On Fatherhood

Cara Staff

“‘Father’ is the noblest title a man can be given. It is more than a biological role. It signifies a patriarch, a leader, an exemplar, a confidant, a teacher, a hero, a friend.” – Robert L. Backman

At Cara, we are constantly motivated by the fathers in our community and the strength and power they show in their important role. In honor of Father’s Day, we asked just a few Cara fathers and sons to reflect on fatherhood, family, and lessons they have learned along the way.

Included in this conversation are:
Da’Sean Hillsman – Cara’s Senior Individual Development Specialist, Cara Alum, and father of seven (ranging from ages seven to 23) and a new grandfather
Eddie Harvey – Employed Cara Participant and father to ten children (ranging from 19 to 55) and a grandfather and great-grandfather to more than 30 kids
Joe Mutuc – Cara’s Chief Business Development Officer and father to two sons (ages four and six)
Marquis Washington – Cara Alum and stepfather to his stepson (age five)
Matt Owens – Cara Associate Board Member, son of Cara Board Member Tom Owens Jr., and grandson of Cara Founder Tom Owens
Tyrell Langstrom – Cara Alum and father to two sons (ages 14 and 15)

On what the concept of fatherhood means to them…

Da’Sean: It’s an opportunity to give myself to my children. I see myself in all of my children.
Joe: Fatherhood is absolutely a privilege.
Marquis: Fatherhood’s my destiny.
Matt: Fatherhood is like a guiding principle. Having these big patriarchs in my family, means I strive to be like them. They are the glue to the family and they really set the path for us.
Tyrell: As a father of two teenage boys, I’ve learned that fatherhood means patience.

Marquis with his girlfriend and stepson

On their earliest memories of being a father…

Da’Sean: I was a 17-year-old kid the first time I learned that I was going to be a father. I had a lot of anxiety and wondered what I am going to do now. I needed to get a job, but I also needed to finish high school. There were so many things going through my head as a young father.
Eddie: My oldest was born in 1965 and I was just 16 years old, still living in Mississippi. I had three children before I graduated from high school. I had to make sacrifices, especially as a young father. I played football and had scholarships that I had to put on the backburner because I had to work to take care of my kids.
Joe: In a lot of ways being a dad was something I always dreamed of and wanted to be, so that first day, more than anything, was awe and inspiration. My heart was full of love.
Marquis: I met my girlfriend in 2017 at a birthday party. After dating for a little bit she introduced me to her son. I saw myself in him. I saw another black man growing up without a father and I didn’t want that to happen again.

Tyrell with his two sons

On the biggest joy of fatherhood…

Da’Sean: I watch them crawl, walk, teach them how to ride a bike, go to school plays, help them get their driver’s license and feel afraid when they ask for my vehicle. I’m a dad, a father, and I get to watch their story.
Eddie: I get to be in my great-grandkids’ lives and that’s what keeps me going honestly. My great-granddaughter is 4 years old and she’s smart as a whip.
Joe: The absolute limitless potential that my boys could have for changing the world. I can help guide their goodness and make sure the skills and personality and talents they have our highlighted and their voices are elevated.
Marquis: I just love seeing him growing up. When I first met him, he was running around with Pampers and a pacifier, now I see him doing big boy stuff and it’s inspiring.
Tyrell: When I see my kids putting forth the effort and succeeding – and then are recognized for the good they are doing. My youngest boy was struggling with virtual learning and his classes, but every day, he didn’t miss roll call, he put the work in. Seeing that brings me joy.

Matt with his grandfather and father

On their father and what they learned from him…

Da’Sean: My own dad left home when I was five years old. Even though my dad left, my mom allowed my siblings and I to have our own relationship with him. And because she did that, I still was able to love him regardless of him not being there. I made sure that I kept in touch with my dad until the day he passed away. That’s where a lot of my drive comes from. My kids and I don’t all live in the same home, but I make sure I’m involved in every part of their lives.
Eddie: My dad was the oldest of his family and it was on him to provide at a young age. He didn’t get to finish school but he worked two jobs to provide for us. He taught me how to be honest and work hard – and I instilled those lessons in my children.
Joe: I find my dad so admirable and awe-inspiring. His patience and kindness was always clear that he put others first. I continue to learn a lot from him and want to be like him as much as possible.
Marquis: My older sister and I didn’t have a father. My mom wasn’t ready to be a parent of three kids but she did it to the best of her abilities – and she made me a better man than any man could teach me how to be.
Matt: Selflessness – my dad and my grandfather did everything for others and the family around them. I can honestly say they never once did anything for their own benefit. Especially my grandpa, he instilled the importance of every person. Every person deserves respect. Every person deserves an opportunity to succeed in anything they do. That’s something Cara stands on and what was taught by my dad and grandpa at a very early age.
Tyrell: I see a lot of my dad in me, but the most important thing I learned from him was it’s okay to not always have the right answer, and that you should be able to apologize to your kids.

Da’Sean and his children

On what Cara taught them…

Da’Sean: Cara taught me that you don’t always have to have the right answer. As a father, you think you have to always be this superman. But I learned that the longer you talk to an individual, the answer usually comes out. I can sit and have a conversation with a listening ear. I am a father first and a friend second to my children.
Joe: I think about Cara applying to parenting, it’s really about the power of community and the power of just building genuine relationships. I don’t want my boys to love me just because I’m their dad. I want to earn that, just like I want to earn the trust of participants and be an equal player in that world.
Marquis: Cara taught me to not relax, which is great because parenting can take you out of your comfort zone. You’re going to have some rough days, but it’s ultimately up to us to make it a GREAT day!
Matt: To know the deepest truth of who I am. I think being okay with who you are and understanding and growing as a person is so important. I’ve always looked at that and heard it. It’s tough for some people to say this is who I am and continue to grow.
Tyrell: Because I found Cara, I get up in the morning. I’m doing something worthwhile. I’m putting forth the effort. I’m focused and I’m a doer. And I get to set that example for my sons.

Joe with his two sons

On what motivates them as a parent…

Da’Sean: I know what it feels like to struggle, to be in prison, to be targeted, to have to fight, and not to always be on the good side of things. I’d never want my kids to go to prison, but I want them to learn from any hardships they may face and use the experience to be the best they can be. If they fail, I want them to get up and do it again.
Eddie: Seeing them grow and come into their own. I’m very proud of all my children and I believe they have kept me out of trouble.
Joe: If god forbid something happens to me, I would never want even a second to go by where the boys wondered if I ever loved them with all my heart, if they and their mommy were the number one thing in my life. That would crush me. So no matter what the day has been about, I want them to know how important they are to me, how important they are in general, and how much I love them. I have to.
Marquis: My family taught me how to be my best self.
Tyrell: Kids see you and the effort you are putting in for them. I never want my kids to see me doing anything less for them.

On their hope for the future…

Da’Sean: My hope is that my kids will achieve whatever goal they set and be successful in whatever that looks like to them. Going back to when I was 17 years old with a son, my fears were that, as a black kid with no work experience, that I was never going to find a job. I don’t want my kids to have that mentality to not even try. I hope they always have the fire to go and do it, and if you fail to get up, wipe yourself off, and do it again.
Eddie: I hope my children and grandchildren continue to excel in life, get an education, and do whatever their hearts desire. That they stay grounded and become people who are role models, people they can look up to, and people who are fair. It’s been a wonderful journey and I just wish the best for their future.
Joe: I am excited about my sons being positive change agents in the world and making a difference in people’s lives.
Marquis: I want my kids to grow up compassionate to the needs of others and to have the drive to help.
Matt: Everybody who goes through Cara is part of my grandpa’s legacy. My hope is to help keep this organization my grandpa and dad are so passionate about moving and continue to help give someone an opportunity or a push to get to that next stage, that next job, and be able to succeed.
Tyrell: I want success for my children and for them to be better than I was in all phases of my life.

Your support of Cara helps fathers, sons, and so many other motivated job seekers create their own success story. Please consider a making a financial contribution today at www.carachicago.org/donate. Thank you.