By Lincoln DePradine
A need for more Black men to “step up’’ and play a leadership role as fathers was one of the repeated and passionate calls at an “inspiring and empowering’’ forum held last Friday in Toronto.
The “Inspiring Our Men 2020’’ event included presentations by various speakers and panelists sharing experiences on issues such as dedication, personal struggles and resilience, community engagement, leadership, and overcoming obstacles.
Gwyneth Matthew Chapman, a media, public relations and community outreach specialist, created the event at which tributes were paid to several “trailblazing elder advocates’’, who have made “tremendous sacrifices for the betterment of Toronto’s Black community’’. The honourees included Lennox Farrell, Winston LaRose, Kingsley Gilliam, Hewitt Loague, Roy Williams, Denham Jolly, Dr. Maurice Bygrave and Leslie Forbes.
However, recurring messages of the evening’s function were the number of single mothers that are forced to raise children on their own, the importance of fathers’ presence in the home and the necessity of expressing love to kids.
“We need to love our kids. That’s all they’re looking for,’’ keynote speaker Ray Gover told participants at the forum at Daniel Spectrum on Dundas Street East.
Gover, a businessman and motivational speaker, is a former African-American athlete. He was headed to a professional career in the National Football League until he suffered an injury.
A University of Kentucky graduate, Gover – with a $250,000 contribution from an older Jewish friend – became a bounty-hunter and bondsman at age 23.
“A job like this is very intense and stressful,’’ said Gover. “You can find yourself dead at any moment.’’ Gover said the money the job paid was good; but, there also were the power to have people “walk free or be locked up’’ and the temptation to get into wrongdoing.
“I learnt that with power comes responsibility,’’ said Gover. He explained that he “made a vow to God “not to deal with shady people on a shady level ever again, and I’ve stuck to that to this day.’’
Gover’s love of children comment was echoed by a group of panelists that preceded him on stage. According to panelist Noel Walrond, “being present and making certain that our children know that they are loved, know that we have their back, that – for me – has become extremely important’’.
“We must stand up,’’ added fellow panelist Dwayne Genus. “As fathers, we have to make sure that our children will excel.’’
Garth Sam, another panelist, argued that young Black men are lacking with not having enough male role models and mentors in their lives.
“Unfortunately, too many of our young men and boys are being raised almost exclusively by women. Now, this is not denigrating in any way, shape or form the women; but, it’s to celebrate the exceptional efforts of these women who are stepping up to fill these roles,’’ Sam said.
“The men are not taking up their responsibility and women are having to build men. Where are the men? Where are the fathers?’’