Fathers and Freedom: A Tribute to Black Fathers on Juneteenth and Father’s Day

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I’ve been an African-American for twice as long.

On Sunday, I, along with millions of other black fathers, get the rare treat of celebrating two milestones: fatherhood and freedom.

That raises an interesting question: What does it mean to be a black father in America today?

It means we’re still fighting stereotypes, some of which are grounded in unpleasant realities — such as the 1 in 12 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 who are incarcerated; and others that falsely suggest black men aren’t involved in the lives of their kids.

We in the media — from Hollywood to your local dailies — have played a huge historical role in shaping the public’s perception of black men in America. We too seldom shine a light on those who’re doing it right — men who are successful and fully engaged in the lives of their children.

Nothing has brought me greater joy than my kids — Alex, 26, Selah, 9, and Judah, 7. I also raised a stepdaughter, Andrea, now 38 and a mother of two beautiful toddlers.

Andrea was the first to call me “Dad.” When I heard it — DAD — that one word gave new meaning to my life. I bore the responsibility, the tremendous privilege of helping another human being find her way in life.

And when Alexander James Ragland was born in the fall of 1989, I got to experience the miracle of childbirth, that intoxicating, nerve-wracking moment when you experience the wonder of life.

Throw in years of changing diapers, driving kids to dance lessons, piano recitals and basketball practices — along with a few emergency room visits — and the years fly by. Still, at the ripe age of 54, I can’t believe I’ve been to two college graduations.

And I’m still learning how to be a better dad.

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