Tying the Knot honors black fathers

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T. Mychael Rambo

Actor and singer T. Mychael Rambo is in the home stretch of a momentous project this week, guiding a chorus of rich voices to the Fitzgerald Theater’s stage to highlight the role black men play in their communities.

On Saturday, Rambo will host Tying the Knot — Song of Our Fathers, a multifaceted program that will feature award-winning authors, playwrights, singers and musicians.

Created in a partnership with Dads Make A Difference, Save Our Sons and Obsidian Arts, Tying the Knot aims to celebrate African-American fathers and fatherhood. The project takes its name from the coming-of-age practice of fathers or elders showing sons how to knot a tie and includes the work of local writers Brian Grandison, Louis Porter II, Carolyn Holbrook and Rambo.

We asked Rambo about the project. Here’s what he had to say:

How did the Tying for the Knot project take shape?

The Tying the Knot project took shape out of a need within the African American community to acknowledge and celebrate the role of African American men as leaders and fathers within the community. The tying of the knot is a symbol of the unbreakable bond that ties the community to each other as family. We are partnered with incredible organizations and community partners such as Dads Make a Difference and Save Our Sons that are active here in the St. Paul that focus on education, outreach and support in order to bolster our young men as both fathers and sons within the community.

Is the show in anyway a response to the proliferation of bad and/or incomplete news on black men in media?

These things of course contribute to popular notions as to what a black man is. [But] this project seeks to highlight the positive. We are concerned with adding information to the amalgam of character that a black male can be. Certainly, we acknowledge the prevalent negative stereotypes that do exist in regard to that character. We are however much more focused on creating the space for stories to be told and voices to be recognized. In the workshops it is about democratizing that voice, and allowing the power of the story telling to be through the voices of the community members.

What specific stories do you hope to celebrate?

Spoken word artist and Father, Frank Sentwali gives us a really inspirational piece about perseverance and strength called No Pain, No Gain, Julius Collins III sings “You might find a man,” which is about coming into one’s own manhood and self discovery. Sarah Bellamy tells a wonderful story about hunting with her father and the lasting and important bond it has created. Manifest has written a piece about his experience and ethos as a father. So we have a diverse set of stories and with a diverse authorship. These stories all have a wide array of authorship and style and carry with an emphasis on community and the importance of our bonds to one another. We will also feature the incredible dance of Twin Cities notables. Christian Adeti, Alanna Morris, Marciano Silva Dos Santos.

Are you concerned about the paucity of stories about successful black fathers and leaders whose role is too often ignored?

Yes, of course. This is of great concern, but the fundamental way we look at taking the conversation back and moving forward in a positive way is through celebration. The different components give opportunity for individuals young and old to tell their stories of their biological fathers and their social fathers. It allows them to celebrate their father’s strengths as well as acknowledge their weaknesses. We look forward to hearing stories from fathers and their sons and daughters through song and poetry Saturday night at The Fitzgerald Theatre.

Minnesota Public Radio is a sponsor of the program. MPR News will air an edited version of Tying the Knot at 9 p.m. Sunday.

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