When fatherhood was celebrated recently in Miami’s Liberty City, the male presence was scarce. But the organizers were undaunted.
Rachel Lewis, community and supportive services assistant project manager for Urban Strategies, which sponsored the event, said her organization was “committed to engaging fathers to bond with their children … and to facilitate on-going events that represent fatherhood and family.”
T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, said evidence of the black community’s ills could be found in the tents set up for services such as HIV testing and social services, including tents set up by the Urban League.
Human aid services are necessary to address the consequences that result when men fail to set familial and communal standards and expectations, Fair said at the celebration held June 19 at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave.
“Men, historically, are responsible for taking care of their families but when they fail to do what is expected of them, they weaken the family structure,” he said.
The community is also responsible because it accepts the absent black father as normal, Fair said.
“What is also missing from the black community is the embarrassment at not being responsible for family. And this exists because the black community has indirectly said that the penalties for what is shameful have changed,” Fair said.
A short distance east, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard, the Belafonte TACOLCY Center teemed with prominent black men, from politicians to celebrity chefs, all participating in the Real Men Cook national crusade hosted by Glammin’ IT Productions.
Music was provided by Sensere, a Christian-soul and rock-infused band. Participants had their taste buds titillated by Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell’s baked Cornish hens brushed in an orange glazed sauce and Chef Irie’s coconut chicken with Andouille sausage and cilantro topped with butterbean puree.
Tasty dishes notwithstanding, the purpose of the culinary showcase, according to Alison Austin, CEO of the center, was to “learn to love our brotherhood.”
“It’s the basis of our families but our culture has been so inclined to accept single women households. But it doesn’t stop us from understanding the value of lifting up and showing love to the brotherhood of black men,” Austin said.
Stephanie Gary, a South Florida transplant from Silver Spring, Md., had a childhood experience that differs from the norm in the black community. Raised by a single father, she recalls distant memories of being mothered and nurtured “via committee.”
“My father always kept me around good women who took an interest in the affairs of my life and maturity into womanhood,” Gary said.
Gary’s husband Kito is grateful for his wife’s upbringing.
“I think my wife being raised by her father is what makes her so strong and sensitive. I believe her rearing allowed for her to set a level of expectation as to the type of man who would be a part of her life.”
PHOTO BY JAMES FORBES/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
FATHER AND SON: Stan Harrison, right, and his son Malik were among attendees at a Father’s Day celebration Sunday at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Miami.