DionRabouin.com (sort of)

Atlanta’s Salute to Men

Posted in Articles by dionrabouin on June 27, 2012

(Written for The Atlanta Voice)

ATLANTA – Perched behind a sea of men outside the Georgia State Capitol, Danielle Warlick sat comfortably at a vendor’s table helping to educate men about the child support process and ways they could use the law to help themselves.

On the surface, it might seem incongruous to see a lone woman’s face among a sea of men, but Warlick said she found the Father’s Day weekend event both refreshing and enlightening.

“I don’t know if it’s the media or maybe just common feelings in the community that black men don’t take care of their kids, but when you come down here and you see a lot of black men with their kids, it does make you feel better,” said Warlick, a 24-year-old lawyer at Hood Law Group.

“As a woman, I don’t know that my perspective on the issue is any different than a man would be,” she added,” but just as a community it makes you feel proud to know that all kids aren’t without a father.”

The Proud Father’s Rally, organized by Omega Phi Psi fraternity, was one of two Father’s Day weekend events held in Atlanta to support President Barack Obama’s Fatherhood Initiative designed to help men get more involved in their children’s lives.

The rally featured tabling by law firms, DNA testing services, employment recruiting and male health care screening as well as other groups and businesses that aimed to help fathers who were interested in playing a larger role in their children’s lives. Rally facilitator Dr. Ben Williams said that the impetus for the event came from the Obama administration, but it was something the organization has been attempting to do throughout its history.

“The reason we do it is we want to extend our hand to non-custodial fathers, many of whom are trying to reconnect with their families but may not know how or feel as though they don’t have the means to do so,” Williams said.

“So we are really reaching out and encouraging them, ‘Come down and join a network of men who are custodial fathers.’ ”

David Hayes, a 22-year-old father of two, said he drove from Union City to attend the Proud Fathers’ Rally after hearing that he could get legal advice about how to be granted more time with his children.

“I want to be able to see my kids; I wanted to know how to get them legitimized,” Hayes said. “I pay child support, but I still don’t get to see them when I want to see them. I feel like I play a big part in their lives and I know I can help them on the right track.”

The rally was attended by scores of people, including state congressional leaders, local agencies and fatherhood advocacy groups. Williams said he was pleased with the turnout and that he expects even better numbers in years to come.

“This is a new movement and remember, as is the case with undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows, many non-custodial fathers live in the shadows,” he said. “So we will keep coming and being open to them and incrementally they will keep coming out.”

The rally also served as an occasion for the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child Support to highlight its non-custodial parent jobs transitional program that will assist fathers with finding jobs.

Just blocks away from the Capitol, meanwhile, the Obama administration’s Fatherhood Buzz program was underway as well. Fatherhood Buzz debuted this year at barbershops around the nation and was billed as “a pilot outreach initiative designed to disseminate information about responsible fatherhood and parenting.”

At Vintage Hair Gallery, one of three barbershops in the Atlanta area selected to participate in the program, fathers were treated to donuts, coffee, fresh fruit and a little TLC.

“The fatherhood buzz initiative is just trying to do something for the fathers to let them know that they are appreciated,” said Brian Keith Williams, a barber at Vintage.

“Our barbershop has always been a forum for father and son to come and have a little social club,” Williams added. “So we want to invite all the fathers that come to the shop regularly and the guys that don’t come to the shop to come in and feel comfortable getting some services, getting pampered.”

Fatherhood Buzz was also present at the Custom Cuts Barber Shop in Fayetteville and MenXchange Barber Shop in Smyrna. Nationally, metropolitan Atlanta was joined in the initiative by barbershops in Los Angeles, New York, Albany, N.Y., Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

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