It was a scene to behold, hundreds of Black men accompanying their daughters to a father-daughter dance. The event took place a week ago at the New York Hilton, a celebration of fatherhood that was part of veteran journalist Ed Gordon’s “Daddy’s Promise” initiative. The project was launched by Gordon after he had written an article for Essence magazine on his relationship with his daughter, Taylor. The dance, held in conjunction with the 100 Black Men of America’s annual conference, was the culmination of a series of events Gordon has hosted throughout the country calling on Black men to pledge their support for their daughters. Prior events had been held at Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in Texas, Morehouse College, Cheney University, Rev. Floyd Flake’s Greater Allen AME Cathedral in New York, Second Ebenezer Baptist Church and the 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference. The initiative was launched at the 100 Black Men convention in 2008 in Orlando, Florida. The 100 Black Men are partners of Daddy’s Promise and the project has been underwritten partially by Bounty paper products.
The dance was a high-energy affair with daughters, young and old, hand-in-hand with their fathers or father figures. In many ways, the atmosphere in the New York Hilton was a direct challenge to the popularly held perception of Black men and the manner in which they are often portrayed by the media and in popular culture. There was a genuine outpouring of affection from the fathers in attendance and a sense of collegiality between the men who had come to demonstrate their commitment to their children. Throughout the afternoon fathers were sharing their stories with one another, introducing their daughters to each other and beaming with pride.
The afternoon was full of surprises and special moments. After welcoming the guests to the event, an affair that sold out quickly after it was announced on the Daddy’s Promise website, Gordon introduced two special guests who brought their fathers along. Actress Vivica Fox and Sheri Shepard of “The View” came on stage with their fathers and gave their personal testimonies on the important role their fathers played in their lives. It was a genuine moment that prompted a warm reaction from everyone gathered in the room. Gordon also paid homage to his own father, who is deceased, and brought on stage the daughters of two late icons, Bernie Mac and Malcolm X.
A dance is not a dance without music and the crowd was serenaded by recording artist Will Downing who performed his song “Beautiful to Me,” that he has allowed Gordon to use as the project’s theme song. Powerful in voice, Downing’s appearance was all the more special given that he has recently overcome a serious medical condition, a point that he and Gordon alluded to prior to his performance. Following Downing’s turn at the microphone a deejay provided an assortment of R & B classics that had the fathers and daughters showing their best moves on the dance floor. To keep the party going recording artist Cupid stopped by to perform his dance craze themed “Cupid Shuffle” that had the partygoers swarming the dance floor. As is the case with almost any celebration in the Black community, a “Soul Train” line took place with dads and daughters, cajoled by Gordon, strutting down the line; including a dad who did his best Michael Jackson impersonation, complete with kick and “Beat It” scream.
While the event was a social gathering, there was a serious purpose behind bringing Black men together in such a public way with their daughters. The real highlight of the evening was when Gordon took the stage and asked all of the men to come out on the dance floor with their daughters. He had earlier introduced his daughter and explained again the premise behind the project. He also called upon all of the men to take the Daddy’s Promise pledge and led the fathers to recite it as copies had been distributed around the room. In a very real way, that moment captured the essence of the afternoon. Though much of the energy was focused on the music and conversation, the taking of the pledge was a moment; the final act of the afternoon that brought home the importance of what Gordon is hoping to achieve with this project. The picture of Black men reciting the pledge and conveying their commitment to their daughters was an inspirational moment that best captured the strength and hope of the Black community.
Go to www.daddyspromise.org for information on Daddy's Promise.