Patrick Johnson with songs Elijah, age 6 and Jakob, age 4.Excellence in Fatherhood
By Jasmyne A. CannickSpecial to the Sentinel
Take a drive down Crenshaw Boulevard towards Leimert Park and if you're lucky enough to get caught at the light on 43rd Place you might notice a mural painted on wall. Titled "The Gift," the mural is painted on a wall that was gifted by the building's owner to the artist. Take a look in the other direction towards the park and don't be surprised if you see Patrick Johnson, the artist behind the mural and a single father, playing around the park's infamous fountain with his two sons Elijah, 6 and Jakob, 4.
At 46, Patrick Johnson is the primary parent for his sons Elijah and Jakob after divorcing his wife.
"I talk to them as much I can," explains Patrick. "But it's different having your Dad with you. I saw the difference when we separated just a short period of time and how they interacted with others and with me. Just from my own point of view, there are things that a father can do that no one else can do."
For Patrick, who doesn't own a television and home schools his children, beyond the daily routine of waking the kids up, fixing their breakfast, helping them with their homework, preparing lunch, dinner, doing the laundry and other household chores, being a father means more than just being present. It's more than just managing.
"The reward comes when sometimes Jakob will wake up at two, three, four o'clock in the morning out of a sound sleep and he'll say Daddy and I'll say yes Jakob. And he'll say I love you Daddy and I'll say I love you too man and he'll go right back to sleep.
Fighting back tears, Patrick says, "It's difficult to put into words what that means."
A struggling single artist, Patrick readily admits that none of his seven children were planned and that he didn't agree in the beginning with his ex wives decision to have them at the time. But that didn't deter him from stepping up to the role when they were born.
"They just were supposed to be here. And I wasn't necessarily in agreement with them being here but when they got here I'm like okay this is what I'm supposed to do. So, I had to be here for them."
Patrick knows what it's like not to have a father around because he didn't really get to know his father and doesn't want his children to have to go through that.
But Patrick isn't alone. A staple at his local Starbucks on Crenshaw and Coliseum, both he and his sons Elijah and Jakob have been adopted by the staff and regulars who frequent the popular coffeehouse which is known has a hotspot for networking in the Black community.
Derek Haskell, 30, an entrepreneur, met Patrick at Starbucks and hired him to design his company's logo as well as featured him at his organization's Black History Month event earlier this year.
"I would always see Patrick at Starbucks meeting with various people," explains Derek Haskell whose organization the C3 Foundation hosts various community events. "He would always have his kids in tote who would be sitting down doing their homework sipping on hot chocolate and apple cider while their father was having these meetings. One day, a mutual friend introduced us and since then we've been like family. This day in age, you really have to respect a brother who is taking care of his kids on his own like Patrick is."
Another Starbucks regular, filmmaker Danna Kiel, 42, remembers that she would see Patrick at Starbucks and always admired his fashion style which is usually full of orange and green.
"One day I came to Starbucks to work on a script and I remember that day I had on a pair of old jeans that were full of holes and Patrick said to me, 'I like your jeans.' And that was the beginning of a conversation that has never ended. Patrick is a visual artist that inspires us with great commitment to art and extraordinary commitment to fatherhood."
As for what his son's think about his parenting skills, four-year-old Jakob gets the last word.
In Leimert Park, while sitting under the shade of a tree, Jakob spontaneously turns to his father and says matter-of-factly, "I love you Daddy," to which Patrick responds, "I love you too."
To see and hear more about Patrick Johnson and his sons, Elijah and Jakob in their own words, log onto http://vimeo.com/12570288.