*In an age where positive examples of black fatherhood are woefully underrepresented in real life and the media, a new book, Dare To Be Extraordinary – A Collection of Positive Life Lessons from African American Fathers (available now at www.extraordinaryfathers.com), provides wonderful examples of men who have countered that trend.
Spotlighting 20 high-profile African-Americans who share inspirational stories about the positive influence their dad’s had on their lives, the book aims to counter the trend of absentee fathers in the black community. For the book’s co-author, Leslie Gordon, her purpose for co-writing the book along with Bill Middleton, represented a way for her to celebrate the men who raised her.
“I lost my father when I was 13,” she said, “but I had wonderful father figures — my grandfather, stepdad. Given the current state of dysfunction that exists in many black families, I wanted to be part of a project that offered lessons for why black fathers need to be present and play a role in their children’s lives.”
The Robertson Treatment recently spoke to Gordon, who is married to prominent journalist Ed Gordon, to find out more about the book and the social initiative attached to it.
Robertson Treatment: What attracted you to become part of this project?
Leslie Gordon: I became involved in this fatherhood project for a couple of reasons: One, because Bill Middlebrooks, a business leader and community servant in Detroit and someone I respect as a husband and a father of two sons, asked me if I would work with him to develop a book that celebrates and uplifts African American fathers. Bill wanted to begin a new, positive conversation about African American men and their role in raising their sons and daughters. I jumped at the chance because as a mother of two sons and a daughter, fatherhood is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I lost my own father when I was just thirteen years old. I have however, had strong father figures in my life including my grandfather and my stepdad, who have helped me become the woman I am today, so this project is really a tribute to MY fathers (plural)… and I love my strong, responsible, committed black men! It makes me so proud to be involved in talking and writing about the truly wonderful, selfless, loving fathers out there who are raising some pretty dynamic kids.
To give a little background about the book… Dare To Be Extraordinary: A Collection of Positive Life Lessons From African American Fathers breathes life into one of today’s most compelling social issues: fatherhood in the African American community. Through the personal stories of twenty business leaders, cultural icons, athletes, politicians, activists, doctors, newsmakers, and some of the best and brightest minds of our time, we share the lessons these extraordinarily successful men and women have learned from their fathers. Each story provides a roadmap to success for families everywhere, while uplifting and encouraging the many, many fathers who have stepped up and are determined to be present in the lives of their children.
RT: What role did your dad play in your life?
LG: As I mentioned, my dad, Leslie Howard, whom I was named after, died when I was thirteen. He and I were close. He made my brother, Paul and me, laugh all the time, yet he was firm when he needed to be. I have wonderful memories of my dad but it still hurts that he died so young and didn’t get to see my brother and me grow up to become pretty decent adults – and parents. This book and my work around the issue of fatherhood is absolutely a reflection of my enduring love for my dad. Somehow I think he has a hand in all of this and I believe he would be extremely proud of his baby girl.
RT: What are some of the key sentiments you took away from your interviews with so many dynamic fathers?
LG: There are some extraordinary men out there raising extraordinary sons and daughters. In my research and writing about the lives of everyone from cultural icon, Russell Simmons and Former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, to “Good Morning America” anchor, Robin Roberts and NBA Legend Allan Houston, and the lessons they learned from their fathers, the stories of these successful folks proves that a father’s presence, his love, and the time he spends teaching and nurturing his children is what matters most.
Other key sentiments included the fact that each of the fathers I wrote about made sacrifices for their children. Quite a few of the fathers didn’t get the chance to follow their own dreams, but they did everything within their power to make sure their children were able to realize their dreams. And each father pushed, encouraged and loved his children to the best of his ability and this is why these extraordinary men and women are successful today.
RT: Why do you feel that fatherhood is important?
LG: As we all know, a father’s presence or his absence is the one thing in life that profoundly impacts who we become, the decisions we make and the way we view the world. Often our relationships with our fathers set the stage for the careers we choose, the relationships we develop and the lessons we pass on to our own children. Thus, it is critically important for a dad to raise his children. And girls need their dads just as much as boys, if not more.
RT: You’ve enjoyed such a varied and successful career as a media professional. How have you made it work?
LG: Because I straddle the fence in my role as a PR/marketing professional and a writer, I study all sides of media and communications from how to pitch quality stories and brands to the media to how the editorial and production side of print and broadcast media, respectively works. I am a student of my trade and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best—present company included. I am extremely ambitious and very stubborn, as my husband will tell you. I love to learn but then I am going to figure out how to do things my way, even if I fall flat on my face. I work very hard to inspire and uplift people through my writing and I never, ever give up reaching for my goals. That’s the true passion and fighting spirit in me that I absolutely got from my father.
RT: What other projects are you working on?
LG: I am slowly starting to do some fiction writing—something I’ve wanted to do since I was in the 6th grade. I have gotten such encouragement from a dear friend, Dolen Perkins, a DC-based author whose first novel, Wench, hit the New York Times best seller list, so I am forging ahead with great support from Dolen and others in my immediate circle. I am also a brand strategist and PR director for a Chicago-based marketing firm, Commonground, and a New York-based culinary business, Evelyn’s Kitchen, so my work never ends, but I absolutely love what I do and the blessings keep flowing.
BEST BETS – FILM
Venus Vs. (ESPN Films)
Everyone knows about the Williams Sisters and their rise out of south-central LA to become supreme goddesses of the tennis world. Although the recently released documentary “Venus and Serena” celebrates the majestic sustainability of their long running sister act, the upcoming ESPN documentary delves into an equally important crusade that was shepherd by the older Williams solo. This largely unknown episode in tennis history that is known to very few outside of the sport itself, is given its rightful attention in the upcoming documentary tennis simply titled “Venus Vs.”. Directed by Ava Duvernay, this doc is the first from ESPN’s will debut on July 2nd, as part of the cable network’s summer long “Nine For Nine” series.
A straight forward visual thesis on how Venus Williams effectively lobbied the old school tennis establishment to finally ante up in paying women equally, “Venus Vs.” will grab your attention from its first frame as Duvernay very aptly presents the film’s central narrative and moves the story forward in a succinct and entertaining way.
Featuring excellent archival footage and thoughtful insights from tennis legends Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Ms. Venus Williams herself, the film does a great job of setting the uncompromising mood surrounding the issue that began following King’s bewilderment and angst regarding equal pay for herself and other women in her sport. Although her efforts were unsuccessful, the formidable (and often controversial cause) was taken up generations later by Venus who used her very formidable influence as a top player to push it pass the finish line. This landmark change not only earned female tennis players the right to equal pay, but also chipped away at gender bias in other areas of society.
Duvernay should be applauded for crafting a serious dialogue on gender equality in a way that will have appeal to the masses.
AUTOMOTIVE SPIN – 2013
RDX AWD Tech
It’s rare when you drive a car that gives off the confidence to handle all the demands on big city streets and highways, but Honda’s new midsize luxury sedan, the Acura RDX, more than sends that impression.
Wow Factor: With its sturdy body frame and clean lines, Acura RDX is immediately appealing to the eye. The ride also features blinged out wheels and headlights, which will certainly make it stand out on the road.
Ride: Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a flexible transmission, this ride gave smooth performance on a variety of road conditions. I also found the rides improved steering and suspension systems to be an asset when managing busy traffic.
Comfort: The RDX’s impressive interior is complimented by premium-class features that included: leather upholstery, heated front seats, 8-way power driver seat with memory, sunroof, satellite radio, wireless cell-phone link, and a rearview camera that offers a wide, 180-degree view. These features alongside its improved cargo capacity, sets this ride up to meet a wide range of driver/passenger needs.
Spin Control: With a competitive price tag that starts around 34k, and a fuel efficiency of 19 city/24 highway, the RDX is positioned to give similarly classed vehicles a run for their money. This ride is smart, reliable and offers a great return on investment. I predict we’ll be seeing a lot of the RDX on the road.
Copyright 2013, Robertson Treatment, LLC all rights reserved.