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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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“Black Dads Who DO!”: TSD seeking stories, photos to spotlight Dads for June

Before I took the reins here at The Tri-State Defender, God gave me one of those “in the wilderness” assignments — you know, when God wants to get you by yourself, so you can be molded?

TSD Interim Editor Lee Eric Smith

For me, that meant what I call a “two-year tour” in Laurel, Mississippi, perhaps best known these days for the HGTV show “Hometown.” Laurel is about 4.5 hours away, so this assignment would take me away from my preschool-aged son. 

It was not an easy assignment, but the experience was not completely new. It’s a story unto itself, but the way things went with my ex-wife, I’ve had next to no meaningful participation with my daughter since she was four. I’ve missed so many moments with her — her learning to talk, first day of school, PTA conferences. It may be all very mundane, but if you’ve ever been the noncustodial parent, these things are gold.

Anyway, Eric Jr. was my second chance to be a DAD, and I wanted to miss as little as possible while I was away. We video chatted most every night, where we’d say a prayer before bedtime. And I made a point to come home almost every other week. I noticed my mental health wasn’t good if I went longer than that.

See, so-called “normal parent stuff” – taking kids to school, doing homework, impromptu games of tag – some parents are over all that stuff. Me? I cherish it. That’s why sometimes, I’d stay over until Monday morning before going back to Laurel. I wanted to take my son to school.

That routine has continued since I returned. I pull up near the crossing guard, get Eric out of the car and cross the street. His hand instinctively falls into mine, so there we are: a Black Dad and his son, holding hands as they cross the street. I’m known to overthink things, but I imagine it’s a heartwarming sight too rarely seen.

I mean, Black Dads taking their kids to school, helping with homework, coaching youth sports, teaching life lessons . . . there’s nothing special about that, is there? Well, maybe not — which is why we want to shine a light on the “Black Dads Who DO!”

Look, I know I’m not the only Black Dad walking his kid up to the school door – I know this because I see other Black Dads doing the exact same thing every day. If you’re paying attention, we are literally EVERYWHERE. 

But you won’t see THAT on the news — at least not before you see 3-5 photos of Black men in police mugshots. Some would say that these Dads shouldn’t expect praise for handling their parental responsibilities — for doing what they’re “supposed” to do. And maybe they shouldn’t. 

But dammit: What’s wrong with showing some love to Black Dads? Lil DrayDray can get on TV for a carjacking, but we can’t shout out a Dad who reads to his kids?

Help us out TSD Readers: We’ve declared June 2024, “The Month of the Black Dad.” And we want to showcase Black Dads being the loving parents they are. Do you know a Black Dad who may feel underappreciated? Is there one in your family or at your place of worship? We want to hear about them!

We’re particularly interested in photos of Black Dads doing normal, everyday activities with their kids — things like doing homework, cooking, playing, doing yardwork or household chores together. If you know anyone who meets these criteria, scan the code, fill out the form and tell us!

And to be clear, we’re looking for Dads and kids of ALL ages. Sure, we want a photo of a Dad feeding his infant baby food. But we also want teens and their Dads cooking together as well as adult children spending time with their parents. 

Throughout June, we will highlight and showcase Black Dads Who DO across all our platforms – here on our website as well as Facebook and Instagram. In some cases, we may even follow up for a feature story!

One more closing thought: In the 1990s, my father, the late Mayor Eddie Lee Smith, Jr. of Holly Springs, Miss, gave me a small lapel pin with the numerical fraction on it: “¾.” I asked him what it meant.

“Well, we always hear about the one in four Black men who slip through the cracks, on drugs, in jail or dead,” he replied. “But if one in four are like that, that means THREE out of four Black men aren’t on drugs, aren’t in jail. . . presumably working, taking care of themselves and their families. The pin is a reminder of that.”

We always hear about the Black Men who don’t. 

Join The Tri-State Defender in celebrating the Black Dads Who DO!

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