According to author and father Jesse Ross, the life lessons of fathers should be passed on for the next generation to learn. Ross is a native of North Minneapolis, who strives to make a difference in the lives of every person he comes in contact with. Ross is not interested in any accolades but he states, “Out of all the titles and roles I have, I enjoy and take pride in the title ‘father’ the most.”
According to Ross, the society we live in doesn’t elevate men as strong fathers. He states, “They add in the myth of African American fathers not being present or active in the lives of their children.” This alternative fact prompted Ross to pen his latest book — Fathers Matter: Leadership Lessons I learned from my father.
Fathers Matter is about the life lessons that molded Ross into the man he is now. Per Ross, this book is the first part of his plan to “elevate the conversation about the importance of fathers in communities and we can ultimately build better men.”
How can Black fathers change negative perceptions?
Fathers have a bigger influence than we care to admit. but in order to change the negative perceptions, we have to take ownership of those things and do the heart work. Yes, I said “heart work”. It is hard work, but heart work is that internal work on self that needs to take place. It looks different for everyone. It could be taking ownership of what you did or did not do in the past. It could be making your wrongs right. It could be stopping the excuses and making a decision to give everything in your power to live your life to your full potential, taking it one day at a time. It looks different for everyone. But in the end, the heart work is what will create that long lasting change we all desire to see in our families and communities. Once men take a stand to be committed to the work, then we will start to see those negative perceptions changed.
Is there a backstory for your book?
Yes there is. In 2016, my father went through radiation treatment for his colon cancer. A few weeks into treatment, I asked my father what does he want his legacy to be. And as we started talking, I realized that he just wanted some simple life lessons to be passed on from generation to generation. I didn’t have my father as consistently in my life growing up, but when my mother died when I was eleven years old, he stepped up to the plate and took care of me. We’ve had a ton of ups and downs in our relationships, but through all of that, he is one of the best men I know. The lessons that he’s taught me about life, money, friendships, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, faith, and community, are way too much to put in a book. This is my attempt to not only pass on those lessons, but to share his legacy.
How important are men/fathers when it comes to raising children?
Very important. I don’t believe that we were created to do life alone. So, if that is the case, that means there is a role that men and fathers are supposed to fill — something separate and different than what women bring. I’m tired of hearing the statistics of what happens to kids when they don’t have men in their lives. I have seen firsthand what the power of presence can do: from my own life, my kids, and all the other children around me. Children act different when I walk in the room or when they hear my voice. I don’t believe I’m an anomaly. That’s one of the important roles that men/fathers play in the lives of raising children.
Who should read Fathers Matter?
Fathers Matter is for everyone. Initially, I wrote it for fathers who may need some encouragement. But once I started, I realized the impact others were receiving from pre-reading it and I saw the bigger picture. I had mothers coming to me telling me that they were glad that I told a piece of their own father’s journey or things they want their kids to know about their father. Young people who read it mentioned that they were pleased [and] my stories [were] able to change their perspectives about their own fathers. And, of course, other men, who said that the book was timely and needed as a reminder to keep doing what they are doing.
Name three things the reader should walk away with from the book? After reading my book, I want people to be able to answer these three questions in their own way:
1. What do you want from and for your life?
2. What are you willing to start or stop to get it?
3. Who’s counting on you?
By the end of the book, you should be able to answer those questions and hopefully see how what you do every single day impacts the legacy you leave on this earth.
What advice can you offer women who are raising boys by themselves?
Keep going. My mother and my father were not married, so I understand what it’s like to be raised by a single mother. Women who are raising boys by themselves have a huge task in front of them, but they can do it. Find men that you trust that can pour into your boys. I know it may take some digging and some of your own heart work, but it’s not about you; it’s about those boys, who will eventually grow up to be men. There are some things that only men can model. So challenge us men, myself included, to step up to the plate. Whether it’s at the park, the local church around the corner, teachers in the school, the social justice organizing movement, or professionals who work in corporate America, we need to be reminded that we all need a little bit of help. Keep going. Those boys are counting on you.
What’s next for Jesse?
Continue doing the work. I’m just getting started. I’d like to travel the country and speak to people about the importance of men and fathers. I’d love to see a united front across the country with men who are actively involved in the lives of their children, and in the lives of children who do not have active fathers. I also want to create a mentoring model that focuses first on men becoming better men, then once they’ve committed to doing that heart work, they go get other young men and teach them what they are learning through mentoring. My goal is to see men be committed to doing the heart work everyday, because they understand what’s at stake and young men have at least one positive male actively involved in their lives, day to day. Anyone who is interested in being involved in that work, please reach out to me, I’m ready to work!