Though most of society (media, politicians and the general public) buys into the negative hype about Black men, especially the “absentee father” label, a 2015 study by the CDC showed that Black fathers are involved in the lives of their children just as much, and in many cases, more so, than white, Latinx and Asian dads—whether they are still with their child’s mother or not.
Still, Black men who cherish their role as dads are viewed as an anomaly. But a group of local brothers aren’t worrying about society’s small-mindedness. They’re simply dedicated to being great fathers for their children and positive role models for their children’s peers.
Meet The Imani School’s Dad’s Club.
Shortly after The Imani School was founded by Pastor Kirbyjohn Caldwell in 1989, the school that has been directed since day one by Patricia Hogan Williams saw student fathers organize.
“The dads at the school didn’t like that the moms did everything. They wanted to really be involved,” said Dad’s Club president Dr. Carnell Pettway. “They said, ‘Let’s be very involved; let’s be organized.’ And they started the Dad’s Club. And it’s been around almost the entirety of the school. And we come in and we are just part of the next generation. There are previous Missouri City councilmen who were Dad’s Club presidents in the past. People all over the city have been part of this. And we are now just the next to step up.”
And step up they do, in multiple ways, all of which are game-changing.
Most recently, the group completed its seventh year of Dad’s Camp, where the fathers spend time with their children and others in the great outdoors.
“We started off with about eight dads and 12-to-15 children and have grown to 33 dads and 58 children,” shared Teeba Rose, the organization’s vice president. “We are a sight that this part of the world has not seen. So much so that we have been asked are we a church group, a foster program, some form of the Big Brothers organization, and what brings us together. When we say we are fathers taking our kids camping people are amazed.”
Each year, the group goes to Splashway Water Park in Sheridan, TX, with the fathers taking care of everything, including food prep, overseeing camping activities and providing an example of Black male teamwork.
“These kids get an opportunity to see doctors, dentists, plumbers, men of all walks of life and professions working together, cooking, cleaning, preparing, setting up tents, doing all these different functions; no arguments, no egos. They get an opportunity to see how Black men can work together. If anything, this would be the Wakanda of Black men working together,” Rose said.
The result? Youth regularly invite friends to join the fun.
“I’ve almost always brought an extra child when my son’s childhood friend comes. As well, we invite some of our friends from the community to bring their children and be part of the fellowship,” added Pettway about the camping experience where the dads rent out the entire park (six campsites) to ensure youth safety.
“The kids get so excited that they won’t let you forget it. They have upped each other in terms of camping tents, camping experiences… Every year, they do better and better in terms of preparation, in terms of activities. So, it has become a ritual for them to participate in and to add their friends, and they bring their cousins and people who aren’t a part of the school. And it has grown, so much so, that the dads look forward to it as much as the kids,” stated Rose.
Other signature Dad’s Club programs include two fish fries a year where we raise money to support other events and two teachers a year with funds to supply their classrooms; cooking “tons of meat” for the Imani School’s annual Harvest Fest; and Super Hero Dads Day where fathers dress as superheroes and read to the school’s elementary students and have rap sessions with older students to reinforce teacher lessons.
The final event of the school year is the Girls & Gents Dance, scheduled this year for April 15 at the Power Center, where they expect anywhere between 30–60 “gents” (fathers and father figures) and 40–70 girls.
“The girls all come dressed up as the princesses they are. We take really great formal pictures. We have dinner there. Every dad gets a memory of dancing with his daughter at least once or twice during the night,” said Pettway about the event where some dads or male guardians go all out and rent a car for the evening and buy their daughters flowers.
But even as the dads prepare for the next event, Pettway is still buzzing about this year’s Dad’s Camp.
“For a lot of our kids, they just don’t get outside and get dirty like we did. We were allowed to be outside all day on your bike until the street lights came on, and then you came home. They’re not afforded that in our time now. But this gives them that time to do that, to be wild, be crazy, be free. I always say there’s very few places, very few times in your life, you’ll be as free and as safe as when you are with your dad. You’re free to be yourself and you’re safe because he’ll take care of you.”
To support the Imani School Dad’s Club, visit www.imanischool.org.