THE BLOG
06/13/2014 04:32 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2014

Honoring Our 'Other' Fathers

As we come up to Father's Day, many of us are busy choosing cards, buying gifts, and finding ways to honor the dads in our lives who have helped us become the people we are today.

Because we live in times with extended and blended families, for example, parenting goes far beyond the boundaries of immediate family. As the annual holiday approaches, I find myself thinking about those who act as fathers to a neighborhood, a church, or even a city.

One such man is my mentor the Reverend Dr. Robert Shine, a leading voice for civil and human rights in his city of Philadelphia and across the country. The founder and pastor of Berachah Baptist Church and national co-chair of People For the American Way's African American Ministers In Action, Dr. Shine has led advocacy work on everything from electoral college rigging to immigration reform to policies supporting working Americans. These days he can be found, even during this time of rehabilitation resulting from a car accident in April, planning, meeting, building a statewide "Why Vote?" voting rights movement to encourage all people to cast a ballot on every Election Day.

For 25 years, Dr. Shine has also been a respected father in the ministry to young clergy and to those members in the congregation he founded. Whether accompanying the children of broken families into a courtroom or comforting parents after the loss of a child to gun violence, he has been a source of strength for countless. His voice brings an assurance that there is an advocate present and all will be well.

Like so many in the national network of ministers I am honored to work with, Dr. Shine understands the importance of his multiple roles as an African American faith leader. "The future of our community depends critically on the role the Black clergy will provide," he once said, noting that he was committed to "raising the hopes and aspirations of our people and to all of our citizens who have been the least, the last and the lost."

Dr. Shine is a model of faith in action and what it looks like when someone commits to social justice work -- not only in their professional lives, but also in their spiritual and personal lives. He knows, as they say, the personal is political and the political is personal. So from sun up to sun down, whether he is fighting for civil rights from the pulpit, at a rally on the steps of the state capitol, or in the courtroom, he never loses sight of the fact that policy fights might sound abstract when read in the papers or heard as soundbites on the evening news, but policy impacts the lives of real people -- his neighbors, his friends, his children, his grandchildren.

This Father's Day let's also honor our "other" fathers, the other unsung heroes. Let's pay tribute to all those who are caregivers, mentors, role models, trainers, inspirations, providers for our communities and who know that the call, the role, the heart of parenthood, of fatherhood, extends far beyond blood lines. Happy Father's Day Dr. Shine, and all my "other fathers" of the African American Ministers In Action!