At Jim’s Homestyle Diner, Alameda, CA.
If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, then you know I have much love for my nerdy brothas. You probably also know that every hundred drawings, I take stock of where I have gone with this series, and I set some goals for where I would like to end up. One thing that I have consistently identified as a goal is to broaden the range of Black men who appear in this series. The flipside of that goal is that I also need to avoid over representing those figures who fall into those categories that, for me, are easy and familiar (like nerds, academics, and men in suits).
As you can see from this drawing, though, I can never completely turn my back on the Black geeks and nerds of the world. They are my people. So, for your viewing enjoyment (and my own artistic satisfaction), I offer this drawing of the sweater guy from Starbucks in the cool reading glasses that he was wearing as regular glasses.
Here’s another of the gymnastics dads from my niece’s school. This guy is faithfully there every week, with his daughter and son in tow. The daughter goes off to her class, and the dad and his son go up to the waiting room to hang out, read books, and do puzzles. It’s great daddy/daughter/son time, and it probably gives mom a bit of a break. I haven’t talked to the daughter, but the son is a really sweet kid. He’s ten years old and he still believes in Santa Claus. I love that he’s been able to hold on to that level of childhood innocence. It’s the mark of great parenting that they’ve created a space in which their kids don’t have to rush to grow up.
Why are all the performance parent types on television always depicted as women? There are the stage mothers, the soccer moms, and the dance moms. And, whether they’re portrayed as doting or obsessive, these moms are almost always portrayed as white…which brings me to the subject of today’s drawing, the Black gymnastics dads. Yes, they do exist. I cannot say they are legion, but I see them every week, when I accompany my niece to her gymnastics school. Last week, while I was sitting in one of the waiting areas, I happened to notice that there were 5 dads standing in the lobby, and four of those dads were Black men. One was standing and watching his daughter’s class, and three were helping their daughters into or out of jacket, shoes, and socks.
I don’t need to recount all of the media coverage that addresses how or why Black fathers are absent. And I am not suggesting that absentee fathers are not a problem. But it is also a problem when the national rhetoric around Black men and parenting completely overlooks the very real presence and contributions of the men I see at my niece’s weekly class, the fathers who are loving and present caregivers–the fathers who are there.