There’s a dash on unintended humor when Thomas recalls his first meeting with football legend Jim Brown and the subject of fatherhood came up:
At a gathering of celebrities “in Spike Lee’s fancy suite,” Thomas recalled there were “men like Spike and football legend Jim Brown, whom I’ve idolizing all my life.
“… Jim Brown was stating, in his usual forceful way, that any black child who grows up without a father in the home is doomed to failure. Spike and the others were agreeing with him. If you’ve never been in the presence of Jim Brown, you should know that when he says something, everybody else either agrees with him or shuts the hell up. To call Jim Brown intimidating is an understatement.”
Somehow, though Thomas musters the courage to disagree with the football icon. “But I couldn’t sit there and let him go unchallenged. It would have been a betrayal of everything I had come to believe as a black man, as an NBA player, as a husband and father. … On this night, the person standing up to him (Brown) was me. …I remained unmoved from my position, arguing, as every other black intellectual in the room spoke against me, that fatherlessness is not a one-way ticket to a future of crime and misery,” Thomas writes.
On the lighter side, there is an entire chapter called “Happy Feelings,” where actor Taye Diggs, joins NBA star Chris Paul and Thomas, and others in describing their sheer joy in being a father:
“Experiencing the father-son dynamic is a feeling I have trouble putting into words – it’s almost indescribably. … Whenever he (his son) smiles, it’s as if I am being blessed; as if an angel is actually blessing me. It’s humbling. It makes me feel small and humble and things I never expected to feel.”
NBA superstar guard Chris Paul, of the L.A. Clippers talks about his own love for his son and how it has altered his perception of games on the road. “When I first came into the league, I couldn’t wait go on the road. I wanted to see the world. Now I hate road trips. I can’t stand leaving m family. As soon as I get into the room on the road, I get on Skype. My son will kiss the computer: he’ll run up and give me five on the computer. But it’s bittersweet – it’s great I get the opportunity to see him, but it’s tough that I’m not there.”
Thomas recalls playing “Daddy the Monster Slayer,” with his three-year-old Imani before putting her in bed. “After I tucked her in and walked down the hallway back to my bed, the delightful stirring sound of her giggles still fluttered in my head. It’s a sound I always want to hold close to my heart. Tom, that is the sound of fatherhood.”
Thomas’ book has chapters devoted to the role elders play in providing youngsters with honesty and wisdom with the likes of Representative Elija Commings offering comment.
In Chapter Five: “The Roots of a Tree: Reaching Back into History to Lift Up Your Children” there is a thoughtful passage by Chicago Bulls star center Joakim Noah who is the product of two culturally different worlds: “…I come from a very different background. My mother is white, blond-haired, green-eyed Swedish lady who came from a farm county in Sweden where there are no black people. My father, however, is French and West African, is black with dreads, and is from Cameroon.”
His parents divorced when he was five, Noah says “but growing up I was always in the position to enjoy both cultures and compare them to one another.”
Scattered throughout Thomas’s book are references to comedian Bill Cosby, who was dubbed “America’s Dad,” during the height of his popular “Cosby Show.” Cosby, you may recall, became a lightning rod for controversy a few years back when he had a much publicized national tour in which he publically berated black fathers who were not there for their children.
Thomas asserts Cosby’s public tirade was the comedian’s way of “challenging and motivating (black fathers) on the sly.” In chapter 10 of his book, entitled: “Wake Up Everybody: Examining Bill Cosby’s Plea For Responsible Fathers,” Thomas gathers the thoughts of others on the subject, including actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played son Theo on the Cosby Show.