Inaugural Father & Son Conference empowers community

Dr. Christopher Warren, Deonte Thompson, Judge Michael Andrews & Dederick Woodard

 

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG –The City of St. Petersburg sponsored the first Father and Son Conference last Saturday, Jan 21 at the Campbell Park Recreation Center. The six-hour conference discussed topics such as self-empowerment, overcoming the cycle, understand yourself and the importance of education.

Campbell Park Recreation Center Supervisor Carlos Daniels felt that a day of empowering men to become better fathers, sons and husbands was drastically needed in the community.

“It was something that we needed to try to get the fathers and sons together so we can get these kids on the right track,” he said.

With more than 175 participants, Daniels hopes next year’s numbers will be a lot stronger, but felt it was a great start.

The recreation center puts on many conferences throughout the year, but this is the first one to focus on boys and fathers. Daniels’ goal is to incorporate more informational sessions for men. He’s even planning a health fair in the coming months that will focus on the needs of males.

Daniels selected a panel of expert speakers to get both fathers and sons motivated. In four breakout sessions, each speaker conducted a half-hour seminar.

Motivational speaker and life coach Dederick Woodard spoke on the need for young people to find someone they can count on and pull resources from, such as a parent, mentor, coach or teacher.

“Babies know the universal secret that you can’t be afraid to cry out for help,” said Woodward, who shared that when he found someone to look up to, it gave him hope.

Founder of the Dream Faith Foundation Deonte Thompson flew in from Texas to specifically for the conference. He jumped at the chance to speak to these young men before they head down the wrong path.

“I travel to different prisons in Texas and speak with kids 16 and 17 years old with life sentences, so it’s a breath of fresh air to speak with you before you make a decision that may impact the rest of your life,” said Thompson, who grew up in the Childs Park area.

He spoke about the super powers that each person has inside of them:

Power of vision: Shows us where we are headed, provides motivation, helps keep us moving forward, provides focus and gives us meaning and purpose.

Power of thought: If you can control your mind and thoughts, you can control your actions.

Power of positive thinking: Think positive, be careful what you listen to watch and read.

Power of words: You must have positive self-talk, and you must build others up with positive words.

Power of action: You can have vision, words and thoughts, but if there is no action, everything is in vain.

Honorable Judge Michael Andrews packed 400 years of African-American history into his session. A former history teacher, he feels it is important to know the struggles black people have gone through in this country.

Starting with the transatlantic slave trade, he informed that sharks would follow slave ships waiting for bodies to be dumped into the water. Once on the shores, the enslaved would be sold at auction, made to toil in the fields, women were raped and families broken apart.

“We made it. We survived,” he said.

He went through the history of Jim Crow, lynching, bombings, and said a lesser people wouldn’t have survived, but now we are destroying ourselves with the broken family.

During the late 1960s, most black families were intact, but in the coming years policies were put in place where an able-bodied man could not be in the household in order to receive government assistance, and that eventually helped break apart the family unit.

“Black women increasingly have to do it alone,” he said, citing that 47 percent of black children live in a single-parent household compared to 12 percent of white children, and 72 percent of black children are born out of wedlock where the number is only 27 percent with their white counterparts.

Dr. Christopher Warren from the University of South Florida tackled the one-parent household, stating that children suffer when the father is not in their lives. He said a woman teaches her son how to be a man through a woman’s perspective, and that it is crucial for the father to be in his daughter’s life because their relationship will teach her unconditionally love from a man that is not interested in her sexually.

Vendor tables were set up for attendees to visit and get information on a variety of subjects, such as the PITCH (Previously Incarcerated to College Hire) program at St. Petersburg College. Program coordinators Ernest Gant and Jerick Daniels were giving out information on the initiative that helps at-risk young adults get into college.

Michael Dukes from Healthy Families was on hand letting people know about their services for fathers. The program helps fathers with parenting skills, help with finding employment and through mentorship gives men the tools to become good fathers.

Kimberly Thomas and her daughter Ashuraye were manning the Community Health Centers of Pinellas County table, informing that the centers are a one-stop shop for all your medical needs. They offer primary care physicians, pediatric care and women’s services. With ACCESS being on-site, patients can receive help with applying for insurance, food stamps and cash assistance.

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