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Encouragement is essential

December 2, 2013

The joy of fatherhood: Helpful tips for fathers and men who want to become fathers

by Morris Turner

Thank you to those readers who have offered input and feedback to this ongoing discussion on fatherhood and please know that your support and encouragement are very much appreciated. Likewise, the photos you’ve forwarded of yourselves and loved ones provide evidence to all of us as to what healthy parenting can look like.

Juelz and dad, Robert Grimes, web
Robert Grimes and his son Juelz
Our focus this month is to look at ways that we as men, in particular fathers, can actively encourage and support children who are not necessarily a part of our immediate families.

Children in our society are far too often undervalued, minimized and rendered nearly invisible. That is, until they “act out” in some way to get the attention of our fast paced “get mine at all costs” mentality. Even then they only register as a “blip” on the screen, where we catch superficial glimpses of discouraged humanity portrayed through hair styles, clothing and “get my swag on” body language.

As good community builders, it is critical to the survival of our children and essential to our own personhood that we step up and counter this often covert attack on our most precious resource. What can you do? Refuse to be passive and actively seek to uplift the spirits of young people around you. Do what you can, where you are.

Some of the things I do in my community include taking my car to car washes where young folks are doing fundraising. It’s all about supporting their efforts, letting them know someone cares. So what if they leave a little soap on my car? I can always wash it off later. Always look toward the “greater good.”

Outside my local grocery store, children are often selling candy bars for some cause or another. I buy one when I can, although I’m diabetic, and then give it to a friend or neighbor. If I’m short on funds, which is a common state of affairs, I’ll make a small donation or just make a positive comment about their efforts.

What can you do? Refuse to be passive and actively seek to uplift the spirits of young people around you.

I always speak, with good eye contact, to young folks I encounter. I think it’s important to model what it’s like to have manners. How can they represent characteristics they never see?

Here is what other men throughout the country report that they do in their communities. If you come up with other good ideas, please let me know.

Jessie H. (Kansas) founded a museum of African American history that showcases the families in his area. He recruits young volunteers from local schools to be docents and keep the place organized. They receive community service hours applicable toward graduation.

Cheribum S. (Vallejo), along with his wife, has raised numerous foster children. He enjoys mentoring young men on the basketball court and in the community in general, where he has the advantage of knowing multiple generations of families. He is quite comfortable pulling young men “to the side” and checking in to see how they are doing and helping them fill in the blanks when possible.

We as men, in particular fathers, can actively encourage and support children who are not necessarily a part of our immediate families.

Mike S. (Philadelphia) coaches men’s and women’s independent basketball leagues. He also encourages young adults, in particular men, in the community to take on random acts of kindness. He makes sure that everyone knows who the elders are in the community and what their health needs are. His team of folks also removes the snow from driveways and walkways of elders so that they won’t be homebound in the winter.

Todd C. (Atlanta) teaches Sunday school and hosts “fun” barbeques etc. at his home where young folks often feel comfortable sharing “what’s going on” with them. He is the father of four children, works a very demanding job, but always has time to help out youngsters and to occasionally give me a call.

Bigman H. (Santa Rosa), original founding member of the Black Panther Party, speaks to school children of all ages, encouraging them to take charge of their lives and helping them to realize their personal power and value.

In the village, everyone has value. Please share yours.

Morris Turner is the father of two sons, ages 39 and 35. Over the past 45 years he has worked with children and young people in a variety of settings, including as preschool teacher, career counselor, family mentor and sports coach. He is also an author and recognized researcher in the area of African American settlement in the United States, but his greatest pleasure today is learning to be a good grandpa. He can be reached at or by calling (707) 794-0729.


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