By Kenneth Braswell
Executive Director | Fathers Incorporated
One can’t dismiss the societal challenges for Black families since the civil rights movement. To most today, 1965 seems like 200 years ago. Many pioneers of that time would be challenged to say that they would live to see a Black President in office in less than 50 years since then. Fortunately for Blacks in America, the latter has occurred with the election and re-election of Barack H. Obama; yet unfortunately many of the challenges faced in 1965 for Black families still exist today.
While many strives have been made for Blacks in leadership, educational obtainment, political influence and economic power; there is still much of the American Dream that eludes us. Today an unconscionable 73% of black born babies are born into out-of-weblock households; mostly single mothers. While that is not an indictment on a mother’s ability to raise her children alone; it does raise another question; Where is Daddy?
Daniel P. Moynihan boldly spoke about the conditions in a report called The Negro Family: The Case For National Action. The 1965 report by then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor later became known as the Moynihan Report. In the report he described the startling statistics and forecast for Negro families in the areas of employment, family formation and poverty. He even ventured into unchartered territory by linking many of the problems to slavery experience; The report began with this ringing statement, “The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations.” One might question what could have possibly been “new” in 1965 given all that was going on in American history; but over the years this revelation would continue to become pain stakingly true.
“I think the Moynihan Report in a lot of ways one of the most tragic intellectual documents in American History. In a sense that the facts to which it pointed in my view were accurate, the prognosis that it generated was in many ways accurate and our inability as a nation to read that information, interpret it and act upon it is the tragedy of the Moynihan Report,” says Dr. Ronald Mincy of Columbia University (http://youtu.be/G0bTN-2-fGY)
By all accounts, records and memories the country was in transition. At home we were in the middle of the Cilvil Rights movement. Black American had lost one of its beloved leaders in Malcolm X and many others including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who were advancing the issues of the day. Simultaneously and abroad we were in the middle of the Vietnam War. No one wanted to address bad news about black families at a time of civil progress; not even black people.
Nonetheless as we examined it, the Moynihan Report highlighted the necessity of three cole elements of the Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement to include; responsible fatherhood, mentoring and the specific work with black men and boys. These issues are at the center of many of the social ills exploding through black families and communities. It’s time to talk about it; without the emotion that serves as barriers to address our concerns, guilt and fears.
In response to where we go from here in action and policy, Dwight C. Williams; Director at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health Department: Health Policy, Management and Behavior said in an interview for the upcoming documentary, “During the 20th Century, when A. Phillip Randolph met with FDR to discuss the plight of Black railroad porters, cooks, etc; FDR responded by saying, “Make me do it.” That challenge remains today. That is how public policy and change is created.”
When I began thinking about proposing this work, I imagined being able to reveal the revelation of a deeper story. I envisioned the work setting the stage for serious conversation and action. Since those thoughts, something else occurred; I remembered, I was born in 1961. I was raised in a single mother household. I didn’t know my father. My family was poor and I was a black male. Now I understand that the work; this work; is the beginning of retracing the backdrop of my own life and many others who look just like me.
Note: The research forum will take place on Feb 22nd in Washington DC. Michelle Alexander (Author – “The New Jim Crow) will serve as the keynote speaker for the forum of the Moynihan Report Revisited. Seating for the event is sold out; To watch the live video webcast go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/urban-institute-events.