Several well-known Black fathers participated in a panel discussion last Friday at First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) to discuss the role men must take in the community to be better dads. The discussion also touched on the long-term effects of growing up without a father.

The event, “Celebrity Panel Discussion: Fatherhood,” was moderated by FCBC Pastor Michael Walrond and featured rap artist Styles P., NBA stars Amar’e Stoudemire, Etan Thomas and Allan Houston, actor Chaz Lamar Shepherd and ESPN sports analyst Chris Broussard. All six men on the panel are fathers themselves, with many growing up without their fathers in their lives, highlighting the startling trend of men not being active fathers.

“Twenty-four million children in this country live apart from their fathers,” said Walrond. “This is not just a Black issue. We are talking about this because angry boys can turn out to be angry fathers.”

Thomas, who was key in putting the discussion together, is the author of “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge.” He said that he was inspired to write the book to show that even when a father is absent in young person’s life, history does not have to repeat itself.

“I hear about the negative statistics and I wanted to show young people that it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said. “It’s by the grace of God that I am where I am today.”

Styles P. said that a lack of a father can lead young people to search for lessons they are hungry for from a father figure on the street. He grew up in a single parent home. “When you get caught up in the streets, you forget about a sense of what family is,” he said. “I was raised by my mom and she taught me how to be a man.”

A father to seven children, Houston stressed the importance of talking with children and building trust. “I have to tell my children who they are, and that’s a child of God. I have to be an example to them and communicate with them,” he said. “As fathers, we have to be proactive in conversations and engage.”