Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): On Sunday, June 15, 2014, you alongside with Project Forward will be hosting ‘A Day of Encouragement’ for Black Fathers. Please tell us about the idea behind this event; the purpose and why it’s needed.
Deric Muhammad (DM): We believe that a day of encouragement is needed for Black fathers, because when you look at the social economic conditions in America and you look at which race gender is at the bottom rung of the ladder in education, health, employment, wealth, you name the Black male is at the bottom of the ladder of civilization.
I’m a firm believer that if you focus on that which is at the bottom and lift it, everything on top of what’s on the bottom comes up automatically. When you look at the absence of the Black male in the community, every household where a man is not present produces a child that is troubled. This is a fact. For instance, in neighborhoods where there is a high rate of incarceration there is a domino effect that takes place in our community when we as men are not there holding down our divine duty as fathers. Therefore, this Father’s Day we thought that it was necessary to use it as a platform to encourage Black men. If you have been an irresponsible father, we want to encourage you to be a responsible father. If you have not provided for your child economically we want to encourage you to do so.
An encouragement is needed, because if brothers continue to beat themselves over the head about what they have not done in the past, then we will never be able to create a future. So don’t worry about what you were not able to do. There’s nothing you can do about that right now. The only thing you can do to right the wrongs of the past is to move forward in the future.
When you look at Mother’s Day in the Black community, there is a huge groundswell of clamor and support for Black mothers. Hence, Mother’s Day is used to lift up Black mothers, but unfortunately, in so many cases Father’s Day is used to beat down Black fathers. We want to use it as a platform to encourage Black fathers and also to encourage the children of Black fathers.
EM: Can you address the generational cycles or curses? We’re talking about encouraging Black males and being able to address some issues that seem to be generational; economically and educationally speaking. How will this event speak to those issues including the increase of violence among Black boys and men?
DM: When you look at our sojourn in America, and you talk about generational cycles, you cannot leave out the 300 plus years we spent in chattel slavery and the effects that it had on the Black family, particularly us being Black fathers. If you leave out that factor and dynamic then you will never understand why we are the way we are. What’s most important about generational cycles and generational curses is that we need to understand that they can be broken. They can be broken.
I tell the story about a sister who wrote of her experience on a slave plantation; I can’t think of her name. She wrote a story about how she was born on a plantation, but because she had a mother and a father in the slave shack with her she didn’t even know she was a slave. She didn’t even know she was poor, because she received the love from her mother and father. Well the mean old slave master sold the father to the plantation down the street, and this broke up the family by force. The father being who he is by nature, a good father, he kept sneaking down to the first plantation to see his daughter and to see his wife. In other words his mindset was “nothing is going to stop me from being a father to my child and a husband to my wife”.
When the slave master saw him doing this he would come out and chastise him and said, “Don’t you ever come back on my property again”. Well he kept coming back, so the slave master began to beat him. Yet and still, he kept coming back. The daughter is telling this story later on in life. She said she would wake up in the morning sometimes and she would see a trail of blood from her front door all the way down the street headed toward the plantation her father worked, because the slave master would stay up late at night just to wait for that man to come and see his family. When he would catch him trying to visit his family he would beat him all the way back up the road. She said one morning she woke up and she followed the trail of blood, and she ran into her father’s body. This is a true story. This wicked devil had beaten this man to death for coming to try to be a father to his child. That’s our history.
If we don’t take a look at that, then we won’t know why we are the way we are and we won’t know how to correct the way we are. I don’t know that man’s name , but ever since I heard that his story his spirit has been in my heart. To his credit he died trying to be a father, and that’s the kind of ‘by any means necessary’ attitude we have to take to fatherhood, all of us.
As it relates to breaking generational curses, if we don’t understand where they come from we can never break them.
EM: What should the fathers and other males who plan to attend expect upon arrival to the Day of Encouragement?
DM: This is a day of celebration, to celebrate those who have worked hard to be fathers to their children, and it’s a day we want to encourage those who have not. Therefore, it’s two-fold. Earlier that day around 3P.M. we will have a lot of activities. We will have a father-son basketball competition, we’ll have father-son flag football game, face-painting and moonwalks for the younger children to jump around in.
What we’re saying to brothers is to go and pick up your children on Father’s Day and bring them to Macgregor Park. Sometimes a brother, when he doesn’t have any money, will say he’s broke and can’t go pick up his children. All we’re saying is just get to the park, we’ll have something there for you to do with them. We just want to create an atmosphere where men can focus on spending quality time with their children first and foremost.
Then, towards the end of the day what we want to offer through the program is information and inspiration. There’s a lot of information that can help us be better fathers, that can help us not get caught up in the traps, particularly the new child support laws and so forth. We’ll have lawyers on hand who will be there to give legal advice to brothers who are being blindsided by some of these new laws. Therefore, we want to give information, but what’s most important is that we give inspiration. We want to inspire brothers to be who God made them to be.
When you look at the Bible and you look at the book of Malachi 4:5-6, where God says He will send you Elijah. Elijah will turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children and turn the hearts of the children back to the fathers, otherwise, “I will come and smite the Earth with a curse”. We want to take a page from that scripture and let that be our mission. On that day we will be the process of turning the hearts of children back to their fathers and turning the hearts of the fathers back to their children. We want to create a network that is a source of support.
It’s one thing for a woman to tell a man, “You need to spend more time with your child”. Sometimes the woman doesn’t say it right. Yet, there’s an old adage that says, “Steel sharpens steel”. Men sharpen men like steel sharpens steel. There’s nothing like hearing it from another brother. “Look brother, I know what you’re going through, but you gotta push through and you’ve got to do this…and that… for your child”. That’s the kind of inspiration we need to provide. They should expect good information, up-to-date, cutting edge information and inspiration. They should expect to go away from this event wanting to be a better father.
EM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DM: Another thing I would like to promote is that we as men have to redefine the concept of child support for ourselves. The term ‘child support’ has a very negative connotation, but in essence we are all charged with supporting our child and children. Therefore, we’ve come up with a concept of the 4 E’s of Child Support. The 4 E’s of Child Support are: 1) You have to give your child(ren) economic support. 2) You have to give your child(ren) education. 3) You have to give your child(ren) encouragement. 4) You have to give your child(ren) emotional support. When we begin to quantify ourselves and look at ourselves based upon, not just the economic piece but, the other pieces then it gives a more well-rounded view of what our duty is to our children and how we should respond to different circumstances. I want to put that out there as well, because there is going to be a lot of talk about child support, but we’re going to talk about it from an entirely different perspective.
EM: Thank you very much and I am certainly looking for to this Day of Encouragement for fathers on Father’s Day. May Allah (God) bless you and Project FWD with great success!
To learn more about “A Day of Encouragement” please follow Project Forward at @ProjectFWD on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.