B.H: When I began reading It’s Not a Man’s World, I did not know that I was in for quite a wonderful reading experience. I was hit with; ‘I was raised by a woman, got my name from a woman, and was first loved by a woman’
You paid homage to the parent who had played dual parenting roles from your birth through to your adulthood. Would you say that partners who are abandoned in a relationship to raise their child/children alone are also victims who have to navigate their role as single parents?
L.B: Oh, they are not victims, they are real-life superheroes. These mothers give their all to raise their children into successful adults. I spoke about Wanda Durant, the mother of NBA basketball superstar Kevin Durant in my book and her work ethic and determination that led to her son’s success on and off the basketball court. In the process of playing both roles, their children tend to use it as motivation to succeed. My mother was always my motivation in life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her sacrifices, love, and commitment to the process. For that I can’t say she was a victim of my father’s negligence, I believe she used it as fuel to succeed in raising a productive male to society. If you ask any child that comes from a single-parent household “what’s their motivation” 9 out of 10 times they will reply “my mother” so these mothers are succeeding in the role of a single parent.
B.H: Do you think that single mothers then and now have suffered emotionally, financially, and health-wise, because they have carried too much of the burden of raising their child/children alone?
L.B: I am always concerned about their emotional and mental health. We live in very tough economic conditions and one income isn’t enough to cover a household. Some of these mothers are always working, sometimes 7 days a week and I am concerned about them not being able to recharge and have a healthy dialogue with their children. I was raised by my grandmother who was retired, so she was always at home when I arrived from school. Dinner was ready and my chores were laid out before I left the house. I had the luxury of learning how to be responsible and enjoying a home-cooked meal each day after school. A lot of children don’t have that with their mothers always working and that could cause a lot of problems in the home. These mothers could be suffering from burnout and a whole lot of health issues but are pushing through to make ends meet and on top of that, they have to find more mental strength to discipline and advise their children at the end of the day. They may be superheroes but even Superman took days off to be Clark Kent. These mothers rarely get days off. My heart cries out for them.
B.H: Was the title of the book difficult to come up with?
L.B: Not at all! It was a real-life observation. I knew a lot of males like me who did not have their fathers in their lives who were just figuring things out. “It’s Not a Man’s World” was just me coming to grips with the current reality we are facing. Look at most of the top positions in the country today. The Premier, Deputy Governor, Chief Justice, Attorney General, all of these positions are led by women. We do not live in a man’s world anymore. The patriarch of the old days is gone.
B.H: Throughout the book you made the reader feel a part of your story. You stressed the uniqueness of the over one billion people on this planet. How did you begin to think this way, of the importance of being unique, not being afraid to separate yourself from the crowd?
L.B: I was forcefully separated from the crowd at a young age through name-calling and bullying. I intensively went through this for two years. My mother didn’t allow me to accept what they were calling me. I wrote about this experience in my book. She never allowed me to fit into people’s mold of what they wanted me to be. From that moment I accepted my difference and lived my life. At an early age, I learned how to silence the voices of the critics and that is what led me to see how unique I was. People are afraid of what is different and when people operate out of fear their minds tend to create all these false narratives that they try to project onto you. I never allowed myself to accept their fearful assumptions. I was able to live above it.
B.H: You are a writer, a life coach, and a motivational speaker, and you also have a non-profit organization. You have made it clear that you want to change the perception of how men are viewed culturally in the TCI. What has been the response from men especially on the book?
L.B: I have received a lot of positive responses from fellow men, but they are not going to come out and do what I did because they want to maintain that “Macho Man” persona. A lot of men have been through worse experiences than me and I am happy they can find someone to confide in and talk to about it. I would say that more mothers and women have brought my book locally than men, so I am hoping in the future that more males will begin to read it and understand the process I went through to accept my father’s decision too.
B.H: At what point in your life did you get brave enough to address your issue of how you felt growing up without a father and writing a book about it?
L.B: I was at the lowest point in my life when I started writing this book in 2018. I had just came home from university, I was unemployed, broke, and depressed. While in university I developed the habit of journaling. One day I picked up my journal and read it and it was so negative and helpless. I made a decision that I was going to change the narrative. I wanted to create a more positive narrative for my life and so I started confronting the darkness of my past. This led to me writing about my father’s absence and because it was so common in my community, I decided I was going to make a book about it to raise awareness about this phenomenon. The book was about me conquering my inner darkness as opposed to me becoming an author. Yes, I love hearing that title, but I will for the first time admit that my intentions were a bit selfish because I wanted to free my mind from holding onto the pain of my father’s absence, and through that process, I got my book. Through this process, the world got my story.
B.H: Early in the book, after your father left you were always waiting for that call from him even into your teenaged years. You finally gave up on what you referred to as a ‘spiritual phenomena’ when you became 21. Do you think that many TCI males are victims of being stuck in their stories because they never moved to pass the waiting on that dream to have a relationship with their fathers?
L.B: The spiritual phenomena I spoke about was my desire to have my father in my life. I don’t know why I had this desire because I never knew him personally but the desire existed so I referred to it as something spiritual. 90 percent of the prison population are fatherless males. We can assume that these males coped with the absence of their father’s absence in a negative way. We all have that desire to connect, if you suppress it, it will only grow, and eventually, you will try to suppress it more through substance abuse and other self-sabotaging practices. In my book, I wrote an entire chapter about surrendering and giving in into the desire and just accepting that he ain’t coming back. Our father’s absence is not about us, it’s their decision and we have one to make also. To become victims or victors of his decision. I chose to use it as fuels and I hope other male readers will follow suit.
B.H: You wrote that you learned the role of a father by watching family-centered sitcoms of the ’90s like the Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters; is it your opinion now that some men never had the example of what a father’s role was during their childhood, thereby making it impossible for them to play that role in their sons’ lives?’
L.B: In the chapter called Sankofa, I spoke about how the fatherless epidemic came to be in black communities and how we are dealing with generational trauma. When slavery ended there were no social programs or psychological aid to help repair the damage it had done to black communities. They allowed hurting people to roam freely with unaddressed issues. Hence the current social climate and a significant amount of social issues we are facing today. Our communities need healing. We need interventions. We need therapy.
B.H: ‘I would sometimes say a little prayer for my father and hope that God would bring him back into my life. That prayer is still pending.’ Did you ever have a conversation with your father, and would you like him to read the book?
L.B : We spoke just briefly via text last year; we were supposed to meet. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am open to it. He’s, my father. I have some of his traits inside of me, if I deny him, I am denying myself. At this stage of my journey, I’m all about self-love. My father is welcomed in my space. In regard to him reading my book, I think it would be pretty cool if he reads it. I believe some parts of him would gain closure in the end.
B.H: In African customs males go through a ritual when they are at the threshold of manhood, can you identify customs and rituals that TCI males go through to celebrate reaching manhood?
L.B: Wow. Good question. I believe job stability and being able to provide for your family is a threshold locally for manhood. Although we are African descendants, we don’t have tribal rituals to signify manhood. The closes thing to this is dedicating your life to Jesus Christ and having that self-discipline to walk with God. I would welcome the idea of some ritual or endurance camp of some kid to signify manhood. I think that would be a pretty amazing experience.
B.H: ‘My father left, and that was his choice. How I react to him leaving is entirely my choice.’ You said for years you felt that your birth was a mistake because your father abandoned you. Have you forgiven him for being absent in your life? What was this journey of forgiveness like for you?
L.B : Yes, I have forgiven my father completely. There are so many great things that have happened to me since publishing my book. I am just beginning to understand what “freedom” is. To not hold onto pain, anger, or resentment, that peace of mind is invaluable. I am still on the journey of forgiveness because I am now building relationships with his side of the family and learning who they are. There’s a lot of healing and unity amongst both sides that need to take place and so the next decade of my life is going to be pretty interesting as I continue to conquer his sins. My secret to forgiving him was to was putting myself in his shoes within that era and just accept his decision. I can’t cry over spilled milk but we can clean it up together and work towards not spilling again in the future. I just told myself that I was emotionally ready to put in the work for myself and not him and that led to me not feeling any negative emotions towards him anymore.
B.H: What is your message to men who don’t raise their sons, and others who may provide but are not a part of their son’s lives?
L.B: When you look at nature, we are naturally wired to be a part of our offspring’s lives. A father who goes against this law of nature is someone whom I believe has endured some sort of trauma along his journey. My message to them would be to seek healing from whatever pain they are covering up inside so that they can connect deeper to the people around them. Hurt people, hurt people. The biggest lie is that they tell themselves is that they can drink, pray, or smoke their pain away. No, they can’t we have to get real help for some issues and when we do, we’ll see how quickly all relationships in our lives begin to improve.
By Barbara Handfield
B.H: In a nutshell, what do you want every reader, especially men to get from reading the book?
L.B : I would love for them to get that forgiveness is all about freeing yourself and living a happier life. Holding onto resentment will only hold you back in life. Once you learn to let go, you’ll begin to soar to higher heights. Learn to forgive!
(books that can be purchased on Amazon)