This is the live blogging for the breakout session Parenting and the Modern African-American Man.
Being a father of color challenges men in ways that the rest of American culture is only just starting to appreciate. Often maligned and marginalized by stereotypes that are statistically disprovable, African-American men cope with social roadblocks and disturbing headlines that perpetuate a cycle of disconnected fathers and rudderless sons. Our panelists are working to break that cycle, both through the simple act of active parenthood and by the activism that wants 2016 to bear as little resemblance as possible to 1966.
Moderator: Dee Lanier – @UNCOMMENapp
Dee – I was scolded for asking this question last night: What are you most passionate about?
Nate – I don’t believe in passions. I believe in purpose. Those who live historically are people who lived with a purpose. I’d rather talk about having a passion than a purpose. I’m passionate about changing the world.
Dee – What was your environment growing up and how did that influence you?
Nate – I grew up in Georgia. I was the kid that people would talk about that can’t achieve. My counselor told me I should join the military. Today I hold three degrees.
Darren – I grew up in Cleveland, OH. My house was broken into a few times and my dad worked a few jobs to get out out of where we lived. We moved to the suburbs. My school was mostly white. I saw two family homes and that is what I grew up knowing. When we went back to the inner city for our church we were considered stuck up. When we went back home we were called the “reggins”.
Chris – I am a government cheese kid and am proud of that. My dad was gone at an early age and I didn’t hear from him until my daughter was born. I was raised by a lot of women and they raised me to break the cycle of missing dads.
I went to an upper east side affluent school. My grandmother worked as a house cleaner for a lady down the block and I got the hand-me-downs from that lady. I went into education and worked at that school. I went to make an impact, and just recently heard from students and was told I made an impact in their lives.
I talk about grit to my daughter and want to make sure that she has that. I want my daughter to be grateful for what she has.
Naeem – I grew up with some purposeful, engaged parents … I spent a few years in a public middle school and went to a private Jesuit high school. The big change in my live was studying abroad in Brazil. Seeing the kids in the favelas made me want to help the people.
Dee – I grew up in south central LA. I ran track and ran from fights. People say if you grow up in LA you grow up hard, no, I grew up scared. I know that if I’m in a setting where I know that I am the minority, I find other African-American men to talk to. Through we can have different hues, different backgrounds we have a common connection.
Everyone here on the panel is well accomplished.
Do you find yourselves waving around your accomplishments?
Darren – I don’t do that anymore. We are peers, we are equals, we don’t look down and up.
Question to the audience, Why do you feel that this is in an important panel for Dad 2.0?
We need to start a conversation. Without a conversation, nothing will be started.
The reason we are having this panel is to dispel the myth of race that is portrayed.
Whatever I can do to help facilitate this message.
Dee – Community and family are central to this movement. Step on my community and family, those are fighting words. You have to be the representative voice of what the people of Ferguson are doing.
Audience member: What is the best advice that you can give to a young girl who doesn’t have a father, but for her to have standards and values for herself?
Chris – I found things that interest me that is what I used to motivate me for not having a father. It’s about finding your worth and throwing yourselves into those.
Nate – Adding to that. Kids don’t exist for themselves. The fruit is supported by the tree and the tree needs to take care of the fruit. That is the relationship between parents and kids.
Who are the five people they hang out with? Based on the five people I can tell who you are. You need good people around you.
Dee talked about being a teacher and dealing with girls that did not have a father and trying to be a role model and how hard it was to introduce that concept into their lives.
Audience member: One of the hard things we had in our area is finding something for my husband to be a better dad. Everything was focused on the negative. With African-America dads, it’s always focused on the negative (Child support, getting custody back).
How do we change that, let the conversation move forward?
Darren – City Dads Groups. What we do for fatherhood in general. We have meet-ups, dad’s night out, meet-ups. Not only are we having fun with our kids, but we are building a larger community for fathers. It’s a father to father talk. It’s honest. I do have a passion for being fathers in the group.
Audience member: A lot of the groups in my area are started by women. Girls for change, deals with girls who’s fathers are not engaged in their lives . . .
How do you build a good relationship with your child’s mother?
Darren – We separated so we didn’t separate. My wife has a gift for motherhood. We have a good relationship. There are some people who are not going to get past using their children against their dads. Always try to have whatever conversation that needs to be had. The child needs to see the love. We need to step back and make this right.
Dee – The number one thing that a father can do to love his children well is to love the mother of his children well. There are a lot of great organizations represented in this room and I think we should pool together. My first proposal is to get together.
Naeem – Raising expectations for children and adults. We need to start celebrating all of the small and large moments in a student’s life and child’s life. Those are the things that bring constant change in our lives. Relationships are the key to making a change.
Let’s work together and use the hashtags #noirdads, let’s continue this conversation, and let’s not think that we are done. Let’s continue this conversation.
Then the men of the panel were joined by some of the audience members to take this photo in the KIA suite (photo by Two Dudes & a Booth):
Live blogged by Victor Aragon Jr. from @Fandads