One issue overshadowed the 2012 election to some leaders during last week’s Black political showcase in Washington: How will the African American male be nurtured and preserved?

“We have to make sure we understand that our young black brothers need a father,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, “because if we can’t save them now this vicious cycle will just continue.”

The cycle Clyburn was referring to includes under-education, under-employment, crime, prison, street violence and death—and begins, the Black lawmaker said, with fatherhood.

Clyburn, along with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, part of a Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference forum on Black men and fatherhood last week, were blunt about what is needed.

“If he is a deadbeat then we need to let him know that he is a deadbeat,” Johnson said. “Do not sugarcoat or reward this behavior because our sons are looking up to us thinking this behavior is right.”

The direct approach to Black men is crucial, he said. “It means a lot when a man comes to another man and tells him about himself,” Johnson said.

The female is a key one, too, he said, citing the Democratic National Convention speech by First Lady Michelle Obama as an example.

“You have to stand behind your black man, when you saw Michelle talking about Barack during the Democratic Convention she spoke of him like he was a king, we need that you are the backbone,” Johnson said.

Still, Clyburn said, “our women can’t do it on their own…Our black fathers have to be more present in our children’s lives.” 

Alexis Webb

Special to the AFRO