Allen Merck

Anointed a Father – an Essay

I fell in love with my child the first time I held him.  When he looked up at me, I claimed him as my son and declared myself his father.  But shouldn’t it take more?  A father is a teacher, protector, role model, even a disciplinarian, but at that point in his life I had only shared my body heat and provided a small sense of comfort.  I had given myself a title without putting forth the effort or understanding that it’d be up to him to appoint me the position.  Like farmers, fathers plant seeds, watch them sprout with pride, and provide them with nutrients and an environment sustainable for growth.  Unfortunately, we often stop there.  These actions only address physical necessities, so how can we offer only this and expect emotional connection in return?

Shortly after my son’s birth, I returned to work.  I was in the Television industry, and my job would often require that I arrive early and leave late.  This gave me just enough time to kiss my still sleeping son goodbye in the morning, and play with him for about an hour when I got home.  Yes, a roof was over his head, and food stayed on his high chair table – both figuratively and literally – but I didn’t feel present enough.  My wife would call, email pictures and videos, or even try to re-create his accomplishments when I returned home, but I wasn’t there to see them firsthand.  She could identify what each cry meant; I couldn’t tell if he was screaming with joy or distress.  I felt that she had solidified her position as a mother to him, but he only saw me as that nice man that came over at night.

I feel similarly about my own father.  He never lived in my house, called me on the phone, or provided financially, but every so often, he would pick me up and take me somewhere fun.  I like the guy, but I never felt significantly influenced by his presence in my life.  He asked me to call him dad when I was five years old – prior to that, I called him Big Allen – and though I complied, it wasn’t my conscious or personal decision to anoint him with the title.

When I reached high school – though I already possessed the man’s first two names – he asked me to consider taking his last name.  Keep in mind, at that point, I had identified as Allen Merck for fourteen years.  It suited me.  Every member of my immediate family was a Merck.  It was part of my identity, but he, having fathered no other male heirs, wanted me to change to further his own legacy.  The request didn’t upset me, but I was shocked.  Did I owe him something?  Was the market price for Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp special worth my sense of self?  If so, I would have been fine with the cheddar biscuits.  In the end, I just redirected the question, and when he reached out three months later to go to Ponderosa, he didn’t bring it back up.  Your kids don’t owe you anything, and you shouldn’t expect them to be you.  If you value the idea of passing on a legacy, you need to make an effort early and often in your child’s life.

I recently left the Hollywood, and now work as an educator.  As a result, I spend more time at home and am able to see my son’s growth and progression.  He knows I’m Daddy and I’m constantly working to solidifying the role.  He trusts me and knows that I’m there for him.  He possesses many of my physical characteristics, but his mental and emotional makeup are a byproduct of my influence, as well.

My devotion to him is slowly being reciprocated, but I’m realizing, more, that it’s not about that.  I’m dedicated to my son because I love him, not because I want him to be dedicated to me.  I don’t want him to make changes in his life to make me proud; I want him to make changes that benefit his life.  I don’t want him to be me.  I want him to take my knowledge, skills, and anything else I can provide, and build upon them to define himself.  Then, I won’t need any compensation, because I would have already been a part of it all.

worthy

I still worry if I’m doing enough at times.  I get distracted, exhausted and busy.  I can’t always offer him the attention he desires, but fatherhood isn’t defined by any single act.  Failures come as often as victories, but you can’t stop trying. You always have to put in work and continue to prove yourself worthy to be a father.

An uncommon, but undeniably true expression states that it’s a lot easier to make a child than it is to raise one.  This rings especially true to men, like myself, who’ve borne no first-hand witness to an actual, no asterisk, full-time, in the house dad during their upbringing.  The entry into fatherhood is an amazing challenge that men raised in non-traditional households are undertaking with no blueprints or instructions. However, we’re dedicated to getting the job done right.  My name is Allen Merck, and I, like many native Detroiters, am a FIRST GENERATION FATHER.  
Raised in Detroit by a single mother, I have the ability to draw from my childhood experiences and juxtapose them with my son’s current situation as part of a nuclear family.  Spending the last six years in Los Angles, writing copy and championing Diversity efforts at CBS Television network, I have the unique opportunity to rediscover the city that I grew up in, and record the experience.  This provides me with a distinct perspective and a worldly voice.

Yo Daddy n ‘nem – The Privilege of Presence

The “Yo Daddy n ‘nem” call for “The Privilege of Presence” is a call to address the existence and/or absence of a father figure in the life of Black writers.  Wusgood is excited to publish these stories for the development of community, dialogue, self care, and love.


Follow Suit

Princess McDowell

I’m standing in a mirror at a pop-up shop for Saint Harridan

crying because the suit jacket fits without tailoring. it smooths

into a snug neckline and cuffs my tiny wrist. my mother’s laugh

lifts the clouds and she opens her arms so I can heal in two

off-the-rack pieces. and I am no longer girl or weird or too

small for my father’s Sunday suits I could never wear because

only men wear pants in black Southern Baptist sanctuaries

and he has no son yet to feel all the blazer fabrics at Men’s

Wearhouse. just this daughter fingering the inch of new growth

under a black beanie who can’t tell him she died but still

goes by the name he gave but does not know the meaning of.

can’t say that I still wanna be like my daddy.

even now that I know what that means.

even now that I know he won’t understand what that means.

my mother doesn’t know but still stands behind me

to take pictures of my rebirths with a laugh and a smile and

under mine, I decide that when my father dies I will reclaim

the love I deserve and wear a matching suit in his honor

to say this is the way I want to be my father’s boi.

Princess McDowell is a poet, writer and journalist from Dallas, Texas. a black bipolar queer lesbian boi with a girly name who prefers purple over pink.
she’s a dapper book nerd introvert who uses multiple writing forms to process pain, trauma and legacy. she began writing her own journey in social commentary and poems, releasing her first album of poetry entitled Not A Storybook <3. She also self-published two chapbooks, faith move muscle and black boi: a bio.
she’s an active member of the national poetry community, competing and volunteering at Women of the World Poetry Slam, and co-facilitating the youth poetry organization Dallas Youth Poets. in 2016, she was selected as a Pink Door literary fellow. she tours regularly and publishes work online with Rebellious Magazine for Women, a feminist magazine out of Chicago, and other outlets such as Autostraddle, shades magazine, Black Girl Nerds. she’s currently writing her first novel, a young adult science fiction story birthed from a picture she found on tumblr.

At City Slickers

Breauna L. Roach

These men strolling out of store

over steaming downtown sewers

smog illuminating them like spotlights

Looks don’t make the man

My mother tells me. But I have

known my father to stride

those same curbs before. He and I would enter,

noses frozen stiff and my hands hidden

in his full length wool pea-coat pockets.

His hands gripped by tight leather gloves each

finger in a separate tomb of wonder. I would try

to fit them. But being 7 and a girl would not allow

me to do as my father did so I did the best I could

to imitate him. I was his only girl. Each year

he would let me pick his winter hat,

find the feather that matched the

sparkle in his voice. I would marvel at

the majesty of his felt, leather, suede

Fedora, water and weather proof, he was invincible, like

Osiris, and I, ever faithful and amazed.

Fix this here feather to the left side so my

girl can see if it matches he would tell Henry the Hatter.

We were an ethereal pair as he escorted me to the car with

his new handkerchief and feather, synchronized

colors in paternal harmony as were we.   I still can’t fit my father’s gloves

but he continues to dress up for me each Christmas when I come

home to visit. He still holds my hand when we

cross the open exhaling mouths in downtown streets.

Hands ever smooth now, weary worn suede palms

never callous at the bitter breeze

sometimes life blows. But my daddy always showed me

how to cup my hands to my lips

and bite the frost back.

My name is Breauna L. Roach, I am a poet born and raised in Detroit, MI. I am the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association’s Poetry Prize, and my work has appeared in Callaloo, Vinyl, Little Patuxent Review and various other publications. I am a proud Alumna of Florida A&M University,and has received fellowships from Callaloo and Cave Canem. I am currently a Graduate Writing Instructor and MFA candidate at Emerson College.

4 Haiku’s on Being a Parent

Joseph Harris

*

my one year old’s laugh

sits in her soul

waiting to brighten, the dark days

**

when your daughter asks

“Where’s heaven?”

just point to a picture of mommy

***

first game of hide and seek

my son chases his shadow

into the shade

****

grabs my shoes

tries to wear them

already following in my footsteps

Joseph Harris has been writing & performing poetry for over 10 years. Ann Arbor was his first poetry venue and from there he has spread his particular type of logic far and wide. He has been published in MingleWood, Off the Mic, A2 Brute’and Anthrax is Safer than Poetry. He was on the Ann Arbor Slam Team from 2003-2007. He was the Rustbelt Individual Slam champion in 2005, He was the National Head to Head Haiku Deathmatch Champion in 2006. In 2007 He founded the Spitfire Poetry Slam in East Lansing, Mi. In 2008 he was part of Scott Woods national 24 hour poetry reading. In 2010 he hosted the Midwest regional Rustbelt Poetry Slam. He is currently a 5th year Ph.D. student in the Teacher Education Department at Michigan State University where he teaches among other subjects “Reading, Writing & Teaching Poetry”.
Last but not least he is the father to 3 wonderful children and was husband to a beautiful wife all of whom provide him with endless inspiration… whether they like it or not.

How we ate

Ashley Harris

Great Great Great Grandpa

cut out his master’s

tongue and used it as a spoon

to cook up words so he wouldn’t starve

to silence.


Then he fed it to all of us

and we learned the language

with a dash of grandpa’s seasoning

so we would blend in 

perfectly like salt in hot sweat

but never forget where

we came from.


No Exceptions

Ashlee Haze

and again

the universe balances its scales

as if to say

Silly little girl

fathers are for other people

did you think that you could have a daddy

who is present and loves you

for more than a spell?

Awws honey, that’s sweet

but don’t you know I just can’t allow it?

It would be too much

and all the other kids would get jealous

you know that just won’t do

Ashlee Haze is one of Atlanta’s premier word artists. Earning the nickname “Big 30″ because of her consistency in getting a perfect score, she is one of the most auspicious poets in the sport of slam. She is a 5-time member of Java Monkey Slam Team and the current Slam Mistress. She appears in “3-Minute Activists: The Soul of Slam” a feature-length documentary that examines the lives and work of some of Atlanta’s Spoken Word Artists.

The Seed Examines an Excerpt from Fatherless Boy’s Backwards Bible

(-Chapter 1: 32-1)

Mathias

32 Weeks before he’d expel Himself from the garden my progenitor highlights the gospel of Matthew, 31    and teaches what first I know of God and there is always a torture stake involved looming high enough to touch the sun if you’re a child standing at just the right vantage underneath. 30 forsaken, without a genealogy sufficient to render any dream a foretelling.

29  Just a boy whose body is the perfect kindling for a sacrificing pit out back  28   in a barren yard that’s never had a ball tossed in or whose name is already washed clean of the legacy that never sends for him. 27  It’s either irony or purpose defeating itself

26  I am the second descendant of a distant patriarch with a blue cord on the fringed edges of  a Sunday only suit that belongs to shoulders that rumor has it,  I’ll grow into.

25  All I need is a holy name inscribed on my forehead. 24   If I could glean the father given in overflow to the rest of the congregation, 23  I would make of my flesh a tithe to compliment my blood sweat dry heaving prayer.

22   Instead all I am shown is a column of foreshadowing sermon and a cup

21  carved into the stone table next to my family’s proudest king James that won’t be removed.

20  It’s here .

19 That I’m Breaking my legs over a tree trunk reaching for a parable that might make my Dad burning bush, 18  or 17  voice on high passing down stone words I would break.  16  Or welcome me into His love without a scripture to comprehend at all.

15  But really neither. Renounce me of every parent I’ve been denied while this water spills in the place blood should have been. 14 A prophecy finally comes loose from cool tide of a the baptizing. 13 Somethings descending from the rafters of the only house I know would have me. It’s either a dove, Or a baseball that he’s never shown me how to catch  12  A voice I imagine, a face, magnificent in fire and earthquake and unfamiliar as the lineage I belong to  11  How could He disappear Himself right before armageddon?

10  Big mama told me about the point at the conclusion of the word where the world is on fire  9  The great dragon hurled down  8  His father cutting away that which started from Himself  7 I’m returning to the dust and being cast to the vicinity not sure which seed I am

6  If read backwards the Bible is the reassurance of every fatherless boy.

5  The world saved by the son coming to life

4 A mob retracting curses to their tongues,

3 a preceptor acknowledges his apostle three times, 2 a child unorphaned by heaven where home welcomes a prodigal father that would either take back all he’s created  Or say it was good. 1  And stay

Mathias has been on both teams that he’s slammed for with The Writers Block slam team in 2015 and The Writing Wrongs slam team in 2016. In addition to poetry Mathias has Hosted several events including “Italian Food and poetry Night” an annual event he co-created in Columbus Oh since 2013, “The Writer’s Block” poetry night twice, and serves as the official reserve MC for the Ness Open Mic Experience.  He is currently doing work with The Harmony Project as the sole poet on a full stage performance alongside the Columbus Arts Choir which will be housed at both the Lincoln Theater as well the Ohio theater.  
Faith and preservation of identity play a large role in Mathias’s work. He’s the middle child of a single parent household that was always the awkward nerd of the group. These concepts are weaved into his pieces and play a large part in his stage identity as well. The most import things to his art are God and family and how each play a pivotal role in keep the person grounded.

Essay on Black Fatherhood


My father’s name. His father’s name. My name.

An Essay by Grover D. Easterling

          Pops made sure I understood that everything I do represents more than just who I am, but the name that I carry.  That our last name isn’t a scar left from slavery but our own because a few generations back our ancestors had refused to keep a slave name.  That even though my middle name is the solitary letter “D”, it still stood for something because of the whole that it fits into.  That my whole name is a legacy to live by.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that things Pops had taught me throughout my life were exactly what led me to be as unapologetically Black as I am.  I understood that Blackness is part of who I am.  So before I was old enough to even question why Pops was Black and Moms was white, I knew that I was Black.  So when I moved to a racially diverse Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan, I understood that I was still Black. When I moved to the whitest place I know to exist at 10 years old, I was prepared in some ways that taught me to survive with dignity.

         In 1997, my family moved from Florida to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.  I’m not sure what the racial makeup of the base was, but from what I remember it was quite diverse.  I remember starting my school career in classrooms where I couldn’t tell you what race was the most prevalent.  I started kindergarten thinking this was how the world looked, that everyone was different – but that’s just how things were.  It wasn’t until it was time for Black History month projects that I realized that those differences can define how we navigate life.

         Pops is Black. Moms is white.  I’m not quite sure when I started thinking critically on this but what I am sure of is that Pops taught me the one drop rule before I was old enough for middle school.  One drop of Nigga blood and you’s a Nigga.  This wasn’t my father trying to disparage me or anyone else by using that word to make his point, but an acknowledgement of how white society views, positions, and attacks Black people in this country. My father taught me to never question my Blackness.

“One drop of Nigga blood and you’s a Nigga.”

         He also made it clear that he was with Moms because he loved her, not because of any disdain toward Black Women.  I’ve never once heard him speak down on Black Women or glorify white Women. My Mom is willing to listen and learn when it comes to the things that the Black people in our family go through and I’ve always appreciated that. Neither of my parents ever pushed the narrative we see in the media so often that mixed race families are somehow better.

         In 2004 my family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Wyoming, a state with the lowest population in the whole country, yet somehow still with a less than 1% Black population. It was there that I learned how much of my life was shaped by being Black and it was my father who guided me through it. I got called a Nigger for the first time that I remember in 5th grade. It was by who I thought was my best friend. Pops sat me down and told me that I don’t have to accept folks attacking me for being Black. He let me know that there will be times that I’d find out that some non-Black people aren’t really my friends, no matter how tight I think we are. He also let me know that it might not have been the best idea to knock the white boy to the ground and start kicking him, but that he understood.

          By the time I was in 7th grade, I was constantly under attack by white kids in the schools I went to.  A niggerlipped, nappyheaded, enigma  to most of those white kids, I struggled to find friends and those that I thought were my friends were often replicas of the white friend from 5th grade.  My friendship to them was a free ongoing show of “What’s the Nigger gon do next?” and whenever I realized that that was the situation, I’d remove myself quickly.

I was put in a position where I had to choose between my dignity and regular human interaction.

         I could have friends if I was passive while my status as a human was being questioned. The world around me told me that I should be ashamed of being Black. Only thing that stopped me from feeling that shame was the pride Pops had instilled in me. I trusted in my father more than I trusted in what everyone around me was telling me, so I started doing research. I spent more time reading about revolution than I did spending time with those kids.

         That year was the same year that I started walking home from school, which is to say the same year I found myself being stopped by police. On any occasion, while walking the half-mile to middle school, rife with white verbal drivebys, a 12 year old Grover could be stopped by 12. It actually didn’t surprise me the first time. I had been called enough Niggers walking home that it wasn’t hard to believe a police would pull over and remind me that I am one. Some incidents were just a quick reminder. In other incidents, officers made sure they were thorough in exhibiting their power over me.

         Incidents with police prompted conversations about surviving with dignity that went deeper than the conversations we had before. We spoke on being true to ourselves while navigating antiBlackness. How I can read about the Black Panthers  all I want, but when a police officer starts harassing me, I have to know how to survive the encounter so I can grow old enough to make changes I want to. Speaking concisely and calmly without acting as if the officer is doing me a favor by letting me keep my life. I always kept this in mind and even though I’ve been attacked by police twice, I have to wonder how bad things would have been if I hadn’t followed that advice in those situations.

         Living through the gauntlets of white supremacy, I realize now how the legacy my name holds is so connected to my Blackness. How Granddad had migrated from Arkansas to Michigan to work hard and eventually own his own business. That that business gave Pops work experience and a sense of ownership that many Black folk don’t get the chance to feel in their lifetimes. That Pops joined the military because of the opportunities and stability that he knew could come from it. Opportunities and stability that most Black folk don’t find in this society. That Pops endured military life just so that my brothers and I could have those opportunities.

That the sacrifices Pops and Granddad made were displays of Black resilience that I should never take for granted.

That my name holds all that Black sacrifice, Black resilience, and Black Love. That for the rest of my life I will live to honor that.

Grover D Easterling III is a poet and revolutionary currently living in Detroit, Michigan.