Author speaks on mentors who changed his life

Bookstore hosts author’s memoir release event

Author speaks on mentors who changed his life

Jess Staley, Features Editor

Describing the “7 Black Fathers” – or mentors – he found in life, author Will Jawando appeared at an author event on Friday to speak on his recently released memoir in Harrisburg.

The Midtown Scholar Bookstore hosted the event on May 6 to promote the book “My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activists Memoir of Race, Family, and Mentors Who Made Him Whole.”

 DeRay Mckesson, a civil rights activist, and leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement,  interviewed Jawando, about his book, released on May 3. 

The memoir covers Jawando’s struggles of growing up with an absent father, and the mentors he encountered while growing up. Some of these mentors include his elementary math teacher, Mr. Williams. Black male teachers make up only 2% of the teaching population. When Jawando first met his teacher, he says he went home and excitedly told his mother that his teacher was black.

He credits Williams for giving him the male affection he needed; coming from a low-income family of divorce, he told the audience he received the attention he needed most. Even the way Mr. Williams’ dress impacted Jawando’s perception, saying he wore a suit, tie, and jacket every day – something Jawando had never seen.  He was also kind and caring, he helped build on students’ strengths and stopped bullying. He even gave Jawando his first tie and taught him how to tie it. 

When asked to pick 3 of the 7 men and to tell one thing he will never forget about them, he narrowed it down to Mr. Williams, his high school choir director Mr. Holmes, and Barack Obama.

 He attributed this to Williams because of how cool and smooth he was. This impression, Jawando says, still has an impact. 

“I’m not the best dresser, but when I do, he’s on my mind,” he said. 

Mr. Holmes, his choir director and basketball coach helped Jawando learn how to keep a work ethic. He said he never let him give up in the gym while playing basketball. 

And, former President Barack Obama, who made Jawando his associate director of public engagement at the White house. He calls him his forever boss, and that he taught him how to prioritize and put family in the right place. President Obama set an example – always making it home for dinner – something Jawando adopted when he married and had children of his own while working with Obama. 

Jawando’s story is a call to action for key intervention, mentorship, and engagement from adults.

“Trouble is inevitable for black folks, individually and collectively,” he said, adding, The way these mentors took in Jawando is like, “throwing a life raft out to deal with troubled waters.”

Although his story revolves mostly around men, some women in Jawandos’ life impacted him, one of them being his mother. He said she enabled and encouraged the relationships with the mentors. Though she was not a person of color herself, she understood that he was a young black man and that he needed to be careful. He admired her for being a free thinker, bold, and progressive.

Jawando said he is still putting together the pieces of what the men taught him. Referring back to the title of the book, saying he is,  “still on the journey of wholeness.”

To purchase Will Jawando’s book, visit  My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole – Jawando, Will

For more information on the Midtown Scholar Bookstore and events, visit their calendar .