If I Had Prayed (A Letter to My Sons)

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - On Father's Day - a letter to my sonsDear Sons,

I have been blessed with the three of you. You are what I would have gotten if I had prayed and asked God to give me sons. You have multiplied and now I have four grandsons and three granddaughters. All are to be proud of. One thing I know is that even when I was not praying for something, I was from a praying family and others were praying and asking for me to be blessed.

You all know that my mother, your grandmother, picked your mother for me to marry. My mother said she would give me good looking, and I add smart, intelligent, entrepreneurial and productive children. She was right. When she picked your mother, she was choosing the virtuous woman described in the Bible and a phenomenal woman as described by Dr. Maya Angelou, all in one, and we are all the recipients of that blessing.

Your mother (fondly called, “Mommy”, “Grammy”, “Miss Ruthie”), is a praying woman, blessed with beauty and intelligence beyond description. She is blessed with patience and loyalty beyond description. I often wake up and look at her sleeping and give thanks to God for the woman he gave me, and I try my best to be worthy of his gift.

We come from a long line of praying family members. My maternal grandfather was a preacher. I’ve read some of Grandpa Shaw’s writings and I know he was a fighting man and a believer in God. My mother was an evangelist and a praying woman whose life demonstrated that God heard and answered her prayers. From her, I received spiritual and natural things, not the least of which was a discerning spirit.

I know it was your mom’s prayers, along with my mother’s, that got me past the bar to practice law and raise this family’s status. I pray each day that I treat that career gift properly. I can’t profess to have always been a praying man, but my wife by her actions reminds me of how blessed I have been and I am reminded daily to thank God.

We need to listen to the bards of our past. Maya Angelou advised her people saying, “When you know better, you do better.” James Cone wrote about Black Theology and Black Power. He quotes Langston Hughes who wrote, “I swear to the Lord I cannot see why democracy means everybody but me.”

Reverend Doctor Cone reminds us of the Dred Scott decision where our alleged, distinguished United States Supreme Court wrote that there are no rights a black man has that a white man is bound to obey. We have been subjected to the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision of Plessey vs. Ferguson, which justified segregation, by twisting itself into a pretzel, saying that separate can be equal. The Plessey case was merely about whether a state (Louisiana) law was justified in keeping the races apart on a train.

My sons, you are making your mark when you support your families, when you teach your children, when you honor your spouses. The trials of life may reach the shores of your family’s life. Perfection was not promised. You don’t get to sit back in the rocker and wait on your reward until later. There will be trials, trouble, and tribulations. You just need to remember that the hard battles has been fought, led by Malcolm, Martin, Thurgood Marshal, Reverend Nat Turner, Emmet Till, Adam Clayton Powell, Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, and thousands of others who have gone on before. You just need to follow your father and grandfather’s model and stand with your family through the rains and the storm.

My Daddy used to tell my Mother that he had done his best in a particular situation. There was nothing left for him to do. Donnie McClurkin’s song, “STAND” tells it another way. He sings, “What do you do when you’ve done all you can–and it seems like it’s never enough? And what do you say when your friends turn away. and you’re all alone? Tell me what do you give when you’ve given your all and it seems you can’t make it through? Well you just stand, when there’s nothing left to do, you just stand, watch the Lord see you through, yes after you’ve done all you can, you just stand!”

McClurkin goes on to ask “Tell me how do you handle the guilt of your past, tell me how do you deal with the shame, and how do you smile when your heart has been broken and filled with pain. Tell me what do you do when you’ve given your all seems like you can’t make it through? Child you just stand when there is nothing left to do. You just stand, watch the Lord see you through, yes after you’ve done all you can, you just stand.”

Know that your financial future is solid, your children are headed in the right direction, and your spiritual direction is on track when you choose to follow God. You just need to stand on the base set by your forbearers.

Yusef, Omar, and Jamal,


Love, Dad