Growing up ‘Fatherless’

I am comfortable on camera. I’m comfortable on stage. That’s my habitat. When I find myself there, I know what I’m doing.

I have a scene to interpret and rehearse. I have jokes and stories and bits that I’ve thought long and hard about. Sure, they’re from my life, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what I want to say, and how to script it. The point is that I prepared. In some way, it’s not me that’s on camera, but a version of me I’ve chosen to share. I’m playing a role even when I’m the one who wrote it.

But for “Fatherless” I had a camera in my face when I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what I was going to say, and I most certainly, had no idea what I was going to feel. I couldn’t really prepare.

I grew up without a father. While this is a startlingly common event in the United States, it’s one that black people in particular are struggling to overcome. Or is it? Is that a fact, or a trope that gets repeated over and over again? Turns out it’s a story we hear so frequently that it became a fact, and one many people are eager to use as “proof” of the supposed deep “character flaw” black people in this country possess and have yet to solve.

This is as damaging as it is erroneous. Because I hear you. I read the script I’ve been given. It’s very destructive to be told that your very existence is yet another indictment of your people. You are an example of what’s wrong. You are destined to make the wrong moves. You, you fatherless black child, can only end up at the bottom – good luck. These are the myths that I have worked to unshackle myself from my entire life.

In making this documentary, I was able to dig into some of those myths and replace them with truth. Truth I needed in order to create understanding. Truth that wasn’t easy to get. Truth that wasn’t easy to hear. But truth doesn’t need me; I need it. Myth only leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And if you don’t know the rest-ask Yoda.

Fatherless with Baron Vaughn airs Sunday, April 2 at 9PM ET/PT on FUSION TV. For channel listings, click here.