Nominated by his mother Desiree Odom
By Ashley Kang
Q: What did it feel like when you first became a father?
A: Before I came a dad, everyone would say: “You’ll look at things differently when you’re a father.” And my greatest title in life is Dad. It’s life changing and has been so rewarding. It is something I get to do for the rest of my life.
Q: What can you share about your children?
A: I think they’re very different. Jasai’s the oldest. He’s very sharp, smart and teaches himself how to do flips and cartwheels. He enjoys football, drawing and reading. Jasai is more reserved, and Qaiel is outgoing. He’s like his mom and will take more risks, while Jasai analyzes things, more like me. Qaiel loves music, basketball and just having a good time. He has this really great smile that can light up the room, and he’s a kid that really holds us accountable. Maybe we say that we’re going to do something but don’t do it. He’ll remind us quick.
Q: What was your relationship like with your father?
A: My parents were teenage parents. My mom was 16 and my dad 17. So, that could have gone any way. But my dad has always been there. He’s always been supportive. I’ve tried to instill in my kids the lesson he’s taught me: to forge your own path, to have your own mindset and not to allow too many people to influence the way you think and maneuver the world. He would always advise me: “Be your own person.”
Q: What is your opinion about the commonly held stereotypes about Black fathers?
A: I disagree because I know a lot of great fathers — in my generation and the generation that came before me. There are a lot of great Black fathers who have been there, and not just in my own family but in my neighborhood and community. And it’s not only the dads, but those who step in to fill voids. You have uncles, you have mentors, you have coaches. People talk about the village … there’s more than one person who can have a positive influence on your child.
Q: Any advice for first-time dads?
A: Take your role as a dad seriously but don’t take yourself too serious. Remember these are kids who look up to you. Give them the tools that they need to grow, but allow them to make mistakes. Also have a good time. I’ve grown a few gray hairs over the last seven years, but it’s fun and rewarding. Every day, just hearing the things that come out of their mouths. Seeing them grow into little people and watching how smart they are becoming. So, enjoy the ride and allow kids to grow up and be the best versions of themselves, not the version that you hope them to be or the version of you that you didn’t get to be. Allow them to be the best versions of themselves.
Q: What has been a favorite family tradition?
A: On weekends, I try to set aside Sundays as “Sunday funday.” We’ll go to Sky Zone, race go-karts, go sledding … anything just to have fun. I’m like a big kid, so I’m right in there with them. I had a great childhood. I grew up sledding, doing outside sports, playing video games or Uno. So, maybe it’s surprising to say, because my wife is fun too, but I’m the one like: “All right kids, let’s have fun. Let’s do this.” It’s definitely one of the things that my kids gravitate toward me for.
Q: Final thoughts?
A: I want to shout out to all the dads who are putting in the work. And to the moms who support that, handling their roles and the work that they do as well. I think this is a cool spotlight. Again, this is a role that I think is my favorite role to play.
Ashley Kang is director of The Stand