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28463: Nlbo: A Tribute to Caring Haitian Fathers (fwd)

From: Nlbo@aol.com

A Tribute to Caring Haitian Fathers
This article appeared on the June issue of the Boston Haitian Reporter under
the title

Honoring Caring Haitian Fathers on Fatherâs Day
and subtitleâ Celebrating the fathers who make a difference

 Mothersâ Day apparently gets more acclamation. Though I had a hard time
finding a book on âSingle Black Mothers,â given the divorce rate, the number of
unmarried mothers, single mothers get more media attention than single fathers.

On the other hand, Black or Haitian men raising and being supportive fathers
get limited media attention. As Fathers are being remembered this month, I
would like to feature several exemplary Haitian fathers. Two are single raising
children alone. One is a married Haitian man whom I have observed for many
years, but told me he is a very discreet man, not to mention his name. Even in
anonymity exceptional Black fathers need to be highlighted. The late âDaddy
Boomersâ will be also addressed .

 Many factors cause men to raise children alone.  Being  widowed like Civil
War veteran William Smart, whose daughter Sonora Dodd started the first
Fatherâs Day celebration in his honor on June 19, 1910, Haitian fathers also loose
their wives.  Many remarry, but some donât.

 For instance, last May in a two week time frame, there were three to four
funerals of young Haitian mothers in the Metro North area.   When I reflect
back, I realize  since the mid l980âs, I have been attending two sometimes seven
funerals a year of Haitian mothers who have passed away between the ages of 25
and 43 leaving behind children from birth to 14 years old.

    Observing my elementary studentsâ mothers dying from one to increasingly
 seven a year, prompted me to question how are those fathers raising children
 alone?  The causes of these young mothersâ deaths such as breast cancer, or
some sort of carcinoma, brain tumors, aneurysm, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage,
or some head ailments could be topics of research by the medical community, or
other researchers.

 In this monthâs column, I want to call attention on Haitian fathers who are
taking care of the children after those mothers have been buried, and  those
emotionally charged, or extravagant funerals are celebrated. It is left to know
what mechanisms are available to protect, to meet the needs of these suddenly
young underaged orphans, and how those single fathers are supported.

In my 25 years teaching elementary grades, I met one African American
kindergarten boy,  one Hispanic or Portuguese first grade
 girl, and one Jewish kindergarten girl whose mothers have passed away.

  Are Haitian women under a lot of stress? What is happening? One woman a
year dying leaving young children is enough. But 3, 4, 5, 7 a year in my
immediate Metro North environment should raise concerns.  As fathers are being honored
this month, letâs say âKudosâ to Haitian widowed fathers who have supported
their terminally ill wives for years and now raising young children alone!

Two unwed fathers Yves and Pierre Andre who are raising their out-of- wedlock
children alone deserve some fanfare.  Due to immigration policies, their
common law wives could not migrate with them. Their diligence and caring attitudes
are laudable.  These men are always present when other teachers, or I call
for meetings or any encounters about their three children. They show care by
arranging after school care and changing their night shifts or jobs, so they can
be home when those elementary school age children are out of school. Pierre
Andre even combs his 5th grade daughterâs hair. Those fathers in their early
30âs come to the school on their days off. They  have the children maintain
telephone contact with their moms. Once a year, Yves takes the three to Haiti to
visit their mothers.

   Richard,  the anonymous father alluded to above, cooks, cleans, even when
his wife is off from her second shift job. Richard is also a soccer, or a
basketball dad depending of the season. He juggles karate and ballet classes after
his 9:00 to 5:00 day. It doesnât matter if supper is ready at 10:00 or 11P.M
as long as the kidsâ homeworks are done after their after school curricula.

Not every Haitian father is a âdead beat dadâ who doesnât financially
supports his children. âRichardâ also pays substantial child support to his first
wife, maintains a cordial relationship with her, and is close to his first
college age daughter.

 The late boomer dads deserve some attention also. Teaching at the elementary
level, the 5, 8, 14 year old uncles and aunts had me question the notion of
Aunty Therese, or Uncle Luc.  Recent interactions with 30 year old, 40 year old
older brothers and sisters of 10, 12 year olds have left me as an educator
bewildered. The implications are serious. Under age siblings  had to be
separated from their father and go live in different homes, because the children could
not live in their fatherâs senior citizen apartment complexes. There are
other cases where the child can not play, sit, or relate with children his or her
own age because of constant interactions with 20, 30,40 year old adult

As an educator, I know I can only discuss the childâs progress with the
mother or father, especially when the father is available and living in the city. I
have reluctantly talked with 20, 30, 40 year old older siblings. Since there
is not interaction among Haitian educators, I am struggling with the issues of
discussing a childâs progress with older siblings. I am familiar with
extended family relationships. On the other hand, there should be a bond and relation
with the present biological parent. Also, when a childâs interactions with
other children have impact in the classroom,outside at recess, in the cafeteria,
 he/she attracts othersâ attention.

 Menâs biological make up allow them to father children at 60, 70, or 80. The
fact that they will leave young orphans or less likely to see their grand
children is not the sole concern, but the housing, educational, and social
implications of their elementary school age offsprings are also alarming.

 As Fatherâs Day is being celebrated, Haitian community stakeholders need to
think of what can be done to prevent young Haitian mothers from dying and
leaving under age orphans to the care of widowed fathers.  Letâs also see how
collectively we are providing educationally, socially, and emotionally for those
single fathers who are raising young children alone because of immigration
policies that donât allow their childrenâs mothers to enter the U.S  legally.
Society may need to think of how to educate menso there will be less orphans
from the  âseniorâ fathers.  In other words, should there be a recommended age
which men should stop fathering children?

 Finally, I want to wish  to all those aforementioned  special fathers, to
the uncles, older brothers, grandfathers, respected male elders, and all the
positive father figures in the Haitian milieu a Happy Fatherâs Day!

 Nekita Lamour is an educator and essayist. She is a regular contributor to
the Reporter.