After Years-Long Battle to Parent, Atlanta Father Wins Custody of His Son! (A Father’s Day Post)

Hello World,

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fabulous fathers out there with a special shout-out to my father-in-law and my father Dr. Denzil D. Holness, a man who is a father and a friend! Although my father is my favorite father, I want to highlight another father today. When I saw Vincent McCant’s essay about his struggle to parent his son Jack on his Facebook page earlier this week, I knew I had to share with all of you who read this blog! With his permission, check out Vincent’s essay below…

Essay: Black Fathers, Fight for Your Right to Parent…

Very few people outside of my family and close friends know that I was embroiled in two custody battles recently, spanning a total of four plus years.

I have a 12-year-old son, who I care greatly for. He is my world and my only child.

I met his mom in the summer of 2003 at a summer concert. His mom is a creole girl from Louisiana, very attractive and the ex-girlfriend of former-heavyweight champ, Mike Tyson.

Things escalated very fast during our brief relationship and soon I was having my first child, a son. The minute I found out we were having a son, the relationship ended for a variety of reasons. Because we were not married, I chose to have a paternity test done, then I hired a lawyer. The next step was legitimizing my son through a formal custody order, with child support included.

Having a son at the age of 33 forced me to become more responsible, because at that point in my life I was living only for me. I spent wildly, partied all the time and, quite frankly, was a player.

Having a child got me back in school, more serious about life and wanting to live a different lifestyle. I was traveling back and forth overseas quite a bit on business for the first two to three years of my son’s life, only seeing him once a month. While living in Beijing, China, I decided enough was enough and left a very lucrative career with a high six-figure salary to be home more with my son. It was a tough decision, but it was necessary.

I completed my master’s degree with honors in the summer of 2006, with a focus on supply chain management and immediately began consulting for major companies like Home Depot, Coca-Cola, NCR and others. I had been an IT leader for years, who directed major software implementations involving ERP and procurement.

Fast forward to 2007, I was now a full-blown, hands-on father, spending as much time as I could with my son. He reshaped my life and gave me a new purpose and meaning. I became a better person overall because of him.

As a more responsible father, I became increasingly uneasy about his environment, his school and most of all, his performance in school. Despite living almost an hour away from him, I was very involved with his school, teachers and the PTA. Based on things I was observing and conversations that were going nowhere with his mom, I felt compelled to seek full custody.

At church one Sunday in May of 2007, I met the woman who would become my future wife in her role as an usher. Over the course of two years, we would often speak at church. My wife developed a deep bond with my son early on, a relationship that has now spanned eight years.

Fast forward to 2010, I started dating my future wife and she immediately became embroiled in the first of two custody battles with me. I would lose the first custody trial, despite being prepared and having a strong case. It was a huge blow to me and my family, but I learned a lot from that trial and decided I would change my strategy and keep fighting for my son.

My son was suffering in school, despite making the honor roll each quarter, as his test scores did not match his grades. He lacked help with his homework, his grammar suffered, his vocabulary was limited and his test scores continued to plummet through out the year.

Read the remainder of Vincent’s essay at: nbcnews.com.

Again, Happy Father’s Day! Enjoy your special day fathers!

Any thoughts?

 

Remembering the Life of My Friend & Soror Sherry “Elle” Richardson…

Hello World,

If you hadn’t noticed, I took a brief hiatus from blogging. About three weeks ago, just before Memorial Day, my husband and I took a quick road trip to Tampa, Florida for his birthday so all of my extraneous energy was directed to that impromptu endeavor. And then the day after we returned, Memorial Day, I learned that a dear friend suddenly passed away. So it’s been difficult to collect my thoughts, much less write them or anything else down.

But here I am, back at a blank page, ready to reveal the ruminations I’ve had since my friend and soror Sherry “Elle” Richardson passed away, two weeks ago today, on her birthday.

This is how I looked when we first met. Yes, I was a geek at first 🙂

I met Sherry in 1992. I was a freshman at the University of Georgia in Athens, and she was a transfer student and sophomore. I met her along with another girl whom she had befriended before they met me. The three of us were fast friends, initially bonding over our desire to not be there at all. LOL! The three of us didn’t want to attend a white school, plain and simple. All devotees of “A Different World,” we were hungry to experience a historically black college or university, an HBCU, for ourselves. We wanted the funky marching band, the opportunity to meet our own Dwayne Wayne, Shazza Zulu or Julian Day (dependent on your taste in men), the endearing yet tough tutelage of black professors and the adventures that unfolded in dormitories teeming with people who looked like you but were from everywhere. Instead we were the minority, one of a few black faces at a school where we expected to learn but we couldn’t guarantee much else. But over time, we grew to love our historically white university and all that went with being a Georgia Bulldog in Athens at that time.

If college was a trip and it was, then Sherry was my travel agent. We had so many adventures together! A sheltered preacher’s daughter, I longed to party a la Ariel in “Footloose,” and Sherry was the perfect partner in partying. We practiced dancing in the mirror before we could “shake what your mama gave ya” in parties at Memorial Hall, where most on-campus parties were held! And if we felt like it, we ventured to Atlanta and partied in clubs all over town too. Our belief was it we weren’t dripping sweat when we left a party then we hadn’t partied.

But Sherry wasn’t all about partying though. We both wanted to establish ourselves as leaders on that colossal campus. One of the ways that we concocted to do so was to pledge a sorority. We noticed that most of the black women who seemed to be leaders were members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, plus they won all of the step shows and looked good doing so. Since she was a year ahead of me, Sherry was ready to pledge, but as a freshman, I wasn’t quite ready or qualified. Sherry decided that one of the ways that she could get the attention of the Deltas was to take part in the Miss Black University of Georgia pageant, which was sponsored by the sorority. Not only did she take part, she won the competition! I’m sure you can guess what happened after that. And when I was ready to pledge the following year, 1995, she successfully advocated for me to become a member of our illustrious sorority.

Partying in Atlanta after we graduated from college…I got better with time fortunately…

After she graduated in 1995 and I graduated in 1996, we kept in touch. In fact, I introduced her to many of childhood friends who promptly loved her as much as I did. In fact, some of these friends hung out with her without me at times. One of our first adventures as brand new adults was a girls trip we took to Jamaica in 1997. It was such a heady experience to travel with your girls on your own dime! The four of us belted out our rendition of TLC’s “Creep” over and over and over again at a karaoke spot one night. I remember shutting down a “hole in the wall” club another night. One day, we watched a brave friend jump from the cliff at Rick’s Cafe in Negril. We called the trip the “Girl Dems Sugar,” a song by Beenie Man that we heard repeatedly wherever we went on the island. And since Sherry was a film producer by profession, she filmed our adventures in a beautiful video that I have to figure out a way to see now since no one has a VCR anymore.

On the Metro in D.C. on Inauguration Day (don’t ask me why I have on pink and green?!)

Speaking of a VCR, fast forward years later, in 2009, several of us caravanned from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to see the inauguration of President Obama. It was amazing that Sherry, one of my first friends at an institution where I feared I would be lost as a minority, and I witnessed the inauguration of the first black president of this country together. We bought thermal underwear, hand warmers and more to brave the bone-chilling temperatures on the mall that memorable day and shed it all to stun at the Southern Ball that night.

At the Southern Ball, one of several balls that President Obama and First Lady Obama stopped by…

And then in September 2012, we were back in Jamaica again as one of our friends, a childhood friend who now claimed Sherry as one of her besties, was getting married on the island. We were roommates, and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up in a way that is sometimes hard to do as adults with jobs and other responsibilities. As we were there for a wedding, we discussed what love and marriage meant for us and pondered what that would look like for us as women nearing 40 years old.

At my book release party in 2012…

That next year, 2013, I helped Sherry celebrate her 40th birthday at a Hawaiian luau-themed party she had a her home. A month later, she came to my Southern tea-themed bridal shower followed by my wedding in August of that same year. As college students who lived down the hall from another one another, we saw each other every day. Naturally, as single women staking our claim in our chosen professions following college graduation, we didn’t see each other every day anymore. But we saw each other pretty regularly when our extended group of girls got together to explore the city from brunches, Memorial Day picnics, sisterhood retreats (which she created) at various homes and destinations, the “Sex and the City” movie premiere and more.

But I must admit, when I got married, I cocooned myself in newlywed bonding and didn’t avail myself to random hanging as much as I once did. I noticed the same pattern among friends who had gotten married before I did so I realized it was normal although not always advisable for maintaining friendships. When I heard the news of Sherry’s passing, I realized it had been quite some time since I had seen my friend…I only hope that Sherry knew how much I treasured my friendship with her over the years although recent life events dictated my time.

At a friend’s bridal shower…

Although I am a committed Christian, I cannot pretend that I have an inkling as to why God chose to call my friend away from this earthly realm. Since her homegoing, as I’ve walked throughout my house or driven somewhere, found myself saying, “Imagine Sherry is no longer here?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve experienced the passing of friends, family members and church family, but it doesn’t make it easier or predictable. These experiences only emphasize that life is truly a transitory state. We should savor all that this life, though temporal, has to offer, but most importantly, we have to be saved or become a Christian to go to Heaven, which lasts for eternity.

So that’s all I have except to say I will miss and love her forever. And I thank God I knew her…

Rest well Sherry…Save a seat for me in eternity…

Any thoughts?

 

Mann’s World Family Tour Stops in Atlanta at New Life Church THIS Friday!

Hello World,

If you’re a fan of “The Manns,” you can meet them in person! As a part of the “Mann’s World Family Tour, ” join Tamela Mann in concert accompanied by David Mann doing his highly acclaimed Comedy Show all in 1 night. In addition, their children David Mann Jr. and Tia Mann will be on hand as part of the tour!

On Friday, May 26,  the “Mann’s World Family Tour” will stop by New Life Church, 3592 Flat Shoals Rd, Decatur, GA 30034 from 7-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and increase by $5 at the door. Go to kingdomtickets.com to buy your tickets!

If you’re not in the A, you can see them in Tampa TODAY at 6 p.m. the Straz Center and on Saturday, June 3 in Durham, North Carolina at World Overcomer’s Christian Church. For more information, go to kingdomtickets.com.

Any thoughts?