I have a complicated relationship with this day because I never met my father. When I was a teenager, I tried to find him but my mother was so upset that I gave up. I wish I had persevered.
Despite the absence of my father, many have stepped in to provide support and nurturing throughout my life. They have ranged from some older siblings to elders in my neighbourhood through teachers and professional and political acquaintances. I thank all of them. Unfortunately, some passed on before they could appreciate my indebtedness.
As we celebrate our fathers and fatherhood, we should pause to reflect on how fatherhood affects our development, not just as individuals but as societies.
In America, the problems of the black community have been linked to the absence of fathers for many blacks. Indeed, here an overwhelming proportion of black children are born out of wedlock and a majority of black families are headed by women.
As late Senator Patrick Moynihan of New York pointed out and has been repeatedly documented in books like, “The Bell Curve”, the absence of fathers have weakened and destroyed black families. The result is a record number of imprisonment, college dropouts, violence and other social ills. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not claiming that the absence of fathers is the cause of all our problems.
This problem though, is not a problem of American blacks. It is global.
When I was in High School at Osei Kyeretwie High School, in Kumasi, a majority of my mates were supported sorely by our mothers and came from broken homes.
Why do we have such low levels of fatherhood among blacks? Is it cultural? Is it due to underdevelopment or the cause of it? Is it the fault of the men or the women or both?
There are sayings in our culture that excuse irresponsible fathers, like the Akan proverb, “Have you seen a cockerel followed by its young ones?”. But there are also strong African traditions against out of wedlock births that we honour in the breach.
Too often, these days, there is, amongst Africans, copulation without contraception and commitment, under the guise of freedom and empowerment.
Without nurturing and building up fatherhood, our development will never catch up to that of other races.
Therefore, let the men strive to be better fathers by supporting our children.
Let the women pick men who will be good fathers as their mates and help nurture fatherhood. No matter how good you are as a mother, your children need fathers.
Let children find and celebrate their fathers. If you admire others of your father’s age because of their wealth and success and disdain your father because he is poor, you are wrong.
Let us all build fatherhood and through it, the black race.