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According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, more than 25 million children now live apart from their biological fathers. That’s a 15.3 percent increase (eight to 23.3 percent) from 1960 to 2006.  Worse, nearly two in three (65 percent) of   black children live in fatherless homes, and almost 80 percent of those children can expect to live at least a part of their childhood apart from their fathers or significant male figure.

Lacking the presence of a strong, positive black male in their lives, even very young black men  show signs of succumbing to the pressures of street culture, violence, drug use, and misogyny.  They are literally dying-physically and emotionally-every day from lack of love and resources.  They have not learned the basic fundamentals of manhood, and instead are trapped in the unproductive and destructive state of boyhood.

Most of these young men have no real sense of who they are, what good they are capable of, and the tremendous obligation they have to maximize every opportunity.  They have never had an opportunity to learn about their unique history, accomplishments, and potential from strong black male role models who are capable of teaching and guiding them by example and shared discourse. This is why so many young black males join the legions of other distraught, angry and empty young black men across the nation; those who have lost hope in education and upward social mobility. Instead, many resort to criminal behavior or the overwhelming and unrealistic belief in professional athletics as the sole opportunity for acceptable social and economic advancement.

As bad as the facts cited above are – and they are bad – we strongly agree with our colleague and friend, CEO and Founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence magazine, Susan L. Taylor, who writes “reclaiming the lives of our children is a battle we can win. With the quality of their lives as the guiding factor in our choices—personal, political, financial and spiritually—we can create what is needed to move these soul-crushing statistics in the opposite direction.”

So, May 2-4, 2014 The MVP Foundation’s 2nd  Fatherhood Weekend will improve the local situation regarding low levels of committed fathers and overall lack of positive male influence in many inner-city families by:

  • Bringing together local funders of fatherhood initiatives w/local fatherhood programs in Northeastern Oklahoma,
  • Providing networking opportunity for fatherhood practitioners and stakeholders (parents, teachers, etc) to network and get tangible resources,
  • Providing information, inspiration, and empowerment  for Black males currently dealing with issues of fatherhood and manhood
  • Connecting resources and programming to Black males in need.

We will accomplish the above objectives through a series of events that include Black Male Mentoring Summit and a celebrity panel discussion on the topic of fatherhood featuring former NBA Star and author Etan Thomas, Dr. Boyce Watkins, and David Miller.  So, if you are “All-In for Our Young Men” we hope to see you in attendance!

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After spending the last couple of weeks at three Tulsa Public High Schools mentoring 7th grade Black males enrolled in our All-In Mentoring Program.  I am convinced that there is nothing inherently wrong with this generation of kids. Yes, on average, today’s youth are more disrespectful of authority, more sexually active, and more  violent than twenty years ago. Of course, all the listed issues are major problems, and need to be reduced.  I contend, that today’s youth s (kids) are not to “blame” for the increases in  negative behavior.

The problems are just the natural outgrowth of the vulgar, vile, and disrespectful pop culture,  which is endorsed and promoted by ADULTS.   For example, you can’t even listen to a radio station or watch network television unless you are prepared to be inundated with, among other negative ideas, misogyny, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility, and general disdain for sanctity of life, family values, and education.

So, I am asking every adult to think about small steps YOU could take to help increase the educational opportunities and outcomes of our youth. Examples include:

  1. Mentoring a child 1 hour a week,
  2. Attending PTA and/or local school board meetings,
  3. Organizing parent worships and classes for teenage and young parents;
  4. Be careful what you say on Facebook if you have youth as “friends”,
  5. Turn off the “booty shaking, stripper songs” on the radio if youth are in the car
  6. Don’t teach, encourage, or laugh when young kids recite rap songs and words that are inappropriate.

In closing, as adults we must take responsibility for the state of our youth and community. We must adopt an “either you part of the problem or part of the solution” mentality.  Once we do this, I sincerely believe we can overcome the current state of affairs. I say this because at the end of the day, the students (kids) are only a reflection of the environment that adults have created.

 

Damario Solomon-Simmons, M.Ed., J.D., is the managing partner of SolomonSimmonsSharrock & Associates law firm, an adjunct professor of African & African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and a former D-1 football player at the University of Oklahoma. He can be contacted at dsolo@solomonsimmons.com or www.facebook.com/solospeaks.

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Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons discusses his partnership with former NBA Star and Fatherhood Author Etan Thomas as they present the 1st MVP Fatherhood Weekend Saturday April 6, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Fatherhood Weekend features a “Manhood Conference” targeting 100 Black young males. During the conference the young men will learn the importance of educational achievement, self-esteem, and understanding how to avoid contact with the legal system. The participants will also get an opportunity to meet and visit with local organizations that specialize in working with Black males.

In the afternoon, there will be a panel discussion featuring former NBA Star and Author Etan Thomas, National Social Commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins, and Heisman Trophy Winner Mike Garrett. While acknowledging the negative statics and reality of the “fatherhood problem” in the Black community, the panel will focus on ways to inform, inspire, and empower those living without a father figure and/or those wanting to be better fathers.

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