This one has taken the whole country by storm. Riky Rick? Not Riky Rick. That guy looked like he was on top of the world.
Learning of his death by suicide was shocking, but not surprising. We recently buried Bab’Patrick Shai who also took his own life. I was so torn when I learned that a happy and inspirational black man took his own life. However, I was not surprised that a happy and inspirational black man has died by his hand because I am at a point in my life where I know that even happy and inspirational black men battle demons in secret.
I then wondered what demons he was battling.
Like many black South African children, Riky Rick grew up with an absent father.
And we should never underplay the dire effects of growing up in the absence of the man that played a role in your very existence. My father was an absent one and for years I kept wondering what was wrong with me.
“Why did he choose to go live with another woman and her children?”
“Was I not good enough for him to choose me?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Why does he not love me?”
“Am I not good enough?”
The challenge with these questions is that they find a way of answering themselves with a very loud “YES”. It is worse when you see your friends and other children receiving love from their fathers.
I once struggled to write his name on Valentine’s Day cards we were making for the ones we loved. I loved a man I did not know nor knew how to write his name. Father’s Day was a pain point for me.
Riky Rick spoke openly about his perspectives on fatherhood, once saying “always try and be better than the previous generation,” in a News 24 article.
He was not judging the previous generation, but it was important for him to be a better father than his. In previous interviews, although the footage is not available online, Riky spoke out on drug addiction.
According to Daily Mail, “children growing up in fatherless families are turning to self-harm as well as criminal activity, fuelled by their sense of abandonment and lack of self-esteem.”
“I’m getting high so I ain’t gotta feel down,” Riky says in Papa Song.
Drug addiction can be fueled by complex emotions of feeling unloved and unwanted. No money in the world can help with getting rid of these feelings. Even a guy that was a bright light like how Riky was still dealt with demons that led to his depression, and eventually his death.
So, dads need to know, acknowledge and take accountability for the power they have in the lives of their children. Staying, even when broke, is less detrimental than leaving. This is important in a society that defines fatherhood by a man’s ability to provide. Even more complex in a society with a system that keeps failing black people.
Your kids don’t care if you have money or not. In Papa Song, Riky says “to tell the truth nobody cared if you were rich or not. All I wanted was daddy to hold me down, to ask me questions.”
Riky’s fatherhood wound has become a wound for his children as well, a vicious cycle that needs to end. Black men need to break the cycle. Let Riky’s life encourage black men to do and be better. I wholeheartedly believe that this is possible.