Any fool can be a father but it takes someone special to be a loving and supportive dad. That’s the message a new movement of black men are advocating.
Dads are becoming more vocal about taking a strong role in the lives of their children. Whereas a decade ago it was relatively unheard of, today it is possible for fathers to be awarded sole custody of their kids.
Barack Obama’s presence in the White House has “elevated the conversation” says Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated.
Not only has the president put “responsible fatherhood” at the top of the political agenda with his nationwide Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, says Braswell, but he is also a compelling role model of a black man clearly devoted to his two daughters.
“This has changed the conversation, if he can do it, then how come we can’t,” adds Braswell, who himself has four children. Obama, for example, has always talked candidly about being raised in a single parent household and the void he felt growing up without a father.
According to U.S. Census data, more than 24 million children, or about one in three, lived apart from their biological fathers in 2009. Figures also show an even higher number of African-American men live apart from their kids.
Studies indicate that children who spend quality time with their fathers do better in all areas of their lives. Research indicates those raised by single parents have lower levels of achievement at school, are more likely to have behavior problems and are less likely to hold down steady jobs.
“It is critically important for men to be present and provide love for their children,” says Eric Payne, creator of the fatherhood blog, MakesMeWannaHoller.com.
Lamar Tyler, who along with his wife Ronnie runs the award-winning blog BlackandMarriedWithKids.com, echoes this sentiment. “Children need their fathers to determine what Manhood really is so they don’t look at pop culture as a definition.”
The duo has produced a series of feature length DVD documentaries through their production company, Tyler New Media. One of their films — Men Ain’t Boys — offers a thought provoking look at issues such as effective fatherhood, stereotypes surrounding manhood and maintaining lasting relationships, says Tyler.
“There is something about having a father in the house as a guiding force in the life of a child that’s important,” says father of two, Payne. “For boys a loving father figure in the home is their first example of manhood.”
“For girls her father is her first example of a real man who loves her unconditionally so when she’s out in the real world she doesn’t get caught up with what isn’t love” he adds. “The relationship with her father is a framework, a template, to define her relationship with other men.”