As a national speaker, advocate and emcee, Rev. Julian “J.Kwest” DeShazier has appeared on ABC, FOX, NPR and Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Oprah & Friends” radio program. J.Kwest is also an Emmy Award-winning musician, featured in the video “Strange Fruit,” a commemoration of the Billie Holiday song and a meditation on racial violence. The Chicago native and graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Chicago is also pastor of University Church – a Sanctuary congregation for immigrants that also worked with Chicago’s Southside community to push for a Level 1 Trauma Center, for which Julian was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of “40 Under 40” leaders in Chicago.
Rolling out caught with DeShazier and talked about Father’s day and what it means to him.
What legacy are you leaving for your children and the children of your community?
I hope my children will see a man who tried to reach the highest, most authentic version of myself without worrying about whether it’d be popular or easy or lucrative: to never fear the journey even if it puts you alone. And I hope they see I tried to be a good man – literally, in a world of misogyny that feeds on the domination of women. I hope they’ll see someone who fought against that, even in my own self.
How would you describe your Fatherhood culture?
I want to be honest and vulnerable with my two little girls so they will feel comfortable doing the same with me. I want them to know a “Father” is someone in their corner always.
From a father’s perspective, what two books would you recommend every child read?
What Do You Do With An Idea? is a book for every child or adult, about how you bring something into the world, and The Ones That Walk Away from Omelas is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin that is easy to read and makes for years of rich discussion.
Why is it important to expose children to education and valuable skills?
This world is run by data and education is a way of exploring those data points. More than making us “marketable” it makes us better humans, more well-rounded individuals. The more we know, the more opportunities we create for ourselves in this world that gives us nothing.
As a father and a life coach, describe your playbook?
“A parent’s life is a child’s textbook,” is a dope quote I hold onto, and quite simply I try and live a life that is worth imitating. If I live the truth for my kids, they’ll come and ask me to talk about it. If I see them moving down a destructive path, I’m all about asking questions so they feel supported and not judged.
Which fatherhood experiences have taught you the most about yourself?
I have two girls, and I’ve learned from them and my beautiful wife what it means to be a woman in this world, how dangerous that is, and what I can use of myself to support them and all women better.
What insightful advice would you suggest about building a network?
A tree with one branch isn’t much of a tree…think of each relationship as a branch in your life, and who knows where it will lead? Every successful person in this world – every single one – has needed a strong network of people willing to help them. Be good to people and you’ll go far.
Why should you read every day?
Because every day there is something new to learn. Read every day, watch a video every day, travel as much as possible, even if you have to use the internet to do it.
Name one life lesson that no one taught you, but should have?
There is a huge world out there, and it’s a beautiful place with other people like you that love and struggle and make mistakes and grow. You have people out there; spend your life meeting them.
How important is keeping your word?
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Once that’s gone, I personally have no interest in laughing with you or hanging out or anything. So I try to live with integrity and be honest and open even when I know I can’t be perfect.
When it comes to protecting yourself at all times, physically and mentally, what would you tell your children?
If you give your peace to another person or anything, you belong to them. And they will abuse you; that’s what humans do. In a world where much is not ours, your peace, joy, self-awareness, and faith belong to you and these will be your flashlight in the darkest times. Live your life with people: do not give your life to them.
What advice would you give on being responsible for your own dreams?
Much will happen to us in our lifetime – some of it our fault and most of it a matter of circumstance – yet we remain responsible for our lives. Whatever has happened is ours now to build upon. The victim mentality is a destructive lie that will keep us from our highest self.
Finish the sentence: Never give up on yourself because …
because you’re dope…way doper than you think you are, and the world needs what your fullest potential looks like.
How does following your spiritual values help you in life?
I think spiritual values are human values…be good to others, love yourself, be humble, remember that you are better in the community and not alone…all the religions teach this because it’s true, and having God helps me make meaning and move forward in everything.
Share one of your fondest memories you’ve experienced with your father, grandfather or father figure.
I remember at 19 asking my father, “What happened?” that our relationship was getting started so late. I remember it like it was yesterday, us sitting in his car and me just blurting out, “Sooo, what happened?” We probably didn’t move for an hour. Time stood still, and we talked about mistakes and wisdom and hurt feelings and…it was overwhelming and broke years of generational nonsense. It served as a “soft reset” for us and remains a beautiful beginning to what we have now.
Why is writing down your fatherhood goals for life so important? Share your most valued and treasured fatherhood goal.
Writing a thing down requires more commitment than thinking about it. It feels like an insignificant step, but taking the time to clarify a thought in your head – an intention, a way you want to live in this world – really does so much more than thinking about it. It makes it public, even if you are the only one to see it, and that matters. My most treasured fatherhood goal? To show them excellence, not perfection, and to give everything of myself and my resources to help them reach their highest self.