Black Fathers Matter March: Honoring and Uplifting Black Fathers in Our Community

by Chamidae Ford

On the clear and warm Juneteenth afternoon, dozens of people gathered at Tukwila Village to march for Black fathers. The Black Fathers Matter March is an event dedicated to honoring Black fathers with a goal to emphasize the fact that despite the stereotypes forced on Black men around fatherhood, many are present and supportive of their children. 

Sean Goode, the organizer of the event, began Black Fathers Matter on a whim, recognizing an important group of people who deserved to be uplifted and celebrated.

“Last year in the midst of George Floyd’s murder, the vast social unrest, the many marches and protests, it occurred to me that one of the great intersections in our work, where we are actively working to transform systems of injustice and supporting the young people who are impacted by them, is the plague of the narrative around fatherlessness,” Goode said in an interview with the Emerald. “[We’re] wanting to bring attention to the significance of fathers and also elevate the voices of fathers who have been incarcerated and are still actively participating in their children’s lives.”

This year’s event began with speeches from local fathers and community leaders. The opening remarks provided an opportunity to create space for these men to share their experiences with fatherhood.

Juneteenth marked the second annual Black Fathers Matter March event. Black and non-Black families gathered to march in honor of Black fathers a day before Father’s Day. (Photo: Caroline Guzman)

“Often we talk about people with lived experience and the carceral state. And we talk about the school-to-prison pipeline and we ask folks to share their story about how they overcame great odds of exiting the criminal legal system and flourishing, right? Those are the stories that [these speakers] often get a chance to tell, but how often do they get the chance to tell a story about just being a dad?” Goode said.

One of the speakers from the opening event, Kahlid Adams from Community Passageways, brought his daughter onto the stage while he gave his remarks. His message was around the importance of being present with your children.

“Fatherhood — coming up as a product of a broken home I always thought fatherhood was about providing,” Adams said. “At five, [my] little girl taught me the definition of love. Love is not spelled L-O-V-E, in fatherhood, it’s spelled T-I-M-E — it’s about being present.”

Following the speakers, everyone came together to walk the blocked-off Tukwila International Boulevard. Under the sun, they chanted, “Black Fathers Matter.” 

Jerry Reed Jr. (left) and family listening to a guest speaker for the event. “[As a Black father], I fear for my kid not to reach her full potential due to lack of opportunities,” said Reed Jr. (Photo: Caroline Guzman)

After walking together for nine blocks, attendees gathered together in a parking lot at the end of the march route, resting in the shade while eating C. Davis Texas BBQ.

Together the marchers enjoyed the food, weather, music, and the chance to run into friends and enjoy time with their community. The event also featured vaccination stations and goodie bags for those who had received a dose. 

After everyone had gotten a sizable helping of pulled pork and waffle fries, the group came back together to hear from more fathers in the crowd. Eddie Purpose from Progress Pushers opened his speech with a chant of “Peace and Power,” speaking about his son and his own experience with having an incarcerated father.

“When it comes to my son, who I love to life, who I love to life, not to death — I am real proud to be able to be his father. I look into his eyes, I look into his face, I just smile, because I helped create him. When I think about the responsibility that we have as fathers, not just to our kids but to the community, it’s a very huge responsibility,” Purpose said.

Many organizations were in attendance at the march: Choose 180, Community Passageways, Progress Pushers, and more. Despite the turnout, no clear sponsors or organizations were leading the event, something Goode was intentional about. 

“It’s not about who did what to make the thing happen at the core,” Goode said. “It’s not really about any one of our organizations. It’s about fathers and Black fathers and making sure that we’re amplifying the stories of them, which is why it’s intentionally ambiguous.”

The 2021 Black Fathers Matter March was a moment dedicated to honoring and elevating the voices of Black fathers in the community while simultaneously resisting the narrative they are often forced into. And Goode believes they achieved that on Saturday.

A 12-year-old shared his experience — next to his father — about the challenges of family life, school, and suicide. (Photo: Caroline Guzman)

“People can understand more fully what it means to be Black, what it means to be male, what it means to be a father, and what it means to do these things in a world where you have a 25% chance of being incarcerated,” Goode said. “Anytime you get to elevate Black fatherhood as significant and celebrate Black fathers in a public way and dispel the myth of Black fatherlessness is a win to me.”

Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.

📸 Featured Image: Attendees march for Black Fathers Matter in honor of Father’s Day. (Photo: Caroline Guzman)

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