Khalid Sumner is shaping the images his daughter’s see, on screen and off

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Khalid Sumner is a storyteller. As a television and film writer he has a hand in the images and portrayals that we all see on screen. But as a father, the images that his twin daughters, Aniya and Kayla, see both on and off the screen are his number one priority. Currently a Brooklyn resident, Sumner is juggling the balancing act of fatherhood, while continuing to pursue his passion by developing his feature length screenplay entitled “Breaking News”, an intellectual thriller that weaves the nuances of race, media and family in a fair yet brutally honest tale.

In an op-ed last year for TheGrio, Sumner shared how fatherhood taught him how to be Superman, “My daughters taught me how powerful I am and how many special abilities I truly possess. I knew they were always there, but I never thought about using them for the good of other people.”

Now, in an interview with theGrio for our #ThisIsBlackFatherhood series, Sumner is sharing some of the juggles of balancing work and fatherhood, how it’s changed him, and the stereotypes he faces as a black father.

TG: What does fatherhood mean to you?

KS: Fatherhood to me, I put it in the bucket of parenthood. So when you become a parent, I think that it means that you have to train yourself or learn how to put someone in front of you or put someone else’s wants and needs before your own. You have to do it instinctively, which goes against all your sort of natural inclinations. And to do it thoughtlessly and willingly.

TG: How has fatherhood changed you?

KS: For me, it’s given me a greater sort of sense of what my boundaries are in terms of like my capacity to love and my capacity to understand. Becoming a dad has taught me about patience, and about unconditional love. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when your daughter like… she gives you a present that she made. And she’s waiting there excited to see you excited to either read it or appreciate it. That’s something really really special, that before I became a dad wasn’t something I knew existed. That you could feel that way. It’s something that changed me. And it’s taught me to appreciate and look at certain things in my life differently because of my daughters. Because it’s constant introspection.

TG: Have you ever felt it was challenging to juggle fatherhood and your career?

KS: I think it’s like any other thing. You want to work out consistently, eat right, sleep eight hours a day, but it’s almost impossible. Something is going to suffer. But it’s just about what you prioritize. So it was difficult when I prioritize the girls then everything else kind of falls in place after that. So if you want to become healthy and workout everyday it’s just a decision that you have to make to say, everyday at 5:30 in the morning I am going to go to the gym. You just have to make it law. And everything else has to fit around that. And you have to have time away from your kids in order for you to appreciate them and in order for them to appreciate you.

TG: As a black man and father, What do you think are some of the biggest kind of… stereotypes or connotations to being a black father?

KS: One, that we don’t exist. Two, that we don’t take care of our children. That we don’t want to take care of our children. That the responsibility of parenthood is solely left up to mothers and for dads it’s secondary. And I don’t believe that that’s true. I know other black dads who take pride in their children and the fact that they are fathers. It’s not something that they hide or they’re ashamed of or anything like that. It’s apart of who they are. And those are the people I know and congregate with so when I do come contact with those stereotypes it’s kind of weird because it’s not my reality. That’s my experience as a black dad.