Building Fathers

Moderated by Rick Badie

Tapping a father’s DNA

Face it — Father’s Day seems more of a made-up holiday than anything else. Yet, serious issues around fatherhood would seem to demand as much societal attention as the annual scramble to acquire gifts for the old man. With Father’s Day three days away, we offer an essay from an Atlanta activist who works closely with young black men to ensure success at bringing up children. The second essay gives an update on the growing cityhood movement in south DeKalb County.

A fatherhood “round-up”

By Norma Joy Barnes

“To be, or not to be, that is the question …” . Without doubt, this is one of the most profound and recognizable quotes in literary history. The simple opening line of the soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet,” poses a paradoxical challenge to many fathers today, who seem to be asking themselves this same question about fatherhood. The answer, particularly as it relates to fathers and their sons, has far reaching implications and consequences.

Why so? I truly believe the father/son relationship transcends all other parent/child relationships because it has the power to shape the course of all mankind. However, it is one that has been undermined, negated and misrepresented in American society.

A recent poll disclosed that over half of Americans agree that most people have unresolved problems with their fathers, with a larger percentage of non-whites in agreement. According to the nonprofit National Fatherhood Initiative, an estimated 34 percent, or 24 million children, do not live with their biological fathers in the United States, of whom 66 percent are Black children. We are living in a “fatherless” generation, in which the parable of the “prodigal son” has become the tragedy of the “prodigal father.”

In American society, fatherhood has too frequently become a badge, rather than a principle; a burden, rather than a joy; and an obligation, rather than an opportunity. Young black males, who have grown up without positive models of manhood, are at a particular disadvantage because of the devastating legacy of slavery, racism, and generational poverty that have created the “absent father” syndrome. As a direct result of their “fatherless” backgrounds, far too many are not equipped to relate to or effectively rear children of their own. Thus, the systemic cycle of abandonment and discord is perpetuated to future generations. Further, many fathers who live with their sons have emotionally “broken” relationships.

Today, we rely on DNA testing to identify the biological father of a child. However, proof of true fatherhood is more than the matching of genetic DNA. The Community Council of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc. (CCMA) asserts that a father, who possesses the real DNA traits — Devoted, Noble and Accountable to his child. This DNA is even more critical in addressing the father/son paradox, with its systemic inconsistencies and challenges. The real DNA requires developing and maintaining strong, positive and supportive parenting skills that will empower children to flourish and succeed.

How do we teach responsible fatherhood to “fatherless” males? To address this critical issue, the Council created the DNA Young Fatherhood Initiative and its Father-2-Son “Round-Up,” a free luncheon and forum, which will be held on Saturday in collaboration with Clark Atlanta University. The DNA Young Fatherhood Initiative is an ongoing life skills program for young Black males, 18-28, that includes classes, counseling, and interactive services.

The goal of the Father-2-Son “Round-Up” is to reach out to fathers and sons of all ages, to help them nurture their relationships and to empower them to develop the highest possible relationships with each other. Thus, the “Round-Up” acronym — “Reaching Out to Unite, Nurture, and Develop Ultimate Partnerships”— is manifested. It promises to be an empowering afternoon of male bonding, including the viewing of a fatherhood film, roundtable discussions, entertainment, lunch, the sharing of local fatherhood resources, and a keynote speech in celebration of fatherhood. Fathers and their teenage and adult sons are encouraged to attend.

Let us do more. As human beings, we have a communal responsibility to address the father/son paradox, individually and collectively in familial, religious, political, educational, business, social, and human service sectors. We must reach out to empower fathers to succeed in their roles, thus avoiding the inevitable consequences implied in the last line of Hamlet’s soliloquy, “Be all my sins remembered” …

Norma Joy Barnes is CEO/President of the Community Council of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc.

Greenhaven: Lean, Clean and Green

By Kathryn Rice

Greenhaven lost its bid for approval from the state Legislature in this past 2015 session. Some may think people behind the bid are laying back, taking a rest and quietly waiting for next year.

Think again.

If the efforts were just about cityhood, then perhaps that would be the plan. But it was never just about becoming a city. Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb, the group that organized and incorporated to push for what we now call Greenhaven, was always about taking control of our environment, doing what’s in the best interests of the people and pushing for economic development. In other words, better services and higher quality of life were the goal; cityhood was the tool.

From the beginning, there have been many who have failed to recognize the positive link forming a city can have on a county. It’s true that many have opted for cityhood to get away from the county. That is not the case with Greenhaven. Greenhaven, which represents 88 percent of the population in southern DeKalb (and 41 percent of the county’s total population) is commercially undeveloped, has consistently lower housing values and has fewer amenities when compared to its northern counterpart.

The residents of southern DeKalb deserve more and better services. The question is, “How do we get them?”

Cityhood, as it was designed by Concerned Citizens, emerged as the best way to protect the citizens of Greenhaven and promote economic development. By forming a new government structure, we will focus attention on an area that has not received as much development as the rest of the county. By creating a department of economic development or development authority, we will renew our focus on transportation, work on extending MARTA and bring economic development to the South Side.

By forming Community Area Planning Units, a city sister concept to the Neighborhood Planning Units in Atlanta, we will institutionalize greater citizen involvement. The end result — a more informed and involved group of residents creating a healthier community on the southside of DeKalb. The end result — a healthier county because businesses will be attracted to the diversity of options in both North and South. Perhaps the biggest end result is that, if successful, Greenhaven will come to be a model for development and revitalization.

So here is what Concerned Citizens is doing while we wait for the 2016 legislative session. First, we are filling the void of leadership. Leadership has three elements — a vision, plan and ability to implement that plan. Concerned Citizens is putting forth the vision of a city that can revitalize and transform our quality of life. The plan for creating that vision is contained in Greenhaven’s bill and charter. Finally, the group s already demonstrating its ability to implement by bringing to fruition the Greenhaven name and brand.

Second, we are setting the stage for a new industry in DeKalb County that is embodied by our city name. As part of our economic vision, we are encouraging and promoting the presence of a new industry — the “green” industry of sustainability. Our tagline is “Imagine Greenhaven: Lean, Clean and Green.”

Third, we are searching for new community leadership to participate in the Community Area Planning Units. Just as schools need parental involvement, communities need citizen input. Members of our organization speak at neighborhood associations and encourage people to get involved.

Finally, Concerned Citizens continues its outreach. We provide facts and data about cityhood and discuss options. The 145 meetings held between June 2014 and the beginning of Jan. 2015 are paying off. We see signs that more and more people are supporting cityhood.

The residents of southern DeKalb have an opportunity to change their lives. Cityhood has emerged as the best way to do that.

For more information, go to or

Kathryn Rice chairs Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb Inc.


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