Charles Parker started Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. with encouragement from his children, Kevin Lavender Jr. launched the Fatherhood Network to give dads a place to connect. Both men are being honored later this month for their work strengthening black fathers and families.
A community celebration brunch is being held at the Douglas Community Association on Saturday June 30th at 11:00a.m. Parker, Lavender and the organizations they founded are being honored by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc’s Rho Theta Zeta Portage/Kalamazoo Chapter (Full disclosure: WMUK’s Earlene McMichael is a member of the organization). The two men sat down with WMUK’s Gordon Evans.
Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E stands for Pursing Leadership and Community Engagement. Parker says the goal is to make leaders in many different walks of life. Parker says he doesn’t see kids with issues, he sees kids who are going to be doctors, entrepreneurs and attorneys. Parker says it’s important to find what their strengths are and plant seeds about what their potential can become.
The Fatherhood Network was “formed” in 2015, but Lavender says he had been connecting with fathers for years before that. The organization has worked with Healthy Babies, Healthy Start on young children. Lavender says monthly “barbershop talks” give dads a place to talk.
Lavender says fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. The father of three girls says it requires being fully committed. Lavender says being a single parent and the fact that his oldest daughter lives in Georgia (“it tugs at my heart)” gives him a perspective on fatherhood. But he doesn’t claim expertise. Lavender says fathers learn from each other, and he says he learns a lot by listening to his children.
Parker is the father of two sons and four daughters. He has also been “uncle dad” to the children of his brother who passed away. Parker says his kids are now supporting Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. He says his children came with him to work when they were younger. Now Parker says his children are bringing their kids to meetings.
Both Parker and Lavender says there is a negative image of African-American men that extends to fatherhood. Parker says a segment of men, regardless of race are not good fathers. He says there are a lot of myths, but he says most men want to be involved with their kids.
Lavender says part of goal of the Fatherhood Network is to create a counter narrative. Lavender says he was fortunate to have a great example from his own father. Both Lavender and Parker say they both want to be an example to other fathers.