Fatherless to Fatherhood

Conversations about fatherhood in the African-American community often traipse on sensitive nerves. The discourse reaches fever pitch in June, when the day designed to celebrate dads’ approaches. There’s often a range of responses to Father’s Day, from critical disdain for dads that abandoned their responsibilities to unyielding adoration for those that “stepped up to the plate.”

Cable network ASPiRE is capitalizing on the attention devoted to fathers by unveiling an entire weekend of dad-inspired programming.

ASPiRE will air a “Cos-a-Thon,” a marathon of “The Bill Cosby Show” episodes. The Magic Johnson-owned network will also air several vignettes from “The Root 100,” an original series featuring various entertainers – including NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and actress Gabrielle Union – discussing their relationships with their fathers.

“From Fatherless to Fatherhood,” a Kobie Brown-produced documentary examining the impact of absent fathers in the black American community, will debut June 16. Brown – Morehouse College alum – told CNN “the purpose of this documentary is to ignite discussion throughout the African-American community … to let people understand that their lives are not determined by the absence of their fathers, that they can move beyond that and succeed nonetheless.”

The June 16 premiere will be the first time “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” will air on network television. The documentary includes interviews with Kirk Franklin, Jeff Robinson and others and is considered “an invitation to share views about fatherhood; to challenge one another in a positive way about the value we place on parenting, fatherhood and family,” according to Brown.

Brown was inspired to create the film while attending Morehouse. He claims dire statistics moved him to explore this taboo topic.

“A number of things inspired me to create this film, including single parenthood being the greatest predictor of poverty; the black unemployment rate; and the social, economic and political toll that father absence takes on our community,” he said in an interview with CNN.

“I believe that more often than not, father absence and fractured families sits at the center of each of these hurdles. It’s difficult to create and sustain black-owned businesses that stabilize neighborhoods when so many children are not doing well in school. That’s because it’s often difficult to convince a child who is growing up poor that school is important when he or she is persuaded by the access to money and sense of acceptance and family that they can find in the street.”

He continues:

“It’s equally difficult to teach people, rich, middle class or poor, the value of healthy relationships or what authentic manhood looks like when so many are growing up without observing or having relationships with strong fathers. While racism can surely be blamed, men and women make choices that determine the extent of a father’s involvement in a child’s life. I felt that a film was a good way to show the impact of father absence, while also providing examples of men who are actively involved in their children’s lives, and the role that strong fathers and families play in strengthening humanity, as well as our entire community.”

Brown also hopes he can change some misconceptions about fathers in communities of color.

“More often than not examples of high quality manhood, fatherhood and loving relationships are not illustrated, talked about or shown such that we can recognize them when we see them. I’ve created this project in an attempt to provide those examples and deliver a different kind of reality; one that has the ability to transform us all,” he explained.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that black fathers are anomalous, that there are not strong men rearing and leading children. My grandfathers worked in cotton and steel mills; one became a preacher and eventually owned his own cab stand. Both reared children that became businessmen, executives, educators, lawyers, athletes and professional sports coaches. Each child transcended the economic and educational circumstances of their parents and grandparents. Black men and fathers play a vital role in advancing their families, community and legacy.”

AsPiRE is hosting a Google + hangout with Brown and rapper David Banner to discuss the film with audiences. It is scheduled for Thursday, June 13 at 12/11(c).

“From Fatherless to Fatherhood” debuts on AsPiRE on June 16 at 8/7(c). It will re-air at 9:30/8:30(c).

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