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Jeremy Givens says that as he grew up, the narrative he listened to about Black fathers differed from the life he led.
He said that in movies, on television, and in general conversation, fathers were often portrayed as being absent, unengaged, and not good at all.
Givens stated that he had experienced the opposite in his own life.
Givens, a father, is now president and executive director at the Black American Dad Foundation. The organization's goal is to correct distorted perceptions about Black fathers by presenting firsthand experiences.
Father's Day falls on Juneteenth this year, a commemoration of the end of slavery. Fathers and mental-health experts have told CNN that they want to share the importance of fatherhood, as well as their experiences with and among Black fathers.
Dr. Jennifer Noble is a psychologist in Los Angeles who believes that fathers can help their children achieve all they are capable of.
She said that seeing both parents changing diapers, caring for a child, and playing with them helps both boys and girls to relate to their parents.
Noble explained, "As a child, I can identify both versions and decide which one is best for me."
What we know about fathers
The traditional father figure is often depicted with his arms outstretched, trying to coax the child who is standing on the edge of the pool into the water.
"The father is in a pool and says: "OK, jump! Jump, jump! Jump into the pool!" Noble stated that the child was scared. They're trusting but they also have the courage to jump in because they know their father will take care of them.
Noble stated that good fathers are often able to teach lessons about playfulness, caring, support, courage, and discipline. Data shows that Black fathers do this regularly.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 National Health Statistics Report, 70% of Black fathers living with their children are most likely to bathe, dress, change or help their child with toileting every day. This is compared to their White (60%) and Hispanic (45%) counterparts.
The data revealed that these Black fathers are also the most likely to have shared a meal together with their children.
The numbers are high and this is not only for the biological fathers who live in the house, according to Dr. Erlanger, a licensed psychology professor at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California.
He added that 'it also shows that Black fathers frequently step in to the role of (stepparents) or maintain consistency involvement when they live outside the home.
Turner stated that this involvement is crucial for many reasons. One of them is the fact that research shows that children who have fathers involved are less likely to develop disruptive behavior or mental health issues.
Noble explained that even when the biological father is not present, other men can fill the role by showing concern for the child. This concept is important in African American culture.
She said that grandparents and father figures can be just as important, if they are not more so, than fathers. You have grandparents, uncles, coaches, community members and pastors who can provide guidance, empathy, attunement, and support.
Media portrayals of the world are often inaccurate
Why isn't this story told if data shows that Black dads are often involved with the daily care of children?
Givens noted that many movies, television shows, and news articles about Black fathers are not written by Black fathers themselves or by those who were raised by them.
The father of a Black Family can either be absent or not very good.
Noble said that sometimes we can miss the nuance of the situation and think, "Oh, this is every Black family in America."
She added that, given the history of racism, Black fathers in the United States may experience disproportionately high incarceration or find it difficult to obtain jobs in order to support their families. These hardships are just a part of Black fatherhood.
Noble said, 'We may need to alter the evidence available in order to get a better representation of reality.'
What is the correct way to write this story?
Givens stated that in order to create a narrative which better represents Black fathers we must emphasize the person who is telling their story.
Givens stated that the Black American Dad Foundation, among other groups, is trying to publish stories by Black fathers. He wants to see more primary sources that will help us understand the culture of black families.
He also urges fathers to consider the behaviors they model for their children.
Givens stated that it is important to show children that they are human, that mistakes happen and that it's okay to find a way to overcome them. Not only should you share your achievements, but also your failures.
Turner says that fathers should not be afraid to reveal their vulnerability to their children.
He said that it is important for boys to see male figures who are able to express their emotions and cope with stress. While mothers play a role, it is more effective when boys watch their fathers confidently express emotions such as sadness or anxiety.
But it's not always easy. Givens remembers the difficulty he had three years ago, when he had to tell his son Cohen that he would be moving out of state. He wouldn't see Cohen for a couple weeks.
The single dad remembered saying, 'This won't change anything' to his son who was then 5 and now lives with his mother in Arizona. 'I just want you to know how much I love you. I'll always be there for you. I'll never leave you.'
He remembered the boy saying, 'You just have to give it a try.