As we approach the day (probably arbitrarily) designated as Fathers Day, I find myself increasingly committed to the idea and task of reframing the narrative of fatherhood, especially as it relates to men of colour. I am convinced that the old, hackneyed stereotypes of 'wutless', deadbeat, absent fathers have outlived their usefulness. Haven't we had enough of the effects of this pernicious diet? It's high time for a change.
Don't get me wrong, I am clear that this will not be an easy task. There are no magical solutions, but we must start with deliberate conviction and vision. Having been tasked by KOOL FM (my radio station of choice) to do a blog focussed on single fathers, here's my two cents:
- Meck wi celebrate the single fathers who are present, parenting, trying, and doing their best. Are we 'talking up' and really supporting these men? More broadly, are we reinforcing the images of manhood/fatherhood that we want to perpetuate and replicate? It is important that we make a conscious and tangible commitment to encouraging and supporting men who are present and active in the lives of their children in a positive and nurturing way, especially those doing so alone.
- Script/screenwriters, lyricists, poets, novelists can advance the cause by telling the stories, presenting the scenarios and penning the songs that depict and present the under-represented, untold, unsung daddies, fathers, uncles who tackle their roles as caregivers and role models with tenacity and grace. Tyler Perry's 'Daddies Little Girls', one of Idris Elba's less popular lead roles, is one of my favourites by him for precisely this reason. He chose to tell the story of man who refused to abandon his children, fighting for his daughters against formidable odds. The result was an empowering celebration of black fatherhood, a sadly scarce commodity. Having said that, I must mention my delight in the fact that social media is exposing us to many more truths of single fathers in their elements.
- To add to the pool of functional and healthy (single) fathers, we must make raising 'better', less damaged men a priority. Men who are secure, well-adjusted, emotionally intelligent, informed, self-actualized and whole. We cannot bully, badger and emotionally-stunt/scar our boys and expect them to magically transform into whole and healthy men! It's time to recognize that boys need love, nurturing and affirmations. We must help them understand that violence, aggression and bullying are not synonyms for manhood; teach them that it is acceptable, in fact crucial, to be able to show love, be gentle, express emotion and…the big one…cry. Toxic manifestations of masculinity and hyper-masculinity are wreaking havoc. Killing women and children, raping and preying on girls, women and boys, as well as contributing to men killing themselves, literally and figuratively.
Let's meck a deal: if you know any single fathers, link dem. Check in with them and find out how they are and what they need. Offer to be part of his village, one of the tribe that stands with and supports him and his children. Hopefully, he will put ego and pride aside and accept…but dat is another blog!
As I close, the chorus of the Michael Sean Harris-penned Family Man, sung by C-Sharp comes to mind:
Family Man, does what he can
Though nobody understands
He's just doing his best to get by
Single fathers, we see unoo an bless unoo!!