Dr. Quentin J. Lee
The Lack of Black Family Community
The world of education is built on numbers. As a kindergartener, you learn your ABC’s and 123’s before you do anything else. The numbers begin to get more complex, and next thing you know, you have moved to multiplication and division. As time continues to move forward, more complex math is introduced such as Algebra, Geometry, and ultimately Statistics. Statistics is something that I never fully wrapped my mind around. Sure, I had to take the class to satisfy the requirements of my doctoral degree, but Statistics never really sat well with me. Why you may ask, because all of my life, I have done my best to “not” be a statistic. I didn’t sell drugs, I didn’t mess with gangs, I didn’t steal, and I didn’t fight a lot. In my mind, that was my way of “not” being a statistic. The one statistic that I couldn’t avoid was being a statistic of another young black man growing up without a father. During this journey called life, I’ve learned that numbers are definitely what you make it.
The unfortunate generational curse that affects many people is the curse of not knowing all about their lineage. For me, it was the thing that bothered me the most about growing up. There’s definitely a need for transparency within the dynamics of family. Growing up was quite difficult for me. As the 2nd son of my mother’s 6 boys, I carried the responsibility of big brother, and oftentimes, decision maker for my family. A title that I still cherish to this day as I didn’t mind the extra responsibilities, nor did I mind financially assisting when I could. I was a fairly decent child as I made All A’s and B’s until I got to middle school. I was extremely active in church, and even participated in several clubs and organizations at school. School was my place of safety. I loved everything about it. My love for school ultimately helped shape me into the man that I am today. Mentorships are everything in my opinion. I think the reason I love school so much is because I get a chance to help kids that were just like me… broken on the inside.
I’ve often wondered about many things in life. Most importantly, I wondered how it was possible for my brother to be light skinned and I was of a darker chocolate hue. These things plagued me all of my upbringing until I made the decision to just be ok with it. This article is in no way a slight against my mother. My mother did the best she could with what she had. She was my biggest cheerleader while she was on this earth. My mother taught me about life, how to treat others, and how to be successful, but she forgot to tell me one important thing… who my father was.
Early on in my life, I was told my father was a man that was from my hometown. He came to my granny’s house, introduced himself to me as my father, and made several broken promises which I assumed was the norm. I called him several times, sent letters, and ultimately longed for a relationship with this man, but all attempts went unanswered. The second, and last time I saw him, he introduced me to his wife and son as his little cousin. I was crushed, embarrassed and found myself to be of little importance. It led me to a dark place that ultimately tried to remove me from life permanently. It was a hard blow, but it at least allowed me to bottle my emotions for a few years. I believed that tale for 26 years until I found a picture on Thanksgiving Day of 2020. I found a picture of my mother being held by a guy that looked identical to me. It was shocking. That picture led me on a chase of my life.
I began looking high and low for this stranger that resembled me. I found a few leads that were actually not leads at all. Right when I wanted to quit, my wife bought me an ancestry.com kit. That kit led me to a world of discoveries. I took the test on December 31st. I prayed about it and sent it off in the mail. I checked the website daily hoping for a clue. It wasn’t until March 9th that I received a notification that has changed my life. I was a 100% match with a profile on the site. As fate would have it, I found my sister. By finding her, I found my father. I went to social media to find a picture of my father, and it was like looking at a mirror. After almost 40 years of life, I finally found the man that was responsible for my existence.
Being the investigative person that I am, I found his contact information pretty quick. I gave him a call. During that call, he hung up on me. I was determined that nothing would stop me at this point. I did some more stalking and found another daughter. I called her at work. She could have been extremely confrontational, but she was extremely nice. I sent her the picture of myself and she said, “yep, you are Earnest’s son.” She too had a story similar to mine about a discovery. On March 10th I reached out to my new found sister. She answered my message on social media. I was both extremely excited and nervous all at the same time. As soon as we talked on the phone it was an instant connection. We talked for almost two hours. I finally talked to my father two days later and he admitted his part, apologized for his absence, and expressed his guilt.
The conversation was tough. I heard things I wished that I would have never heard. I heard things that could have ultimately hurt me even more, but I chose and choose to heal instead of hurt any longer. Unfortunately, miscommunication and fear caused me 39 years of pain, and it doesn’t really matter who’s to blame. That next morning, I drove to meet my father. It was an experience that I will never forget. He accepted me with open arms and even was standing in the driveway waiting on me. We talked for a few moments and it was pretty clear that I found the right one. I got a hug from the one person that I looked for all of my life. That visit has started a new life for me. The day was full of emotions as I knew it would be, but the best emotion felt was that of forgiveness. I chose to forgive him for not being there, and I forgave my mother for not telling me or him fully about each other. I also had to forgive myself for bottling emotions when I should have been experiencing them and processing my pain.
Moving forward, I have gained not only a father, but I’ve gained a sister. I look more like my sister than any of my 5 brothers. I gained a family. A family of people that have been nothing but welcoming, warm, and eager to love me for who I am. I can assume a lot when it comes to reasons why my mother kept this information from me. I choose to believe that she didn’t want me to hurt due to a decision that she and he made. Honestly, I will never know the exact reason, but what I do know is that there’s a direct need for transparency in our family dynamics for the sake of the children that will eternally suffer for the decision of adults.
Transparency produces healing for all that are involved. Secrets should not be at the expense of others. The actual pain of the secret is minimal compared to the deceit of honesty that can be experienced. Transparency relies on trust. Relationships are also built upon trust. Transparency doesn’t excuse the mistake, it simply acknowledges the situation and allows both parties an equal opportunity to respond appropriately based upon a set of beliefs. There are several generational curses that have been passed down for generation after generation. A simple conversation coupled with transparency can make others aware to establish a new norm for their life.
This is just my story, but there are so many other stories that are very similar, and then some that don’t end so positively. I share my story to offer hope. Not only for those that are seeking to find loved ones, but for those that have a distinct need to find those that you may have been responsible for creating. I also share my story to help those that have been on this journey with negative results. I’m sorry that things didn’t pan out, but you at least have the honor of knowing the story. I’ve broken another generational curse. I know both of my parents, and my kids have now met their grandfather and great grandmother.
Dr. Quentin J. Lee has gone viral several times as an educator. His most recent videos "Can't Touch This" and "Germbusters" have garnered over 9 million views collectively. A principal in Talladega County Schools, he's one of the few educators out there who has been interviewed by Cedric the Entertainer, Anderson Cooper, MC Hammer and many others. He holds a doctoral degree from Samford University in Educational Leader. Join one of his "Kicking It With Dr. Lee for empowerment sessions!
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