Dr. Curtis Ivery,chancellor of Wayne County Community College District, together with his son, Marcus Ivery, has written an important book, “Black Fatherhood: Reclaiming Our Legacy,” that probes the deep-seated psychological and socioeconomic questions that haunt today’s fathers, especially those who are absent in the lives of their children. Or perhaps those who use their ill-fated relationships with the mothers of their children as reason or excuse to distance themselves from spending time with the children they helped bring into this world. Some blindly or deliberately feel that the responsibility of raising a child belongs exclusively to the mothers. They wrongly see it as some sort of self-vindication for whatever may have been the reason for the split between them and their child’s mother.
To those men and their collaborators I’d say think twice. The book they need to read has arrived and it has answers for some of the most difficult questions that men who see difficulty in being a father wrestle with.
“Black Fatherhood: Reclaiming Our Legacy” is a powerful treatise on the question of whether the African-American community can make advances and social progress when a significant number of men are not holding their end of the bargain when it comes to raising their children.
Watch interview below:
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As Ivery notes in the book, “Parenthood isn’t a spectator sport. It requires a physical and emotional commitment by both parents and for best results,” a truce that pierces through the notion that it is okay for a child to be raised by a single parent. While many single parents (women in the majority) are going it alone in raising their children, it shouldn’t be the acceptable norm and fathers cannot stand by like a spectator, yielding the responsibility of fatherhood to the mother.
In his 2013 poignant commencement speech at Morehouse College, President Obama talked about the sharp-toothed implications of father absenteeism and how it personally affected him. “I was raised by a heroic single mom, wonderful grandparents who made incredible sacrifices for me. And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you,” Obama said. “But I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad, and so my whole life I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home, where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter.”
Ivery’s 190-page book is divided by insightful chapters and punctuated at every turn with conversational nuggets that will awaken any man who has been sleeping over his responsibility to his child. “Ready or not, the birth of a child expands your role as a man to something bigger and more than important than anything else, fatherhood. Your child will wear the stamp of your being forever. Your actions as a parent, good or bad, will indelibly influence his or her life. So it’s important to make conscious decisions about how to love, encourage and teach your children as extensions of your very heart and soul,” Ivery writes.
Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper,” the mentoring initiative the president unveiled at the White House, will perhaps be his most enduring legacy, because the plight of Black men in society remains a central issue on the question of social progress and equality. In essence, “My Brother’s Keeper,” can be a direct pipeline into responsible fatherhood, and in his book Ivery underscores why building a foundation for young men can enable them become fathers who will keep the legacy alive.
“African-American fathers play two critical and parallel roles in passing on a positive and hopeful legacy to future generations. We must nurture our children so that they enter adulthood with a foundation of universal virtues, and we must model the process of passing on a legacy so that they and their offspring can do the same,” Ivery states. “My own father modeled this process of passing on a legacy to me. This book, in turn, is part of my personal effort to do likewise just as I trust that my two grown children will re-enact, reinterpret and add their stamp to our legacy in raising their own children. In this way, we create a generational bridge over which the hard-earned lessons of the past are passed on to each succeeding generation.”
The book is a call for father responsibility and accountability. It could not have come at a better time especially as we approach Thanksgiving when unfortunately many children are denied the benefit of dutiful fatherhood. While today’s definition of family continues to evolve and represents a tapestry of different forms of human connections, it is hardly complete without the presence of fathers.
Like a surgeon, Ivery has performed on the maladies that create father absenteeism. Like a chain saw, the book cuts through the excuses that many men have given for not returning their child/children’s phone calls, not showing up at the game practices, disappointing an excited child waiting to be taken out on his or her birthday or even refusing to show up on graduation day to bear witness to the triumph of the human spirit.
The brilliance of the book shows the moral courage and the intellectual depth of Ivery and his son. The idea of a father and a son teaming up to pen a book that touches on one of the most disturbing sociological subjects — the future of Black America in the era of absent fathers — is nothing short of the virtues of personal responsibility the two hold dear and the importance of passing that to the next generation.
The book is also an indirect tribute to the value of womanhood that Ivery and his son understand very well because for so long women have been forced to raise children alone while society waited on fathers to reclaim their legacy.
Many children have had the object of their difficulties met with a monumental relief in the person of their mothers who at all costs helped them to avoid despondency. The contributions of these women not only deserve the highest tribute but also constitutes an unparalleled source of genuine inspiration. Most of them are not wealthy, they live modest lives on meager incomes and struggle to raise the children they are left with.
There would be no need for the book that the Iverys wrote if absent fathers had stepped up to the plate and joined the women whose contributions in raising their children may never be recorded in the Guinness Book of Record, but will remain as a lasting legacy in helping put into context the societal imbalance of raising children today.
The Ivery men have made a compelling case on the unique opportunity for men to honor their children and the outstanding legacy of the men before them.
Every man who has a child must measure his own soul because no matter how successful you are, you will be remembered most for how your children remember you. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us of this when he quoted the eloquent poet, “Where I so tall as to reach the pole or grasp the ocean at a span, I must be measured by my soul. The mind is the stand of the man.”
When I attended the book signing for “Black Fatherhood: Reclaiming Our Legacy,” I asked Ivery to autograph it for my five-year-old son, who I believe will grow up to cherish the book.