Frank McCullough Jr. attended Cheyney State University of Pennsylvania, the oldest Historically Black College and University in the nation, and currently serves as general manager of Mezlan, a luxury men’s boutique at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta. He is also a community-focused individual who believes in education. As an adviser to the DUKES Foundation — an acronym for Developing Urban Kids with Etiquette and Self-Esteem — Frank continues to push the organization’s mission to utilize mentoring to elevate social conditions and reduce violence committed by teens in urban communities. Overall, Frank’s motto is “never go back from where you started.”
What legacy are you leaving for your children and the children of your community?
If I had to advise my younger self, I would say, “Always strive to be a good role model, live by an example, let truth by your armor, and strive to be your best self. Keep God first because He is the centerpiece when mom and dad have their flawed moments. God will keep you grounded and keep you focused. Be of service to your community, and always show gratitude and humility, which are major ingredients and the hallmark of a good person. Most importantly, keep your intentions pure.”
From a father’s perspective, what two books would you recommend every child read?
At the age of 13, I had my late son, Aquil Ibn McCullough, to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley and write a book report. As a parent, I wanted my son to understand redemption. I have always felt the importance of instilling in my family, especially my son, that you can rise from a difficult place and find your own greatness.
And [the other book is] The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom. It spoke about loss and hope. It is a fact: We all are going to experience some form of loss. Unfortunately, on December 28, 2014, I lost my son Aquil. However, hope brought me out of darkness, which has kept me focused and grounded on building a positive relationship with God. We must always hope for a better tomorrow.
As a father and a life coach, describe your playbook.
Know the motive of the person in front of you and trust your instincts. Establish intentions early on and listen to yourself. Also, have an active and creative imagination. Children must have an imagination. And, as parents, we should not force, but rather offer guidance with signs so they will not veer too far off their path.
Name one life lesson that no one taught you, but should have.
Trust. I needed to learn that word earlier on in life. Trust was not a natural thing for me growing up, and now, as an adult, I feel it is important for a child to be raised in a loving environment in order for trust to be established. Providing a loving environment for a child will gain their trust. I have always felt, as parents, my wife, Priscilla T. McCullough, and I had to show love toward our daughter, Saniyyah Jamilah, and our son, Aquil Ibn. We feel it is the building block and foundation of our home. Ultimately, to gain and garner trust, you must love your children first, which adds value.
When it comes to protecting yourself at all times, physically and mentally, what would you tell your children?
As stated previously, know a person’s motivations and intentions. I taught my children early on in life the importance of motivation. It is critical for children to learn and study a person. I cannot stress it enough: Follow your instincts. If you know their motivation, then you learn their intentions. Children must develop and gain knowledge of a person’s motives, and they should always listen to their instinctive clock. If you stop listening to your instincts, eventually, they will stop talking to you, and then you will not be warned by anything. I have always taught my children to study a person’s motives before interacting with them.
Share one of your fondest memories you’ve experienced with your father, grandfather or father figure.
When my father, Frank McCullough Sr., came down to Atlanta to visit my family, we went to Underground Atlanta. While my wife, son and daughter were shopping, my father and I sat on a rocking chair. For the first time in 38 years, I felt at peace with just being a son. At that moment, I felt really good because it was the first time we did anything together in public, and all was forgiven.
Another memory I have is with my late brother-in-law, Stephen Taylor. Every moment I ever had with my brother made me feel safe and protected, and that is what I want for my children — protection. I want them to always know I have their back, regardless if I am around or not. I want people to know, as a father, my children are to feel safe, secure and protected at all times. People need to know I will always be there for my family.
Share your most valued and treasured fatherhood goal.
Since the beginning of my journey as a father, my children need to understand who they are and their responsibility to our family, as well as our extended family. The mission of our family is to break the vicious cycle of poverty that claims so many families in our community. We need to put an end to the welfare mentality. Personally, I feel if we focus on taking care of our own families, we will alleviate the burden placed on others and will prevent the degradation of our community. Working on establishing a firm foundation within our home environment will end the cycle and will allow families to strive and do more for the community.
Finish this sentence: The most important thing I want to share is…
Being a father saved my life. Priscilla, my wife of 42 years, is my gift, and my children, Saniyyah and Aquil, are my life. Everything I have done and continue to do is for my family.