Friday, March 6, 2015

Adventures at the Fathers and Families Coalition of America

For a long time we have been looing forward to attending The Fathers and Family Coalition of America Conference in Los Angeles. This was their 16th annual national conference which is attended and run mostly by African Americans who are working with government agencies as well as ordinary fathers who wanted to know how to be better. It was attended by about 90% African Americans.

There were a plethora of workshops and some interesting plenary sessions. We couldn’t think of a more critical cause for this group as seven out of every ten African American children are raised in households without a Father.

Terrific people showed up to help…including these two volunteers whom we grew to love. The one on the right had a PHD and the one on the left changed the way the government views and deals with people suffering with depression:

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This next family was awe-inspiring. The Dad went to prison after that tall son on the left was born. After he came out, instead of going back to a life of crime, he got his life together, marred this amazing woman and had five more sons. They have their own reality show called Six Sons. Are they cute enough?

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As real as they come…..we had so much fun with them!

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This great single-dad is a pastor and has written a book about how men (young and old) should treat women along with some stellar advice for young men who have never had a role model to guide them. These boys were selling their dad’s book and were so proud of their dad.

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One of the most interesting presentations was a film showing inexperienced Fathers being taught to swaddle and quiet their screaming babies. It was pretty awesome to see two different fathers swaddle, sway and shush their hysterical babies who almost immediately became quiet and fell asleep. This is a poor quality picture of one of the dads in the video with his cute baby.

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I thought the best talk was given by the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Schools who said that he had been visiting the kids in the detention centers and jails where many students in the boundaries of the LA school system were residing. When he interviewed them and asked what they think could have kept them out of jail, 90% said that they had never had an adult who they could talk to or who could mentor them. He added that we could change the direction of troubled school-aged kids if we could just get three things to happen: 1) Change the family dynamic with more fathers present in the home, 2) More support from religious institutions that can give much needed counseling and 3) Changes in the system so that we can really engage kids with education.

We weren’t speaking on one of the days so we rented a car and drove for an hour and fifteen minutes to see our fabulous family in Orange County (Ladera Ranch).  This little girl was a pure delight! We were so glad to be able to see her before she will be going through a bit of a scary procedure with catheters to see how her little heart is doing. Doctors will be making some adjustments since the first two complicated procedures she had when she was a newborn. This little cherub is 10 months old and solid gold!

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Noah and Kristi weren’t there because they were in Paris where they had joined our other two sons. All three sons work for Imagine Learning and this was a trip with the President of the company along with several other top sales people as a reward for their incredible work this year.

Luckily Kristi’s marvelous parents were there babysitting. They have been such incredible supporters of this little Eyre family of five kids, especially since the the birth of this precious little girl. Sorry…blurry, but it’s the only one I have. Also, Bennett is one of the happiest little kids alive, although it may not look quite like it here!

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Back on the conference front, we finished our responsibilities and were lucky to receive a lovely award for being married for a long time and for having a successful family during their Grand Gala Finale. About a week before we departed, I happened to notice that it was a Red Dress/Red Tie Affair! Thanks to my sister Lenna and her daughter Lindsay, I found a red dress that I would not have bought otherwise, but it worked!

Here we are….ready to party!

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…with such FUN people!

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One of the most interesting people we met during the conference was Judge Arthur Burnett and his wife. He was on the front lines during the Civil Rights movement in Selma and Birmingham. He said he could have easily been killed during the riots but if he had, the world would have missed his great leadership in the fight against school segregation and Civil Rights. His list of accomplishments is quite incredible! For many years he served as Robert Kennedy’s “eyes and ears” in regard to race relations in the country. He now heads the National African American Drug Coalition which is working to help African American youth to stay away from drugs. He spoke several times and was was an anchor for the event. He and his outstanding wife enjoy living on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. and were fascinating to talk to! 

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This is the nice award they gave us and several other couples who had been married for many years and had successful families. They hadn’t told us we were supposed to say something so Richard, after I said  “I loved this man so much more than I did 45 years ago,” he “dipped me” and gave me a great big smacker! The audience loved it!

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Gladys Knight also received an award and the crowd went wild when they saw her! She brought her entertaining brother (on the right) since her husband couldn’t get there because of storms in Atlanta where he was. Her brother was one of the “Pips” and she simply delighted the audience (along with her brother) for about 20 minutes with her love of family and for being with them. She was a long way away from us so this is pretty grainy but she was terrific! 

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Four outstanding young fathers also received awards. Three of them had been in prison and then had somehow figured out the real priorities of life and were able to turn their lives around. One became a pastor who gave a “fire and brimstone” talk about the importance of fatherhood and whipped the audience into a frenzy of “Halleluias, Amens and Praise the Lords.”  It was awesome!  The last was a terrific young father who was in the police force and happened to sit at our table. He delivered a four minute rap from memory about his life as a father that was beyond belief! That brought on a standing ovation! 

It was a huge education for us! We were so glad that we got to be there to peek into a very different world of good. 

4 comments:

kms said...

That is a very pretty dress.

Jill said...

You look gorgeous in that red dress! What a wonderful time for you to celebrate.

shawni said...

Loved hearing about it in person too :)

Susan said...

Such a beautiful and handsome couple!