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On Father’s Day, Let’s Show Black Men They Matter

My dad, Eugene Albert Kane Sr.

The more I witness the vast gap between how some folks live in this country, the more I am grateful that I grew up in North Philadelphia with a strong father, mother and family.

I am grateful for the close-knit group of neighbors, and the values and strength of folks — like my parents — who stared down hard times. And yes, on Father’s Day, I am especially thankful for my dad, the late Eugene Albert Kane Sr., a construction worker who was a pillar of strength in our lives. We were poor but rich at the same time.

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As I ponder Father’s Day and the importance of black fathers everywhere, I realize how much my own dad influenced me in so many ways. His love for reading certainly influenced my love for books. My father was also a race-conscious man who aggressively warned his children of the attitudes and prejudices that would confront us in life. Of course, Dad had experienced much worse than my three brothers and I would.

Financial adviser Martin Smith of Bowie, Md., says fatherhood is among the greatest honors of his life. He and his wife, Walida, have seven children.

Yet, when I see the uphill struggle that black men face even now, I hope we all realize just how essential they are to our families and how hard it must be for them sometimes. I mean, imagine going through life almost always being viewed through the stereotypes, the profiles and the fears of others. Imagine having to constantly prove yourself against an invisible accuser who has labeled you as irresponsible, lazy and criminal. Yet, by the millions, they still get up every day, face the world and strive to do what’s right. Isn’t that sort of like a hero?

Honoring Fathers, what is the best trait you got from your father? »

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has debunked the myth of the absent black father. In a nutshell, it says black men, even those not living in the home, are spending valuable time with their kids. And the book All In, by journalist and fatherhood columnist Josh Levs, says, comparatively, black men are spending even more valuable time with their children than their white counterparts.

So, on this Father’s Day, June 21, let’s go out of our way to celebrate those black men who have affected our lives. Let’s applaud those fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons, uncles, nephews, mentors and father figures who rarely get the credit they deserve. You matter, black man. Thank you for being our hero!

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AARP helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for and equips Americans 50 and older to live their best lives. Discover all the ways AARP can help you, your family and your community at AARP Black Community, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos: Top right, courtesy of Edna Kane-Williams; bottom left, courtesy of Martin Smith.

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