A lot has been said about fathers in cities like Flint throughout the years, and not all of it positive. The stereotype of absent dads in many communities can often overshadow the everyday contributions that loving, dedicated men and mentors provide without fanfare or publicity.
Flint has no shortage of exemplary fathers and male leaders, whether they’re simply sustaining their own households or reaching out into neighborhoods to guide youth who might not even be their own biological children. As families throughout the country prepare to celebrate Fathers Day, several local leaders say it’s key to recognize the important role shared by dads and future dads in shaping Flint’s overall direction as a community.
“Fathers have a significant role to play in the future of Flint and in the future of their children,” say Clarence Pierce, CEO of Hamilton Community Health Network. “By being the head of the family structure, fathers have the responsibility to provide financial support, love and inspiration to their children. When they are able to do that, stability is created for their families, which leads to stability for the city.”
Stable households, Pierce says, can translate to greater prosperity throughout Flint.
“Our city’s future and our families’ futures depend on a growing economic base that creates jobs where fathers can provide for their families, while creating a loving, stable home,” he says. “Better opportunities in the city of Flint translate to better living, better families and a better city. Our roles as fathers in Flint come down to providing for our families, so we can provide for our city.”
Devin Bathish, executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council, says dads can fill an equally significant position in influencing Flint’s culture where social and gender roles impact leadership development.
“Fathers have a very key role to play because there’s already and idea and challenge around the idea of equality between a man and woman,” he says. “But there’s also the idea of raising boys to be emotional and affectionate, and raising girls to be strong and independent.”
Both within Arab American culture and the larger social model of the United States, patriarchy has been dominant, Bathish says. Creating more open minds and new perspectives in youth by dispelling concepts like “men’s work” and “women’s work” is an area in which dads can be particularly influential, he adds.
“Kids will grow up to be our future communicators and decision-makers,” he adds.
Ideally, fathers can demonstrate empathy and encourage it in their children, Bathish says.
Brian Glowiak, CEO of Metro Community Development, says dads should make an extra effort to effectively co-parent with moms.
“Fathers, as well as mothers, are equally important to the success and stability of a family and by extension, the community as a whole,” says Glowiak. “Whether a father serves as a primary provider or a stay-at-home dad, they serve as role models and help their children develop their own identities. Moreover, their role as a co-parent is critical to sharing the responsibilities of parenthood and offering a different balance of skills and strengths to their children.
“To put it quite simply, dads matter.”