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In memory of & tribute to my father, Sayyid Abdul-Mumit

There was no callout for Black fathers to bring their children to the annual Dance Africa street festival in Brooklyn. But there they were, in all of their tender Black masculinity. They had Black children hoisted up on their shoulders, holding their hands and stroking their soft puffs of hair. In tribute to my own father, I photographed some of the fathers with their children as a reminder that Black fathers matter.

My Black father mattered. I didn't have the physical blood of my father, but the soul tie — the spiritual blood of father and son — was irrefutable. My father adopted me and gave me his name. He raised me and protected me and was present in my life to lead by example — lead me into manhood, lead me into fatherhood.

I understand the importance of being a man as the flipside to being a father. In talking to the fathers at the Dance Africa festival, themes of my father kept coming through: the themes of stability and being present in our children's lives were consistent; understanding that having our children is an honor and that honor grows and cements as our children grow.

The supportive presence of a dad is irreplaceable. The oft-repeated trope about the absence of Black fathers was debunked at the festival on that day. The trope has certainly been debunked in my life.

For 40 years, my life was blessed by the presence of my dad. Shortly after his passing, in 2021, I took to social media in tribute and in memory to share pieces of the man who raised me. It was incredibly personal and extremely necessary for my mourning, as well as my healing.

While paying tribute to my wonderful father, Black men of my age group, shared with me that they either did not have a good relationship with their father or did not know him at all. Their words reminded me of the blessing of fatherhood.

Their words also made me appreciate my father even more.

In the year since Dad's passing, I have striven even harder to be a better father. I know this is not possible without being a better man. Part of me being a better man is knowing that real masculinity is not toxic. It's not hyper-aggressive. I know this because my father lived it for me to experience. I know because I witnessed it at the Dance Africa festival. I witnessed strong Black men who were enjoying time with their children while protecting them and being affectionate with them. Those men made me stand still and feel the presence of my own father while praying that media show more images of them and Black fathers like them — images of Black masculinity rooted in love for our babies, our children, our families.

This series of photographs show the beauty of the consistent presence of Black men and their children. I wish I had more images of my Dad and I, but each of these photographs pays tribute to the Black father who felt I was worthy of his time and presence and shared himself with me, his son.

Husband, father, Muslim, Pan-African, author, teacher, photographer, avid traveler, tech enthusiast and friend. Hamza Abdul-Mumit is a Brooklyn native passionate about culture, the arts and his community. His aim is to document culture for the purpose of understanding. Follow his work on Instagram @ipressnpush or his website www.hamzaam.com.

Grace Widyatmadja edited the photos for this piece.

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