This Valentine’s Day, I’m sure to do something nice for my wife. Truth be told, I always try to do something nice for her. I don’t need a special day to do that, despite what Hallmark and 1-800-Flowers tells guys around the nation this week. Although, I do get the point: Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to “take it to the next level” for romance.
That said, I would argue that, collectively, Black fathers should make Valentine’s Day this year about our kids and graduating more from absenteeism to fatherhood to dadhood.
I’m pretty sure that our wives will understand.
Not that fatherhood should be a once-a-year phenomenon akin to how folks find love for Mom on the second Sunday in May or many Christians find religion – and church – on the 25th of December and Easter Sunday in the spring. However, with the continued build-up of odds against Black children in modern-day America – from the double unemployment rates (confirmed again in this past Friday’s jobs report), horrifying incarceration rates, and mortality rates – the best thing that we can do for our children this February 14 is fall in love with our children all over again in a stronger, fuller way. Perhaps this is the beginning of elevating more of our brothers from boyhood to fatherhood?
Granted, there are plenty of Black fathers that already love their children – deeply. I’m the same way.
I know that I have loved being a dad since the moment I found out that I was becoming a father at 21-years-old. I slept with the sonogram picture of my daughter underneath my pillow every night – from the moment we found out about her until the day she was born. I raised my older two children as a divorcee and primary caregiver while I was finishing up my education at Davidson College. I became a dad two more times just over the past few years. My youngest children came amazingly after a period of time when I believed that I would never become a father again. From talking to my daughter about the great potential she has as a Deans-list college student to clowning around with my namesake on a television set and spending time with my other boys, I enjoy being a father and a husband daily. I always have and I always will enjoy fatherhood with a zeal that only the love of parenthood and the crystallization of modern society can foster.
Yet, there is always something more that I can do to make their lives better within this society, as their future is at risk. Just the same, there is much that we must do as Black fathers to turn the woeful tide we face collectively. Why not start on Valentine’s Day which sits squarely in the middle of Black History Month?
It only makes sense that as Black men during the weekend of love, taking that love of parenthood to new levels – from fatherhood to dadhood – is likely the very thing that can make our spouses swoon even more for us and perhaps allow us to heal Black America in the process.
For starters, we have to fight more.
Lovers fight for those they love. We must fight for better education, better lifestyle opportunities, and better protections for our children when they walk down the street. We must fight for the right of more fathers to have an active and on-going role in the lives of their children, taking on the stereotypes within our families, our communities, and the courts that champion single-parent lifestyles. As well, we must also, if necessary, fight any of our brothers’ shortcomings, frustrations, and hurt emotions that keep them from bonding with their children. Past pain cannot remain as obstacles. Current economic or family limitations cannot do so, either. More focus, more brotherhood, and more encouragement to be fathers will provide the steps necessary to climb over difficulties in bringing more fathers into the lives of their children.
Those obstacles may vary from man to man.
For me, those obstacles included the need to raise my children on food stamps for months as a post-9/11 job casualty while finishing up my education at Davidson. They included closing the gap of 450 miles between me in Chicago and my son, who was facing a medical challenge in my hometown. For others, they may include facing the pain from having an absent father in one’s past or the embarrassment of one’s current circumstances. They may include needs to augment and adjust interpersonal skills, economic skills, and lifestyle choices.
Yes, my love as a father prompted action as it always did. It does for others as well. However, it is also true that teamwork in the face of dealing with these challenges often helps parents take their loving actions to the next level. It makes boys into men and fathers into dads.
We must also fight for the sanctity of Black parenthood in the face of the “ghettoization” of Black adulthood and the degradation of Black womanhood. Black fathers can dually address, attack, and re-calibrate these realities with a stabilization of the Black family internally and the image of the Black household externally. For me, it was important for my children to see other Black married couples throughout their early years as we lived as a family in Charlotte. It was important for me to turn them off to the media images that represent us chiefly as reality-show entertainers and turn them on to the potential of themselves and their peers on a regular, natural, and on-going basis. For others, it may be more important to show appropriate love, respect, and cooperation with women in all facets of family and society. Something has to be done.
With the challenges before us as a community of hurting families, we as Black fathers must take the love we would normally espouse this Valentine’s Day and project it at a new, focused level to heal the many examples of brokenness of Black childhood around us, even if our children are actively in our embrace on the 14th. We must remember that what is currently broken was not always broken in Black America, and what is often seen as fractured can still be fully healed with time and action within our communities.
What it will take this Valentine’s Day is less of a gaze on the sweet curves of our wives and more of a renewed fixation on loving fatherhood and the straight-arrow ascent of our children’s talents, academic achievements, and life journeys. The taste of Valentine’s Day chocolate can be sweet but it cannot mask the bitter taste of life too many within Chocolate Cities throughout America experience today. It’s time to change that by filling the void of absenteeism with the meaningful presence of fathers in the lives of their children.
With the challenges of Black fatherhood that we currently face in 2014, it is necessary for us to fight to be present. Black men that are active fathers in the lives of their children need to continue to fight to bring more Black fathers into the fold. Perhaps Cupid won’t be pointing his arrows at us if we take on this mandate for Valentine’s Day this year; but the outcomes for our families will result in an everlasting love that would surely make him proud.
This post was written by Lenny McAllister, a political analyst and commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including PCNC, CNN, and Sun News Network. He is the host of “The McAllister Minute” which appears on the American Urban Radio Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit appears on “4802: Final Friday” and hosts “NightTalk: Get to the Point” on WQED and the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel, respectively. He is the former host of Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.