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We Fish

We Fish: The Journey to Fatherhood

Jack L. Daniel
Omari C. Daniel
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    We Fish
    Book Description:

    We Fishis the tale of a father and son's shared dialogue in poetry and in prose, memoir and reflection, as they delight in their time spent fishing while considering the universal challenge of raising good children. Their story and their lesson have the power to teach today's young African American men about friendship, family, and trust; and the potential to save a generation from the dangers of the modern world and from themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7783-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-4)

    I FELT a strange, confusing pain when, during a 1993 Kwanzaa celebration, I heard a sixteen-year-old African American male give thanks for having lived to see his sixteenth birthday.

    I read the January first front-page news stories detailing county murder victims for 1993 and 1994; most of them were African Americans.

    From 1980 to 1993, young African American males had a 63 percent increase in suicides.

    I longed for solutions rather than yet another recitation of statistics associated with young black men killing each other, themselves, and others, day after day. One woman, quoted in the newspaper noted, insightfully, I...

    (pp. 5-22)

    THE FACT that my son Omari was writing at all, let alone poetry, came as a surprise. He had to be force-fed his handwriting assignments in grade school. His poor penmanship, in my mind, was a reflection of the carelessness that he exhibited with his academic work. As time went on, I found myself having to constantly remind him of the importance of doing well academically and that his school work must come before recreation.

    I had always emphasized to my children the importance of learning well at least three “alphabets.” I told Omari and my daughter, Marijata, that if...

  3. 3 THE FEVER
    (pp. 23-40)

    OMARI CAME home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday, and seeking time alone to talk with him, I asked him to go with me to pick up the turkey. What I really wanted was a chance to ask about the Father’s Day letter he had sent to me. As we headed to the car, he jokingly offered, “Let me drive, you’re getting older now and need me to get you around.” Without hesitating or saying a word, I handed him my car key. As soon as we left the driveway, I casually said, “I really enjoyed that Father’s Day letter....

    (pp. 41-60)

    MAMA AND Daddy didn’t have a car, and so relatives always came down home to bring us back to Johnstown. Who came for us depended on whose church was holding revival the third or fourth Sunday in August, and which of my uncles with cars could get off from work. Because of small congregations, the African American churches took turns holding revivals in August. A revival was supposed to focus on God, but for most people it was really a big family reunion and general social event. Uncle Tom always said that, at revival time, “more corn liquor got poured...

    (pp. 61-76)

    DEACON ARMSTRONG, my younger brother Stephen’s godfather, didn’t laugh or say much to me other than, “Son, listen to what God is trying to tell you.” One day, while he was visiting my parents, my father got him talking when he said, “Come over here son, and tell Deacon Armstrong about those fish you caught with Rhinehart. Deacon Armstrong, this boy is a real fisherman.” Deacon Armstrong listened patiently to my description of how I caught the first chubbies, all the others, the sunfish, and rock bass I had caught since, and then said, “If you think it’s good fishing...

    (pp. 77-95)

    IT WAS the fall of Omari’s senior year in high school, and while the two of us were watching a football game, his physical size reminded me that he would be leaving for college in a year. Not too long thereafter he would be a Daniel man. During a commercial, my mind turned to how my older brothers and I grew up believing that Daniel men were the exemplars of men in stable African American families. Unlike many other African American and white men we knew while we were growing up in the projects, Daddy and his brother Youngie always...

    (pp. 96-107)

    IT WAS really satisfying to see how independent Omari had become as a young man, how in some ways he was taking the lead as opposed to following me. One day, while wading in the middle of the river, I stopped to fish one of my favorite bass holes. Omari knew how much I liked the spot; it was one of those places on the river where I stood silently, enjoying the peacefulness of the water flowing by my waist, the hundreds of minnows darting around my legs, the two or three evergreens growing out the side of a reddish...

  8. 8 LETʹS GO!
    (pp. 108-129)

    OMARI WAS in junior high school, and I hoped the coming Memorial Day weekend would be the first time this year we would have the full complement of our camp’s members: Uncle Nash, Uncle William, my brother Stephen, my friend Henry Harris, and several other men who had been part of this group for years. Full of excitement, I telephoned Uncle William to find out if he and Uncle Nash were going to meet us at the camp for the weekend. He answered after one ring, and full of zest, asked,

    “Where the hell you been boy? We’ve been waiting...

  9. 9 MR. BILL
    (pp. 130-139)

    SIX-THIRTY the next morning seemed to have come only a few minutes after I had slipped into deep sleep. From below my half-drawn, faded cream window shade, I caught a glimpse of a rising yellow-orange sun, indicating the coming of another warm and wonderful fishing day. The slow throb in my head increased as the sunrise penetrated my eyes, and I became aware of the fact that last night I had kept company with Mr. Gordon’s Gin longer than I had thought was the case. Closing my eyes to relax, I laid there thinking about the best possible places to...

    (pp. 140-156)

    WE HAD so many fish to clean that Uncle William decided to help us. Omari, Stephen, Renae, and I already had one five-gallon bucket brimming with fish heads and guts, including yellow sacks of eggs that began to smell shortly after being removed. Another water bucket was almost half full with scales and gray slime wiped from the table by those scaling. While filleting, I had twice cut my left thumb. The second cut caused a five-minute delay while I stopped the bleeding. After tying a strip of cloth around it, I continued filleting. Lying on the ground were several...

    (pp. 157-168)

    FOR ALMOST two decades, being in camp had meant freedom from all forms of psychological discomfort. Now, each time I came to camp, I was excited about spending time with Uncle William, but was troubled by the prospect that each trip might be his last. During the summer of 1993, I met Uncle William at the camp only once; he had, by then, a number of diagnosed and undiagnosed illnesses. His digestive disorder required major surgery and it was followed by a series of complications. During a hospital visit, Mama asked what he wanted, and Uncle William replied, “Hell, Grace,...

  12. 12 THE LEGEND
    (pp. 169-184)

    “OLD BUSTA LOOSE,” as he called himself, satisfied the rebel side of me. I loved the way he would knock on your front door, and before you could answer, would yell, “You’d better hurry up and open this damn door before I knock it down!” He would walk into the crowded Coke Plant Club, raise his voice above the loud music, and yell, “I feel like busting loose tonight!” Men and women turned momentarily from their shot glasses, beers, and conversations. Some woman would invariably yell, “Look who’s here!” With that, everyone focused on Old Busta Loose as he stood...

  13. 13 WE FISH
    (pp. 185-198)

    WHEN MY father retired, although it was his life and not mine, I tried to figure out what he would do with the rest of it. After two discussions, I gave up because he would only say, “We’ll see, we’ll see.” Years later, at the time of Daddy’s death, my son’s poem caused me to wonder what implications my interactions with my father and my son might have for young African American males on the road to manhood.

    As Omari’s poetry continued to unfold, I realized that I didn’t know a lot of things I desperately wanted to know. I...

  14. 14 AFTERWORD
    (pp. 199-206)

    WRITING THIS book with my son proved to be an overwhelming experience. At first, it was really uncanny trying to respond to Omari’s many requests for me to edit my writing, especially when he challenged me to be “honest” with the “Jack character,” as if I were some sort of abstraction that could be put on a shelf or studied in a laboratory. And I didn’t initially understand what he meant; given how intense and personal the subject matter, how could I be anything but honest? Although it often seemed like he was badgering me, I pressed on, continuing to...