Happy Father’s Day to our readers here at the Amsterdam News. I have joked before that Father’s Day for many is a time when the entire family pools their pennies together and collectively get dad a tie, a bottle of cologne and a shared card. However, the older I get, the more I appreciate Father’s Day. It seems as though I tend to look around when on the subway or walking down the street and notice older men, Black men especially, who have survived living in this country.
In remembering the words of Langston Hughes, life is definitely not a crystal stair for Black women in this country. However, the recent months (and years) have made me keenly aware of the numbers of Black fathers who have been taken from their families far too soon. Whether by gun violence, police brutality or the carceral state, there are far too many families growing up without a father present in their lives.
I was recently speaking to a formerly incarcerated friend who mentioned that Mother’s Day behind bars felt like a national holiday. Men had saved their money and were lined up to make phone calls the entire day. He also lamented that Father’s Day seemed to pass as any regular Sunday in the prison. How can we change this phenomenon? There are clearly institutional and structural forces in this country that are removing Black men from their homes and communities. How can we curb this tide and build holistic communities?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know there are groups across the country working to strengthen Black male relationships, confidence and mental health. For those interested in learning and doing more, the work of Shawn Dove and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement as well as the scholarship and activism of Dr. Michael Lindsey at the McSilver Institute at NYU are great places to start. So as we move forward into the latter half of 2017, I hope we can commit ourselves to learning and doing more to support Black boys and men in this country.
Lastly, I wish my father. Theodore N. Greer, very Happy Father’s Day. He and his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers have created a network of fathers and uncles for me (and so many others) that extends across the country. Not everyone is affiliated with a fraternal organization, but hopefully we can think of ways to continue to build a network of Black families and communities to assist us as we navigate these continued turbulent times.
So, to all the dads out there, it is my genuine hope that you know you are loved and appreciated by so many people, even if you only have an old tie as proof.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.