…Celebrating Black Men as Fathers

Celebrating a central role in families
By BOBBI BOOKER
Most mainstream media often overlook the role that Black men share as father, mentor and supporter. The distinct and unique role fathers have in African-American culture was explored with several Philadelphia fathers who reflected on the impact men and fathers have on their children.
Democratic mayoral candidate Michael Nutter says fatherhood is about teaching and guidance.“I think fatherhood is a very serious responsibility, as is motherhood,” said Nutter. “The impact that men and fathers have on their children is often underestimated or ignored or even downplayed. If you look at any of the television shows, the fathers are not necessarily actively involved, or in many cases not even around.”

“I learned any number of very important lessons in life from my own father, who is still with me. Whether as a young boy playing sports or learning how to throw or how to act in competition, there’s a verbal and non-verbal communication that goes on and kids pay attention to what their parents do and listen to what they say and often imitate those behaviors in their own lives. I certainly see many of those things with my own children.”

Nutter says the many life skills he learned from his father are shared with his own children, Olivia, 12 and Christian, 24, who flanked him last month onstage election night of Democratic nomination.

Fatherhood was the theme of Nutter’s most successful campaign commercials, which featured his daughter, Olivia, who discusses her father’s daily activities. Nutter says one of his prime responsibilities since pre-school is taking his daughter to school.

”(My children) have helped to make me the person that I am and, of course, for the better,” said Nutter.

“The fathers are often looked upon for that great kind of silent strength and are often seen as the protector and guardian. I think that’s a very powerful image and reality for many children throughout Philadelphia.”
Before he became a father, Yeadon resident Rajieb Allen, 31, thought he would eventually have several boys. Today, he says that his three daughters — Milan, 10, Morgan, 4, Meadow, 3 — have utterly transformed his life.

“Nowadays, being a father means everything to me because of the way the majority of the children are being raised and the things that change in the world,” said Allen.  “I can’t even put it into words, to tell you the truth.  It’s a delight to see them grow. I never thought I would have girls, so it’s just a change in life for me. It slowed me down tremendously. (Having daughters) made me look at life in many views. They are my future.”

Together, Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon are the husband and wife duo known as Kindred the Family Soul.

As a business couple, they run The Kulture Shop on Baltimore Avenue and as a loving Black family, they share their lives with their children Aquil, 8, Diya, 5, and Nina, 3.

Graydon says she see positive messages of love in the families throughout her neighborhood, yet many times Black men (especially the incarcerated) are overlooked.

“I think that the fathers who are out there busting their behinds and are really working and doing their thing are overlooked. I live on a block with fathers who take care of their children but are definitely overlooked. Even the fathers who do have unfortunate situations, where fathers are incarcerated or who have been incarcerated who come out and take care of their kids or who continue relationships with their children throughout a very difficult situation, and we forget about them too, but they exist.”

Dantzler says although his father was not involved in his life, another man helped him in his life’s journey.

“For every father, the experience is different in raising your children in the different ways that they may need you or in how you have to assist or teach them, things that you didn’t realize that you were a teacher of. That, within itself, is just a blessing and a beautiful thing that you get an opportunity to see yourself as a person who is worthwhile and meaningful in someone else’s life.

“We get an opportunity to see the direct connection that we have with our children. I value the opportunity to be in my children’s lives.”
Senator Vincent Hughes’ recalls his father every year with the James Hughes Memorial Scholarship Fund and Golf Classic named to honor his father’s legacy as an advocate for education in a way that is beneficial to young people seeking higher education opportunities.

Hughes says his father’s influence “was like a blanket blessing that hung over my life, and still does, because of his life, his work and who he was as a person. In life, he was solid as a rock for me. When I talked about running for public office, which came out of nowhere, he was right there asking the appropriate questions, probed and made sure he stood with me.”
Hughes won a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives at the age of 30. Today, Hughes and his wife, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, share a blended family which includes the Senator’s children, Ariell and Alek; grandchildren Dylan and Khaya; and Ralph’s children, Etienne and Ivy.

Hughes says the lessons he learned from his father are passed forward to the next generation.

“I’m a grandfather now,” reflected Hughes. “And I try to be solid, consistent and dependable for my children. I try to explain the pros and cons of what the issues are for them. And I try to do what I can to help them realize their dreams.”

=Originally Published in The Philadelphia Tribune on Father’s Day, June 17, 2007= 

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