The Grandmama Blues

 

Wednesday evening, I received a phone call from my mother saying that my grandmother, who has been on dialysis for the past 6 years and who was just diagnosed with bone cancer last week, had been admitted to the hospital and was intensive care on a ventilator machine. Congestive heart failure prevented her doctors from removing the excess fluid that was building up in her lungs. My mind instantly flashed back to around 1996 when my aunt (my grandmother’s sister) had an aneurism and died. She, too, was on a respiratory machine, but because she was completely brain dead, the family decided to pull the plug. I, along with my family members of all ages, watched my aunt breath the last breath she would ever take. It was the first time I saw anyone die.
Growing up, and having been to many funerals (I sang at many of them), I was used to death. My family was even close friends with the local mortician. Therefore, I knew the circle of life and respected it. Occasionally I’d have the existential thoughts about life after death and how I would die (I wanted to go in my sleep), but the more I aged, the more I wised up to the fact that you cannot prepare for a death. No matter how much time you put into making wills, or saving money for a funeral, you still cannot plan the day that it will happen…and that is probably the idea of which I’m most fearful. This is what I think about with I think of my grandmother.
Two years ago, when I thought my grandmother was truly gone, I cried for days. I would start my sentences as calm as a sunny day and they’d end in hurricane tears. I couldn’t fathom losing someone so close to me; someone who was a part of me, even. (At my birth, it was my grandmother who first held me because my mother was exhausted and my dad was committing adultery somewhere) My request then was that she at least live until I graduated since I am her first and only grandchild to do so.
Graduation has come and gone, and she’s still alive, but no longer kicking. Her legs are the size of my arm (which is mighty skinny) and her skin goes in and out of color due to dialysis (which, for those of you who do not know, is like having your blood cleaned and then recycled back into your body). Even her beautiful white teeth have fallen out. At 63 years old this woman who was supposed to age gracefully, no longer looks like herself. If this woman no longer recognizes herself as the woman she once was (and if I’m also having a tough time seeing her as the same grandmamma I grew up with), then why should I continue to look at life through familiar eyes? Everything is so different.
Times have changed and will continue to do so. But is time moving too fast now? There used to be a time where people could at least take time out to enjoy life before death made a reservation. But now, he’s showing up unannounced at the most inconvenient times. With graduate school in Scotland easing its way around the corner, I can’t help but turn my attention to my grandmother’s health. I don’t want her to pass away at all, but I would hate for her to leave me while I’m in another country. Oh, if only there were a way to straddle the ocean so I could have access to the family that’s begun to fall apart.
Since my grandmother’s health started deteriorating, the family dynamic has been affected in more ways than one. I hate to say it, but that situation that happened on Soul Food seems to be happening to my family. However, ain’t no Sunday meal gonna help us through our emotional ups and downs. For one, I don’t recall one Sunday where my entire family just sat, ate, and prayed together. It’s just something that didn’t happen in my family. What was consistent, though, was our love and respect for one another. However, as soon as my grandmother started dialysis, it seemed like my cousin, who she helped raise as her own son, began stealing cars and motorcycles and carrying guns. He ended up in jail for three years. My uncle, father to that same troubled cousin, also ended up in jail because his past caught up with him. And though he has since been released, his older brother, my other uncle is now in jail for a similar situation. My mother, strong and steadfast as ever manages to balance, family, finances, and rebuilding a life since the tornadoes devastated our homes. Everyone turns to her now, but the calls I receive from her are dripping with exhaustion.
Communication still happens in our family, but the youth…well, we’ve just seemed to stop talking to one another. Is it our attempt to not deal with the hardships of life? Or are we brain dead? Have we no opinions about how to keep a family together when such a beautiful centerpieces is about to fall out of sight? It’s funny; I have the right words for a lot of situations: to make someone laugh, to soothe a soul, to inspire, even. But when it comes to the future of my family and how we’re going to handle an inevitable process of life, I have nothing truly substantial to say…except I love you. To those of you who read this, I love you with all of my heart, because you’re here with me. Thank you so much, and thank you for reminding me what love is.

            My grandmother is doing better…but of course, we don’t know for how long. I’ll keep praying, and in the meantime, I hope I find the right words for what’s next in my life.

 

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A Crushing Reality

So it happens like this: it’s my final weekend in the city and I’m at either a house party or a very distinguished lounge in Center City and I run into a bunch of my friends from college. We’re all dancing, drinking (responsibly), and basking in our personal style when I decide I need a break from all the flyness. So I go and grab a seat in a remote corner, or balcony, where I can still see all the action. It is when I take my seat that I notice a fellow peer from school eyeing me. We introduce ourselves to one another (because, of course, I only remember faces and not names) and we realize we have a lot in common but have never had classes with one another. Our interactions on campus have been limited to half-smiles and seas of waves over our Temple career. Then comes the one thing I’ve waited so long to hear…but too late: “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been attracted to you for a very long time” or rather it’s “I’ve been kinda feeling you since the first time we met but I ain’t never said nothing.”

It is at this point that I smile through my frustration (because deep inside I’m screaming “WHY DIDN’T YOU DISCLOSE THIS INFORMATION A LONG TIME AGO?”) and say “I’m very flattered, but I’m leaving the country to go to graduate school.” Though I’m silently fuming inside, I’m really touched knowing that someone somewhere found me attractive enough to have some sort of crush on me. To return the compliment, I lie, “If it was meant to be, then I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” Then, in that same awkward, yet sweet moment, I am ambushed by a passionate kiss and realize I’m making a huge mistake by leaving Philadelphia and not pursuing this further. So we leave our surroundings, go take a walk on Penn’s Landing and talk about ourselves until the sun rises.

 

Or so goes the fantasy…

 

            Since I’ve graduated from Temple University, I’ve always wondered if some student (somewhere) was enthralled by the idea of me. As superficial and self-absorbed as it sounds, I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has felt this way. Some would agree with me that during peak class hours, you are bound to run into plenty of people who you lust after, or want to genuinely get to know. For me, I take a liking to those people who “prove me wrong.” To prove me wrong means that someone’s actual personality countered my preconceived notion of who they were when we first laid eyes on one another (because honestly, that’s when the real opinions get made). I (unfortunately) develop long term crushes on the ones who achieve the “wrong-proving.” Why? Well…because it means there’s more to someone than meets the eye and it also means that one is willing to try harder to get me to see who they really are.

            This brings me to the topic of crushes. To be honest, it kind of distresses me that having a crush can continue into old age. I would have thought that after high school (or maybe even my freshman year of college) that I would have myself in check so that I can keep my focus. But crushes have to power to make me giggle at a mere glimpse of a shadow. There have been times where I was supposed to go to class, but I knew that “my idea of a perfect person” would be walking past a certain location at 11:00. So I ran the risk of being late just so I could run into someone who caused me to flub up my words when I spoke. Once I realized how ridiculous I’d become (yes, I have flubbed up many-a-speech and made plenty of small talk), I begin asking myself, have we all lost our cool trying to be too cool for a school crush?

            When I think about my perfect fantasy (see above), I think about my best friend, Treasure. Treasure, a lovely young woman who has had her strings of ups and downs in relationship-land, met the most recent love of her life in a similar fashion to the one aforementioned. He expressed his feelings to her as a post-graduate, they got to know each other pre-relationship, and now they are presently exploring what it means to love. I predict that they will last a very long time because I’ve never seen a relationship that functions quite as successfully as theirs (which is probably why I do not really want to be in one).

Treasure has told me so many times not to worry about crushes or anyone else because whoever is meant for me will show up. But I don’t believe in “Poof! Here I am” love. My response to her has been the same: “I know I’m not a bad catch, but for some reason, I know that I’ll never last with someone for a long period of time. I guess some people are just meant to be alone and that’s not a bad thing.” Our conversations about love usually end with her being optimistic and me being…well… me not expecting anything except what’s in front of me: an idea of my perfect crush.

In calling my crush perfect, however, I’m stripping away all existing flaws. For some reason, I overlook the fact that one has bad communication skills, another thinks being a goofball is a turn on, and another had would rather not be bothered with me at all. So when our crushes expose their blemishes, why is it that we, the crushers, feel the need to cover up? Are we embarrassed that we were attracted in the first place? Why are our dreams crushed under the pressure we exert upon our perfect ideals?

“A crush is only exciting for the person who has one,” my friend Matt says. This statement was mind blowing to me. I mean really…is that truly it? The adventure of the chase keeps us so preoccupied that, even if we never achieve our goal, it was fun while it lasted? That is sad…and unfortunately very realistic. Honestly, I have had more fun as a secret stalker (in an innocent crush way), than I have had meeting new people and trying to go through the whole “Let’s exchange numbers”, “Let’s plan where to have a first date,” “Let’s ask 21 Questions”, etc. The thought of building a relationship, to me, is just too much extra weight. A crush is overwhelmingly oppressive enough. To turn it into something else might feel like an anvil of trouble crashing down upon me and I don’t want no trouble!

I’ve figured that when thinking about a possible “we” situation, I’m quite content with the “just me” condition. I can never truly disappoint myself, I know what to expect from myself and I love me better than the next person will. So maybe a crush is better as a fantasy. Yes, the thought of being with someone of your liking can dominate your daytime thoughts but at night, the only weight I need to feel is the fullness of my “single and happy” heart.

You-Lie The Fourth

 

For as long as I can remember, Independence Day has always been a day to depend on cookouts, family fun, and most of all fireworks. A person did not completely experience the Fourth of July without them. As I got older (and the Ozone layer continued to diminish) the aforementioned events seemed to lose their luster. I no longer wanted to be outside in the sweltering heat just to see fire work itself into an explosion and trickle away. I was no longer fascinated with gathering with a group of people to eat a meal that flies had already helped themselves to. Independence Day had become just an individual day to me and I didn’t care. That is, I didn’t care until last Friday when I was invited to “grill and chill” with a military buddy of mine and his family. Granted, I was thinking about going to the John Legend concert with a couple friends of mine, but a cookout? That was so… “summery” of them. It’s not often that I get invited out (or maybe I get invited and just “forget” to attend), so when the offer was made, my spirit started to crackle a bit.

            I forgot, however, that my military friend’s text invite said that I could bring “one other.” I’ve always been a none-other when I attend events and I was quite sure this would be no different. Wanting to break my traditional loner pattern, I called a couple friends who (of course) didn’t answer their phones or were “away from their desks.” Alone was the option for me. Lonely, however, wouldn’t be. So I jumped out of bed that afternoon and began my “looking good” process. I felt that if I was going to a couples cookout, I would (at least) be an attractive, unashamed, single man. But in making that statement, I realized I was embarrassed about having spent five years in Philadelphia and never having found someone to call my own. And now that I was drowning in “single-shame,” I pondered what kept me so proudly alone up until that point. I was single, dammit! I had God and the love of my friends and family to light my fire. That’s all I needed, right? Still, I was beginning to sound like a cliché and the answers to those “Have you found anyone to make you happy yet?” questions were getting murkier by the minute. I didn’t know why a simple text message had prompted me to question my worth as an individual, but I had to know: Are we convincing ourselves that we are happy being single or have we become too dependent on being independent?

I was trying to answer that question (and manifest clothing that would represent my declaration of independence) when I’d received a phone call from the woman I’d always been dependent upon: my mother. The conversation was brief and sad. My grandmother, whose health has been on a steady downward slope since 2003, was staying with my mother. Her dependency on my mother, however, was becoming more than just a burden. It was becoming a shitty mess on white carpet. My grandmother’s bones and body no longer resemble that of a woman who created a strong family. Her ever present burst of life has trickled away and there is nothing we can do about it. And every chance she has to be alone, the condensation builds in her eyes and she shoots forth tears for everything imaginable. I believe she cries for all the things she never felt, and for her imminent future. But she also cries because she can no longer physically do things on her own. This was something I realized when I was in high school and her sight began to fail her. Instead on being able to hop in her Topaz and ride to the store (as was her normal routine), she had to wait for a family member to come pick her up. In her mind, she must feel like an infant again.

Though my heart went out to my mother for being so courageous and responsible (and so damn strong), I couldn’t help but think of my sister and brother who, for the first time in their young lives, would not be able to experience the typical American events that made my childhood so memorable: fireworks and fried fish. When I hung up the phone with my mother, I’d selected a Southpole t-shirt whose display delivered glittery pyrotechnics. I was ready for the “grill and chill.”

            My walk started normally; just me, some gray skies, and my squeaky imitation Converse shoes walking down the cobble stoned Liacouras Walk. Then the drops began to fall. Once they hit, my umbrella shot up and my plans to see John Legend were soaked. The cookout was still near enough for me to attend, though, so I sloshed ahead while visions of barbequed ribs danced in my head.

            After reaching a section of the city that I was quite surprised existed (the block I was on looked like I’d been transported into a suburb), I’d finally made it to my friend’s house. There weren’t many people there at all. Just enough to do as he said: grill and chill. I was introduced to his wife and his beautiful baby girl, and the child’s godparents. As I predicted, the gathering was a healthy helping of couples with a dashing single-guy (me) on the side. But instead of making a mad dash for the door as I wanted to, I stayed to observe.

A lot of my friends, over the past couple of years have been getting married or have been in very long term relationships. I, on the other hand, know how selfish and particular I am. If anyone messes up my space, my aura, my anything, it’s a guaranteed argument and phone number deletion. But I admire those who use the dreaded “we” word in the collective sense. They have resigned themselves to giving up their independence and they’ve learned to depend on each other. And it seems like a blast. The small squabbles about whose turn it is to wash dishes, fold clothes, and pick up more toilet paper is shared. As nice as that mutual destination seems, I’m just not there yet.

For the rest of the evening, in between drinking my first margarita and watching 10,000 B.C., I watched each couple explode with some sort of laughter and then cascade into their lover’s arms. Usually, I’m disgusted by people’s overuse of public displays of affection, especially when people seem like they absolutely-can-not survive without their significant other.  But that day, my heart did some applauding for the little loving couples who could. And I wondered “Will that ever be me?”  It wasn’t a longing type of thought (as I’m not feeling any pressure to get tied down to anyone), but rather a logical one? Would I ever turn my single life into a double relationship?

At a certain point in the night, I made my way back to my building to read and to call up one of my best friends. But after I flipped open my cell, something in me flopped. Maybe it was the atmospheric pressure weighing down on me, but the rain, coupled with shotgun sounds of mini-explosives going off across the city started to affect me. I realized that somehow, some way, I’d missed my own colorful display. Or maybe it was just taking a rain-check. Was I lying to myself by believing that I could suffice as my own dynamite package? Or was the family package something I really wanted to invest in?  I’ve survived many holidays (while single) in Philadelphia, but it would be my first Fourth of July without fireworks.

 

 

Apology

I am asking all of my readers to please bear with me. I have been in the process of moving (which I will write about soon) as well as taking on new responsibilities at my current job. By next week, there will be two new posts to make up for having not posted anything last week! Thankyou for reading!

Classmates, Compliments, and Cocktails…Oh My!

In 2003, I graduated (without honors, thank you) from Milton Academy: the school where I lived the motto “Dare to Be True”, where I’d learned to be a strong leader, and the school whose five year reunion I vowed I’d never attend. So when I read the blue and orange invitation that had collected dust for two weeks on my coffee table, I had to ask myself, After parting from Milton so many years ago, did I really want to be a part of that experience again? I spent weeks pondering the answer to that question before I finally conceded and began planning a trip back to my past.

Last Thursday, after riding seven hours on a Greyhound bus from Philadelphia, I’d finally arrived in the picturesque city of Boston. As I drank in the skyline (garnished by the typical sunshine and wispy clouds), thoughts of my four year experience at the academy overwhelmed me. I was immediately inebriated with questions; what would I say to the very first person who truly hurt my heart to its core? Were there still people who didn’t approve of me (and if so, would I tell them how much I didn’t particularly care if they did or didn’t)? Would my classmates ever truly dare to see me?

After lugging my suitcase through South Station and dramatically embracing my best friend, (and yoga mastress) Whitney in the middle of the busy Boston streets, I had some catching up to do. We followed up with an evening of beer drinking (which I never usually do) with our close knit circle of friends. It was great soaking up the good times with them all again and seeing their smiles and transformations (haircuts, weight gain, weight loss). I breathed a sigh of relief; none of us had changed our style too much. When I looked closer however, I noticed that there was one design that we were all collectively wearing that evening: confidence (an outfit we all wished we’d worn during high school). When the evening came to an end, I thought “Well, I’ve seen the people I’ve come to see. What’s the point in going to the actual reunion?”

The next day, while walking onto the lush green quad (in my most strategically selected ensemble to date), I felt the same feeling I’d felt the first day I started at Milton: out of place. I mean, there I was; young, black, fashionably loud, and secretly scraping by with my finances (I guess not all that much has changed about me since high school). But after registration and receiving my obligatory gift bag, I started to feel a little comfortable. This wasn’t an emotion for which I’d prepared myself, so I inhaled the crisp air and bared my pearly whites. Fearing I’d pull a muscle from the Crest ad on my face, I soon began wondering, When it comes to surviving in an unfamiliar environment, do we dare to truly belong?”

I’d spent so much of my Milton career trying to find my place in the world that once I’d found it, it was time to graduate. So upon returning, I realized that after spending the last five years learning to survive in Philadelphia, I’d forgotten how I endured in Boston. So I intended to retrace my steps on the quad.

The campus was just as I remembered it: beautiful, collegiate-looking, and rich. I ventured around my old surroundings, caught up with some teacher friends of mine, and waited for the cocktail party that would occur later that evening in the student center. I was quite sure my torture would commence then.  

            I walked into the party alone (since my close knit circle decided to temporarily circle up at another destination). My eyes surveyed the area; nothing dangerous, just yet…but then I saw my “heart-hurter” by the bar, and a disapproving classmate in Givenchy by the door. I smiled at the familiar frenemies and tried to avoid those who never once tried to converse with me.

During the course of the evening, every interaction eventually consisted of the enforced “How have you been? What are you doing with your life? Wow, you look good!” Looking good wasn’t the problem, it was seeing all my former classmates that made me anxious. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I performed, and shared the spotlight with several other nervous pretenders. As the night (and my wine) crept up on me I couldn’t help but think to myself, why, when standing in a crowd of assumed artificialness, was I the only person who felt plastic?

            The less-than-five-minute conversations went on until 10, and so did the drinking. The cocktail party must have been Milton’s way of saying, “if you’ve never spoken to each other, get sloshed so that you can!” Before ending my night at an impromptu post-reunion sleepover (which was filled with more drinking), I’d exchanged business cards and stories with those who had the attention span and sobriety to listen. I discovered that many people thought that Milton was a low point as far as adolescence was concerned. We’d learned a lot, yes, but none of us were ever really satisfied. It made me think; was high school the pits for us or just pit stop number one on our way to intellectual adulthood? And if so many of us were unhappy back in high school, how happy did we look now?

            At the class barbeque the next day, I saw that many people were happy to be back in their former cliques. It became apparent that certain groups of people had obviously kept in touch over the years while others…not so much. The food was dry, and so was everyone’s attempt at probing conversations. I couldn’t believe that we were back to where we were when we were sophomores: adolescent groupings and behavior. I sighed. With one major event left to go (a class party at a bar called The Point), I hoped I could connect with at least one person before I made the trip back to my future in Philly.

            Her name was Taylor (one of our reunion committee members) and I’d always thought she was an intriguing young woman. We shared a conversation about our lives up to this point and (thank goodness) it wasn’t forced. We genuinely found something we could talk about. We had connected. Then, sipping my favorite drink (Malibu Rum, Blue Curacao and Red Bull) at The Point, I finally got the point: I wasn’t at my reunion to be nervous about things left unsaid, post-dated misconceptions, and superficial conversations. I was at my reunion to show people that I had survived life after Milton. I didn’t have to affect a happy demeanor because I actually was (and still am) happy. And somehow, I’d stumbled into a person who seemed to be just as happy with her life as well. So as the music (and my urge to sleep) blared and classmates clouded over their post-graduate miseries with beer and other spirits, my spirit finally glowed knowing that my close knit circle of friends and I had come full circle. We’d achieved a happiness that no one could take away from us. The proof of survival was in our faces and we were thriving in our own ways (emotionally, financially, physically, or romantically). We had all transformed, and our happiness looked damn good!

Red Running Hood (written June 11th)

As I dripped away from the Odunde Festival this past Sunday, trying to avoid the heat (unsuccessfully) and the “everything must go” street vendors, I heard sandals clapping urgently across the sidewalk. A beautiful woman, all dressed up in her natural hair and a red linen sundress, was running in my direction. I wouldn’t have paid her any mind had it not been for the pregnant-looking, Sunni-bearded men behind me yelling to her, “Hey, Red. Red! You should be running over here to me.” After ignoring the two for as long as she could, she responded to them saying that she was looking for one of her girlfriends and had to return to her venue, to which one of the expectant men replied, “You should be looking for your boyfriend…cause I can be that for you.” Now, despite the fact that Mr. Nine Months thought his more than corny line would be easy to swallow, “Red” wasn’t looking to slake her thirst. In an unexpected turn of events however, she continued to feed the hungry men her unenthusiastic conversation. This baffled me. With a city full of Reds and Browns running around minding their business, have black men become Big Bad Wolves?

            Many of us are familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The Big Bad Wolf (BBW) leads her astray and gives her a false sense of security before he eventually attacks her. What most people tend to forget is that a Hunter ultimately rescues Little Red and puts stones in the Wolf’s belly so that he cannot cause further harm. Here’s the truth, however; the Wolf’s damage is permanent. Not only did he gobble her up, he also left her with some emotional and mental scabs. She can no longer look at a Wolf in the same light and she has to be suspicious about any stranger, even if he brings the promise of something good to come. These days, Reds all over are suffering from wounds that they’ve received from their BBWs, yet, they are still giving them their undivided attention. Why? That, my friends, is the mystery. This is why Hunters cannot win, no mater how many bellies they fill with stones.

            The real victim of this fable is the Hunter. His part in the story frequently goes unnoticed. I mean, for all of his hard work, he only received a small “thank you” and Little Red goes home having learned a supposed lesson about talking to strangers? What gives? In my life, I’ve known tons black men who actually are hunters who are often mistaken for BBWs. Women treat these men as strangers, choosing to ignore them or either reluctantly relinquishing their numbers, silently knowing that they’ll never respond to his calls. Or (and this is the worst) a woman will make the Hunter a mere friend, either because she has been hurt by too many BBWs or because (in her confused mind) she would rather resign herself to a BBW since he’s what familiar to her. Does the idea of a Hunter not seem heroic enough or does a Hunter have to be Big and Bad to make a difference?

            “We want the opposite of what’s good for us,” my friend Brittany says.” We want the guy in the video: 50 Cent types. For some reason he appeals to us. Hunters are lame.” I’m quite sure that she isn’t the only girl who’s come to this diluted conclusion, but among the younger women, it’s what I’ve observed. Good guys may not only finish last, but they may not even be allowed to race. His competition has him beat even before he steps onto the field. His efforts to prove Red wrong and to show that he can be more than just a friend have exhausted him. So in a race to save Little Reds everywhere, will the Black Hunter ever find his Little Red love or is he doomed to hunt forever?

The City of Fatherly Love? (written June 5th)

With Father’s Day quickly stepping its beer-gutted, worn down Timberland boots around the corner, there is still one question on my mind: Since fatherhood in the young black community has seemed to go out of style, are father’s becoming fashionable again?

This past Tuesday, after a very rigorous spinning class with teacher Carolyn, I was on my way home when I noticed a very startling site: a black man with not one, but two children. Instead of ignoring the phenomenon like a normal Philadelphia pedestrian, I blurted out, “Wow, a man with a child? Wait a minute…two kids? That’s a rare sight!” Once I spoke the words aloud, I discovered my problem. Were those words only truthful to me? The genuine surprise in my voice amused my best friend and her daughter, but I was quite serious. I mean, there, crossing the busy intersection at Broad at Susquehanna was a man who had probably intersected himself into parenthood approximately four to five years ago (judging by the height of his oldest child). I figured that the infant harnessed to his chest and the pig-tailed girl holding his hand was a sort of community service for doing hard time (maybe 10-20 minutes) in some random girlfriend’s bed. And for the brief moment I’d seen his face, there was a vacancy in his eyes that didn’t seem to be reassuring. In that moment I’d understood how cynical I’d become about the state fatherly affairs. I couldn’t allow myself to see, in that man’s vacant glare, a father but instead… a “baby daddy.”

Over the past decade, black Americans have been accused of valuing labels and brands; not family or fidelity. However, if bloodlines are the new Sean John or Rocawear, are babies the new “bling?” Has fatherhood become the new trend? In this fad that I am dubbing “NWP” (New Wave Papas), it seems that all over the city men are taking the wheels of the bus and making heads go ‘round and ‘round with their newfound dedication to their school-aged tikes. They are making attempts at raising their children in ways that I have never seen before…and succeeding! As opposed to sitting at home watching cartoons, playing Playstation, and having basketball coaching sessions with their sons, NWPs are now making cameos at theatrical productions, city parks, and even strolling the expensive downtown shops with child in tow. Like women who enjoy a new handbag or MAC make-up, NWPs are enjoying their new accessory: their legacy. Having a future little NWPar. (New Wave Parent) to develop, NWPs feel like they have created something similar to a clothing brand; a name that will live on for an indefinite amount of time.

There are still moments when I doubt the sincerity of an NWP. Maybe he’s only with his child because the baby’s mom needed a babysitter, or maybe he has custody this one weekend of the month.  My co-worker David believes that my wariness comes from being a part of “a generation with a lack of fathers. As youth, black men have become so accustomed to being raised by single-mothers, that we missed out on having a father-son connection. So we compensate by making sure we don’t ever deny our children of a father in their future.” He also said that “nowadays, black men may not even desire to be with the mother of their child, but will remain a part of the child’s life just because it is his duty as a dad.” This philosophy replaces the “hood-rich” mentality I thought was still present in young black males, where nothing is more important than their shoes or their cars. So, in an age where pushing a fly whip is the goal, are baby daddy’s merely pushing strollers, or being pushed to finally grow up?