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Fathers On Call

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.
The Truth Contributor

  Ö  answer the s.o.s., save our sons with f.o.c., fathers on call. We are sacred answers for the deserted hearts of boys becoming men.

                - Haki Madhubuti 


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

If the 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.

The 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.

This 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 justice.Ē

Like that of many men, Muhammadís experience calls attention to the critical importance of non-kinship father figures who live outside of the household.

Perryman: What memories do you have of your father as a youth?

Muhammad:  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.

So 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.

Perryman: Talk about Mr. Muhammadís influence on your life.

Muhammad: 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. 

Even 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 nonprofit. 

Perryman: What are some of the lasting lessons you learned?

Muhammad: 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 competent.

I saw 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. 

Perryman: What other positive memories from a father figure or mentor from your childhood can you share?

Muhammad: 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. 

Perryman: So what advice do you have for young men of today who are attempting to be fathers?

Muhammad: 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. 

Think 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. 

Another 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 date. 

Perryman: Finally, what lessons have you tried to impress upon the hearts and minds of your own children?

Muhammad: 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.

Perryman: Thatís Blessed! Thank you.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:09 -0700.



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