An Open Letter to LeBron James: Does Father Anger Motivate You or Destroy You?
By Kenneth Braswell, Executive Director, Fathers Incorporated
Hello Beloved Brother,
My name is Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated. My work for the last 23 years has been in business and not-for-profit leadership on behalf of vulnerable communities and Black men and boys. Today, I read with pain, excitement, angst, horror, delight, fear, concern and urgency what is being considered your open letter to your father. One might wonder how I could experience ALL of these emotions after reading a short post about an absent father.
It’s because, well, I am you, I was you, and I see young and mature men like us everyday that too often express there issues with their fathers in unhealthy ways. I want you to know that I both understand and empathize with how you feel and the need to express your triumph over an obstacle that you perceive is responsible for the struggles you’ve had in life. Like you, I am a Black man who’s pent-up rage for my absent father drove me to do what I believed to be the right thing, for the right reason, and with the right justification. What I’ve learned, however, is that it was ALL wrong.
All over this country, Black males are looking at, following, and emulating every move you make, because you are a model of hard work and success who encapsulates a pattern and process they can follow to achieve their own goals and success. Many of these same males have come to know a world where the man responsible for their existence (their fathers) did not contribute to their lives in the way they needed, desired, or deserved. This is the reason I am writing you an open letter about your Instagram post (instagram.com/p/knuBWwCTPf/) — I believe that your brave disclosure can bring you and others closer to understanding, forgiveness and healing of this fatherless pain and anger. This is my prayer and heartfelt desire.
If you’re like many of my friends and family you’re probably saying to yourself, “Whatever,” or “Shut the $&#% up; you don’t know what you’re talking about!” That’s cool, because I said the same thing most of my life. In fact, about five months ago, I was completing a documentary called “Spit’in Anger: Venom of A Fatherless Son”. During the filming I interviewed Iyanla Vanzant, Dr. Jeff Gardere, Terrie Williams, Judge Mablean, Dr. Jeffery Shears, and even spoke to former MLB All-Star Gary Sheffield. All the people I thought would help me tell this story of why Black men and boys harbor so much pain and anger as a result of father absence.
With your patience, allow me tell you a few important things I learned:
1. Projecting anger out is what we men often do when we aren’t shown how to constructively release our anger.
2. Anger and its negative effects are not mutually exclusive; it is cumulative and increases exponentially, as does its negative, destructive consequences. We are hurting the people we love and ourselves by not addressing our anger.
3. Healing and appropriately releasing our anger can be difficult, but it is not impossible.
But here is the biggest lesson I learned: The more anger towards the past we carry in our hearts, the less capable we are of loving in the present, so it is essential that fatherless sons are supported in multiple ways to address our pain and anger appropriately, and grow up to be positive role models for all children.
Like you, I have an awesome mother, children and believe in the Word of GOD. As such, we are obligated to teach our children and model for them righteous behavior and morals, like forgiveness (which doesn’t necessarily mean establishing or entering back into a relationship that is one-sided or unsafe). It means teaching them that they will never be their best selves or offer the world their best based on the hatred of another, especially not our fathers.
I get it. Every now and then, I had to tell the world I was OK and that my father was insignificant in my life in order to suppress the fact that his absence was extremely significant in my life. I have a 5-year-old son who is very fortunate given the statistics. He has had the pleasure of living his entire life with his married mother and father. Something I’d often wish for myself. Knowing what I know about my own hatred for my dad, I could never say to him that my success was fuel by my hatred for his grandfather. I did, but can’t anymore. We must always teach our boys and girls from a position of love, not distain, disgust or devaluing of another. We have all fallen short at one time or another of our potential. Too often for our Black boys, our disappointment has come at the hands of their fathers. But that doesn’t give us a blanket opportunity to hate based on information we DON’T have. You said it yourself, “I don’t know him.”
I can only ask of you to understand and possibly talk to someone that can share with you what forgiveness can do for your own elevation and continued success. Our boys are watching. Please make sure that the message you send to them isn’t one that starts with, “Forget your father, look at me, I’m successful without him.” Forgiveness gives the benefit of understanding and closure.
Just a concerned Brother