29. The Audacity of Hopelessness

Posted: June 27, 2009 in African American, faith, family, fathers
Tags: , , , ,

Many have inquired about the man who is responsible for lighting the fire in me known asfred jr FathersFootprints.  One of the first essays I developed was centered on the man who has been a major driving force behind my successes and the shoulder to cry on during my failures.  I introduce to the our readers, Fred Duncan.  The man I call Dad.

Often times, life in a city like Detroit can be unforgiving.  Carving out a niche and securing a decent living for your family can leave a man feeling overwhelmed.  For many years my father made the daily commute to the downriver Ford Motor Company assembly plant known as “Rouge”.

Not unlike numerous families who chose to be participants in the Great Migration to Detroit, Chicago and other northern cities in search of an opportunity to provide a good living for their families; my father endured the ritualistic nuances associated with life behind the plant walls.

The Great Migration was the mass movement of about five million southern blacks to the north and west between 1915 and 1960.  During the initial wave the majority of migrants moved to major northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York.  By World War II the migrants continued to move North but many of them headed west to Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. The economic motivations for migration were a combination of the desire to escape oppressive economic conditions in the south and the promise of greater prosperity in the north.  Since their Emancipation from slavery, southern rural blacks had suffered in a plantation economy that offered little chance of advancement.  While a few blacks were lucky enough to purchase land, most were sharecroppers, tenant farmers, or farm labors, barely subsiding from year to year.  When World War I created a huge demand for workers in northern factories, many southern blacks took this opportunity to leave the oppressive economic conditions in the south.

There were many occasions when I looked into my father’s eyes unable to discern what I was really going on inside of him.  In my youth and immaturity, I resolved that the Look was simply a man that had all but given up on his hopes and dreams.  It was not until I became a man myself, that I reflected on that Look and understood that my father’s hopes and dreams did not rest with what he could or would accomplish as an individual, but rather what his seeds would accomplish in years to come.


It was his work behind those plant walls that allowed my brother and I receive private school educations.  It was the daily laborious (sometimes mundane) work at Rouge that provided the health benefits that ensured mom had the best care when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was that same Ford plant that provided the springboard for my brother and I to receive advance degrees (by the way baby bruh is wrapping up a doctorate).

Even though my dad endured many years as a plant worker, he managed to achieve some dreams of his own by enrolling in the Ford apprentice program and becoming a licensed electrician.  He is now retired from Ford Motor Company at a master electrician’s status.  He is blessed to be in good health, both mentally and physically.  While he is experiencing the pains of watching his colleagues’ transition to another life-form almost daily, he basks in the faith and hope for his grandchildren and great-grandchild as well as the future generations of Duncan’s he will never know.  I can honestly say I never heard my father utter the word hopelessness.

I conclude this writing with a quote from the Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie:  “Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” To the man I most admire and will always look up to (pops is 6’5”), whose strength and diligence has created endless possibilities for Sabin, myself and our respective offspring – thanks for the sacrifice. 

Until next time,damon framed

Damon signature

  1. Sabin says:

    It takes a bonafide captain to steer a ship through the treachous, turbulent sea known as the inner-city. Not only must he steer the ship (the family) but he must instill intestinal fortitude within his sons to make good choices even when he isn’t present. I am and we are because of the vision and sacrifice made by our father.

    I now understand that jogging with ankle weights in the blazing summer sun wasn’t just conditioning for sports, it was conditioning for life.

    Thanks Dad, love ya!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Now it makes sense where the Duncan boys got their start. This was a very inspiring piece. I see some of the same characteristics in my family. My dad worked for General Motors for 30 years. He sacrificed many of his personal dreams to make sure we had a place to live and health insurance. He hated working there but did it so his family would have a fighting chance. There seems to be a common theme among many blue-collar workers from the Big 3.

  3. Sarah J says:

    Nice touch. Damon and Sabin are rare breeds. We now see how it came about. Keep these blogs coming. My co-workers love them and we always discuss on Monday morning.

  4. Fred Jun says:

    The sacrifices and disappointments of too many drab yesterdays disappear at the gleeful Granddaddeee!! whenever Suga-bear and Mo cheeks visit. Somehow it all seems worthwhile now having two responsible young men call me dad. It took a team effort that Jo Anne and I started almost forty five years ago.
    Thanks, Jo, for your love,help, patience and my boys.

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