By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, email@example.com
A leading Black psychologist recently told a conference on co-parenting in the District of Columbia that the role of fathers – particularly African American fathers – is increasingly becoming obsolete.
“I take psychology from the real world,” Dr. James Ballard II, told participants at the “Inspiring Fathers, Celebrating Co-Parenting: A Community Conversation and Awards Program” held June 2 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. “I am the product of a single mother. When my father got into the picture, there was always a conflict between them. But in my mind I only had one parent to listen to and that was my mother.”
Yohance Maqubela and Sunshine Muse, who received the 2018 Co-Parenting Award, are co-parenting their children even though they are divorced. (Courtesy Photo).
The conference was organized by Jonetta Rose Barras, a leading District-based journalist who has written books and articles on fatherless daughters; Frank Love, author of How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship; and Wayne Young of Port of Harlem Magazine.
Co-parenting is widely defined as adults raising a child even though they are not married. According to statistics compiled by the American Psychology Association 40-50 percent of all marriages in America end up in divorce for a variety of reasons such as conflicts over money, extramarital relationships, career shifts and family issues.
In addition to Ballard, A. Scott Bolden, a noted attorney and managing partner at Reed Smith law firm in the District, D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and Hyesook Chung, the District’s deputy mayor for Health and Human Services spoke at the forum.
McDuffie talked about growing up in a structured two-parent household in Ward 5 “when there was chaos in D.C.”
“I grew up during the crack cocaine epidemic,” he said. He said community support and his parents helped him become an attorney and a member of the D.C. Council.
As the father of two daughters, McDuffie said two-parent households offer children more support than a one-parent situation.
Bolden spoke extensively about his divorce from his first wife and finding out about a daughter he didn’t know about until she was 19-years-old and pregnant with a child. Bolden said men should be in their children’s lives.
“We are still fathers to those children,” he said. “When I divorced my first wife, I would drive my kids to elementary school every morning, even though it was only two blocks from their house. My kids remember me being there even as 23-year-olds.”
Chung said the Bowser administration embraces the idea of co-parenting and is doing what it can to help men and boys of color and homeless families.
Ballard, who works as the director of internship training for pre-doctoral students at Interdynamics Inc., in Lanham, Md., said the women’s rights movement has changed the role of men. “Since women’s emancipation, the role of father’s has been in decline,” he said. “The husband has taken on female roles. Male roles have changed and disappeared and the father’s role in a family is no longer necessary.”
Barras sharply took issue with Ballard. “Fathers are critical to family and to the community,” she said. “There is no change in the role that fathers should play.”
Yohance Maqubela and Sunshine Muse received “The 2018 Co-Parenting Award” for their roles in raising their children even though they live in different cities. Muse was present to receive the award.