Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

*A special thanks goes to Errol Anthony Wilkes for his contritution to the book “Daddy, Am I Pretty?”  The following is taken from the publication that went on sale Father’s Day of 2010.

Dear Priscia Liliane,

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of your Mom’s passing. Dec 11, 1999 started out the typical for us during the theatre season. I was supposed to have two shows and you had your dance recital to do that afternoon. Little did we know that our life as we know it would change, forever.

That day when I saw the remnants of the car that was once driven by the woman I pledged to love and protect, I prayed to wake up from the obvious nightmare. Alas, it was not a dream. Was it some cruel joke that God was playing? Why dear God did this happen a couple weeks before Christmas? And, on the day I was to buy the Christmas tree! Well, the deed was done. I remember Tony Baker and Mr. Astley telling me that the last thing I should ask myself was “why me”. Of course, that did not stop me from making that query. I was understandably pissed at God. We had just bought that house less than 6 months and we had just begun to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Now instead of planning for Christmas, I was planning a funeral. Ironically, I have gained more faith because you must use your trials and tribulations as opportunities to achieve successes.

The worst day was when all our guests finally left and we walked into that empty house. I looked at you, barely 12 years old and life had to suck for you at that time knowing that Mom was gone and never to return.  I made a pact with myself that day. I decided to live life to the fullest and to make sure that you grew up to be a great citizen.

I know some of the things I forced on you were not your cup of tea but I felt that in order for you to succeed, I had to remain vigilant. That’s why I insisted that you read Manchild In The Promised Land, Huck Finn and all those other great works of literature. That’s why I insisted that you listen to Coltrane, Bach and Vivaldi. That’s why I took you to all those Plays and Museums! That’s why I didn’t let “headaches” keep you from attending school. That’s why I taught you how to cook our native dishes and sang those folk songs you now have your friends call for me to sing to them over the telephone.

I felt that right or wrong as a Black person and a West Indian in this my adopted land, it is highly imperative that one has to be much better than others competing for the same job. I tried to instill in you that great study habits and hard work pays off.

It took me a year after Marie’s passing before I started to try to date. I kept my relationships away from you because as predicted most of them did not last long. Your aunt Maxine stated that I was too busy looking for another Marie. Well, there may be truth to that because your mother was a very beautiful and special lady. She was very passionate about her opinions and that lead to some of our most heated discussions that usually left me sleeping on that lumpy and unappetizing couch!

Sometimes I am haunted by the memories of that very last argument we had because she died before we made up. The lesson here is that we should always mend our fences and disagreements prior to going to sleep.

I remember that Sunday in August 2005 after you were installed at Dillard University, I cried on the way back to Houston. I was darn near Baton Rouge before I stopped crying. That was only because I could not see out of my extremely swollen eye lids.

Then came Katrina and you moved even further away to FAMU. The good thing is that you occasionally get to see your Mom’s family in Valdosta. Yes Prisca, that is a good thing. Family is family and I want you to learn their culture as well. It is what you are.

I want you to continue working hard. I know I preach a lot about grades and you get a bit testy whenever I do, but you know what? Tough. That is who your Dad is and I don’t suppose I am about to change now. I did not get where I am today by half stepping and as long as I am alive, I will not allow you to be mediocre at anything in this life. This is why you get frustrated when you call me for advice and I don’t tell you what you want to hear. My love for you just will not allow me to lie to you.

I know I normally write my letters to you with my trusted fountain pen but I am trying to evolve into the 21st century. Since it took me so long to write this one, look for my subsequent letters in your mail box.

You have grown into a strikingly beautiful young lady and as I have said to you many times before. The right guy will come along. After all, Mom and I found each other. Do not make any compromises with your life that will come back to haunt you. Everything and every choice you make in life has consequences. You have to learn that patience in the case of love is a good thing. There are some good guys out there and one day one will be yours. Right now your job is to finish your college studies and be a well-rounded individual. Real men dig smart women, trust me on that one.

I close now with this last bit of advice. It is my high school motto LABOR OMNIA VINCIT. It’s Latin and means “work overcome all difficulties”.

With All My Love,

Dad

A copy of the book “Daddy, Am I Pretty?” can be obtained at www.FootprintsBooks.com .

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by Sabin Duncan

There is a scene in the movie The Best Man, where Terrance Howard’s character attempts to assuage his friend’s fears by assuring that “karma don’t come back like that.”  As a father of two beautiful girls, I am certain that I am not alone in hoping that karma indeed does not come back like that.

At the moment we first find out we’re having a daughter, every father flashes back to all the things that he has done to and with someone else’s daughter.  It is at that moment, despite religious standing or affiliation, every father-to-be communicates with God.  A communication, a prayer, or more than likely a plea, that begins with these two words: “Lord, please”.

From that initial moment of humility and probably for the duration of our days, we are never the same.  We attempt to stand rigid, but when those pretty eyes sparkle and coo “please daddy”, we melt faster than ice cubes in a heated oven.  When baby girl cries, our chest expands, our bravado multiplies and our ego rages – because whoever did this to our baby girl, they are about to be victimized by our ferocity.  Yet somehow, the money you had begun saving for a huge high-definition television, becomes easily spent when lil’ mama needs a pretty dress and sandals.  Indeed, we are never as tough as we were before daughters.

Yet I’m here to say that unlike the rest of you, I can tell my daughters, “no!”  In fact, I supplement my “no” with a crazed hysterical look that shouts, “what the heck were you thinking?”  But my girls work with charm – hey, what can I say?  They get it from their dad.  They climb into my lap and use their little fingers to outline my eyebrows or mustache.  Then they tuck their little chins to their chest and look up from under those long eyelashes.  They shrug their little shoulders and affectionately murmur: “daddy….”  The rest of the statement doesn’t matter, because this daddy springs into action. “What!! You can’t find your Princess Tiana Barbie? Well, go get your jacket.  Daddy will get you a new one.”  Later, as we proceed to the cash register of Toys’ R Us, I stoop down and plead with my little ladies, “don’t tell your mama, ok?”

This post is originally featured in Daddy, Am I Pretty? by Damon E. Duncan.  Order Your Copy today!

Recently ESPN 30 for 30 aired a program entitled “Without Bias” that provided a detailed account of the events that led up to- and the aftermath of the University of Maryland basketball phenom Len Bias.  Leonard Kevin Bias (November 18, 1963 – June 19, 1986) was a first team All-American college basketball player who suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia that resulted from a cocaine overdose less than 48 hours after being selected second overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Draft.len-bias1

Although this occurred over 20 years ago I recall this tragedy as if it were yesterday.  I can’t recall of another time in the history of sports where a 2nd overall draft pick didn’t live to see the first day of training camp.

The Len Bias story is one that proved to all who hadn’t known it before, that cocaine is a potent drug and can be merciless even to first-time users.  The recent ESPN program opened an old wound for me as I contemplate the many black men who have succumb to the pressure of selling and using illegal substances.

Within five years of his passing, Len’s younger brother, Jay Bias, became a victim to gun violence.

A Detroit native, I spent my high school years in a community where the Young Boyz Incorporated ruled the streets of Dexter, Linwood and Chicago Blvd.  Every day we witnessed the residual effect of the drug trade.  It was also during that time span that I lost a friend due to an accident with a handgun.  With all the pain and frustration that went along with the surroundings of such, I’m sure my frustration was no match for that of Lonise Bias, a mother who lost two sons with promise within 5 years of the other.

I’m not a mother, nor have I lost any children, but a deep pain is felt in the pit of my stomach when I try to fathom what Lonise has endured.  That pain is erased as I learn that after 23 years (Len has been dead as long as he has been alive) Lonise Bias continues to dedicate her life to helping youth avoid the pitfalls of drugs, crime and illicit behaviors.

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Dr. Lonise Bias - mother of Len & Jay Bias

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 23 years since my high school graduation.  I never grew to become a basketball star as was once my dream, but I’m thankful for the life and family that God has given me.  More importantly, I thank Him for giving me another chance.

I conclude this piece with a scripture from Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Be blessed,

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Copyright © 2009

The FathersFootprints’ journey has me afforded the opportunity to meet some really dynamic people.  While working on my first book, Daddy Am I Pretty? I met a woman by the name of Phyjuar (pronounced Pen-wah) Thomas, who is a gifted actor, comedian, music producer, music historian, radio personality and acting coach.  Although Phynjuar is an extraordinary woman, the focus of today’s blog feature is to celebrate the life of her famous daughter, Michelle Thomas.Michelle Thomas

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Thomas grew up in Montclair, New Jersey and was an alumna of West Essex High School. She was the daughter of Phynjuar Thomas, a stage actress and Dennis Thomas a member of a music group Kool & the Gang.]In the mid-1980s, Thomas was crowned Miss Talented Teen New Jersey in Hal Jackson’s Talented Teen Competition. The following year, she competed in the international pageant and won the title of International Queen.

Michelle made her acting debut in 1988 as Justine Phillips, the girlfriend of Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show. She later appeared on a various television programs during the late 1980s and 1990s including A Man Called Hawk and Thea. In 1991, Thomas had a small role in comedy Hangin’ with the Homeboys. Thomas also appeared in music videos for Mint Condition and Dru Hill.  In 1993, she won the role of Myra Monkhouse on the long-running sitcom Family Matters. After the series ended in 1998, Thomas portrayed Callie Rogers Stark, an aspiring singer on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless. She left the series in October 1998. Wiki

Michelle was best known for her role as Myra Monkhouse, the girlfriend of Steve Urkel, on the black sitcom Family Matters from 1993 to 1998.  Thomas was diagnosed with an incurable form of stomach cancer; intra-abdominal desmoplastic small round cell tumor, a rare soft tissue sarcoma.  On December 22, 1998, Michelle passed away in New York City at Manhattan’s Memorial at the age of 30.

I personally recall hearing of the news and feeling deeply saddened about the loss of such a beautiful, talented sister.  Those of you who remember her character Myra, know that she was a refreshing addition to the Family Matters’ line-up.

My heart and prayers go out to Phynuar and anyone who has had to bury their own child, especially at the height of that child’s success.  I cannot fathom attending a funeral for which Dominique is being eulogized.  My eyes are welling up at the mere thought.

I regret I never had the opportunity to meet Michelle personally.  However, after the numerous conversations with Phynjuar, I feel as if I’ve known her for a lifetime.  On September 23, Michelle’s birthday, we officially celebrate her life.   

“Dream about us together again! All I want is together again! I know we’ll be together again ’cause Everywhere I go Every smile I seeI know you are there Smilin’ back at me Dancin’ in moonlight I know you are free Cuz’ I can see your star Shinin’ down on me! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY, WE’RE DANCING!” ~ Phynjuar

Until next time,

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Copyright © 2009

This is available in hard copy at http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/ds-2-cents/7806521

incognitoThis is available in hard copy at http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/ds-2-cents/7806521

Clark SistersIn 1985, a Detroit-based gospel recording group called the Clark Sisters penned and recorded an album entitled “Is my living in vain.”  In essence, they were asking the question whether or not our efforts to live right, walk right and pray right – were yet futile.  In other words, have I really accomplished all that God has required of me?  I’d like to add yet another line to the Clark Sisters’ song: Is my parenting in vain?

Recent discussion with parents who, like me, have teenage children attending high school have confirmed that our kids face far different challenges than when we attended school in the 70’s and 80’s.  Increased youth violence, teen-pregnancy, drugs, depression and overall identity crisis issues are but a few of the challenges our teens are faced with during their daily school attendance.

I am convinced that our technological advances are part of the blame.  Our teens are using their ipods to rock: “I’m going in” byboy_and_girl_tm Drake and Lil Wayne; “1,000 stacks” by Nelly and Diddy; and; “Trick’n” by Mullage ft. T-Pain.  They’re using their video game systems to play: Grand Theft Auto; Final Fantasy; and Halo 2.   Finally, they’ve become addicted to their laptops, logging on to MySpace, YouTube, and yes, Facebook websites.

Keep in mind that the above can also serve as distractions to adults, but for the kids, these tech toys seem to have shaped their personalities, character and sapped their already lethargic tendencies.

My teens are no different and have delved into each of the above, and for that reason I restate my question: “Is my parenting in vain?”  I’m not sure that through my so-called success that I have appropriately and adequately, as the bible says, “Trained up a child in the way they should go…”

Earlier today Pastor Purvis delivered a powerful message that touched on various aspects of this blog as well as a sermon I am currently preparing.  He challenged us to simply ‘pray’ for our kids as they attempt to obtain academic achievement in a social and chaotic melting-pot.

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As a father (and a grandfather), I am concerned for my teens and my adult children as well.  I am concerned for their health and their future.  I am concerned about them being a productive part of society as well as a champion for God’s kingdom.

As I conclude this blog I want to quote Solomon Kinloch of Triumph Church, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but the only thing that’s going to last what Jesus you put in ‘them children.”  Not dissimilar from our armed forces serving in Iraq, our children go to battle every time the school bell rings.  As we usher them off to the bus stop with new clothes and school supplies, let’s make sure they take Jesus with them. 

Boondocks Comic Strip

D’s 2 cents,

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