My favorite memory of my father is him teaching me how to ride a bike.


I upgraded from my little red tricycle and was on my first big girl bicycle with training wheels on deck. He had taken them off that morning, and as we started off in the dirt driveway of our home in South Carolina, he held me up. His hand was securely fastened on the back of my seat as I pedaled. There, he kept me safe, preventing me from falling. He promised he wouldn't let go until I was ready. Because of how safe he made me feel, I felt brave enough to conquer the world. He gave me a running start and I did the rest, not even realizing he let go of me until I was halfway down the driveway, pedaling away without training wheels and without him.

That memory of my father, Lee, is a favorite of mine because it serves as a beautiful reminder of the man who helped create me, but also the man who raised me. How he'd always be sure to make sure that if I fell (which I would countless times), that he'd be there to catch me. As a child of divorce, not a lot of us get to say that our fathers are an active part of our lives. From childhood to adulthood, he has been there, an ever-constant figure, a father, a confidant and most importantly, a friend. To me, he is the epitome of black love and laid the foundation of the love I have for myself and the love I'd come to expect from anyone else.

As a product of a dope black father, it was important to me to highlight the ones out there doing the work and playing an active role in planting the seeds of their legacy. Here are 5 black fathers on fatherhood and the lessons that made them.

Deano

Deano pictured with his wife Chadeia and their daughter

Courtesy of Deano/@cutzbydb

Age: 29

Location: Wilmington, Delaware

Proud father of: a one-year-old daughter

What fatherhood means to him:

"It's not who taught me how to be a father as much as what taught me how to be a father - my experience not having a father is what showed me what kind of father I wanted to be. My experience being a father is still in its early stages but one of the most profound moments that exemplified fatherhood for me was the time my daughter wouldn't go to sleep and I stayed up with her until she fell asleep knowing I had to go to work early that morning; it was a sacrifice that I had to make. That's what being a father is - making sacrifices for the benefit of our children.

"I remember the day my daughter was born like it was yesterday - 11:56 AM. I saw her hair as she was coming out, that's when it became real for me and once I held her, I was instantly in love. Words could not express the feeling. It was euphoric.

"'Father' means to always protect, sacrifice for and love your child as if they are your greatest responsibility, because they are. I hope that my children can learn to always count on and trust in me so that we have a very strong bond. This year will only be my second Father's Day. The first happened just a week after my daughter was born."

Follow Deano on Instagram.

Jon

Jon pictured with his son and his mom who was his "dad"

Courtesy of Jon

Age: 35

Location: Quebec, Canada

Proud father of three kids: a soon-to-be 17-year-old son, and two girls that will be 4 and 2 in July

What fatherhood means to him:

"My mom raised me and my brother by herself so I would have to say that she is the one who taught me how to be the man and the father I am today.

"I don't think as a child I felt that something was missing from my life because my father was not around, but I strongly believe that it drives how I am as a father today. Even if I'm working a lot and don't get the chance to be around my children as much as I would like to, I make sure to be there for them for every important moment of their life. Every free minute I have, I spend it with them. The day I became a father, I was so proud. I felt joy and excitement but I don't think that at that moment I realized what that really meant.

"My kids are the only human beings who taught me what pure love was. What I want for my children to learn with me, is to never give up. I want them to work hard to get where they want to be and to work harder when they fall, even if it is painful. I want them to believe like me that nothing is impossible even when everyone tells you so. If my kids associate the word "dad" with trust, protection, laughs and most importantly love, I will be an accomplished father."

Jamaal

Jamaal pictured above with his sons

Courtesy of Jamaal

Age: 35

Location: Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Proud father of: three sons, an 11-year-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a one-year-old

What fatherhood means to him:

"Growing up without a father figure, I've had several male role models in my life who played a hand in my development as a man and a father. I ran track most of my life, so many of them were my high school and club coaches. But my mother was the biggest influence in my life. She worked hard to provide for my brother and me, and to instill certain values in us. I carry that desire and responsibility to provide - in a variety of ways - into my role as a father.

"My father's absence actually pushes me to be a great father to my boys. I think that's the case with many men who grew up without a father. We want to give our children something we never had.

"There's a learning curve since I didn't have that example, but the desire to be great is what guides me. It's like playing a role without a script, but I'm getting better at improvising. There's nothing to prepare you to be a father. With my first son, I was about to graduate from college and pursue a professional track career. I had the big responsibility of taking care of a life outside of my own and essentially becoming a compass for him. And I didn't want to let him down.

"Fathers wear many different hats, but right now being a father to me means being a leader, provider and a wielder of my family's legacy. Building future men, husbands and fathers. I want my sons to be unapologetically themselves, regardless of how society labels them, and to have fun doing it."

Follow Jamaal on Instagram.

Aijalon

Aijalon pictured with his sons

Courtesy of @phourthelook

Age: 35

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Proud father of: a 5-year-old son, a 3-year-old son, and a deceased son

What fatherhood means to him:

"Although my father lived in a different state than I did, he still played a role in my life. I was fortunate enough to be able to graft influences from other great men as well. I remember when I was little, although my mom and dad weren't together, my dad would still come by and he would read the Bible to my brother and I. We may not have understood it all at that time, but he was not only laying the foundation for what I believe and teach my children today, but also setting an example for me unconsciously, by trying to be there for us as a father.

"I remember the day I became a dad. It felt scary. In that moment, I became responsible for something so fragile. To me, 'Father' means 'Starter' because you are the beginning and the continuation of everything. A house or child can be strong because of you or weakened and broken because of your absence.

"Children don't really learn by rules as much as they learn from seeing what you do. Lead by example. I hope my children learn to be peaceful, stable, and God-fearing men."

Follow Aijalon on Instagram.

John

John pictured above with his family

Courtesy of John Moran

Age: 51

Location: Decatur, Georgia

Proud father of: five children -- three boys: John (24) Jordan (22) Juwon (22) and two girls: Taylor (18) and Casey (16)

What fatherhood means to him:

"I've had many men in my life who contributed to my development as a father. My father had some particular issues so we didn't have the best relationship but when I was young I specifically said to myself that I would NOT act like my dad did. Having said that, I have to say by 'process of elimination', my father was the biggest influence. When I was about 10 or 11, and before our relationship soured, my father would take me to the park across the street from where we lived. Every weekend or so we would play ball, fly a kite or watch a softball game. I see the correlation between that and the fact most summers with my boys were spent in the backyard or at the park playing ball.

"My wife was busy working and in school and it was before the girls were born so it was just us running around and playing. Those moments with my dad and with my sons exemplify fatherhood to me.

"The day I first became a dad was both the scariest and proudest moment of my life. My wife was in labor and we were all huddled in the delivery room. The doctor informed us that the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around my son's neck. I was handed scrubs and told they would have to perform a c-section. I went into the restroom and cried like a baby (pun intended) out of fear for my wife and son and not knowing what to do and feeling completely helpless. By the time I had gotten myself together and put the scrubs on, I walked out and the doctor gleefully told me the situation had corrected itself (he explained with all kinds of technical terms but I wasn't listening) and my firstborn son come into this world with no medical issues.

"I went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in less than two hours. Looking back, I now fully understand this would be a microcosm of married and family life...

"The word 'father' is so damn complicated. All at once you have to be a rock, protector, nurturer, CEO, engineer, mechanic, foreman, negotiator, lover, listener, cook...and if you're lucky you only have to be one at a time. The greatest lesson I've learned about fatherhood is that no one has the magic solution to being the perfect father. You try as hard as you can and allow love to guide you. We screw it up sometimes, we get it right sometimes, but in the end it's the greatest and most fulfilling job in the world."

Follow John on Instagram. Also check out his podcast Grumpy Old Nerds on Facebook.

*Responses edited and condensed for clarity

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