In the conversation about black families, the subject of fatherhood strikes a particularly sensitive nerve. The conversations are often underscored by an adoration for those who choose to be present or disdain for those who leave. Producer Kobie Brown highlights both sentiments in "From Fatherless To Fatherhood," a documentary that "explores the causes, effects and possible solutions to turning the corner on father absence," according to the film website.
Through a series of interviews and narratives, Brown explores the impact of paternal absence and how some men are breaking the cycle by taking an active role in the lives of their children, despite not having fathers of their own.
"The purpose of this documentary is to ignite discussion throughout the African-American community ... to let people understand that their lives are not determined by the absence of their fathers, that they can move beyond that and succeed nonetheless," Brown told CNN.
In an interview with the blog "ForThelma," Brown blamed the absence of fathers in the black community for low high school graduation rates, unemployment and an overall "failure as a people."
Less than 50 percent of black teens are graduating from high school. Black unemployment is in double-digits, and while it's easy to blame outside forces, I refuse to believe that our collective failure at enforcing the value of fatherhood hasn't contributed to our collective failure as a people.
Despite the film's harsh tone, Brown says his message isn't a direct shot at black fathers. He's using it, rather, to appeal to parents and guardians more than fathers, he said.
"To men and women that are about to become parents I would say, whether with your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend or casual acquaintance, it's important to maintain a healthy relationship with your parenting partners. Also, it’s important to be prepared financially and in terms of education as well. Begin, if you haven't already, to have a vision for your lives and that of the child."
According to CNN, it is estimated that nearly 80 percent of African-American children can expect to spend at least part of their childhood living apart from their fathers. The biggest barrier affecting both young and old fathers, Brown says, is poor-quality relationships.
The quality of male and female relationships is the primary barrier that we face. Not every attractive person is intended to be your mate. Being in a relationship with someone you can plan and grow with makes a difference. The economy obviously represents a great challenge, but Black people have accomplished much more, with much less than we have available to us today. It's more important for the fathers to be active, because if it's a challenge for a man to provide, can you imagine what it means for one person (usually a woman) to do it all by herself? Single mothers need to be commended and we must all embrace, encourage and prepare our men to become better fathers.