My father and stepfather played critical roles in my personal development and growth. Yet, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, media narratives of absent Black fathers persisted.
Along with many other male role models in my life, both men provided examples of Black fatherhood rarely seen in popular media. Each of my fathers defined fatherhood on their own terms. These men navigated their own internal struggles while helping me become the best version of myself.
My fathers have also been critical to my own political development and awareness. While not everyone has the same joy in thinking about this day, there is space and opportunity to reshape the way we view and understand Black fatherhood.
So with Father’s Day falling during the same weekend as Juneteenth, it seemed like a good opportunity to explore how Black men define and engage with fatherhood, liberation, and raising free Black children.
Six Black men shared their thoughts and experiences with NewsOne. Here’s what they had to say.
Dwight Bullard – Florida Rising
As we celebrate another Father’s Day, I’m constantly reminded by friends and family that times feel different than they have in the past. It is often followed by quips of lack of structure or the breakdown of the family. As we have this debate around Juneteenth and Critical Race Theory, Black people have never had the luxury to experience true freedom. The freedom to dream, the freedom to thrive, the freedom to exist as their whole selves. We live in a society that continually gaslights us, steals, and exploits our labor and creativity.
As we approach Sunday and celebrate Fathers and father figures, I want to encourage brothers to acknowledge the pain. Acknowledge the harm. Acknowledge the frustration. Know that your brother, your friend, your neighbor is part of the same connected struggle. We are part of a people that have and still do experience societal indignation. Nevertheless, we can and should find daily ways to experience joy. We should make it a mission to understand our pain but know that we can, and we will break generational curses. We must look every day at our ancestors and know that we have been and still are KINGS.
Kamau Franklin – Community Movement Builders
The idea of parenthood is so important in how we figure out how to raise our young people. What tools we want to give them for survival. And how we think about what they need to be full human beings. As Black fathers, [we] want [our] kids to obviously “succeed,’ have full lives, and be in touch with who they are and their feelings.
But in America, you have that added responsibility of making sure that they understand how America works. And what are the fault lines? The things that they’re going to have to challenge and look out for, and how they’re going to be treated as compared to other young people. It becomes really important to lay some foundation.
I try to have honest conversations with them about history and race, patriarchy, and sexism. And I try to answer their questions. Obviously, with young kids, I try to answer them in clear ways, and I try to give them what I have.
Delvone Michael – Working Families Party
There’s no bigger challenge or responsibility than Black Fatherhood. We have to wrap our young ones with an extra layer of love to cope with a world built to tear them down. It’s critical to strike the right balance between bolstering and building them up to maximize their potential and detailing the endless resistance they’ll face because of the color of their skin.
The level of cruelty visited upon us is difficult for our young people to grasp and accept—especially if they attend white schools allowed to tell their own history of the world. It can be traumatic when overt racism and White Supremacy finally visits those who were unprepared.
This is why we must stay in their ear. We do them a disservice if we don’t reveal as much of the ugliness in the world as possible without dousing the bright flames of their ambitions.
Maurice Mitchell – Working Families Party
Becoming a father was the most transformative experience of my life. It has had an impact on every part of my life and has redefined how I sit inside of movement work. I have a renewed urgency because I want to realize the change my son can enjoy. I pace myself differently because I’m brought back to my grounding in my relationship with him. There’s something perpetually humbling about parenting, especially gathering. That humility nurses my organizing practice.
As Men, especially Black men, we are often socialized to communicate without access to the full range of emotions. Fathering has opened me up emotionally. I have access to tears I’ve never been able to shed; I have access to the tenderness I’ve never been able to carry.
Those emotional depths make more human the social change work and organizing I engage with. The spaces I create are less hardened; my stances are more nuanced, my approach to leadership development more curious. I attribute all of this to fatherhood.
Mondale Robinson – Black Male Voter Project
I’m 42 years old, which means I was born in 1979. This is so important because it places me in an interesting spot—time-wise—my father was of a generation that had to create Black pride out of faith in our ancestor’s grit. There were no stories of Black folk who fought the system and won. They were the ones.
In spite of all of this, my father found humanity large enough to raise me to love beyond what is immediate. In spite of all of this, my father raised a man—in me—that has dedicated his life to a forever fight for Justice!!
César Vargas – writer & advocate
I gave my baby Omari an African name. I want him to be proud of who he is and where he comes from. The purpose is to instill self-love from the get-go.
I’m also working on breaking generational curses and traumas by showing him as much affection as he needs. Something Black boys don’t get enough of—affection, understanding, protection, presence.
I’m also working on upending gender roles when it comes to raising my son. Taking care of him shouldn’t just be left to his mother. Feeding him, cleaning him, bathing him, soothing him, putting him to sleep. Give him all the things I wish I had as a kid.
That’s not an indictment on my parents because I know they did the best they could. But now we know better. We must do better. And I’ll do just that for him.
Six Black Men Talk Fatherhood And Raising Free Black Children was originally published on newsone.com