One of my favorite Tyler Perry movies is “Madea’s Family Reunion.” The family reunion is a main stay in African American culture. A family reunion was even portrayed in the movie “Poetic Justice.” Likewise, having to mourn the deaths of two mothers immediately signals the importance of family. My biological mother’s death is marked by the realization that she died the same night that 2PAC was shot in Las Vegas. My adopted mother died Easter Sunday morning. I had just left an Easter Sunrise church service when I received a call from the hospital encouraging me to get to the hospital soon due to my mother’s deteriorating condition. Absent from this discussion is the mourning of the death of a father. I recall when I was a child I use to call my mother’s husband “daddy.” I also recall being awakened upon his death. I was only eight years old when I was told that “daddy” died. I cried. What I find amazing about these memories is that as I grew older I no longer referred to my adopted mother’s husband as daddy. In family sometimes, one has to assess the connotations and denotations. For example, having been a stepfather I was comfortable. However, being a stepfather with the intent of denoting a father, made me uncomfortable.
The family, in America, is held in high esteem according to public rhetoric. The American Republican Party is especially fund of touting family values. Their policies, on the other hand, tend to go against the grain of holding up families. For example, the American Republican Party does not truly support family leave. This party plays politics with children’s health care programs. The party attempts to destroy family planning clinics. Women’s health concerns are seen as too costly. This includes prenatal care. Yes, the American Republican Party has paid excellent lip service to the connotation of family; however, has only put forth policies detrimental to the denotation of family.
The family is especially prized in the Black community. When one speaks of the Black family, one must always take into account the destructive forces of enslavement and legal segregation. The Black family was not permitted to exist during enslavement. Occasionally, an intact family narrative would survive. Alex Hailey’s “Roots” is evidence of this possibility. More often than not; mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers were lost for eternity. Offspring were sold and resold. Parents were killed. Given the fact that literacy was illegal during enslavement, made searching for loved ones difficult to impossible. All these things created negative mores that continue to impact negatively on the Black family. The author of this article is a testament to such negative impacts. To this very day I cannot name a father. Having a known and present father seemed as illegal as literacy for the enslaved. Therefore, I pledge to be a known and present father to my son. And if love were a bank account, the love that I have for my son will make Bill Gates look like a pauper. In one since, being a stable and present father is an act of resistance to the forces that continually attempt to keep the Black family in disarray. Fatherly love, as a revolutionary act, keeps the connotation of family and the denotation of family in sync.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”