Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


A Father’s Jam Session with Stevie Wonder, Sir Duke, and the World’s Greatest Children

When I picked my son, Damani, up from school on Wednesday, he asked me if I'd ever heard of the song, Sir Duke.  Now let's be clear, this is a ten-year-old asking me about Sir Duke!  I was gentle with him.  I asked if he was talking about Stevie's Sir Duke.  Indeed, he was. Then I asked him who daddy's favorite artist in the whole world is... Of course, he knew exactly who it's been for as far back as I can remember... the one and only Stevie Wonder!!

Damani went on to tell me that they had a substitute teacher in music class that day, and that the sub had them listening to Stevie Wonder's hit song Sir Duke.  He went on to talk about how much he LOVES the song - in fact, he said Sir Duke is now his favorite song.  (Sometimes I really wish I could still be in elementary school!)  So of course, after we got home, in the middle of the homework routine, we went right into an impromptu Stevie Wonder family jam session.

After about 4-5 times listening to Sir Duke, my daughter Aya got into the mix, and started doing the wild girl dance (she actually asked me not to tell you all that, although I'll admit that she's definitely a better dance than I am).  Naturally, after she hung in there with Sir Duke for a few repeats, then we had something waiting for her, too.  We went right into the live clip of a combined Isn't She Lovely and Sunshine of My Life.  (Video clips of both songs are just below.)

In addition to knowing daddy's favorite artist, Aya remembers that these are two of the songs I sang to her every single night when she was just a little baby.  That was our special father-daughter routine, singing, humming and carrying her around our little apartment, first when we put her to bed the first time, and again when she woke up in the middle of the night.

By popular demand, we continued the Sir Duke jam session in the car on the way to school the next morning.

The reason I'm sharing all this is because I absolutely LOVE being a father.  The development of good character, becoming a good person - of service in healing and developing our community, and the pursuit of excellence at everything we do... those are among the core values that guide us.  In the midst of all of this come the constant reminders that family comes first,  life can and will indeed be challenging sometimes, and that there are many lessons about living to be learned along the way.  Everything else is either extra, or an unwanted distraction.

Something I've come to realize is that there is no easy pathway to becoming a firmly anchored African American young adult... one who is confident, with a strong sense of purpose, and an intact cultural identity.  It takes a lot of thoughtful nurturing, structure, filtering and consistency.  Unfortunately, what can easily get lost in all of this, especially in this hyper-busy and hyper-competitive society we live in, is the importance of being fully present and genuinely joyful in the moments we have with our children.

While maybe not a huge deal in the larger scheme of things, it felt great - as it always does, to just stop everything - completely unplanned - and have some real fun as a family... in this case listening to some of our classical music that spans the generations.  It's the kind of thing I had the gift of being able to do with my parents growing up, and something I appreciate being able to do with my children more and more every day.

I wanted to share this because I see every day that our children are longing to be connected... connected to us (parents and elders) in particular.  Unfortunately also, too many of our children begin to lose that essential joy,  that sparkle in their eyes, as a result of the (almost exclusively) directives they get from us about what to do, what not to do, what they messed up on, etc.  In this society, too many of our children miss out on the opportunity to actually be just that, growing and learning children.

So my encouragement to all of us is that we make a special effort to take the few moments of every day to actually be fully present with our children, laughing, smiling and showing them the simple beauty in being alive, especially in relationship with others who care deeply about them.  I want this for all of our children, just as much as I want it for my own.  Ultimately, our children really are the most precious gifts we bring forth into this world.