This past year brought many challenges, including a global pandemic and the fight for social equality. But through these hardships, leaders have emerged to help their community continue to move forward and rise stronger than before.
Jeremy Givens is the Executive Director and President of the Black American Dad Foundation. Givens has made it part of his mission to change the narrative around Black fathers in America and is using his foundation to help current and future fathers embrace the role while providing recognition and resources to those in need.
The Phoenix Suns recently honored Givens for his work in the Phoenix community as their third Golden Standard Award recipient of 2021. The Golden Standard Award recognizes Black philanthropists throughout the Valley who are promoting equality and excellence during Black History Month.
While receiving this award, Givens was surprised with a personalized video from Suns forward Cam Johnson recognizing him for his longtime, outstanding contributions to our city and state. Johnson wanted to thank Stewart by gifting him with his autographed, game-worn jersey from the NBA Bubble that reads “EQUALITY” across the top.
WHAT IS THE BLACK AMERICAN DAD FOUNDATION?
Givens: “The Black American Dad Foundation is a foundation that advocates for African-American fathers. We provide them with resources to better the lives of themselves, very likely their kids, with an overall goal of changing the narrative of what the Black American dad is in this country.”
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE AROUND BLACK FATHERS?
“Historically, when you look at the perception of the Black male and the perception of the Black community, it's been something that's been associated with negative attributes, specifically related to the Black father. That's something that is continued from the beginning of time since 1619, since slaves were brought here. For me, I've always loved my dad. My dad is a great man. He was the first African-American Vice President of the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. So, I always saw somebody that was a go-getter. I always saw somebody that was a champion. But, when I started stepping into college and listening to music and getting sense of what the social fabric was in regards to African-American fathers, it was something that was counter to what I saw. I didn't want it to take away from anyone that had experienced anything that was associated with somebody being absent or their dad wasn't around. But I saw that that narrative was being pushed heavily and there wasn't so much of showcasing or recognition of the fathers that have been there, the fathers that have done things to better the lives of themselves and their kids. So, I wanted to make sure that the Black American Dad Foundation is focused on that narrative more so than focusing on the counter aspect of that.”
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO HELP OTHER BLACK FATHERS THROUGH THIS FOUNDATION?
“One of the ways is that we have different programs. For example, our B.A.D. Gift Program, where we provide resources — anything from diapers, onesies, school supplies for your kids — things like that that you might need tangibly to be able to help you out on a day-to-day, yearly basis. Things that you might need for your kids that you might not necessarily be able to afford. All the way up to promoting Black fathers that own businesses. We want them to be the beacons of hope. Those fathers that are entrepreneurs, not only in the community, but around the nation that are pursuing their dreams, pursuing what they want to do, focusing on bettering themselves every single day so that their kids have a better future. We have a program where we promote those businesses for them free of charge. We want to be able to champion for those people because we believe that the next generation of fathers, if they see more of them, there's a better chance that they'll follow suit with that and counter the narrative.”
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING THAT YOUR SON CAN EVENTUALLY LEARN FROM YOU IN REGARDS TO THIS CAUSE?
“Same thing that I think I learned from my dad. My son is six now. I started this foundation before he was even thought of. I wanted to showcase a narrative of good fathers. Now, learning along the way of being a dad myself, I think that the biggest thing that I want my son to take away from it is that he can do anything he wants to do, but it's up to him to do it. He can change whatever he wants to change, but it's up to him to do it. He can believe whatever he wants to believe, but he's got to have that true conviction. I don't need him to necessarily be an activist or a business executive or anything like that. I want him to be able to see that his dad had a vision, his dad had a dream and he executed that and did everything that he needed to do to make those things happen. So, what is his dream and go ahead and execute those things to make it happen.”
YOUR DAD HELPED MOLD THIS IDEA FOR YOU, BUT WHAT IMPACT DID YOUR SON BEING BORN HAVE ON YOUR OVERALL PERSPECTIVE?
“It brought it full circle. At first, I was looking at it purely from the perspective of a son — a child that admires their father. Then once I found out that I was going to be a dad, that nine months, those three trimesters, it was a big time in my life because I felt that I needed to really challenge myself emotionally, physically, spiritually. I got a better glimpse of what fatherhood, leadership and legacy really looks like, feels like, tastes like from a planning perspective. My son just basically brought an additional sense of pride to the role of father that I had never felt before, because I was only looking at it as an admirer of it. But now as a member of that fraternity, it brings a tremendous sense of pride. I definitely want to uphold the same things that my dad did for me.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RECEIVING THIS AWARD FROM THE PHOENIX SUNS DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH?
“It's great. Looking at the NBA over just the last 18 months, you could see a tremendous corporation that really cares about the community and allows for their players to have that voice to be able to express themselves. For the Phoenix Suns to double-down on that and reach out and look into their individual community in Phoenix to try to find people that are champion for causes that relate to the Black experience in this country, it just goes to show that there is a better tomorrow. It's not necessarily going to be the perfect tomorrow, but there always is going to be a better tomorrow. For me, it's a tremendous honor that an organization like the Phoenix Suns that has a whole bunch of Black bodies that work for them, that have had a whole bunch of black fathers that have gone through their tenure. I think that it's amazing. I was speechless when I found out about it. I really couldn't thank them more for what they've done for me because they didn't really have to do this. That speaks to the type of character and it speaks to the type of leadership that follows into that organization. I am thrilled to be a part of the history of this with the Phoenix Suns.”
HOW SPECIAL WAS IT TO RECEIVE THE MESSAGE FROM CAM JOHNSON AS WELL AS HIS GAME-WORN “EQUALITY” JERSEY?
“I couldn't believe it. I was honestly shocked that they were surprising me with a gift. I didn't think anything like that was going to be happening. I just thought you guys wanted to highlight stories, but to go the step further, it really speaks to it. I appreciate Cam Johnson. The idea of players being able to speak their voice and to let their voice be heard. To give something away that was really special, especially for the Phoenix Suns, who went undefeated in the Bubble. For him to be able to have something like “EQUALITY” on there, I think that definitely embodies, not only what I believe and what the foundation believes, but I think it speaks to what Cam Johnson really sees, something that I can align myself with. I could go on forever about how grateful I am and how excited I was to see that gift. I truly hope that he has a great career and a great season, as well as Phoenix Suns. I'm going to cherish this for the rest of my life. “