Father’s Day 2010: In Respectful Remembrance of Arthur W. Polite

Arthur Winston Polite

With Fathers Day approaching, a time of reflection for many about the meaning of fatherhood in this post-modern age, we will receive numerous messages. Many will lament the absenteeism of Black fathers, while others will take this occasion to browbeat an entire group of people.  Some may even use it to score political points with the broader population at the expense of many Black men, whether the “message” applies to them or not. However, I feel that it is important to note that very few people take time to talk about their fathers, or their influence in their life. This is where this post differs. I will leave the lambasting to the same individuals who will without fail, provide that message, never mind the fact that it’s a broad generalization. I would like to take this time to talk a little bit about my father and what he meant to me.

Early Life

Arthur Winston Polite was born May 13th, 1939 to Henry C. Polite Sr. and Sadie Drayton in Harlem, New York. He was the youngest of five children, two boys, and three girls. His father, a longshoreman originally from Beaufort, South Carolina, Arthur grew up on 138th street an Lenox Avenue. He attended Abyssinia Baptist Church in his youth, which incidentally was just up the block. His parents would send him to stay with an aunt in Philadelphia every summer. Unfortunately, it would be a childhood marred by loss; Henry Polite passed away when Arthur was only 13 years old.

Family Life

My mother met my father some time after migrating from a small town in Virginia to New York City in 1964. They were married on December 31, 1970. This union would result in two children, with me being the last child. I remember my father being very family focused, and willing to do what he had to do to make ensure that we had what we needed. While a bit stern at times, he meant well when I really look back on it.

Work Background

Arthur was a working class Black man. He once worked for a company out in Long Island City, Queens by the name of Mastercraft Lithographers, Inc. He held a union job in a then thriving manufacturing industry, and was a member of District 65.

A lithograph is a machine that was used to print packaging, labels, and posters amongst other items. He held on to that job until the rash of layoffs, in the manufacturing sector in the late 80’s. Very few realized at the time that that was the result of the decimation of the manufacturing sector, and that those jobs lost would never return.


Looking back on it, I know that my father influenced me in lot of ways. While he never went to college, he was politically astute and great with historical facts. I remember him being extremely critical of Reaganomics and the “trickle down” theory. He was the one who told me about the book by Lerone Bennett “Before the Mayflower” In all honesty, he had a lot to do with me majoring in Political Science. While he only finished high school, he was adamant about me going to college. He stressed the importance of education, and would often admonish ignorant brothers by joking “What, you scared you might learn something?”  When I was in high school, he encouraged me to go a level beyond the materials that I would encounter there. I remember him saying to me “Get in that Schomburg” when he talked about the need for me to not only accept the knowledge that was given to me through the curriculum. In addition to this, he spoke highly of Dr. Ben, Prof. Leonard Jeffries, and was a regular reader of the Amsterdam News(back when it used to be published on Saturday) and viewer of “Like it Is”. Those are habits that I have picked up, incidentally.

Its impossible for me to speak at length in this format on the life lessons my father imparted to me, so I will only speak on two. One, he would always caution me about the very real obstacles that I would face coming of age. Secondly, he would give me pointers on how to deal with people trying to bring the worst out of you. One day I came home from school furious at what one of my classmates said to me. It’s been so many years, I forgot exactly what was said, but as I retold the run-in to my dad after school with much anger in my voice, he calmly said to me: “Don’t you realize he is trying to provoke you?” I asked, quizzically “what does provoke mean?” He would then explain to me that its when someone verbally attacks you, for the sole purpose of getting you to react in a self-destructive way. Through that little talk, I would learn not to let everyone push my “panic button” as he used to say. He also put me on to Gil Scott Heron, and I heard that he was a bit of a pool shark back in the day. (That explains a lot about my own influences ay?)

Before The Mayflower- Father's Copy


I had my father’s guiding hand until 2001, when I was 21 years old. He lost his battle with late stage prostate cancer. 9 years later, I can talk about it now without being melancholy, a great deal of that because I now, have the pleasure of being a father myself.

How do you sum up 61 years of life? I would have to put out something much longer to do that. The purpose here is give much respect to my late father, and at the same time carry the memory of him and so that my daughter can know something about her grandfather. As the cycle of life continues, I take upon myself the responsibility of passing down the family history. At a time where Black men are under assault in myriad ways, and attacked as the reason that all is not well in the Black community, I choose to tell his story.  In stead of always reacting to the never ending negative media blitz of Black men, I prefer to tell the story of my family. No, it wont be a counterbalance, but at least its not feeding into the narratives that are often told about Black families. Because of Arthur Winston Polite, the narrative of absent Black father is a story that I can never tell. I will never forget about you.

In loving remembrance

May 13th, 1939- April 20th, 2001

Edit : A short poem dedicated to my father.

Arthur Polite- R.I.P.


  1. Marc,

    That’s an awesome story – and a really beautiful Father’s Day gift to your dad (I’m sure he’s reading it up there, and he’s very proud of you for writing it).

    Arthur Polite sounds like he was a hell of a man – and, you know what? His son grew up to be just like him!


  2. Thank you Greg! I felt compelled to write this for June.. its been on my mind for a minute. It’s the least I could do. Yeah, he was an original, and also my template for Black manhood. Thanks again.

  3. Marc, just wonderful. As a girl from Newark, NJ, also with a working class Dad, can truly relate!!! My Dad also completed HS, but, like yours, was so much hipper than that!!! As a member of the Nation of Islam, we were taught as children to be proud of who we were, and were always surrounded by positive images of our people, starting with him and our Mom:-) As I like to say, he was and still is my biggest influence in my life, and for that and so much more, will always love him. Thank you for such a positive and uplifting article:-)

  4. Marc

    This was a great tribute. I enjoyed reading your memories about my uncle. Thanks.

    Tinaloiuise Polite-Abban

  5. @Jenise- You are welcome. And thanks for taking the time to read it.

    @Tinalouise- Thanks. I am glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed writing it.

  6. I so enjoyed reading your reflections on your dad! My dad was also a working class, union man (Teamster) ~a truck driver. He provided well for his seven children via overtime and solid, very stern discipline~Lolz

    Let’s just say I understand male authority 🙂

    I’ve missed him since his call Home Feb. 23, 2000anmd waiting my time to be with him once again <3

  7. Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed my post. It sounds like we had similar father figures. That’s cool.

  8. sorry to here about your father. My father passed away in Bronx, NY in 1994. His name was Abraham Polite, from St. Helena Island, Beaufort, SC. Moved to spanish harlem and lived there for several years before moving to the bronx, where I was born. He was and still is the most important man of my life.

  9. Good afternoon Ami. Thanks for your condolences. I never knew of an Abraham Polite, but he is from the same town as my grandfather Henry Polite. Its good to hear that your father was a strong influence on you as mine was for me.

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