According to a report released by the White House on June 15, low-income men from communities of color are significantly more likely to be nonresident fathers. The report on “Promoting Responsible Fatherhood,” also indicated that more than half of African-American children grow up in homes without their fathers present.
Mirroring the Obama administration’s commitment to encourage fathers to take responsibility for their children’s intellectual, emotional and financial well-being, Brown Chapel AME Church held a series of events dedicated to African-American men during Father’s Day weekend.
“Some people think that just because you’re capable of having a child, you all of a sudden know how to do this,” said Darren McCormick, one of the weekend’s speakers and associate director of admissions at Grove City College. “Do your research. Ask questions.”
As a father of one, McCormick joined other presenters for the “Men of Impact Symposium” on June 16. Representing different fields of interest, the men each took on a different perspective on the role of African-American men in the Black community.
“In Pittsburgh, the African-American males, slightly over 50 percent graduate from high school. That number has to change,” McCormick said. “Having strong parents and fathers in the household is one of the keys to that.”
McCormick’s presentation was about raising an African-American male. He listed 15 tips to fatherhood, which included teaching your son the consequences of his actions and the value of saving your money.
“As Black men, it’s almost taboo for us to show affection in public. I kissed my father every time I saw him,” McCormick said. “I love my father and I wanted to show it. Now with my son, I do the same thing because it’s important for him to know I love him.”
To demonstrate the important role men play in the lives of their children, Rev. Dr. Mitchel Nickols’ presentation showed the long-lasting consequences of absentee fatherhood. He listed a number of devastating statistics regarding children who grow up in fatherless homes.
“The father factor in education is critical. Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school. Students living in father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school,” Nickols said. “Needless to say, when dad’s not there, there’s a lot of stuff that’s lacking.”
Other presenters examined the long-lasting consequences of violence on African-American males. Like many other experts in the mental health field, presenter Marc Harrison said many in the Black community are suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.
“A five-year-old who sees a drive by shooting is probably going to react the same way as a 20-year-old at war,” Harrington said. “If you don’t do anything about it, don’t expect it to go away. We can definitely access these resources better. There are mental health services listed in the yellow pages.”
Similarly, Rev. Jonathan Gamble’s presentation looked at the role of African-American males in curbing the violence in the community. His first suggestion was to begin by developing safe, stable, caring relationships between parents and children.
“It gets to the point where you can’t just continue to sit back and do nothing. How do we continue to sit back and watch this stuff on TV and we become desensitized to it,” Gamble said. “Stop the violence is really a command that you’re giving to someone. If you have young people who have been saturated with violence and you tell them, stop the violence, it’s in one ear and out the other. But what are you doing to stop the violence?”
In his presentation, Frederick Massey, CEO of Familylinks, illustrated the difference between income and wealth. Using stories from the Old Testament, he explained the importance of acquiring wealth, instead of living life according to a paycheck.
The “Men of Impact” weekend of events also included a concert and Father’s Day banquet.