It was Justin Fenton – Contact Reporter of the Baltimore Sun that said, “Baltimore had more homicides last year than New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, all considerably larger cities. Only Chicago, also a considerably larger city, had more.”
What I interpreted was the following: Major cities across the U.S. are losing more fathers at an increasingly rapid rate.
More homicides. More broken families. More makeshift memorials – Less fathers. I gazed at my little black boy, one day to be a man, someday to become a father; no day that I would live to see, him succumb to the more.
A Father, living in [Baltimore]: An inner city. Home to countless Black men struggling to cultivate their beautiful seedlings in a garden of dilapidated dwellings and rubble; spanned across miles of intricate city blocks. Yet, there is splendor here – within these walls, these Baltimore city limits.
I spotted them. A father and his son, together, selling chilled beverages to passersby seemingly from dawn until dusk. I pulled over to observe in amazement of the sheer joy on this father’s sweat beaten face while he watched his son, with great admiration, enjoy his carefree lifestyle. His son appeared to be about three years of age and delighted to play in the partially unkempt grass. He did not need any lavish toys or electronic devices. He was content simply by his father’s presence. I smiled as I took in the child’s laughter and “watch me daddy” chants. This piqued my interest and thus, I set out on a mission to discover my B.M.F - Black Men fathering.
At a local coffee shop, I stumbled upon a group of Black men comprised of entrepreneurs; engineers; firefighters; architects; photographers; and barbers. I took a seat. I found out that the men met monthly to celebrate the joys, and growing pains of fatherhood sprinkled with playdates for their children.
One young father, the barber, advised that there is power in teaching his sons about the possibilities in life. He asks them on a regular basis what they want to be, where they want live, and how they plan to achieve their goals. He summed up his lessons to his sons by simply stating, “If you want nothing in life, it is easy to obtain. Simply do nothing. If you want something, then it requires hard work and diligence. You should always want something.” He went on to say that despite what the issues plagued by the city, he shows his sons both the good and the bad. He allows them choose which way they want to live their lives. As he added that he cannot pretend or allow his sons to move through life in rose colored glasses. Rather and more often than not, when they are aware of their environment they will choose responsibly.
I observed the architect push his newborn baby girl in a fancy stroller system while his pre-school aged son stood on the foot petals and enjoyed the ride through the aisles. He was an incredibly attentive father, ever so often telling his son to hang on tightly because he did not want him to fall. The faint sounds of “okay daddy” could be heard across the room. I was intrigued.
What I learned in my self-invitation to such an intimate piece of their lives is that men need as much support as women do, if not more. Too often I had the perception of what a man’s role should be. He is to exude strength at all times, harness his anger under pressure, carry the weight of the world on his shoulders because they are broad enough, and protect his family at all times because he is the head. Yet, in this intimate moment what I thought, in reality, was not always so. Our Black men are strong, yes, but they are nurturing and have emotions that they bottle for fears of misconception, they get tired and have moments of self-doubt. They, too, struggle with the state of the Black community and our place in the current climate, while trying to protect and raise a family. They fear the one day of becoming a part of the more. They fear being forgotten. They make incredible sacrifice that goes unnoted. They use each other as sound boards and value one others opinions. They use their time within that meeting to develop long lasting friendships and bond with their children.
As Father’s Day approaches, I think about the Black men who lack the support that some of these fathers have found. Yes I explore the possibilities of many men finding the support they need to carry on.
On this Father’s Day, I want to honor Dads that have a MESSage and continue to radiate and spread their goodness into the universe no matter how rough and harsh their environments may be.
Happy Father’s Day.
MESSage by Kandace Bowens Campbell