Black fathers are critical to the Black community. Full stop.
ESSENCE Fest brought together some of our favorite Black dads to reflect on what fatherhood means to them in a world that tends to be less than kind to Black fathers. The conversation, entitled “The Role of the Black Father,” is a convening of modern dads featuring Tyler Lepley, Lance Gross, and Robert” Red” Rushing.
Real talk: With hectic Hollywood schedules and their various professional endeavors to maintain, how do these brothers centralize Black fatherhood?
Actor Lance Gross is a father of two (Berkeley, 8 years old, and Lennon a soon-to-be-5-year-old) who understands how his portrayals on-screen contribute to the narrative of Black men and Black dads in the real world. As a result, Gross says that he takes on roles that uplift Black men when possible. In terms of his parenting practice, this dad tries to maintain a work-life balance. Gross is clear about setting boundaries. “When I’m at home, I’m home.” The actor continues, “I’m all about spending as much time with my kids as possible.” Gross had a tremendous example of fatherhood growing up—his mother and father were together 46 years before the actor’s dad passed away. Through his own father, Lance Gross understands what it means to be a dad. “My circle of men who have children are the best fathers,” says Gross in front of the ESSENCE Fest audience. The actor speaks highly of the many fathers who are in his tribe, especially his own, who describes as being“A-1.”
For businessman Robert” Red” Rushing, being a father is everything. “My main focus is my family. My main focus is my kids,” says Redding, a father of four. Notably, he and Tonya Johnson-Rushing got married in 2022 and together have a 5-year-old child, Reign Rushing. The entrepreneur says that balancing fatherhood is no easy task. “It is hard to constantly be on the go, constantly doing stuff daily, and just come home. You just have to go into daddy mode. I just try to separate the world and just leave it at the door.” Rushing says that through his work and his example, he would like to debunk the narrative of the absentee dad. “We’re going to be active in our household. We’re going to be active in our kids’ lives. I think that’s the myth I would love to debunk. We’re really doing this,” says Rushing.
P-Valley star, Tyler Lepley, says though the nature of his roles varies, they all have a connective tissue. “One thing that I see as a through line is that the characters I play have a fierce sense of protective quality.” The father of three says that his love for his children will never waiver. As a dad, he understands that his strength is dynamic—it doesn’t look a single way. “There’s definitely a sense of vulnerability that we bring along with the virility or strength or manliness. The actor continues, “So it’s like to be strong if your child comes undone and you just need to listen and be that type of strong, but then to balance it out with the strength that we all know we have. And I really do feel like it’s that contrast, it’s that juxtaposition that makes a real man. It’s not just one way.”
These dads continue to change the narrative about Black fatherhood.