Those of us who had an involved father know what it meant to us. Games of catch, trips to the park, lessons on respect, responsibility and humility. What it means to be a man and a father. The fact that they were there to teach us by example, sometimes good, sometimes bad, was crucial.
Those who didn’t have a father around also know what that meant to them. The pain of feeling rejected, awkward moments when other Dad’s are there and yours isn’t, and knowing how hard Mom had it because she wore both hats. Even when talking to grown men, I still see the anguish in their face when they talk about growing up without a father.
The impact of having an absentee or incarcerated father is even more pronounced in communities of color, where factors such as racism, poverty, and other inequities combine to negatively impact mental and physical health and create other obstacles to establishing thriving families.
“Children need a father to provide examples of love, positive leadership, and strength with help of his masculine traits,” said Milwaukee father Al Robbins.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children with involved fathers are at lower risk for a host of poor childhood outcomes including emotional and behavioral problems, neglect and abuse, alcohol, tobacco and substance use, and teen pregnancy.
“Black Fathers are important because they are the backbone of the black family and our linchpin to the continued success of America; Where the black father goes our nation goes,” said Terron Edwards, founder and executive president of Father’s Making Progress. “The links between positive fatherlessness and poverty, incarceration, mental health issues, success and failure in schools etc., if you couple that with infant mortality statistics in the Black community, you see how essential the ever-evolving role of the black father is.”
This weekend men, fathers, and future fathers, and their families will come together to receive support and identify solutions for these and other issues as part of the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative’s annual Fatherhood Summit. The event will take place at Destiny Youth Plaza, 7220 N. 76th St. This year’s theme is Fatherhood: Forging Futures with a Health Family Focus. Held in conjunction with the summit will be a Family Resource Fair, where COVID-19 vaccinations, flu shots, tobacco prevention and other health information will be available in addition to resources on employment and driver’s license recovery. That fair is being hosted by Jump at the Sun Consultants, the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network, Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network, and other partners. Organizers of both events hope that they can provide fathers the tools they need to maintain and strengthen their families.
“Our goal is to provide positive support to fathers and their families and help create a stronger family unit and better future for our community,” said resource fair organizer Curtis Marshall.
Event: Fatherhood Summit (9-5 p.m.) Family Health Resource Fair (12-4 p.m.)
Location: Destiny Youth Plaza, 7220 N. 76th Street