While attending a planning meeting with the Aim4peace organization in February of 2009, I mentioned that I thought that until we were able to reintegrate the black male back into the family that our efforts were akin to putting a band-aid on a gunshot victim while we may prolong the life of the patient his demise was inevitable. After making my statement I was asked a question that frankly dumbfounded me. The question was how do we reengage the black man back into the family? It seemed like a logical and appropriate question however I had no answer. I had facts and figures detailing the damage being inflicted on the children of these men, but I didn’t have an answer to what may be the biggest single issue facing the black community not only in Kansas City, but in the country. At that point I began a quest to study as much information as I could to try to understand this problem. As I read study after study it became painfully clear to me that how we had initially structured our poverty eradication programs were flawed in that they dissected the family into three distinct groups, the single mother, the children, and the absent fathers. By developing programs in this fashion we rewarded behavior that was contrary to our national goals and provided disincentives to family structure.
In March of 2009, ReEngage, Inc. was born with the mission: To help transform males into men through training, support, and empowerment. I began by reaching out to other organizations who were providing services to families and discussed this holistic approach that had begun formulating in my mind. After much discussion and consultation I enlisted the services of Dr. E. Thomas Copeland, a prominent local psychologist; Truman Behavioral Health, Anger Options, First Call, Reconciliation Services and other groups. In August of 2009 we convened an Absentee Father Conference at UMKC where researchers presented data and participants discussed causes, symptoms, and solutions to this national epidemic. We were also fortunate enough to have Congressman Emanuel Cleaver to deliver our opening address.
Absentee fathers have become an American epidemic that reaches across racial, economic, and ethnic lines. We have irrefutable evidence that most of our other social problems within the black community stems from this phenomenon. For those who are not familiar with our organization we are a non-profit organization of concerned parents, educators, health professionals, clergy, and citizens who want to begin the process of repairing these broken relationships between not only fathers and their children but mothers and fathers.
Following our conference we had hoped to secure funding for a comprehensive initiative that would have included many of the services required to stabilize young families and help them to become incubators for healthy and successful children. The final outcome of this or any fatherhood initiative has to be safe, healthy, and successful children. Unfortunately, we have so far been unable to secure the funding necessary to provide all of these services put forth in our ReEngage and Renaissance programs.
In the summer of 2010 we made a strategic decision to begin to provide some of the components of these larger initiatives separately as part of a responsible fatherhood program. It was at this time that I began to collaborate with Dr. Lynette Sparkman-Barnes of UMKC and a group of her colleagues on a curriculum which later became known as “The Man Class©“, which has since been copyrighted. We will continue to seek collaboration and partnerships with those organizations that share our desire to provide a holistic approach to this national epidemic.