Message from the CEO

"Until they discover who they are and what they truly want in life, our children look to us to speak life into their visions for the future." Shawn Dove, CEO, Campaign for Black Male Achievement

Proud Poppa: 

In Honor of Father's Day

Eleven years ago this month the Open Society Foundations launched the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. I was thrilled to have been chosen to lead the Campaign, although accepting this huge leadership assignment meant I would have to stop publishing Proud Poppa -- a news magazine dedicated to telling the stories of Black fathers – their presence, purpose and power in the lives of their children, families and communities.

At the time it was not an easy tradeoff, as Proud Poppa was just gaining momentum as a start-up enterprise. In hindsight however, the decision had an even greater return and wider impact. In the past decade, CBMA has supported Black dads in ways Proud Poppa likely never could have. Since 2008, our organization has invested tens of millions of dollars to support fatherhood initiatives and help strengthen the Responsible Fatherhood field. 

Still, each year around the Father’s Day, I can’t help but to recall the days of publishing and distributing Proud Poppa, and how it was a such a welcome and resourceful addition to the Responsible Fatherhood field. It’s also usually around this time that I get asked when Proud Poppa is making a comeback. Though I’m unsure if there ever will be one, in honor of Father’s Day 2019, I’ve decided to reprint the following Proud Poppa manifesto, published in the magazine's premiere 2006 edition.

This newer edition has been updated to include inspirations and insights from Black fathers who were part of Proud Poppa, along with others who are now a part of the CBMA membership network today.

In my 11 years of fatherhood, I’ve discovered that being a father is the hardest and most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. It has also by far been the most incredibly important and rewarding.

Recently during a baby dedication session at church, my pastor Reverend DeForest "Buster" Soaries challenged the men of the congregation to be active players in the growth and development of their children. Speaking about Black boys and young men in particular, Rev. Soaries said that we were not only raising sons but also grandsons. In other words, the interactions we as fathers have with our sons would in turn influence how they interact with their own sons. 

Wow, I thought. As if trying to guide the current generation of Dove children was not enough of a weighty responsibility! But then I immediately began thinking of all the countless men I knew who had grown up fatherless. So many of us were raised without a father or father figure to provide daily dialogue and deeds of what it means to be present, positive, loving, fathers – Proud Poppas. Men who make their children, families and communities proud.

By no stretch of the imagination does the phrase Proud Poppa imply perfection. It does mean, however, that there is a framework of loving leadership that we as men and fathers should model. A loving leadership framework of guiding principles and practices to help guarantee that Black men create a positive impact in their children’s lives, and in the lives of all our communities’ children. 

Everyday seems like a “training day” on my fatherhood journey. And yet there are key principals and practices that I do know I must embrace to keep being a Proud Poppa

1. Purpose: I must know and accept that God created me with a divine plan in mind. I have a divine destiny that is waiting to be fulfilled. I have to trust the process of discovering why I am here and what I am supposed to do with my life. We are at our best as fathers when we are living purposefully.

When asked about how the principle of purpose impacted his role as a father, Anthony Smith, CEO of Cities United, said:

“When I became a father, my purpose became real clear. The voice inside became much louder and my path began to be revealed. It told me that my purpose is to create pathways and spaces for young Black men to find their place in this world, and to provide guard rails to protect that space.“

2. Planner: You have heard the cliché a thousand times: people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. I have discovered that consistently trying to get by on a Dove wing and a prayer too often leads to chaos. Plans, priorities and a strategy for success are essential to becoming a Proud Poppa.

3. Prophet: I need to speak into my children’s lives that which I would want to them to be.  There is real, supporting evidence to back up the power of positive professing in our children’s lives. Until they discover who they are and what they truly want in life, our children look to us to speak life into their visions for the future.

4. Provider: Providing adequate financial resources to meet our children’s needs is essential to our responsibility as fathers. And yet there are so many other provisions we must provide them with. To start: our positive presence is more important than our presents! We must also provide love, faith, hope, understanding, and an image of a positive, caring strong Black man.

Says John Johnson, a national facilitator and speaker on mental health and wellness: 

“I didn’t know what love really was until I had my daughter. When she is not in my sight...not in my presence, I pray she is protected by God's love, protection and grace. I know my prayers are answered each and every time I see her smiling face.”  

5. Protector: Fathers were not called to be tormentors of our children and families. Rather we are called to protect our families from the multitude of dangers they potentially face each day -- from debilitating media images, predators, uncaring and culturally incompetent school systems, and so much more.

Salahadeen Betts, Communications Manager at the Harlem Children Zone and a father of three, offers:

“When I became a father 19 years ago I felt my entire purpose in life shifted from wanting for myself to giving my all to my family. My purpose in life has been to prepare and protect my children for and from many of life's challenges -- either through lessons or by example -- and then trusting that they will be better equipped to handle them.”

6. Power: The ability or capacity to perform and act effectively is what we must collectively model for our sons and daughters. How many potentially dynamic Black men have we seen throw in the towel because they were pummeled by events and emotions that made them feel powerless? Proud Poppas have staying power; they are connected to a higher power and they possess the power to hold strong to their visions for themselves and their children.

On this point, Kenneth Braswell, Founder of Fathers Incorporated and one of the leading voices of the Responsible Fatherhood Movement, says:

“There is a reason it’s easier for one to stand in the shallow end of the pool, rather than to swim in the deep end. In the deep end you must have the skills to keep your head above the water. Dads have the power to rise above the occasion and to activate powers within themselves that have a profound impact on their children.” 

7. Prayer: Do know that wherever God guides, He provides. If He has guided you to the path of fatherhood, through prayer, He will provide you with what you need to fulfill this awesome assignment. Our children teach us so much, but most of all they teach (and force) us to pray and ask God for wisdom, guidance and His grace in our mission to become Proud Poppas. 

Says Jim Shelton, Senior Advisor at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, CBMA Board Member and father of two boys:

“The sun is always shining whether you can see it or not. You cannot lose faith when the world seems dark. God is always there as are his blessings. Do your work. Stay faithful. And pray.”

The CBMA Team Wishes

All of You Proud Poppas A 

Happy Father’s Day!

Shawn Dove, Chief Executive Officer

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