Fatherhood has the power to move us in many ways. Black fatherhood, specifically, is integral to the infrastructure of our community. In a world that seeks to denigrate Black men, they shine their light brightly as a reminder that they are present, involved and ready to uplift the future of our world. Generationally, even with all of their complexities, Black fathers have been sources of love, stability, strength and fortitude.
Outside of the celebrity father figures we look up to on our favorite sitcoms or in pop culture, the real superheroes are the everyday dads who show up for their community and families in the best way they know how. Whether they were given the blueprint to succeed in fatherhood or had to figure it out on their own, these fathers prove just how capable and exceptional they can be.
In the spirit of continuing to uplift Black men in all of their identities and efforts, five Black fathers—Tony Taylor, Anthony Jules, Michael Johnson, Cory Mickens and Don Felton— take time to reflect on the advice given to them by father figures in their own lives. Additionally, they share their hopes for what their children will internalize through their example.
They were asked two specific questions and provided a wealth of wisdom that can fuel many generations to come.
What is the greatest life lesson that your father or a father figure shared with you?
Tony Taylor: My father taught me a lot of skills, like working with my hands, and that I can do anything that I put my mind to, along with the value of respect. Additionally, he taught me kindness, confidence and most of all, resilience. When I looked at my dad, I would always see self-confidence, which he instilled in me. The greatest piece of advice that I carry from him is to be my own thinker, to be a leader and to create my own path.
Anthony Jules: I think the best advice I’ve gotten from my elders has been, “When the storms of life ultimately come, keep God at the center.” This piece of advice has a way of grounding and calming me in moments of stress and duress.
Michael Johnson: The greatest piece of advice my pops gave to me as a man is that I should always seek growth in knowledge: Be bold and if you don’t know, then don’t be afraid to ask questions. He taught me to always understand that knowledge is the key to success, and if anyone shall ask anything of you, keep your mouth closed until you have the correct answer.
Cory Mickens: My father has always taught me to love and communicate with my family. When I was in high school, he gave me the poem Don’t Quit and I placed it on my wall. I played sports at the time and tried to play football. He said to me, “Just like you do with sports, you don’t quit on your family. Never quit.”
Don Felton: I spent a lot of my summers down in Norfolk, Virginia, hanging out with my grandfather and my uncles so my insight about life came from them.
What lessons do you hope to pass down to and instill in your own children?
Taylor: I would like my daughter to always understand that although the sun may not always be shining, tomorrow will be a better day. Life is all about having resilience, so you must have faith in yourself and know that God is always with you no matter what you do.
Jules: First, find your happiness. Whatever it may be or wherever it may lie, pursue it. Second, help people whenever you can. That brings a great reward in life for others, as well as for yourself. Third, have fun. Life should be enjoyed, not just endured.
Johnson: The greatest advice I have always shared with my child is to always know and believe in who you are. Never think to be or change into someone that you’re not. Stay true to who you are, God loves you no matter what. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Mickens: As a father of five, they’ve taught me more than I’ve taught them. They’ve taught me how to love, how to be respectful and how to listen to different opinions. I think I’ve passed those things down to them. Also, I want them to love God and have a personal relationship with the Lord, and treat others how they want to be treated. It’s very important to be a good person and have good character. Lastly, to be strong, find peace and never ever quit. Don’t quit.
Felton: The family gene that I believe has been passed down to my daughter is the significance of helping others in life. Also, you gotta make time to do wholesome and simple things, things that don’t even cost money. Just spending time is important. She’s 25 now and eventually, she’s going to leave the nest and start a family of her own. But I am always going to cherish the memories that I have.
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