When confronted by the indiscriminate finality of death many assess their mortality and the contributions they’ve made thus far in their precious lives. When the death of a larger than life personality is shocking and tragic, particularly when that beloved figure is an age mate, we are reminded that death is imminent for each of us. Carving a life of purpose into reality is growing harder given the hyper digital stratosphere. Our selectively curated social media footprint can often be more aspirational than our daily truth — leaving many to succumb to prioritizing what looks good above living fully and leaning into us to actual capacity for greatness.
Kobe Bryant shunned the notion of the later as he espoused the urgency of NOW and harnessed the power of an unflappable work ethic, which is why his death, along with the passing of his young daughter Gi-Gi and the seven others passengers, has paralyzed the notion of Camelot for many of us as we still ponder, “WHY Kobe”? Kobe, like each of us, was a flawed man which made his zeal to live, his fortitude to disrupt the system, and his understanding to work arduously in pursuit of immortal excellence, that much more endearing. KB worked harder than an intern with the trappings, access, and reach of the CEO while simultaneously and keenly understanding the crude pathologies and damming tropes of Black fatherhood. Furthermore, his beaming love for his quiver of daughters stands as a radical dismantling of patriarchy and the idea that masculinity is only validated through begetting a male heir. We must be careful not to believe the empirically disputed myths around Black Fatherhood. Kobe Bryant’s legacy as a father is not an outlier. He is not the first all-in #GirlDad, but he has reminded us to celebrate those men now because we may not be granted the opportunity tomorrow. His tragic death has not lit a spark igniting Black fathers into action; his life as a father has shone a light of awareness on the devotion, pride and legacy building Black men are doing with consistency within their families.
Kobe’s untimely passing, like Nipsey Hussle’s before him, provides a sociological framework for black and brown males, their wives, mothers, partners and most allies of these grieving and historically maligned subjects in America. In both instances, these men subconsciously adopted the charge that I took along with a million others on October 16th, 1995, a charge to take ownership of our lives while assessing the needs of community.
Nipsey reminded me that as a son of The Commonwealth I reside in one of the foremost incubators of venture capital, (New York, California, and Texas are the others), so it is incumbent upon me to engage like-minded parties to create independence and self-reliance. Nipsey gave us — Black Men — the permission to see the world as owners, and not solely as renters; while Kobe unveiled the brashness to rightfully own our humanity in a country that has a systemic penchant for treating black life inhumanly. In the wake of his death the collective tears, hugs and unabashed vulnerability being displayed, by black men specifically, are a transformative opportunity for the lives of black males to be humanized.
Over the last week I have been told by scores of black men in my network between the ages of 35–70 that they love me and that we need to spend time together. Some of these men have had strained relationships with their children or former wives. They have made the pledge to find solace in their own hearts to work steadfast to change the paradigm for the generations that will come behind them, further illuminating the need for spaces for our youth to be equipped with tools to heal from anxiety, domestic bred PTSD and hard earned anger before becoming hardened adults. They deserve a preemptive dose of care before they are yet again rocked with more personal and public tragedies.
Tony Clark, Professor of African-American Literature and Education Consultant