The Difference Between a Father and a Baby Daddy

Obama's Father's Day speech hits a nerve in black community

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentaries, Audio, Words: Jazmyne Young and Donny Lumpkins // Audio: Street Soldiers Radio, Posted: Jun 17, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

Editor's Note: Barack Obama's Father's Day speech hit a nerve with young and old alike. Two young contributors weigh in from opposite sides of the issue and callers on Street Soldiers Radio discuss the topic as well. Jazmyne Young and Donny Lumpkins are content producers for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia. Street Soldiers Radio airs on KMEL 106.1 on Sunday nights in the Bay Area.

I Ain't Got No Daddy

By Jazmyne Young

Obama is two for two in terms of making courageous speeches that address issues we most often sweep under the rug. His first was the historic speech addressing race, and the other was his Father’s Day speech delivered to a black congregation in Chicago this Sunday, addressing the epidemic of fatherlessness in the Black community – an issue that I am all too familiar with.

VIDEO: Barack Obama's sermon on black fatherhood.

Father’s Day is one of the most uneventful “holidays” of the year. In my 19 (almost 20) years of existence, I can only remember one Father’s Day that I gave a gift. In the fourth grade, my teacher assigned a class project to make tie racks for Father’s Day. Being that it was a class project I had to do it, but considering that I went to an all-black private school – I felt it was a bit presumptuous to assume that all of us had fathers to give our tie racks to. I ended up giving mine to my sister’s father, who lived with us at the time and is perhaps the only real father-type figure that I’ve had – meaning that I bonded with him before I grew up and became jaded by the “You ain’t my daddy!” syndrome.

I am the eldest of three children, all of us sharing only the same mother. Even though we have different fathers, I don’t think of them as my “half siblings” at all because our mother has been the only stable parent than any one of us can rely on for food, money and shelter.

My own father was murdered when I was barely one year old. He was shot in East Oakland by a “friend,” who stole his car. My 14-year-old sister’s father – who I gave my tie rack to – is one of those classic rolling stone, promise-breaking, unreliable types. Then there’s my youngest brother, 7 years old. His dad takes him maybe one or two weekends a month and calls him every day – he’s what I would call a typical “baby daddy.”

Since my father was killed when I was so young, I grew up understanding that my father was gone. It was like: “Hi, my name is Jazmyne, and my father is dead.” It was a part of my life that I had accepted. It’s hard to miss something you never really had. Besides, just as Obama pointed out in his speech, half of black children in America grow up in homes without fathers. If anything, black people who grew up in a two-parent home stand out to me.

But sometimes, even in absentia, our fathers loomed largely in our lives. I was scheduled to go on a trip to Mexico in the summer of 2004 – my first time out of the country. There were three black students in the group, including myself. Everything went smoothly up until we were at the check-in counter, tickets in hand, bags packed and ready to go. All three of the black students almost got left in Oakland. There is this law that none of us where aware of until the last minute. It says that children under 16 need parental consent from both parents when leaving the country.

I didn’t have my father’s consent for obvious reasons, another boy didn’t have consent because his father was in the Army, and my best friend didn’t have consent because she hadn’t talked to her father in six months and he lives out of state. Luckily, there was a compassionate black woman at the ticket counter who helped the other two students find a stand-in father to sign the consent form. My mother had to drive like a bat out of hell from Oakland to Vallejo to find a copy of my father’s death certificate and fax it over to the airline. By the grace of God, we were able to meet up with the rest of the group and board the plane on time.

Even though many of us “inner-city” youth grow up in matriarchal, single-parent homes to the point that it has become a norm, the lack of male presence has adverse effects on our communities nationally. In his speech, Obama stated that “[Black fathers] have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.” As a young woman growing up without a father, it’s been a struggle to find esteem and confidence within myself without looking to guys for validation, all the while in search of the unconditional love that can only come from a father. For young men, it is quite a journey towards figuring out what it means to be a man, let alone becoming one – especially not having any examples of strong, consistent, responsible men to help guide them along their way.

I deeply admire Obama’s courage to speak frankly and openly in the midst of his historic bid for the U.S. presidency, when all eyes are on him.

Jazmyne Young co-stars in the recent film Equinox, which addresses the subject of young black men being raised without fathers.


I Got a Daddy

By Donny Lumpkins

This Sunday, the first black nominee for U.S. president, Barack Obama, spoke to a crowd at a Chicago church on fatherhood and, more specifically, the absence of young fathers in the black community. He spoke about what it was like to grow up in Hawaii without a father, and how he felt he had to do better when he had kids. His speech got me thinking about the young fathers I know, and what it would be like for me to take care of someone else.

My relationship with my father is one of the most influential and gratifying relationships in my life. He has always been there for me and has always allowed me to be there for him, and a single mother raised him. I distinctly remember him telling me he didn’t want his kids – all eight of them – to be without a father. Growing up, a lot of my friends didn’t have a father and I knew how lucky I was to not only have one around, but to be so close with him. He acted as a father figure to a lot of my friends.

All the fathers I know are doing the best they can, from my homie Teo (17 years old, with a one year old) or my nephew Greg (24, with a 4 year old) or my brothers – all with children of their own. I know they’re all trying. None of these men are perfect people, but they are good Dads nonetheless. A lot of my friends with kids were raised by single mothers and are learning as they go – boys raising boys.

I personally couldn’t imagine being a father. I’m not an irresponsible person but I still kinda wanna put metal things in the microwave just to see what will happen, and I feel a person like that just shouldn’t be given another person to take care of. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t know what to do with the pressures of a child and I commend any man who steps up and fulfills his duties as a father.

In Obama’s speech, he took the Cosby approach to taking about young black males – an approach I usually have a issues with because I feel without weighing all the circumstances of young black America and really understanding what it’s like to be a young black man – you can’t try and tell us what we need and don’t need to do.

Taking care of our children is not debatable. It is something that has to be looked into and made a priority with in the community. But I also think it's important to note that kids raised by single parents, whether they be fathers or mothers, are not at any specific disadvantage because what matters is the parent they do have and the influence he or she has on the child’s life. I appreciate what Obama said and I feel it needed to be said, but plenty of kids with no fathers turn out fine. All he had to do is look in the mirror to see that.