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Sunday is both Juneteenth and Father’s Day: salute Black fatherhood!

Juneteenth and Father's Day

In the same issue of the same local daily newspaper in Gary recently, there were two starkly contrasting stories involving Black youths. In one story, two teenagers were arrested and faced charges after shooting at folks attending graduation ceremonies. In the more prominent front page story, eight-year-old Darnell Gaffney Jr. shares a story of giving.

The son of my friend who runs a local print marketing business explained how the boy became concerned when he saw homeless people outside a restaurant. He asked his father what was the deal. Big Darnell explained and Little Darnell wanted to do something about it. He raised $1,000 to help feed homeless folks who had nothing to eat.

Last weekend Darnell Jr.’s dad brought him to Fishers, IN where he won first place in a statewide track meet. Predictably, young Darnell’s grades this past school year were excellent.

I’m no gambler, but if I were a betting man, I’d say odds were against Darnell Jr. getting involved in anything similar to the antics of those two teens sitting in jail.

And those odds grow less high and higher proportionate to every second that Darnell Sr. spends pouring love and guidance into him.

Darnell Sr. humbly points out that he is not raising this amazing young man alone. He said, “We are all thankful that he has a two-parent household. I support all the time and effort my wife (Alisha) puts in.

“We have an excellent village for him – everybody from uncles, aunts, grandparents and Trinity Baptist Church… they all know what the Gaffney family stands for and they all contribute positive energy. We try to put him in winning situations. As a child, I worried more about daddy pressure than peer pressure. The cycle continues.”

Now to be certain, we must pray for the two errant teenagers. They have time to turn their lives around and they matter. But this moment isn’t about them. Given the occasion of Father’s Day being this weekend, I’m going to even narrow “the village” spotlight and place it squarely on the exemplary parenting of Daddy Darnell for the moment.

That wonderful news story was a “feel good” moment appropriate for the celebration of Black fatherhood that will take place from coast to coast Sunday.

Contrary to widely held misconceptions, Black fathers are actually more involved in their children’s lives than other ethnic groups (Google it). Young Darnell Jr. was wearing a red t-shirt in the front page newspaper photo that red: “Dream Big.” Clearly, he has every right to!

When people say don’t take any day for granted, it sounds like such a cliché that we easily brush it off. Somehow when a person that we know transitions to eternity, it brings us in closer touch with our own mortality. When we are young, there is a spirit of invincibility and the thought of limited time on earth rarely enters your mind. But when you are older – and experience loss among your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and across your congregation – every day becomes much more precious.

Even youthful longevity can’t be taken for granted. When people say never ignore or put off a moment to let folks in your life know what they mean to you, it’s not just because you fear their demise. Do it because you want to express your appreciation for them in the here and now.

You may be tired of hearing it but here it is again. Whether you are closer to 18 or 80, let all of those within your intimate sphere – and even some special folk on the fringes – know how much they mean to you.

Nobody has to preach that on Mother’s Day. It’s instinctive. No matter how little they confess it, dads need the same kind of affection. Respect. Most brothers are similar to turtles, hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Show love on the regular but especially this weekend!

Let us end with a little levity. I know shopping for dad can be a chore. I’m going to help make it simpler. Here are the Top 10 things NOT to get him for Father’s Day:

  1. Necktie
  2. Belt/suspenders
  3. Socks/underwear/hankies
  4. Cologne
  5. Slippers
  6. Home repair videos
  7. Shaving stuff
  8. “World’s Greatest Dad” ANYTHING
  9. Car cleaning accessories
  10. Bath/toiletry items

All men are different but none are really that complicated. Either observe and listen for something he has been yearning for or needing or even more simple, just ask. We don’t care about gift wrapping or being surprised.

And men won’t care that you didn’t come up with the idea on your own. That’s just not that important to most. We know your heart and appreciate you the same, even if we get no gift at all. Men mean it when they tell you that having you in their lives is gift enough.

POST NOTE: But on the real, get the brotha SOMETHING besides the big piece of chicken. I mean, it is Father’s Day. You know what I’m sayin’ …?

Happy Father’s Day!

Vernon A. Williams JuneteenthCIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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