An interactive session with artists and experts aimed at helping fatherless women has been planned for Oct. 21. (Courtesy photo)

Jonetta Rose Barras and her team at the nonprofit Esther Productions, Inc., have some serious questions for young women who’ve grown up without the presence of a father.

“Are you filled with self-doubt?” “So you sometimes exhibit inexplicable rage?” “Do you have trouble sustaining healthy relationships?”

Those are just some of the many conflicts Barras expects to address during “The GIFT: An Interactive Arts Healing and Reconciliation Experience,” a program scheduled for 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21 at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Northwest.

Now in its third year, the program promises to move participants beyond “the emotional pain and self-questioning triggered by father absence,” said Barras, an award-winning journalist, radio host and author of the bestseller “Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl: The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women.”

“[The program] is an extension of the work Esther Productions Inc. began in 2005,” said Barras who founded Esther Productions in 2004. “Then we produced the National Daughter Daddy Reunion Tour. It was more an educational and awareness program, designed to get the public to understand the impact of father absence in a girl and woman’s life.

“[The program] is a hands-on experience with customized interventions that use all of the arts to instigate healing for girls and women who have grown up without the presence and active involvement of their biological fathers in their lives or grew up with fathers who were not emotionally available to them or witnessed the death of their fathers and have not fully healed,” she said.

“Using a team of therapists, artists and activists, we meld together a rich and interactive program that helps participants examine their emotional landscape to discuss the impact of father absence. We then provide them tools and interventions that they can use at the event to begin the healing process and that they can continue to employ to affect their full healing,” Barras said.

More than 25 million of children in American are living in homes without their biological fathers; many more live in homes where the father is physically present but emotionally absent, according to a 2016 report from the National Center for Fathering.

About 57 percent of African-American children are growing up in homes without their biological fathers; 31.2 percent of Hispanics also live in homes with absent biological fathers, as do nearly 21 percent of whites.

Fatherless families are 44 percent more likely to raise children in poverty and children who grow up without their biological fathers are 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.

Statistics show that 71 percent of adolescent substance abusers come from fatherless homes and those children growing up without their fathers are twice as likely to commit suicide and are nine times more likely to drop out of school. Also, 70 percent of adolescents in juvenile detention facilities in America have come from fatherless families. In a study of INTERPOL crime statistics from 39 countries, it was determined that single parenthood ratios were strongly correlated with violent crimes.

What’s more, 70 percent of teen pregnancies happen in fatherless homes or in homes where fathers are emotionally unavailable, the National Center for Fathering reported.

While the program isn’t a stage play, Barras said it does provide for drama, literature and dance.

“The women are given the opportunity to give voice to their pain, to discover their power to heal, and to empower themselves to choose a new more positive direction in their lives and in their relationships,” Barras said.

Each of the previous engagements have concluded with women noting they’ve been inspired and more confident in their ability to manage the consequences of father absence, she said.

“Most important they have engaged in valuable self-discovery and self-actualization,” Barras said.

Barras said those attending are guaranteed to feel healing energy and discover aspects of themselves some may have forgotten.

Some may even decide it’s time to reach out to their fathers.

The gathering will include nationally-known artists like Brittany Adams, Dr. Tracie Robinson, Joy Jones, and Darryl Green.

The team will use what Barras said are emotional obstacle courses, customized games, and specialized exercises to take participants deep inside themselves to discover the woman that’s covered by father absence grief and worried about who will appreciate or love her.

Presented by Esther Productions’ Fatherless Daughters Reconciliation Project in concert with My Sister’s Place, The GIFT counts among its sponsors Fort Myer Construction Corporation Charitable Foundation, Pepco, Kerry S. Pearson LLC, and Emmanuel Bailey.

“The message we want to send to those who participate is that while father absence has a powerful effect, it is possible to manage, preventing it from causing women to feel themselves unworthy of love and misdirecting their lives,” Barras said. “Equally important, it is possible for women suffering father absence to have healthy relationships with men and develop into whole healthy women.”

Tickets are free but registration is encouraged. For more information, visit or

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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