a man in blue long sleeves playing with his baby
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While dads in America will be honored on Sunday on the annual celebration known as Father’s Day, the familiar holiday shares the day this year with Juneteenth – the newest national holiday which President Joe Biden approved in 2021. It commemorates the date in 1865 when slaves in Texas, the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery, learned that they were free. 

This year, Juneteenth has served as the basis of a call for Black men – to wake up. In the same way slaves in Texas didn’t get the message that they were free until two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Juneteenth must be a wake-up call for men of color to step up and lead their families. 

“My message to men on Father’s Day serves as a challenge for Black fathers to surround themselves in strength, resilience and faith,” said the Rev. Henry P. Davis. “Strength is critical as only the strongest of Africans were able to survive the Middle Passage. They then faced slave owners who routinely looked for way to break their spirits.”

“Resilience is necessary because we have to look at how many times doors have been shut in the faces of African-American men who, nonetheless, kept pressing forward,” Davis said. “Finally, faith in the power of God can allow fathers to be all that God intended for them to be.”

The Rev. Willie F. Wilson, 75, pastor emeritus of Union Temple Baptist Church, pointed to the power that comes when working in the community. 

“Our communities have been decimated because so many of our men have been taken out of circulation,” he said. “We have manhood training but there must be a collective effort.”

Dr. Alvin Thornton, a retired Howard University professor and provost, said the impressive number of scholarships his grandson has received serve as the result of decades of grooming. 

“Fatherhood is not biological – it is sociological and it’s about relationships,” he said. “Fatherhood must be grounded in respect but today the larger culture doesn’t support fatherhood. When I was growing up there were fatherhood role models but today some brothers are not interested in fatherhood.

Horace Thompson, 81, a resident of Bowie and the lead singer for the Sensational Nightingales, has two children, seven grandsons and nine great-grandchildren. 

“Father’s Day means a lot to me because I came from a really disciplined family and I had a great father,” he said. “Father’s Day used to be a big day for gospel singing and I will be singing this year. 

He added that during the 61 years that he has sung quartet music, he’s never allowed it to keep him from maintaining tabs on his children.

“The Bible says, ‘train up a child in the way they should go,’” Thompson said. “When I see the grandkids and great-grandchildren going off to college and doing great things it’s special to me.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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