My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist's Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole (Hardcover)

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"Will Jawando's account of mentorship, service, and healing lays waste to the racist stereotype of the absent Black father. By arguing that Black fathers are not just found in individual families, but are indeed the treasure of entire Black communities, Will makes the case for a bold idea: that Black men can counter racist ideas and policies by virtue of their presence in the lives of Black boys and young men. This is a story we need to hear." —Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times–bestselling author of How to be an Antiracist

As a boy growing up outside D.C., Will Jawando, who went by his Nigerian name, Yemi, was shunted from school to school, never quite fitting in. He was a Black kid with a divorced white mother, his relationship with his biological father was frayed, and his teachers chastised him for being disruptive in class and on the playground. Eventually, he became close to Kalfani, a kid he met on the basketball court with a whole lot of promise. Years after he got the call telling him that Kalfani was dead, a casualty of street violence, Will looks back on what saved him from a similar fate.

Will Jawando traces his survival to an extraordinary series of mentors. Among them were Mr. Williams, the rare Black male grade school teacher, who taught Will to tie his first tie when he saw that he was being bullied; Jay Fletcher, the openly gay colleague of his mother’s who got him off junk food and took him to his first play; Mr. Holmes, the high school coach and chorus director who saw him through a crushing disappointment; Deen Sanwoola, who helped him bridge the gap between his American upbringing and his Nigerian heritage, eventually leading to a dramatic reconciliation with his biological father; and President Barack Obama, who made Will his associate director of public engagement at the White House—and who invited him to shoot some hoops on more than one occasion. Without the influence of these men, Will knows he would not be who he is today: a civil rights and education policy attorney, public servant, husband, and father.

Drawing on Will Jawando’s deeply moving story and involvement in My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s national initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color, My Seven Black Fathers explores the remarkable impact that Black men can have on the rising generation.

About the Author


Will Jawando is an attorney, activist, community leader, and councilman for Montgomery County, Maryland. The youngest candidate in Maryland’s 8th District congressional race, he received a glowing endorsement from the Congressional Black Caucus. Described as “the progressive leader we need” by revered civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis, Will has worked with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Sherrod Brown, and President Barack Obama, who picked him as associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Root, and BET.com, and his work has been featured in the New York Times and New York and on NPR, NBC News, and MTV. He regularly appears on CNN's Don Lemon Tonight, CNN International's Amanpour, and MSNBC.

Praise For…


"Will Jawando's account of mentorship, service, and healing lays waste to the racist stereotype of the absent Black father. By arguing that Black fathers are not just found in individual families, but are indeed the treasure of entire Black communities, Will makes the case for a bold idea: that Black men can counter racist ideas and policies by virtue of their presence in the lives of Black boys and young men. This is a story we need to hear." Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times–bestselling author of How to be an Antiracist

"Will Jawando’s book, My Seven Black Fathers, speaks urgently to the moment. In walking us through his recovery from the wounds of his own father loss, he speaks to our potential for healing as a people and to the incredible resources for becoming whole that are already contained within our communities. His book is the key to unlock that healing." Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress

"There is nowhere near enough writing about the inner lives of Black folks. Will Jawando’s story is a necessary and important contribution to our understanding of Black men’s grief, pain, and fulfillment. The story of the men who stepped in and helped raise Will not only shows us how present and capable Black men can be and already are within the Black community, but also provides us with an emotional template for Black male interventions that matter, that change the lives of Black boys and young men." Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times–bestselling author of Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like

"Research tells us that Black boys who have access to Black fathers and mentors in their communities have a much better chance of navigating the world successfully and overcoming systemic racism to achieve their full potential. Will Jawando’s story poignantly demonstrates this point but also provides critical insight into the form and structure of these relationships, and the power they have to not only transform the lives of Black boys but to rebuild whole communities." Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education



Product Details
ISBN: 9780374604875
ISBN-10: 0374604878
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2022
Pages: 240
Language: English