The Gift of Parenting: Reflecting on Dad’s Day and The Extended Family

By Meta J. Mereday

Father’s Day is the annual celebration of the males who inspire and motivate their children.  Recently, African American males have been repeatedly (and one-sidedly) bashed by the media as “deadbeat,” “absentee” and “abusive.”

Unfortunately, the state of divorces, domestic violence and child abuse have reached epidemic proportions around the world in all cultures. Even sadder is the realization that the reflections for Dad’s day that incorporate images portraying fathers of color, especially African American ones, as supportive and loving are extremely limited. 

This has given me cause to provide my own reflections to inspire others, in a broad sense, to stand up and speak up about those fathers who stepped to the plate to not only be there for their own children, but who extended their love and support to others.

Historically, the importance of the extended family in the African American culture is well documented.  Many families, including mine, were blessed with “surrogate fathers,” “big brothers,” “uncles” and other males with no blood ties to you, but who filled in the blanks and left profound fatherly imprints on the lives they touched with no hint of scandal or mistreatment. 

I wanted to share my experiences about a select few who touched my life in the hope that this Dad’s day you will remember those special “dads” in your life.  I think about “Pop” Winford, whose daughter Valerie is like a sister to me, who would make breakfast for us all when we had been out partying and he was getting ready to go to work; on to college and “Poppa Joe” Landry in California, my roommate’s father, who was always concerned about me getting picked up at the airport when I would return after flying across the country;  then there is “Pop Jack” Al Jackson who worried about my driving the Florida highways alone and tried to act like he was not and talks to me about baseball.  

And speaking of the Florida “fathers,” I cannot forget “Poppy” Harry Morris in Tampa, Fla. who casually asked me what my favorite foods were when I visited him and his wife Lucille, my sorority sister, and he made sure I always had something I liked.  And the North has not been too shabby, here I have “Uncle Phil” Debnam who walks me through the computer age and is always available to answer questions or cheer me up.

However, my trip down father lane would not be complete without my reflections on Dr. Stan Hamilton, who was a father figure to so many. I am so grateful that I was able to gain wisdom, love and encouragement from a man who was always on a mission, but whose heart was enormous.  He reflected the spirit of Dad’s day for me and the selfless gifts that the unsung African American fathers give to their extended families everyday.

There are many out there who are proactive and their voices are not being heard regarding the resources and encouragement to support their families.  It all starts with each of us.  If they were there for you, now they need you to be there for them and the next generation of fathers.  

So, whatever you call that special father figure in your life—whether it was Dad, Pop, Poppa, Father, Big Daddy, Uncle, Brutha, Pop-Pop, Grandpa, Neighbor Smith or Mr. Jones—remember to call them to say THANKS and to celebrate all the dads on Father’s Day and beyond.  

 Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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