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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tré Watkins


What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up

      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—

      And then run?

      Does it stink like rotten meat?

      Or crust and sugar over—

      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags

      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

--Langston Hughes

The hardest part about being the dad of a Black boy is straddling the line between teaching him how to navigate the world how it is versus how ideally it should be for him. How do you encourage your child to be free while understanding the constraints this society will impose on his Black body, mind, and spirit?

At some point, most Black children hear the saying, “You gotta work twice as hard to get half as far,” the not-so-subtle message is that there is no shortcut, safety net, and even no guarantees on the road to success.  Although the intent is for it to be a motivational tool, what happens when the message becomes a constraint in and of itself? That perfection is required if you are to fulfill your potential truly.

A long time ago, I was fearless.  No, not during my extended college years when I threw parties, stepped in shows, and got my fair share of altercations.  That was recklessness. Now, the fearlessness was years before sports, girls, or the frat, but closer to when I rocked individual braids and a royal blue zoot suit to middle school graduation. That kid lived a life free of internal pressure or skepticism. He could rattle off batting statistics for the top 20 hitters, recite Sioux phrases from Dances With Wolves, and name all 150 Pokemon. 

I knew that I had an eclectic array of interests, which made me slightly different from my cousins and friends, but they loved me anyway. Being into all kinds of stuff means you can always find something to connect with people. 

At some point, when being “me” became “cool,” I stopped being myself so that I could be even cooler.  More responsibilities and more expectations, both internal and external, and I’m not even sure which version of me is the real one. To be the person I thought I was supposed to be, I lost track of being who I am.  

There are moments when I have a burning desire to start a new project. An idea, some brainstorming, and boom, I can see it plain as day in my head. That’s my superpower. I can conceive an idea and see it almost to the point of feeling it, so much so that I sometimes wonder why no one has done this “great thing” yet.  

But fear sets in. Fear of failure. Fear of lack of resources. Fear of disappointment. Fear of heartbreak and another idea gets shelved in the archives of my mind. 

I do recognize that fearless boy from years ago, though. I see him every day in my seven-year-old. He’s brilliant and kind, charming and silly, all while rocking a Steph Curry jersey and changing the “performance tip” on his Beyblade. His superpower is his memory. If he's seen it or heard it, he can remember it, which means you gotta be careful when telling him, “We’re going to do that later.” 

This past year, I’ve been studying and meditating on freedom. Freedom for who? From what? What does it mean to live your truth in its fullness?

Living in a country where the attacks against rights and liberties for marginalized people are as frequent as the sunrise, I have attempted to gain a deeper understanding of society and how it shapes my experiences, mindset, values, and opportunities.  I am interested in how social structures and institutions function and how, if possible, they can be shaped for the benefit of all.

I am still trying to figure out what this all means for me and my path, But I have learned that I do not want to be a limiting force in my son’s life. I want him to fully discover and embrace who he is and put every ounce of his effort into living that truth.  

Deray Mckesson eloquently states that hope is “faith’s companion.”  Not only can it be a motivational tool, but that as an actual step towards action, “it powers our vision of what roles we must play in bringing about a desired goal, and it amplifies our efforts.”  

The final line of the poem Invictus reads, “I am master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” (told you I pledged). Instilling this value into my son is of the utmost importance to me.  Encouraging him to pursue his passions and master his craft is what I want him, above all, to learn from me that his quirks and imperfections are precisely what make him perfect. And that he taught his daddy what it was like to dream again. “You are quite literally stardust. And remember, you and your dreams belong to the universe.”

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