One of my highest honors in life is not my academic credentials, financial success, or my ability to grow and stay in business for 20 years. Like many men who co-parent children in separate households, I am extremely honored and blessed to be a father of three beautiful and intelligent children (Angela Perry Hudson, Truman Hudson, III, and Peyton Sheridan Hudson). With each having her/his own distinct personality, passions, and purposes, fatherhood has taught me the type of love, care, and perseverance that is best represented in poet laureate Langston Hughes' poem 'Mother to Son.'
Like the parent depicted in Hughes (1926), I too find myself serving as a coach, mentor, and nurturer whose aims are to inspire my children to work hard and not give up on their dreams, hopes, or aspirations. Although life in many ways is an obstacle course, as a coach, mentor, and nurturer, I believe it has been and continues to be my duty to provide my children with the type of guidance and support that will empower them to successfully navigate through the rough terrains so that they can realize their individual and collective greatness.
While reflecting on my role as a father, I am inspired by my dear friend Donald Spencer (Don) and other men who share similar paths in the areas of civic engagement, business and scholarly pursuits, and co-parent children in separate households. These men serve as excellent examples of what fatherhood in separate households should and can be.
In the case of Don, I recall his days of traveling to Canton, Ohio and from Detroit, Michigan every other weekend to spend quality time with his children (Xenia, Brandon, and Donald, Jr.). Don's summers and holidays were spent exposing his children to their family, the world, and activities that build their social and intellectual capital. Whether it was skiing, cooking, doing homework, building, traveling, working contracts with DBD Management (his company), seeking scholarships, going on college tours, or socializing with other men who also had children, Don Spencer worked tirelessly to debunk the myths associated with Black males and their engagement in their children's lives. Even when his legal obligation to co-parent expired on each of his children's 18th birthday, Don continued to be a father, co-parent, coach, mentor, and nurturer.
While penning Don's journey, I am reminded of my role as a father. From being at each of my children's births to singing the 'Jump Up and Down' song, playing with the Easy Bake Oven, taking pictures on their first days of school; from going to children's events at the Fox Theatre and the Palace of Auburn Hills, hanging out at Detroit's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Hollow Weekends at Cedar Point; from skiing, skating, biking, traveling, to being present at dance recitals and gymnastic and baseball competitions; from doing homework assignments, participating in virtual interactions with teachers, and traveling from Michigan to North Carolina and Georgia during school breaks to make sure that I stayed connected, my days of being a father and a co-parent to my three children who reside in separate households has been quite rewarding.
Like Donald Spencer, I have overcome and continue to work through the challenges associated with being a Black man in a family, in the community and in the society. My identity extends beyond the dual consciousness and veiled ideological views of operating that are introduced in Du Bois (1903) 'Souls of Black Folk.' Although "life for me ain't been no crystal stair . . . I'se sill climbin" (Hughes, 1926), persevering and staying engaged in my children's lives.
I share this narrative with the hopes of providing an alternative lens upon which to view how #BlackMenLove their children.
Please share your insights.
Du Bois, W.E.B. (1903). Souls of Black folk. Chicago, IL: A.C. McClurg and Company.
Hughes, L. (1926). The Weary Blues. New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
On this past week, I attended an event for a Detroit based nonprofit (Teen HYPE). The event, Build The Hype, highlighted the impacts that caring adults in an after school program have made on youth on the margins. Both the youth and adults present shared heartfelt stories of overcoming obstacles and moving into their purpose. After processing the event with several colleagues, what stood out most is that there is a pressing need for adults to care, listen, support, and intentionally engage youth on the margins in purposeful activities.
Ms. Betty Alexandria, an alumnus of Teen HYPE and a rising junior at Claflin University, provided us with a poignant depiction of her life as a teen. Betty tearfully expressed, Teen HYPE was a place of solace that offered her a safe space to work out the many challenges she faced at home, school, and in church. According to Betty, the staff, volunteers, and her peers served as surrogate family members (community) who inspired her self-expression in the performing arts. As an alumnus, Betty is committed to assisting Teen HYPE help other youth on the margins identify their spark.
Betty is quite an industrious young lady. For the past two years, during her breaks from university, Betty has worked at Teen HYPE. As a student intern, Betty has supported the development of Teen HYPE's annual play. She is credited with co-authoring the script for Teen HYPE's 2014 play, Secrets. From performing original scores to coaching aspiring performers, Betty is compelled to utilize her gifts in the arts to provide youth on the margins with an avenue to exercise their voice and realize their purpose.
Betty Alexandria's story was a testament to the research, which argues by providing youth on the margins with safe places to grow youth are empowered to realize their potential. Moreover, Alexandria's personal account of how the staff and volunteers at Teen HYPE engagement in her life influenced her development supported the findings in my research on ways in which to engage youth on the margins. Please review my article, Power of Relationships: Mentorship in the Classroom, which was published in the May 2014 issue of CONNECT (click on the button below - see pages 6 - 11). Your input on this subject is valuable, so I invite you to provide feedback by posting a comment on this blog that addresses the question: how can individuals who serve youth on the margins assist the youth with realizing their potential?
This is an ongoing discussion that I believe will lead to something great. I thank you in advance for exercising your voice and supporting the development of our youth!
Recently I was posed with the question: What are your thoughts on the state of Detroit’s economy and what more can be done to help create jobs, grow the economy, and strengthen the middle
My reply: While much of the literature focuses on Detroit’s demise and what's not working, the city has a rich and diverse asset base. Despite the naysayers and "doubting Thomases," Detroit's economy is rebounding due in part to the growth in the medical, arts, manufacturing, technology and higher educational sectors. Much of Detroit's resurgence is occurring in Downtown, Midtown, and in Southwest Detroit. In order to create jobs, grow the economy, and strengthen the middle class, local leaders should (a) intentionally redevelop and stabilize neighborhoods, (b) implement early childhood, primary, and secondary educational strategies that support neighborhood development, (c) incentivize neighborhood development (similar to the Downtown, Midtown, and Southwest Detroit investment strategies), and (d) replicate investment strategies like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Businesses in each neighborhood.
In reframing the question: How can we build on Detroit's assets?
What are your thoughts?
In an era where transparency in government has increased, much attention has been given to city hall management in Detroit. In many cases, the local, national and international media outlets have portrayed Detroit's public officials as crooked, corrupt, and undeserving of service. The negative imagery of Detroit and its politicians are consistently presents in places as far as Amsterdam, Netherlands and Cozumel, Mexico and as close of Windsor, Ontario and Birmingham, Michigan.
An example of how far the unfair and negative spin on Detroit and its politics reaches can be best described through two travel occurrences to Paris, France and Nassau, Bahamas. On two separate trips abroad, I engaged in conversations with wait staff. During both discussions we talked about the local culture and places to visit. Additionally, both servers inquired about my residency of which I proudly stated I was from Detroit. Ironically, without saying much more than I was from Detroit, both servers began discussions about Detroit's politics, Kwame Kilpatrick, the failing housing market and schools, and the high crime rates. In my attempts to remain neutral, I found myself in both instances defending the skewed perceptions of Detroit and presenting what I believed to be a more balanced perspective of Detroit's challenges and promise.
After returning home from both trips, I reflected on my encounters with the waiters and noted that my need to defend Detroit and promote a positive image of the city was directly tied to my 45 years experiences of having to respond to the unbalanced media portrayal of Detroit. An excellent example of the disproportionately positioning of Detroit and its politicians as "bad" is best evidenced by recent front page and breaking news accounts of a staff member from Councilman George Cushingberry, Jr.'s office using unflattering remarks (profanity) to respond to a negative article that was written about Councilman Cushingberry, Jr. by Nolan Finley, an editor with The Detroit News (Finley, 2014). While Cushingberry, Jr.'s staff member's remarks were unprofessional in nature, I believe Cushingberry, Jr.'s staff member's comments were rooted in a learned response towards dispelling the continuous gross misrepresentation of Detroit by the media.
Unfortunately, Cushingberry, Jr.'s responses to his staff member's comments were reported for three days in the media (local and national). Whereas other more pressing issues in the region went underreported, the media latched on to the Cushingberry story and developed it into six days of medic coverage which provided limited insight into how and if the story impacted the councilman's ability to govern.
When an opportunity was presented to highlight an embezzlement case that involved a politician from a suburban community in close proximity to Detroit, most of the local and national media chose not to report the concern. As evidenced in an article in Crain's Detroit Business, a Birmingham commissioner, Mayor Pro Tem Stuart Sherman, was found liable for embezzlement (Halcom, 2014). However, as I searched the Internet to identify how and if the other media outlets reported on the Birmingham embezzlement case, I could not find one posting related to the case.
When considering the Cushingberry and Sherman scenarios, it is quite evident that embezzling well over a $112,745.22 (Sherman of Birmingham) far outweighs using profanity in response to a negative news article (Cushingberry of Detroit), but yet, the media has chosen to continue its gross over representation of negative images of Detroit.
Does the local media have a responsibility to provide a balanced perspective of the region or is it the media's primary function to tear down Detroit?
Finley, N. January 9, 2014. Did Detroit get another crazy council? The Detroit News. Retrieved from http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140109/OPINION01/301090025/1008/OPINION01/Did-Detroit-get-another-crazy-council-
Halcom, C. January 15, 2014. Attorney and Birmingham commission member found liable in civil embezzlement case. Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved from
If the data that is presented in Jennifer Chambers' article is correct, was the move to the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) premature?
Based on the article, it appears that not only has enrollment dropped in the EAA, but the new district has also experienced similar budgetary challenges that its predecessor, Detroit Public Schools, encountered prior to the enactment of the EAA. Even with the current data, "State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, said the EAA remains an experiment. He sees it as a temporary solution to turning around failing schools" (Chambers, para 4, 2013).
In consideration of Representative McMillin's statement, what is a reasonable timeline for reviewing the data relative to the EAA's performance to determine the best strategy for turning around failing schools in the state of Michigan?
Chambers, J. December 30, 2013. Michigan's school recovery district at a crossroads. Retrieved From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131230/SCHOOLS/312300023#ixzz2p34jZ02O
Social Economist, Scholar, Activist, and Developer.