During this chaotic time, it is important for our community partners, friends, and supporters to know that Fathers and Families Center and our Board of Directors stand united against any form of racism, discrimination, and injustice. Since our inception, we have continued to serve 95% African American fathers and their families; helping them navigate systemic racism and its barriers. It is core to our mission, vision, daily purpose, and commitment. We see its devastating and crippling impact every day as they struggle to overcome educational challenges, find meaningful employment, navigate a criminal justice system that is often skewed against them, and address trauma that often manifests itself in depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-harm, and violence against others. Yet, they come to our doors united around one common denominator: the need, determination, and grit to be a better father and provider that goes beyond race or ethnicity.
As the leader of an agency and as a father of a young son who is on the Autism Spectrum, my heart is breaking as we watch too many young black men die violently—and I remind myself that they are just not sons, but many are fathers themselves – impacting generations. Now, over this July 4th weekend, I saw my beautiful, loving son in a different light. I realized the sense of urgency in having “that talk” with him about being a young, Black man in America at 11 years old and how he needs to respond differently to situations than his white friends. Yet, being on the spectrum, he has some communication challenges–he takes time to process, understand, and respond – it is how his brain works. He is also incredibly bright, curious, and caring. Yet, my biggest fear is that he will take too long in “responding appropriately” to authority and will pay the ultimate price. My wife and I will pay the price. And we—as a community–will continue to pay the price of potentially losing another one of our potential leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs…
Do I have the answer? The solution? No. However, in my spirit I strongly believe that all of us have parts of the solution; and collectively we can be the answer. Yes, it is about police reform; racial equity; and addressing the violence within the African-American community—particularly for the children. We know this. Many of us have been doing this work for years – if not decades. Additionally, we must be committed to keeping this conversation alive to bridge understanding, dispel stereotypes, build trust, and remain united as change-makers.
I hope – we hope—that Fathers and Families Center can provide a safe place for you and others across our communities to come and have those crucial conversations. Meet the men and their families that we work with every day. Hear/listen to their stories. You may be amazed by their grit, fortitude, and commitment to their families. And they too may be surprised by the compassion, frustration, and confusion from community members that do not always look like them.
So, let me end with an invitation on behalf of my son and all of the other sons and daughters out there: our doors are open for a cup of coffee and crucial conversations to build on our shared commitment to stand against racism…and ultimately to build noble legacies of fatherhood for all of our children.
Wallace McLaughlin, PhD