On June 13, 2017 my wife gave birth to our first child, a son, Cameron-Anthony. He was born after a night of labor just as daylight was beginning to break on that wonderful Tuesday morning. Standing there in the delivery room these two thoughts kept racing through my mind; “Joy cometh in the morning,” and “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Now that I am a Father, allow me to solute the rest of the Fathers out there. A great deal has been made about Fathers in general and Black Fathers in particular. Ironically, Bill Cosby went on a national tour castigating Black Fathers. His current plight makes that an excessive irony given the fact that Cosby made a huge fortune playing America’s Dad on “The Cosby Show.” President Obama had a mild backlash for admonishing Black Fathers. Many felt as if he were talking down to Black men in general and Black Fathers in particular. Yet, a reading of Barack Obama’s book “Dreams from My Father,” gives us insight into his admonitions to us. “Us.” It feels good to say it like that at this moment. I am writing these words and my only child is not even a week old. What now must I do? I think about Ta-Nehisi Coates and his letter to his son, “Between the World and Me.” I think about all the clichés about fatherhood. Some of the worst of these include “dead beat Dads,” “single mother households,” “absentee Fathers,” and “Papa was a rolling stone!” I think about Fathers and great sacrifices. I think about Dr. King. I think about President Kennedy. I think about Malcolm X. None of these men lived to see their children grow into adulthood.
The writer of this article never knew who his own Father was. Perhaps it could be found out. It just seems that each time I mustered enough will to come into that knowledge, the search seemed to fizzle out while opening endless doors that seemed to lead to no where. I use to joke that my birth was the second “Immaculate Conception.” Yes, there is no name. There is no image. Even now when I look into the mirror I see shades of my mother, but that image of my Father is strange to me. I would not even recognize him if he sat next to me on a train, bus, or plane. Nevertheless, those tears have nourished many gardens.
Personally, despite my age, I have not experienced many things in life. Yet, on the other hand, I feel as if I have profound knowledge. Sometimes I feel as if I have deep knowledge. This knowledge is deep to point that there are some things I wish I did not know. Perhaps this is the legacy of the curse that Adam and Eve left us with after they decided to eat from the tree with forbidden fruit. I say this because I am extremely joyful that my son is here. I am elated to say that I am his Father. I have been constantly smiling since he was born. There is something special about joyful tears that stream down your cheek involuntarily.
On the other hand, I have to deal with this knowledge of “good and evil.” I have to deal with this knowledge of my own imperfections. I have to deal with this knowledge that there are people in this world who would hurt my son and not feel any remorse. I know that America is currently involved in three wars, Iraq, Afghanistan, and terror. I know that there are people who will judge him by the color of his skin. I know I wish that he could have been born under the first Black President or under the first Woman President. I guess I will have to take solace in knowing that he was conceived under the first Black President. Rest assured he will come into a full knowledge about President Obama long before he is able to crawl. As I stated earlier, I know that I am not perfect. Just like Paul, when I try to do good, evil is always present. Yet, my love for my son will remain perfect and unwavering. I shall instill within him an overwhelming respect for his Mother. I shall teach him how to respect others and recognize the humanity in people he will never know. As humans, our forward and backward looking imaginations can play tricks on us. Time is fleeting and relative. Yet, I can say that my son shall know that I am his Father and that he is my Son. My pledge to Cameron-Anthony is to try and live up the expectations I see in his eyes every day.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from 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”