Black fathers unite, support through Facebook Groups

theGRIO REPORT - On Father's Day, some dads are more focused on being great fathers than getting the praise, and they are turning to the internet to do it.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

On Father’s Day, some dads are more focused on being great fathers than getting the praise, and they are turning to the internet to do it.

David LeRoy, a Chicago-based tech business owner, started a Facebook group a year ago called Black Fathers in an effort to give a community and a voice to the active black fathers in the US.

“I was tired of seeing the news and Facebook posts about absentee black dads. The black man is always in a negative light in the media.  We’re all in trouble. We’re all in jail,”  said LeRoy, a married father of two boys ages 7 and 9.

“Meanwhile, I have a lot of friends who are happily married fathers. They are doing the fatherly things with their kids, but you don’t see that story enough,” he added.

According to LeRoy, the group, which now boasts almost 200 members, is a source of vigorous debates and camaraderie on a wide variety of issues, from Trayvon Martin to parenting styles to Donald Sterling.

Down in Houston, Texas, Samori Diallo started a Facebook group called Black Fathers of Houston for similar reasons.

“There are too many children that don’t have fathers in their lives. We have to take responsibility to be active fathers. So this group is here to support and motivate each other and teach each other,” said the married father of a toddler son.

Diallo’s Facebook group is only two months old but already has over two dozen members.

“One thing that I think it very important is the idea of generational wealth. We have to learn how to get, create and maintain for ourselves so that we have skills and capital to pass down to our children. So, our group touches on some of those issues,” said Diallo, who operates his hair care business from home while he homeschools his son.

LeRoy agrees that teaching children about how to budget and handle money is essential.

“My wife, who is an attorney by trade, homeschools our sons, and they know how to do balance sheets and mark-ups and all of those other practical skills. We makes sure they have the tools to help them become successful entrepreneurs,” said LeRoy.

“Education is very important, and that’s one thing that a lot of people see as more of a woman’s job. That has to change. Some dads will spend hours on sports activities and 10 minutes, if that, on schoolwork. Men are teachers as well, and helping with education is something we support in the Facebook group,” said Diallo.

Both Facebook group founders also pondered about the impact of their fathers on their own parenting.

“There is no playbook to being a great dad, and we are all impacted by the way we were raised. My parents were both Haitian, and my dad was that traditional, old school Haitian dad. Children were to be seen and not heard. He was stern and not the kiss and hug type of guy. I still find myself falling back to that sometimes as a father to my boys, but I know that for me it’s important to be affectionate and emotionally available as well,” said LeRoy.

Diallo did not have a relationship with his father growing up but has since begun to reconnect with him.

“When I have a question about parenting, I research and I read a lot. I also have mentors in my life and I know a lot about what not to do,” said Diallo.  “My son was wanted and planned, but some men don’t have that starting off point and I’ve learned a lot about different perspectives and circumstances by listening to the other fathers in the group.”

The Black Fathers of Houston group has had meet-ups, and Diallo plans to do more activities such as daddy-daughter dances and father-son events.

So, what does it mean to be a dad? Both fathers have poignant answers. “Being a dad means being a teacher, provider and leader. When you pass away, it is your job to pass on that wealth and knowledge to your children and they are prepared for their futures,” said Diallo.

LeRoy said: “To be a dad is to be entrusted by God to take care of a gift you have for a short period of time. Your job is to guide them to make wise decisions to raise their own families.”

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope, and connect with her on Facebook.