Celebrating fatherhood and the economic development of Ward 8 emerged as the main themes at Martha’s Table “Fathers to the Front” festival on June 19 in the District.
Hundreds of people came to Martha’s Table’s main campus on Elvans Road, Southeast, to listen to music, ride horses and ponies, view art and visit booths from vendors such as the Digital Pioneers Academy, the MedStar Washington Center and the Alpha Omega chapter of Omega Psi Phi. However, the booth from the Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL), with the assistance of the Ward 8 Community Economic Development Planning Process (W8CED), received a great deal of attention.
“Fathers matter,” Dr. Laverne Adams, a member of W8CED, said. “Fathers have a powerful influence on their families and in the community. When you have a father in the home, there tends to be economic stability and the chance for more economic growth.”
Adams’ assertion that the lack of a sustained presence of fathers hurts the economic prospects of low-income or working-class families can be proved by 2019 statistics from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center.
That year, 48 percent of all District children lived in a single-parent household. In Ward 8, where Fathers to the Front event took place, Kids Count revealed 79 percent of children lived in a single parent household, second in the city only to neighboring Ward 7, which stood at 80 percent. In contrast, only 13 percent of children reside in single-parent households in predominantly white, upper-class Ward 3. Fatherhood advocates such as Franklyn Malone, president and CEO of 100 Fathers Inc., argue fathers active in the lives of their immediate kin have more economically secure families.
Eldridge R. Allen, the senior consultant for business development & strategic partnerships for the GWUL, said his organization’s presence at the event alongside W8CED made sense.
“We are on the steering committee of the economic development committee,” Allen said. “We at the Greater Washington Urban League want to be more proactive in helping solve Ward 8’s economic problems. The Urban League offers a wide range of services that can benefit Ward 8 businesses and residents, as well as all neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. In addition, we have a satellite office in Ward 7 in the Marshall Heights neighborhood. We have a concentrated effort to see this area develop.”
Adams said the W8CED’s partnership wants wards residents and business to collaborate on the economic imprint “and not have other people tell us what we will have, as has been the case in the past.”
“We want resources to sustain economic growth and to build wealth in Ward 8, just like other parts of the city get,” she said. “Too many Ward 8 organizations work in silos and don’t work together. When we work together, we produce results.”
Adams said she also wanted to promote a new initiative to help economically struggling fathers get trained for jobs.
“The Bainum Family Foundation has a program we have access to that will pay unemployed or under-employed fathers to get paid job training,” she said. “People who participate in this will be trained, paid and have easier access to good jobs. This program is for Ward 8 residents.”
Martha’s Table is an active resource in the W8CED. Kim Ford, the president and CEO of Martha’s Table, serves as a co-chair of the committee.
Ford said strengthening the father’s role in establishing an economic foundation in Ward 8 families remains a priority of hers.
“When I took this job three years ago, I said I wanted one of the largest Father’s Day celebrations in the city and I think we have done that,” Ford said. “I wanted it to be big and nice because males often don’t get the credit they deserve in raising their children. When males are around raising their children, the community tends to thrive and people stay in their homes.”