By Phil Haddix, Sr.

The 2021 Syracuse Citywide Book Club includes selections that reflect quality of life themes of diversity and infrastructure for healthy urban cities. The City welcomes group involvement in this year’s book club by engaging with community partners who help make civic dialogue and program delivery possible. To learn about how to read along or become a partner, contact Emma Spector at Follow along on the Syracuse Citywide Book Club page at We welcome commentary from residents, such as below, and can share posts here in our blog.

When I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, I had an immediate curiosity to know Ta-Nehisi’s age, and when he became a “Black” father.  The honesty in his writing to his son was a type of honesty I only became personally accustomed to after the birth of my son in 2001, when at the age of 27 I became a “Black” father.  This does not mean I was not honest prior to the birth of my son, it just means based on Ta-Nehisi’s approach I was not surprised that Ta-Nehisi is only a year younger than me.  I do not know that Ta-Nehisi could have written such an honest piece of work, if not for the fact that he was writing to his own child. 

Our parents did their absolute best in teaching us to be kind, peaceful, mindful, compassionate, thoughtful, thankful, merciful, hard workers, expert listeners, non-complainers, friendly, fun, forgiving, generous, emotionally and physically available, and most of all, to always share. They raised us to be the best examples of humanity, and they provided their own mouths and bodies as the living models of this behavior.  However, they struggled, like all Black generations, to honestly talk about why “white” children and “white” families did not behave the same. 

Like Coates, the birth of my son liberated my Black voice and Black body and brought forth an honesty not granted prior to his arrival.  I never expected the birth of a human, so tiny he fit into the palms of my hands, would be the event that freed me.  As much as Black generations have given hope to the idea that great behavior, quality education, and professional opportunity would bring their Black child closer to freedom, it has been the evolution of raising Black children that has kept us reaching for an honesty that best supports their “living within the all” of their Black bodies. 

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