Black fathers met on Capitol Hill Friday evening to discuss the development of a legislative agenda for fatherhood.
The 100 Fathers Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship to fathers and young men, organized “Fatherhood Legislative Summit: Fatherhood, Legislation and What’s Next,” a panel discussion at the Cannon House Office Building where mentors and legislators brainstormed the steps needed to create a political agenda that supports black fathers.
“Fatherhood is economic, political and social,” said Frank Malone, who founded the 100 Fathers Inc. in 2000. “There are laws that affect the economic opportunities and socialization of our young men.”
Tristan Breaux, who works in the office of D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, agreed and said the recent cuts in federal funding to workforce development programs and Pell Grants and loan forgiveness programs could have an especially significant impact on African-American fathers. He also pointed out the enforcement of laws that have led to the incarceration men of color at a disproportionately higher rate than their counterparts.
“The federal government has an obligation to correct these wrongs, but we have an obligation to lobby to them and tell them how we fell about our concerns,” Breaux said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
The panel was part of a series of events hosted in partnership with 100 Fathers Inc. and the D.C. Fatherhood Coalition for the weekend of Father’s Day, including a youth panel that day before and breakfast event the following day.
Moderated by WJLA broadcaster Sam Ford, the panel included Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin, Rev. Julius Hayes, founder of the mentorship group Saturday Academy for Positive Self Development, Prince George’s County school board member Curtis Valentine and Sharon Bonds of All Above Love Inc., which provides psychological services to women and troubled teens.
They discussed existing policies that affect black fatherhood and deliberated on possible legislative changes on the local and federal level that would have more positive outcomes for fathers of color.
“The people who are opposing what we stand for are organized, they’re active, well-funded and motivated,” said Valentine, who acts a mentor in his community. “Are we as motivated and just as organized as they are?”
The panelists suggested additional funding and support for the organizations who already work to support fathers and young men to create wraparound services in schools and work development programs.
Franklin suggested funding re-entry programs for those released from prison, policies that would ban employers from asking applicants about their criminal history — also known as “ban the box” — and the establishment of commissions on fatherhood, men and boys in local jurisdictions to continuously develop effective policies for the groups.
“We need a fatherhood agenda all over America,” he said. “We need to get beyond just talking about it, and get policies about fatherhood that we take to each and every community.”