Fatherhood Program Fights the Myth of the Absent Black Father

Zoe Trask Data News Weekly Contributor

Black fathers are plagued with the stereotype that they are often absent in their children’s lives. From a Western perspective, father absenteeism is usually determined if the father is not living in the same household as his children. However, this concept is not entirely applicable for Black men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.5 million Black fathers actually live with their children, compared to 1.7 million who do not. Despite this, the stereotype is still widely believed. The reason for the stereotype’s existence is because it is engraved in America’s history.

“The urban myth that is racialized comes from our legacy, which is slavery and Jim Crow,” said Sherdren Burnside, the Executive Director of Compassion Outreach of America, a New Orleans-based non-profit that supports community programs.

Black fathers are seldom credited with having direct involvement with their children and are often penalized when they cannot support them financially. According to the We Raise Foundation, nearly half of all Black American children in New Orleans live in poverty due to their family’s household income. In addition, according to economists, Black men experience the highest unemployment rates in the country, and unlike Black women they struggle to enter higher wage occupations, are less likely to be promoted and to be hired in high growth sectors.

In response to these challenges, Compassion Outreach of America launched their Fathers Matter Program in 2018 located at its resource center at 5234 N. Claiborne Ave. The Fathers Matter Program focuses on giving low-income men the resources to become whole-hearted fathers while developing their manhood.

“It’s even deeper than money,” said Bantu Gross, Ph.D., the Program Director of Fathers Matter. “There’s other ways that men can provide, like emotional support or spiritual support,” he added.

The Fathers Matter Program provides resources and forums for fathers to develop. Through its weekly “Dad Discussions” every Thursday night, men explore topics like self-awareness, trauma, tragedy, and employment. The resources are free because of the program’s commitment to accessibility. Even during the current COVID-19 Pandemic, the discussions continue and are now held online to accommodate health guidelines. Participants must register online for a discussion from the program’s website and are sent a link to access weekly meetings moderated by the program directors.

“Everything that we have been doing is very impactful, because men have gained a sense of brotherhood,” said Darrell Creecy, the Program Manager of Fathers Matter.

The program aims to give Black men a positive outlook on fatherhood and encourages healthy development in their children for generations to come. Black fathers are being supported with their involvement to change stereotypes about them and to recreate their own image. Creecy said he believes that with the program’s influence, Black men are becoming aware that a fatherly presence is needed for their children and they are more committed to fatherhood now than in the past.

“There’s becoming a shift of Black men standing upon the involvement of their children’s lives,” Creecy said.

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