Letters To My Son

Currently, I am writing a memoir  “Letters to My Son: A Fathers Lessons on Faith, Health, and Law.  The book is written for my son Akil, age 4, and documents life lessons from my days as a youth born to a large family (14 siblings) and raised in an often-turbulent yet proud inner city neighborhood; to my double-duty as a civil rights attorney advocating for the deprived and oppressed as well as a high-paid telecom lawyer representing satellite, cable, TV/radio companies such as Viacom and entertainers like the late Issac Hayes; to my public service career as a health and legal adviser to Members of Congress, Mayors, and other political leaders; to my journalism covering health and legal issues for publications such as the Afro American Newspapers, Politics365.com, and the Washington Informer.

The title for my upcoming book is inspired by President Obama’s best seller “Dreams of My Father.”  Like the elder Obama, I became estranged from my son’s mother, my ex-wife, when our son was a baby, just 5-months old.  Since then, I’ve never witnessed Akil go to bed for the night or arise in the morning.  My book seeks to help my son understand the circumstances leading up to his already complicated life, and to impart upon him wisdom so that he may overcome the challenges he faces.

Check out some of the lessons I plan to include in my book below…

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2 responses to “Letters To My Son

  1. Talib I. Karim, Esq.

    Letter Number 1: Faith & Use of Power

    Son, you reminded me of valuable lesson today. A lesson on faith and power.

    This morning, I asked a buddy, who is more like a mentee and ally for a favor. I needed her supervisor’s cell number. I had/have his cell number, but it was somewhere in my things, and I needed to make the call quickly.

    My buddy refused to help me, explaining that it was not the procedure of her office to pass along cell numbers without permission.

    Although disappointed, I shared with her a lesson. Since my mentee had reached a position of limited power, I advised her that in order to hold onto and expand her power, she needed to use it to help others. That meant saying yes to as many people as possible particularly to allies like me, without exceeding your means.

    Son, you reminded me of this lesson, a short time later, when I visited your pre-school class.

    Our scheduled visit, yesterday, was canceled, as was the past two weeks of visitations. Since we’d not spent much time together, I dropped by to see and play with you and your classmates.

    You were delighted to see me and we had a ball. We ran around the playground, we led your classmates in small yoga and other exercises, and we practiced our imaginary airplane and helicopter take-offs and landings using our arms as wings and propellers.

    When it was time for you all go in for lunch, I was sweating profusely, in my crisply-ironed shirt and bowtie, and since I was fasting for Ramadan, I was worn out.

    But you were not ready for me to leave, which was understandable, particularly given the weeks of missed visits. So you attempted to make your feelings known to me.

    First, you asked if I would come up to your class and join you all for lunch. Given my plans for the day, I said….no—no even though I had no conflicting appointments. I simply needed to go, so I thought. Besides, going through security at your school is a bit of a hassle.

    Not hearing you the first time, you began to cry, and cry. I gave you a dollar, hoping to buy dry-eyes. And it worked, that is until I began walking away.

    Your teacher, Miss Lisa, was also caught off-guard. You were a 4-year old now, in preschool II class. And big boys don’t cry said your teacher.

    Little did I know that you were simply trying your best to communicate to me, the communications-turned-health care lawyer/writer. And despite my training, I could not understand you.

    Like my mentee earlier in the day, I was being rigid, sticking to my program, even though saying yes, would not have been too hard.

    The lesson hit me as I was driving away. In the car, it dawned upon me that both you and I lost out, merely because I forgot the lesson I just imparted minutes earlier…the lesson of having faith, and using the power that we have, however big or small, to say yes, particularly to those who mean so much…like you my son.

    While I blanked on this lesson today, I pray the Almighty blesses us both to remember it always.

    Love…Daddy

  2. Letter Number 2: The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference (CBCF ALC)

    It was a spring day in 1990 that I came to Washington, DC to live and work. For sure, I’d been to the Nation’s Capitol before, however this was my first trip by myself and by car.

    Upon my arrival to the Capitol, my plan was clear, head straight to the offices of Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI). The Congressman, who I would later come to know as the “Dean of the CBC” had nominated me for the appointment I received to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. Now that I’d departed the Academy seeking the warm embrace of Howard University, I hoped the Congressman would help me in my next journey by giving me a job.

    Regrettably, I left Mr. Conyers’ office that day without a gig, but with my faith still in tact. From that office, I decided to try the office of Congressman Harold Ford, Sr. of Memphis. My dad, your grandfather, had recently relocated to Memphis, his birthplace, after the death of your grandmother Linah (may the Almighty have mercy upon them both). And one of your grandfather’s first acts of activism was to run for Congress against Representative Ford.

    Thus, when I stopped by Mr. Ford’s office, they were well aware of our family. Mr. Ford’s staff nonetheless demonstrated the famous Southern Hospitality. Hearing that I was starting Howard soon, I was introduced to the Congressman’s Legislative Counsel, David Warr, a Howard Law grad. David talked with me and sent me away with two gifts. First, was an introduction to a fellow Howard Law alumnus, Victor Fraiizer, then Chief of Staff to Congressman Mervyn Dymally (years later Victor would be elected to Congress himself representing the U.S. Virgin Islands). Victor afforded me a meeting with Congressman Dymally, who hired me on the spot as his Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Intern for the summer.

    The second gift from David was a connection with Political Affairs office of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The lady directing that office, a church member of David’s, agreed to also hire me, for a part-time job in the evenings. Thus, while arrived on the Hill in May of 1990 unemployed knowing no-one, I left with two jobs, one in the office of the past CBC Chairman.

    After my Summer Internship ended, the Congressman extended my employment on his staff affording me my introduction to the CBCF ALC later that fall. It was amazing! While I had already become accustomed to the life of free receptions as a Hill staffer, the ALC was more. It was a giant reunion of the whos who in America, not just in the African American community. From politicians to business execs, from celebrities to diplomats, the ALC was in 1990 and remains the meet-up point for what’s happening in the Nation.

    Over the years of its existence, some have chosen to paint the ALC as a series of lavish receptions and parties for America’s Black elite. Relegated to the social calendars or society pages, many have overlooked the libraries worth of cutting edge policy discussions and debates that have taken place during these annual legislative conferences over the past four decades.

    From DC Home Rule to reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, from Affirmative Action to media violence, from funding for nanotechnology to cutting-edge approaches for ending prostate cancer, the ALC at the ripe age of 41 has packed plenty of substance over the years.

    There are also, in fact, numerous elegant receptions, galas, concerts and other social events largely unaffiliated with the official ALC schedule. I can personally attest to the potency of the ALC’s social opportunities. The ALC’s festivities in fact paved the way for two very special relationships, nearly a decade apart.

    The first took place in conjunction with the ALC of 1998. That year, after launching my first law firm, I organized an event during the CBCF ALC honoring Rep. Edolphus Towns and other telecommunications leaders. Aiding me in that event was a fellow Howard trained Engineer from Louisiana. Her help during CBC allowed me to realize that we worked well together. A couple months later, in November of that year, I would ask this woman, your mom, to be my wife, and nine years later, you were born.

    A decade later, after your mom and I broke up, I found myself back on the market during the ALC of 2008. That year, I attended a swank ALC bash hosted by Congressman Greg Meeks, another Howard Law alumnus. The room was packed with the nation’s hottest and most brilliant women including actresses, lawyers, and even a scientists or two. Yet, by the end of the night, I realized that none could compare to the woman who had arrived with me, your “ummi Raheemah.” Months later, we got engaged and the following spring we were married, and this week we’re looking forward to attending another ALC together.

    For some, its likely the sight of African American physicians and politicians, lawyers and laureates, scientists and basketball players, actors and investment bankers all enjoying themselves that completely overshadows the 100+ braintrusts, issue forums, and workshops officially connected with the ALC.

    But truly, one need only visit the offices of the ALC’s present-day convener, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) to get a sense of the ALC’s history, deep enough to form the basis of over a thousand doctorial dissertations. On the walls of the CBCF’s headquarters you would find photos from past ALCs depicting greats such as Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, Bill Gray and Bill Clinton, Collin Powell and Cynthia McKinney.

    And 21 years after my arrival to DC, the CBCF ALC remains special. My experience last night typifies my experience and that of thousands of others. With lots of events from which to choose, I decided to check out the closest, blocks away. A screening of Robert Townsend’s “In the Hive,” one of the first events during this year’s ALC, was packed. As is standard, the room was filled with beautiful well dressed and articulate men and women from around the world. At the front of the room were seated Lorretta Divine, Vivica Foxx, Micheal Eric Dyson, and Robert Townsend. The event was sponsored by ATT and its honorary co-host was Congressman GK Butterfield who represented the woman whose story was depicted in the riveting film.

    Following the discussion, I followed my customary course of asking a question during the Q&A. That question led to a debate with me and Micheal Eric Dyson over what I call the “Little Wayne Syndrome.” The discussion also led to a later conversation with Dyson and a few other powerful folk in the room, that I pray will prove profitable in the near future. And while there I also enjoyed a bit to eat.

    Thus, the ALC has once more served as a source of mental, emotional, and financial sustenance, and I pray it remains this way for you to enjoy my son in years to come.

    Yours, Daddy…

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