? They are celebrities/entertainment personalities. They’ve all taken their children’s mothers to court and won custody of their children or attempted to do so while attacking the women’s credibility as a mother and accusing them of mental instability.
My children’s father is also attempting to take my children from me.
We aren’t celebrities, though he does have a reasonable following as a hip-hop personality. He’s not rich but he definitely has more money than me and is using his money to bully me in court.
How is this even allowed to happen? I mean, there are really phenomenal fathers out there who love their children deeply. There are some fathers who make better nurturers than some mothers. There are some children who are probably better off with their fathers for various reasons. My argument is not that fathers don't have the capacity to love and care for children. My argument is that these fathers are being allowed to take their anger and frustration out on the mothers with the help of the legal system.
Some of the women have spoken out about being bullied by their men with money and celebrity. They have made accusations of abuse. Some have gone broke trying to fight bitter men in a system that seeks to gain from the misfortune of the people it has been entrusted to serve and protect. It’s a sick game.
I find it all highly disturbing for many reasons:
The children are used like pawns in a chess game by the men and the courts.
Men are using the system to bully and attack the mothers in an effort to gain power and control over her and the children.
Their actions in some cases aren’t of true love for the children and desire for harmony within the family but only to destroy her and make sure he doesn't have to support her financially.
The lawyers, especially on the side of the fathers, are only interested in how much money they can earn as a result of representing the fathers. There is no real concern for the children.
The children are TRAUMATIZED in the end!
The ironic thing is that this is what many women have been doing to men for years, using the system as an act of revenge to attack the father of their children. But it’s been mostly achieved against men who are poor or gullible because, according to author and researcher Phyllis Chesler, as stated in Tamika Fuller’s essay, “For more than 5,000 years, men (fathers) were legally entitled to sole custody of their children. Women (mothers) were obliged to bear, to rear, and economically support children. Mothers were never legally entitled to custody of their own children.” In other words, the men losing the battles against bitter "baby mamas" have been lazy, miseducated, or not really interested in being a father anyway.
There are definitely cases where women have taken men to court because they refuse to assume responsibility for their children, and I am definitely not attempting to demonize theses instances. Sometimes, as I’ve learned the hard way, court is necessary and helpful. My concern is that the family court system is similar to other court systems in that they are dysfunctional and seek to serve the players in the system and not the families seeking help!
The courts appear to only be interested in the money they can make from the legal fees necessary to support the duel between the parents.
The system is a “one size fits all” system shuffling the children through a standard process of mediation and minimal evaluation that supposedly seeks to discover more information helpful in determining the court’s decision but, it’s not really that helpful. This has been my experience, anyway. My children have no true representation of their own.
I think it all speaks to the lack of integrity in the justice system. Not all lawyers are bad. Not all judges are wrong, but the system by its very nature is failing many of us.
Society is patriarchal and patriarchy is man’s attempt to usurp divine law by instructing nature instead of taking instruction from her. Patriarchy has socialized men to be so dangerously insecure that some believe their power comes from the dominance, possession and control of people and things.
Patriarchy has bred PEOPLE to be misogynistic — this is true for both men and women — and our misogyny runs deep.
It's interwoven within every part of our society, from religion to hip-hop. Our men have been taught women are disposable when we are no longer a benefit to them. We are disposable once we cannot be controlled by them. This is the behavior men display when attempting to separate their children from their mothers for no solid reason other than to bruise their egos and to break their hearts.
My ex is a musician, and a dedicated one. Understand, musical projects aren’t sensitive to 'normal' people hours. His job is not a 9-to-5, it’s a 'whenever inspiration calls' job. Although he's exercising his legal right to primary custody of our children, he keeps third parties in place to care for them. He travels all the time and keeps late studio hours. We were together just shy of 10 years. I was always the constant presence in our children’s lives when he was traveling and working. Because of his need to hurt me, our children, over the past year and a half, have been without either of us consistently. This enrages me to my core that he would rather this fate for them instead of putting forth effort to work with me. He knows what it’s like to be without a mother as his maternal mother died when he was 10. Why he would want a similar fate for his children is BEYOND me.
He has a hard time being logical and compassionate at the same time. Compassion would inform his heart of the truth that our children are probably best rooted with one of their parents while the other is away. At any rate, the court is supporting this while I lose time with our children and money to support them.
Like Tamika Fuller, Ludacris’ daughter’s mother, I am experiencing financial hardship as a result of fighting for the right to keep my children. I am an entrepreneur in the business of teaching and empowering women (go figure), but also a PhD student in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is not an inexpensive place to live. I am holding on by a string, paying lawyer fees and keeping my head above water with living expenses.
My ex is also badgering me about child support when he makes well over six figures. It’s baffling to me the lengths these men will go to prove a point to us women who have given our bodies, hearts, and souls to give birth to a part of them. Where is the dignity? Where is the compassion and respect for the womb? Do they feel so powerless in life they that they must use the power of the court to assert their egos? It's as if the power of the court is an extension of their own false power. Real men who love their babies would never attempt to separate their children from their mothers unless she is a REAL danger to them.
Meanwhile, these men will cry foul while they are also throwing abuse. It’s crazy disappointing to hear women crying about being abused or threatened by men they love and allowed themselves to be vulnerable with, men they faced death for while giving birth to their children, only to watch others go hard to turn those women into liars. Sometimes other women can be the most vicious, attacking women for speaking against their abusers. People can be quick to call a woman out for being a gold digger, accusing her of fabricating her victimhood for the pursuit of personal gain. We saw it all day with the Bill Cosby scandal.
Sometimes the suspicions are spot on, though. I innerstand the reasons for skepticism, as some women seek time and attention of wealthy men in hopes of getting knocked up and turning a child into a monthly allowance. These women have no real desire of cultivating themselves enough to attract a man who cannot deny their magnetism and therefore have no qualms with planting his seed in her, no qualms about supporting their family. I get it.
But there are those of us who know our worth and have cultivated ourselves enough to know we deserve wealthy, ambitious men with the power of leadership as our mates and fathers to our children. Why would any healthy woman want anything less for herself or bloodline?
When we tell you we’ve been abused, please believe us. Do not go out of your way to discredit us. Our men have been socialized to be abusive to us, so it’s more baffling to me that the burden lies on the woman to prove her accusations, no matter who she is, than it is on the man to prove his innocence.
I love what Norma Mitchell, Tyrese’s ex-wife, had to say about men and their abuse of power and money: “A lot of men with money and more power, especially with passive women, are using the legal system to abuse these women. Then they can point the finger and say, ‘Look at her, she’s crazy,’ because one day you just explode and can’t take it anymore.”
I can definitely empathize with her words. My ex is claiming to the court that I’m mentally unstable. Well, I say to his claim, “Show me a mother who has been stripped of her children and I’ll show you rage that will make you believe she’s insane.”
My ex might not have the capacity for compassion, so I'll do my best to hold enough for the both of us. I have compassion for him because I know his decisions are damn near not his own. He, like most men, is a slave to his emotions. He, like most men, has been taught to suppress his emotions lest he be soft and feminine. Our men are so emotionally suppressed, the only things they know to do when their hearts hurt or are in danger of being hurt is attack and annihilate the 'source' of the pain. When all hell breaks loose, their emotions manage them, and they come for you with one goal — dominate and conquer.
What have your experiences been? Share your story with me in the comments below.
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