Apr. 25, 2015 – The conversation at Saturday’s Furthering Fathering Fatherhood Forum at the Roosevelt Public Library was supposed to be primarily focused on honoring three Nassau County dads, comedian, SHERWIN XL, the Roosevelt girls’ basketball and softball coach, Peter London and spoken word artist, Kraal “Kayo” Charles. The theme was how a dad’s gifts and talents could open doors to bring awareness, inform, instruct and bless the generations that follow them. What happened on top of that and most notably was a call for available responsible godly and/or positive men to use their voice to encourage young girls to be mindful of the attention they are seeking and the clothing they are wearing. The forums are a safe place for men to gather, grow in wisdom and build together. The tone was, yes, speak to your children but also take time to speak to the kids who cross your path that may not have the care at home that others do. All children need encouragement from a father or fatherly role model.
Furthering Fathering’s Roosevelt coordinator, Will Johnson set the tone by maintaining promptness, order and excellence in service. He pointed out that many of the issues with youth “begin at home”.
Prompted by questioning from honoree Sherwin XL, first time attendee of the monthly forums, Travis Fax, a crossing guard in the Freeport School District, was the catalyst of the discussion. He spoke of rescuing a tight clothed, well-endowed 12 year old with a very revealing outfit from the sickening advances of about four cat-calling men in a dump truck.
“I do not look at my job as just a job. I look at it as an opportunity to reach out to children that might not have the luxury of living in a household where someone is speaking and listening to them. So, when they come across someone that they feel free to open up to they will say what they are going through” said Mr. Fax, who also adeptly encouraged a very skinny youngster that he could be a NY Giant football player one day despite the echoing jabs, jeers and jests of doubting peers. The youngster has since gained weight, can be seen donning a different NY Giant jersey from time to time and is playing and practicing football regularly.
Grey haired sage and retired vice principal of a NYC District 75 school that specializes educating gifted but behaviorally challenging special education children, Cecilio Wilson provided applicable wisdom to the discussion. The value of honor and respect can have great meaning even in a difficult atmosphere and bear fruit.
Mr. Wilson stated, “Many years I worked with kids labeled as emotionally handicapped. They are bright. They are gifted but their behavior stank. There no more than 8 to 12 kids per classroom depending on their level of disability. Some have one on one supervision, where there is an adult with them all the time from within the bus ride both to and from school and throughout the school day….some of these kids live in hell…my thing is to speak to their greatness – to speak to their potential. It was so bad at one time I believed my middle name was f-word. I got blessed all day. I was the law you see.
“However, one thing they understood was that they were my sons and daughters. That is what I called them – son or daughter. I survived in that school because that is how I related to them – with care…I was enemy number one at times. I was the authority figure. There were times we had to physically restrain, call the police or ambulance. They were smart and gifted but many of them lived in Hell at home or their parent were not there. I had to speak to their potential. I knew it was in there. The potential was there for them to have a meaningful life. I bypassed their intellect and began to speak to their spirit – and it does not take much. It does not take much for them to see that you really care. There is a process. I would go to the classroom and give them a chocolate kiss. I called it a bribe. There would be a time later when they would want to fight a teacher or another kid and I would have to be there. However, before that I would build a relationship. When I arrived, [the incident] would de-escalate just because of the relationship…I would walk into a classroom and say there is nothing but greatness in this room. It would shock them and some would reject it. They could not relate to it in the beginning. Even the kids saying not me are picking up on it. I would tell the teachers I supervised that we are planting seeds.”
Furthering Fathering Corporation’s Co-founder Lamont Jones once coined the phrase “looking over the fence” to describe the natural mentorship of men caring about neighborhood youth that are not family members who need a patriarch or at least a mentor. The men at the Furthering Fathering Fatherhood Forum exemplified and expressed the willingness to intentionally effect the lives of the children in their sphere. This is how negativity is combated – when men honor the youth and show them and consistently remind them that they can be great.
To find out more about getting involved go to www.furtheringfathering.org. Let us know what you think.