Kirk Franklin Speaks About Black Fatherhood During Visit to Norfolk State

Fatherhood is a topic that is not often discussed. Black fatherhood, often silenced within the community, requires an extra dose of courage to break through the barriers of discussion. Norfolk State University’s Office of Campus Life & Diversity recently broke that silence, and  took on the subject of Black fatherhood through its Courageous Conversations series. The discussion, which delved into the insights of special guest and award-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin, was at times  emotional, occasionally humorous, yet unquestionably courageous.

In raw honesty and transparency, Franklin talked about his own background as an adopted child, battling his feelings of rejection and abandonment, by his mother and later by the man he thought was his father walking out. Franklin revealed that he never met his biological father until his 50s, only to find that his father did not know about Franklin.

It was because of this that Franklin became engulfed in a certain darkness for many years, searching for his self-worth and falling into a trap of placing his value in the approval of other people.  He questioned the audience, “Do you know what a painful, frustrating, daunting experience it is to live your life always looking for the value of people?”

Eventually, through his own experiences, it took some time for him to figure it out for himself.  “One of the biggest problems you have is that when you do not have anybody to tell you who you are, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out your identity,” said Franklin.  He further expanded the notion,   “Your being has to do with your understanding of where your value comes from.”

Franklin believes that a father’s role is equal to that of a mother’s. “Not having a father in my life has been extremely traumatic,” said Franklin. “The father’s role is so necessary for the blueprint. I need to know where the bombs are hidden. I need to know where the potholes are. When you have to rewrite your whole path, you can’t plan, you can’t prepare because you’re still learning as you go.” Franklin’s narrative carries the weight of longing, the echo of unanswered questions, yet it sings with the success of self-discovery.

Despite his painful experience in his relationship with his father figure, Franklin was very clear about the overall experience of being a dad. “Fatherhood,” he said, “is the imperfect pursuit of a legacy. It’s messy. It’s fragile. But it’s the most beautiful storm that you can find yourself in.”

Using the analogy of a relay race, Franklin encouraged the audience, saying, “I don’t care how much Hell you’ve gone through. You were born at the right moment at the right time in the right place. Your Heavenly Coach made you for this moment to give you your humanity, your future. Get back in the race—all things work together.” As his message soared, the room pulsated with emotion, and the audience roared in loud refrain, affirming their commitment to reclaiming their place in the race of life.