NYU, Boy Bye Pt. 3   by Chris Richardson   I escaped from my desk and sought refuge in a bank of half booths along the back wall of the cafe. Above me is a hand drawn mural that speaks about providing a context for people to use their talents to the fullest.  I’m sucked in by the repetition of small tweaks and changes to a marketing flier I’m working on. Blissfully allowing the time to slip away. Absorbing the alone time and ignoring the insistent chime of the holiday music.  Brief conversations with the chaplain, nods and waves to familiar faces and quick Facebook checks provide a little distraction.  A notification pops up on my phone. It’s from Fordham University stating that a decision is ready to be viewed online. This message is not for me. It’s for my son. I have all of his emails forwarded to me so I can keep an eye on him. I’m sure he has an alternate email for things he wants to hide but if he wants to get himself in trouble, I’m going to make it as hard as possible for him.  The email reminds me that today is the 15th of December. The day when all the early decisions are being distributed. A bit of nervousness sets in.  New York University and Columbia. The top two schools he wants. He wants out of North Carolina and into a big city where he can have all the opportunities his multi-talented mindset can dream of.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The decisions are put up at three. It’s after four.  I call his cell phone. No answer.  Teenagers.  I call the house. No answer.  My just turned-14 year old and his grandmother are home but feel like the phone is an unnecessary nuisance to whatever they’re doing right now.  I need to know.  I need to know if all his work has paid off. I need to know if the work that his mother and I have put into him has paid off. This is one of the bigger fruits of our families’ labor. The anticipation is overwhelming. My new daily meditation practice hasn’t prepared me to clear my mind of this happy intrusion.  I send my younger son a message via Google Hangouts.  “Where are you?”  Five minutes later, he replies, “I’m at home. Where else would I be?”  “Is your brother home?” I ask.  Five minutes later he replies, “He’s at the J-O-B.”  He’s been working like a madman lately — open to close shifts at the Chipotle, covering the shifts of all his missing co-workers and stacking cash to feed his Kickstarter addiction.  “Did he tell you about any of his colleges? He’s supposed to find out where he got accepted today,” I probe.  “Nope, they didn’t accept him,” he replies quickly.  I’m a little broken but hopeful because I don’t have the full story yet. I question, “Who? It was a couple schools.”  “Columbia,” he fires back.  “That’s all he told you?” At this point, I’m begging for more information.  Twenty minutes later.  “Yup.”  This boy! Twenty minutes for a “yup”?  I’m still waiting for someone to invent the cyber “slap in the back of the head” so I can pop this boy. Somebody tell Zuckerberg to get on that. Call it “Poke 2.0.”  I drop a message in Google Allo for my college-bound son so I can hopefully catch him on a work break.  I finish the rest of my workday and head home.  At 5:59 p.m., I get a hangout message with a screenshot that states:     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     “On behalf of the admissions committee, it is my honor and privilege to share with you, that you have been admitted to the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.”  Ear to ear, man. Ear to ear.  All I could muster in response was, “Yooooooooo.”  I spent the remainder of the night on a high, shouting him out on Facebook and texting my dad the good news.  I’m writing these words not only out of pride and celebration but to maintain my excitement. It’s the morning of the 16th and I still haven’t caught up with that boy to tell him how excited I am.  Among the many lessons I’m learning from this separation — and my son growing into his own life — is how to bottle my emotions for later. He needs to see my excitement the same way it happened when I first found out. This moment can’t pass until I get to hand off my excitement to him. Raw, pure and untempered.  I actually had a Huxtable moment. My boy is going to NYU.   

NYU, Boy Bye Pt. 3

Full of Huxtable moments, unanswered calls, and excitement. The ongoing chronicle of a father losing his son in the best way possible.

       By Richard Hart       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      The teargas burned inside my chest. The flashbangs pierced my eardrums. The sight of militarized police decked in riot gear agitated the protesters around me.    A confluence of events that collided and rapidly descended into chaos exploded in each and every direction that Wednesday night in September. I had joined a crowd railing against the latest offense to ripple through the black community — another black man shot dead by a police officer.    It always hits home. This time, it hit my zip code.    It was the day after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott after ordering the father of seven out of his car.    The community’s reaction, understandably, was a mix of anger, frustration and exasperation. There were protests the night it happened in the neighborhood where Scott and his family lived.    Eventually, the demonstrations moved south and into the heart of Charlotte’s “uptown,” — the center city where multi-billion dollar corporations such as Bank of America and Duke Energy are headquartered.    This particular rally started simply enough. A group of black professionals left their offices and took to the streets. Crowds of people gathered at nearby Marshall Park to hear pastors, neighborhood leaders, mothers and fathers vent their umbrage. It was constructive.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      That would all change in a manner of hours when I stood at the Omni Hotel as rubber bullets started flying and a stampede of people stormed in my direction. Cop cars zoomed down the streets. Plumes of tear gas engulfed the closest bystanders — I got a piece of it. And 26-year-old Justin Carr fell to the ground dead, another black victim of gunfire.    What I experienced     You likely saw the images of people rioting and damaging property flash across your TV screens. Headlines read that Charlotte was burning, that blood flowed in the streets. For days, the words “unrest” and “Charlotte” were conjoined together as newscasts did their best to elevate (or denigrate) the city to Ferguson, Mo., or Baltimore-level status.    When these incidents happen, everyone focuses on the damage, the flotsam, the debris. But what about the efforts that don’t make for exciting sound bites or compelling visuals? What about the peaceful demonstrations that comprised most of that week of protests — not the havoc that sputtered maybe twice.    There were news outlets that did their due diligence and covered the peaceful aspects of the demonstrations. But let’s be real: How many reporters flew in from New York and D.C. and Los Angeles to document  peaceful    protests?    They wanted blood and chaos and destruction.    But that’s not the sentiment that prevailed in the demonstrations I attended. This is:    Representatives from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association engaged with and prayed for people. Preachers encouraged and rallied strangers together. Community members condemned the systematic killing of an entire race. Men and women poured out their hearts, and mourned deeply.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      People were angry, and rightfully so.    But even more prevalent than the anger was the refrain of neighbors and activists who vocally sought solutions: Where do we go from here? How do we ensure this doesn’t happen again?    We wanted to make sure the buck stopped in Charlotte. We said we would pressure government officials. We vowed to pressure police.    You may be asking: If things started out so constructively, why did Wednesday night erupt? The answer is simple, really: We’re tired of seeing black people extinguished without a second thought and no tangible repercussions.    In Marshall Park, another group emerged. They were angrier and uninterested in candlelight vigils or somber words from pastors. They left the park and began marching near the city’s government center and jail.    Those marches continued until it escalated into what you saw on TV.    Why I march    I returned to uptown that Saturday and joined the latest demonstration. We marched back to the Omni Hotel. But instead of witnessing an explosion of violence, we knelt. There was a moment of silence for Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr. And then we kept marching en masse, pushing for the full release of dash cam and body camera video that would show us what happened in the moments leading to Scott’s fatal encounter with Officer Brentley Vinson, another black man.    Why? Because we’re trying to bring change to a decades-long problem — black people killed by law enforcement. None of this new and, at this rate, it won’t stop happening until something profound stops it from happening.    I wanted to be part of the demonstrations that week. I wanted to gauge how people were feeling; I wanted to hear the conversations that developed.     When people ask me why I protest, my answer is always the same: My son one day will walk these streets.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      There’s enough to worry about without worrying that you’ll get a phone call about something happening to your kid because he had some random encounter with a cop.    So that’s why I march. That’s why I lobby for black businesses and black entrepreneurs and black lawmakers and   We have to permeate    Here’s something else: When you watch news coverage of people flooding the streets, shouting “no justice, no peace” and wielding signs that read “Am I next” and “black lives matter,” don’t demonize them.    Understand them.    Ask them why they’re marching and you’ll likely find insight answers. And meaning. And emotion.    You’ll also find those who aren’t there for the right reasons.    But understand this: Just because a select minority of people in a crowd decide to incite trouble doesn’t mean an entire movement should be belittled or diminished or dismissed.    The actions we take today aren’t just about the here and now. They’re about making sure the future is set.    I don’t want him growing up in that world. Yet, I can’t ignore the evidence around me: Chances are, he  will    grow up in a world where the color of skin may dictate the outcome of an encounter with a cop.       Jonathan McFadden contributed to this post

I stood at the Omni Hotel as rubber bullets started flying and a stampede of people stormed in my direction. Cop cars zoomed down the streets. Plumes of tear gas engulfed the closest bystanders — I got a piece of it. And 26-year-old Justin Carr fell to the ground dead, another black victim of gunfire.

        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"                We got the chance to document a weekend with father and son musicians Damyon "ChoppyChop" Richardson and Damyon "Graffiti" Richardson. Filled with family time, record digging and so much more. Check it out.   http://www.soundcloud.com/Graffiti301    http://chopnessmonsta.bandcamp.com

A Day in the Life with Father and Son Musicians

We got the chance to document a weekend with father and son musicians, Damyon "Choppy Chop-e" Richardson Sr and Damyon "Graffiti" Richardson Jr. Filled with family time, record digging and so much more. Check it out.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      By Dywoine Massey       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      Six-and-a-half hours.    That’s how long it took each time, the drive from North Carolina to Virginia.    Trip after trip, my parents and I jumped in our 1996 Nissan Infiniti and hit the road, our eyes on the prize. The drive was worth it. We were going to pick up Shaynah.    She’s my daughter. I was 16, a rising junior in high school, when she was born.    I still remember the joy I experienced when I held her for the first time. I still remember vowing that, no matter what happened between her mother and me, I was going to be present in her life.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
                                                                   Shaynah's first birthday  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      That was easier said than done. Parenting is hard enough. Doing it as a teenager, however, presents a unique set of circumstances and challenges.    I took a job and began paying child support before I ever crossed the stage and earned my diploma.    I went to court over a dozen times in the span of just as many years and faced judges who juggled my visitation rights in their hands.    I missed Shaynah’s birth because no one told me her mother was in labor. I didn’t find out until afterward, when one of her relatives gave me a call.    I missed a lot of Shaynah’s life —   sending her off to school in the mornings, school events, getting her off of the school bus.   For much of her adolescence, our interaction took place over a phone, or during intermittent visits during holidays and summer vacation.    Today, I’m 35 and Shaynah is 19. Even though she’s a young adult, I believe it’s critical for me to be there, every day, as often as possible. She lives with me in Charlotte, N.C., and that makes quality time with her easier than ever. We’re making up for the missed moments.    But getting to this point wasn’t as simple as her moving to another state. It took lots of patience and overcoming a series of tough obstacles.    Life as a Teenage Dad       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
                                                                        Little Shaynah  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      When Shaynah was born, my family and I lived in Dumfries, Va., just north of Richmond.    Back then, I would see my daughter after I got out of school. I had joint custody and Shaynah would spend Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend with me. I worked at Pizza Hut to help buy baby supplies. Plus, my parents were supportive, making it a little easier to balance parenting with school.    Things changed senior year.    My parents and I moved to North Carolina, and with the greater distance came greater challenges.    Shaynah’s mother and I were no longer together, and I only got to see Shaynah a few times a year.    A lot of my little girl’s life, I missed. When I did get to bring Shaynah home with me, there was always so much to catch up on. She had grown so much; her clothing and hairstyles had changed; her taste in music changed; her interests were evolving.    It never felt like we had enough time. Taking her back to Virginia was never easy.    There were periods when Shaynah’s mother and I were not on good terms. Because of that, there were also periods when my parents and I would drive all the way to Virginia only for her mother never to show up with my daughter at the chosen pickup spot.    More battles & memorable moments       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      For the next few years, court battles would follow. There would be losses (such as her mother getting a slap on the wrist for not presenting Shaynah at visitations). There would also be wins, such as when the length of my visitations was extended.    The courts also required Shaynah’s mother to meet me halfway during scheduled visitations, cutting the six-and-a-half-hour drive in half.    Yet, challenges persisted. Tensions between Shaynah’s mother and I became so high — and conflicts so numerous — that I decided to just communicate with her via email. I’d talk to Shaynah when she was at relatives’ houses, and when she got her own cellphone.    Although we were miles apart, I was still able to help Shaynah with her homework over the phone. We would pray together before she went to bed.    Even as I finished college in 2004, I’d spend time with her on her birthday and during Christmas.    When she was 15, with a bouquet of flowers in hand, I took her out on a father-daughter date at the Cheesecake Factory. The goal: Show her how she should expect men to treat her.    As she grew up, I was able to expose her to new experiences, such as zip lining, riding on a banana boat and mountain climbing.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            (From left) Me, my daughter Shaynah and wife Whitney.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      I started dating a wonderful woman named Whitney, who I would marry in 2010. She grew to love my daughter and became a pillar of support, joining me in court or during visitation pickups.    Beating the odds    Despite the obstacles, here’s my takeaway: God does answer prayers.    After graduating high school, Shaynah decided to move to Charlotte. Since then, she’s started her first job in retail. I’ve been able to teach her the importance of saving her money and helped her open a personal bank account.   I taught her how to drive, helped her get her driver’s license and, along with my wife, purchased her first car for her 19  th   birthday.    She’s enrolled in college.   Most importantly, she attends church with us each Sunday and has learned what it means to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.    So yes, I was a teenage father and yes, I missed a lot. However, I feel like I’ve beaten the odds. I could’ve allowed the distance to create a barrier. I could’ve given up after the tireless court battles and stopped fighting to be in my daughter’s life.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      But I refused.    Anytime I told Shaynah I’d be there, I was. If I said I was going to do something, I did it. I didn’t make promises I couldn’t keep, and I made sure to follow through with whatever I told her I’d do.    And today, I’m living the payoff. A solid relationship with my daughter has made all the challenges worthwhile.    My experience as a teenage dad has taught me a lot, particularly the importance of a parent’s presence.    Now my wife and I are considering having our first child together.    I don’t plan to miss a single moment.

Challenges of the Non-Custodial Parent: I Was a Teenage Dad

I missed a lot of Shaynah’s life — sending her off to school in the mornings, school events, getting her off of the school bus. For much of her adolescence, our interaction took place over a phone, or during intermittent visits during holidays and summer vacation.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      By William Mason Sr.    Keeping my son was the best decision of my life.     He was a mere two months when I nearly gave him away.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            William Mason Sr. & William Mason Jr.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      I drove him to a clinic that promised to find safe homes for children whose parents couldn’t — or wouldn’t — take care of them. I was 24 at the time, working at an airline just months after receiving an honorable discharge from the Army.    My son, William Kendell Mason Jr. (I called him “Kenny” for most of his childhood), was conceived in 1969 while I was stationed in Germany. That’s where I met his mother, a white woman from Texas. We had a one-night stand.     Some time later, she called to tell me she was pregnant. I arranged for her to live with my mother and me in Philadelphia. I thought we’d raise our child together.     When William was six weeks old, she told me she planned to rejoin her family down south. At the airport, in front of Concourse C2, she handed me our son and boarded a plane. That was it.     I left work and took William home, and my family and I began raising him. But for me, a young man running the streets and partying, it was difficult.     One day I saw the clinic’s ad on TV. I grabbed William, put him in the back seat of the car and drove, the entire time asking myself, “Should I do this?"       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            William and his daughter, Morgan  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      I pulled up to the clinic on Market Street. I walked to the back and saw William sitting upright. He looked at me and smiled. And then, to my surprise, he spoke.     “Da Da.”    It was the first time he had ever done that.    My decision was made. I took him back home, rented an apartment and began raising him on my own. From that moment on, we were like glue.     Sure, there were a lot of rough times: I didn’t make much money and, for years, the only thing I could afford to feed my son was Rice-A-Roni. Every. Single. Night.    But there were also a lot of good times, and funny stories, too, like the time he rushed to me and said, “Dad, you can’t eat me” after he overheard a friend and me joking about munching on our children at one of the whispering benches in Philly’s Fairmount Park.    I cherish those moments, and hold onto them tightly. Memories, along with the urn of his ashes in my bedroom and his car in my driveway, are all I have left.    Last June, William, my other half, died.    And so did a piece of me.    ‘Where’s mommy?’    As William got older, the void of his mother’s absence grew with him.    Over the years, I tried contacting her several times. Each time, nothing.     Because I worked with an airline, I could take flights for $20 deducted from my salary. On my days off, I’d grab my boy and we’d fly to Texas to look for her. Still, nothing.    About the third or fourth time, while we stood in a terminal at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, he said to me: “Mommy. Where’s mommy?”       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      I broke down, and we went back home.    The elementary and high school years passed by, and William rarely talked about his mom — although a friend of his was convinced he needed closure. After graduating college, he took a job as the information technology director of an informatics company I started in California.    He was a computer maestro, a skill that eventually helped him find his mother. He discovered she lived in Colorado, where she had gotten married and had other children. He went to meet her, and they developed a relationship.    She and I even spoke again. I told her I didn’t harbor any ill feelings toward her; the past was the past.     William’s mother was in his life, and he seemed to be content. He even invited her to his wedding.     He didn’t resent his mother for walking away. That’s the kind of person he was — positive, shunning negativity wherever possible. But he wasn’t immune to struggle.    A tough battle    William and his wife had a child, my granddaughter Morgan. They later divorced.    He decided to move to Colorado to live with his mom for a bit. Here’s what I didn’t know: Alcoholism ran in her family. My son would be no exception.    He started drinking. A lot.    One night, I got a call that William had gotten into a fight with his mother and her husband. She threw him out of the house, and I learned he was living on the streets. I jumped on a plane, flew to Colorado and found my son.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      I brought him back with me to Florida, where I had relocated, and got him a job at a computer company in West Palm Beach.    He started attending Alcoholics Anonymous, and I’d go to meetings for parents of alcoholics.    He, his brother — my youngest son, Lance — and I would meet at a sushi restaurant every so often. We’d crack jokes and laugh. William soon moved into an apartment with a friend so he could be closer to work.     Things got better. He got better. I assumed he was doing well.    Then, in June 2015, I got the phone call.    Too much to bear    The police told me my son was dead. I drove to his apartment in West Palm Beach. It was coated in blood — in his bedroom, on his bed where he had fallen.     The coroner determined that he fell victim to his own addiction to alcohol.     Standing inside his apartment was too much to bear, as was the sight of my son’s body sliding into the cremation oven. Once they brought me his ashes, I put the urn in the passenger’s seat of my car.    It was a two-and-a-half hour drive back home, and I took it alone — just me and my son’s remains. People told me I was going crazy. Why?    The whole ride back, I talked to William. Although he was in an urn, I could swear he talked back to me.     The blame    A lot has happened since William died — a lot of it, not good.    I met some of his friends, who introduced me to his girlfriend. I learned they used to all go out and drink, and I asked why they would offer liquor to an alcoholic.     I still haven’t gotten an answer.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      Amid the bustle of obtaining his death certificate, closing out his accounts and arranging his cremation, I sank into depression. I blamed myself. Maybe he was going through something and I didn’t catch on, I thought.     Friends told me not to think that way. William was an adult, they said, and I had done all I could do.     Nevertheless, outliving your child is a terrible thing.     Missing him    My son was magnificent; he was my other side. He was funny and I was funny. He loved to laugh, and so do I. He loved his brother Lance so much; they’d talk on the phone for hours.     When he was little, I’d take him to work with me and leave him in the car, checking on him every 10 to 15 minutes. But he’d be sound asleep. Or, he’d be looking straight at me because he knew it was time to eat. That went on for awhile until a coworker’s sister volunteered to be his babysitter.    If I had a girlfriend, I’d keep her away from him. William wanted a mother figure, and I didn’t want to hook up with somebody who wouldn’t be one.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
                                                           
         
        

       
    
     
  


      He and I fished together. We’d play hide-and-seek at Fairmount Park. When friends came over, he’d just jump on the floor in front of them and laugh. We’d have “espresso dinners” on first-class flights to Puerto Rico. He was a fun guy.    We were like one. We made it together. Just us. And I miss him.    A couple of days before William died, we were on the phone. We must’ve talked for two hours.    He wanted to get another apartment. He said, “Dad, why don’t you come and live with me and we’ll start out like we did years and years ago?”    I said, “OK, let’s do that.”    We would never get the chance.

Bringing Up William — And Losing Him

I cherish those moments, and hold onto them tightly. Memories, along with the urn of his ashes in my bedroom and his car in my driveway, are all I have left. Last June, William, my other half, died.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      By Richard Hart       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      I’m not sure when the first conversation will start but I have a feeling of how it will go.     I’ll sit Elijah down, look him in the eye and tell him things that will likely rob him of the innocence I so admire.    I’ll tell him to be a chameleon — blending in where necessary, never giving people too much of himself. I’ll tell him about the African-American history he won’t learn in school, about the mistreatment of his people from the time we arrived in this country. I’ll tell him to feel comfortable in his own skin but to understand there will be times when he’s around people who will be uncomfortable because of his skin.    I’ll tell him that police officers — who, to him, for now, are no different than anyone else — have killed black men, which he’ll be one day.    Again, I don’t know when that talk will come. He’ll be older, obviously, and at the age where he’s had more experiences and started noticing the difference between how people treat him and how they treat his friends.  So, I have a few years to prepare. Elijah — my son — is 2.    If you read the  piece of my story  I shared when we started this blog, you’ll recall that Elijah’s mother and I divorced. Still, I’m confident he’ll grow up in a very loving and nurturing environment. Both sides of his family have rallied around him.    But I’m concerned.    With his mother and grandparents, Elijah lives in an affluent, predominantly white neighborhood. He attends a predominantly white day care. I want him to have diverse experiences. I want him to know where he comes from. I want him to know what to expect.    And what is that exactly?    It’s a world where unarmed black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile can be gunned down by law enforcement because implicit bias and racism prevail. It’s a world where Black Lives Matter demonstrations are condemned as divisive and militant by people who find it too discomforting to talk about race. It’s a world where my son’s interactions with law enforcement can start harmlessly enough but end with him in a casket.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      When my dad had “the talk” with me, we lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. I attended a predominantly white middle school. I grew up in a town where if the police were there, it wasn’t necessarily to help. I always felt uneasy around them and second-guessed their motives.    Before I would go out somewhere, I’d always hear: “Keep your seat up,” “watch your speed,” “take that rag on your head off,” “don’t give them a reason.”    I’ll tell Elijah the same things with the hope that he won’t develop the same toxic thoughts I did. I’d rather not have this talk with him but I have no choice — it’s part of the burden of being black.    When I look at how he interacts with people, especially his white school friends, there is a beautiful innocence to it all.    The talk will steal away that naiveté.    It’s part of growth — the passing of the torch that sticks with you like a disease.    I don’t have a script prepared. Whatever I say will probably correlate with the times.    But I do have an expectant outcome.    I want him to feel empowered. I never want him to feel subservient, or like a second-class citizen, or like the only way it can be right is if it’s white.    We, as black people, have to do a better job of working for our own stuff. Our children can’t live in a world where they’re always looking for a job, looking for employment, looking for seats at the table when the table’s never been set for us.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      That’s the lesson I hope to impart in Elijah — work toward having your own so you’re beholden to no one. Become a man of power, a man of influence, whether it’s in your own business, your field, whatever. Employ your own people — make them your executive team.    Work so hard that you’ll never be in a position where someone else has power over you. Do what you have to so you never have to answer to anyone else except yourself, God and your family.    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want my son to be angry or frustrated. But I do want him to be vigilant and always on his guard. I want him to be smart; to know his rights; to know himself. I want him to know the world is cruel and unforgiving if you allow it to be.     He’ll have to stay humble and not allow anger to cloud his judgment. He’ll have to swallow his pride and know how to maneuver.    He’ll have to survive.    

Anticipation, The Talk Pt 3

I’ll tell Elijah the same things with the hope that he won’t develop the same toxic thoughts I did. I’d rather not have this talk with him but I have no choice — it’s part of the burden of being black.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


       By Chris Richardson     You’re driving behind an old Honda Civic or Toyota Tercel going five to 10 miles under the speed limit. You’re thinking, “Why in the Sam Hill is this person going so slowly?”    I have a theory for you. Warning: The following statements will be stereotypical but there’s a lesson coming, so bear with me and get back on the road:    The colors of the doors or hood on the car in front of you may be mismatched. The muffler has decided to stop the job it’s supposed to do, or it could be altogether gone.     There might be duct tape residue around one of the windows, along with patches of rust or faded paint. And, most assuredly, one of the tires is a donut.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Come on man! Put your foot down!  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      You finally get a chance to zip around the car and give the driver the obligatory gas face, side eye or whatever your chosen form of ridicule looks like. You turn to the driver: Are they Hispanic?    There’s your stereotype. (Sidenote: I drive a ‘93 Toyota Camry that’s as bad, if not worse, than the car described above. Feel free to ridicule that).    In my experience, I found this to be the case.     I spent half of my life working in the restaurant industry with co-workers of Hispanic heritage and varying degrees of legal status. The reason for the caution, they told me, was a desire to take extra precaution.     Their goal was to fly as low under the radar as possible to avoid detection because a run-in with the police would mean a fast track back to the place they escaped.     Within their community, a “talk” happens. The topic: How to become invisible, and avoid detection and suspicion.    It’s probably similar to the talks we have in the black community.     As absurd as it may sound, we have to teach our children to act like they aren’t legal citizens of this country —  like they’re not entitled to the same rights and freedoms as other Americans.        

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            They have to learn invisibility.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      They have to learn invisibility.     Every encounter with police, no matter how mundane or lawful, can lead to a black man’s death in this country.     This America we inhabit has me rethinking what to tell my children.     There’s consensus that community policing plays a big part in quelling police killings and brutality. This makes me want to amend what I tell my boys.     I still want humility to be the guide of their actions.    I want them to understand that their opinion of their own innocence or guilt won’t descalate the situation.    They have to know their emotion, tone of voice, eye contact and body movement must convey compliance at all times.     They have to accept that even the slightest bit of doubt or fear in an officer’s mind can put them in the path of a bullet, nightstick or taser.     But there’s a new strategy I’d like to employ with them, and myself: Engage the officers first in no-stress situations.      What would this look like?     We make the effort to introduce ourselves to the local police when we see them out and about. We nurture relationships with them before situations become emotional.     Such a tactic decreases the likelihood of a negative response from police. Now, they know us. I’m no longer “random scary black man no.4.” I’m Chris. And my son is “little dude from across the street”.     If the police won’t engage the community, we have to make the first move. The burden shouldn’t be on us to build the bridge but, if we don’t do it, it won’t happen.     This won’t work for every officer. Racist officers will do what racist officers do but this is a start. It will most definitely save lives. That’s the goal.     As always, the burden for saving our lives rests in our own hands. The law gives us no recourse for justice once the offense occurs but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.     We have to stop the sickness before it starts.     Twitter: @rightersguild, @mercurywaters   Medium: @rightersguild   Web: rightersguild.com, grizzlidesign.co     

The Slow Lane, The Talk Pt 2

As absurd as it may sound, we have to teach our children to act like they aren’t legal citizens of this country —  like they’re not entitled to the same rights and freedoms as other Americans.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Me and Dad at an awards ceremony back in 2013.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


        By Jonathan McFadden    Watch your speed: You’re young, you’re black and you’re driving a red car.    It was the mantra my father spouted  — almost endlessly — since I first sat behind the wheel of my apple red Pontiac Grand Am.     “How fast did you go” was his first question each time I visited home. “Slow down” was how he ended every phone conversation.          On a December night in 2014, well past 10 p.m., his words played in my head like a record on repeat.     I didn’t watch my speed.    Instead, as I left Charlotte and cruised down Interstate 77 on my way home, my foot rested on the gas harder than it should, and the S.C. Highway Patrol trooper perched on the side of the road clocked me at going over 80 mph in a 55.    He pulled me to the side of the road but there was a problem. My driver’s side window fell off its track and was stuck. It couldn’t go down.    I was culpable: I was speeding. I had a busted window. I was caught.     I’m not griping about the ticket (which he kindly reduced).    I’m explaining why, in that moment, I nearly hyperventilated in a cop’s face because my window couldn’t go down. The only way I could communicate with this white man with a gun was to open the door.    I was scared.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Me, in childhood — before I understood that skin color could shape perceptions.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      Three months earlier, a Highway Patrol trooper shot an unarmed black man at a Columbia, S.C., gas station because he thought the victim was reaching for a gun. There was no gun. The victim was trying to grab his driver’s license.    That was the context swirling in my mind. Any wrong move, I thought, and this won’t end well.    Plus, I knew the stats: African-Americans are victims in 26 percent of police shootings, according to the San Francisco-based  Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice . And while police killings of black Americans has declined by more than 70 percent over the last 40 to 50 years, African-Americans are still more likely than other race to die in encounters with policemen.     So there we were: Me, the trooper and my defunct window.    I raised my hands in the air, like Dad taught me, and shouted to the trooper that the window wouldn’t go down. He nodded in understanding. My heart jumped into my throat.     I opened the door slowly. He requested my license and registration. I explained every move before I made it; my eyes were fixed on his holster. I fumbled for my paperwork.    Moments passed and he drove away after handing me the slip of paper that said I owed $81.    I lived.    ‘Yes sir, no ma’am’    I’ve never had an overly hostile encounter with police (testy, yes - lethal, no). Yet, I  do    feel like a member of an endangered species.    Interactions with police for people who look like me — whose skin is darker, nose is wider, facial features, more pronounced — have a history of not going well. Add that to the oft-tense relationship between the police and black community, and it’s a toxic cocktail of fear on both sides that, when these two kinds of people meet, can erupt with deadly results.    It’s been like this for decades.        

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Again, childhood, when ignorance most certainly is bliss.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      Starting in childhood — before I had a license, much less my own car — my parents indoctrinated me with a prescription of behaviors for when (never  if   ,   always  when )   I get stopped by police:    “Say yes sir...no ma’am.”     “Never put your hands in your pockets — put them up so the officer can clearly see them.”    “Keep your wallet out so you’re not doing too much reaching.”    “Don’t mouth off or catch an attitude. Keep your emotions in check.  Always    keep your emotions in check.”    I personally know white people raised with the same degree of deference to police. In the South, hospitality, respect and adherence to authority are cultural dogma.     But here’s where I felt we differed. My parents took it a step further:    “Remember, it doesn’t matter how well-educated you are or how well you can speak. They see your skin first.”     The bottle    Dad’s skin was on display in 1999, when my family and I still lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. It was the same year four plainclothes New York Police Department officers shot at Amadou Diallo 41 times; 19 bullets hit his body before he died.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Amadou Diallo.   Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News   
         
        

       
    
     
  


      My father went to the store and grabbed a drink. He wrapped it in a brown paper bag. Officers spotted him, accused him of carrying an open seal container of alcohol and threw him against a metal rolling gate, the kind business owners use to shutter their storefronts at the end of the day.    The police would soon discover that it was a glass bottle of grapefruit juice.    My dad has no criminal past. He’s worked on Wall Street and in the World Trade Center.    But why should that matter when his skin is black?    We’re still talking    I don’t believe all police are homicidal and hungry for a kill. I know and respect  good    cops.    When I was a reporter, I wrote about and interviewed them all the time. Two weeks ago, I called one for advice. More times than not, they’re heroes.    And I’m aware of what happens to these heroes when they kill someone: The emotional backlash is devastating. I know when they adorn the badge, they’re faced with two choices: Home or the casket.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Dad with the fam a few years before police threw him against a fence.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      But I also know two black men were gunned down by police in the span of two days. This, after Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Laquan McDonald.    Today, I drive a silver Honda and blend in a little easier with other motorists on the road. I check my speed but not nearly as often as I should. I don’t slouch in my seat or blast my speakers.    Does it matter when a broken tail light or toy gun or chewing gum or cigarette is enough for a bullet to the chest? Does it matter when perception and bias take hold of the trigger, and skin color creates the assumption that I’m armed?    I visited my parents last weekend. Dad greeted me at the back door.    Guess what he asked.       

Slow Down, The Talk Part 1

I’m not griping about the ticket (which he kindly reduced). I’m explaining why, in that moment, I nearly hyperventilated in a cop’s face because my window couldn’t go down. The only way I could communicate with this white man with a gun was to open the door.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


     Marchers decry violence, call for unity at SC 'Black Lives Matter' rally   By Jonathan McFadden    Frederick Love hoisted his 5-year-old son onto his shoulders and, as he wiped the sweat away from his brow, joined in the cry that bellowed through downtown York, S.C., Sunday evening: “Stop the Violence.”    Nearly 200 other people followed behind, howling the same refrain as they marched to the small city’s public library, a contingent of police officers guiding the way and suppressing traffic.    “No justice, no peace,” they chanted. “Hands up, don’t shoot” came next. Some in their number carried signs emblazoned with the names Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland. Others clutched their cellphones and kept their fingers on “record.”       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Frederick Love (foreground at right) and his son Jonathan listen to politicians and organizers give speeches outside the York Public Library.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      And Love, whose son, Jonathan, cradled the back of his neck, kept up with the brisk pace despite the unrelenting humidity.    Although Jonathan may not quite understand what would drive his father to walk on asphalt and pavement when it’s over 80 degrees outside, Love says the two have already started “the talk” — the one in which Love tells young Jonathan that, because of his skin color, his interactions with police will be different, tense even.    “I tell him that if we get stopped by the police, keep your hands on your head” the whole time, Love said. Even if the police are wrong, he tells his son, comply so he will “live through it.”    “We need to make a change,” Love said. “There’s too much violence.”    That’s what marchers hoped to dispel Sunday as they gathered at a recreation field in York, a small city in western York County, S.C., about 40 miles outside Charlotte.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      Christened as a “Black Lives Matter Stop the Violence” demonstration, the rally aimed to discourage police killings of black men but also rail against black-on-black crime and bring attention to York’s own unsolved homicides. That includes the April death of E’monnie Dixon, a 17-year-old student and mother from Rock Hill, S.C., fatally shot in York’s “Valley” neighborhood, where drugs and violence have long overlapped.    Led by a group of young people, the marchers took to the streets, wielding their signs and voices. Faces in the crowd were a mix of black, white and brown. Some passersby joined while volunteers at a community church handed out bottled water.    On the periphery stood a group of people holding “All Lives Matter” signs.    The stride ended at the public library where, in a series of speeches, organizers and politicians addressed the violence that has rippled through their own community.    Flanked by community activists, clergy and city leaders, York Police Chief Andy Robinson praised the crowd for standing together in efforts to reduce violence.     “The loss of any life is a tragedy and I will not say anything to detract from that,” he said. Yet, “violence is not the answer.”    Hours before the pre-planned walk in York, the nation reeled from yet another shooting when an assailant opened fire on six Baton Rouge, La., police officers, killing three and wounding the others, authorities said. A suspect, identified as 29-year-old Gavin Long, was shot and killed at the scene, according to the Associated Press.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Anthony Hart carries a sign that reads, "I AM Philando Castile" and describes the reported circumstances of his death in St. Paul, Minn.  
         
        

       
    
     
  


      Discussion on the intersection of race, police and violence has been thrust into the national spotlight since the deaths of two black men earlier this month at the hands of police. Alton Sterling, of Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile, of St. Paul, Minn., died within a day of each other.    Their deaths, authorities say, prompted a retaliatory attack on police in Dallas during a peaceful protest, where sniper Micah Johnson killed five officers and injured nine others.    Marchers in York kept that in mind as they condemned those killings and urged the crowd to reach out with love and seek unity. There was talk of black men staying out of jail and keeping their families intact. Many decried black-on-black crime in their neighborhoods and acknowledged that they must point a critical finger at themselves — not just the police.    “We get caught up in labels and sometimes we let labels dictate our emotions,” said Anthony Hart, who joined in leading the march. He addressed men and fathers in particular, saying, “we have to step up to protect our sisters.”       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      After introducing the crowd to the slain Dixon’s infant son, the Rev. Persell Ross exhorted marchers to make concerted efforts at staving off discrimination and division, saying “if we don’t do it for anybody...let’s do it for the babies.”    His comment evoked raucous cheers as he prayed over the crowd.    “We want to push for love, peace and solidarity,” he said. “We are humanity. Let’s stop hurting one another.”    

Marchers decry violence, call for unity at SC 'Black Lives Matter' rally

Nearly 200 residents, activists, police and politicians gathered in downtown York, S.C., for a "Black Lives Matter" rally and march that railed against police killing black men and black-on-black crime.

      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


     Fathers Day, Boy Bye Part 2   By Chris Richardson    Editor’s note: This conversation takes place a week before Father’s Day 2016.    “Xavier and I had a discussion on the drive home,” my wife tells me.     “Discussion about what?” I ask, fearing the answer.    She escapes out the front door. It shuts behind her. I’m certain she feels my glare through the layers of paint and wood. After a few moments of waiting for her swift return, the sound of the car pulling away tells me what I need to know. The living room turns into an interview room.     “You guys are getting separated?” Xavier asks.    “Yeah. And how do you feel about that?” I probe.    “I’m OK.” He replies exactly the way I expected.     You learn your kids from years of experience — in the good, bad, and indifferent times.     I also know every piece of DNA I gave him. His reaction was mine a generation before, when my parents decided to split.     He and I both share an affinity for separation and solitude that keeps our emotions in check, and outsiders checked out. One viewpoint on introverts is that we refill our tanks with solitude. We have the ability to be outgoing but it takes from us rather than gives to us, like with extroverts.        

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      Saying as little as possible creates an express lane right back to our safe place.    My father would always tell me, “I know what you’re going to do before you do it because I’ve already done it.” That genetic connection between father and son causes history to repeat itself.     I push myself to ask more questions in a futile attempt to get Xavier to express his feelings. I’m stepping outside of myself, trying to get him to follow me out there. He doesn’t take the bait. He’s me. His reaction was expected.    Miles is my younger son. His reaction was also expected but it’s different.     I always tell him that I had to choose him. He’s not mine biologically; I met him at 3 months old.     I had to decide to be his father.     Even when the child is yours biologically, you have the choice to walk away. When the child isn’t yours, there’s no guilt attached. It’s not a responsibility you have to take on.     I wanted to be with his mother and he was part of the package. I didn’t have the virtue of creating him to tie our bond. We had to build our connection from scratch. Dropping the bomb of the separation would assuredly test the foundation of that building.    After a few minutes of talking through Miles’ attention deficit disorder  and his need to express his humor, I get him to sit down. His humor resurfaces because he thinks he’s in trouble now, and laughter is his go-to escape route.    I tell him Mom and I are separating. No more laughs.    He puts his head down. He’s lost, rolling around in his own head, trying to figure out where he went wrong.    “The first thing I want you to know is that none of this is your fault,” I say to him.     I reassure him. I repeat this statement several times during the conversation. I don’t want his mind running down that path. Blaming himself would be self-destructive, corrosive and, more importantly, wrong. He’s the absolute wrong person to blame.    Tears slowly descend his cheeks. Silence. I mirror his silence but, on the inside, I’m desperately searching for the right entry question.    “What are you most worried about?” I ask.    “I’ve already got one dad that’s gone. Now, the one who’s here won’t be in the same house.” He sighed.    Miles’ biological father sees him once or twice a year and calls infrequently. He doesn’t have that person to look to for his history. I’m not father of the year by any stretch of the imagination, but in this moment I felt the limits of my performance so far.     I can never provide the sense of where he comes from, like his biological father can. I can’t provide the nature but I can provide the nurture. But that becomes increasingly difficult when I’m not in the house 24/7.     He realizes it immediately. It takes me a little longer.    After reassuring him that I wasn’t disappearing, escaping or evading — in fact, I live five minutes away from my boys now — I pull him up from the table and give him a hug: A long grip that felt like he would never let me go.       

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        

       
    
     
  


      Miles and I butt heads all the time but, in this moment we have a singular purpose — to never let each other go.     Part of sharing this story is a reminder to never forget the feeling in that moment. When I visit my boys now, Miles gives me that same hug every time I leave; our secret handshake is no longer adequate.    Later that night, Miles retreats to my bed to cry a little more. My wife talks with him.     I give them their space. When I come to check on them, Miles clams up a bit.    “Repeat what you just said,” my wife nudges him.    “What is it?” I ask.    “What do we do about Father’s Day?”       Twitter: @rightersguild, @mercurywaters    Medium: @rightersguild    Web: rightersguild.com, grizzlidesign.co    

Fathers Day, Boy Bye Part 2

I didn’t have the virtue of creating him to tie our bond. We had to build our connection from scratch. Dropping the bomb of the separation would assuredly test the foundation of that building.

      A Piece of My Story   By Richard Hart   First came the confusion: Why was I  just  finding out about my son getting pushed on the playground?   Then came the frustration: If I was there, I would have known about it immediately.   Instead, I didn't learn about what happened to Elijah until he told me over the phone. Two days later.   That’s not a good feeling. I had so many things I wanted to say.  But I don’t live with Elijah.   And like the blow of a hammer, the realization that circumstances — the ones that would prevent me from talking to him one-on-one, comforting him hours after his first experience with violence and instructing him on what to do in those situations in the future — hit me.  Hard.  I gave Elijah some guidance over the phone. But the real father-to-son talk  — the eye-to-eye — would have to wait until the weekend.   For most of my son’s short life, this has been the reality.  Elijah   — my “mini-me,” my heart and soul — was born two years ago. His mother and I were married then. Today, we’re not. And my son — the smartest kid I know (and I’m not saying that because he’s my son) — is growing up without a father who lives with him.   That’s new territory for me. I grew up in a two-parent household, with a father who was always there, everyday.   Now here I am on this journey: A journey where I don’t get to see my son everyday; a journey where I talk to him on the phone daily but don’t talk to him in person until the weekend.   I’ve missed bedtimes and bath times. I’ve missed taking and picking him up from school. I’ve missed chances to quell his fears of monsters under the bed.  It’s tough.  And it gets tougher when I rack my brain with questions about my own adequacy as a father: Am I being the best dad I can possibly be? Am I doing everything I need to maintain a wonderful relationship with my son? Should I be doing more? Could I be doing more? Am I a good father?   I’ve grappled with these questions for a long time. But it’s getting easier to answer them.   When I see the glow in my son’s face each time I pick him up for the weekend, I tell myself I’m doing a good job. When I consider the kind of relationship he and I have, I tell myself I’m doing a great job. If no one else will say it, I will.   It’s not to boast but to uplift and encourage myself. That’s what I want to do for other black fathers who, whatever their circumstances, are doing their best for their kids.   Are we perfect? Of course not. But we’re trying. And that matters.  A lot.   My focus now isn’t on whether I’m doing a good job or not. It’s on how I can be the best dad to Elijah, and make his life wonderful.  Remember the situation with Elijah on the playground?  I wasn’t there the day when it happened, or even in days afterward. One could argue that me bringing it up again was useless at this point.   I picked him up that Saturday, and when it was just him and me, I addressed it. We talked. I explained. He listened.   I wouldn’t let the moment slip by. I’m committed to not letting any slip by.      

A Piece of My Story

When I see the glow in my son’s face each time I pick him up for the weekend, I tell myself I’m doing a good job. When I consider the kind of relationship he and I have, I tell myself I’m doing a great job. If no one else will say it, I will. 

      Raising A Black Daughter: My Greatest Gift & Responsibility   By Reginald Hayes    The moment I found out I would be a father to a little girl, I immediately experienced a rush of mixed emotions.     I felt the excitement of having a child, the pressure of the added responsibility and the fear of the unknown.     Through the media, shared stories with friends and my own interactions, I have witnessed the emotional impact a father’s presence, or lack thereof, can have on a young girl across all ages and races.     When a father is not involved, I have witnessed women seek the approval and love of men to fill the void.  I have met women who are emotionally closed off because, at a young age, the love they sought from their Dad was missing.     Before my daughter was born, I knew that one of the most important things for me to do as a father was to protect her from having to experience this same burden.    How? I had to be present.    Although the media often portrays the black family as broken, or black children growing up in fatherless homes, that narrative was foreign to me.     I grew up in a middle class black neighborhood, where my friends and church family were comprised of black families. In those familial units, the father was not just present but also a provider, mentor and major support system.      In my circle of peers, we were rewriting the narrative on this topic of Black Fathers and families.     Growing up, this was my Black Father: He woke up at 5 a.m., caught a bus to New York 30 minutes later and took a two-hour commute each way to provide for his family.  Yet, he never missed a sports game, school play or graduation.    That’s the kind of father I want to be.    When my daughter was born and I held her for the first time in the hospital, I knew I would always be there to protect her.     She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.   The immediate connection and love I felt for her is hard to convey in words —  even now.     I saw this blank and beautiful canvass and it was my responsibility and privilege to help paint the story of her life.     The first few months of parenting were filled with sleepless nights from a crying baby, hours washing bottles, changing diapers, giving baths and losing free time —  all while juggling a full time job.   I was the sole provider in the household and felt the pressures of providing the best for my young daughter.     Although I would be exhausted from sporadic sleep the night before, when I would finally get home from work, the best part of my day was seeing her.     The look of excitement when she saw me, the look of recognition in her eyes and the feeling of love made all the struggles worth it.     In those moments, I was no longer tired and no longer concerned with the financial burdens I had to carry. My only concern was loving my daughter, bonding with her and being her support system.     Just as my father was there for every sporting event, school play and graduation, I was there, camera in hand, for the first time she stood, the first time she walked, the first time she talked and every time she fell — that was the hardest part.    When my daughter was born, I imagined all the fun things we would get to do.     However, when I looked at her, I looked in the mirror and looked at the news. I was reminded that I wasn’t just raising a daughter. I was raising a BLACK daughter.     So I had to let her fall so that she could learn to pick herself up. Although she was just a small child, one day she would be a black woman who would need to be self-reliant, self-confident, resilient and strong.     It's always been my goal to raise a daughter who would grow up knowing how to provide for herself, change her own tires, mow her own lawn and steer as the captain of her own ship.     It’s from their fathers that daughters learn how they should be treated in relationships with men. Everyday, I have to  balance showing love and compassion with instilling discipline and raising a strong woman.      This is my greatest gift and greatest responsibility.    I want her to be familiar with the idea of a man displaying compassion, responsibility, honesty, provision, protection and, above all else, love.     That’s the kind of black father who raised me. Those are the kinds of black fathers who raised my friends and relatives. And that’s why I’m committed to being the best Black Father for my daughter. 

Raising A Black Daughter: My Greatest Gift & Responsibility

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The immediate connection and love I felt for her is hard to convey in words —  even now. I saw this blank and beautiful canvass and it was my responsibility and privilege to help paint the story of her life. 

      Boy, Bye!    By Chris Richardson       We leave before the sun shows up for duty, and tiptoe past sleeping family members and yappy dogs.     I pop my daily life-saving pills and wash them down with a swallow of lukewarm tap water.     Forgetting my camera, I backtrack through the gauntlet of the dementia-afflicted, the comatose and the heavy-snoring light sleepers. Not even sure how that works — wouldn’t you constantly wake yourself up?     A strangely crisp southern summer morning greets us outside. I clear off the condensation from my “classic” 1993 Toyota Camry.   My son, Xavier, waits beside the 10 years younger car that belongs to his mother.     “Can’t we take this car?” he asks, pleading for a change in mode of transportation.     “We can’t,” I reply, for reasons I couldn’t explain at the time.     I happily take shotgun. His learner’s permit will be tested for the longest stretch yet: Two-and-a-half hours from Charlotte to Chapel Hill for an overnight stay at one of the leading colleges in the country.     I hate road trips. This opportunity to ride, rather than drive, will be a welcome change. Even with the lack of air conditioning, a broken speedometer and two of four functioning doors, we’ll make it there and back with ease.     After filling our tanks with McGriddles and orange juice, we hit the highway.     Xavier and I share the same gene for conversation — only speak when there’s something important to say or a joke needs to be made.   Otherwise, we observe the silence and let the space do the talking.   I’m taking pictures and he has to address it. “What are you taking pictures of?”     “The GPS, and the road”, I reply.     He follows with “why?”     I tell him about “Dad Will Do It” and explain I want to chronicle the trip.     “Why do you need a blog for Black fathers?” he questions.     I can’t even really comprehend his viewpoint — growing up in a world where he doesn’t feel the disparity as strongly as many of us did growing up, fueled with enough positive to dismiss the need for perspective shaping.     I answer, “When the pinnacle of the positive image of the Black father is on trial for multiple counts of rape, we need to control our own image more than ever.”   He agrees with a comprehension of the difference between the real world and the manufactured one in which Cliff Huxtable existed. The next lull begins.    Cruising through the Piedmont of North Carolina, the conversation rolls through discussions of artificial intelligence, education financing and the genius (or lack of genius, in his perspective) of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.     We share a laugh at the antics of Nephew Tommy from “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” his pretending to be a medical student who needs the wife of the caller to practice pap smears on. I swear there were more beeps than actual words by the end of the joke.     Outside of Chapel Hill, the meaning of the trip comes to a head. Frankie Beverly crooning “Joy and Pain” describes the situation perfectly.     My son driving me around. His first overnight college visit. My son leaving me. The goal I’ve been working towards is a little too close for comfort. I know he’ll be successful but I could have done more. He could be better prepared.     As we pull through the drop-off line, flanked by pretty, young and educated women, it becomes even clearer.   He hops out of the car, grabs his bags and says, “Bye!”     He’s gone.     This is hard enough as it is.     If only I didn’t have to tell him his mother and I are getting separated when he gets back.     To Be Continued ...        Twitter: @rightersguild, @mercurywaters    Medium: @rightersguild    Web: rightersguild.com, grizzlidesign.co

Boy, Bye!

Frankie Beverly crooning “Joy and Pain” describes the situation perfectly. My son driving me around. His first overnight college visit. My son leaving me. The goal I’ve been working towards is a little too close for comfort.