Black fathers tend to be viewed harshly — castigated by the press, politicians and sometimes, members of their very own communities, including the women in their lives.
But as Father’s Day 2017 approaches, a “few good men” stand resolutely, affirming that they remain on guard — loving, protecting, encouraging and raising their children.
One minister in Richmond believes negative perceptions of Black men impact their ability to be good fathers.
“Black fathers don’t get a fair shake when it comes to how we participate in our children’s lives because for the most part, America believes that Black fathers are not present,” said the Rev. Gregory King Sr., pastor of Broomfield Christian Methodist Church (CME) in Richmond.
King, 63, a social justice activist who previously pastored a CME congregation in Alexandria, raised two children as a single father.
“There’s a presumption that most Black families are headed by single Black females,” said King, the father of two sons, 42 and 38. “But I believe most Black families are headed by a Black male. We just don’t appreciate or pay attention to it. And until the media and the culture of this country can look at Black men as people like they look at white men, there will always be this divide that assumes that a Black man is guilty of a crime or is doing something negative [that impedes the ability to be a good father].”
“To be a good father means a man is a nurturing and caring parent to his child. It doesn’t mean that he’s the one who fathered a child,” King said. “It means he’s the one who cares for their child. I think that more now than ever, we have Black men who do just as well taking on the role of father to children who are not biologically theirs with great success and without compromising their values.”
Capitol Heights resident Renaud Scott, 31, married and the father of two young children, 7 and 3, describes being a responsible dad as his “duty,” and recalls how pushing a stroller elicited unexpected comments.
“My daughter was walking with me at the mall and my son was in his stroller and I received numerous compliments, like I was doing something strange or rare,” Scott said. “It’s my duty, my job — the compliments simply weren’t expected. I think society and dare I say it, even Black women, often doubt that a Black man can and will do what needs to be done.”
“My father wasn’t there — he was a dealer turned user — but I had other role models: uncles, men in my church like Brother Malone, later on my grandfather. That made a huge difference for me because I learned how to conduct myself as a man, a father and a productive member of my community. I learned that what matters most is to be there for our children. It’s love and action that will help them become better people,” Scott said.
So, what’s going on this Father’s Day? Plenty, says Ward 5 resident and activist Frank Malone, 67, who founded The 100 Fathers, Inc. in 2000.
He’s teamed up with Tyrone Parker, executive director of the Alliance of Concerned Men, to form the DC Fatherhood Coalition. The Coalition will sponsor events June 15 — 18 that include: a Youth Speak; a Panel of Fatherhood Experts on Capitol Hill; Breakfast with Dad; and a Blessing of the Fathers with Fathers of the Year Awards. [visit www.100fathers.org for additional info or call 202-361-0716]
Malone says securing additional resources would go a long way in helping young fathers get off to the right foot.
“We’re holding these activities this weekend because we know how important it is to step up, show up and speak up in the lives of our families,” he said. “Fathers need to know they really do make a difference in their children’s lives. It’s not about how much money you can give — it’s how much love you share.”
“Most of the latest data shows that Black fathers are among the most caring of all dads. But we need resources to address our economic, emotional and psychological selves. We need encouragement, we need leadership from older men, more successful men. And change is coming — it’s seen in examples over and over from all across the U.S. There’s no silver bullet. We work on behalf of fathers, young and old, each day, because we believe it’s crucial to our community.”
Hillard Wheeler, 55, a program manager for a government contractor and father of three, lives in Camp Springs and says he had a great role model — his father.
“He was present every minute of my life. In fact, all the Black men I’ve known were in their homes for their wives and their children. We have to knock down that stereotype about Black fathers not caring and not being there,” said Wheeler adding that he’s been happily married to his wife Monica for 23 years.
Jesse Jackson, a school superintendent in Lake Wales, Florida says he’s discovered untold joy by hanging out with his three teenaged children.
“It’s about positive relationships, effective communication and being perceptive parents,” said Jackson who commutes close to five hours from his job so he can join his family in Tallahassee.
“And understand this: 1that the struggles fathers face are not limited to race. I see just as many of my white or Asian friends going the same things. But we all do the best we can for our children. That’s what being a real father is all about.”
WI contributing writers Hamil Harris and Dorothy Rowley contributed to this story.