Sunday, May 21, 2000

Children, adults bond at Black Family Day

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LINCOLN HEIGHTS — On a morning when they could have been home watching cartoons on TV, a small group of children sat in a classroom wrestling with thorny questions.

        “What is a family?” Darron Hunter asked them.

        Ten-year-old Diamond Render raised her hand.

        “It's a group of people that can trust each other and care for each other,” the Winton Terrace girl said. “It doesn't matter what color you are.”

        Mr. Hunter was so impressed with her answer, he called to her the front of the room and had her repeat it into his microphone.

        About 200 people — children and adults — spent part of Saturday at Black Family Day at the Lincoln Heights YMCA, sharing ideas about the nature and importance of black families and their special challenges.

        Black Family Day, sponsored by several social service agencies, consisted of five workshops, a speech and a panel discussion. This was the third Black Family Day held in Hamilton County this year.

        Many participants spoke about the toll that racism and economic hardship have taken on the black family and the need to overcome those obstacles.

        “In so many ways we have been turned against each other,” said Mr. Hunter, a counselor for the Mercy Franciscan at St. John's Young Fathers Program. “We've had to overcome so much adversity over the years.”

        He told the children in his workshop, “Relationships for Youths,” that love and respect form the foundation of family life.

        The absence of a father hampers many black families. Mr. Hunter said too many people try to minimize the roles that fathers play in family life.

        “In too many families in this society, Dad is missing,” he said. “I'm here to tell you today, that is not OK. Dad is just as important as Mom. We need all the love we can get.”

        At a workshop called “Strategies to Enhance African-American Families,” the Rev. James Strayhorn said that even in impoverished families, parents can teach moral values to their children.

        The Rev. Mr. Strayhorn, an associate pastor of Bright Star Baptist Church in the West End and an architect by profession, said his parents struggled to support a family of seven children on a modest income in a two-bedroom house in Lincoln Heights.

        “I haven't gotten to where I am today by myself,” he said. “Members of my family inspired me to be better. The black family is critical for our survival.”

        Virgil Bowman, 37, of Mount Airy, said he derived a deep spiritual feeling from Black Family Day.

        “It's a bonding of people,” he said. “It teaches you not to let obstacles destroy your relationships.”


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