Like Father Like Son Oral History Project | City of Ideas
Issue to be Addressed:
“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” –Malachi 4:6
Like Father Like Son is an oral history project that addresses a controversial topic for Blacks and Latinos, the lack of fathers at home. Recent census data show that 65% of African American boys and 36% of Latino boys are growing up fatherless; this statistic has been increasing about 10% per decade for black children since 1960. The impact of absent fathers has been increasingly studied and the outcomes are dreadful:
- 80% of black children spend most of their childhood living without their father
- Children in father-absent homes are four times more likely to be poor
- African American children are 9 times more likely than Whites to have an incarcerated parent
- 40% of jailed inmates were raised by mothers only; 20% had incarcerated fathers
- Fatherless children have 3 to 4 times higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality
Conversely, a study of low-income, Black and Latino adolescents aged 10-14 years found that more visits and frequent communication with nonresident biological fathers decreased delinquency.
Like Father Like Son will be a multi-year oral history project that focuses on gathering father and son stories. The project will engage Black, Cape Verdean and Latino boys and young men, ages 9-15, living in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, in examining the role of fatherhood by conducting interviews with a diverse set of men and boys about their relationships to their fathers, role models and influencers, parenting, male responsibility, and related topics.
Youth will be organized into two teams—one of boys ages 9-12; the second of adolescents ages 13-15. Each team will consist of 8 members. Guided by the project’s directors, youth will engage in a process of RAW (Reflection, Action and Witnessing) Storytelling that will allow them to examine the topic of fathers and sons, internally and externally. They will engage in personal reflection through RAW healing circles led by adult male mentors, conduct action-oriented research in their communities, conduct interviews with men and boys—from their fathers to prisoners to prominent civic leaders, and develop a multimedia exhibit, combining audio and video, photography and writing, allowing viewers to viscerally hear and see fathers and sons talk about their experiences, perspectives and dreams.
Role of Collaboration:
Books of Hope is a literacy empowerment program that trains at-risk, urban and immigrant youth in creative writing, digital storytelling, publishing, performance, and social entrepreneurship. Through the program, youth have authored, published and sold hundreds of books of poetry, memoirs, novels and plays and conducted performances at festivals, schools, colleges, libraries, and events throughout New England and New York. BOH’s Director will be responsible for training Like Father Like Son participants in research, writing, interviewing, public speaking and performance, and other oral history-related techniques and manage the process of creating the multimedia exhibit and publishing a related book.
Road to Redemption provides acute services and support to ex-offenders and their families to ensure safe, healthy transitions back to the home, workforce and society and to reduce recidivism. R2R works behind bars and in courts providing at-risk men and boys with help with relationship building, job readiness, education, substance abuse, and recreation. R2R will lead healing circles and life skills curricula for project youth, fostering dialogue about fatherhood and manhood and helping them make right choices. R2R will lead youth inside prisons to meet inmates and conduct interviews, and provide services to mediate reconciliations between youth and incarcerated parents.
Community Service Care, Inc is guided by the vision and leadership of its President and CEO Gerry Wright, who for over fifty years has worked to empower individuals, families and institutions in Boston. Throughout most of CSC’s history, the organization has provided troubled adolescents, under the guidance of the Department for Children and Families, with housing in community-based group homes. It currently provides support services and mentoring to adults who are former DCF youth. CSC works closely with R2R on program delivery. CSC will serve as the fiscal sponsor for the Like Father Like Son, Oral History Project.
The Dudley Library is a hub of literature, research, and culture in Roxbury. The branch offers extensive collections on the African American experience from slavery to the present. The library will provide computer access and training in research. Its Youth Librarian will guide young men in conducting research about fathers in Black and Latino communities and developing survey tools to strengthen their knowledge of the subject. The library’s auditorium will host the resulting exhibit. Also, attached to the library is a literacy center containing resources for improving reading and writing skills and preparing for MCAS and GED tests.
BNN-TV is a community media center which acts as a public forum for all Boston residents, nonprofit and community-based organizations and educational institutions providing them with affordable training and access to emerging media technologies. Project participants will be trained by BNN staff in video recording and editing, audio recording, and digital photography editing. These skills will be used for gathering project interviews and preparing the multimedia exhibit of father and son stories.
A Collaborate Boston prize would serve as seed money to pilot Like Father Like Son (a national oral history project designed to address the crisis of fatherlessness within communities of color) with boys in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan. LFLS is unique in that it uses boys and young men to start the conversation, speak about their relationships with their fathers, examine generational legacies of fatherlessness, enter behind silent walls of prisons to uncover stories of fathers and sons locked away, and give voice to the voiceless as means for personal transformation and social change.
Project collaborators are experienced community-based educators, researchers, artists, media makers, and organizers who have successfully mentored urban youth. They will combine their expertise to create a groundbreaking project about and for Black and Latino fathers and sons. Through a process of Reflection, Action and Witnessing (RAW) Storytelling, two groups of youth will capture rarely told stories and create an installation for presentation at libraries, schools, and other community venues.
Funding will compensate project collaborators’ and youth participants’ time; be used to purchase needed materials and supplies; and provide for training, travel to research and interview locations, field trips, food, production, printing, and marketing costs.
Young men who participate in Like Father Like Son can take pride in helping advance an important conversation in their community about the role of fathers and men. Through presenting stories of fathers and sons—whether living together, apart, behind bars, invisible or unknown to one another—these youth are helping to redefine manhood and opening themselves up to a process that can positively change their outcomes and those of their families.
The issue of male parenting is rarely addressed by educational, social service, or criminal justice systems or discussed in Black and Latino communities. As Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan experience increasing levels of violence and disenfranchisement among black and brown boys, it is necessary for men to take a stand—examine, redefine, and reestablish their place in their children’s lives. Through Like Father Like Son, Oral History Project, young men will face that challenge, express their feelings, and raise their voices to begin to turn our families’ statistics around.
"Father absence in African American communities across America has hit those communities with the force of 100 Hurricane Katrinas. It is literally decimating our communities and we have no adequate response to it." –Phillip Jackson, Black Star Project
Writer, educator and oral historian, L Soul Brown will serve as creative director for the project. Ms. Brown brings extensive experience as an arts educator, writer, media producer and community organizer to the collaboration. She has trained urban youth in art and media for organizations, BNN-TV, Institute of Contemporary Art, and Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, and delivered workshops in prisons, detention facilities, health centers, and public housing developments. She is a former producer for WCVB-TV and has consulted WGBH-TV on documentary series. She currently directs the writing program Books of Hope, training youth to author and publish their own books.
Robert A. Lewis, founder and director of Hoops Excellence and co-founder of Road to Redemption has extensive experience working with boys and young men in Roxbury through programs he initiated for reasons related to Like Father Like Son. He understands the challenges black and brown boys face when they make the wrong choices. He is a father who has experienced the joy of raising children and the pain of separation from a son. Mr. Lewis will recruit young men for the program, develop healing circles and life skills curricula, identify interview subjects, and teach and mentor boys about manhood.
Gerry Wright is President and CEO of Community Service Care, Inc. He has worked for over fifty years to empower individuals, families and institutions. Formerly, he operated community-based, group homes for troubled adolescents in the Department for Children and Families system. More recently, he provides support services and mentoring to adults who are former DCF youth. Mr. Wright has worked closely with Road to Redemption, offering them expertise, resources and oversight in order to provide top-notch services to ex-offenders. His organization will serve as the fiscal sponsor for the Like Father Like Son, Oral History Project.
Akunna Eneh is the Young Adult Librarian for the Dudley Branch Library. She brings expertise in helping youth develop a passion for learning, inquiry and research. Through her department, she will make available to project participants Dudley’s diverse collections and resources to strengthen the investigative and scholarly components of the project. She will also provide training in computer and database skills to youth.
Nia Grace is a community media educator who facilitates trainings in audio, video, and digital photography for BNN-TV. She will coordinate trainings by BNN staff of project participants and access to equipment for interviewing, editing and creation of the multimedia exhibit of father and son stories.