Black dads matter and are, in fact, needed for our community to be the safest, healthiest, and most brilliant it can be.
Studies show that when a father is active in his children’s lives, his kids are likely to be more engaged in school and have healthy brain function. Overall, they have a major impact on a child’s social and psychological well-being.
“What does it mean to love? What does it mean to show care and compassion? What does it mean to show strength? What does it mean to love somebody else? You know, all these things I think fathers provide and it’s different or it can show up in a different way than a mother or another parent,” he says.
The role of a father is just as important as the role of a mother, though the two can affect kids differently. Research shows that a mother is more likely to be nurturing and patient and a father tends to be “more involved in preparing children to deal with life.”
Contrary to the idea that fathers need to “be tough and that tough is manly,” fathers can also be emotionally engaged and show sensitivity, according to James.
“There’s something about a father who can show sensitivity or a father who can be there for their child; a father who can show encouragement,” he says.
For Black men, society totes a narrative that they’re absent as dads. As a father of two and a therapist who supports Black fathers, James says that stereotype isn’t true.
A 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Black fathers are more engaged in parental activities than other ethnic groups. That data shows they’re highly active in various duties; including bathing, playing, and helping with homework.
Bahia Overton, executive director of the Black Parent Initiative, has hosted several listening sessions with Black fathers and says “the narrative that there are no good fathers out here, I think that’s a false narrative and I think we need to promote what the reality is.”
“There’s a lot of amazing fathers who maybe haven’t had the opportunity or the space to express themselves,” she says. “But they’re there.”
Likewise, James has seen the strengths of Black fathers time and time again in his practice.
“I’ve just recognized that Black men show up for their children and the community and the kids around them and invest in them in a way that we don’t give them credit. And we don’t see how much they are thinking and feeling about even the smallest of decisions because they want to make [an] impact,” he says.
Overton, who says more space needs to be given to Black fathers to “speak and talk about their experience,” has a game-changing program on the way where Black dads will receive stipends to spend time at middle and elementary schools in Oregon.
“The Northwest is very white and so the school systems are very white. Teachers are very white. So having Black fathers in the school environment, we believe will contribute to the positive mental health well-being of Black children, relieving a certain level of stress and allowing them to be able to access more aspects of their learning,” she says about the program set to launch in July.
The initiative will be co-led by Black Men’s Wellness, a community-based initiative that addresses health concerns commonly affecting Black and African-American men, and Let That Dad Speak!, a Black-father centered conversation group that speaks about overcoming barriers and challenges to health communication as co-parents and partners.
“I think that [Black fathers] are critical to the conversation, that we need their presence, their insights, and that we need to talk to them more about what their dreams, their hopes and their wishes are for their children so we can help them get there,” Overton says.