Kirk Whalum

Showing up is critical to being a great father, Kirk Whalum says.

“Enjoy it. It goes so fast,” he tells new fathers. “Know that you're going to make lots of mistakes, but the one important thing that is fool-proof is being there. If you fall down, get back up but just be there.”

The Grammy award-winning jazz and Gospel musician says he cherishes every moment with his children, who are now well into adulthood at ages 27 to 31. “I love having daily interaction with my children. I love sharing memories together, now that they're all grown”

However, having his first child was “heart-wrenching,” says Whalum, as his first child passed away three days after a premature birth.

But it made him an even stronger parent.

“Many people experience losing a baby, and it's extremely difficult. But you can survive it,” he says. “Ruby and I are proof.”

The couple raised their children building traditions such as family prayer — praying before meals and bedtime — and taking them to Sunday school. Whalum says he enjoys sharing memories with them. The constant, practically daily, interaction with them keeps him pumping, as it should be for any father.

Whalum is passionate about being a great example and preserving the youth of younger generations. In addition to his own music and ministry, he educates and uplifts aspiring musicians as Chief Creative Officer of the STAX Music Academy and the STAX Museum of American Soul Music in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Fatherhood is important in all communities, Whalum says, but it’s especially important in the black community because “we've been robbed of so many good ones.”

“This is in large part due to the deliberate mass incarceration of way too many black boys and men,” he says. “The war on drugs has needlessly devastated our communities, in ways that slavery and Jim Crow would be jealous of.”