My Seven Black Fathers
A Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Me Whole
Author: Will Jawando
Will Jawando’s My Seven Black Fathers tells a deeply affirmative story of hope and respect for men of color at a time when Black men are routinely stigmatized.
“Will Jawando's account of mentorship, service, and healing lays waste to the racist stereotype of the absent Black father. By arguing that Black fathers are not just found in individual families, but are indeed the treasure of entire Black communities, Will makes the case for a bold idea: that Black men can counter racist ideas and policies by virtue of their presence in the lives of Black boys and young men. This is a story we need to hear.” —Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
As a boy growing up outside DC, Will, who went by his Nigerian name, Yemi, was shunted from school to school, never quite fitting in. He was a Black kid with a divorced white mother, a frayed relationship with his biological father, and teachers who scolded him for being disruptive. Eventually, he became close to Kalfani, a kid he looked up to on the basketball court. Years after he got the call telling him that Kalfani was dead, another victim of gun violence, Will looks back on the relationships he had with a series of extraordinary mentors who enabled him to thrive.
Among them were Mr. Williams, the rare Black male grade school teacher, who found a way to bolster Will’s self-esteem; Jay Fletcher, the openly gay colleague of his mother’s who got him off junk food and took him to his first play; Wayne Holmes, the high school coach and chorus director who saw him through a crushing disappointment; Deen Sanwoola, the businessman who helped him bridge the gap between his American upbringing and his Nigerian heritage, eventually leading to a dramatic reconciliation with his biological father; and President Barack Obama, who made Will his associate director of public engagement at the White House—and invited him to play basketball on more than one occasion. Without the influence of these men, Will knows he would not be who he is today: a civil rights and education policy attorney, a civic leader, a husband, and a father.
Drawing on Will’s inspiring personal story, My Seven Black Fathers offers a transformative way for Black men to shape the next generation.