In 2017, the revolutionary intellectual and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal released his collection of essays, “Have Black Lives Ever Mattered,” focusing on generations of people of color who have fallen to police bullets and violence. And he offered how to fight back.
Even from behind prison walls serving time for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer — a crime for which he has always maintained his innocence — Abu-Jamal short meditations gave rise to Black Lives Matter, digging into America’s history.
Among his thoughts, he says, “History is written by the victors.”
Over the past several years, particularly in recent times following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Black Lives Matter, and the organization’s mission, has gained worldwide support.
Perhaps the growing influence, if not success, of Black Lives Matter lies in the fact that they have finally been given access to the telling of their own story — as Abu-Jamal asserts remains so essential.
This leads me to consider that the stereotypes and tropes which have long-described African-American fathers, the majority of which have been debunked by experts in the social sciences, have continued to falsely portray most Black dads because few of them possess a voice. In other words, their truth — their story — has been inaccurately shared because they are not the “victors.”
Contrary to the normative caricature of Black fathers, they are the most involved with their children, no matter if they live with them or not, when compared with white and Hispanic fathers.
In a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018, it concludes that a greater percentage of Black fathers fed or ate meals with children daily, bathed, diapered or dressed children daily, played with and read to children daily. That same year, the Pew Research Center reported that the role of the American father continues to change — significantly so when compared to years past — and for the better.
In my life, I have had two fathers: my biological dad who died shortly after my 25th birthday; and my stepfather (although I never referred to or thought of him as a “step” dad), who stood in the gap for over two decades until his death in 2014.
My fathers were almost polar-opposites in many regards save one — they loved their family intensely and had no qualms in letting us and the rest of the world know it. I was fortunate — no, I was blessed to have these two men as the male stewards of my mind, heart, body and soul. Yes, C.B. (Daddy) and James (Dad) were two phenomenal, Christian men who took their roles and responsibilities seriously — no matter how difficult and no matter what they cost.
I never had to look far to determine the kinds of values and morals that should and would guide my life — and the lives of my own children. I never longed for their emotional support. I never had to be concerned about whether they’d show up for events in my life that were of great importance to me.
I never had to worry at all.
Recent data suggests that my experiences were not unique. Actually, whether Black fathers live in the home with their children or not, has little bearing on how they treat their kids — or how much they love them.
But it’s not peaches and cream for all children, race notwithstanding. There are some fathers who just don’t have it all together. Some remain so damaged from their own formative years that they have few if any positive models whose behavior and beliefs they can ascertain and follow.
But there are groups in many Black communities who have attempted to guide those lost or damaged to a place of understanding and healing. And the number of these groups continue to rise. They are helping Black fathers of all ages find a way to tell their stories — stories which must be shared so that the false narratives can be corrected.
Sunday is Father’s Day.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we told every dad we know whether biological or surrogate, that Black Fathers Matter?
After all, they really do.