Each year this blog reposts its favorite fatherhood PSA. That’s no different today. By the way, the phone number to fatherhood.gov at the end of the spot still works. Here we go!
This year I’m adding an audio conversation from StoryCorps via NPR: a conversation between a returning veteran and his young son. Have tissue on hand.
Fathers Day has its own emotional particulars. For fathers, it can be a personal day of parenting reflection and assessment. It’s a celebration of the fathers who love and are loved. For some it’s a time of both celebration and mourning for the great fathers who are no longer with us. Fathers Day is also a curious day of celebration and mourning for the fathers some of us never had. And a time of sadness for fathers who have lost sons and daughters over the years and in recent days to senseless violence, war, or illness.
Gratitude, loss, and love are all part of the package of being a father and being human.
Modern American popular traditions break Mother’s Day down to a day off for mom with breakfast in bed and the laundry folded; for Father’s Day, dad gets to play with the new gas grill, catch a live ball game, enjoy that 3’inch thick steak (when he knows he shouldn’t). Dad’s induldged and mom’s pampered.
As I was thinking of Father’s Day, my mind drifted back to a series that broadcast on PBS titled “Africa.” It’s one of the few series about the continent that features people, not animals. In the 2nd episode, “Dessert Odyssey,” viewers are introduced to Adam Illius, a member of the semi-nomadic Tuareg people living in Timia a village in northern Niger. At the time of the filming, Adam was nine years old and about to set off with his father, uncles and other men from the village in a family-run salt caravan across the dessert. This trek would be made by camel. They will collect the salt in Biskra and sell it at market in Zinder. It will also be Adam’s test as to whether he can meet the responsibilities of a caravan leader. The camel trek will take them 6 months to cross 400 miles. Along the way Adam’s uncles set up surprises to scare the youth. These tests will build his confidence and courage. Adam is up for the challenge and the men in the caravan will not accept failure on either side to guarantee a safe and successful journey. The entire community’s survival depends on it. If Will Smith and company were inspired by Adam’s story for “After Earth” (a father/son sci fi feature starring Will and his son Jaden), it would be Adam’s determination to get his camel and the caravan safely across the dessert. But unlike your average hero movie, Adam is not alone. Adam’s uncles and father will be part of that community of men in this vast testing ground that will make for a happy ending…that includes the film crew.
The “Africa” series was a co-production between WNET and National Geographic. I asked, Jennifer Lawson co-executive producer, if she knows how Adam and his family are fairing as we hear news about the Tuareg, and Al Quaeda in Mali and along the Mali/Niger border. So far no official reports have indicated trouble near Adam’s village. Jennifer hasn’t been in contact with the village in some time, but estimates Adam is in his twenties now. Adam is a man, maybe a father.
Ironically I finally got to see Rashaad Ernesto Green‘s first feature-length film “Gun Hill Road” Friday on DVD. I say “ironic” because I didn’t plan to watch the film with Father’s Day looming on the calendar or in my mind. Maybe it’s “coincidence.” The film stars Esai Morales as Enrique Michael Rodriguez, fresh out of prison from a 3 year sentence to find that his only son and namesake, Michael (newcomer Harmony Santana) is transgendered, and his wife (Judy Reyes) has found a new love. From prison Dad has come away with more demons around sexuality, masculinity, and fewer opportunities to pull a life back together. This makes “Gun Hill Road” Enrique’s story. It’s a story about his imperfect struggle to be the father he never had and the father he wants to be to a son that no longer exists — at least as Enrique would want him to exist. It takes a strong actor to keep Enrique human. In less capable hands, Enrique would’ve been Michael’s worst nightmare; a bully monster dad. But Esai refuses to dehumanize the character; like the old saying, “…he was somebody’s baby once.”
Troubled fathers who desire to be part of their children’s lives exist. Incarceration and the prison industry have put a steel wall between them and any hope for reconcilation; most important, reform. Back in the day, social stigmas were prominent for persons who served jail time. But there were blue collar jobs with a liveable wage (and affordable living standards) to get back on your feet. Keep quiet about the jail stuff, ask God for forgiveness, and stay out of trouble and you and your family can have a future. I’ll put a link here to a wonderful program, Hope House, founded by Carol Fenneley that works to strenghthen the bonds between children and their fathers incarcerated far from home.
Depending on your age, the “Gun Hill Road’s” ending may leave you wondering — if Enrique takes steps to understand his son’s pain (baby steps maybe), will Michael/Vanessa ever take the steps to understand his/her father’s.
This is a beautiful mashup featuring one of my favorite Nina Simone tracks on her “Baltimore” album (1978). “My Father” was written by Judy Collins.
The first time I heard Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father” was in my junior year of college when two of my college and also high school classmates performed it as a vocal duet for one of our student jazz recitals in Finney Chapel at Oberlin College. This classic bossa nova styled tribute is performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Nat King Cole was one of my father’s favorite performers and this was one of my father’s favorite songs. My high school/college friend who was on the gig for “Song for My Father” sang this song at my father’s memorial service. Nat King Cole recorded “Unforgettable” in 1951. It became one of his signature songs and later posthumously remastered in a track featuring a duo with his daughter Natalie Cole. [Nat King Cole died of lung cancer in 1965.] Nat King Cole is a class act for all time.
Barack Obama and I share a key identity in common -being shaped by the absence of our fathers. Though his father’s absence was more literal than mine, I still mull over which has the deepest impact: physical absence or emotional absence. I remember Joan Baez saying, the worst kind of loneliness is the loneliness of being with someone. [Note: While typing a tag for this post, I inadvertently typed “fartherhood.” hmmm]
My father died of heart failure just a few days before Father’s Day 15 years ago. I’ve been asked to write about my father. For some reason people think the father-daughter play or film will be the most revealing account of our limited and strained relationship. The quest or witholding dance seems to be a more compelling story than the having. However, I’ve written that story in bits and pieces starting with a play titled “Anthropology.” I wrote it the year my father died. I channeled the story through two voices: two college age guys burrying the ashes of the biological father who was emotionally distant, and the spiritual father who left a positive impact on a troubled youth. The actors who performed it couldn’t believe it was written by a woman. Apparently, I was so right on with the male thing.
A little bit more of my father is revealed in my Church Lady Cakes project. My father lived in the past, as my mother described, the days of eating chocolate cake and drinking lemonade at the church social. Visiting open air markets, my fascination with horses, my love of travel — all are part of my father’s story. Perhaps all these things will culminate into my own Dreams From My Father.
My father comes from a very long and deep family line that has witnessed and been affected by every major event in U.S. history. When drafting my father’s eulogy, my sister observed that sometimes the best thing a parent can give a child may be life itself and I have to say, it’s kind of cool to have such deep roots. But I still dig for his story which may be far more interesting than our story. To his nephews and cousins, he was the life of the party, generous, fun. Who was that guy?
Seeing Barack Obama with his daughters often brings tears to my eyes. Okay, maybe I do miss something that I never had with my own father. But that’s where the growing part comes, and I see clearly why fatherhood is important to the man whose father left his life at the age of two, was raised by a single parent and his grandparents, and became President of the United States. We can’t brood over our losses for a lifetime. Barack Obama says he was shaped by his father’s absence. But now he wants his own children to be shaped by their father’s presence. And I’m sure he’s doing a lot more than just being there.
This one’s for the dads – I know a lot of cool ones. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.
To read President Barack Obama’s Father’s Day letter published in today’s Parade Magazine, click here.
Correction: June 21 is Father’s Day! . Earlier, I posted June 14 – But I still dig the video.
The holiday was started in Spokane, Washington, June 19, 1910. Sonora Smart wanted to celebrate the single parent who was her father after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon in chruch. William Jackson Smart lost his wife and Sonora’s mother leaving him to raise his children on his own. President Richard Nixon established a permanent national recognition of Father’s Day in 1972. PSA courtesy of Bomani (www.notarapper.com)
In today’s Washington Post, Robin Givhan reviews SEPTEMBER ISSUE, R.J. Cutler‘s documentary about the cover-to-cover process of putting together the door-stopper weighted September Vogue . Robin Givhan will moderate the post-screening discussion with R.J. Cutler (PERFECT CANDIDATE, THE WAR ROOM) at the SilverDocs screeningFriday, June 19th.
Audiences may not find her sympathetic. But director R.J. Cutler accomplishes what has eluded so many others: He makes Wintour human.
I’ve got tickets!
Washington Post published a special “Book World” insert with the summer reading list. But only for today.
IT’S 2009 HERE. WHAT YEAR IS IT IN IRAN? 1979, 2000?
While Iranian nationals dispute the election results, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has, for the second time, endorsed the “re-election” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by a landslide over the reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is live-blogging the riots fall-out from Friday’s elections which for observers are described as having “irregularities.” Students in Tehran’s University are under attack and tweeting for help. Protests come to the Iranian Interest Section in DC according to Persianesque.com. Internet and web access is slowing to a creep in Iran.
Is this election reflecting more than just the digital divide?
NIAC will hold a policy conference: U.S. & Iran: Between Elections & EnrichmentWednesday, June 17, 8:00AM-12:10PMCapitol Visitors Center Auditorium, Capitol Hill
Breakfast & Refreshments will be served
RSVP ONLY by June 16 to Michelle Moghtader at email@example.com or (202) 386-6319. Priority given to Members of Congress, Staff, & Accredited Media Update: A speaker list and more information is posted here.