Simmie’s broad smile was engaging and he had an amazing gift of gab. He seemingly could talk to anybody into anything, yet more importantly he always chose the most appropriate and timely things to say. Unlike a conman, Simmie’s gift of gab reflected a kindhearted man with the gift of encouragement.
Our special family get-togethers had the feel of a Tyler Perry movie. My grandmother, Evell, was an exact replica of his main character, Madea, except for her size. She even owned a gun. Evell had an irreverent - mischievous streak - the only thing that was sacred in her world was the cleanliness of her living room and requirement that all her grandkids hang out in the basement.
Father's Day always included a big feast with my extended family. All 11 of us would gather at Simmie and Evell’s house. The adults entertained deep conversations while we kids played endless games. Other folks would drop in over the course of that Sunday afternoon.
The few adult stories we overheard taught the 5 kids in the family invaluable lessons about life. My grandfather was a homespun philosopher and church trustee with an uncanny knowledge of both the Bible and human nature. His wisdom was proven by his temporal success. Despite his a second grade education, this son of West Indian farmers and merchants made a tremendous life for himself in Cincinnati, Ohio. He carved a small minority construction business out of nothing during the civil rights days of the 1950s. His business eventually grew beyond the borders of the ghetto into the broader community, yielding him great financial security.
Simmie often spoke within the walls of his house about business and the social progress of the people in our community with the air of experienced authority. He modeled personal courage, hard work, ingenuity, and faith. He proved the words of David M. Gottesman, “Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers - and fathering is a very important stage in their development.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.