No, Akon, recitals are not just for white dads, and yes, parenting 12 kids is hard

OPINION: Akon tried to defend Nick Cannon, but his argument was based on a stereotypical vision of Black fatherhood.

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

There’s a strange wind blowing. There are a lot of men nowadays who are comfortable trumpeting how toxic or lame they are as if being toxic or lame is what’s cool. They’re bragging about being bad at being men, which is a really weird thing to flex about. Right now, I’m thinking about Kanye, Andrew Tate, Nick Cannon and more. Next week it could be a different three or four. Maybe Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and Donald Trump. It seems like someone somewhere is telling men to go out and show people how terrible they are as if being terrible is the goal. 

And then came Akon rushing into the party as if to say hey don’t forget about me. He recently went on “The Zeze Millz Show” and defended Cannon for having 12 children. Mills doubted that a father like Cannon could have time to be there for so many small people. She asked how he could attend all of his kids’ recitals. Akon dismissed that whole line of thought, saying attending recitals and things like that is unimportant. He said that stuff is “for white men.” I am a Black father of two who, like many Black fathers, has attended many, many, many ballet recitals, basketball games, track meets, chess tournaments, science fairs, friends’ parties and more and I can say definitively that attending your children’s stuff isn’t just for white men. That stuff is for parents who truly care. 

Akon is buying into the age-old stereotype of Black men being uninvolved fathers. That stereotype is dead wrong. Recent CDC data show “Black fathers remain more involved [than men of other races] across a range of nurturing and involvement activities like sharing meals, bathing, diapering, dressing, and reading to their children.” The idea that Black men aren’t dutifully parenting their children is false. 

Akon’s entire approach to fathering is bizarrely reductive. When he dismisses children’s recitals, I assume he isn’t just dissing their musical events; surely, he also means their games, their practices, their parties, their open houses, their trick or treating — all the little moments when parents get to see their kids interacting in the world. These events are a critical part of parenting. Akon’s vision of fathering is centered on providing money and wisdom. Him paying for stuff and telling kids stuff. Yes, that’s part of the game, but parenting also means listening to the kids when they talk. It means watching the kids when they do things to express themselves. It means showing them that their activities and interests are important to you. They should feel like their world is important to you.

When parents attend a recital, game or any school event, they’re showing kids that the things they do matter to them. Just showing up and watching quietly conveys love. It tells the kids what they’re doing is important to you. You are important to them, so when you go into their world, it makes them feel cared about. Think about your childhood — when you did things that mattered to you, like playing a game in your favorite sport or displaying your art during parents’ night, when your parents showed up to watch you, you probably felt seen, validated and affirmed. It all just mattered more when your parents showed up. 

Parents are the child’s most important audience and watching kids shine is one of the most enriching parts of parenting. I wouldn’t want to miss the games and the recitals for anything. I do it because I want my kids to know I care, but I also do it for me, it’s fun to see my kids do their thing. Parenting isn’t just about telling kids stuff. You must also listen, you must also watch, you must seem like you’re interested in their life, not just bringing them into yours. Recitals are like concerts put on by kids, so Akon is scoffing at going to his kids’ concerts. Meanwhile, it’s super important to him that people attend his concerts. 

At the core of Akon’s argument is that Cannon will be able to be an effective father for his many children and that’s a point many parents disagree with. Sure, he seems rich enough to take care of 12 children, so, yes, he can provide financially, but parenting is also about giving your time. It’s about having a deep relationship with your child. It’s about watching movies and wiping their nose when they have a cold and comforting them when they can’t sleep and moving the Elf on the Shelf around the house and playing charades and holding the cake at their birthday party and on and on. 

No matter how rich you are, you only have 24 hours in a day. Cannon has children living in six different homes, and I bet they’re not all within driving distance. It seems impossible for someone to be present in the lives of children who live in that many homes. It would be hard to be present for 12 young people growing up in one home but putting them in a smattering of homes all over the place makes parenting a logistical nightmare. 

Attending recitals is just shorthand for being involved in the children’s lives. You have to be there for them. That’s a critical part of the job. And it’s one of the most rewarding parts, too. I don’t believe that one person can be truly present for young people who are in a multiplicity of households. Procreating is easy; parenting is hard, but that’s what the world needs most.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!