Thabiti Boone serves as President Obama’s White House Champion For Fatherhood in support of the President’s White House fatherhood and mentoring Initiative. As President Obama’s Champion he pushes the President’s message and platform on the importance of fatherhood and mentoring in the lives of our father’s, children, families and nation’s communities. He also works in support of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative advancing opportunities for young men of color.
He was born and raised in the tough streets of Brooklyn, NY. He was born to a 13 year old mother and 21 year old street hustling father. Everyday he battled against the challenges of drugs, crime, violence, gangs, poverty, etc. including watching his mother attempt suicide at the age of 12 (she jumped off the 6 story rooftop housing building they lived in).
Thabiti rose to national attention by doing the unthinkable. As a NYC High School Basketball Star, he took his daughter with him to college as a single parent teenage father. He balanced parenting, basketball and educational responsibilities, including sacrificing his NBA Dreams, to successfully raise her.
He has become one the most highly respected, influential public figures and voices on Fatherhood.
1. What Has Been the Best Part of Fatherhood For You?
The best part of fatherhood for me has been the journey, the experience, the knowing that you produced a life that you were able to love, take responsibility of and help shape into something that was beautiful and special. I loved my daughter, but I also fell in love with my acceptance of being a father. The love and acceptance fueled energy into my journey. As father’s, we all come into our fatherhood from different journeys and experiences. Once we accept and embrace the responsibilities of our children, our fatherhood journey becomes an incredible and beautiful experience. It creates a connectedness to your children that cannot be broken.
2. What is the most important lesson you have learned since becoming a Father?
The most important lesson I learned is that there is no such thing as the perfect father or dad. There is only perfect love. When I started out as a father, and I’m sure most father’s felt the same way, I wanted to be the best non mistake father there is. When we understand that our children’s entire well being depends on us, we definitely want to make sure we get our fathering as right as possible. I realized, there is no perfect science to fatherhood. What mattered most to my daughter was that I loved her and worked hard to my fullest ability to provide and care for her. That meant doing what was necessary to be the best father that I can be in her
3. What is the secret to being a good Father to your children?
The secret is simply being there for your children; spending the time, cherishing every moment of the journey with your children. A good father , above all things, that come along with being a father, is never making your children feel that you’re not there for them, that there are no moments and memories of the time spent together. The other thing about being there is making our children feel that they are safe, protected and provided for because Dad is there. My daughter has never experienced a moment of me not being there for her. She can always remember the joys and challenges that has shaped us.
4. What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood means reaching your ultimate manhood. Boys and men, who may never have children, still has the potential to reach their manhood. But, its something about reaching your ultimate manhood when you become a father. Fatherhood and manhood equally shapes and strengthens one another. You can’t be a good father without being a good man and you can’t be a complete man if you don’t except your responsibility as a father.
When I got the call from my girlfriend, saying “I’m pregnant, its your child, you’re going to be a father” As a 19 year old teen, I knew I had to learn how to become a man, to become a father.
Fatherhood means responsibility, determination, sacrifice, loving, caregiver, commitment,provider, protector, role model, putting your children first, time, involvement, support, guidance, empowerment
5. What do you feel is the best advice you have ever given to your children?
The best advice I ever gave my daughter was to be resilient! Develop a strong character and strength to be resilient, to be tough, have the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges, ups and downs, disappointments, the aches and pains of everyday circumstances.
The most difficult challenge my daughter had to face was growing up without a relationship with her mother.
As a child, she couldn’t understand why her mother wasn’t in her life. I remember her asking why me, life isn’t fair. I taught my daughter that the things that can and will occur in our lives can be hard to deal with. It can damage our self esteem, our value and self worth, our ability to overcome.
Once she understood the importance of resiliency, that life is not always fair, it gave her a personality of strength, the ability to always bounce back from challenges. Resiliency has been her foundation of success and happiness.
6. How does your parenting style differ from the style of your parents?
I didn’t really notice my parents parenting style! Because my mother was 13 years old when she became pregnant with me and my father was 21 years old, they got married, and pretty much tried their best to figure out how to be the best parents they could be. My parents had an unhealthy relationship, marriage, consumed with domestic violence, poverty, anger, street life, daily struggle and survival. My parents went through a lot of pain. Pain impacted their parenting style.
My parents didn’t do the normal things parents do, caring, nurturing, helping with homework, attending school functions, family activities, etc. They’re style was based on life lessons.
My mother’s style was rooted in recognizing my early intelligence, my educational potential. She always took joy in encouraging me, sharing her pride in my gifts and talents. She taught the importance of how you treat others, particularly women. She taught that life can be hard, love should never hurt. never be a victim, be an achiever.
My father was a straight up gangster. He lived by the code of the streets. His parenting style was exposing me to the underworld of the hustle life, gambling, pool halls, guns, violence and women. His style simply was develop your hustle, your game plan to make it in life. His main lessons were have discipline, dont show weaknesses, vulnerability.
My parenting style focused on active involvement, communication, affirmation, trust, respect, a healthy balance between caring love, stern discipline with rules and boundaries.
7. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before you became a father what would you say?
As much as I love my daughter and enjoyed every moment of being her father, I would have told myself to wait until the proper time was right to have a child, to become a parent. Having children, as much as possible, should be a well thought out planned process.
I would have told myself, be prepared, being a father, caring for a child is a tremendous everyday responsibility.
I was young, a teenager, coming out of High School, an accomplished popular student, basketball star, received a University athletic scholarship. My Dreams, my goals, my future was headed in the right direction. Becoming a father at that time was an extra challenge I would not be ready for.
8. What advice do you have for Father’s who are not currently present in the lives of their children?
There are many different reasons why father’s are not in the lives of their children. Some are disconnected because things are not working out with the children’s mother; Some turn away if they feel they can’t meet their financial responsibilities; some Father’s are disconnected because they haven’t been able to break past Fatherhood issues in their own lives; there are fathers who want to see their children but can’t due to systemic barriers.
I say to these fathers, keep pushing, keep fighting for your children. Identify programs that offer support, resources to assist you with what you need.There is nothing greater than your children. Your children will love you, respect you, appreciate you, knowing you prioritized your efforts to be present in their lives.
There is a segment of father’s, who, know matter what you say or do will refuse to be in the lives of their children. These are fathers who are detached from themselves and don’t have the ability to attach to their children.
When a father is present, he will see the best in his children, the best in himself. When a father is present, he will always be blessed with the eternal bond and gift of love from his children.
9. What is the one moment since you became a father that has changed your life forever?
The biggest moment that has changed my life forever was the day I walked my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. That day forever rested my soul as a father and a man. It meant I did my job. I got her to the alter. Her wedding completed who I am.
Father’s who have Daughters can identify with how special and beautiful that moment is. It is a Father’s Dream to raise his little Princess from being the first important man in her life, preparing her to be a woman, placing her into the hands of a man who is a reflection of your love for her. A man who respects, supports and provides the best for her.
As Fathers, our greatest fear is hoping and praying, doing all we can, to make sure our children turnout their Best.
For all that I’ve gone through with her, nothing would have meant as much than seeing her journey into Marriage. Her Wedding Day was like seeing the ending of a great movie.
10. What do you feel your legacy as a Father will be?
The great thing about fatherhood is that when you do it right, not perfect, but your best, it lives forever. I feel my legacy will be a father who made it happen, who stood up every step of the way, a man who accepted his responsibility, a father who leave behind a daughter who allowed me to be her dad, two grandsons who doesn’t know what it’s like to not live without a Father. I want to be remembered as a Father, who grew up in a Father Absent home, but helped to push a movement that raised the value of Father’s, someone who worked on behalf of children having Father’s in their lives.