Being a father is both rewarding and challenging.
But, being a black father can have its own challenges. That's what Curtis Ivery believes.
Ivery, chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District, discusses the father’s role in a book he co-authored with his son Marcus Ivery, called Black Fatherhood: Reclaiming Our Legacy.
The book discusses the disintegration of the African-American family and the alarm it generates.
“I learned to shave by watching my father shave,” Curtis Ivery said. “I learned to treat women and ladies fine watching my father and how he treated my mother. I mean all of those things, I mean where do you get them if you don’t get them from home? And so, when we understand that 60% of the households in the black community are fatherless, well, how do you not conclude that an outcome is not going to be favorable in that setting for the most part? The numbers tell the story.”
According to Ivery, the two most important figures in his life were his father and his grandfather. The respect he had for them shaped him, beginning as a young child.
“They helped with my vision for living, they helped me for the value system that I ultimately developed,” he said. “And I often wondered as an educator – where I experience the interaction with young people every day – I’ve come to realize how important the father figure is to any young person, but particularly to young men. I think it’s paramount.”
Ivery said the source of the disintegration of the African-American family likely comes from the “social constructs” developed in historical attempts to triumph over the struggles with slavery. He also listed relative education, unemployment, and underemployment as potential contributors to the problem.
“I think that young people want us to be adults,” Ivery said. “They want us to give direction. They want our leadership. We have to be there for them and help them understand the downside of not pulling their pants up, the downside of not learning to use good language and good English, the downside to not having a good work ethic. Who’s going to be there to help them with that? So out of that, if we’re not there to do that and hold them accountable, then who?”
He suggested heightened community communication as a solution. Communication, he said, can help young men realize how crucial it is to be there for their children.
“I think it’s about having that conversation and having it be a core part of what education is all about – that is, first of all, let’s take care of our family,” he said. “When we do that, we walk with dignity. We hold our heads up and we’re going to be proud. We may not be wealthy, but we will be wealthy in terms of self-respect.”