As a single father of four children and with the pressing issues of fatherhood and the making of role models within our community, I asked Ernie what was his take on the topic. What did fatherhood mean to him? What is that call of duty?
“As I said, my mother died when I was only three months old and I have a brother who is three years older. My mom got pregnant away from the family and she contracted tuberculosis so by the time she came back to the family she was dying. So when she died the information about my father died with her. I never knew my father. The father role was very important because I didn’t understand why I didn’t have a father. My grandmother, who is very religious explained, ‘God is your father.’ I would reply, ‘God is everybody’s father.’ She would reply, ‘Yes, but everybody don’t know Him. I’m telling you so that you will know Him and always remember that anything you ask for He will give it to you because you are His son.’ It took me awhile to embrace that but I did. So when I had the opportunity to be a father I knew all the things that I wanted to be able to do and needed to do. It was not only something I wanted to do that I thought would be novel. It was something that was important to me. So when my marriage broke up (we were both young) and she was trying to get her degree I took the children. I knew she wasn’t prepared to take care of them so I took on the job and the responsibility. I had a one bedroom apartment that the kids slept in and I slept on the couch. I was trying to get into my acting career at the time. Yet I knew I had to be an example and I had to be there for them. I can honestly tell you four years later, after that decision, it was the best thing I ever did in life. I was able to avoid a lot of things and it was purely because I had my children. It made me a better person. I could never have gone to jail. I don’t know what I would have had to do to explain or apologize or whatever but I couldn’t go to jail because if I did what would have happened to my children? It’s a responsibility you need to take seriously. Your family needs you. Just the presence of a man in a home makes a huge difference in terms of the safety of the home. There are a lot of brothers who are single dads but we don’t get much credit or recognition. A lot of black men have stepped up but we don’t hear those stories; unfortunately because the media doesn’t find those stories interesting. I think that if you are out there doing things and cause a person to come into this world you have to be there for them; you have to take on that responsibility and take it seriously. You think it’s good for the kids but in the end you will find it was great for you. You know sometimes it gets thick. There have been times when my kids have sat me down and had to say to me, ‘Dad relax.’ Thank God we got through it. It all worked out. I am thankful that they all graduated from college, none of them went to jail and that they are doing well. I think a lot of that came from the example I set for them. I just think it’s really important that men own up to their responsibility and make their children their top priority. There are too many young kids left hanging for no reason at all. What better thing do you have to do? My heroes, to be honest, were not some guy that went out and did something amazing or great. My heroes are the guys that go to work, come home and don’t go off to get a pack of cigarettes and never show up again. Rather, my heroes are the ones that regardless of what happens between him and the wife/mother he still takes on the responsibility of caring for his children. That’s life. If you don’t do what’s right for them you lose.”
Parents, both the father and the mother make the difference in any child’s life. They need both. After taking all that in I thought it was a perfect time to talk about the new movie Doonby. Basically I thought this because of the movie’s underlying story, that people impact people; as well as the fact that without certain people in your life your life would be different. I wanted to know who were the people in Ernie’s life; those who if they weren’t in his life he would not be who he is today.
“This is a very grand statement but I’m going to say it. God Himself would not be complete without you. You are a part of all of that. You are one with all of that. It would not be the same without you. There is a reason, there is a place, you are important. You impact lives. Like I said, the guy that doesn’t take responsibility toward himself seriously and goes to jail, he has no idea how many lives are impacted. Even people who he doesn’t know that are watching him are impacted. I had four uncles who were very different. They sort of stepped in and taught me. They were like my father figures. They were all strong men but very different. I credit them for my understanding of manhood and all that stuff. Yet, probably the one guy who had as much influence on me, than anyone wasn’t the Pastor of the church, who was an interesting man. It wasn’t all the teachers. It was a man named Brother Cole. Brother Cole was not a minister. I think he might have been a Deacon of the church. He was in church all the time. Yet when he was in the street all the gangsta’s respected Brother Cole and all the church members liked Brother Cole. He just had a sort of peacefulness about him that everyone respected. You knew that when Brother Cole spoke he would tell you something you could trust. I remember I was about 11 years old and I was having a hard time. Brother Cole saw me and asked what was the matter? I told him everything that was going on with me. He just looked at me and said, ‘Son, do it anyway the Lord will bless you.’ Now I grew up in an environment where everyone said that to me but it was the way he said it that just brought me peace. I can still see that now, at my age many years later. Whenever I’ve been in a tight situation and I would just say, ‘God you gotta see me through because Brother Cole told me I know you gonna bless me. The faith he had I had in him. I wasn’t his kin, I wasn’t related to him but I saw him. I saw an honorable man. I had so much respect. I talk about him now and I don’t think he ever knew that. I don’t think I ever had the opportunity to tell him he was more important to me than I even realized. His was the life that showed me you can live a certain way. You can do all these things you want to do and still be a decent human being. He had about 8-9 children and his wife had issues yet he still showed up and walked the walk. I’m sure he didn’t just have an impact on me but on other people as well. People are watching. What you do has an impact on them as well, not only on you.” (Continued on page 6)