Re visioning the Black Father: Interview # 2

 

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There are so many things I can say about Christopher Tomlin (affectionately known as Shorty Chris). I remember being a freshman at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, CT. As an underclassman I noticed Shorty Chris from afar.

He was a popular senior whom was friends with everyone. He played basketball with the best of them. I became more familiar with Shorty Chris through our community center, the George Washington Carver Community Center. It is here that I learned how loving and smart Chris was. He was everyone’s friend. He never shied away from talking to anyone-he welcomed you with an open smile and looked out for you like you were one of his siblings.

It should come as no surprise to those of us from Carver that he’s a father I reached out to for an interview for this series.

Through the use o f social media, I watched Chris mature over time into an amazing father. His stories on Instagram are filled with football games, national and international trips with his children and short video clips of him with his only daughter. He’s a hands on dad, often smiling happily with his little girl as he takes her to school or throws the football around with his sons. This is the image the world needs to see.

Anika: Tell me about your father.

Shorty Chris: I went looking for him when I was 19 -at the time I was staying with my aunt, his sister. When I found him at a local restaurant in Atlanta, he knew who I was right away. He thought I would be upset. I wasn’t. I hold no grudges. We became good friends. While living in California I got word he passed away.

Anika: What was your dad’s name?

Shorty Chris: Kenneth Johnson. Tomlin is my mom’s last name. I carry that more than anything. Tomlin hits different.

Anika: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a father for the first time?

Shorty Chris: I was older. I was excited and it was time for me to have a child. He was a planned pregnancy.

Anika: What’s it like being a dad to a little girl?

Shorty Chris: My mother always said I would have a girl. She also knew she wasn’t going to be around when I did. It’s different having a daughter. Daughters are more sensitive than boys, it’s a humbling experience. You move different when you have a daughter. With boys there’s more roughness.

Anika: What’s the greatest joy of being a dad?

Shorty Chris: I have the time to teach them all the tools. Everything I learned I can teach them.

Anika: What is your greatest fear?

Shorty Chris: To watch one of my kids die before me. I want my children to live their lives longer than me.

Anika: What would you tell your younger self?

Shorty Chris: Be more patient.

Anika: Is there a difference between being a bio dad and a step-dad?

Shorty Chris: They all the same. I love them all them same and if they live with you then they’re your kids too.

Anika: Who had an influence on how you parent?

Shorty Chris: Maurice Tomlin. He was the greatest man that ever walked the city. Everything I do I learned from him. He did everything the right way. He wasn’t apart of any gangs. He never faltered and everyone knew it. Mo motivated me and it was all I needed. I am forever grateful. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be the man I am today. He was my older cousin, but I call him my brother. No one taught Mo, he was self-taught.

Anika: What advice do you have for new fathers?

Shorty Chris: Take your time. Love your kids and nurture them with all the time you have. You never know when that time is up. Teach them.

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