disease of ďfather hungerĒ that is currently running rampant
in the black community is to be healed, then surely the
antidote lies in having conscientious, caring fathers and
other men available to ďtattoo their history and spiritĒ on
the lives of this current generation.
reality is that responsible fathers or father figures who
are also parents, caretakers or relatives are in short
supply. The good news is that there exists overlooked
ďfather resourcesĒ from outside of the family including the
areas of work, education, religion and others.
week, in my month long exploration of how the lives of local
men have been impacted by the relationship with their
fathers, I had the privilege of speaking with Brother
Washington Muhammad. Brother Washington is a dad, husband of
28 years, and describes himself as a man ďthat has found his
calling for planning and organizing in the realm of social
that of many men, Muhammadís experience calls attention to
the critical importance of non-kinship father figures who
live outside of the household.
What memories do you have of your father as a youth?
Like a lot of other young boys, I had my dad living with me
from infancy to maybe the sixth grade, and I think thatís
when my mom and dad broke up. They got back together maybe
four years later, but for my dad, there werenít a lot of sit
down talks or teaching moments. But what I did get a chance
to see was how he and my mom interacted and to see how they
reconciled some of their differences. I got a chance to see
how, if they did have an argument, they tried not to have it
in front of us or if it started in front of us they would
have us go to another room or upstairs. So I never really
had that father-type figure, and I think maybe the closest
thing to a father figure that I may have had was when the
minister of our mosque was Charles Muhammad.
Charles Muhammad served as my dad and this is probably the
first time that Iíve even talked about him as a dad. Up
until now, I just looked at him up as an executive director
at work and minister at the mosque, and I never thought of
him in that category as a dad or male role model that I
pattern things after.
Talk about Mr. Muhammadís influence on your life.
I met him when I was maybe 30 years old and I worked with
him for maybe 15-18 years and that experience showed me that
you donít have to lie or fudge your records and that the
greatest example you can give is by providing people with
the truthful representation of who you are. He was a father
figure for me in modeling integrity and modeling character.
though he had an extensive education, he still lived in a
very modest house next to everyone else. And although he
could have easily chosen to do something else, at the end of
the day he spent his life giving to young people through his
What are some of the lasting lessons you learned?
I learned that as a man your emotional, psychological and
physical components of your life have to be aligned. He was
a really good example to me on how you balance those things
as a black male and avoiding some of those stereotypes that
you might get for being angry, from being a loose cannon or
shooting from the hip or trying to be more charismatic than
him always handle and treat people in the highest regard no
matter who they were or where they came from. So when Iím
striving to organize in the community, I do the same. I
donít need to add swear words or insults or anything like
that and I find myself using similar tools that he used.
Iíve never seen him be a chameleon in order to serve people,
you just give people the best of what you have, and thatís
what I do. Thatís what at least I try to do.
What other positive memories from a father figure or mentor
from your childhood can you share?
One of the highlights that I did have as a child, I stayed
right across the street from Les Brownís family in Columbus,
Ohio. Les Brown, the famous motivational speaker. At the
time, Brown was a young radio DJ in Columbus, Ohio and a
part of a lot of community oriented things that were going
on. And whenever there was something downtown that he felt
that young people needed to experience or have a voice, he
would invite us and drive some of us there. I had to be
maybe 9 or 10 years old then and he has always been someone
in our community that would make an attempt to talk to us,
say some words to us. It was just remarkable that we
actually had Les Brown, the DJ, running our neighborhood.
Weíd hear him on the radio and here he is in person, talking
to us, telling us to do this and do that. I had no other
adult males in my life that were good for the young children
in our family.
So what advice do you have for young men of today who are
attempting to be fathers?
I think its important to let young men know I understand
youíre in the struggle just like I am, raising sons or
raising daughters that may or not be what you thought they
should be. When in reality these are not our children
anyway, they donít belong to us, theyíve been given to us on
loan and at one point God is going to come back and check on
us to see what we did with his angels. So being a dad, just
recognizing that youíve been given charge of something that
if you misuse it, you could suffer the consequences.
about if someone decided to borrow my car and when they
bring it back Iím going to be like the guys at Enterprise
Rental Car, Iím gonna check it out, make sure there ainít no
scratches, make sure thereís no dents because it wasnít your
car, I loaned it to you. Now think about our children.
When they were given to us, they were beautiful. Now, we
can leap frog 25 or 35 years, what happens when God decides
to come back and just check on things; to see if there are
any marks; See if thereís any bruises, any dents, any
dings? They were perfect when they were given them to us.
So Iíve got some work to do, because I know He may be coming
soon. I at least want to give my boys a really good script
so at least they can say something.
Secondly, fathers should aspire to be that positive example
that you want your sons and daughters to be. Weíre not
perfect as dads because, for all of our children, itís the
first time that we were ever the fathers of them, so we
donít get a do-over. So, weíre going to make some mistakes,
make some errors.
recommendation is to become actively involved in your
childrenís lives. That is key. I just canít assume that my
wifeís got it. Iíve got to be actively and intimately
involved in their lives the same way Iím involved in the
life of my car. Iím looking at when the sticker that they
put on for oil change, Iím looking at that. Iím looking at
my odometer. Iím involved with when the mayflies start
coming in May and now Iím going to have to get the car
washed. Iím intimately involved in all of that. So thatís
the advice that I would give; be patient and reintroduce
yourself to your children every year. As they grow, he or
she is new or different than they were, so get to know them
as if you never knew them and youíll be able to stay up to
Finally, what lessons have you tried to impress upon the
hearts and minds of your own children?
I want them to know that I am a lover of God, and that helps
to keep my boundaries in place just in case I hear too much
applause or have unreasonable attention given to me. Iím
proud that Iíve tried to be an example for them that they
can be better than I am and I think I have achieved that for
them, and now that they can become men and experience life
as adult men.
Thatís Blessed! Thank you.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at