In 2009, I was granted the opportunity to join up with other prominent leaders in the Jackson Public School District to lead a Father’s Conference. After an extreme push, the night was scheduled, catering was ordered, and a keynote speaker had been booked. There was still one issue I had to conquer…getting the fathers to participate. After countless hours of phone calls being made, going door to door, and sending letters home, I began to realize that the majority of the households simply didn’t have any father figures in them. There were approximately 500 students in the school and I had only gotten 23 fathers to attend. Crazy thing is I had over 60 mothers to come and support. As I sat in the back of my classroom after the conference at Lee Elementary, I felt baffled, confused, angry, and disappointed. Not angry at the event because it was wonderful and I received a lot of praise for my efforts, but because of the low rate of black fathers.
Broken homes have left mothers to care, nurture, and love children on their own. I want to applaud the strong efforts of the young, single black mother who may have to work multiple jobs to provide for her family. She is strong, relentless and faithful to her family. She possesses the courage to sacrifice her needs to make sure her family has the basic essentials of life. However, this does not excuse the absence of a father figure. A mother’s love and warmth should be complimented by the leadership of the father playing his role as head of his household. You have several situations such as the parents not being able to get along or because one decides not to be with the other so they aren’t going to do anything for the child or keep the child away. These aren’t excuses to not raise your child. The only person being affected by these trivially horrendous decisions is the child, who I may add, never asked to be here in the first place. Two people decided to lie down and have that child. Not one. Both parties need to do whatever it takes to help ensure the stability and growth of that child. I’ve done a lot of work over the years with young people growing up without fathers and I can’t over emphasize how hurtful it is for them not to have their dad around. Though studies may indicate that children who spend quality time with their fathers do better in all areas of their lives, I’ve told them over and over that regardless of their circumstance, life is about making choices and that success is still achievable.
The black father holds so much significance in the household and is vital in the lives of their children, families and communities despite the challenges they face. It is essential and highly imperative that the role of the father be exemplified in black families. Many of the young black men that find themselves shackled to the chains of jails and prisons have lacked a strong father figure in their lives. Fathers provide wisdom, insight, discipline and encouragement. Nobody can serve as a greater role model than a father that is present in their children’s lives. Being a father is much more than being by a semen donor. It requires having a consistent and active presence. It’s a father’s unconditional love that not only helps his children as they are growing up, but also allows them to treat other people in society with dignity and respect. A father’s love encourages his children to always dream and pursue their goals, and enthusiastically encourages them to be whatever they set their minds to be. Where most would say, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or any other famous athlete were their role model, my dad, Rickey Robinson, Sr. was unanimously mine. Experiencing these heartaches as a teacher, made me realize I needed those whooping sessions and long talks. When it came to penmanship, art, creativity, dressing nice, and sports he gave me the blues. I use to wonder why he would be so rough on me. I thought his way of parenting me was wrong and damn sure wasn’t love. But what hard headed and stubborn kid, who wanted his way all the time, wouldn’t say such a thing. Now standing at the age of 28, I value him for showing me a little tough love. He prepared me for a world where love is limited. I find myself calling him day in and day out for advice on life’s circumstances. When all else fails, I know I can call him and he will give me encouraging words to keep moving forward.
There is something about having a father in the house as a guiding force in the life of a child. For boys a loving father figure in the home is their first example of manhood. For girls her father is her first example of a real man who loves her unconditionally so when she is out in the real world she doesn’t get caught up with what isn’t love. The relationship with her father is a framework, a template, a blueprint, to define her relationship with other men. It is critically important for men to be present and provide love for their children. For those without kids like myself that are real vocal about this subject, when God grants you the opportunity to be a father, don’t fall into the category that you’re denouncing. In conclusion, this was not written to bring down the black father but help encourage and understand the importance of their role.