By Taki S. Raton
Over 20 sons and daughters were just gleaming with happiness, excitement and spirited enthusiasm in the company of their dads at the READ night out this past Friday, June 6 at Heartlove Place, 3229 North Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Sponsored by the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) Head Start Program, READ stands for “Reading, Eating, and Activities with my Dad.”
The evening highlighted an “On My Shoulders” graduation ceremony along with activities engaging children and their fathers to include storybook and poem readings, sand art, hats and mask creations, face painting, jewelry making and gift books. An appetizing dinner menu was also featured.
“On My Shoulders” is the Tier III and final segment of a three part curriculum of SDC’s Healthy Relationship & Marriage Enhancement Program which provides relationship education for single individuals as well as unmarried and married couples. The class sessions are designed to foster group discussions, co-activities and shared learning.
The evening additionally featured a performance by nationally and internationally known storyteller and drummer Tejumola Ologmoni.
Ologboni was one of four honored recipients of the Gerald Wallace Lifetime Achievement awards sponsored by HAAT (Historic African American Teachers of MPS) at Serb Hall this past March 2011 for his contributions to the preservation and continued cultivation of the oral tradition of African storytelling.
Healthy couple’s partnership is the focus of Tier I. Men only classes are structure under Tier II, and parenting enhancement and cultivation for men and their children are the instruction modules for Tier III. The Friday evening event was the Tier III graduation and certificate award for fathers and men who successfully completed the Tier III curriculum.
“It was just phenomenal and very heartwarming to see African American men actively interacting with their children,” says Debora Taylor, Health Relationship & Marriage Enhancement Program manager Taylor adds that she was delighted to know of the agreed and supportive arrangements that evening to connect fathers with their children and the effort made to attend the event.
She reveals that one father took the bus with his four children; another father was living in a halfway house and arrangements were made to bring his children to Heartlove to meet him there. Parents who were divorced or otherwise separated, in one case notes Taylor, the mother brought the kids to the ceremony and even where the father had children by different women, mothers in one instance brought the kids to be with their siblings and with their father.
“I am much better in my relationship as a result of taking these courses in the Healthy Relationship” program says Herman Hampton who received his Tier III certificate that evening.
He adds that the classes “helped me and my significant other to better communicate with one another. I have also become a better listener to my children to understand and be sensitive to what they are going through. I highly recommend this program.”
Healthy Relationship class attendee Roderick Morgan and his mate over the 6 months in the course discovered that they were in the wrong relationship:
“We found out that we didn’t belong together once she learned more about me and I learned more about her. We found truthfully that we were not meant for each other.”
He shared that they had “absolutely nothing in common” and that the parting was in “mutually supportive” friendship.
“This program is geared towards cultivating the mindset, particularly of our men towards being a more positive and contributing family member,” says Richard Johnson, Healthy Relationship educator.
“I love what I do and it was just great and rewarding to see our men on Friday night spending quality time with their kids and to see the joy on the children’s faces having fun with their fathers,” he adds.
Johnson is further thankful that the program is able to supply books and developmental reading material so that the fathers can spend time reading to and with their sons and daughters.
“We help our dads learn how to teach and nurture their children at home which will make them better equipped students at school and further builds learning skill sets and confidence,” he says.
Johnson notes that the program encourages the fathers to keep journals and gives them the courage to “come out of that security box even though their personal comfort zone may be confining and not working for them. We show them the many possibilities that are available and the variety of choices that they have at their disposal.”
For additional information on the Healthy Relationship & Marriage Enhancement Program, please contact SDC at 906-2700.