In 2006, Dr. Lawrence M. Drake II’s eldest daughter, Kia Nichol Drake, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis,an inflammatory diseases that affects the multiple organs in the body.
Two years later, Drake laid to rest his mother and his newly born grandson, who was born prematurely. During this time, his daughter’s health began to worsen and her lung capacity continued to deteriorate.
Despite her health condition, Kia continued to remain positive and hopeful that her symptoms would improve. In fact, she was in the process of planning her wedding with her fiancé and embracing motherhood after giving birth in December of 2008.
Unfortunately, her health took a sudden turn when she was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
“The cancer was kind of devastating on top of the sarcoidosis because we thought we were really starting to make progress at least to the extent that there was no continued deterioration,” said Drake.
Kia immediately began chemotherapy to shrink to the tumor in her stomach that was the size of two grapefruits. In the summer of 2017, she had surgery to get the tumor removed.
“I remember her saying, ‘Dad I’m alive, I’m alive! I didn’t think I would make it through!’ She was so happy,” expressed Drake.
“Unfortunately, a few days later after the surgery took place, Kia had an episode because she had gotten an infection in her breathing tube which caused E.coli and pneumonia.”
Soon, Kia went into cardiac arrest however, the doctors were able to revive her.
Overtime, her lung capacity continued to deteriorate and she was admitted to an ICU. Eventually, the family had to make a decision about whether or not to keep her alive using the breathing tube. They decided to adhere to her wish of having the breathing tube disconnected and on July, 31, 2017, Kia passed away at 6:00pm.
Over a course of nine years, Drake loss three loved ones. As a psychologist, Drake turned to literature to aide with his grieving process. However, he was unable to find any material that spoke to him as a Black man or as a Black father.
“The amount of literature that exists for fathers, specifically and the amount of literature that exists that talk and speak to how Black fathers deal with losing a child, or just loss in general, there’s just nothing. So, I decided to do something about that,” said Drake.
In 2019, Drake published his first book, “Color Him Father” as a resource for Black grieving fathers. The title of the book was inspired by the song “Color Him Father” by the 60s musical group, The Winstons.
The book specifically focuses on the personal stories of seven Black men (including Drake), who share intimate details about fatherhood, love, loss, tragedies, and triumphs.
Also, the book changes the narrative and erases the negative stigma behind Black fatherhood by shedding light on the positive relationships Black men have with their children.
“Again a precursor to the story of the many thousands of Black fathers in this country who are doing amazing things with their children and who have great relationships, their stories never get told,” said Drake.
“Nobody knows about them because all we hear about is the fathers who are not there and the deadbeats. I want to tell a different story.”
According to Drake, the purpose behind the book is to inspire Black men of color, grieving fathers, fathers to be, and men and women who are interested in becoming parents and create stronger Black families. Additionally, Drake hopes the book will foster dialogue and conversation about Black parenting and the responsibility behind parenting.
Since the release of his book in June 2019, Drake has launched the “Color Him Father” Book Tour where he has an intimate conversation with local and celebrity Black fathers about grief, loss, and parenting. To date, the book tour has made several stops one of which was the Wilfandel Club House in Los Angeles, CA.
Drake told the Sentinel, that the book tour will be making its way back to the Los Angeles area very soon!
“The book tour has been quite interesting,” said Drake.
“I think we have had a great turnout at each event but I find that men and women are attracted to the stories [in the book]. I have had many people to say once they started reading the book, they couldn’t put the book down or they put the book down because it was so emotional that they needed a pause.
Drake also spoke about the importance of mental health awareness in the Black community as well as Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.
“I believe that it is important to understand in this movement how bereavement is a part of mental health of our community,” he said.
“Our community is not good at seeking help and there is a lot of empirical and statistical data that backs that up. We want to address that particularly as it relates to men but we want to address that more broadly as well.”
“She and I were very close her whole life and we had been through a great deal of many things together. Not only as father and daughter but just navigating her illness, her becoming a mom, and contemplating getting married, and all the things that come with growing up and moving into adulthood,” said Drake.
For more information on the book tour and to purchase “Color Him Father” please visit www.coloroffatherhood.com or amazon.com. Be sure to follow the Color of Fatherhood on Instagram and Twitter @colorofffathers and on Facebook and YouTube @coloroffatherhood.