Kim Thoughts: Social Media as Anti-Social Behavior (guest blog)

(Re-published here from the original Facebook posting on Kimberly Ballard’s wall)

Facebook profile pic

Kimberly Ballard

Just wondering… What’s going on with our new skool psyche where we are often more present trying to tune in to this virtual world than our own realities? It has become a part of our ‘normal’ visual landscape to be anywhere in our worlds and see many people’s heads bent over checking our phones. Has anybody tried to holla at us in the last 3 minutes?? No. Maybe. But either way, what did we ever used to do with our minds, I often wonder? And where will this mental trend and electronically connected/yet real world disconnected dynamic all lead?

Just wondering, as we all get somewhat caught up. Were these the same mental or emotional voids that led us to indulge in other escapes before social media came along? TV, clubs, shopping, talking on the phone for hours…do we hardly read books anymore? No indictments, or removing myself from the mix…just wondering.

social-media2Are these the same voids, just managed a different way? Or has all the technology created new mechanisms and dependencies in our psyche to now need even more stimulation? …to the point where we have to have multiple “conversations” going on at the same time?…on Facebook, on the phone, emailing and tweetin and sending twerkin type photos at the same time (do they call those selfies?)…and then we still need more.

marvin-gaye-1971-whats-going-on-aJust wondering…as Marvin once asked “What’s (really) going on?”…in a day when we can wake up and immediately roll over to the gadgets to connect to the virtual world before maybe even turning to the one beside us, or in the same space. All the funny ironies in the pictures of people at a social events, or maybe even at dinner together, but everyone is on their phone. Funny sometimes, but sad in a way, and very true. And we’re all pretty much “guilty” in one way or the other. We’ve gone from it being disrespectful to leave your hat on when you enter a home, to it being acceptable to leave our whole head someplace else when we come to commune with another real human being.

Your body is here with me ...I get it and relate that we all have natural yearnings for mental stimulation and emotional connections that our immediate surroundings, access, and the “real” people in our worlds don’t always quite fulfill. But when do we stop and attempt to balance our reality? Check in with what’s really in our world, the room, the real people around us. Or was the songwriter more on point than they knew years ago?…”Your body’s here with me, but your mind is on the other side of town” (or even on the other side of the world, these days). And now we have the technological means to really roll with that thought…to no end…creating another modern relational dysfunction for our day.

social-media-loveIn ways I clearly see many of the upsides of all of the new worlds, possibilities, connections and outlets that social media and the Internet in general have created. Look at all of the people who felt isolated before who can come together and be inspired, commune and support each other so easily now. Even connecting with old friends. That can be a beautiful thing. I’m just stepping back for a moment wondering (and even looking at myself as my neck is bent into this phone)… Is this new school train running away off the tracks at times? Is it creating an incessant need for attention and stimulation, beyond the balance and fulfillment that we wholistically naturally seek? Are new narcissists even being born from it, or simply finding a fit? And even for the old/new friends that we connect with electronically, when we get together in person, are we still halfway checked out, still seeking something else.

stop & smell the rosesBut whatever the truth is (I’m sure there’s many)…Can we stop or pause regularly and make a point to check in with the real world for a while? Smell the coffee, stir the beans (and even stop burning pots and bumping into stuff cause we so checked out-and in to something else). Balance is simply what’s occurring to me, as I’m continually seeking more of that for myself. We always heard “too much of anything” ain’t good.

Kim in reflectionLike I said, just wondering…as I clearly use this social outlet to get my writing/mental rocks off at times as well. But “all things in moderation” I always heard.
Working on it. And just wondering out loud (in my phone:-/ Or maybe even spiritually inspired by my godmother (the way old folks used to pinch you to get your attention without anyone noticing). But I reflect now on how I went to visit my godmother not long before she passed several years ago. I was a dutiful “daughter,” yet always too caught up on “doing,” even if doing a good helpful thing…the imbalance was in not being fully present. I felt my value was more in the “doing” for others. But my godmother simply said, patting at a spot on the bed beside her, “just sit down and talk to me ‘Kimley’.” (You know how old folks do your name their way.) I recall buzzing around the room trying to make sure all her physical needs were met, and then sitting down for just a moment…offering a little chit Kim familychat. I wasn’t into any social media back then, but my head was still someplace else, thinking about the next thing to “do,” naively thinking that was helping her. But now I know that it wasn’t. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable to connect with the realities of what’s for real in front of us. In that case it was death, and the guilt that I couldn’t do more to change her reality or make it more comfortable. But whatever it may be, we eventually need to deal with it…and live in our real world as much as we do this virtual one. We all want to be heard and to feel a connection. We all want somebody to (really) “listen” and “see” us. Can we stop and do that and be that for each other? Then the social (media) connection can become more our real lives.
Just wondering…
…as I need to go check in on my real people now.

Kim & children

Kim and her four children (From Left to right: Malik, Elyse, Myla, Elona)


An Elegy for the Man: Who Will Cry for Little Dan?

Dannie the name

Dannie means “God is my judge” in Hebrew

In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead. Although a speech at a funeral is a eulogy, it can be customary to later compose an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave. The purpose of this kind of writing is to express feelings rather than tell a story. The noun elegy was borrowed in the 16th century from Middle French élégie, from Latin elegīa, from Greek elegeia, from elegos “mournful poem or lament.” This elegy is a lament of my heart on behalf of my family for our dearest brother, husband, father, and uncle Dannie.

Dan the Landscaper

Dan during his landscaping career

In the shock of the immediate loss of Dannie, my emotions and thoughts were a mixture of acute pain along with an urgent need to remember who he was as a full person. Perhaps I felt a call to protect his life legacy from being truncated by the one act of a tragic death. However, my journey to deeper pondering and search for understanding came through phone conversations with my brother just older than me Marvin McBrayer. He took the time to call me during these recent days of grieving to check in on how I was handling things, so I in turn did the same for him. It just happened that way.

Marvin & DannieMarvin and I talked about our brother Dannie. Covering many areas, we kept trying to perceive together what might have been the root of the despair that could lead our life-loving brother to take his own life. After thinking it over again and again we could come to no absolutely conclusive answer of course, as matters like these are often left unknowable in a complete sense. But there was a general theme that reoccurred as a very likely source of the calamitous clouds that ultimately proved to be more than Dannie’s beams of beautiful sunlight could shine through anymore.


little AntwoneThis poignant poem was written by the author of a book that turned into a feature length movie that many may have seen. The film explores themes of abandonment, child abuse, race, psychiatry, and general healing. I have been deeply moved each time I’ve seen Antwone Fisher. It seemed to honor the profound human reality that we seldom truly move beyond deep trauma in our collective or personal lives until these is an equally deep experience of authentic healing. This could be said for a group like Black people who strive to survive the “Maafa” or African Holocaust which includes the Arab and Atlantic slave trades, and continued through imperialism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression to the present day. Or it could be the vulnerable little boy still wounded inside of a grown man, but never healed.

Shaft DanI am fond of revelling in how much me and Dannie look and are alike in so many ways. He used to call me a bad carbon copy and other joking put downs that were part of our brotherly fun. An Adonis of a man physically and Imhotepian in his brilliance, it made me very proud growing up to be even considered a facsimile of the first born son in our family. As I lay in bed early this morning, comparisons between Dannie and me kept swirling through my mind as I struggled to understand what was different about us that would keep me from reaching the same conclusion that he did about life. The answer came to me in a clear vision that was both the fruit of discussions with my brother Marvin as well as a revelation of transfiguration.

Baby Dannie

Dannie as a baby

With all the problems that have been a part of my life, the core of my childhood is not one. I was blessed to experience a relatively secure upbringing, where needs were met and nurturing love abounded. These were as much the gifts of my doting older brothers and sisters as it was that of my parents, all seemingly in cahoots with an open conspiracy of affection and most notably protection. So in my moments of greatest despair through life, I always had this reservoir of self confidence and intrinsic value to pull from when existential emergencies of personal self worth required it. Along with divine Grace, I have often been able to make it back from the brink of self destruction with this internal tether of love.

Nerd Dan

Dannie in childhood

I am not here to say that Dannie did not have this. Nor am I offering some psychobabble explanation of the complexities involved with Dannie’s life. My point is mainly to lament for Dannie what some know to be too true. While every home can have its bad and good times, the McBrayer household Dannie grew up in held deep pathologies created or inherited by those within. This is the insight that Marvin shared with me as an older sibling in our talks, but then it became the awareness that I’ve come to know deep in my own heart. Dannie could not find healing as a man because like Antwone Fisher, he needed to discover healing for the little boy within himself first.

Antwone Fisher Viola Davis

Antwone’s character confronting his mother

In the movie, Antwone’s character acted out his childhood trauma by being temperamental and often behaving violently at inappropriate times. He struggles to find the balance in his life until a compassionate and insightful psychiatrist offers the right therapeutic response he needed (notably without medication), allowing him to begin a self guided journey to real healing. At the core of the healing process were confrontations with his childhood abusers and even his own mother who had abandoned him to that fate. For his own peace of mind, Antwone needed to express how he felt to those who had hurt the little boy inside of him now that he was man enough to stand up for himself. This cathartic exercise of psychic vindication not only freed him from the anger that blinded his ability to see contemporary life clearly, it also allowed Antwone to trust love for the first time with a woman that truly valued him for the man he was.

handsome DanIn my grief, I had been so focused on waxing nostalgic about all the wonderful things Dannie had done for others his whole life that it took Marvin to help me consider that maybe this was also a cover for the inability of Dannie to actually care for himself. Similar to Antwone’s violence, Dannie’s extraordinary benevolence may have obscurred something we all needed to see. Whatever the tragedy of his suicide is now, I believe it began many years ago with the trauma of an abused little boy who never learned to cry for himself. With the full mind of our mother gone from us due to Alzheimer’s disease, it is left to our father to offer some closure on this if he has the courage and will to do so. Often abusers have their own stories of abuse to tell.

Most importantly, we must decide going forward as a family to never again allow harm that can be prevented to visit upon the most vulnerable among us: our children. With all reasonable considerations, we must be unwavering in our determination to protect the right to a safe childhood for those who can’t defend themselves. The lives we save will be our own.

Dannie, Jerry, Kevin, & Marvin

Dannie on the left with brother Kevin, Jerry, and Marvin

Dannie, my brother forever

dannie-mcbrayerDannie McBrayer is my eldest brother and he joined the ancestors of my family line yesterday on November 17, 2013 as he transitioned from this mortal plane of existence. Dannie is the first born male of my parents, Dolores “Pauline” (Alston) McBrayer and Jerry Lee McBrayer, Sr. His other siblings include Karen, Belinda, Jerry Jr., Denise, Amanda, Kevin, Marvin, Lance, and Randall. Dannie has one beloved and treasured child, his daughter Danielle McBrayer through his first marriage to Dorra Blue. He current wife is Lita McBrayer of Dallas, Texas.


“God never dies, therefore I cannot die”

Within traditional African philosophy, there is no distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world; the afterlife is regarded as simply a continuation of life on earth. Death is regarded as part of man’s destiny, a departure in which the physical body decays but the spirit moves on to another state of existence, As long as there is someone alive who can remember a deceased person, that person is considered as part of the “living dead.” After no living person remembers the name of the deceased, he or she becomes part of a collective, community immortality (New World Encyclopedia).

dannie-mcbrayer 2In the heritage of this very African concept, I wish to remember my brother here by sharing some of what I experienced and know about him. For me as a young boy, Dannie was one of my earliest and best examples of manhood. I grew up unabashedly admiring him for what he could do and who he was. It seemed to me that he was capable of incredible feats, fixing anything that needed repair and making all things possible. He was strong, a physically strapping product of my father’s formidable genetic inheritance for body build. Having played several sports in school, he was also a life long athlete with his favorite pastimes being basketball, football and tennis. Dannie was also a very handsome man with classically masculine features chiseled in his face and a confident, disarmingly warm smile. He was also very charming, possessing a personality that knew no stranger and generous with laughter or wit.

Kingdom HallMy brother Dannie was a deeply spiritual man. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness as we all were in my family, he had an enduring love for the Bible and God that he fondly called “Jah”. Rooted in his faith, Dannie also had a profound sense of community and oneness with humanity. He was a true man of the people, making friends easily wherever he went and leaving behind an impression through his deeds of kindness or service. I use to marvel and perhaps envy a bit how naturally he could make connections with complete strangers or how varied his associations where in all walks of like. He had the gift of ministry and in his best days preached a gospel of universal love.

jack-of-all-trades-710x412A proverbial Jack of all trades and master of some, Dannie was skilled at many things. He was perhaps best known as an automobile mechanic, having chosen this trade very early in life. He had the mind of an engineer and loved to solve problems. A serial entrepreneur, he tried his hand at a number of businesses over the years. I was an under aged employee of his landscaping enterprise during my adolescent years in Dallas, Texas. The manner in which he worked me was certainly in violation of some labor laws, but I benefited from gaining early the value of industriousness and pride in craftsmanship. He was precise, reliable, and thorough. These are the elements of character and core values that I learned at the feet of my big brother.

family @ Danielles graduation

Our family at Dannie’s daughter Danielle’s graduation from college

Perhaps more than all else, Dannie is a head of our extended family clan. He loved his family and being family. With a strong sense of who we were and how we should be in the world, he modeled the values of fidelity to kin as a elder sibling. There were enough of us brothers and sisters for him to be a surrogate father to we younger ones and he fulfilled that needed capacity gladly. He continued a dedicated focus on young people in his roles as an uncle and member of congregations or other social networks. He taught me how to ride a bike, cut a manicured lawn, drive a car (manual shift), play chess, perform an oil change, put on a tie, shoot a jump shot, and swing a tennis racket. He showed me how to be a man.

ResignOne of Dannie’s greatest joys in life was chess. He had an all consuming affection and fascination with the game. It spoke to both his competitive spirit as well as Dannie’s formidable intellect. He was no casual player, investing himself in studying chess books and the Masters. At the same time, he was always willing to teach a novice the basics of the game as if he were its ambassador to the uninitiated. In chess, it is respectable for a player with no more reasonable moves available to resign in a gesture of dignity and pride by laying down his king piece on the board. For reasons too complex and unknowable for me to address here, Dannie gradually resigned from the game of life some time ago. We played our last chess match together online during my birthday last week on November 10th. Good game, my brother.

Dannie & Lita

Dannie and his wife Lita

Love in the Nick of Time

“When did the choices get so hard? 
With so much more at stake. 
Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.”

TuskegeeThere are many things in life that can never be the same for us again after a certain time has passed. For me, I doubt that my body will ever move the way it once did when in my teens I could mimic the moves of Michael Jackson to a point that made the young girls of my middle school talent show audience scream and swoon. I may never again have the open ended, unique learning opportunity of my undergraduate time at Tuskegee University when there was little else to do at that Alabama wonder-place but soak up history and scholarship. There will also never be another chance on this side of the Divide for me hear the direct words of my surrogate father and life purpose inspiration Dr. D. Mudavanha-Patterson or my spiritual father Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman (Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.), both having joined my personal and communal circle of ancestors years ago. Ase’. area of life that seems immune to the phenomenon of “once in a lifetime” seems to be the onset of falling in love. From the awkward stumbling of our adolescent years to the more refined but often equally clueless affairs of adulthood, the drop off the cliff of what was to what could be feels practically the same. Often irrational no matter how thoughtful the person experiencing it may be, being swept off ones feet is by definition a disorienting experience. Song writers’ attempts to capture the bizarre rhapsody in words have come up with strange lyrics like “Hurt so Good”, “Love T.K.O.”, and “If Loving You is Wrong …”. Well, you get my point. But then there’s Bonnie.

“Just when I thought I’d had enough 
All my tears were shed… 
No promise left unbroken, 
There were no painful words unsaid. 
You came along and showed me 
How to leave it all behind…. 
You opened up my heart again and then much to my surprise. 

I found love, Love in the Nick of Time.”


My butterfly

I am in love. More certain about it than ever before in my life, this statement for me can stand on its own like garden fresh spring salad greens in need of little dressing which would only spoil the raw and delicious flavor of it. A love warrior not on my first rodeo, I find myself putting down my shield and gradually unfixing accumulated armor as I realize a greater truth than, “Love is a Battlefield”. I am becoming the Dr. King of my own internal strife with the vulnerability of all consuming affection and passion, pledging against all odds to non-violently give up the ghosts of lost loves past. I have a dream and she sports an afro-puff.

In the quirky film “As Good As It Gets”, Jack Nickolson’s character is a curmudgeon and literary recluse that stumbles upon true love accidentally in his narrow minded pursuit of self-centered normalcy. Near the apex of the movie’s plot, he confesses you make me want to be a better manan iconic line to the women of his attentions that she “makes [him] want to be a better man”. Even amid Hollywood triteness we find this pearl of truth about true love. If she is the one, then the whole world should know it by the transformation of ones heart.

Kwabena all smiles

Glowing in the dark 😉

While this love thing feels feverishly familiar, it’s not exactly like remembering how to ride a “bike” of my youth. The balance needed to remove training wheels then is now replaced by the need to balance sometimes competing obligations and priorities. No longer a carefree pre-teen or even a fresh start young adult, at 42 I am a twice divorced father of three children with two different women. They won’t even let the term “spring chicken” get near me anymore. Nevertheless, at this moment in time there is a spring in my step and song in my heart. Rochelle put it there, just in the nick of time.

Birthdays & By-Gone Years: I’m Looking Forward

I was raised in the home of a mother who is a Jehovah’s Witness, so birthday celebrations were not a part of my childhood experience and may explain why I do not have strong feelings about them now. I am perfectly content to pass the date cycle of my birth each year with no more than a cursory acknowledgement that I have advanced another year in my life journey. However, my very involved Facebook virtual reality makes it obligatory that I respond in some way to the many very kind and relationship affirming birthday wishes from my Friends that are conveniently prompted by the social media website’s software. Please accept this blog post as my fullest “thank you” to all who took the time to click birthday love my way.

As I reflect on what another passing year means to me, the strongest sentiment I can find within is a deep feeling of thankfulness. At the mid-life marking point of 42 years old, I find myself extremely appreciative for having a robust life full of my core passions and people I love. I am the father of two amazing children that provide meaning and value to my world each and every day, my lovely daughter Issata Abena Nkromo and first born son Kwesi Muyu Nkromo. I have many true friends (with a small “f”) that touch my life beyond the virtual realms of Facebook or Twitter, making those environments simply high-tech extensions of a meaningful network of relationships that are a treasure to me. I am privileged to be working professionally in fields of my life’s purpose, helping feed God’s people in communities and making beauty art in the world. I may be over the hill, but I like this view.

In my full gratitude, I am therefore looking forward to what future years in my life may bring. Now that I know being a father is something I can do well, I am open to having more children as well as determined to do more in nurturing the two in my care now. Issata and Kwesi are entering a stage in their development that involves much more self expression from them and I am excited about learning more about who they are as spiritual souls and expressions of divine purpose. Even though we are divorced, I hope to continue the healing process for our erstwhile family and gain an even better co-parenting partnership with their mother Kipenzi. Getting to know myself more each day, I expect to make more informed choices in coming years about who I should best be involved with romantically. I still believe in love and marriage.

Leah & Leila

As another year rolls by for me, I look forward to spending more time with people that matter the most to me. I will take time to make it across town to see the many improvements my soul-brother Khari Diop has made to the East Lake Learning Garden and Urban Farm. I will travel to Houston, Texas to see my life-long friend Leah Wilson-Hill and get to know her darling granddaughter Leila, as well as visit with my mentor in the urban agriculture movement Dr. Bob Randall.  I will stop by the Rose Circle Community Garden in the West End and swap horticultural techniques or stories with my forever-neighbor and fellow food rebel Debbie Zimmerman. I will find some way to rebuild communication and ties with community building collaborators and dear friends Mike Mumper and Oni Holley. I will sojourn home to Boston to spend time with high school friends like Bridgit Brown and the many family members that I see too little of lately. I will finally make it to Ghana West Africa to see the home made there by my courageous couple-friends Akua and Chenu Gray, as it may be time to look at options some time soon. Inshallah, I will do all these things and more with family and friends in the coming months.

I believe the future is very bright for Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN), a new thing in the world built from scratch by me and a close circle of colleague-friends. While I have started and continue to work on other enterprises like The Brow Tutor, AM-FFN is very special to me and becomes more so as the journey of its organizational development unfolds. I have found my bliss in conjuring up this beautiful answer to an opportunity-problem in the world: How do we help people become sovereign and secure in their ability to feed themselves in a sustainable way that respects the environment and builds community or family wealth? If all continues to go as well as it has thus far, AM-FFN will be among the best things I have done with this often tumultuous life and serve as a significant part of my dues for having taken up air and space during these few fleeting years on earth. I will have left the world better than I found it.

Happy Birthday to me and “medase pa” (thanks very much) to each of you!

Pick the Greens!: Choice is on the Menu for Voters in District 57

In the kind of community that I grew up within and now live as well, there were few things more popular than having options. For instance if there was an alternative from enjoying one entrée for dinner and being able pick from a buffet, the folks I know would choose Paschal’s brunch on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, the voters who live within District 57 also have more to select from in the election of their State Representative than just the leftovers from the Democrat’s primary barbecue. It’s healthier for you to eat more veggies and it’s certainly better for District 57 to pick the Greens!

Cubby as Chair with members of the NPU-T Executive Committee, circa 2008

My name is Kwabena “Cubby” Nkromo and I am running as a write-in candidate with the Green Party of Georgia to be elected State Representative “for what we have in common” as a community. I am a long standing resident of southwest Atlanta with many years of civic leadership experience and a track record community building success. As a former Chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit T (NPU-T), I strengthened this citizen’s advisory council by increasing the level of participation and developing new leaders from every day citizens who stepped forth for the first time in community service with my coaching. I was a trail blazer with the use urban agriculture for neighborhood revitalization by establishing two urban farms in the greater West End area, both of which still feed many people and provide jobs under new management. In addition to food security, I have fought for housing security by helping found the Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative when serving as NPU-T Chair and now as a member of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta.

Pat Gardner with new District 57 map

My opponent in this race is a decent, caring veteran of the Democratic establishment named Pat Gardner. Having served in the Georgia House of Representatives for eleven years, Ms. Gardner had the opportunity to demonstrate to voters what impact her leadership could have on the communities she served. Based in the northeast neighborhood of Morningside, she was placed as an incumbent representative for communities in southwest Atlanta through the Republican orchestrated redistricting process this past year. Through no fault of her own, Ms. Gardener has been put in a position of having to understand the needs of an area of the city that is new to her and perhaps beyond her ability to respond to effectively. While I too would be learning a relatively distant part of town in the northeast when elected to office, my experience gives me a better perspective to find the common ground that allow me to work for what’s best in all of District 57 in the state house and beyond.

Pat & Rashad during the Democratic primary

Our campaign has offered Ms. Gardner an opportunity to engage the issues in the newly created district and speak directly to voters in a first real debate of this election. She handily unseated her weakened rival Mr. Rashad Taylor in the Democratic primary contest due to in no small part superior cash reserves in her campaign. With money ruling the day, the voters of the district were robbed of the opportunity to have their issues vigorously examined and discussed. In the spirit of respect for the community and integrity, we call on Ms. Gardner’s campaign to accept our offer to debate 6:00pm Thursday November 1st at the Intimate Café (2001 Martin Luther King Drive Atlanta, GA 30310). Whether my opponent shows up or not, I will have a conversation with constituents about what’s best for us and how we can make a way forward together by focusing on what we have in common.

Kwabena “Cubby” Nkromo

It is normal to go with what you know and take the path of least resistance by accepting what the system might present before us as inevitable. Due to the restrictive ballot access laws in Georgia, voters in District 57 will only see Pat Gardner’s name on screen when they reach the point of selecting a State Representative for themselves. However, there is another line on the ballot that reads “Write-in” and you have the choice to place my name there as a certified candidate with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office (signs to this effect will be posted in the voting area). I am Kwabena “Cubby” Nkromo and I am running in this race to help make our communities healthier and stronger. We can win, vote for your hopes and not your fears.

Write-in your vote as Kwabena “Cubby” Nkromo for State Representative in District 57!






























Love + Time + Values = Fatherhood for Me

As is often said about many challenging roles in life, fatherhood for me came with no particularly clear instruction manual. Fortunately, my children arrived in this world blessed with good health, sound minds and I believe the blessings of our ancestors, but their mother and I pretty much had to take it from there. As their untested father, I felt somewhat less equipped due to the apparent lack of obvious biological reinforcements for what loomed as the most challenging and difficult thing I have ever done in my life. There was no milk in my chest that unmistakably demonstrated my purpose and value to our young babies. Perhaps even less present were cultural and societal reinforcements for how best to proceed with what had become job number one in my life: How to be a father to a child.

My father, Jerry Lee McBrayer

The equation that developed as a solution to my many fatherhood questions came to me through mostly instinct I feel, and a willful intent on my part to be the father my children needed most. Like too many men in our society, my biological father was absent for much of my life. Due to my mother’s brilliant and effective rise to the occasion, I have no extraordinary sob story to present for this reality. I feel my youthful years were good, relatively secure, and nurturing in many of the most critical ways. And I actually have a number of meaningful and positive memories of my birth father’s involvement in my early childhood development, even if they are fleeting and far too few. The hugest liability of my younger years seems to have been a paucity of place due to frequent relocations as my mother moved us again and again in seemingly endless gyrations of separation and reconciliation with her husband (my father). My father’s dominant absence may be an opportunity cost that my psyche will not let me fully appreciate at this point.

Love + TIme + Values

Cool Kwesi

Baby Issata in the sun

I loved my babies from the first moment they burst forth from their mother’s womb. Both relationships with my son Kwesi and my daughter Issata seemed to begin like primal romances filled with excellent drama and deep affections. The first thing I did for my son was sever his physical attachment to his mother but cutting the umbilical cord and setting him on his path as an individual human being. I kept the shirt on which the blood splattered for many years as a relic of this family sacrament, held in the holy abode of the hospital delivery room. He was beautiful to me from the beginning and grew more so each day as a Man-Child of our own doing. The bond with my daughter was also immediate, but truthfully took longer to mature due to her strange “Men In Black” alien appearance as a new born (just being honest). The trick was on me as she has grown to be my heart, probably the closet expression of my nature between the two, and a gorgeous sight to behold.

I started putting the time in early with my son. In the first months, it seemed he would not rest fully unless bundled on my chest and coaxed to sleep by the rise and fall of my breathing. I became a master at diaper changes and kitchen sink baths, while relieving his mother as much as possible with late night bottle feedings of breast milk. To spend the maximum amount of time with him while still earning a living, I launched a “daddy day care” called Alkebu-Lan Family Home Care which allowed me quality time with both him and several other children of friends from my home church The Shrine of the Black Madonna. Kwesi not only knew who I was, but he knew “whose he was”. I believe this intense early investment is much of the reason for the tight bond I enjoy with my son to this day. For most children, quality time is everything.

While I was less available for my daughter is her newborn years due to increased work responsibilities and service as a community leader, Issata didn’t seem to need me as much or even be very interested in a father at first. All she wanted as a baby was her mother and the teats that gave her so much joy and satisfaction. I distinctly remember feeling left out and unappreciated, but also realizing that you can’t always be with the in-crowd. Those years of marginalization eventually melted away as she weaned off her mother alone and embraced both parents equally. While it may too early to call her a “daddy’s girl”, my daughter does love her some Kwabena. Our time together is often some of the best fatherhood moments so far for me, as I see in her many reflections of my own temperament and thinking. She melts my heart when she says, “I want to be a politician like my daddy” even after community meetings at no end. I take my children with me every where I go.

Learning to grow & love vegetables

Another critical part of my fatherhood equation has been the sharing and transferring of values to my children. I am very intentional about helping my children learn loyalty to one another as brother and sister, knowledge of and pride in their African identity, commitment and service to community, and a close relationship to the natural world through horticultural literacy. Good manners are also a very important standard that I try to instill with them, as well as truth telling and critical thinking. I enjoy talking with my children and hearing what their young minds or hearts are making of the world. I am grateful that they listen to me and follow instruction for the most part. More than all else I am trying to do in this world, I take the responsibility of raising these two human beings most seriously. I believe it is the most important thing I will ever do.