Monday, June 20, 2011

Editor's Perspective: A Special Moment Between Father And Son

Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree (l) is moderating an intimate one-on-one conversation with Earl Graves Sr., (c)founder of Black Enterprise  and Earl Graves Jr., (r) CEO and president of Black Enterprise, at their recent  Entrepreneurs Conference and Expo.

With so many of us running from meeting to meeting and attempting to stay engaged with the latest distracting social media tools: Facebook, Twitter, texts, emails and the like to disillusion ourselves to assume that we're staying connected, its becoming ever so difficult to decide what events to attend and what to steer away from.

Fortunately, I recently hit the nail on the head, when I decided to step away from my usual daily grind to attend one of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurial Conference luncheons, which was recently held in Atlanta. I knew I was in for another much needed business lesson, helping to layout a road map for me to continue growing my business.

But to my surprise, I along with others who were in attendance realized we were in for more than a treat. We were truly about to witness history, a one-on-one intimate conversation with Earl Graves Sr., the founder and chairman of Black Enterprise Magazine and his name sake, Earl Graves Jr., the CEO and president of the family-owned business. This conversation was about to be to be moderated by one of the best legal mind's in the world, Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, who also taught President Obama.

 Earl Graves Sr., (r) is having a private conversation with his boss, Senator Bobby Kennedy (1). After Kennedy's death, Graves Sr., who was no longer on the government payroll, stepped into the world of publishing, creating today's premiere financial magazine for entrepreneurs -- Black Enterprise Magazine. (Photo courtesy of Black Enterprise)

As soon as the conversation was in full gear, it was as if we (the luncheon participants) were a fly on the wall. For over two spellbinding hours, we got an inside peak into the lives of the two of  the world's most successful African American males, who happen to be a father and son duo leading one of the most successful financial magazines in the history of America. Not only were we being schooled (or attending what seemed like Oprah's Master Class, which is a show on OWN TV that gives viewers an insightful look at the life lessons of those at the top of their field), we also had an opportunity to see the playful, but respectful and loving interaction between a proud father and son.

There is just something magical to see such, especially with so many fathers being disconnected from their sons in the African American community. There is a bond with the Graves that you just knew was deeper than sports, which is the usual surface bond for most fathers and sons. During the course of the public conversation Graves Jr., who at times had an almost child-like quality when engaging his dad, made reference to how his dad's military leadership style and high academic standards while growing-up almost derailed his love for athletics during his formative years. Like any good solider or someone who respected his father, Graves Jr., learned to bring in above average grades, while at the same time showing his athletic prowess.

In a sense, the interaction I witnessed with the Graves during the luncheon reminded me of what America got a chance to see on a larger scale in the late eighties and most of the nineties when tuning in weekly to The Cosby Show, a highly successful African American Tv father who not only loved his wife and daughters, but also had a special bond with his son, Theo, too.

Its too bad America, the world, or for that matter a lot of little black boys growing-up in single households headed by hardworking mothers -- don't have an opportunity to experience the other side of the spectrum --that special relationship between father and son. Little boys just like little girls follow in the footsteps of the folks that they want to please the most - their parents, specifically their dads.

That's probably why unconsciously Earl Graves Jr., is literally following in the footsteps of his father. That's probably why I, too, chose unconsciously to follow in the footsteps of my dad, choosing the automotive field as my career path. That's probably also why I now realize many decades later why my dad pushed education too.  Boy, aren't we thankful for these old schools dads who didn't run out when things got tough at home. They have truly provided their families with a road map like none other, especially their sons.

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