June 21 last month was the official first day of summer. Also on that day, “stimulus package” funds were put to good use at chicken farms around our nation. Those hen-house chickens were working overtime to provide enough eggs to feed thousands of people attending breakfasts honoring Father’s Day. This month, the chickens can relax, but fathers cannot.
Fatherhood is a serious business that requires overtime work for at least 21 years. Nationwide attention to the influence fathers have on the family began in the early 1990s. As awareness began to grow, especially in large and small African-American urban areas, so did organizations looking to tackle the problem of absentee dads.
In 1998, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis started spreading the word around the country about the serious issues facing black men in and out of prison, including offering ways to strengthen fathers. His annual Expo for Today’s Man took place June 6 at Malcolm X College. Fathers Who Care, a year-round organization, conducted 12 workshops covering issues fathers face. Its CEO and founder, Walter Jones, organized the workshops in conjunction with Davis. Again, the congressman is to be congratulated for his lifetime commitment to identify and resolve problems facing African-American men. And why black men mainly?
Because, the reality is that black men, percentage wise, are at the bottom of all other racial groups in our country when it comes to employment, educational skills, and company ownership. One exception is professional sports teams, where blacks are in the majority of all other racial groups as far as players.
As we continue through the remainder of the year, the most pressing challenge I see is that we need all serious black fathers – divorced, married, not married – to take a greater interest in the overall welfare of their families. I firmly believe that it takes more than a paycheck to help children.
Why is Father’s Day so important each year? It’s a chance to acknowledge those outstanding African-American men raising their children without a mother in their lives. Also to those surrogate parents who reach out to fill the emptiness left by biological fathers missing in action. It’s a chance to call all serious black fathers to return to their children’s homes – temporary or full time- and work to restore leadership and direction, where noble mothers have stood virtually alone trying to raise our youth.
Finally, from my experience working with young black males on the West Side, I found that you can be the poorest father, but if you truly love your children and take responsibility to be there for them, in good and bad times, it gives them something that money can not buy. Nothing truly replaces the void that a missing strong father or mother leaves in the soul and spirit of a young person.
A closing thought for fathers returning home: you can tell your son or sons that they have a chance to be different from you; a chance to be the man you want to be; a chance to be successful in life. A chance to be all you could not achieve.
Frank Lipscomb is an adjunct professor at Lewis University.