When I heard that James Avery passed I was very taken aback. Far too often, celebrities are put on a pedestal. But James Avery was more than just a celebrity for many of us. He played the character of “Uncle Phil” on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I was in a slight state of shock when I heard the character that played him passed. In “No Role Modelz” J.Cole states, “First things first, rest in peace Uncle Phil, for real, you the only father that I ever knew.”
I actually did not remember seeing my father until I was 9 years old. The person that resonated with me as I tuned into NBC and saw re-runs was Uncle Phil. Uncle Phil gave me a clue as to what a father should be. He was fair, firm, loving, caring and nurturing. I connected with him and still do this day as an adult.
He received Will in with open arms. He loved his nephew like his own son. He flew Will out as we all know from West Philadelphia to the posh Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Angeles. I in fact related to such a thing being flown back to New York City by my mom’s brothers. They treated me and still treat me like a son. Uncle Phil did not have to take on such a task, but he did.
Uncle Phil not only had to deal with Will, he had to deal with the distinct personalities of his children. There was Hilary, Carlton, Ashley, and Nicky. For a father to deal with such nuanced personalities is not a small task. He had to be patient when Hilary dropped out or ran up a credit card bill. He went to Carlton and Will’s basketball games. He had to check Carlton for doing too much brown nosing. He had shown his softer side with Ashley and Nicky. He wore many hats. He really did it effortlessly.
As a father, he was a role model with his achievements as well. He made it out of North Carolina to Princeton University. He is the reason Carlton wanted to go to Princeton as a matter of fact. He engaged in activist endeavors. We saw him first on the show as a lawyer and then as Judge Banks. I mean he was a black man living with his black family in Bel-Air of all places. How many people outside of Los Angeles knew where this was? He put a lot of negative stereotypes to bed in regards to absent black fatherhood.