No Getting Around It: Children Need Fathers
Earl Lindsey looked too young to be the father of a petite teenage girl at his side.
With shoulder-length locks, and a trendy cap on his head, Lindsey appeared to be the typical young blood. But 35-year-old Lindsey is the father of two daughters, Jennah, 13, who was with him, and a 2-year-old.
I ran into him and his eldest daughter at the National Summit on Black Male Achievement, which was held Friday at Kennedy-King College in Englewood.
The summit, presented by the Third World Press Foundation and Kennedy-King, was centered around the theme of “Black Manhood” and included a keynote address by Susan L. Taylor, the famed former editor in chief of “Essence” magazine, who now heads up the “National CARES Mentoring” program.
I watched as he proudly squired his daughter around the room and introduced her to many of the dignitaries. He reminded me of the important role fathers play in their children’s lives.
“I can tell you that fatherhood is probably the best thing that ever happened to me or will ever happen to me,” Lindsey told me. “I look at it as God used me to get somebody powerful here and that he is going to use her to do something great in life. She has a purpose, and it was a blessing for me to be chosen as the instrument to get her here.”
Sunday is Father’s Day, and I don’t want to dwell on the absence of black fathers as much as I want to celebrate fatherhood.
There’s no way to get around the fact that too many fathers are not present in their children’s lives. But we’ve harped on the absence of fathers long enough.
In a recently released documentary, Kobie Brown, a well-known executive at Sony Music, dared explore some of the reasons so many black fathers are MIA, while introducing some fathers who are parenting consistently despite having to do so under difficult circumstances.
“Discussions about why fathers are absent have been forbidden, so we put up this facade and armor around the discussion,” Brown told me in a telephone conversation. “In avoiding the discussion, we don’t look at the men who are there, and they aren’t being elevated to the level that they can provide an example of what a healthy relationship looks like.”
When I spoke with Brown, he was on his way to Chicago for a screening of his powerful documentary, “From Fatherless to Fatherhood,” at the Pre-Father’s Day Conference hosted Saturday by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
In the documentary, black fathers of all ages, from all walks of life, talk about what being a father means to them.
“We need to have the discussion about what it means to prepare to be a father, what it means to choose the person with whom you are going to have a child, and lastly, to really see the values and resources provided by those men who are having healthy relationships with their children,” Brown said.
Lindsey was not raised by his father, but credits his mother, grandmother, uncles and grandfather with teaching him valuable life lessons.
“My father would take hiatuses. I would see him for a while and I wouldn’t see him for years, and he would try to pick up like nothing had happened,” Lindsey said.
Sports kept him focused and taught him discipline. Today, he coaches Little League baseball for the West Chatham Panthers. He also heads up “Windy City Cares,” the Chicago chapter of Taylor’s national mentoring program.
When fathers show up at Little League games, “It’s a joy,” Lindsey said.
“Fathers who aren’t actively involved in their children’s lives initially ‘lie’ about it. But they eventually let me know that they are not active or present,” Lindsey said.
“I tell them the best thing they can do is to be present. You don’t have to have a whole lot of money or the things that society says you should have – the things that we rob, steal and kill each other for.
“Be there like you are there for yourself,” the young father said.
Phillip Jackson, founder of Black Star Project, also has created several programs that bring fathers together with their children. “The key to stopping violence in Chicago is getting more fathers active in the lives of children,” Jackson said.
“It is doable. I’ve been known to go out to the clubs and stop the music and introduce information about fatherhood, and I have been booed off the stage,” he said. “But we have to go to barbershops. We have to go to clubs. We might even have to go to strip clubs.”
There’s no getting around it.
Fathers are critical to the upbringing of children.
For more information about “From Fatherless to Fatherhood,” go to tofatherhood.com.