In our American discourse, black fatherhood and the strength of black families has been under constant and disproportionate scrutiny, despite statistics.
This report from the Center for Disease Control, for example, concludes that black fathers are actually the most present demographic among all fathers. Although black children are disproportionately born into single-mother homes, that doesn’t correlate directly to a lack of fathers who engage in parenting.
To combat this narrative, Jasmine Elizabeth, founder of J. Elizah Consulting, has for the last two years put together an event called A Father Daughter Occasion. This year’s occasion took place at the Dahlia Campus in North Park Hill on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m.
“In our community, we have a lot of fathers who are active in their children’s life, but they don’t necessarily get the recognition. I want to highlight that we do have great fathers in our community,” Elizabeth said.
The event encourages dads to help other dads.
A Father Daughter Occasion gained traction in its infancy, and this year, it sold out. Not only does the event support fathers celebrating the relationship they have with their daughters, but it also helps dads of all ages learn from each other in a comfortable setting.
“Something like this definitely shows that there is a lot of great fathers out here, despite what’s projected on us,” said Josh Ford, founder of Out the Cage, a program to help student-athletes transition from high school to college and from college to the pros.
Ryan Ross, president of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado, echoed that sentiment, noting how frustrating it can be to know that fathers like himself have to actively undo a preconceived notion.
“One of the great hoaxes of society is there’s a lack of black fathers in homes. It’s beyond upsetting. It’s kind of repulsive that people think that,” Ross said. “This is what fathers do, this is what black men do, we raise our children, we take care of our families.”
The afternoon included activities for fathers and daughters, like dinner with conversation prompts and arts and crafts, as well as breakout sessions where fathers can discuss best practices amongst each other.
“As a young dad, I’m growing with and learning from these guys. It’s empowering to see all these dads here. It’s about not just being present, but attentive. That’s what I took away from it last year,” Ford said.
Elizabeth purposefully reached out to a coalition of men that can foster a welcoming environment for dads coming from all walks of life. She believes building this camaraderie amongst fathers in Denver will make it easier for fathers that have not reached their full potential as parents to get it together.
“In one sense it’s to celebrate the fathers who are active. In another sense, it’s to encourage fathers that haven’t been a part of their children’s lives,” Elizabeth said.
It also provides an opportunity for daughters to see a different side of their fathers.
Ross, who is also a sponsor for the event, believes that fathers creating these bonds early on will create a sense of confidence in their daughters’ that will serve them well in a society that often tries to diminish the capabilities of women.
“It is vitally important for young girls to grow up to be strong women who advocate for themselves, who don’t accept status quo treatment and don’t get caught up in these situations where society or a man is telling them they are less than,” Ross said. “Loving on them in a way that they see how much they matter, creating that repetition over and over, is vital for growth and development.”
Ford noted that many fathers don’t quite understand how important that relationship is, especially from the perspective of a daughter. He said that oftentimes the pervasive rhetoric surrounding black men in America can make black fathers feel like they are less impressive than they are, especially from the point of view of their children.
“That’s so deep because sometimes we don’t even know the effect we have. You’re superman to that young girl, whatever you are in the world, to her, you are her world,” Ford said.
Elizabeth says Ford’s realization is a common theme in the feedback she has received from the fathers. The feedback doesn’t typically come back directly to her, as the fathers seem to be more comfortable sharing with other men, but nonetheless, she knows that many fathers have walked away with a renewed sense of importance regarding their relationship with their daughters.
“Last year the feedback was, ‘I never knew my daughter enjoyed spending time with me so much, I never knew my daughter was interested in me the way that she is’” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth explained that this event also allows daughters to learn more about their fathers, and to be able to contextualize their roles outside of being a dad.
“Parents are human as well. A lot of times we have false expectations of parents. We expect them to be superheroes because we don’t know any better. Our fathers are men who are facing so many other challenges. A lot of fathers are learning how to be a dad without examples. We should try to embrace that and be patient,” Elizabeth said.
She said this year, she actually has older women coming to the event with their fathers, many of whom did not previously have a great relationship with their father but are looking to reconcile now.
Elizabeth says this a step towards the community taking care of the community
Organizers of the event believe this conversation is a necessary step toward equity and prosperity.
“We are working collectively to build our village again. We have to build our village. We can’t allow other people to do it, because they won’t,” Elizabeth said.
Ross says the community establishing its own narrative will disrupt those looking to “steal the power of our community by constantly pushing it down. A great way to destroy someone is through lies and trickery.”
“It’s also demonstrating that our community is just fine. We have the people inside it that can run it, and lead it in the right direction,” he added.
Ford noted that the real path towards a progressive and inclusive future starts with building relationships like the ones between fathers and daughters.
“’I want to go out change the world’, you can change the world by taking care of your daughter,” said Ford.