There’s something about a father being publicly affectionate with his child that warms my heart and fills my body with joy. Unfortunately, society stereotypes men as being callous, cold or uncaring at times. They depict them as individuals with a tough love attitude and a no tears policy. So when I see a father and a daughter holding hands while walking to school or a dad scooping his son into his arms for a big embrace, I smile.
I smiled recently when I came across the forFathers Project. The project celebrates the importance of fatherhood through photography, film and other artistic mediums. It also attracts a demographic of active fathers, young professionals, stay-at-home dads and men looking for parenting information. The site stood out from the typical parenting blog. It’s filled with not only facts, but photos as well. There is a never ending gallery of father figures bonding with kids of all colors. I caught up with the brainchild behind the forFathers Project to find out how this idea emerged.
What is forFATHERS project? Why did you decide to create the site?
My son has inspired the birth of the forFATHERS project. I wanted to document our interactions through photography–this would ultimately bring smiles to both of our faces. I uploaded the pictures to my personal Myspace and Flickr accounts and received feedback from fathers who were inspired. I reached out to a photographer friend, Steven Duarte, and we spoke about creating a project out of that concept. I was very impressed with the type of images that were being documented and felt the project needed branding, so I created a logo and designed the website. While being inspired by the journal format of the site, I then decided to create 4FATHERS photo journal, which serves as another outlet for showcasing and featuring all things related to fatherhood.
Why did you decide to celebrate fathers through art?
I am a creative person. My trade is graphic design, and my way of life is a creative one. I gravitate towards the visual side of things. Our world is based off of visuals, from stop signs to exit signs, that help guide us. Plus, the only way for this project to work, it would have to operate through art, which pulls in its viewers and creates dialogue.
There’s a quote on your site that says, MEN ARE BORN / FATHERS ARE MADE. Explain what you mean by that. What does it take to make someone a father?
A man is who you are and a father is the title you wear once you take on the role of being a nurturer, provider and teacher.
How can fathers inspire each other?
For me personally, I get inspired by just seeing fathers taking walks with their children or sitting down at a pizzeria having a slice together. These moments are real, and when I see them, I get inspired.
Sometimes I hear men say they don’t see their kids, because they don’t get along with the mother. What would your response be to such statements?
Communication is important between the two parents, who are now separated. It makes things much more difficult for both parent and child when there is no communication. There isn’t any excuse for either parent to not be part of their child’s growth and development, and both parents should be open and willing to allow that father or mother to be a part of their child’s life.
What makes a good father?
First, you must be a man of respect, honor and love–that’s how I see it for myself at least, and I share this with my son.
What is the Story Time Session? Why is it important for fathers to promote reading?
Story Time Session encourages reading in the family. My son’s mother and I would take him to bookstores and libraries and select something to read together. This act of reading as a family promotes new learning skills and creates a bonding moment between us. We’ve even built a personal library.
Barack Obama once said, “Children don’t need us physically present, but emotionally available.” How do you interpret that quote?
Before there is sight and touch, there is feeling. Our children need to feel the presence of their father and mother. My son lives with his mother, and even if we don’t see each other for a while, I try my best to remain present through letters and phone calls. He’s young now, only five, but soon I will be experiencing him not needing me physically, but more emotionally. I want him to know that I will always be there for him; I love that little boy.
You were raised in a single mother household. Did you have a relationship with your father? How did your upbringing shape who you are today/make you into the father you are today?
I was born in 1984, and my father was taken away from his family the following year. He was sentenced 25 to life for a murder he did not commit. Throughout his imprisonment, he always was very active and present in my life. My mother made sure I had a close relationship with him.
My upbringing was tough, but my mother and older sister always made a way for the family, regardless of the situation we were faced with. As I look back at those times, I recognize why I am the man and the father that I am today. I try my best to make sure my son is raised with the values I have been raised with. Always make a way.
Recently, some Rhode Island schools banned father_ daughter dances due to “gender discrimination.” Do you think fathers should treasure and defend these traditions?
Wow, I didn’t hear about that! We fathers should continue to treasure and defend these traditions; it encourages fathers to be there, and it shows that we are valuable.
I really like that the site features fathers of all races. Did you make a conscious effort to do so?
I’m happy you noticed that. Fatherhood isn’t a one-race thing, and I made sure that the daily viewers of the site saw it that way.
Often the media portrays African-American fathers in a negative light. You don’t see too many stories on television about the father going above and beyond his duties, putting his children’s best interest at heart. Why do you think that is so? How will your project help to change that?
With the start of this project, I decided to take on the role of being part of the media; forFATHERS project is here to showcase what today’s fathers are really up to with their children, and it’s not what the media is portraying.
Talk about the journal. Is that available for purchase currently?
With the increase of readership and followers at forFATHERSproject.org, I decided to extend the project into a publication titled, 4FATHERS Photo Journal. The journal continues the celebration of fatherhood through its beautiful photographs and intimate Q&A’s with today’s father. 4FATHERS Photo Journal is available for sale in both print and digital format. The goal is to give fathers a voice and to offer inspiration. / www.4FATHERSjournal.com