A Hallmark Mahogany card titled “For You, Mom, on Father’s Day” has drawn the line between being a stereotype of absentee fatherhood in the Black community and robbing dads of their special day. There have even been posts on Facebook warning women that they will be blocked or deleted as friends if they wish themselves Happy Father’s Day. How could a $4 card cause so much controversy?
Some of the Mahogany cards have been called racist or living up to too many negative stereotypes about the Black community, but who really owns Father’s Day? In Atlanta, Buckhead resident Carmela Patillo said that she understands the plight of other moms who rant about absentee fathers in their social media posts. “My sons have two fathers who are rarely active with them on Father’s Day,” she said. “I think that day belongs to whomever is active with your kids no matter the gender.”
Patillo said she struggles to maintain a positive demeanor for her children’s sake when both of their fathers are usually absent for special days and celebrations.
Serena Nowell, an Atlanta attorney, said that the debate in social media is foreign to her because her children are already adults. “There is a difference between a single mom and a divorced mom,” she said. “Just because you are an unmarried mom, it doesn’t mean you are a single mom if the father is still active in that child’s life. You don’t get to take two bites out of that apple.”
According to Legalmomentum.org, the median income for single-mother families was $25,493, 31 percent of the $81,455 median income for two-parent families; median income for single-father families was $36,471, 45 percent of the median for two-parent families. The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., reported in a 2013 finding that the median annual income for a single dad of three is about $40,000 — a far cry from the $70,000 median among households headed by married fathers, but much higher than that of households headed by single mothers.
An article published May 11 by alternet.org cited that while “black people are three times more likely to be subject to law enforcement uses of forces … black fathers are actually more attentive to their children than other fathers generally are.” This study, originally compiled in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that 78.2 percent of African-American dads ate daily with their children 5 and under while 70.4 percent bathed or dressed their children, and 82.2 percent played with their kids among dads living in the home.
Demarco Mitchell, 39, said that as an educator he finds it dangerous for women to forsake the role of positive male figures in a young man’s life. “Of course, he’ll respect his mom because he sees her every day, but his lack of maturity in having a male figure can create someone spoiled,” he said. “These young cats need to know how to become a man from a man.”
A 2006 study published by the National Fatherhood Initiative website stated that in “father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning.” In essence, children with active fathers were more academically sound with fewer issues of behavioral problems. The study also said that these children had higher scores for reading achievement whether the father resided or lived outside, and remained involved.
Mitchell, a father of three, and his wife, Mary, adopted three more children last year to their already blossoming family, but it was not without an adjustment. “My biological kids have known me their whole lives, but I had to get to know my adopted kids a different way,” he said. “It’s really about giving time to each of them without any of the kids feeling that they’re getting less than the others.”
An educator and mentor for 16 years, Mitchell is thankful for having a spouse who believes in teamwork. “She has the ability to see all of the blind spots that I may miss,” he said. “I’m not a big talker or big on recognizing, discussing feelings, but she steps into those gaps to make us whole.”
Though LaVerio Barnes, also known as DJ LV, is a divorced dad, he makes sure to make every moment count with his son. “Since most of what I do as a DJ is at night or on the weekends, I’m able to pick him up from school every day,” he said.
Barnes, 41, is the founder of Cool Dads Rock, an initiative that he started three years ago to give fathers and their children a chance to perform activities to strengthen their bonds. Now, the organization is a 501c3 nonprofit raising funds for its annual soapbox derby to be held in Atlanta’s Fourth Ward Park on Aug. 1.
Barnes, who was raised by a single mom, said that what has been beneficial to staying active in his own son’s life was that his mom kept him around positive male role models.
On June 28, Cool Dads Rock will celebrate local fathers and their contributions to the community at their inaugural gala and fundraiser to benefit future programs of the organization. Hosted at Velvet Underground at Hard Rock Café Atlanta, the show will feature live performances from Algebra Blessett and Eric Roberson.