Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16, 2019. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation in 1966 designating every third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. This day was later signed into law by President Richard Nixon less than 50 years ago in 1972 as a permanent national holiday to commemorate fatherhood.
The subject of Black fatherhood more often than not has been portrayed in a negative stereotype manner and is held as gospel. Statistics indicate that Black men who demonstrate the love and care for their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, students, etc. represent a greater percentage than those who do not. In honor of our good brothers, I decided to take the high road and share perspectives that highlight the positive acts of fathering that deserve the resounding attention from the community, researchers and the media.
Despite having to deal with the injustices of equity challenges, Black men have courageously embraced the responsibility of fathering. Father’s Day is an opportunity to reﬂect, recognize and pay homage to Black men and their journey of fatherhood. As a woman of African descent, I invite you to join me in giving the Black men in our community an endearing high ﬁve for the tenacity, perseverance, persistence and relentless conviction and determination to impart a legacy of positive fathering.
The mindset to demonstrate responsible fathering while navigating the equity challenges of employment, education, housing, social justice and human rights is commendable. It is our responsibility to recognize, acknowledge and highlight what Black fathering looks like and not accept the inaccuracy of media portrayal, culturally bias research studies and negative assessments that determine the status of Black fatherhood.
Black men have understood the importance of flexibility and creativity in order to meet the needs of the children. They know that fathering goes far beyond the results of fertilizing an egg. As Clara Hill-Williams of Pasadena says “Being a father is not a biological act, but an act of guiding, protecting and caring. Children want to know that the father ﬁgure is trusting and dependable (shows up for the dance recital, school play and sports activities).” That’s Black fatherhood.
Some of the other comments made to described Black fatherhood were shared by Roy Allen of Altadena. He indicated, “Being a role model was by far one of the best ways to father. When children see what you do and not only hear what you say, it is powerful. I mentor, coach and motivate many young people in addition to my own children and grandchildren. As a long-standing member of this community, I have been able to witness the fruits of my fathering. I agree that we have to keep lifting up Black men to be great fathers no matter what.”
Others have said that fathering includes being present and showing up even if you are not apart of the household. Participation includes: sharing meals, writing letters and sending cards, talking, teaching about core values of never giving up, practice to be your best, learn from your mistakes and love.
I am proud of the fatherhood experiences of my father, brother and late husband. Each man accomplished his fathering responsibilities in a unique and distinct manner while dealing with the ills Black men experiences in America. My father grew up in Oxford, Mississippi in a family of 10 children during the Jim Crow era and enlisted in the Army. After honorable discharge, relocated to New York then on to Washington, D.C., enrolled in engineering school and worked two jobs as a young husband and father. My brother cared for his daughter as a single parent while completing his last two years at UC Berkeley, graduating with honors and accepted into George Washington Law School in Washington, D.C. My husband, a Los Angeles County probation ofﬁcer took care of his son from a previous relationship and fathered our daughter for almost 3 years before his death 33 years ago which is still a cold case.
I have a great admiration for my father, brother and husband because I witnessed and experienced the care, guidance, emotional and ﬁnancial support. I saw them express their disappointments, vulnerability, strength and weaknesses, joy and laughter while doing what they knew what they had to do and who they had to be for the children. Things were not perfect and sometimes disheartening to know what they had to face on a daily basis as a Black man in America. It is through their encouragement, example of having a strong backbone and a focus on hope that I am a Black woman living in America must remember as a catalyst for bridging the gaps for unity that admonish Black fatherhood.
Here’s to all of the Black men who continue to Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Brilliant to Be Better. Happy Father’s Day. Amani and Upendo!