Bankole: Detroit’s black fathers and dying kids

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Robin Wright King — a Detroiter who wrote the book “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” the story of her struggles with an absent father — recalled on Facebook last week an ordeal that underscores the crisis of black fatherhood in this city.

The June 12 incident from the worship services at Northwest Unity Missionary Baptist Church explains why many children are forced to carry the burden of the bad choice their fathers make.

“In church this morning a young boy, 11 years old, led the call to worship prayer. In his prayer he said, ‘Dear Lord, please save my father from going to jail, help him not to sell drugs. I want him to be with me. I want him to be the father I need and want. Lord please save my father.’ He was so overcome with emotion he couldn’t continue the prayer. Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the church,” King recounted.

What stood out, King explained later, was the testimony of a child in pain. Think about all the children who are in the same predicament as that 11-year-old.

Think about all the children who have been murdered in this city. Where are the fathers? We hardly ever see them come out when the death of their kids is reported in the news. All we see for the most part are the faces of agonizing mothers helplessly looking to reporters and police for help in solving the murders of those children.

Do these fathers understand the responsibility they have of taking care of their children? Do they understand that the job of raising their children come with the title of father?

The New York Times in its 2015 report “1.5 Million Missing Black Men” sought to deconstruct the absence of black men in everyday life using numbers from the 2010 Census.

“They are missing largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars. Remarkably, black women who are 25-54 and not in jail outnumber black men in that category by 1.5 million,” the Times reported.

While we must deal with the complexities of a justice system that often unfairly imprisons black men, we must also talk about the responsibility those men owe their children. That is a conversation needed in Detroit now in view of the ongoing onslaughts against innocent children.

And fathers who walk away from their children should know that their actions have a debilitating impact on those children.

“More poignant is the need for parents, not just fathers, to understand how our choices and behaviors impact our children and potentially imprint a legacy dysfunction,” King said.

“Some children are able to meet and beat the challenge to be what they cannot see. Others cannot and are left to languish. I pray this child’s father can find his way back to his son and other children.”

King said we must start the conversation in our circle of family and friends to help bring a father you know back to his child’s life.

“A broken heart today for an 11-year-old could be a cold, angry heart at 17 and 18,” King said.

Before it is too late, that 11-year-old and others like him should be nurtured, developed and protected by the men who call themselves fathers.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays