For as long as I can remember, I have always been a daddy’s girl. And even though my father has been present in my life, I am fully aware that that is not the same story for others. Regardless of if you are close with your father or not, a father/father figure in your life shapes you as an adult in ways that you may not even realize. Fathers, especially Black fathers, are so important to our community and should be honored just as much as mothers. So it is only right to shine a light on some amazing Black fathers who are out here doing the best they can to enrich their children's lives.
In honor of Black fatherhood as a whole, xoNecole chatted with Kier Gaines is a licensed therapist, a content creator, and the founder of the lifestyle brand Kier and Them; Tony Ingram who works in the U.S. Navy and is well known for his Black Loveepisode he appeared in with his wife, Brittany Ingram; and Anthony Edwards, a digital creator and the host of his podcast, No Guru Ish, where he talks about birth, motherhood, and fatherhood. Each of these men comes from different walks of life.
For this Father’s Day, these Black men were open and honest about their perspectives on what being a father means to them, how their father figures shaped them, and the kind of legacy they hope to leave behind.
xoNecole: Who would you say was a role model for you while growing up?
Kier Gaines, 35: I don’t think I really looked up to anyone when I was growing up. I grew up in the projects of Washington D.C. and during the crack-cocaine epidemic, so I had a weird mix of environments. Outside my home, there’s violence and crime. But inside my home, there’s love, culture, and comfort. I saw older guys with things that I wanted like clothes, cars, and women. But at the same time, it was clear to me that those same guys lived lifestyles that I didn’t want. So I never saw myself in them. Now as an adult, I do have a couple of people that I look up to. But back then, I didn’t.
Tony Ingram, 38: I had a unique situation growing up. I have two dads. I have my stepfather and my biological father. They were both very present in my life. My stepfather raised me. My biological father and my mom were young parents and they didn’t work out. Then, my stepfather met my mom and raised me as his own. He fostered an environment for me to stay connected with my biological father. Both of my fathers had great attributes that really helped me become the father I am today.
Anthony Edwards, 33: For me, it’s a no-brainer that my role model is my father. My father worked hard and was a hustler. He was born in Jamaica and he had three jobs. Despite working a lot, he always tried to make time for me, even though it was hard at times.
xoN: How has your relationship with your father shaped how you display fatherhood to your children?
Kier: I didn’t have a relationship with my father. It was really my peers that were my father figures. My friends are the people I chose at the rawest stages in my life, so we were able to grow together. It’s different when it’s your peers because they do not have the wisdom of "years of experience" compared to you, but you still respect their lived experiences. At the end of the day, after all the trials and tribulations, my friends are still good fathers, good husbands, and most importantly, good humans. That is what I relate to the most. We feed into each other.
Tony: My stepfather was my coach. He taught me how to be respectful, and determined, and how to stand on your word. Now I pride myself on chivalry. I display that with my wife and both of my daughters. Now, with my biological father, he is the kindest person you would ever meet. He is the type of man that will give the shirt off his back for someone. He is also an adoptive father. He and my stepmother adopted my little brother at birth. The kind of heart that you have to have to do that is next level for me. I learned how to be compassionate [toward] others from him.
Anthony: It’s a little different for me. My father worked a lot which made him miss certain events in my life that I wish he was present for. I think those moments made me realize that, when I have a son, I will make sure to be completely present with my son. So you can say that my relationship with my dad made me want to do the opposite of some of the things he did as a father.
"At the end of the day, after all the trials and tribulations, my friends are still good fathers, good husbands, and most importantly, good humans. That is what I relate to the most. We feed into each other."
Courtesy of Kier Gaines
xoN: What is something that you wish you could've asked your father as a child that you didn't get a chance to?
Kier: It’s so funny. My brain has a protective mechanism where it leads me to believe that I do not need those kinds of answers. That is something that I am currently working through. I am less interested in asking why he wasn’t present. But one thing I am curious about is the origin story of my mom and his relationship. I don’t know anything about it. Like what did they talk about? Or what made them gravitate towards one another? You know, outside of the romantic side of things.
Tony: If I could ask them a question it would be about relationships with women. Like, how to establish a healthy relationship with a woman. To be transparent, yes my stepfather was a great father, but he wasn’t the greatest husband. He told me everything I was supposed to do, but I didn’t see it always displayed with my mom. With my biological father, I remember that he and my stepmother got divorced when I was a senior in high school. Honestly, that really crushed me. So I would ask him, how do you maintain a healthy marriage? I am curious about what happened there.
Anthony: You know, my father is really good at soccer. He still plays soccer to this day. I think I would ask him what his life was like before he met my mother. I know I had a life before my family. I didn’t have the heart to ask my dad those questions back then. I want to be able to share that kind of stuff with my son when he gets older.
Courtesy of Anthony Edwards
xoN: What do you enjoy most about being a father?
Kier: Man, being a girl dad is different. When you become a girl dad, you become a feminist. Automatically! For me, I have a weird relationship with parenthood. I don't always love it, I’m not going to lie to you. But I am always deeply in love with my children. I think the main thing is watching them grow. It’s crazy to me! You hear people talk about it all the time, but there’s a true bond there. I grew up as an only child, so watching both of my daughters grow as individuals and growing together is such a beautiful thing. It brings me so much joy.
Tony: The coolest thing I love about being a father is that I get to be a role model for my daughters. I’m able to show them what ‘doing things right’ looks like in my eyes. I can set a precedent for my daughters on who to give your energy to based on setting a standard and honoring your values. On a smaller scale, I love when I come home from work, I walk through the door, and both of my daughters welcome me at the door. They say “Hi Daddy!” like 30 times and it is just the best feeling in the world. Coming home from work to them is a whole new joy for me.
Anthony: Honestly, I like the responsibility of being a father. It makes you poke your chest out a little bit. I see fatherhood as ‘I’m a captain of my team and I am leading my team to victory.’ I like the challenge of being a father and being able to learn along the way.
xoN: What have your children taught you about the definition of what being a father means?
Kier: So my first daughter wasn’t planned. I had my daughter with my then-girlfriend, who is now my wife. At that time, we actually decided to break up a couple of months later. Sometimes in those situations, it is a tough hill to climb. So falling in love with my first daughter was a different journey. Now my second daughter, whom I had with my wife, was planned. What my daughters taught me, I could write 40 novels about it so far (laughs). But overall, how I came to love them taught me a lot about love, life, and about myself.
Tony: Harleigh is my first born. With her, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I felt unprepared. But to be honest, becoming a father is nothing you can ever be fully prepared for. Admittedly, I was more stern with her because I was very protective of her. With Willow, I was more lenient about things. I figured out which things matter and which things didn't matter as much. I have learned to be patient from Harleigh to Willow. I have also learned about being more in tune with my feelings because of my daughters. Man, I can cry at the drop of a hat now!
Anthony: I was a stepfather before having my son. My daughter, I have known her since she was 2 years old. My daughter plays a huge role in everything that I do as a father. She has taught me patience and setting boundaries as a stepparent because her father is still a part of her life. My son has taught me something different about what being a father means. On my podcast, No Guru Ish, I express that my wife and I had to go through IVF because I am infertile.
When we talk about infertility, we always highlight women. But there are men out there who experience male infertility and I’m one of them. The process was very stressful and to say that I needed help to have my son still kind of bothers me, if we are being completely real. But I am so grateful for my son because IVF is still not guaranteed. It is a miracle to have my son and it is an honor for me to be his father. Every minute is so precious to me when it comes to fatherhood.
"When we talk about infertility, we always highlight women. But there are men out there who experience male infertility and I’m one of them. It is a miracle to have my son and it is an honor for me to be his father. Every minute is so precious to me when it comes to fatherhood."
Courtesy of Anthony Edwards
xoN: Are there things that you wish you had done differently as a father?
Kier: No. I’m a firm believer in 'a series of doors leads into a series of doors and that leads to another series of doors.’ You make decisions and those decisions trickle down. I will say though, that I am glad I went to therapy before becoming a father. That is something I am really proud of myself for doing. I believe this journey of fatherhood would have been much more arduous if I hadn’t.
Tony: I am in the Navy. That requires me to travel a lot. The last three years, I haven’t been home as much and time is what I miss the most. You can’t get that time back. I wouldn’t say I would make another career choice because I am very grateful for the position I am in now. But looking back, I would take my career choice more into consideration when it comes to how it will affect my time spent with my family.
Anthony: I will start with my son. My son is only 6 months old, so I will say that I would push him to do things like make him roll over and stuff but I had to take a step back and remind myself that I need to slow down. I need him to do things on his own in his own time. With my daughter, she’s 15 now and I’m 33 years old. So the age difference is at the point where we can hang out, but when it comes to discipline, I have to be that authority figure. I didn’t set that boundary in the beginning. I wish that I could’ve set that boundary between friend and parent earlier than I did now.
xoN: How has being a father shaped your views on love in your marriage?
Kier: Parenthood has made my wife and I a better team. We are both committed to the idea “I got into this relationship with you and not these kids. We put ourselves first.” Now I know that’s a very controversial thing to say. I know people have different hierarchies where they place their children. And hey, that thing (hierarchy chart) moves too! But being a father has taught me how to take care of my wife as a person beyond motherhood. I know she still needs me as a friend, as a husband, and as a companion.
Tony: Being a father has allowed me the space to demonstrate to my daughters what authentic love looks like by the way I love my wife. I am very intentional about how I communicate with my wife and vice versa. My wife and I respect each other’s boundaries and prioritize being on one accord, even if we disagree on something. I need my daughters to witness and understand what a positive healthy relationship looks like. Because if I am being toxic to my wife, then there’s a chance that is what they are going to seek without realizing it. Model behavior is key.
Anthony: The love I have for my wife has grown and I didn’t think it would. The fact that my wife stuck it out through IVF for me is amazing. Now that I’m a father [biologically], my son definitely completed the circle. The bond between us has really gotten deeper after we had our son and it is true unconditional love.
"Being a father has allowed me the space to demonstrate to my daughters what authentic love looks like by the way I love my wife. I am very intentional about how I communicate with my wife and vice versa. My wife and I respect each other’s boundaries and prioritize being on one accord, even if we disagree on something."
Courtesy of Tony Ingram
xoN: What advice do you have for other men that are looking for that sense of community of being a father?
Kier: I say to broaden your circle. Sometimes we automatically look for people who look like us because we assume they have shared the same life experiences and have similar perspectives. That is mostly true. But when you are able to connect with someone on a human level, those differences aren’t a huge factor. There are some things you could miss out on if you do not connect with people with different backgrounds.
Anthony: With my situation, building a sense of community can be a little challenging. I would be vulnerable with some people about my infertility and you never know how people are going to respond. It can definitely be triggering. So what I’m learning now is when I talk about dismantling the stigma on male infertility, I have to look past the negative responses that I might receive. It’s about making awareness and knowing that the awareness helps so many other couples feel seen. So the advice I can give is I think it’s important for men to first know their status with producing children. There are fertility specialists out there and to not only depend on women to know those things. Whether you are a biological father or not, being a father is a blessing and having space to share those experiences with other fathers is important too.
xoN: How would you like your legacy to be remembered? What would you like your children to keep with them about their father, years down the line?
Kier: I think that when you talk about legacy, it’s not really on you. I can bring things into the world, and people are going to read into those things however they want. But the main thing that I want my children to keep with them is to pay it forward. I want them to be satisfied with who they are as individuals because they saw their father happy with who he was. My daughters do not need to be perfect or widely accomplished women. I know there are women who have multiple degrees and multiple businesses but are still unhappy with themselves. So as long as my daughters are happy and know that their father is/was a good man who tried to put good in the Universe, that’s the only thing that matters to me.
Tony: When it comes to legacy, your character and integrity are non-negotiable. The values that I have, have to be solid. For my daughters, I want them to know their father was courageous, his character and integrity were intact, and how to stay ten toes down for what they believe in. Now my wife and I will be having a son soon. When I tell you when we found out we were having a son, there was something that came over me. I thought to myself, ‘You are about to have a mini you.’ My prayer for my son is to be a healthy masculine young man that walks with courage, faith, and integrity. I want him to respect himself and be mindful of his feelings. I want to teach him that it is okay to feel his feelings. Manhood is vulnerability as well as being firm. I want to teach him to not allow others to put him in a box. I want him to be great in his own right. I want him to look up to me and be proud of me.
Anthony: I want my children to know that their dad is relentless and I invested so much into them. I want them to know it is important to believe in themselves and not allow society to throw them off the course. I want my children to also know that if things do get hard, it’s okay because their father made sure that there is a soft landing for them to bounce back from when they fall.
Featured image courtesy of Anthony Edwards