Dedan K. Bruner
A Tribute to Lawrence Lewis
Knowing that you have a safety net to catch you is a different kind of feeling It’s a concrete kind of confidence emboldening the lens with which I view myself and deepening the perspective that I develop in life. To this day, it continues to strengthen the steps I dare strut. I was born an only child and blessed to grow up with two loving parents. I saw my Mom and Dad who have been married for over 46 years, support each other through thick and thin. I was fortunate enough to have a tangible example of how a man should support, encourage, provide for, and love his wife and family. Because of my powerful name, birthright, and African centered upbringing I felt both the pride and the pressure of being the one that carried the family legacy. Like many other African American children, it had been instilled that all the hopes and dreams of my ancestors rested squarely on my shoulders. So, I understood that failure was never an option.
I never wanted to let anyone down, so I always wanted to be the best daughter, child, person I could be. That pressure was often self-inflicted, and my Dad worked over time to help me realize that sometimes just being, was enough. He did this in his own quiet way during “our time,” when it was just me and my Dad. My Mom might have been working hard to finish her doctoral studies, or teaching a late class, away for a conference, or just taking a well-deserved break, and I would get to have “our time” with my Dad. “Our time” evolved as I grew up. I can remember riding in the child’s seat bolted onto the back of my Dad’s bike with a long orange flag waving overhead to let everyone behind us know that there was a tiny passenger onboard or holding his hand as I skipped through Chinatown decked out in Kung-Fu shoes and ponytails excited to see the latest Kung-Fu movie. As I got older, during “our time” we would enjoy pizza and watching movies rented from the video Store. We would also have fun rides home and talks on the Metro together after my Dad finished work.
My Dad worked hard. He was at his desk promptly at 6:30am daily, not getting home until after 6:30pm in the evening. His work ethic was unmatched. He was never late for anything, always early. He professed that arriving on-time is late. He not only worked hard for himself and his family, but also for his community. Seeing my Dad outside doing Tai-Chi or practicing Kung-Fu with his sword and nunchucks was as common as seeing him fight for our city as a neighborhood planner and architect or building computers for family and friends. His tiger style and drunken monkey didn’t scare our neighbors because they all knew him to be an upstanding God-fearing man, a representative for his people ready to answer the call to action at a moment’s notice. It did, however, give others who did not know him pause. To see a six foot, highly educated, intensely thoughtful, humbly uncompromising, knowledgeable, and well-spoken Black man could invoke fear in others. But according to my unapologetic Dad that was their issue to deal with, not his. He served as a Sunday School teacher, a community representative, a mentor, an active member of organizations including Omega Psi Phi, a jazz musician, not to mention a volunteer and supporter in every classroom, club, organization, or group that I was a part of.
My Dad made sure that I also had other strong men in my life. I was blessed to be surrounded by men who greeted each other with love and familiarity. The typical “What’s up man?” which was always followed by the response, “You, Brotha!” from my Dad, welcomed a host of Uncles, Godfathers, cousins, and family friends into my life with the understood implication of what being “up” meant. Those two simple words expressed the expectation that my Dad held all of these men “up” to a moral and ethical standard. The definitive designation that “You” were “up”, presented an unspoken challenge by my Dad to obligate the other man to use their power to protect and provide for all who are in their midst. If a person couldn’t be “up,” they were never ever allowed to be around me.
That standard of being “up” and continuing to exude powerful living is now being passed to my children. My son and daughter watch my Dad model upstanding behavior by honoring God, his family, and commitments. During this time where he should be enjoying his retirement, my Dad continues to give selflessly. Continuing the legacy of his own Father, he serves as a Scoutmaster and mentor, building up young men to navigate the challenges of life that he has already overcome. His guidance and leadership not only impacts my children who reap direct benefits but also serves to culturally connect and inspire others to become better examples for their own families.
As a little girl, I had moments when I would think that nobody in this world listened, or cared, or understood just how my feelings worked and my Dad would always show up for me. I used to cry unceasingly about the idea of homelessness or ache when I heard about the painful experiences of others. My Dad was always right there to comfort me. My heart hurts for children that don’t have this kind of consolation because there is just something about a father’s love. Even now, as a grown woman, I’m not sure if it is the determination in his demeanor, the blessed assurance with which he speaks, or the purpose driven power instilled in him by his own father, but when my Dad says things will be ok…I still believe him, and my worry goes out the window.
Thank you Daddy.