By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times
MIAMI—A recent study just released by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that contrary to longstanding stereotypes about black fatherhood, those who live with their children are just as involved as other dads who live with their kids—or more so. Seventy percent said they bathed, diapered or dressed their kids every day as compared to 60 percent of white fathers and 45 percent of Latino dads. Among black fathers who lived apart from older children, more than half said they talked to their kids several times a week and asked them about their day—a higher percentage than among white or Latino dads. The study, therefore, defies images about black fatherhood.
But, the results are no surprise to Trabian Shorter, 47, former Knight Foundation vice president of communities. In 2011, he launched BMe, a groundbreaking network that celebrates black men who quietly and consistently make positive differences in the lives of others and serves as its founder and CEO. The company was able to broaden its scope across the U.S. last September after getting a $3.6 million investment from the Knight Foundation. Today, the network has 3,000 black men providing services to more than 10,000 neighborhoods on issues that include: youth development, public health, ending violence, helping former inmates, community farming, improving financial literacy and fostering entrepreneurship.
BMe is headquartered in Miami and has chapters in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit. Their plan is to expand to several other cities in 2014. The non-profit organization held a two-day retreat last December here in Miami where they honored the winners of BMe’s leadership awards. The recipients were presented with special jackets that they can wear back in their hometowns when they are representing their BMe chapter. An estimated 130 men attended the two-day event.
“We have an air, ground and growth game,” Shorter said. “We intend to make sure people have a fuller and more truthful understanding of how BMe can be asset to society and to local communities.
“Our network is founded on the premise that there are a lot of good black men all over the country and they’re doing all kinds of positive work for their families, churches, schools, neighborhoods—you name it. All you have to do is look—they’re not hard to find. But, the media have been ignoring these positive stories and chosen instead to tell the stories of black men who are committing crimes, destroying communities and abandoning their children and families.”
Barron Channer, a Miami entrepreneur and the recent recipient of a major development project in Overtown, said that with 500,000 blacks living in Miami-Dade County, more than Atlanta with less than 300,000, Greater Miami should be a significant center of black culture. That’s why he fully supports the mission of BMe.
“BMe’s focus is to highlight and multiply positive examples of black manhood instead of lamenting the negatives,” Channer said. “The young men of Overtown, North Miami, Liberty City, Opa-locka, Goulds and so on deserve to be motivated towards excellence in whatever way fits them personally. We need to present them with the options of what is good instead of drowning them with what is bad.”
“It all boils down to two questions—who do you think you are and what kind of world do you want to live in?” Shorter said. “We build caring, prosperous communities. That’s our mission and it’s inspired by black men.”
Other board members include Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP and Stephanie Bell-Rose, a Knight Foundation trustee.
For more information, go to www.bmecommunity.org.