Navigating paternity as a black man

This year, Father’s Day falls on June 19, or Junetin, a federal holiday commemorating the release of enslaved black people in the United States after the Civil War. And Michael D. For Hannon, an associate professor of counseling at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, it was “a great coincidence.”

“We can celebrate black fathers who do their best to protect, supply and prepare their families for success, as well as acknowledge the search for consciousness and resilience and freedom among black people in this country,” he said.

Dr. Hannon, the self-described father of “two dope black kids” – an 18-year-old boy and a 19-year-old girl – has been counseling black fathers for the past 10 years. And as editor of the new book, Black Fathering and Mental Health, he is now working to improve the voice of Black Fathers – and aspirants – who may also be mental health counselors. Through a series of essays, each author presents a unique perspective on the needs, challenges, and victories of Black Fathering in an “anti-black world.”

The book may serve as a resource for other counselors to help culturally reassure and provide relevant support to black fathers, but the personal stories in the collection are also meant for the general audience, who can identify with the many joys and difficulties presented in it. .

“It shouldn’t be hard, am I right?” Counselor of Education and School Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Kent Butler asked an essayist. “No, I’m not right. When it comes to our blackness, it is rarely easy to think about self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. So, where does energy and resilience come from? What makes it all right? I believe it is my tribe. “

Questions and answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

What inspired you to create this book? And now why?

Most of the research I do is about black fathers. So this has been, quite openly, coming a long time. I really wanted to do at least three things.

The first was to widen the voices of black fathers. Duration.

Second, I wanted other people to be able to read and hear these voices in a way that they have never done before.

And then third, everyone who wrote the chapter in this book is a mental health professional. I asked them to answer some very specific questions: What could be beneficial for mental health professionals who are treating or serving Black Father clients? What influenced their father’s practice? Did they seek counseling support when and where they faced challenges and obstacles? And if they do, what have they learned? And if they don’t, what stops them?

An essayist, Linwood G. Verin, an associate professor of counseling education at Shipensburg University in Pennsylvania who has given birth to five bisexual children, wrote: “What I have learned in my journey through counseling is that my needs are legitimate. I’ve learned that it’s okay to give up unrealistic expectations of others that hurt my soul and that my black life is important. I have learned that as much as my children need to be successful in life, they must also learn humility by watching their fathers show humility. ”

Tell me more about why Black Fathers’ voices were so important to you.

It is very easy to take content about black men which focuses on some of the challenges that we have systematically put in front of us.

You know the stereotype of the missing black father or the over-representation of imprisoned black men. But black men have a much more subtle, rich and complex set of experiences. There is much to learn and understand about who black men are in the context of their community and how they serve their biological children, and their imaginary relatives – or the children for whom they are “play uncles” and “cousins”.

And this is important because we are all subject to stereotyping and biased attitudes, and no one deserves it. Things like going to a pediatrician with your child and medical professionals telling you that they are surprised to see you. Or go to another specialist appointment, maybe with your partner, and the medical professional or specialist will not even ask you any questions. Custody cases can be converted into a court system, as well as it can position black fathers that they cannot be appointed as they would like to be.

Is there a gem of knowledge from the book that can be helpful for black fathers?

We are socialized to be the protectors of our families, the protectors of our partners; Provide for our children and families; And prepare them for success. And it’s a lot of stress. And many times that power has been influenced by someone’s socio-economic profile. What we now know is that fathers, and especially black fathers, are contributing in a much broader way than the financial system and are finding ways to provide for their children emotionally. I can’t exaggerate how important these things are.

“My kids are poster examples of being strong, compassionate, resilient, fearless and strong, and most of the time they use their agency unnecessarily,” Dr. Verin wrote. “My biggest hope as their parents is that they will always do it.”

How can black fathers protect their mental health?

It’s not easy. What I would like to remind all black fathers and people in general is that we need to find people and places that allow us to be as transparent as possible. We need to find the community.

For me, personally, my professional network – be they mentors or my fraternal brothers – has a team of men to whom I can go and be as ruthlessly honest and as weak as I can. It allows me to share all the victories and things I want to celebrate – and it allows me to share the most challenging, the weakest parts of my experience, hopefully without fear of trial.

If you just hit a wall, and you can’t cross or cross the wall, it may be helpful to talk to a professional counselor to help you set a goal and reach that goal, because you haven’t been able to do it. Otherwise

“Of course I did seek counseling when needed and sometimes it was not sought when needed,” Dr. Butler, a professor at the University of Central Florida, wrote in his dissertation.

“I wanted family counseling services to help support my honest son, which was very effective for us as a family and for me as a father to him,” he said. “I was reminded that I don’t have all the answers, and I shouldn’t expect to get them all.”

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