Yesterday I spent most of my day with a group of dads ahead of the game. I first heard of this group after their leader, Kieran Hutchinson and group member, Jay Jay Stunar’s impromptu address to a young crowd at the end of a Latimer Creative Media talk, with the producer of the BBC hit series Luther, Katie Swinden.
Lambeth Dads, a group of young fathers from Lambeth resolved that they were sick of bad press about young fathers, a multi-racial collective, they were conscious of the alarming stats and reality of black father absenteeism.
So they had decided to organise an “100 Dads Walk” on the eve of Father’s Day (yesterday Saturday 16thJune) as a public statement to their community and to London at large, that young dads are active in their children’s lives, they want to walk into their children’s lives not out. Another concern for Lambeth Dads, was the lack of emotional support groups for young fathers, who often feel scared when they get the news a baby is on the way. Lambeth Dads wanted to show that they exist as a network for young dads and through the auspices of Young Dads TV, as part of a wider UK-wide network of young fathers, where basics of parenting can be shared, think, a young dads version of mumsnet.com but cooler, with how-to-videos on making nappies!
Lambeth Dads decided to form about four months ago, in conjunction with Young Dads TV- an innovative online multi-media platform for young fathers run by Media for Development and St Michael’s Fellowship, a charity for young parents, to demand more attention from their local authorities as fathers; in the context of the London Borough of Lambeth, unfortunately known for having one of the highest teen pregnancy-rate in all of Europe, was especially pertinent.
The walk from the Ritzy Cinema was an astounding success. The weather was great, the sun was shining, it was not too cold and not too warm. The event drew a diverse crowd of fathers and families, from a range of ages, socio-economic background, race and religion.
At the end destination, Brockwell Park, there was a childrens centre, with all sorts of edutainment on offer, for free!!! For the kids, there was card-making, T-shirt designing – all the participants of the walk received a free “Lambeth 100 Dads Walk” t-shirt with a space for kids to insert a message to their dads- family photos. Naturally there was a childrens’ entertainer hired to make the kids toys out of ballons. Lambeth Library-workers from the Early Years Literary programme were on hand, giving out three types of free book-bags tailored to different age groups, as a token of support from Lambeth Libraries, but also in conjunction with Fatherhood Institute’s Story Week (which ran from 11-17 June : it finishes today). They provided a much needed story-time at the end of the day to grass-stained inked-up kids.
Although I am not a mother, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the young kids interact with their families, upon reflection (i.e. a good night’s sleep) the achievement of Lambeth Dads brought to mind a conversation I had heard of: between Martin Luther King, the civil rights activist and the Hollywood actor and singer Harry Belafonte [who I incidentally met in person a few weeks ago: if you follow me you’ll see that I meet quite a few persons of note]. Belafonte recounted a conversation with Dr King, to the African-American journalist Rolands Martin saying:
“He [Dr King]…thought anger was a very, very important tool. He said, “We first need to be angry at our [black peoples’] plight before we’ll act upon changing” our condition.” So, anger is a necessary force. It’s not so much that you’re angry; it’s what you do with your anger that finally determines the importance of anger””.
Despite being frustrated with their portrayal and treatment in society, I admired the Lambeth Dads for channelling that annoyance (I’m not sure if they were angry, I can’t say that) into a positive force, and for committing their spare time to rally other fathers out to the walk. In doing so, they’ve oiled the wheels for action.
What’s more, is that the week before last, my first article for the Voice Newspaper “Head to Head” column debuted, where I discussed, “Is the Black Community Powerless?” My answer was “yes” they are! After interviewing Sandra Moodie, the Vice-Chair of Lambeth Black Families and Ambassador for Lambeth Dads “100 Dads Walk”, I feel that I may need to reformulate my views.
Sandra had been part of setting up the Lambeth Black Families group after a young black boy in Lambeth was killed as the result of gang-related crime (if you’re reading this edit, I will update it with the boy’s name or provide a link); Sandra was involved in reconnecting black families at all levels, she even starred in Latimer Creative Media’s new film “Tiny” a film about the perilous story of a young black youth who turns to gang crime. Although Lambeth Dads is not “Lambeth Black Dads” they have a significant black membership, seeing the work of Sandra and Lambeth Dads made me believe that at a micro-level, change can happen and power can be regained from within the black community, albeit incrementally.