As part of its mission to facilitate healthy relationships between Black men and boys, and the greater community, a collective of Ward 4 residents, recreation officials and change agents hosted an outdoor festival Saturday, June 16 in celebration of local fathers and father figures.
On what proved to one of the warmest weekends of the summer, the Man Cave at Emery Heights program brought men, women and children together for an afternoon of music, food, activities and prizes. The gathering culminated months of planning, intergenerational outings and community outreach by the Man Cave committee.
“This is the second annual Father’s Day celebration,” Avery X, Man Cave at Emery Heights committee member, told the audience in his closing remarks toward the end of the event at Emery Heights Recreation Center in Northwest, for which the program’s named.
In support of Avery X and Man Cave’s efforts, nearly a dozen men from Muhammad’s Mosque No. 4 in Southeast joined the hundreds of celebrants who entered the premises over the course of four hours.
“We want the men to fellowship, build our community, and be there for the women, children, and elders,” Avery X, wearing a light brown suit, crisp white shirt, and bright yellow bow tie, added. “We need everyone’s support. We got a lot of programs we want to roll out. We’re at a point where we need all hands on deck. Thanks to the fathers that are here.”
Throughout much of Saturday afternoon, DJ Gneous of WWEN 92.4 spun reggae, hip-hop, and R&B tunes of different eras as guests two stepped, talked and laughed among one another, and munched on hamburgers, hot dogs, and baked beans. A few feet away, his WWEN colleagues hosted a DJ demonstration.
Children gathered by the nearby popcorn machine in anticipation of a crunchy, buttery treat. An artist adorned little faces with vibrant colors, animals, patterns and signs. The Shape Up Kings, a mobile barbershop, also lined up dozens of men and boys.
After their game, in promotion of NBA star Kyrie Irving’s upcoming “Uncle Drew” film, members of the Amateur Athletic Union, many of whom hailed from different corners of the D.C. metropolitan region, joined the festivities. Representatives of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a sponsor of the second annual Father’s Day celebration, also attended, along with D.C. Council member Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) who caught up with constituents. Other sponsors included Friends of Emery Heights, D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Metropolitan Police Department.
“It’s important that we recognize fathers and build Black men of character,” Todd told The Washington Informer. “We should show our young people how important it is to support our elders who do so much for us all year round. We have the D.C. Commission on Fathers, Men, and Boys doing in all eight wards exactly what we do at Emery Heights. There’s even more that we can do. People are busier today than they were before, so it’s about doubling down on the importance of community involvement.”
As he snapped photos with his DSLR and ate food, Titus Brown, a young photographer and affiliate of The Shapeup King, reveled in the opportunity to connect with men and boys from other organizations and communities. During the event, he directed guests toward the truck where a barber trimmed beards and gave fades.
“It’s important that fathers get recognized,” Titus, a 16-year-old resident of Hyattsville, Maryland, told The Informer. “It’s important to understand what we want and need when it comes to our culture and our history. I would like to see more prizes like laptops and gaming consoles.”
Man Cave at Emery Heights started in late 2016 after Krystal Branton, ANC commissioner for Single-Member District 4D05, reached out to the Emery Heights community and other partners. This year, Man Cave took youth to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Northwest. This year’s festival kicked off future programming that includes workshops and brother circles.
“The goal was to promote Father’s Day,” said Craig Hughes, recreation specialist at Emery Heights Recreation Center. “We want to honor the fathers. When you honor your fathers and mothers, you’ll live long days. We brought the community out. There are basketball games in the gym for promotion around the ‘Uncle Drew’ movie. These are the fruits of our labor. I’m looking forward to more of this.”