A father's love is one of the greatest loves out there, and often the least recognized.
But one dad changed that for 10,000 men.
"I’m very much an introvert, but I knew that I wanted to build a brotherhood in a sense – and I didn’t see anything else like that out there."
12 years ago, Matt Prestbury became a single dad working as a kindergarten teacher with two toddler sons. The Baltimore native soon realized that while there are plenty of online communities to support Black moms, there wasn’t a space for Black fathers to come together as they faced parenting challenges. So, in 2008, the self-proclaimed introvert created a Facebook page for dads.The group, simply titled Black Fathers, quickly grew in number as dads posted adorable pictures of their candid moments with their kids, local events in their communities, and uplifting material that shows the positive side of fatherhood. According to Matt, the page would be a powerful support system for dads and shatter the stereotype that Black fathers are deadbeats:
I wanted to create a virtual space where fathers could come together and be a resource for each other — and help break lot of stereotypes to change the narrative of what it means to be a black father in America. There used to be the perception that fathers, and in particular black fathers, all abandon their children. But I wanted to have stories represented like mine, where the fathers are actively involved in their kids’ lives.”
Now, the group boasts over 10,000 members and has official events like daddy-daughter dates and workshops. Members also help each other via in-depth discussions and give referrals to dads in need of a professional to help them with custody issues. Matt Prestbury, who has since remarried and added two more children to his family, admits that even with the success of his page, dads still often play the background to moms when it comes to advertising and parenting information:
"Everything you see and read about parenting seems to be directed towards moms…What about us? I keep saying, ‘We’re here, too.’ It’s unfair to negate the role that fathers play. We have lots of stay-at-home dads and working fathers who play a very active role in their kids’ lives.”
Matt Prestbury seems to be right. We can simply watch our Facebook and Twitter timelines during Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to see the difference. Mom gets lots of love, gifts, and pictures. But, when Father’s Day rolls around, Dads don’t get as much love. Instead of celebrating the good dads in the world, the focus is usually on the ain’t sh-t baby daddies who don’t do anything for their kids or the dad who wasn’t on his job in the past. But, there are so many excellent dads in the world, both famous and non-famous, who step up to the plate and make fatherhood seem cool. And, making men want to be great dads is exactly what Matt wants.
“[My ultimate goal] is to make it so that you feel like if you’re not involved in your children’s lives, you’re a fool.”
Based on the pictures on Black Fathers page, it looks like he’s on his way to achieving that goal. The group hosted a daddy-daughter tea party date in Baltimore last year and the pictures are too cute!
The proud dads also share stories of how they have changed the lives of their young men:
The group also tackles tough challenges among dads. Matt recently opened up about one member with a serious situation with a father who needed help. He explained how the group members rallied around the man and reminded him how important the Black Fathers movement is for men.
“Not long ago a member posted that he was going to court for a custody issue with the mother of his son. He put that out there, and we wished him well, and people gave him legal advice. Then the next day he posted that he’d received full custody of his son. Just to hear that was very exciting because he didn’t know most of us from a can of paint. Yet we were able to wish him luck and share advice, and for him come back and tell us about it meant a lot. It showed me that the group is really touching people’s lives and making a difference.”
Another great part of the group is the inspirational and heart-warming messages and videos related to fatherhood that members share daily. One father dropped by to express his thoughts on having children:
"Being a father is the most fulfilling volunteer job in the world. Whether to our own kids, or just standing in place for a kid who knows not what it's like to have that fatherly love and care, it's a position that comes with great responsibility and great reward. Glad to be here and connect."
While another shared a comforting quote for the fathers whose relationship with their kids' mothers did not work out:
"You know sometimes it's simply not your fault. Not your fault that the relationship fizzled, not your fault that things went one way when you anticipated that it would go another, not your fault that life took you a different direction before you knew it. It only becomes your fault when you don't learn from mistakes and don't believe you can do, be and have better"
And when the fellas were asked at what age did they become a father and how fatherhood has impacted their lives, their answers were heartwarming:
Matt Prestbury has recently expanded his mission to promote Black fatherhood with a new website, Fatherhood Is Forever. On the website, he sells T-shirts for dads that have positive phrases like "I Am Dad," and "Always Fathering, Never Babysitting."
Kudos to all the great fathers!
To reference the late Mahatma Gandhi, sometimes you have to be the change you want to see in the world and it looks like these dads are making a difference!
Spread the word and find out more info on Black Fathers by visiting their Facebook page!