Real Men Charities Inc., the nonprofit organization that launched Real Men Cook, has named President Barack Obama its first Father of the Year. The award will be presented on Father’s Day, June 19, at Chicago State University; the White House has agreed to accept the award.
Real Men Charities will participate in the president’s “Year of Strong Fathers, Strong Families” initiative as well.
Real Men Cook is now celebrating its 22nd year of operation, and rolling out spoke with the charity’s co-founder, Yvette Moyo Gillard, about the state of black fathers, and the role women play in these times. –zondra hughes
Why don’t we hear more positive stories about black fathers?
We never have, on a consistent basis, and that’s why Real Men started 22 years ago. As a marketer, I felt that I could make a difference, especially in the African American consumer market. I knew we could take Father’s Day, a very unrecognized and uncelebrated event on the calendar, and turn it into something exciting and worth celebrating, and even heal our community.
So, Real Men Cook is akin to a village of fathers, the community dad?
That was the intent, also to make sure that children knew that they could choose the man in their life, that makes a difference for them, not just their biological father, but the biological father and the coach, and the mentor, and the uncle and the grandfather … There is an abundance in the universe for them, in terms of good examples and good people.
And they get a chance to choose along with their mom, if it’s a single household. They get a chance to choose who they celebrate on Father’s Day.
You’ve been doing this work for more than two decades. What challenges do black fathers face today?
Today, 22 years later, we are facing some challenges.
When we are talking about the high unemployment rate for the African American male, that doesn’t mean they don’t love their children as much as other men love their children; it’s just, how do you do this in a capitalistic system that says what you have in your wallet determines who’s the head of your household?
What changes have you witnessed over the years?
I’ve seen more men running families than ever; I’ve seen [fewer] women stepping up to the plate and being responsible. I’ve seen a lot of vocal negativity from women, maybe out of frustration, but I also call to women’s attention that we’re not talking about who you slept with. We’re talking about who is good.
Maybe you made an incorrect choice, but there are still good men.
Think about where you go on the Fourth of July and Labor Day to eat? Let’s start there; Uncle Joe or your grandfather … That’s the real man in your life for you and for your children.
What do you say to the frustrated woman who has a tendency to despise men?
If we take on the role of healer instead of destroyer, then we won’t do that. If you get into a conversation that perpetuates a conversation of negativity, then everything you see is going to be wrong. And if you talk like that in front of your children, then what kind of future are you sending them out to?
The children are cataloging the negative talk about black men?
We are engaging in conversation as entertainment of the sort, but children hear that, and they internalize it. And they feel undervalued, rather than empowered. We have to choose which one we want to give to our children. Do we want to give them some self worth? Or do we want to tell them that, because a man is not working or does not have the wherewithal to take care of his family financially, are we going to tell him that’s not a man?
It’s time for us to ask, “What about the mothers?” Are young moms trying to get a date, or are they trying to get some stability and order in their household?
What message do you have for men who have not been involved with their children?
This is today. Today is the day to make the connection. Today is the day to forgive yourself and to allow others to forgive you, so that you can be a part of your child’s life.
Real Men Cook, the food sampling event that celebrates responsible fatherhood, opens on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.realmencook.com (adults, $20, children $10) or at the event ($5 additional). The event takes place at the YMCA, 6330 S. Stony Island and the Community Mental Health Council, 8704 S. Constance Avenue.