By Remy Johnson
I always wanted to see a part of me that wasn’t always shady – Tupac Amaru Shakur
My initial experience with my daughter was interesting. It seems I had the opportunity to introduce myself twice to her. The first time was when she was born. Our time together was cut short because it was time for me to leave for Africa which was going to be a ten months long excursion. I remember looking in her eyes before I left and telling her, “daddy going to fix the world for you.” She replied, “aye” and spit up on me, but I didn’t care. I really didn’t.
A lot of time for black men the actual experience of fatherhood really changes us. More times then not, it changes us in ways we wouldn’t realize. As I traveled throughout the continent I came across many opportunities but the one I appreciate the most was the opportunity to be a “father” and leader for a large number of youth. In Azania (South Africa), I worked at Teboho Trust in Soweto, South Africa with my brothers David, Tregg, Tank, Thabo, Ben, Super Dave, and later Malcolm. Mr. Bright would simply give us a list and we were to carry it out in preparation for Saturday school every week.
Teboho Trust is an empowerment organization that works with orphaned children of AIDS/HIV victims. The mission of the trust is to empower orphaned, vulnerable and at-risk children / adolescents to reach their full potential in society. We provide personal empowerment, social development, educational support, economic development and wellness through programmes, activities and events to children and adolescents in order to build tomorrow’s leaders today.
The first day at the trust, Mr. Bright was caught in traffic or some other hold up which made him late for a meeting with a government officials who were auditing Teboho for funding and a new building. David and I were thrust into duty and honestly it was the first time I had conducted such a meeting. We did well, in fact, I was asked to lead more often and my brother David was humble enough to allow me to lead. I immediately began to rewrite and restructure the curriculum, brochures, templates, thank you letters, etc. We worked feverishly as we only had 30 days to get it in.
One of things about fatherhood is that it can be emotionally draining, and in particularly when all the children see you as the “shoulder” they have been waiting for. The first day at Saturday school one of my “lil mans” began to weep as we read Totsi. This particular part of the book describes a horrible fight between two characters. I guess it gave my youth a flashback and he asked to be excused. I followed him outside and he began to weep and tell me stories of abuse. Completely unprepared, and handcuff ed by “touching” laws I eventually hugged and let em’ weep on my shoulder. He felt better, and became one of my main team leaders.
Another situation was when one of my young sister-students was raped. Her friend told us about it as she, like most victims, was afraid and ashamed. There was another dynamic and it perhaps was the most brutal. She was asked to be silent about it because the person who raped her was her sister’s boyfriend. But they needed him for finances. The situation was unique and eventually handled by the authorities. However, it was taxing as we tried to gently find out who had committed the offense.
I would have many experiences like this one throughout my life. All seem to be guiding me towards the direction of fatherhood. Which I can’t lie, makes me feel better than anything. It has nothing to do with being masculine but everything to do with surrounding yourself with love ones you can trust, being needed, and not having to have a guard up. One of my Sekuru’s (elder male or simply Father) always told me when you get down just go sit with your children, they always make you smile and inspire you.
To be continued…