By Genoa Barrow | Senior Staff Writer

Nathaniel Cason, second from right, is shown with three of his 11 children–Candace Crittle, Nintah Bland and Bobbie Wooten, who lovingly refers to the family as “The Black Brady Bunch.”

Whether they’re hugging him or wrapping themselves in the memory of times spent with a dad who is no longer here in the physical sense, countless “children” are thinking about their dads this week.

As Father’s Day approaches on June 20, The Sacramento OBSERVER gave a few locals the opportunity to share memorable moments and advice from their fathers and pay tribute to the men who taught them to rise above life’s challenges and gave them the tools to be their best selves. 

Gloria Lawson-Riddle’s father, Herman A. Lawson was born Christmas Eve 1916 and died May 9, 1995. He was a Tuskegee Airman, a pioneering Black fighter pilot in World War II and later served on the Sacramento City Council. He had seven children, one of whom died in infancy. After his passing, Ms. Lawson-Riddle found herself working in the same EDD office where her father had once been employed.

Q: What lessons did your father teach you that remain with you today? 

GLR: To be responsible, respectful and outspoken. 

Q: What lessons did you take from him and apply to how you parent? 

GLR: African American history is important and should be preserved and shared.

Q: Some dads are also community fathers and are father figures for those who may not have a dad in their own lives. Was that true of your dad? 

GLR: Yes, he was a mentor to many young people in our neighborhood and elsewhere, especially pertaining to the Tuskegee Airmen history and journey.

Q: Did your father influence your career path? 

GLR: Not initially, but I did eventually work for the same California (state agency) as he did. I remember him taking us around the office and introducing us. To this day, I run into people who are now in their 90s that he introduced us to. I ran into a woman at the grocery store… she looked at me and said, “You’re Herman’s daughter.”

Q: You are one of seven children, what’s the birth order?

GLR: Betty’s the oldest. (Many know Betty Davis as the owner of the Culture Collection store) She was the “perfect one.” Patricia, sister No. 2, was “the reader.” I’m sister No. 3, they called me the “rebel rousing, talkative one.” Then there’s Yvonne, sister No. 4, she was the “quiet, crafty” one. There was an eight-year break and then there was Thomas, “the only son,” and sister No. 5, Tracey “the only one out of California.”

Q: What memorable moments/traditions did you share with your dad? 

GLR: We always had dinner together as a family. He made me learn to drive a manual shift vehicle. We loved “Spartacus” and “Ben Hur” and watched them together. My father was also a photographer. He took lots of photos during World War II when he was a Tuskegee Airman. I also learned to take photos. I wanted to be close to what he did. 

Gilbert Earl Anderson died in 1988, but his son Harrison Anderson, one of his five children, still feels his impact. The loss of his father inspired Anderson to create Melenated Fathers of America, which provides resources for dads and shares events and news related to fatherhood from across the country.

Q:  What lessons did your father teach you that remain with you today?

HA: My father died when I was 8, so I don’t have many memories of him talking to me about life. However, one of the biggest things I’ve learned from just his presence in my life was the importance of spending as much time with your kids as possible. You never know how much time you have on earth.

Q: What lessons did you take from him and apply to how you parent?

HA: Since he died when I was so young, I take from the stories I hear from my siblings. He had two children with a different woman after he and my mother broke up and never introduced us to those children. We just met several months ago. I think that was a mistake. Differences between adults shouldn’t get in the way of children having a relationship.

Q: What memorable moments/traditions did you share with your dad and why are those so important?

HA: One moment that comes to mind is when he bought me a pair of red leather Michael Jackson pants for my birthday, then I fell off my skateboard and got a hole in them.

Q: Did your father influence your career path?

HA: Yes, my organization, Melanated Fathers of America and the content I create with Melanated Fathers T.V. are both inspired by not only my relationship with my own children, but also the limited time I had to spend with my father as well as how he lived his life.

As the founder of Feed Sacramento Homeless, Bobbie Wooten has a heart for people and works to bring resources to the local unhoused community. She learned to be the change she wanted to see from her dad, Nathaniel Cason. Cason has 11 children, lovingly referred to as the “Black Brady Bunch.”

Q: What lessons did your father teach you that remain with you today?

BW: The lessons my dad has taught me is, first and foremost, to have a relationship with God and to forgive. Second, that if you truly want change and to be better, you will do it. It will take time, but anyone who is genuine, determined and stays true to self will make those changes so their situation will get better. 

Q:  What memorable moments/traditions do you/did you share with your dad and why are those so important?

BW: Our most cherished memories are those when we as a family celebrate one another for the progress and changes we have made, the goals we have achieved and love we have for each other. 

Community advocate Kimberly Biggs-Jordan talks about her beloved military father, Orlando Lee Biggs Jr. in the 2019 book, “Daddy Issues: Black Women Speaking Truth & Healing Wounds.” He died in Colorado Springs, Colorado in January 1998. Ms. Biggs-Jordan is the eldest of his six children. 

Q: What lessons did your father teach you that remain with you today?

KBJ: He taught me to speak up for myself and to stand for what I believe in as long as it was right, and to never give up.

Q: Was there a time that you didn’t follow your father’s advice and regretted it?

KBJ: I joined the Black Panther Party against his wishes and had all my materials sent to my grandmother’s house in Chicago on the under. I believed in what they stood for and it was worth it to defy him, but I regret involving my grandmother, because she readily lied for me. I believe she understood why I was doing what I was doing, by joining the Party. Her voice was silenced by the times she lived in. The support was real.

Q: What lessons did you take from him and apply to how you parent?

KBJ: The most important lessons I learned from my father were about getting your education and never giving up. He had a saying, “Don’t nothing beat a failure, but a try.” My children learned the same from me. Hard work and perseverance will pay off. Due to this lesson, I took a math test 13 times before I passed it because I had to show my children and grandchildren that no matter how hard something is, keep trying until you get it right. My children grew up knowing this and that their grandfather said it repeatedly.

Q: What memorable moments/traditions do you/did you share with your dad and why are those so important?

KBJ: The most important memory and tradition I hold dear about my dad is that he taught me how to cook. He was the man in charge of the Army mess hall and officers’ mess hall wherever he was stationed. I learned my skills in the kitchen from him cooking dinner for our family of seven. To this day I love to cook and have passed on those skills to his grandchildren, many of whom learned from me how to throw down in the kitchen. 

At my dad’s funeral I learned his favorite song was “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye, which is also my favorite song. I was told by one of his old Army buddies that in Vietnam when my father walked into the NCO (non-commissioned officers) club, the DJ would play that song and that is when the party started.

Q: Some dads are also community fathers and are father figures for those who may not have a dad in their own lives. Was that true of your dad?

KBJ: I think in some respects he may have been a community father within his family, because all of my cousins looked up to him. Those who grew up with him loved and admired him immensely. They respected his opinions and asked him for advice when needed.

Q: Did your father influence your career path? 

KBJ: No, he did not encourage me. Being a Black man in the military during the Civil Rights Movement and my teen years he, as did many Black men, experienced Jim Crow and blatant racism. I was a rebel. I stood at the age of 12 for social justice and community. I did not understand why he did not want me involved with any of the movements, but later in life as I became a community advocate, I finally understood. He was afraid. He was afraid that my militant attitude and outspokenness would affect him negatively and maybe even cause me harm. He wanted me to be a chef.

Odette Crawford had a long, rewarding career in law enforcement, highlighted by a number of historic firsts. While her father, George Crawford, passed away in her native Cincinnati on Dec. 17, 1985, Ms. Crawford, one of his two children, says the lessons he taught her have served her well over the years. 

Q: What lessons did your father teach you that remain with you today?

OC: My dad taught me to be competitive, assertive and to have good work ethics.

Q: Was there a time that you didn’t follow your father’s advice and regretted it?

OC: I have no regrets as we were very much in tune with each other. As a child,

I tried to follow him everywhere to the point I (once) fell in a lake and almost drowned. Of course, he saved me.

Q: What lessons did you take from him and apply to how you parent?

OC: My parents were divorced during my formative years. I was removed from

Cincinnati and we relocated to Southern California. I cried every night as I did not know when I would see him again. We talked on the phone and he assured me that time and distance would never keep us apart with the undying love we had for each other. His positive attitude and support taught me the meaning of close family ties which strengthened my ability to nurture my little girl and grandchildren.

Q: What memorable moments/traditions do you/did you share with your dad and why are those so important?

OC: I was able to fly to Cincinnati and visit with him, my new stepmother and step siblings every summer after school was out. Each year we had a family reunion that enhanced the familial relationship with relatives. This was so important to me as effective communication meant a lot whether near or far away from my family.

Q: Some dads are also community fathers and are father figures for those who may not have a dad in their own lives. Was that true of your dad? 

OC: Yes. My dad was very loving and attentive to both his stepchildren as well as my brother and me. In addition, he was kind and set examples for all of the neighborhood children up to and including foot races with my brother and his friends.

Q: Did your father influence your career path? 

OC: While my dad was quite surprised to learn of my chosen profession in law

enforcement, he was supportive of this choice. However, he was concerned about a Black woman entering this nontraditional work in the prison system. In those days, racism was alive and well. Not much has changed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Genoa Barrow is the author of the anthology, “Daddy Issues: Black Women Speaking Truth & Healing Wounds,” which shines a light on absentee fathers in the Black community. That truth is only part of the story and Ms. Barrow has also worked through the pages of The Sacramento OBSERVER to highlight Black fathers who have had positive relationships with their children. “Daddy Issues: Black Women Speaking Truth & Healing Wounds” is available online at Amazon.com and has been sold in the local Black bookstores, Underground Books and All Things Literacy & More.