Black men in America tend to be blamed for all of the ills which plague their communities. But none remains more entrenched in the minds of society than their penchant and preference for ignoring the needs and desires of their children.
However, data continues to illustrate that the notion of the “absentee Black father” exists more in the minds of the uninformed than in the real world. Still, this stereotype, while fabricated and inaccurate, continues to impact the ways in which Americans view Black men.
Many Black fathers find themselves on a slippery slope — contributing in the overall development of their children, yet viewed as “deadbeat” because of the percentage of those who do not reside in the same home as their children. Nonetheless, Black dads across the nation prove time and time again that living arrangements should not and do not serve as the basis for or evidence of “fatherlessness.”
For the record, America has witnessed the outstanding contributions of many Black men who reached unprecedented heights even though their fathers did not live in their homes including: Barack Obama, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Dr. Ben Carson, baseball great Jackie Robinson, playwright August Wilson, Stevie Wonder and Malcolm X.
Statistics from the National Fatherhood Clearing House show that close to 70 percent of all births to Black mothers are non-marital, giving rise to the stereotype that Black fathers are largely absent. However, while Black fathers are less likely than white and Hispanic fathers to marry their child’s mother, many continue to parent through cohabitation and visitation, providing caretaking and financial and in-kind support.
In fact, a bastion of Black men, including several who spoke with The Washington Informer, dispel the stereotypes surrounding them each day while striving, despite the odds, to be good dads and an integral part of their children’s lives.
“Fathers want to be in the lives of their children but often, because they love their children, they’re taken advantage of by the mothers who use the children as pawns,” said the Rev. Frank Malone, president/CEO, The 100 Father Inc., founded in 2005.
Malone, 70, who lives in Northeast, recently accepted a seat on the Black Men for Biden national leadership team. But closer to home, he and a group of volunteers have been working with young boys in Southeast, illustrating what real fathers look like and the positive things real fathers do for children — both their own and others in need of a father figure.
“We have 23 young men in the Ballou Brotherhood Program,” he said. “Until schools were closed due to COVID-19, our boys filled the room. Believe it or not, 10 of those boys, despite their young ages, serve as the heads of their households. We teach them de-escalation when involved in conflict situations, how to be smart and how to stay alive. They want to be somebody one day and we have to help them.”
“It’s different when a father or a man talks to a young man who has only had women in their lives. They cling to men who show them positive ways to live and approach the world. Fatherhood cannot be bought — it’s got to be taught,” Malone said adding that only one of the boys in the program has been a victim of homicide.
“Things are changing,” he said. “Father support groups like ours are springing up everywhere. Black fathers want to be in their children’s lives and they’re not criminals. Character assassination has hurt us because of inaccurate perceptions and that are not our reality.”
Rashad Price, 32, who lives in Prince William County, serves as a divorced father intent on being there for his children, despite the differences between him and his ex-wife.
“We’re still hashing out the custody issue and that’s tough on all of us but I’ve always been heavily involved in my children’s lives,” said Price, the father of two — Josiah and Eden, ages 6 and 5.
Malone’s organization, under the umbrella of The Fatherhood Coalition, will host its 8th Annual Father’s Weekend Events entitled Fathers of Faith, via Zoom, June 19 — 21 including their highly-anticipated Fathers of the Year Program on Friday. Price has been chosen as the Young Father of the Year.
“There’s not a day that goes by without me talking or reading to my children,” he said. “I want to make sure that I interact and teach them the things that I was unable to get from my father, even though I did have other male mentors in my life. Being in their lives constantly is my greatest joy. And while I’m no longer living with them, we Facetime every day. I want to keep things as normal for them as possible.”
“As for the award, it’s hard to describe what it means to me. But I’ve gone through a lot in the past year so it really validates that I am a good father, even though my ex-wife and the court try to make it seem that I am not. I’m committed to fighting for the betterment of my children and other youth,” he said adding that he also serves as a mentor for youth from D.C. with gang affiliations.
Jevon Davis Rico Rush, 34, who will receive the award for Community Father of the Year, is a D.C. native who lives in Southeast and is the father of four boys, ranging in ages from two to 10.
“My boys live with me but it’s still a challenge to provide for them and to do that consistently,” he said. “It’s not just about finances — it’s trying to give them the necessary tools so they can safely and successfully navigate through these tough times today and the obstacles that exist within our community.”
“Seeing them perform well in school and the way they handle themselves whether I’m with them or not make me proud and happy. As for the award I’ll be receiving, it’s a blessing. I take it as showing that the work that I do for my children and other children in the community has not gone unnoticed,” he said.
Chris Thomas, 33, has been chosen as the Top Soldier in Community and has been described by Malone as a “great, young father.”
“I work really hard so my daughter [10-year-old Christina] can have a better life than I — so she won’t have to struggle as much to realize her dreams,” Thomas said. “She’s seen me every day of her life and that’s important. I want to be her first role model and her hero so she can see how a Black father is supposed to treat the queen in his life.”
“When Rev. Malone tapped me as the ‘top soldier,’ it further solidified my belief that I have to be aware of how I present myself to the world each day. Actually not just every day but for a lifetime. I just hope I’m able to model the kind of behavior that shows a Black man at his best,” he said.