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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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Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons and former NBA Star and Fatherhood Author Etan Thomas discuss the powerful 1st MVP Fatherhood Weekend Saturday April 6, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Fatherhood Weekend featured 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 was be a panel discussion featuring former Etan Thomas and National Social Commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins. While acknowledging the negative statics and reality of the “fatherhood problem” in the Black community, the panel focused 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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Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons discusses his partnership with former NBA Star and Fatherhood Author Etan Thomas as they presented the 1st MVP Fatherhood Weekend Saturday April 6, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Fatherhood Weekend featured 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 was be a panel discussion featuring former Etan Thomas and National Social Commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins. While acknowledging the negative statics and reality of the “fatherhood problem” in the Black community, the panel focused 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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20130330_ColumnGinnie0330CBY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer

Veteran NBA player Etan Thomas wants the country to deal with its daddy issues.

The former Booker T. Washington High School and Syracuse University defensive standout has moved from the paint into social activism, placing fatherhood at the center.

Thomas wrote a book on the topic featuring celebrity interviews, and he participates in panel discussions across the U.S. examining fatherhood.

“Guys don’t talk about this stuff at all,” he said. “Boys don’t talk about their feelings. There is this macho wall that gets put up.

“But when boys see somebody they look at and admire talk about the issues they are having, they can relate to it and it resonates. These panel discussions can get deep when men open up.”

Tulsa is hosting the first such panel at the MVP Fatherhood Weekend at noon April 6 a the Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1228 W. Apache St.

Be anything: The city needs this conversation.

Tulsa County has the state’s sixth-highest percentage of single-parent families at 31 percent of households, according to the census.

Statewide, about 28 percent of families are led by a single parent, with that ramping up to nearly 40 percent in some rural areas.

Add to that high rates of poverty, addiction, teen pregnancy and incarceration.

The state has a unit dedicated to finding deadbeat parents, and the courthouses are filled with parents under orders to pay support.

Sadly, most of those parents are men.

All this takes a toll on kids.

“There are concerns with young kids having kids early. Other kids may have anger because there is no connection with their father, and they don’t know what to do with that,” Thomas said.

“So, you have kids turning to gangs or destructive paths. Or, maybe they take in the negative influences in music or television. Other ones may get discouraged by the negative statistics on what they could achieve.”

Thomas can rattle off those stats quickly.

“I want kids to know you can be anything you want no matter where you come from,” he said. “If you come from a single household or what people call a broken home, you hear how life is over. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“You have all these people and kids in this situation. You can’t preach negativity to them. There are a lot of examples to show how people have overcome those challenges.”

Thomas is one of these stories.

Learning curve: Raised by a single mother in Tulsa, he grew into an outstanding center that led him to a business management degree from Syracuse University and an 11-year NBA career.

It took his mom and community mentors to get him there.

Thomas remembers details of a talk Wayman Tisdale gave to his Carver Middle School class.

“My boys and I hung on every word he said,” Thomas said. “He spoke about going after our goals and dreams, working hard and not letting things keep you from those goals. I remember the whole thing.”

That’s why he brought a star-studded aspect to his book, “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Journey,” which includes interviews with a diverse group such as Isaiah Washington, Howard Dean, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Taye Diggs and Tony Hawk.

“People of means also have challenges such as travel and being away from home,” he said. “Means isn’t what makes fatherhood easy or hard. That is what comes across in these discussions.”

Thomas is married, and the couple has three children.

Now off the court, his life is about social commentary, having released a book of poetry in 2005 and regularly blogging for the Huffington Post.

“The first thing I say is that I’m not an expert on fatherhood,” he said. “Every day is a learning process, finding something new. Every time we do this panel, I’m learning from different men.”

Pay the way: This discussion is part of a weekend event that includes a life skills seminar for about 100 pre-registered boys from the sixth to 12th grades and a Sunday worship service.

It’s offered by the MVP Foundation, created by attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons and his wife, Mia Fleming.

The foundation is a donor-advised fund with the Tulsa Community Foundation with the mission of helping at-risk, urban youth.

Solomon-Simmons is particularly bothered by the erosion of two parents in the homes of black families.

The census shows that 67 percent of black families in 1960 had two parents. By 2010, two-parent black families fell to 41 percent, with most headed solely by mothers.

For comparison, the 2010 census found two-parent households in 74 percent of white families, 66 percent of Hispanic families and 85 percent of Asian families.

“We need to make sure our young people grow up as tax-paying citizens of our community,” Solomon-Simmons said. “We need to do what we can to make sure they are supported and needs met. If not, we are going to pay one way or another. We can pay to educate or pay to incarcerate.

“It’s an easy decision.”
Original Print Headline: Tulsa to host MVP Fatherhood Weekend


MVP Fatherhood Weekend

Panel discussion

When: Noon April 6

Where: Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1228 W. Apache St.

For more information, call 918-574-8765

Panelists: Veteran NBA player Etan Thomas, Mike Garrett (former athletic director at the University of Southern California, 1965 Heisman Trophy winner and current Langston University athletic director), Boyce Watkins (business professor at the University of Syracuse), Anthony Marshall (Booker T. Washington High School teacher), retired Tulsa police officer Marvin Blades Sr. and the Rev. M.C. Potter of Antioch Baptist Church.

Worship Service

When: 11 a.m. April 7

Where: Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1228 W. Apache St.

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A team of NBA stars, headlined by nine-time NBA All-Star and Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, will join forces with popular Lakewood Church Senior Pastor, Joel Osteen, to talk about family and fatherhood this Friday during the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, Texas.

The event, which will take the form of a panel discussion, will be held at Osteen’s megachurch in Houston and will also feature Allan Houston, assistant general manager of the New York Knicks and former two-time NBA All-Star; Etan Thomas, retired NBA player, political pundit and children’s advocate; and Carl Lentz, pastor of the fast growing New York City church, Hillsong NYC. Soledad O’Brien, CNN anchor, will moderate the event.

Some 24 million, or one out of every three children in America, live in homes where their biological father is absent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Equipping men to be better fathers is a significant part of our mission at Lakewood Church and one that I believe in wholeheartedly. We are honored to host such an important event and to work with Allan Houston, Dwyane Wade, Etan Thomas, and others who care so deeply about this crucial issue,” said Osteen in a statement to The Christian Post on Tuesday.

Wade, who in March 2011 became the first NBA player to be awarded sole custody of his children after a very public and contentious custody battle with his ex-wife over their two sons, recently authored the New York Times Best-Selling book A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball .

In a special message on his website, he noted that: “In my book, I open up about things I’ve experienced that I’ve never expressed before. You’ll learn more about why I took the stand to be a responsible father to my sons. As a single dad with sole custody, I’ve learned so much. It seemed fitting to share my story and lessons with the world and encourage other parents to fully connect with their children to be the best parents they can be.”

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Regarding Friday’s event, he noted in a statement that: “Being a father to my boys is something I take very seriously. This event will bring us together with a unified goal to voice the significance of fatherhood and family…”

“The Allan Houston Legacy Foundation has been at the forefront of educating the public about the importance of fatherhood and strengthening the family unit for years,” said Allan Houston in his remarks on the event. “Now it is our goal to unify members of the NBA community and beyond in one arena to promote this cause. We are ecstatic to be able to partner with Dwyane, Joel and their organizations for what is sure to be a groundbreaking event.”

The panel discussion will be held on Friday, Feb. 15 at Lakewood Church (3700 Southwest Fwy, Houston, Texas) at 7:30pm. The event is free, and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis and will include prizes and giveaways for select participants.

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miatalksballthumbA work trip to D.C. turned into so much more for Cherokee Nation communications director Amanda Clinton who lucked up on some tickets to a few of this year’s inaugural events including the Official Inaugural Ball held Monday night.

Friends in the D.C. area, as well as some contacts back home gave Clinton extra last minute tickets to such events as the Democratic Governors Association party where Will.I.Am deejayed; the Official Inaugural Ball and even to a seating area at the public swearing-in ceremony Monday.

“We could see the president but he was pretty far away,” Clinton said, and trees obscured the big screen showing the ceremony, still it was special. “It was a really special moment for me to hear his plans for the next four years. I think that was kind of emotional really.”

This year’s turnout was not the same as President Obama’s first inauguration, but “despite the big crowd everyone was friendly,” said Clinton, which was a bit of a surprise.

Something else unexpected was the brevity of Obama and wife Michelle’s appearance at the inaugural ball Clinton attended. Separate from the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball, the president and first lady made an appearance for their first dance before disappearing behind a curtain, Clinton recalled.

When the couple was announced, Clinton said there was nearly a stampede to the area where the two would dance. People dropped their drinks and food, forks, everything to rush over and watch the Obamas take their first dance as Jennifer Hudson sang Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”

This was probably one of the most memorable points of the evening for Clinton.

“The two of them are so clearly in love you can really feel it there. They shared a kiss. It was just a really sweet moment.”

And then after the dance, the Obamas were gone.

“It’s not like they’re milling about the crowd. At all.”

Inauguration Ball cameos

Clinton said that she didn’t see that many celebrities herself but did spot MC Hammer and Dikembe Mutombo. She’d heard actress Rosario Dawson was there and she and some of the people she was with were “80 to 90 percent certain” one young woman with dark hair was Aubrey Plaza of “Parks and Recreation,” but they left that mystery for others to figure out.

Inaugural Ball fashion

Clinton snapped a few pictures of some party guests.

There were both long gowns and short dresses. Your typical black-tie attire as well as some bright colors and unique styles one might not expect to see at an inaugural ball but it all worked, Clinton said.

“Every woman there had probably taken forever to get ready for the evening,” Clinton said. “And then we all had to stand out in 30 degree weather for an hour,” she added with some laughter. She’s talking about the blocks long line outside of the Convention Center Monday evening – a small price to pay to celebrate the inauguration and still one she won’t forget either.

“I’m so thankful that I could be here,” Clinton said by phone this morning ahead of her flight back to Oklahoma. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I don’t know if I ever will come back to another one.

She said of the inaugural events as a whole: “It was really important for me to go to that. I’m very into politics and really care about the direction our country is going in.

“The swearing-in was probably the most special part for me. But I’m not going to lie I’m not going to forget about standing out in the cold for a long time.”

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19796919_BG2High school students in a federal courtroom.

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Students in a federal court as part of the legal training seminar.

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Tulsa students from McLain, Booker T and Rogers high schools took part in an all day legal training seminar to show them career opportunities in the legal field.

Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons says the seminar was his way of giving back to kids in his Tulsa neighborhood.

The Pipeline Plus Legal Diversity program provides high school students with the chance to explore the legal profession.

One of the speakers Thursday was U.S. Attorney Danny Williams for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Students also got to witness a mock trial as a federal judge and lawyers demonstrated what happens in the courtroom.

Damario Solomon-Simmons says his goal is to encourage inner-city youth to seek opportunities in the legal profession as they continue their education.

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