As one looks out across America, there are community safety issues that are proliferating across the nation and there is much concern for personal safety. So far in 2022, there have been hundreds of individual and mass murders nationwide and an uptick in car jackings, robberies and violent crimes. But, what is the problem causing national violence at schools, in homes and in communities, and how can we solve it?
We all know that when you have need for relief from something that can claim your life such as a disease, you must seek out a doctor who can evaluate your symptoms and give you a proper diagnosis. When you get the diagnosis, you can then focus your resources on treatments that can bring you the best relief. As a National Fatherhood Master Trainer, it is obvious to me that the diagnosis today for the violence in America, is Reactionary Masculinity Syndrome [RMS] – a behavioral disease defined by Dr. Amos Wilson, the noted Black psychologist and author of “Black On Black Crime.” Dr. Wilson defines RMS as a Black male’s futile attempt to assert his manhood and regain some kind of power and respect by actively or passively rebelling against racial oppression and white authority. But the rebellion is often done in a way harmful to himself, his family and his community while being beneficial to his oppressor.
For political and community leaders who are unfamiliar with the devastating effects of the “disease of fatherlessness,” let us look at evidence that cannot be refuted. Studies from the National Fatherhood Initiative and the American Psychological Association document that fatherlessness is the cause of academic failure, inappropriate behavior in youth, emotional problems, low self-esteem, suicide and unlawful behavior. An emotional hole in the heart of a young man can result in pain and anger.
The facts about fatherlessness beg the question what do errant law-breaking youth need? Many will say, “lock them up and throw away the key.” But while we agree there must be consequences, we believe there must also be assets in place such as trained practitioners, support, empowerment, boundaries, expectations and constructive use of time. These assets must come from the community, families, faith institutions and local government agencies.
The 100 Fathers Inc. has model programs we have developed as Certified Fatherhood Master Trainers. For example, in the District of Columbia, The 100 Fathers Inc. transformed dozens of young men at Woodson High School, at the District Phelps Academic Campus and at Ballou High School. For years, our trained fatherhood and rites of passage facilitators and our Council of Elders walked with young men past police cars and fights every week as we engaged with young men enrolled in our rites of passage programs. However, in spite of our success some local officials cut the funding because they did not see Black boys as a priority. Still, if anyone asks the principals or teachers at the aforementioned schools, they would receive positive responses about how our fatherhood programs worked.
The 100 Fathers Inc. believe the answers to crime and violence begin with prevention, intervention, innovation and recognition that fatherlessness is at the root of the problem. Our local governments must put people to work to engage and connect with the thousands of troubled, fatherless boys and girls who believe crime is the enterprise they should chose. Elected officials must find ways to bring culturally competent programs, services, careers and support to communities with significant funding support from the public and private sectors. There must be collaboration among local, state and federal government agencies, police chiefs, community outreach programs, faith leaders, educational institutions and extended families.
Programs that address fatherlessness are the only way we can change the paradigms across the country from community violence’ to community peace. Decision makers must diagnose the disease of fatherlessness and recognize that there is an important role for fatherhood role models, mentors, coaches, community leaders, faith leaders and supportive trained women in our communities.
This must be an interfaith effort that builds on men’s groups with experience working with fatherless youth, such as Cure the Streets, the Alliance of Concerned Men, Alphas, Omegas, Kappas and all of the Divine Nine Fraternities and Sororities who must work together to unravel the hurt, harm, danger and trauma caused by years of neglect. Our Fatherhood Master Trainers have the tools, knowledge and best practices based on our transformative curriculum and training. Now, we need a national commitment and abundant funding to implement programs that address fatherlessness and that build on the assets needed to transform lives in cities across America.
No matter how you look at it – fathers matter! We care about our communities and our families and we are here to stay and prepared to build with hope, trust and resilience.
Franklyn Malone is the founder and CEO of 100 Fathers, Inc. and the DC 2020 Hall of Fame Society Community Leader and Living Legend.