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June 14, 2024 35 mins

Two-time Emmy and Three-NAACP Image  Award-winning television Producer Rushion McDonald interviewed Craig Melvin.  Craig Melvin, co-host of “The Today Show” and Author of “Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father.” He is on the show to discuss his new book “Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father.” It is the story of all the father figures in Craig’s life—including inspiring men Craig has met during his "Dads Got This Series" on NBC News’ TODAY. These experiences and encounters have shaped Craig's understanding of his role as a dad of two young children.
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Orgon brought to you by the United States Force Service
and the ad Council. Welcome to Money Making Conversations. It's

the show that she has the secrets of success experience
firsthand by marketing and Brandon expert Rashan McDonald. I will
know he's giving me advice to many occasions. In the
case you didn't notice, I'm not broke. You know. He'll
be interviewing celebrity CEOs, entrepreneurs and industry decision makers. It's
what he likes to do, it's what he likes to share.
Now it's time to hear from my man, Rashan McDonald,

money making conversations. Here we come. Welcome to the money
making Conversation. I have your host, Rashwan McDonald. I'll tell
people every week as we start this show it's time
to stop reading other people's success stores and actually start
writing your own. A lot of people are held back.
I always tell people you're here by gifts, you here
a by passion. I tell people to leave with their
gifts and don't let their age, especially their age, French

family or co workers stop you from planning or living
your dream. My interviews, I bring on money main conversations
you might see with celebrity ceo, entrepreneurs, and what I
like to call industry decision makers. My next guest is
a Craig Melvine. He's the co host of The Today
Show and the author of the book Pops Learning to
Be a Son and the Father. You may know Criggs
and the war winning news anchor. As I said earlier

on the Today's Show, you also have seen him on
MSNBC Live and the host of Dateline. He's on the
show discussed this book, Pops Learning to Be a Son
and the Father. It's the story of all the father
figures in Craig's life and that includes inspiring men from
his program or his series called Dad's Got this series
on NBC NBC News Today. These experiences, encounters of shapes

crests understanding of his own role as a dad, and
I'm sure I can be related. We'll have a nice
conversation since Father's Day has recently passed. He has two
young children. Please welp with the money making conversation, my man,
Craig Melvin. How you doing, Creig Sewing. I'm well, I'm well.
Thank you so much for having me. Always enjoy your conversation.
So I have to be a part of one. Thank you.

A Southern boy South Carolina. You know you know, uh,
you know when I when I see people on TV
and you saw articulate, there's no yalls, there's no access.
How does a man come straight out of Columbia? I
know color because Steve Harvey. I used to go down
a lot of performative town center selling that place out
all the time. So I'm fair for me with South Carolina, Charleston,

that whole low country. There's no low country in your tone.
What's going on there? You are? You break that low
country accent? Low country accent because I didn't. I never,
I never had it. My mom, Uh, you'll appreciate this
growing up in Houston, the way that you grew up.
My mom grew up in the projects and first in

the family to go to college and first in the
family to get a graduate degree. So when we came along,
she wanted to expose us to two things and places
that she had not been exposed to. And consequently, I
think it's I was probably fourteen or fifteen, and she
had us take part in the oratorical contests, um and

and that was was kind of how it started. So
I took some public speaking classes and then these oratorical contests,
and then the next thing you knew, I had what
they what they like to call in the business a
nondescript dialect. You can't really tell based on listening to
me where I'm from. It's a blessing. Now when I

was growing up, it was always he's he's talking white. Absolutely,
he talks like he talks like a white boy. So
it's you know, it's it was the curse. Now it's
a blessing. Well, you know, it's interesting because I knew
in my middle school. I remember my teacher used to
always ask me to read, just always ask me to read.
And you know, people talk about bullying, and you know,

when you people are talking about they call you snowflake.
That was a formal bully. And then so it's it's
popularized now because people are willing to talk about it.
But we all grew up in some form of physical
or mental abuse from high school kids or people in
the neighborhoo it and my remember this, this this girl,
she made such a big deal that I was always
asked to read. That It almost, I have to say,

traumatized me because I went exactly the opposite. I wanted
to talk, I wanted to say, ain't, I wanted to
have I wanted to slur my word. I wanted to
fit in. And so what you I bring that story
up because you talked about because you was hit with it.
You was hit you know, talking why I didn't want
to act whide you you're calling you snowflick. What kept
you focused? What kept you from from veering off like

I veered off? I veered off and I said, hey, man,
I want to fit in and not beat me. You know.
I think it was and I wrote about in the
book my mother, My mother really sean, I mean she
um she she kept us on the straight and narrow
at the time. Uh, we we resented the strictness. I
mean my mom she knew all of our friends, and

she all of her parents. We weren't allowed to stay
out past you know, during the week maybe nine o'clock
maybe on the weekends when kids were going to parties
and having fun. I was doing oratorical contests and activities.
And I went to in high school. I think I
probably went to maybe three high school football games on

Friday night. I just I didn't. I grew up with
a very tight leash, right uh. And and part of
it was my mother overcompensating for for my father not
being the kind of dad that he should have been.
But part of it was mom knew, she knew back then,
I think kind of what it took. She was a
school teacher then she went into an administration. She knew
what it took um to to shape and mold young

black boys, especially right, and and that was it. Had
it not been for her, had I grown up in
another house, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Well,
you know, I write you a book. You know the
book we're talking for talking to interview Craig Melvin, his
book Pops, Learning to Be a Son and the Father.
Is it because the fact that your father wasn't there,
that she may be overcompensated and wanted to make sure

you didn't you had a better life, or you pursued options,
even though I knew she went to college. And I
think of the age of twenty two is when she
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dot com. Adoption of teams from foster care is a
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presented by adopt us Kids, brought to you by the U.
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and Families, and the ACT Council. What grows in the
forest Trees Sure no, what else grows in the forest.
Our imagination, our sense of wonder, and our family bonds
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talk about that in the middle because as we talked
about trying to shape you because of the fact that

you've been shaped by a lot of people, especially to
the stories. We want to talk about the the president
incident when he was out of camp grades had that
really kind of like started you in this direction of
humanizing all men, especially men who are incoss already. Talk
about your mom and her role versus your dad role
because you mentioned it just a little bit, but that
centers around us getting into the story and your father

changing his life at the age of six or seven. Mom. Yeah, mom, Mom,
Mom had to play the role of mom and dad
for the better part of my challengehood. Um, it was.
It was. It was a role that she was Yeah,
she was unfortunately well prepared for it because she ended
up she had to take care of her three younger siblings.
Um when she was in college and her father skipped

out of the family, ended up essentially dying on the
streets and square. Uh, but no a mom. Because my
father was not physically present as often as I would
have liked, and my younger brother would have liked my
older brother as well. Mom stepped in the trip to
fill the gap. She filled. She filled a boy. And

not just not just being present in a sense of
searn a little league games or soccer games or or concerts.
Not just physically present, but but but emotionally president right,
a spiritually present. I mean, the relationship that I have
with God is because of my mother's relationship with God.

So it was it was divine intervention. You know. Had
I had any other mother, things would not have gone
the way that they did. But you know, it's it's
also and I write about in the book, as you know,
and I do appreciate the fact that you read the book.
You'd be surprised how often to talk to people about
books and they hadn't read word one, But I tell

you read the whole thing. And I write about in
the book. My father I asked him doing the course
of my my interviews with him for the book. I said, Pops,
what was the most money you ever wasted? H without
missing a beat, he said it was about dollars back
in nineteen six. Said that was a lot of money
back then. When you spend that money on he said,
that's how much. That's how much it cost to put

my daddy in the ground. And in that moment I realized, um,
that while I had been frustrated by the lack of
relationship I had with my dad, it was exponentially better
than the relationship he had with his own father. Right,
he didn't know who his dad was until he was
almost a teenager. So it was it was wholly unrealistic

of me to expect him to be the kind of
dad that I had had come to to to idolize.
He couldn't be it because he hadn't seen it. And
you can't be something. Scratch that, it's really hard to
be something. Yes, if if you if you haven't seen it,
if you haven't been exposed to it. So that's when
my dad was up against you know, when I when

I read the book, you know, um, you know I
heard the shotgun house. Okay, I grew up in there.
I was born in the shotgun house. Two very shotgun house.
A lot of people. If you're listening to the shotgun house,
over the front door, shoot the gun out to shotgun out,
to go out the front back door. Don't hit anything
that's a shotgun house. Okay, you referenced pig feats. Grew
up with big feast. My man, heyg I wouldn't touch

but big feats or part of our lifestyle. And so
that's the Southern IM from Houston, Texas. I'm from the South.
It was it was a lifestyle that was normal to me.
But it was also a community lifestyle of people taking
care of each other, and that was really important. Not
only your dad. Even though there were some missteps, there
were still people there to take care of him, you know,

to make sure he was focused, to shout at him
as he became an adult. There were people in the community.
That's really important in this book that no matter what,
there's some form of family tied to your story, and
the people in your life talk about that. You know,
it's a It's it's funny because long before people started

talking about it taking a village, uh to to to
rear a child. I had a village you know, it
wasn't called that back back in the eighties in South Carolina,
back in the eighties and nineties where I grew up
and I had a village, and and yes, there were
a number of men who played the role of dad
along the way, my uncle James, my uncle Jake, my

uncle Frank Um. But there were also a lot of
women that that that played the part as well. I
was disciplined, and I think that's the politically correct term
I was. I was disciplined by more women growing up
than men, whether it's my mom or one of my
aunts and my grandma. I spent a lot of time

with my two grandmothers growing up, and they really shaped
me in myriad ways that I didn't fully appreciate until
I was older. But and then after that, I had
coaches along the way. I always God always blessed me
with with with people along the road. Uh that that

gave me a little part of something that I was.
I was able to take and build on. It's difficult
for young black men especially, it's it's difficult to to
learn how to carry yourself in this world um with
without examples of it. And I had lots of examples

thankfully along the way. But the reality is, you know, Sean,
a lot of kids don't have that. A lot of
kids don't they just you know, through no fault of
their own mind, they they don't have a mother or
a father, or an uncle or an aunt to take
their hands on this journey of life. And so they
end up finding role models, uh that they should not

be held up, that should not a paddle still, and
they begin to emulate them. And we're live here outside
the Perez family home, just waiting for the and there
they go, almost on time. This morning. Mom is coming
out the front door strong with a double arm kid carry.
Looks like Dad has the bags. Daughter is bringing up
the rear. Oh but the diaper bag wasn't closed. Diapers

and toys are everywhere. Oh but mom has just nailed
the perfect car seat buckle for the toddler. And now
the eldest daughter, who looks to be about nine or ten,
has secured herself in the booster seat. Dad zips the
bag clothes and they're off. But looks like Mom doesn't
realize her coffee cup is still on the roof of
the car, and there it goes. Oh, that's a shame.

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They're fearless. Guide. Is this fascinating world? Find a forest
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org brought to you by the United States Forest Service
and the AD Council. What grows in the forest trees?
Sure no. What else grows in the forest Our imagination,
our sense of wonder, and our family bonds grow too,
because when we disconnect from this and connect with this,

we reconnect with each other. The forest is closer than
you think. Find a forest near you and start exploring.
I discover the forest dot org. Brought to you by
the United States for Service and the AD Council. You know,
the thing I really like about your book is that sometimes, uh,
because my father was a truck driver, you know, so

you know when he wasn't driving trucks, you know he
was he was, he wasn't really connected to me. I
can I can tell you he was my father. I
can tell you that my mom was there for me.
My mom pushed me. My mom always felt that could
be somebody special in life. When your father showed up
for your ball game, that that memory. You don't know
if you got to hit a home runner, got got

struck out over time you went up the bat, but
you remember that moment. And then when your mom rescued you,
when you thought, uh, you had in an entered early fatherhood.
You know, those are two moments that really I bring
up those two moments prayer because despite of all the
things we do in our life, there are always memories
that really some haunt people, some inspire people. Your father

showing up for your game and your um basically coming
to the rescue because she did something that enabled you
to relax talk about those two key moments of parenting.
Even though your father wasn't there, that was a key
parenting moment that he provided for you that stays with
you today. It probably cares into your parenty with your
with your children today and then your mom being there

for you at a moment of doubt, frustration, fear. But
both them were there at different times. I mean, you're
you're you're talking about Department Book where I almost became
a teenage father. I was almost a statistic at the
age of fourteen. Uh No, that's I made a bad choice.

I made a bad choice. And you know what, I
write about it because I wrote about it because I
wanted people to understand. Uh, there but for the grace
of God go I and and and and I think
a lot of folks can relate to this, this idea
that you know, there's that night or sometimes that day,
but usually it's that night where you went left, but

you could have gone right right right, and and and
had you made a different decision, it would have altered
the course of your life in a dramatic way. Um,
that almost happened to me. I got lucky and and
and at that point in my life, I was. I
didn't have much of relationship with my father. I was.

I was afraid of my mother, Uh, definitely afraid, so
I couldn't talk to her about it. And it was
a situation where, you know, this young lady was convinced
she was pregnant, and I like, I had to I
had to do something. This was not one of the
situations where in action was an option, right and uh.
And I write in the book about how I went

to my my aunt and it was my aunt that
finally convinced me that I had no choice but to
talk to my mother. But my mom has always been
long before we started calling people fixers, my mom was
a fixer like it was. It was that honestly was
an extreme example. But there were so many other times
in my life where I thought I was out of option.

I didn't know what I was gonna do, and I
prayed to God and put trust in Betty Joe Melvine
and and Betty Joe Melvine always came through and still
does now. Mind you, in a different way, my dad,
you know route about that that that part in the
book with che where he showed up at my little
league game, and the memory stayed with me because it
was so rare to that point, my dad. Um, and

and again now looking back on it, knowing what we
know about addiction, about it being a disease and not
a weakness, I understand why he wasn't there. I understand
why he had walled himself off from our family and
society at large. But back then I was a kid,
you know, I was a kid in one of my
my my dad to to be proud of me and

see me, uh and certainly watch watch my little league games.
And so when he showed up that evening, I saw
him down the third base line there on the on
the fence. It's memory that that stayed with me because
it was so weird that thing said. Now, um, he's everywhere,
like you know, he was up. Two weeks ago, my
son had a soccer game. My dad was right there

with me on the sideline and thirty seconds in my
my boy hadn't scored a goal all season. Thirty seconds
in dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot score first goal
of the game, and and me and my pops are
high five and like he just want a green jacket
and augusta you know, Um, it was the book is

um an emotional book. I would say emotional because I
told people, when I get a book like this outter
slow read it because sometimes they hit points where I go, ho, Ho,
I'm about to about to go there, I'm not. Let
me finish this moment. And because I remember a moment
with my dad, uh two when I owned a comedy
club and my dad had never ever been to anything

I've been, and he just showed up at the comedy
club and uh it was sold out. And I looked
at the lobby. What you're doing, her dad? He goes,
I come to see my son. And he looped around.
He looked, wow, this you this you this you? And
I went, uh, yes, sir, yes, sir you because I
always said A certainly my dad and uh and he said,
he said, I'm proud of your son, and and and

like I said, this is because that's what the book
did to me as a dad. Because when you start
talking about incarceration, and you talked about when you're talking
you said earlier, right, turn left, turn those turns. I
always say that when I was in college, you know
you you played a fraternity I played to make a
side five and you always do stupid things. I remember
the big brothers said, we want some plants. Well, we

didn't have no money, and so I remember just this
giant open field where they had plants back in the day,
and my Lyon brothers we went and stole these plants. Man.
I mean, if you look back on the Craig from
the freeway, you would have seen those running across this
field with these plants. Okay, So anybody could have went,
what are those black dude boys doing running with all

these giant plants. And I had a little Fiat uh
X y nine, which is a two seater, and the
truck was in the front, so I had to put
the plants in the front and were blacking my win seal.
So along the way I could have stopped and stopped
by the police and been incarcerated, and my life could
have changed. On that right turn left turn that you
were talking about earlier, you are meeting men who have

done something far worse than what I've talked about, but
they have made a mistake. And sometimes because they made
a mistake, we don't give them a second chance because
we feel that they're unworthy of that second chance. And
then in your book, you talk about guess what they
are fathers too. Let's talk about that journey of you
doing a story I think basically changed your life. And

it started with Camp Grace. Yeah, it was one of
the most impactful stories I've ever done. Uh, there's a
I don't even remember how we found out about this camp,
but um I was probably reading some articles and an
obscure publication about the UM summer camp at a maximum
security prison in California, Salina's state Valley Briston was the

name of the facility, and for one week every summer
UM they bring in about a dozen or so kids
to basically have a camp experience with their dads. I mean,
you know, arts and crafts, and they play games, and
they sing songs and they do all the stuff that
do at a camp. And these kids are between the

ages of you know, seven or eight and in fifteen
or sixteen, and the the guys who are part of
the program have to UM exhibit good behavior for a
full year. The camp is a it's a privilege. And
UM I went out and spend some time talking to
these guys and it ended up being just an emotional

day because these these are being first of all, most
of them are not going to be getting out of prison.
I mean they've some of them have been convicted of
doing some pretty heinous things. Um. But the two women
that started the camp, both of their husbands were incarcerated
and consequently weren't really a part of the child's lives.

They would get the occasional visit, you know, on a weekend,
and you've got the glass, and but they weren't able
to really be a part of the child's lives. So
they came up inside therefore camp. And I talked to
one of the guys out there, and I asked him
the question I knew a lot of people are going
to be asking when they watched them or read the story.
How can someone um accused of some of the things

these guys were accused of. How in what universe do
they deserve the right to spend time with with it
with the child and without missing a beat? He said
to me, tears in his eyes. Um, they might be right.
I may not deserve it, but you know what credit
my kids do. Like my kids deserved to know their father.

They didn't do anything wrong, they didn't make any bad choices. Uh.
And his larger point, and I think this was just
as valid. If we're serious about stopping the prison pipeline
that we always talked about, uh, then we need to
make sure the kids of of incarcerated individuals have relationships
with them. He spent a fair amount of his time

talking to his daughter about choices, making good choices, not
ending up where he ended up. It's a fantastic program,
and it moved me. It also moved me, Sean because
my grandmother, and it's the first line in the book.
Not to give way too much, but you know my
my grandmother. Uh Now, when I knew her, she was here,

she was going to church, at church or coming home
from church. Like she she only loved the Lord, but
apparently long before I came along. But just just just
say she's a bootleg. I want to give it. No
more than that. Just say she's a bootleg. I want
to give her the earther part. Okay, she a bootlegg.
She was a bootlegger. She was a bootlegger, and and
and and got a second chance. Did and had she

not gotten a second chance, who's to say whether I
would be here right now? You know. But here's the
thing I want to point out about that now his
grandmother was in the same jail that Martha Stewart was in,
so she got how many chances as she's got, okay,
but in the same facility now. And so so when

I when I when I read the book, and and
and and and it's, like I said, an emotional journey
because it's your story, but it's a relatable story because
I remember when my younger brother was incarcerated in California,
and uh Glass talking and uh and I was in
tears and and and he told me he couldn't cry.
He's I wished, I I can't cry. I keep they

can't he said, I can't. And my nicknames Ricky, Rickie.
I can't cry because they see me crying out here.
I pay a price when I go back inside. And
in that book, you know, you know when you interview
and he said, look, he said, thank god, I have
a sale by myself because now I can't cry. And
so I love the fact that you were humanizing people

because we we see these we see this, we see
the violent size, and nobody's trying to downplay that. But
we have made mistakes. There are people on the other
side of this to have to deal with the emotionalies
are kids, And like one of them said, look um,
it's all right early on when you're playing cards and
you're playing catch, but when it become teens, the conversation

becomes different. And that's what fatherhood is all about, which
leads to your whole life or being a father, being
connected to your dad, and now being the present day father.
Let's talk about that, correct. You know what I think
that I think that you can be shaped by negative examples, uh,

just as much as you can be shaped by positive examples.
In fact, I think in some instances, maybe even more so. So.
You know, growing up, I did know the kind of
man that I wanted to be. I didn't certainly know
the kind of father that I wanted to be. But
up until a few years ago, I knew I didn't
want to be anything of anything like my dad. Yes, um,

and and and and that was what what motivated me
personally and professionally, probably to a certain extent now that
I'm talking about it, But no, it's it's it's funny
because I have to remind my kids sometimes and I
have a job, and and and consequently I I cannot
be at their back and call uh day and night,

because you know, when my dad was there when we
were younger, it was it was big, like it was
a wedding or funeral or graduation or that that Little
League game that I write about that I remember because
it was so weird. Dad didn't show up with stuff,
in part because he worked third shift at the post office,
but in larger part because because of the addiction issues
that he had um So as a result, I'm going

to the other end of the spectru So if you know,
I'm there for soccer games and my daughter had a
gymnastics recital last Sunday morning, and you know, I'm physically
present as often as and as much as I can
do you know, pick I do school pick up, and
I'm trying to do it all because you know, my
dad didn't do any other No. No, The problem that

that that you create when you do that, and it
took me a while to pigure this out. I've created expectations.
So if if I'm not there to go that he
has got to travel for work, Well, Daddy, why can't
you Can you take a later flight and they can
go tomorrow. And I've had to say a few times,
you know that it's the job that pays for all

of this. You don't get to go to dance or
you don't get to go to soccer if that is
not hopping on playing. So that that's the that's the
that's the the unfortunate part. But they're you know, they're
starting to understand. But it's funny as you become a parent,
how you a't some wanted to come. You become the

kind of for me at least, the kind of father
that I used to mock, yes, hate it with. My
dad would talk about, you know how much something costs.
You don't have money for us, And when we were younger,
we didn't like he wasn't lying, like we knew we
didn't have a lot of money when we had enough.
With my kids, you know, I've said a few times
and we can't afford this, and myself, I'm missing Abeto

say yes we can, you can, and I'm like, and
then you then you find yourself trying to come up
with a new excuse like, uh, well maybe we can't
afford it, but that we don't need it. You don't
need that right right right? You know it's hard and
I thought we're about to wrap up. I want to

bring up a very um a fun moment as a parent,
and I I want to share with you because you
wrote about it when your son climbed into bed and
you know, and then your kids when they sleep. If
you if you don't have kids children, if you got
a very young child, when they're climbing the bed, they
forget you in bed. They kids got the worst sleepers
in the world, especially when they get that six to

ten years of age. We were sleeper. And so when
you said that in the book, you said, you you
may miss that. I remember I talked to my daughter
when she was like seventeen. I said, hey, what you what?
You're hopping bed and watch the TV? Ship what you're
talking about? I said, you know, can we not watching TV?
Can we not watch TV? Together? Man? We used to go,

I don't do that no more, Dad, No, no, we're
not doing that. So I would tell you, Craig, that
moment brought brought laughter to me. It brought back memories.
As your book, you know, the amazingly good book Pops
Learning to Be a Son and the Father. Man. Uh,
it's a great read. And like I said, it slowed
me when I said the words slowed me because I
was becoming emotional because, like I said, my father was

a beer drinker. My father worked hard as a truck driver.
My father, like I said, was he in my life?
I don't know, But did he shape me to be
the man I am today? Yes he did, as he
had a role in it, and that that role has
made me to be the man I am. I'd like
to believe I'm a good parent to my daughter, a
good husband to my wife. And uh, those are the
things that that the stories that you tell out of

this book, from the incarcerated, to individuals who raised you
as a family, the community, and whether teachers who shaped
you as third grade teachers who shaped you as as
you go through life and you went to school and
you didn't wanna, didn't want to shame your ancle when
you didn't pledge calf outside. But it was all good. Man.

I love your book, Craig. I want to appreciate you
for putting it out there. Man, thank you, Thank you
for your time. I've enjoyed this conversation. You're very good
at what you do. Thank you for having Okay, we
talked soon, Man, I'm gonna put this on. I got look,
I got a nice little social media. I'm gonna put
that out there and my my news letter, We're gonna
get that out there for you, Okay, Craig, All right,
bye bye. If you want to see or hear anybody

interviews and money Making Conversation, please go to Money Making
Conversation dot com. I'm with Sean McDonald. I am your host.
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