Encore: A Black Father Answers Tough Questions From His Son

Jun 5, 2020
Originally published on June 5, 2020 7:56 am

This episode of StoryCorps originally aired in 2015.

At StoryCorps, Aiden Sykes, then 9, asked his father, Albert, some of the heavy questions on his mind, including why they attend civil rights demonstrations together. Albert said he worries about bringing up his black son in a society where the odds are stacked against him simply because of his race.

"My dream is for you to live out your dreams," Albert said.

Albert Sykes fielded questions from his son, Aiden, at StoryCorps in Jackson, Miss.
StoryCorps

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Von Diaz.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. And today, we rebroadcast a story about a father's dreams for his son. A few years ago, Albert Sykes sat down with his 9-year-old son, Aiden, at StoryCorps in Jackson, Miss.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

AIDEN SYKES: Do you remember what was going through your head when you first saw me?

ALBERT SYKES: I remember when the doctor pulled you out. The first thing I thought was that he was being too rough with you. And he actually held you like a little Sprite bottle. And he was like, here's your baby. That was the most proud moment of my life. Don't tell your brothers because there's three of y'all. But it was like looking at a blank canvas and just imagining what you want the painting to look like at the end but also knowing you can't control the paint strokes. You know, the fear was just I got to bring up a black boy in Mississippi, which is a tough place to bring up kids period. But there are statistics that say black boys born after the year 2002 have a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison. And all three of my sons were born after the year 2002.

AIDEN: So, Dad, why do you take me to protests so much?

SYKES: (Laughter) I think I take you for a bunch of reasons. One is that I want you to see what it looks like when people come together but also that you understand that it's not just about people that are familiar to you, but it's about everybody. Did you know the work that Martin Luther King was doing was for everybody and it wasn't just for black people?

AIDEN: Yes. I understand that.

SYKES: Yeah. So that's how you got to think. If you decide that you want to be a cab driver, then you got to be the most impactful cab driver that you can possibly be.

AIDEN: Are you proud of me?

SYKES: Of course. You're my man. I just love everything about you, period.

AIDEN: The thing I love about you, you never gave up on me. That's one of the things I will always remember about my dad.

SYKES: Wow. You said it like I'm on the way out of here or like I'm already gone.

AIDEN: So, Dad, what are your dreams for me?

SYKES: My dream is for you to live out your dreams. There's an old proverb that talks about when children are born, children come out with their fists closed because that's where they keep all their gifts. And as you grow, your hands learn to unfold because you're learning to release your gifts to the world. And so for the rest of your life, I want to see you live with your hands unfolding.

INSKEEP: Albert Sykes and his son, Aiden. Their recording is archived with hundreds of thousands of others, which always get me, at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOSHUA ABRAMS' "STORYCORPS OUTRO - INSPIRATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.