‘Super dad,’ student leader daughter share perspectives on creating better community

| January 19, 2016

Presenting the views of concerned parents and children of the Fort Wayne Urban League After School Program. This Interview features Super Dad Rodney Clark and Student Leader Daughter Dymani.

Eric Hackley

Eric Hackley

By Eric D. Hackley

First, I would like for you to meet Brother Rodney Clark. I met Mr. Clark after I interviewed his third grade student leader and youth ambassador daughter Dymani. During our interview, Dymani shared insights concerning her personal ambitions and issues close to her heart. Her interview is contained within this article that is focused on her “Super Dad” Rodney Clark. Mr. Clark also has interesting insights to share of his own.

ERIC HACKLEY: Mr. Clark, there are a couple things I want to talk about, but I want to start with your daughter here first. You know here at the Urban League, we’re applying a different approach to teaching where we instill the idea that kids views and opinions count! And we do indeed actually want to hear them. Then we reinforce the kids personal ambitions and views on concerns important to them through an upcoming self-empowerment book that I’m finishing up as we speak.

The objective of the book is to stimulate a sense of focused purpose, where we’re talking with younger people and having them put into focus their career objectives centered on what they want to be in life. Many people have said to me that kindergarten through fifth grade kids are too young to be focusing on an ambition.

What do you think about that? Why do you feel, if you do, that it’s important that kids the age of your daughter start zeroing in on the kind of things that they want to do in life?

Rodney Clark and his daughter Dymani Clark.

Rodney Clark and his daughter Dymani Clark.

RODNEY CLARK: I believe that’s important because first off, they’re only molded to understand the things that, you know, that are put in their head early. You know, by the time they get old enough to make their own choices and things like that, then they kind of branch off towards the things that their friends want to do and the world wants them to do. But if they start early, you kind of pump different things in their mind to allow it to mature better. And, I believe that’s important because it’s kind of the same situation with me.

I started a business class when I was in the fifth grade. All I’ve ever done since as an adult was business type of things. I started my own business as far as books and music. Also I wholesale different products. I’ve done real estate. A lot of different business ventures that I never would have done if I didn’t start out young in the 5th grade at 11 years old or maybe, 10 years old.

HACKLEY: Well, with you starting out that young, was it your mom or dad in business? What motivated you to even think about an idea like entrepreneurship?

CLARK: I never thought about it as a child. It was the teachers at the school that I was going to. They felt like I was advanced enough in my mind to take these classes. And I mean, the classes were straight business classes. The homework was on contracts. You get play money and you open your own business in the back of the classroom. You know, it was just a complete business class. And there was no motivation on my end. It was just simply adults that felt the need for me to be challenged a little more.

HACKLEY: So, that’s pretty much the same concept that we’re trying to get across to the younger people here. We even we had a mock election at the Urban League where  kids actually voted for the 1st Mayor of the Fort Wayne Urban League. This is one way we are trying to instill political awareness within them and the importance of voting. I mean otherwise, how else can we go about getting adults to vote? Because people in this geographic area just didn’t vote this year.

CLARK: I think just spreading the importance of it and getting people to understand the politics and how important they are and the fact that a lot of the changes that are made, most adults won’t recognize it until it’s too late, because they never took that chance to vote and to allow their voices to be heard. So they pretty much just take whatever happens to them.

HACKLEY: From our research, it seems like in the 1960s, we were more conscious about voting and participating in the process. And after the ’60s, that kind of motivation has died down to where it’s almost at a halt right now. What do you attribute that decline to?

CLARK: I think people just got comfortable. You got a newer generation that never felt civil rights movements and they never felt the things that our ancestors had to go through. They’re more comfortable with what we have now. All the technology, it’s a lot of things that are blinding, that are allowing the new generation to be blinded to what’s going on around them. And so I think that’s why people don’t take a part in it so much anymore.

HACKLEY: Something else I’ve noticed about Fort Wayne black people is, we migrated from the South to the North. Many have or had experienced horrendous challenges when they had to face racism forthrightly. They psychologically can’t forget that stuff. But because they so desperately want to get beyond southern racism, they chose to forgive and not discuss it, and keep the stories away from their children because of better times today. But by them not exposing their  kids to it, they did their kids a disservice, because their kids are facing the very exact challenges today and don’t realize it.

CLARK: Right, I agree with that totally. And I just, I feel like people are just way too comfortable with the freedom, pretty much. What they feel like is, freedom is really not a freedom that they really believe. It’s just a way to mask it, to mask what’s going on around us now.

HACKLEY: So in the books that you have authored, what has been the theme behind your thoughts?

CLARK: My first book is called “Young and Having Faith in the ’Hood.” The theme around this book is to empower youth to change their way of thinking. So, what I did was I took roughly 90 different topics dealing with drugs, alcohol, incarceration, politics, gangs, just everything you can think of that comes with that ’hood mentality and I give you a general idea of a better way of thinking when it comes to dealing with these certain subjects. And they’re all straight to the point. There’s no rambling or anything like that. It’s just straight to the point on each subject. It’s more like self-help, self-empowerment. It just gives the youth a better way of thinking, pretty much.

HACKLEY: It seems like, from what I understand about what you’ve written, there’s a thinking mis-perception that you try to get across to people about how to separate the fact from the fiction.

CLARK: Exactly. And a lot of times it’s a bandwagon, and that’s something I always talk about in my books—about not following the bandwagon. You don’t have to do everything that other people do, not even family, you know? You don’t have to follow in all their footsteps. You create your own plan. You use your own mind.

We all know right from wrong. It’s just we can’t, it’s hard to separate right from wrong when you see everyone doing wrong, and it makes it look right, and it makes it feel right at times. And so that’s pretty much the concept of this book, is to allow people to understand that the situations aren’t as good as we think they are. And the way that we’re destroying ourselves in the process, we won’t recognize it for the next 20 or 30 years. We can always look at our older generation, our uncles, our grandparents, and we can see how their destructions are showing now. And so to kind of prevent it from happening, I decided to write this book to reach out to the youth and young adults. It’s not just for youth, it’s for young adults as well, to understand that we have to make some better choices and make some changes in order to become better people.

HACKLEY: What do we do about getting the people to read more? Because you can write all day. There’s really a lot of books out here to be read, but people aren’t reading anymore with the texting and what have you. Their vocabularies are being self-destroyed. Are we doomed? How have you maintained a positive outlook to where you see that we can come out of this thing unscathed?

CLARK: Well, I know my main thing was I wanted to be the author that looked just like the person that I’m writing to. The person that I am, my target audience, I want to look just like them. I want them to understand that I come from that same background, and I wanted them to understand that I’ve made changes and I’ve made different choices that allow me to even be able to speak on this situation.

The one thing I’ve always thought about was when I was a child and we had speakers come to the school. They would talk about drugs and alcohol, but be wearing a suit and a tie, and they never looked like they did a drug or tried alcohol in their life. And so once they leave and I go home, I forgot about that speaker. They didn’t appeal to me because they didn’t look like what I’m used to. And so I always felt like it should come from people who had that similar understanding, that similar background. And I think that that will allow the change to occur a little better.

Next: In part two, Mr. Clark talks about ways to encourage African Americans to read and how to break out of a slave mentality. Also, Eric Hackley interviews Mr. Clark’s daughter Dymani.

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Category: Civil Rights, Community, Education, Features, People, Politics

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at hackonomicstv@gmail.com.

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