We’ve all seen the sobering statistics of black fatherhood. Only 28 percent of black children live with a father at home. However, the 2012 Black Fatherhood Challenge hopes to reverse those statistics as well as celebrate African-American fathers who are current role models and active participants in their children’s lives.
The 90-day challenge—spearheaded by Dr. Thomas A. Gordon, a licensed psychologist, strategic advisor, and corporate leadership expert—aims to celebrate black fatherhood and to provide men and fathers with tools to advance the lives of their families and communities.
“It’s time that Black men begin to celebrate their positive accomplishments, dissect the challenges, reconnect, and chart new victories; as we identify, rally around, and pass along the next set of powerful, life development keys to each other and the next generation,” said Dr. Gordon, a father of five adult children and grandfather of seven.
Through social media, the initiative will use sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., to connect and provide fatherhood reflection, advice and forums. A group called The Champion Circle of Fathers—that consists of many prominent fathers/leaders from across the country in the areas of health, mental health, wellness, political and civic leadership, business, education, wealth management, spirituality, activism, and relational healing—will offer guiding advice and encouragement. In addition, resources including films, books and links to local and national fatherhood efforts will be spotlighted on the various social media channels as well as inspiring fatherhood success stories. The challenge will also have a monthly meet-up group and conference call where fathers can share their strategies, progress and key lessons.
“We are at a critical time for cities, nations, humanity at large and especially Black families and communities. I felt compelled as a concerned father and citizen of the world to contribute in some way to provide men and fathers with a conceptual and practical map or blueprint for substantially improving their lives, families and key relations,” said Dr. Gordon, a Harvard University, University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania trained psychologist who consults civic, private and government agencies nationwide.
Recently emPower interviewed Dr. Gordon and got his thoughts on black fatherhood and his aspirations for the 90-day challenge.
emPower: How do you feel about the perception black fathers get today?
Dr. Gordon: Black men and fathers are often assumed to be “MIA” or missing in action—their guidance, nurturance, development, and financial investments in their children. These assumptions did not spring out of nowhere. It’s true that many black fathers are “MIA “—for numerous macro-level and personal irresponsibility reasons. It’s also true that too much conversational attention dwells on how derelict, deficient and MIA black men tend to be.
Over time, repeated perceptions become solidified “distortions,”operating in ways that further fracture our positive connections and energy to bring about important change in our communities. After a while, we expect to talk about and hear mostly “deficit” conversations and scenarios. Exchanging “deficits” sponsors a “victim” and “spectator” mindset. It also blinds us to the tremendous strategies, work, and accomplishments black men are delivering daily to their biological offspring and to other black children as well. Black men are kin, neighbors, principals, teachers, coaches, mentors, religious leaders, psychologists, healthcare professionals, policy makers, advocates, parents, grandparents, and institutional stewards routinely. This constructive effort should be spotlighted and celebrated, not dismissed to “invisibility” or smashed via a swift “yeah, but” return to the “deficit” diet.
emPower: How do you believe the mindset of fatherhood needs to change?
Dr. Gordon: The mindset must shift to build new perceptions, conversations, shared problem-inspection, and leadership solutions. How? True health is developed and maintained in healthy communities, tribes, clans, families and partnerships. We must counter the community attacks at the same time that we create new, healthier communities. One conceptual step in the direction of a true “leadership solution” is to shift “fathering” beyond sheer, optional biology. It is the responsibility of every black man—of sound mind and character—to participate in the development, protection, guidance, nurturance, and support of black boys, girls, and young adults. It’s not optional. There will be no future of opportunity access, power, and respect for one’s biological offspring independent of the respect and prospects for our people. Besides, in recent history, we’re all descendants of African people who were captured, brought here on ships, and robbed of precise records of our biological pedigrees. We’ll flourish—or flounder—together. The leadership solution requires that we act constructively prior to the realization of this “community healing” in order to position it for maximal success. This means that the most practical thing a leader can do is to celebrate black fatherhood now, while it’s mostly invisible and under routine attack. We must redirect and inspire our children to be excellent, not hustlers barely getting over or getting by. We must rekindle our spiritual compass and connections to skillfully heal some of our deepest jealousies and competitive disconnects. Together, we must believe again and work to deliver more healthy, productive, wiser, and magnificent tomorrows.
emPower: What are you hoping to get out of the 90-day Fatherhood Challenge?
Dr. Gordon: By leveraging modern web and social media technology, we will create a nationwide and global, “virtual community” through which black men and boys will give and receive the knowledge, guidance, encouragement and practical support they need to heal and lead their lives—for a constructive change. This virtual community will hold “space” for critical, “virtual” conversations that will prepare men and boys for the real world, local healing and action. If we can talk, listen, laugh, cry, heal and teach together, we can be a true virtual community.
We are inviting our “virtual” community members to re-inspect their philosophies, beliefs, and practices to promote more healthy “fathering,” mind/body/spirit integration and productive partnering. We expect black women, at an appropriate juncture, to join our initially all-male conversation. We know that we must partner more constructively, if we expect to be blessings in the world and advance a wholesome life.
We are pleased that men from various states and as far away as South Africa have answered our black father challenge immediately and are spreading the good news of this movement throughout their networks. In five years, we envision one million black men worldwide, standing strong and stepping up together, practicing healthy fathering and being the change they have been waiting to see in the world.
emPower: How many men have joined the movement so far and how can other men get involved?
Dr. Gordon: In the first week nearly 125 fathers have signed the pledge at www.blackfatherchallenge.com and joined us on our Facebook page.