Listen to this article here
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), the founder and chair of the Caucus on the Commission of the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, organized a Congressional policy briefing on June 22 at the U.S. Capitol Building to reshape the public perception of Black fathers.
The event acknowledged the contributions of fathers within the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and inducted new CBC members into the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project.
The policy briefing titled “Reclaiming the Fatherhood Narrative for Black Men” brought together esteemed participants, including the Caucus on the Commission of the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, the Vice Grand Basileus of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, and prominent researchers. This discussion aimed to shed light on policies that support Black fathers and challenge the prevailing stereotypes, emphasizing the crucial role Black fathers play in the lives of their children.
Throughout history, Black fathers have endured misrepresentation and stereotypes, often portrayed as absent and disengaged.
However, recent research conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that Black fathers are often active participants in their children’s lives. During the policy briefing, experts critically analyzed the findings of the CDC research and engaged in discussions regarding policy initiatives that empower Black fathers while dismantling the inaccurate narrative surrounding them.
In 2013, the CDC published a national study that demonstrated greater involvement of Black fathers in their children’s lives compared to other racial groups. Furthermore, a recent study in 2023 focusing on adolescents supported the notion that Black men are dedicated fathers.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Congresswoman Wilson, who expressed her hope that these compelling results, backed by the credibility of the CDC, will prompt a collective realization of the fallacy behind these damaging stereotypes.
She emphasized, “When you say the CDC did the study, that adds another level of belief and interest.”
These harmful stereotypes and misconceptions not only perpetuate the marginalization of Black men but also impose limitations on their perceived achievements. Wilson firmly believes that these misconceptions have done a disservice to the entire Black community.
Despite the evidence highlighting equal or greater involvement in their children’s lives, Black fathers encounter unique challenges, such as elevated rates of gun violence, mass incarceration, lower life expectancy, higher unemployment, and discrimination. It is for these reasons that Congresswoman Wilson has dedicated herself to creating mentorship programs like the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, which assist young boys in navigating these challenges and developing into successful men and exceptional fathers.
Congresswoman Wilson’s efforts to cultivate involved fathers begin during childhood. She advocates for providing Black men and boys with the necessary tools and resources for early success.
Quoting Frederick Douglass, Wilson asserts, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
She invokes the historical context of racism that has plagued Black men for generations, emphasizing the importance of imparting knowledge and lessons to empower the next generation.
During the briefing, Congresswoman Wilson shared an impactful anecdote about accompanying a group of boys to visit a jail as part of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. In addition to visiting college campuses, she wanted the boys to comprehend the profound impact that incarceration can have on one’s life. During the visit, a young Black boy asked, “Miss Wilson, where’s the jail for White people?” This prompted her to explain that incarceration affects Black individuals disproportionately.
Congresswoman Wilson’s objective is to educate Black boys about the challenges they may face due to the color of their skin.
She wants them to carry the knowledge and lessons learned as members of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project into adulthood, enabling them to make informed choices and avoid falling victim to gun violence or incarceration.
Expressing her concern for the future of these boys, Wilson shared, “I just graduated a group of boys and sent them to college, and every day I’m going to worry about them because I know what they’re going to encounter. I know that there’s a target on their backs.”
Reflecting on the policy briefing, Congresswoman Wilson expressed her satisfaction in gaining valuable insights from each panelist. She also appreciated learning about the initiatives implemented by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity to dismantle negative stereotypes about Black fathers through mentorship and education. Wilson shared, “I came away with a toolbox of information that I can truly use in my work with Black boys and men.”
Congresswoman Wilson emphasized the importance of educating people about the injustices and biases Black men face daily, fostering a deeper understanding of the resilience displayed by Black fathers, as indicated by research.
She acknowledges that shifting perspectives will take time by stating, “It is going to take just as much time and effort to dispel those stereotypes as it took to encase those stereotypes into law and into the minds and hearts of people.”
However, she remains hopeful due to the presence of technology, which facilitates reaching a broad audience.
Wilson urges organizations to leverage their platforms to bring attention to the detrimental effects of these misconceptions due to the deep-rooted history of racist perceptions of Black men during slavery. “They didn’t have social media and The Black Wall Street Times. They didn’t have 5000 Role Models of Excellence or Omega Psi Phi Fraternity as these stereotypes were being ingrained across this Nation. We need to be the drum majors for Black fathers,” Wilson said.