David Manuel is the proud father of two teenage boys.
The author and executive director of a Georgia-based performing arts center says his role as an active dad is the one of the greatest accomplishments in his life.
“I am passionate about parenting,” says Manuel. “I am a father first. I am raising future fathers and future husbands. I am preparing them for that life.”
Manuel, who is college-educated, is just one of many African-American men committed to being responsible fathers. Although he acknowledges that countless do fail their children he says there are great fathers around who can be found rooting for their kids “at the soccer or baseball field.”
In fact, Manuel felt so compelled to counter the media’s fixation with the absentee black father in 2007 he self-published a book honoring African-American fathers.
I Am A Father: Celebrating African American Fathers comprises of moving testimonies of how the positive influence of a father has had an undeniable impact. Presented through interviews with the children, the offspring of Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, the late Ossie Davis and many more tell their uplifting stories.
Manuel was inspired to start the book project during his time as an Atlanta Public Schools educator. “At the particular school I was at many of the kids were fatherless.”
It also did not help that the school was a stone’s throw away from the state prison and students had their father’s or family members incarcerated there, says Manuel who now runs the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center in DeKalb County, Georgia.
In fact, aside from media hype according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of three — live without their biological father in the home.
Studies also indicate that children who spend quality time with their fathers tend to do better in all areas of their lives.
“The biggest problem is that when men get divorced they divorce the kids. It doesn’t mean you have to divorce the kids,” says Manuel.
Manuel himself is divorced and has primary custody of his sons, Blake, 15, and 19-year-old Branden. After 18 years of marriage, he and his now ex-wife amicably decided to go their separate ways 3 years ago.
“In an ideal world they [children] need both parents. We have so much respect for each other we are able to overcome our differences and successfully co-parent. The kids didn’t miss a beat in either of our lives.”
Lamar Tyler, who along with his wife Ronnie runs the award-winning blog BlackandMarriedWithKids.com, says, “A great father is not only a financial provider but also a spiritual and emotional provider for his children as well.”
“There is definitely an issue in the African American community when it comes to responsible fatherhood but at times we let that overcome all of the amazing fathers we do have that are doing a great job of raising their children, “ adds Tyler.
“Instead of pointing the fingers at those who are not parenting let’s lift up those who are in an attempt to show what’s right. Perhaps this will make others aspire to assume their responsibilities when they see the true benefits of Fatherhood.”