Will Jawando in conversation with Jelani Cobb: My Seven Black Fathers
NOTE: THIS IS A VIRTUAL EVENT. Click here for free tickets!
Will Jawando joins us to present his new book My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist's Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole, in conversation with New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb. This virtual event will take place on Zoom.
This program is co-hosted in partnership with Source Booksellers in Detroit, MI, Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL, and Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY.
The event is free to attend, but you can opt to purchase a signed copy here. Bookplates signed by Will Jawando will be included with copies of My Seven Black Fathers on a first-come, first-served basis — mention you'd like a signed copy in your order comments!
Will Jawando tells a deeply affirmative story of hope and respect for men of color at a time when Black men are routinely stigmatized. As a boy growing up outside DC, Will, who went by his Nigerian name, Yemi, was shunted from school to school, never quite fitting in. He was a Black kid with a divorced white mother, a frayed relationship with his biological father, and teachers who scolded him for being disruptive in class and on the playground. Eventually, he became close to Kalfani, a kid he looked up to on the basketball court. Years after he got the call telling him that Kalfani was dead, another sickening casualty of gun violence, Will looks back on the relationships with an extraordinary series of mentors that enabled him to thrive.
Among them were Mr. Williams, the rare Black male grade school teacher, who found a way to bolster Will’s self-esteem when he discovered he was being bullied; Jay Fletcher, the openly gay colleague of his mother who got him off junk food and took him to his first play; Mr. Holmes, the high school coach and chorus director who saw him through a crushing disappointment; Deen Sanwoola, the businessman who helped him bridge the gap between his American upbringing and his Nigerian heritage, eventually leading to a dramatic reconciliation with his biological father; and President Barack Obama, who made Will his associate director of public engagement at the White House—and who invited him to play basketball on more than one occasion. Without the influence of these men, Will knows he would not be who he is today: a civil rights and education policy attorney, a civic leader, a husband, and a father.
Drawing on Will’s inspiring personal story and involvement in My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s national initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color, My Seven Black Fathers offers a transformative way for Black men to shape the next generation.
Will Jawando is an attorney, an activist, a community leader, and a councilmember in Montgomery County, Maryland, a diverse community of more than one million residents. Called “the progressive leader we need” by the late congressman John Lewis, Jawando has worked with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Sherrod Brown, and President Barack Obama. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post and The Root and on BET.com, and his work has been featured in The New York Times and New York magazine and on NPR, NBC News, and MTV. He regularly appears on CNN, MSNBC and other media outlets. (Photo credit: Gioncarlo Valentine)
Jelani Cobb is a historian, and a professor of journalism at Columbia University. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 2015, he is a recipient of the Sidney Hillman Award for Opinion and Analysis, as well as fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Fulbright Foundation. He lives in New York City.
"Will Jawando's account of mentorship, service, and healing lays waste to the racist stereotype of the absent Black father.