Too often in modern media, black men and their contributions to our society have been undervalued. Instead of being portrayed as fathers, leaders of their households and esteemed members of their community, black men have at times been falsely painted as voiceless and absent fathers. Sadly, these tropes aimed at men that look like this writer aren’t based in fact and lack the reality even to be taken seriously. While frequently forgotten by politicians, political parties and members of the media, these brave Americans fight for the well-being of their community and show up for their families. Most importantly, they care deeply about their children.
February -- the shortest month of the year -- often serves as the time when America pauses to examine the contributions that African Americans have made to this country and our world. Sadly, during these 29 days, our nation doesn’t take a moment to reflect on the impact of lousy policies and discriminatory practices on black fathers, and to a greater extent, black men. Whether it was the failed “War on Drugs” or the 1994 Crime Bill, black fathers and families suffered. Whether it was the rhetoric or false accusations surrounding the group now known as the Exonerated Five or “redlining” in black communities, black fatherhood and black masculinity took a hit -- over and over again.
Yet given all of these circumstances, black fathers have excelled both in the past and to this very day. Black fatherhood is black history. More importantly, black fatherhood is America’s future. While some of these brave Americans will never be mentioned in major newspapers or featured on their local nightly newscast, black fathers are becoming more of a significant part of our nation’s melting pot and the epitome of America’s aspirations.
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First among them is retired NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade. This basketball great has given America a master class in being a supportive parent to a queer, trans, or LGBTQ+ child. Not only has Wade taught us how to love our children unconditionally, but he has shown us the important role a father can play in making their child feel empowered, accepted and worthy in a divisive world. Wade has worked tirelessly as a father to ensure that his teenage daughter Zaya felt safe and accepted enough to change her gender pronoun and come into her own identity.
“First of all, me and my wife, Gabrielle Union, we are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community, and we’re proud allies as well,” Wade said in a new interview on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” “We take our roles and responsibilities as parents very seriously. So, when our child comes home with a question, when our child comes home with an issue, when our child comes home with anything, it’s our job as parents to listen to that to give them the best information that we can, the best feedback that we can, and that doesn’t change now that sexuality [and gender] is involved.”
Wade’s stardom pushed him to the top of the headlines, but he isn’t alone. In North Carolina, a group of black fathers has come together to celebrate black fatherhood and dispel the notion that all black fathers are absent.
The members of “Black Fathers Rock!” -- a Charlotte-based non-profit -- is so committed to uplifting the faces and voices of black fatherhood that they have started a movement in their local community. This group conducts workshops, programming and events tailored to black fathers and their children. As a result of this work, hundreds of fathers in the Charlotte area are uplifted and supported while receiving the resources they need to be successful.
Both Wade and “Black Fathers Rock!” are living examples of black history and America’s present, and they aren’t alone. Throughout this country, millions of black fathers are doing what is hard and right for their family’s future. Every day, these men wake up and provide for their families. In doing so, they break down stereotypes and misconceptions, not because they want to, but because it is necessary for their survival and their children’s future.
Black History Month isn’t just a warm-hearted look at the past; it’s a lens through which America must view the future. If this country genuinely wants to be great, it must focus on the uplifting, positive stories and images of all of its citizens that have the potential to end misconceptions that easily ensnare progress. It can start by cleaning the stains put on black men and fathers.
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And We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression." (The Cow 35 )