Can you tell us about your relationship with your father(s)? 

Ali Kamanda: Where do I even begin. Almost a year ago to date, my father passed away after losing his fight with cancer. Emotionally, it’s hard to think of him right now, but I cherish the memories of our time together. Growing up, I had always wanted him to be more vocal and playful in showcasing his love for me, but I later recognized as an adult that his love language was in being of service. He was there for me at every pivotal moment of my life, none more consequential than my senior year in college when he guided me toward my creative path. He put no pressure of expectation on me about success in life and was never judgmental of my failures. He never tried to dictate my life, instead he gave me his advice with guidance and let me find my own way. I miss him. He was the best dad, ever!

Jorge Redmond: My relationship with my father was bittersweet. It was great to have his support at athletic events and to follow in his desire to learn my family history, but his priorities were not aligned with monogamy and family life. I’m a momma’s boy at heart, and to see the hurt he caused made me think about my own commitment and choices. A path to recognize but not follow.

What did you learn from the male role models in your life? 

AK: My role models in life have been my dad and my grandpa. From both, I have learned that there is nothing more important in life than family. Their life lessons, guided by their strong Christian faith, are grounded by the simple principle of treating others as one would like to be treated. They have taught me the value of this blessing of life. My father, with his passing, taught me one final lesson―life is short and the time spent with loved ones is priceless. Be intentional about living in the moment and creating lasting memories with those who nurture your spirit.

JR: I learned specifically from my dad many things to not to do, but I also learned from him about the importance of Black history and work ethic.  After my dad passed, I learned the importance of family. I learned to aspire to be worldly from a father figure who arrived later in my life.

Why children’s resources?

AK: I share in the belief that children can and will change the world. I recognize the impact that children’s resources have on their perception of society and how they see themselves in it. The change children bring to the world will be inspired by the knowledge they get from these resources. As a father, what an awesome opportunity it is to add literature that celebrates and represents my children’s existence, ultimately providing a window into the humanity of their Blackness.

JR: Children are the future, and being a devoted father make me think first about the well-being of my kids.

Tell us about how you balance your career with fatherhood?  

AK: None of this works without my amazing wife! It’s tough. My work involves a lot of travel away from family so my wife, the captain of our ship, guides our family crew. She’s taught me to be intentional about being present and engaged, particularly when I am home. I try my best to be accessible to my kids all the time, so we take the time difference between countries into
consideration when we schedule our daily calls.

I am fortunate enough to schedule some of my work around their activities. Self-proclaimed as the family cheerleader, it’s important to me to be on the sidelines for a game or in the audience for a performance. During the occasions when I can’t be there in person, my wife and I will do a video call so I can watch live. It’s hard not being able to spend every waking moment with those
you love. It’s important to find a balance that allows you to work in support of family and also not miss out on the moments that define fatherhood.

JR: I first balance my life by understanding that I would not be a father without my wife, and to appreciate and be thankful for the lives she helps raise.  It is important to participate and not just be home, and to understand and comprehend that time truly flies when you have children.
To me, balance means sharing moments as best as I can with my family and knowing when to take full advantage of making memories. I use the weekends as family memory-making times, and during the week I come home and make sure I spend time with my family doing homework, reading, or just conversing about the day!

Tell us a little bit about why you wrote this book, now?

AK: The murder of Mr. George Floyd was a wake-up call for me as a Black man and a Black Father in America. It was unsettling to think of the world through my son’s eyes as I grappled with the events and emotions surrounding his death. So, I wrote this book for my son and, ultimately, for Black boys everywhere. The intent is to inspire a sense of identity rooted in Black History that Black boys can be proud of, so they can grow up confidently in life knowing that they matter. I also wanted to create literature for all readers that could be a window into acknowledging the humanity in Blackness. It’s an opportunity for young readers to see themselves in the lives of a Black father and son.

JR: I wrote this book to inspire hope, and to change the Black boy narrative of wanting to be just a baller or rapper! Initially, I wrote this book to teach my son about Black historical figures, but it grew into a way to inspire all young lives by correcting a purposeful omission of a historical narrative. The timing came about from the murder of George Floyd, and the fact that
my young son was growing up in a world that would see him as a potential threat.

What’s something you learned (positive or negative) from a father figure? 

AK: I’ve learned from my father that a true strength in parenting, particularly as a father, is patience and humility.

JR: I’ve learned that’s what’s most important is to be present, and not to substitute a present for presence!

Talk about something that makes you worried about the future for young people? 

AK: What worries me about the future for young people is a concerted effort by particular groups to divide many in society based on religious preference, race, sexual orientation and more. Planting such seeds of hate will create an increasingly unsafe world for our kids.

JR: The isolation and disassociation that technology brings, as well the aggressiveness of society. Not to mention the changing of climate and the effects it has on this planet.

Talk about something that makes you hopeful for the future for young people? 

AK: It’s reassuring to see this young generation not only champion the values of tolerance and inclusion, but also be willing to fight for it. With courage and a fierce resolve, many are daring to become the change that they want to see in the world.

JR: Their courage to fight for what they believe in at an early age, and to have different conversations about acceptance and identity so that stereotypes may be broken and labels dismantled.

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Written by Ali Biko Sulaiman Kamanda and Jorge Redmond

ALI BIKO SULAIMAN KAMANDA is an award-winning filmmaker from Sierra Leone, West Africa. He is the President of Salone Rising, a not-for-profit organization that provides micro-financing and mentoring resources to small business owners in rural Sierra Leone.JORGE REDMOND works in the Buncombe County District Attorney's office as an Assistant District Attorney, and as an adjunct professor in South College's Legal Department. Ali and Jorge are college friends, and Black Boy, Black Boy is their debut book.