Greetings loyal readers. With Father’s Day weekend approaching, it is time to reflect on the value of fatherhood, and healthy relationships. For today’s article, we catch up with author Kim Kirkley. Kirkley is the author of Love Stories: Real Black Men Talk About Love, Marriage & Being A Good Black Man. She is an inter-faith minister, and has been featured in New Yorker magazine. She also shares with us a little about her career background, and what brought her to this calling.
Polite On Society:What inspired you to write “Love Stories”?
Kim Kirkley: It is an act of courage for any man to be a man of integrity and, so much we see and hear about black men is negative. I wanted to bring to light the everyday, real black men of character that I know and meet as a wedding Celebrant. For years my friends have asked me to write this book and share the stories of black men whose real-life, beautiful love stories I am privileged to hear as a modern, all-faiths minister.
Meeting these men has transformed my life and allowed me to see, my father and all men — black and non-black in a better, more loving light. From my father to the hundreds of men whose marriages I have performed over the last eleven years, I interact with black men who are committed to an exclusive relationship with one woman and cherish their families. The forgotten fact is that most black men are good, kind, law-abiding, friends, fathers, brothers, neighbors and husbands.
POS:Why did you frame the book around the vantage point of Black Men?
KK: I decided to focus on black men because my thinking about who black men are and how they love has evolved due to my vocation as a modern minister — creating and delivering personalized ceremonies for them and for people from every background. In return I have been able to release so many stereotypes of black men and black women, white men and white women in all combinations and the pernicious stereotypes of everybody else as well.
I know that in reality there is only one race – the human race. However, we don’t get to debate social theories in our moment-by-moment encounters, “we are ‘raced!’” It is up to us to deal with the results of these judgments which tend to influence so much of our lives.
On a personal level, this book is written in tribute to my father. When he died, the two of us embarked upon a new relationship. You may be surprised, but, in this relationship I know him so much better than I did when he was living. If you are thinking that I am going to tell that old story of absent black father, you are mistaken. My father was always a consistent presence in my life, married to my mother and a committed family man. However like many men of his generation, he tended to be emotionally shut-down. A good provider, he did what a man is “supposed to do.” But I wanted more. I remember asking him if he would die for my sister and me. He laughed. I wanted to know that I had his heart.
It was only in retrospect, when I was faced with the responsibilities of adult life, I realized that my father did love me and had made an untold list of sacrifices for me. And so this book is a tribute to my father and all the men like him, black or not, who give their lives, their hopes, and their dreams to their children.
I am on a mission for this truth to be seen, recognized, and saluted. Chris Rock very famously said, “You don’t get credit for doing what you are supposed to do.” But the amount of suspicion and derision that black men face on a subtle and not-so-subtle basis, every day makes me want us all to recognize that it is a courageous act to be a black man of integrity.