Posts filed under ‘Black Fathers’

Danny Glover Interview with Jeffery Leving – part 1

Part 1 of 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwz6fy5oKA4

JML: Can you tell us about your father, your family and how you grew up?

DG:
If I’m a good father, it’s because I try to be half the father as my father was. I had a father who I thought was a prince. Even though at times we disappointed him in terms of what we did as teenagers, as kids with all that energy. But for the most part, I just thought when I sit down and analyze what he gave me – the sense of comfort, the sense of safety that he gave me.

I knew that he wasn’t a big man, I’m a foot taller than my father but the sense of presence, and the way he took on his responsibilities of caring for the family – all those things I was able to take into fatherhood. And hopefully, even though some things I think I could have done differently, hopefully those had some sort of impact on my daughter.  And our relationship is a testimony that it’s had an impact on her.

DG:
That’s only because my father was there in the household and my mother was there. We had a unit as a family with 5 children and mother and father and we did things as a family. We traveled on vacation as a family. There was the concept that the family took precedence over me the individual. So we all had and took on responsibility whether it was the upkeep of the house or whether it’s the cooking of the meals and all the other kind of things and I think what it did was give me another sensibility.

So since there were 4 boys and 1 girl, there was no gender preference given to the boys in terms of responsibility. The boys washed dishes, the boys ironed clothes, the boys cooked – every one of them knew how to do all of that. I think those were important because in a sense that’s the images I saw in my parents. My father cooked, he washed clothes, he ironed, he did all those things – he took on that. My mother was a Cub Scout Mother. When we lived in the projects when I was a little boy, my father was my youngest brother’s Boy Scout Den Father when we lived in a house. So I applaud them in creating the sense of normalcy and the consistency in which they maintained that.

JML:
You’re fortunate because you grew up in a stable family where your parents were together and they raised you as a teen and you had a great dad. You had an excellent father.

DG:
I had a great mom and a great dad and I think they made each other the best that they could be. I had one of those mothers who had the most glorious smile that you ever want to see and yet she was a woman of magnitude. She was the president of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, she knew Dr. Dorothy Hite well, she was the first in her family in rural Georgia to graduate from college. So she was a woman going somewhere. And she happened to pick one of the most gentle men, one of the most beautiful men I ever met in my life – my dad.

JML:
I mean that’s great, as a divorce lawyer and as a fathers’ rights attorney, I’m a big supporter of children having two parents. And when we were growing up, a lot of children had two parents.

DG:
Absolutely, absolutely.

JML:
Unfortunately it’s changed a lot and a lot of fathers get kicked to the curb and children suffer. And I’ve represented a lot of good dads struggling to be there for their children and the system kicks them out. But fortunately for us we grew up in a different time.

DG:
Yeah!  I’m 62 years old so I grew up in a time when it meant something to get in the car and the family go on a Sunday drive down the coast – I grew up in San Francisco – so we’d go an hour down the coast as a family and stop by a little, local hamburger/French fry place – that’s a cravat right there, there was the real thing about that. We’d have some hamburgers and French fries as a family and I loved that and I remember that so vividly in my mind, you know, with my parents. And it could be a way in which they were saying, “Okay, let’s as a family do something.”

We don’t have a lot of money; we weren’t blessed with a lot of money. My parents went from paycheck to paycheck all their entire time that I lived with them. And after I moved out of the house. But there was this sense of doing something that felt so and remarkably wonderful as a family. And I lost a sister, lost a brother to rheumatory arthritis, colon cancer to my sister. But I tell you – my younger brothers that are much younger that I am and I are very very close.

JML:
Oh, that’s great. I wrote this book, Fathers’ Rights and in it on pages 46 and 47, I listed a lot of statistics on how father absence effects in children and the most reliable predictor of crime in America is father absence. It says right here, 72% of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers. The absence of a biological father increases by 900% a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. And these assaults are not often committed by the dads, it’s committed by boyfriends of the custodial parents. These are the statistics that are somewhat new to our society.

DG:
I agree with you to some extent, but there are other factors that happen within a family, within the communal structure than just those particular statistics which apply to the individual. What are the social conditions? What is the stress level of the mother? What other kind of support mechanism does she have around? Where are the uncles around there to help raise those children? Where are the aunts around to help raise those girls? A lot of other factors that go into that. To say that the numbers, of course, when we take the fact that 2 million men and women incarcerated in this country. Those numbers who suggest that, but I think that there are a lot of other dynamics around the maintenance of a family. The laws and regulations and communities are family-friendly that create the kind of atmosphere as well in support.
The fact is they say that if you can’t love the one you want, love the one you’re with. We found that in most cases, when those single boys – and I’ve been in those situations – and those boys in those relationships where there’s someone who cares, where there’s someone there. He may be a father figure; he may be a father himself. But there’s someone who cares. And those girls are with people who care about them and care about who they are. Amazing things happening.

And sometimes in the 21st century, given all the kinds of dynamics that happen. In the last part of the 20th century, people were very mobile. They moved from place to place. They went from job to job as opposed to the first part of the 20th century. The last part of the 20th century, people become mobile and that has an impact on whatever the social dynamics among the family and the community itself. And also, the structures that employ us, remember – you take a place like Detroit. Detroit was one of the first places in this country as black people after the invention of the cotton picking machine in 1944 – black people were free from the land. 100% of the cotton was picked by hand in 1944, within 25 years 100% of the cotton was picked my machine. So black people moved, migrated. 5 million black people moved out of the South, to the North. All kinds of family disruptions. So almost a quarter of the black population moved in transit to find work.

They came to places like Detroit, got jobs – good jobs. Low skill jobs, good paying jobs. They built homes, raised families all over the country. Then those cities became de-industrialized. Those jobs went over seas to cheaper labor. Continued, we see it today. They went to some other place, for cheaper labor. Therefore are many losses: tax based. They lost a sense of self. They lost their sense of identity. Upon losing that sense of identity you have what you have now. Those are the kind of ideas that we cannot simply; we must incorporate any analysis of those things that have happened. That’s real history. That’s real history that’s right in front of my eyes.

My dad had a job, he retired from a job after 31 years. My mother when she passed away was still working. They had a job and everything else. They were able to build a family. We moved from the projects, I lived in the projects, the housing projects until I was 11 years old. We moved from there, we bought a home.

Every one of us got into problems; yes we did things as kids. But I remember when my dad came down into that police station and said after I had done something and came in and picked me up and said, “Son, I am disappointed in you.”

I’m towering over him now, I’m 6’2”, I am towering over him. “Son, I am so disappointed in you.”

That has meaning to me. That had meaning to me because of their life. That had meaning to me because of all the things that have happened. And that was the last time I had been involved in anything like that. I’ve been arrested for doing other things like for protesting something or sitting in or something like that. But it’s the last thing. Those are the kind of things I think of enforcedly. I know that now. I got a 5 year old grandson whose father is not there. I know that I have to tell him everyday that he is the most important person in my life. I have to tell him every day that I love him. I have to tell him that everyday, the best job that I have, the best job in the world for me is to being your grandfather – and everything else. Your dad may not be here, but you know what, I’m here. That kind of infrastructure, that kind of support will give him a shot! Give him a chance, you know. Somebody loves me. And maybe it’s nice that I love myself as well.

JML:
I see.

 

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May 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

Danny Glover Interview with Jeffery Leving – part 2

PART 2 –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3MBOeqlOXY

JML: There are grandfathers out there that are father figures, there are uncles who are father figures when there are no biological fathers.

DG:
Yes – absolutely! Absolutely!

JML:
One of the reasons there are so few father figures out there in certain situations is because if you trace back what happened before we were even born, you go back to the 1940s, a lot of fathers were kicked out and pushed out of the family through the government. Look at public aid, public aid was a means to keep mothers and children fed by kicking fathers out of the home and that is why there are so many problems in a lot of major cities. And a lot of people believe that was based on racial prejudices and discrimination against African-American fathers. And I believe that. A lot of people disagree with me. But I believe that. And right now we are seeing a lot of children are father absent. And if you look at the media, the media glorifies father absence.

How does a male basically rate himself based on what he is taught as a child? Based on how cool he is, group sex, recreational sex, what kind of car he drives. It’s not based on education and fatherhood. And the media has a lot to do with that.

JML:
But it can change.

DG:
I think it takes a long time. I think it’s a process that we are talking about is a long standing process. We can go back to the 1930s just before and during the Depression, how white families were encouraged by incentives to move out of the inner cities and move into suburbs. That’s how suburbia started. Being in suburbia is a concept that comes pre and post the Depression (and everything else). There are so many elements in terms of regulations that the government put in place. Whether designed or not, whether they are economic imperatives that brought about this. Whether it’s economic expansion that brought about this. In their design, they may have had good benefits, positive benefits. But in any design there are both positives and negatives.

DG:
So it becomes a private industry even in the midst of calling itself “public education.”  Because, what happens? The schools, the districts, the neighborhoods with the best tax bases, the wealthiest neighborhoods, they have the best schools. They have the best schools. These are the types of dynamics we don’t look at. We’re sitting right now in the preface of all this stuff falling about. This image of this… this whole thing of what a friend of mine calls, “Phantom Wealth” collapsing on us – not Real Wealth.

What is Real Wealth? What is Real Wealth in a sane society? Real Wealth lies in what we produce. And Real Wealth lies in what we produce in human beings. Real Wealth lies in us. We’re not simply a commodity, we’re a composite of wealth. We add real value to our lives. Real value to our communities. Real value to our families. That’s Real Wealth. Not the Phantom Wealth that is taken out in terms of the way we envision the deception of money.

We’re in a state now where all this stuff has collapsed on us. You have guys walking around with Phantom Wealth who are now pushing carts down the street now. You have people who were worth so much money on paper now who are worth nothing. These are the kind of dynamics we have to watch. Not where we had been, because we will never have back what we had been. Who cares if we want to go back? Who cares if where we had been meant something? Because the past does mean something. But who we are as a fourth grade teacher. And I’m gonna end it there. Fourth grade teacher asked his fourth grade class, “What does it mean to be a human being.”

JML:
You know what is real wealth to me? My daughter.

DG:
My daughter, my grandson. “What does it mean to be a human being.” Thank you.

JML:
Thank you. And it was really an honor to talk to you.

So on the one hand, I understand that. And somewhat in a lay way, it’s restoring that movement. One of the major crises in this country is that the last effective legislation that labor won was the right to organize move than 75 years ago. So at every point in time, labor, the right to organize, the right to demand – I think the best citizens we have are people who belong to unions because not only do they fight on their behalf of their workplace but they fight on behalf of their community as well. They get decent jobs, I mean decent wages, respectable jobs, retirement, healthcare – all those particular things fall in that so you can’t section out a portion of what happened without knowing the other dynamics of it.

Everything from Taft-Hartley 1947/1948 onward – labor has been pounded, pounded, pounded. The number of people who are not unionized in this country is dramatic. It’s only 8 to 10% of people outside of the federal workforce who are not union. And everything is happening in terms of that. That’s had a major impact on the climate of labor. Plus what I talked about earlier about the de-industrialization of labor – sending jobs to cheaper markets where the labor is cheaper there. That is a major part.

JML:
That’s killing us.

DG:
But that’s been happening in the black community since the 1950s.

JML:
I agree with you 100%.

DG:
Detroit is a prime example. Why the riot? Nobody looks at the social, economic and political dynamics around the riot in Detroit in 1967.

JML:
Because nobody cares.

DG:
Nobody cares.

JML:
But they need to.

DG:
People need to understand that all these dynamics have a role in the play in a sense. So on one hand, what do you have? In the midst of all this, we this propaganda that says, “This is the best country in the world! You can do anything, you can buy anything you want.”

You show all this stuff to people and kids on TV who have nothing. All these people have nothing. What do you expect the people to do? If they can’t immerse themselves in it. And they can’t gravitate towards that. It’s impossible to something in which is considered to be illegal. Do they end up in jail? They end up in jail. But not the people who rip off who they are. Not the people who gain their wealth through thievery – legitimate legal thievery and everything else. So the whole is that when we look at this we have to understand that what happened. I’m not apologizing. It’s not a witch-hunt.

I grew up in California, I was raised in San Francisco, California. I grew up when California had one of the five best public schools, public education systems in the country. I grew up in that system right there. And what happened because of that? You talk about Proposition 13 that has passed which limited the amount of property taxes that can be levied against property, the percentages of that. All of a sudden, where did they take the hit? The took in education, the took the hit in social services, and they took the hit in terms of social services provided to senior citizens. Right then, boom! Proposition 13. And what it did was it saved the property owners a lot of money but they lost the tax base for school education and the federal government does not have a federal plan to fund education. The federal government has never been a federal plan for education in this whole country. All of that is designed for the state – and the state does what it does.

JML:
And the state mishandles it.

DG:
Well I think it takes a long time to whither away at values that people have.

May 1, 2009 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Interview with President Barack Obama – on Responsible Fatherhood

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Interview with President Barack Obama

Then Senator Barack Obama appeared as a guest on the Jeffery Leving Fathers’ Rights Legal Show on SOUL 106.3 FM – Chicago/Indiana.  Here is a transcript of the interview where they discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood:

Jeffery M. Leving
:
Senator Barack Obama

President Obama: Yes, sir!

JML: How are you doing? It’s an honor to talk to you. I actually met you at an NAACP event Vera Davis put on in Chicago years ago.

President Obama: Well it’s wonderful to talk to you again.

JML: This is Jeffery Leving with the Jeffery Leving Fathers’ Rights Legal Show today. And today we are honored to have as our guest Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama.

Senator, I was reading your website, BarackObama.com/family and I was reading about Strengthening Fatherhood and Families and in your website, you talk about fatherless children and how they are more likely to end up in poverty and drop out of school and I also read your Responsible Fatherhood & Healthy Families Act.

And I think that’s tremendous and it can help a lot of children and families. What motivated you to re-introduce the Responsible Fatherhood & Healthy Families Act?

President Obama: Well, Jeffery as you know my father left me when I was 2. I remember watching my mom struggle as a single parent, trying to go to school and work and raise 2 kids at the same time – and fortunately she has support from my grandparents but a lot of single moms don’t have that.

And unfortunately although many of them do heroic jobs – it is true that statistically; children without fathers involved their lives are more likely to experience poverty, more likely their girls to get pregnant as teenagers, they’re more likely to have problems at school and so I really believe that it’s important for us in all communities but especially the African American Community – which has seen such as problem with lack of men and male involvement in family life that we really put an emphasize on this.

And this is something that the government can help to make sure that we don’t have a dis-incentive for fathers to be involved; make sure that our welfare programs for example are designed in such a way that they don’t penalize fathers participating.

I think we got to do a real good job trying to reintroduce males who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system as ex-offenders – giving them the opportunity so that they are able to support their families, find work, get on the right path – but ultimately there’s a lot of personal responsibility that’s involved in this. And one of the things I want to do as president is to use the bully pulpit to say to men, “You’ve to get involved in your child’s life. It will make a difference not only in their lives but in yours.”

JML: I agree with you 100%. We need to support and involve fatherhood. I also believe, to do this, we have to change the way the world views dads – and fathers are an untapped resource and I believe by involving fathers in positive relationships with their children, that will reduce youth violence which is affecting our country terribly, especially in Chicago where we’re from.

So we need to do this and justice shouldn’t be a luxury and many fathers don’t have the resources to seek legal counsel, to involve themselves in their children’s lives and they don’t have even basic knowledge – so your bill is excellent.

I’m a big supporter of it because I think the bill will help many many children throughout our country – because millions of children are father-absent in the United States and because of that, they are living in poverty and they can escape poverty by this bill coming law.

How do we keep crime down in the United States? We know that involving fathers and positive relationships with their children is one solution. But what are other solutions to keeping crime down and fighting youth violence?

We also have to have after school and summer school to give positive alternatives to our youth. And if we invest in early childhood education, studies show that every dollar we invest there we see improvements in reading scores reduced dropout rates, and reduced delinquencies. So giving young people positive things to do and investing in more police on the street the better off we are going to be.

Alright Jeffery, thank you so much for having me.

JML: Thank you for being on my show, I appreciate your time.

President Obama: Thank you so much – take care.

To listen to the archived interview, please visit: www.DadsRights.com

March 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm 1 comment

Leonard Pitts’ Column Unfair to Black Fathers, Ignores Reasons for Father Absence

By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks
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Leonard Pitts Jr.’s recent column “Runaway dads are society’s dregs” excoriates “selfish” African American fathers who “abandon their children [and] harden themselves against their cries of need.” Pitts cites Larry Patterson, Jr., a 19-year-old black father who, after police tried to pull him over, allegedly sped away, smashed his car, and escaped, leaving his infant daughter in the backseat. Patterson is “unique only in degree,” Pitts writes–for black men today, it’s “Every man for himself.”

Pitts’ generalization is unfair. He is correct that some African-American fathers have behaved irresponsibly. However, he fails to see that many black fathers have been driven away by shortsighted, angry mothers and a family law system which does little to protect fathers’ loving bonds with their children.

When citing the reasons for father absence, Pitts mentions “divorce” only in passing. Yet divorce and the breakups of unmarried couples are major causes of African-American fatherlessness.

Despite the stereotype of the feckless and irresponsible male, research shows that the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women, not by men. Even for unmarried couples, it’s doubtful that many dads wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “My child loves me and needs me, my girlfriend loves me and needs me—I’m outta here.” Yes, some mothers have good reasons for these breakups. Yet, as Jonetta Rose Barras, the African-American author of Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl, explains, many black fathers are simply being “kicked to the curb.”

When a divorced or separated mother does not want her children’s father around anymore, she can usually push him out, particularly if the father does not earn enough money to pay for legal representation. Courts tilt heavily towards mothers in awarding custody, and enforce fathers’ visitation rights indifferently. In most states, mothers are free to move their children hundreds or thousands of miles away from their fathers, often permanently destroying the fathers’ bonds with their children.

The system which allows women to easily obtain domestic violence restraining/protection orders was set up to help battered women. However, many mothers instead employ them to get rid of inconvenient husbands or boyfriends. The Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar and family law professionals in various states have recently noted that these orders are often issued with little or no evidence or due process. Once in force, a father can be arrested and jailed for violating the order if he visits or even calls his kids. The orders begin as temporary, but are sometimes extended for years at a time.

With divorce or separation comes child support. The Urban League’s 2006 report on the state of black America concluded that the child support system and its abuses often drive African-American men out of their children’s lives, and either underground or into crime.

Half of uneducated African American men ages 25-34 are non-custodial fathers. Many of them are still a part of their children’s lives. Yet the child support they struggle to pay usually does not go to their children, but instead goes to the state to reimburse the cost of public assistance, including welfare, for the mother and children.

Some fathers even live with their children and their children’s mothers, yet their wages are still garnisheed to pay child support to the state, greatly contributing to the breakdown of these fragile families. Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged this problem in her Youth Opportunity Agenda.

The benefits that involved black fathers—even divorced or separated ones—can provide their children are substantial. For example, a recent study of low-income African-American and Hispanic families by Boston College found that when nonresident fathers are involved in their adolescent children’s lives, the incidence of substance abuse, violence, crime, and truancy decreases markedly. The study’s lead author, professor Rebekah Levine Coley, says the study found involved nonresident fathers to be “an important protective factor for adolescents.”

There are many reasons why some black fathers aren’t there for their kids. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do to make the Larry Pattersons of the world into good fathers. But there’s a lot we can do to help keep many decent, loving African-American dads in their children’s lives.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the new HarperCollins book Divorce Wars: A Field Guide to the Winning Tactics, Preemptive Strikes, and Top Maneuvers When Divorce Gets Ugly. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

March 4, 2009 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment


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