We first heard about Rasheed Wallace as a high school phenom out of Philly. After moving on to team with Jerry Stackhouse on a very talented Dean Smith coached North Carolina squad, Rasheed helped that 1995 team reach the Final Four. He moved on to the NBA and enjoyed a storied 15 year career, highlighted by an NBA Championship with the 2004 Detroit Pistons and four All-Star game appearances. Now, Rasheed has ventured into a brand new field: children's books! I had an opportunity to interview him about his first children's book, Honeydew and Marylu. We also found time to talk about fatherhood, while discovering some meaningful common bonds.
Honeydew and Marylu is the first in a series of wonderful children's books written by Rasheed and illustrated by his friend and business partner, Saddler Ward. Rasheed told me that it is a tribute and a way to immortalize his daughter (Honeydew) and his niece (Marylu). The book focuses on the two girls as they conquer tying a shoe. I asked him how he settled on that topic. He mentioned that, " Everyone no matter what you are or where you are from had difficulty tying a shoe. It's a universal theme. Something we can all relate to no matter of race, color, or creed." One of the aspects of the book that resonated especially with my daughter is that the characters are Black. "These are girls who look like me," she said. Rasheed mentioned that it was important to him to create Black characters, since there are still too few in children's books and cartoons. Clearly, Rasheed feels these characters can fill a void that is only slightly filled by Doc McStuffins. Where are the others? "We got to play our part. We got too many homies and relatives with little kids and girls not to have a positive image for them growing up." I truly appreciate this book and its characters and what they represent to a child like my daughter. Rasheed and Saddler plan on creating not only a series of Honeydew and Marylu books, but to also create books featuring these characters for a variety of ages. That way children can grow up with the characters. You can find Honeydew and Marylu's website here. On Facebook. On Twitter.
I also asked the father of four about aspects of fatherhood he enjoys. "Just watching those little rascals grow up." Rasheed also notices his kids trying to do some of the same stuff (avoiding cleaning up, forging a parent's signature, etc.) he did as a child, which makes him laugh. "They swear they're doing this for the first time, like no one else ever thought of this." We discussed watching kids reach certain milestones and what that feels like as a father. Rasheed feels it’s important to pass on what he has learned from basketball to family values.
The interview turned from discussing being a father to our own fathers. We started to find some commonalities when the conversation shifted. And all of sudden, two men who seemed to have very little in common, one a legendary NBA star nearly 7 feet tall, the other a long time teacher not even 6 feet, connected. What started as an interview, became a cathartic exercise for me. I shared my difficulty with forgiving my father who was out of my life from ages 5 to 37. Can I ever have a meaningful relationship with him again? Rasheed urged me to be willing to forgive. He'd been there himself. He lived with just his mother, like me. He didn't get along with his dad growing up, like me. He told me about how his dad would promise to spend the day with him, but left him waiting all day and night to arrive, like me. What became most important to him was for his children to know their grandparents. Now, his children have a nice rapport with their grandfather. “They’re building memories now.” Rasheed is right though. It’s hard to keep all that anger and disappointment inside. Perhaps I will relieve myself of this unfair burden. “You’ll feel a lot better,” promised Rasheed.
I spend so much time doing work as a fatherhood advocate, and I just so rarely see and hear from men of color. I was reminded that there are others like me out there, and I came away reassured and grateful that guys like Rasheed Wallace are out there doing good for kids like my daughter.