Friday, February 28, 2014

Let's Make History

"I didn't have a dad in the house, and I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices.”
–President Barack Obama 2/27/2014 “My Brother’s Keeper” Program Press Conference

Yesterday, the President announced an initiative to encourage  businesses and nonprofits to provide greater opportunities for the placement of black males in jobs. The program is called My Brother's Keeper. This is definitely a good program but how do we first deal with the problems stemming from fatherlessness? Before some of the broken kids in our communities can join the workforce, they need someone to prepare them for it. I once mentored a group of young men that never owned a suit or had any knowledge of how to tie a tie. The reason? There was not one man in their life that took the time to help them with this. The mentoring program I led took our guys down to Menswearhouse to get measured for their first suit. As we close out another Black History Month, I’m left wondering what is being done in the name of the "Black Present Day"- especially as it relates to fathers. Considering that 1 out of 2 black children will go to bed tonight without a father in the house, there is something that needs present day action. Thirty to 40 years ago, the majority of black families had both parents in the house. It was normal for dads to be hands on with the family unit. Obviously, things have changed. But why have things changed? How do all of the fathers trying to "hold it down" encourage wayward father’s to stay active with their kids?  How many kids are now looking for acceptance in gangs because of the rage they feel from not knowing dad?  Some of these same guys turn to selling drugs because the street life has shown them no other way to make a living. It seems the nightly news is filled with stories of young black men killing one another during the prime of their lives. Many times this only because they didn't have a dad. Judging from the media, the actively involved  father is becoming a trend of the past. Is being an absentee father going to one day be the new black history?

I think those of us, like the President, who have persevered through the struggles of fatherlessness, should make sure this isn’t the case.  Mr. Obama stated that it was a support system of teachers and community leaders that guided him onto the right path. We need to do more to create a support system for the fatherless kids in our communities. A lot of today’s devoted dads are the way they are because they know how bad it hurts to be without their dad. These "superdads" have an amazing ability to help a fatherless child turn their anger into something positive. To those dads, I say rock on and keep leaving that legacy!

Dads in Action Challenge: Look for a child or a group of children in your community that you could spend some time mentoring. In my work as male mentor, I've found that just devoting an hour a week to a kid with no dad can go a long way in improving the child's life. Here are some suggestions:

1.) Get involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program
2.) Coach a little league team at your YMCA
3.) Connect with a mentoring program at a nearby college

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