Friday, June 23, 2017

Local Voices: A Message To Men for Father’s Day and Juneteenth

As an African-American male of seventy-six years, I have a special message for Father’s Day and Juneteenth for 2017.  Father’s Day is June 18th and Juneteenth is June 19th.  It has been said that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.  And, do I have a great idea for Father’s Day and Juneteenth, or what?

For almost three decades, I have worked directly with young African-Americans, particularly inner-city and public housing males.  I have been a student and teacher of African-American history for more than forty years.  Also, I have conducted countless workshops and classes on self esteem, historical perspective, culture awareness, personal responsibility, group empowerment, academic improvement, career development, effective parenting, family stability, and the like.

During this time, I have seen – and still see – too many young African-Americans, especially males, who have given up hope.  They simply don’t believe in themselves.  They don’t think they are worthy or deserving of the “good life.”  Despite my best efforts, too often, I have not been nearly as successful as I would have liked.  There have been successes, but it is the failures and potential failures that keep me awake at night.  It is for this untapped stream of Black resources and vitality that I search most.

Just look at the negative statistics and debilitating realities relating to the courts, jails, unemployment, under-employment, female-headed households, high school and college graduation rates, entrepreneurial opportunities, AIDS infection rates, health care and mental health concerns, teenage pregnancy, and the like.  There is an unrelenting story and debilitating tragedy happening right before our eyes.  It is punctuated with alienation, frustration, anger, and hopelessness.  In particular, it is taking place among society’s young and endangered Black males.

For things to get better, Black fathers and other adult males have to do more as “parents, providers and protectors.”  Regardless of how our condition came about, we are our solutions and salvation.  If it is to be, it is up to us!  We can do this!

For “starters,” I propose a basic and simplistic plan for empowering our children, families and communities:
We need a strong and supportive family base, beginning with a married mother and father.  While this may not always be possible, it should be seriously sought after.  Not only is it necessary and proper, to do otherwise is debilitating and destructive.            
                                                           
We need a solid educational foundation.  In the 21st century, it is almost impossible to make it otherwise.  A good education is like “life insurance,” for it is much better to have it than not to have it.  Surely, no one can find fault with this logic and reasoning.

We need a viable means of economy and support.  We cannot expect others to do those things that we should do for ourselves.  There is no such thing as a “free lunch.”  We must learn to work harder and smarter, and for ourselves.  We must always remember and practice the “golden rule of economics”: “He who has the gold gets to make the rules.”

Simply put, the time has come for African-American men, especially fathers, to accept collective responsibility for making things happen … and for bringing about positive changes in our children, families, and communities.  We are capable!  We can do it!  All we need to do is rededicate ourselves to our cause.

This Father’s Day and Juneteenth could have a special meaning and new beginning for us. I do not think it is just “coincidental,” that both of these significant (emotional) events are occurring almost simultaneously this year, a day apart.  Plainly stated, these questions and answers that lie before us are about “will” and “commitment.”  Basically, do we, as African-American men and fathers, care enough about our children, families and communities?  The answers to these questions lie within us.

This is as it should be.  We must rise to the occasion.  Let us begin this journey in observance of Father’s Day and Juneteenth (June 18/19) 2017.  What an eloquent statement and empowering act that would be! We must do this! We can do this!

John L. Horton resides in Norfolk, Va., and is a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

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