The other day my brother Reverend Run texted me with some exciting news: the parenting book he recently wrote with his wife Justine, Take Back Your Family: A Challenge To America's Parents, had just made the New York Times bestseller list. While some might be surprised that a parenting book written by a rapper and his wife would hit the bestseller's list, I wasn't shocked that people of all backgrounds were interested in Run and Justine's views on raising a successful family.
For five seasons, their hit reality show Run's House has inspired families with its honest dialogue on how to enjoy the good times and survive the hard ones. Since Take Back Your Family shares their parenting philosophies in even greater detail, it was only natural that the book would reach so many people.
But the full impact of Take Back Your Family was really brought home to me when I got a call from a friend of mine who had just finished the book. "Please tell your brother how inspired I was by his book. I loved how positive and uplifting his message was," he told me, before adding. "Too bad Obama didn't use the same tone when he talked about parenting. He might not have rubbed so many folks the wrong way."
My friend was referring to Senator Obama's now infamous Father's Day speech, in which he suggested that too many African-Americans think that parenting "ends at conception" and that they need to show more "courage" in raising their children. Jesse Jackson's response to that speech might have gotten all the headlines, but the truth is he was voicing frustrations felt by many in the African-American community. There was a perception that not only was Obama speaking down to people caught up in the struggle, but even worse, in doing so he was providing conservatives with another opportunity to point their fingers at Black men.
But while I respected my friends' view, I had to tell him I thought his frustrations were misplaced. I encouraged him to see that while he felt inspired by Run and frustrated with Obama, in fact they were both promoting a very similar message. "It's just that you've never felt any sort of judgment coming with Run," I told him. "You're so used to him promoting love and acceptance through Run's House that you were open to everything you read in the book. Obama wasn't really saying anything other than, "Take back your families." It's just that since he was delivering that message from the political stump, you heard it as a judgment instead of as encouragement."
What I wanted my friend to understand is that both Run and Obama are incredibly dedicated family men and are qualified, because of the commitments they've made in their own lives, to deliver a message of parental responsibility. And I really believe that when someone like Reverend Run or Barack Obama encourages you to make family your first priority, they're not saying it out of judgment or a sense of arrogance. Instead, they're just trying to help you tap into some of the joy, stability and tranquility that family has brought to their own lives.
But ultimately, I was just thrilled that family has become such a passionate issue, especially in the African-American community. When I hear a very healthy debate about the responsibilities of fathers, when I see Take Back Your Family on the bestseller list or pictures of Barack Obama playing with his daughters in every newspaper, it lets me know a very positive change is taking place in this country. You don't have to dress a certain way, speak a certain way, hold a particular kind of job or even look a certain way to be considered a "family man" anymore. Your race, your religion, your background, the kind of music you listen to -- thankfully all of that is becoming irrelevant. Instead, all that matters is that you make a commitment to putting your family first.
That's why I'm so excited about a Barack Obama presidency. It's going to be incredibly healthy for this country to address the issues surrounding families with a new voice and a new perspective. I'm also extremely proud of my brother--- while he first became famous as a rapper helping introduce America to hip-hop, I believe he's ultimately going to be remembered as the rapper who helped re-introduce this country to family.
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