Bobby Marvin Holmes, a Baltimore native, understood in his work as a youth advocate and journalist all of the statistics around family structures and fathers in the home.
More than half of U.S. children do not live in a “traditional” family, according to the Pew Research Center. Fifty four percent of children in America do not live in a home with two parents in their first marriage.
Holmes saw that many children’s books failed to reflect the variety of family structures that exist. He set out to reflect this reality and wrote a children’s book, in part based on his own experiences. His book, Casey’s Day with Daddy, illustrated by his brother, Ravon Holmes, tells the story of an African American girl who is excited to spend Saturday with her father.
Although Casey’s dad doesn’t live with her, he is an active co-parent and they share a special bond.
The Shadow League: How did you and your brother get together to collaborate on this and what was the inspiration?
Bobby Marvin Holmes: My brother and I have the same father, but different mothers. This was based on my experience in my life with my oldest daughter as a single dad, prior to getting married. My oldest daughter is 15. My youngest is with my wife and she’ll be six in October. I was 17 years old, my senior year in high school when I had my oldest daughter.
TSL: What was that experience like that?
BMH: I was completely clueless. Me and her mom were together for awhile. My biological father and my mom didn’t work out, they broke up when I was about 2 years old. He got another woman pregnant with my brother. We’re two years apart. My father gravitated towards the street life.
It was imperative to me that I had to be there for my daughter. My mother got remarried when I was about 3 or 4 years old. I call the man that raised me my father. He was driving me to work and was like, ‘So what are you going to do?’ I said, 'I’m going take care of the baby and do what I’m supposed to do.'
But to show you how clueless I was, I shrugged my shoulders like, 'Duh, I got this.' I said I would do everything the opposite of my biological father. And for all intents and purposes I did, going to college, being an author, getting married, taking care of my kids.
Casey’s Day with Daddy is really my experience. My oldest daughter’s mom and I broke up when my daughter was 5. We started co-parenting. That was rough. There were still raw emotions - arguments over visitation, who would get sole custody, full custody. I created this book out of the best times - my weekends with her. Even though we didn’t live in the same household, I wanted to have an impact on her life, I wanted to teach her things about herself, I wanted to validate her.
As her father I should be the first man to validate her. Even now that she is 16, that means everything to me to have conversations with her about self-love and self-worth. Casey’s dad was trying to validate her and let her know that everything is going to be alright, I’m not leaving you. I’m here for you.
TSL: In the book he’s doing a little bit of everything in that one day he has to spend time with her. I don’t know if that was a struggle that you had as a father that had limited time with your daughter?
BMH: Every father in that situation, you feel like you got to make up the time and no matter what, it’s not enough. You have moments of self-doubt, 'Am I doing enough, am I a good father? Is she getting enough from me?'
A father has their own insecurities. But it’s the situation you’re in and tough decisions had to be made. You just try to make the best and be the best dad with what’s happening now. But it hurts.
TSL: At 18 or 19 you’re still growing up too...
BMH: Yeah, [My daughter's mother and I] grew apart. We were high school sweethearts. And we’re teen parents. So we were entering adulthood and still trying to figure it out. Trying to figure out our own identity. I wish things would have went better and we could have come to terms on how we would co-parent.
TSL: In the book the father is teaching his daughter lessons: on African history, how boys should treat her, etc. It’s rare to see a father and daughter in a children’s book.
BMH: Working with young boys, I am always teaching them how you treat a girl a certain way and why. A lot of these dudes have fathers that aren’t present. Single parenthood is not exclusive to the black community. As a father of girls, it’s important that I teach them about self-worth. To be honest, as a young man I did the same thing. I was a hopeless romantic as well, but I did my dirt.
TSL: Rare for someone to have a child so young, be able to graduate from college and do so well in their career. How were you able to do it? What was driving you?
A. My parents were a great support system. They were like, ‘This doesn’t mean your lives are over. You’re still going to college. You’re still going to do the things you said you wanted to do.’
I wanted to be a cop and be a narcotics detective. I wanted to join the military, come back and join the cadet program. I didn’t make the cadet program. I was like, 'Well what do you love to do? Oh, yeah writing.'
I’ve been doing it all my life since I was a little boy. Late 2000, I thought I would pursue a journalism career. I was about 18 years old. Me and my daughter’s mother were living in my parent’s basement at the time. She was working full-time and I was too. My mother would take care of the baby while we worked and went to school. She finished at Morgan State University and got her masters. She’s married now. I finished at Morgan and my brother did too.
TSL: Tell me about your business, Son of a Dream.
BMH: I originally started in 2008, started out as a publishing production company, so I could publish my own work. We had to create our own magazine at Morgan and that’s when I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. I wanted to cover black news in Baltimore and I started a blog called huevoices.com.
I understood the importance of black media. I come from the perspective of telling stories about our own community. I understand the importance of having our own media outlets. For years I’ve been working with youth. I thought how can I merge the two? And Son of a Dream came about.
It’s a youth development and multi-media consulting firm. I create multi-media that addresses social issues that impacts our community. Whether its documentaries, books - the question is, 'How can we strengthen our community and families?'
TSL: How difficult was it to self-publish?
BMH: When I wanted to create something of my own, I didn’t want to give up my own dream. I knew I was destined to do more with my life. I didn’t want to give up on myself. It’s important for my daughters to see what I’m doing. We don’t have a multi-million dollar promotion budget. I can’t hire a publicist to push my work. It’s a printed book and you can get copies from the website: Sonofadream.com
I have a supportive wife and a have a supportive family. I’m not afraid of failing. I’m afraid of looking back when I’m old about what I did not do. I was blown away when I saw my own daughter, five years old, reading my book. She loves reading and I was blown away when she picked up my book, on her own, and just started reading it.
I can tell her that’s Daddy’s book and your uncle did the illustrations. That does wonders to your self-esteem, your self-pride, your self-worth. To see that, I know we’re on the right path.