How did you get into this type of work?
I got started in fatherhood work because of my own unique challenges, things that I’ve had to overcome, and I believe that these trials and tribulations have uniquely shaped me to help other men overcome those same trials. Those include growing up without a dad, anger issues early in life, which led me to make some bad choices like dropping out of high school at age 16. Dropping out of high school really puts you behind the 8-ball, it really puts you behind everyone else. And you spend the rest of your life trying to play catch-up. But in doing that, there’s a lot of frustration, a lot of pain – some of that led me to using drugs to self-medicate. Right about the time that crack hit the scene in Baltimore, I got caught up in a 10-year spiral of doing crack cocaine, which also led to a period of incarceration. I lost my home, my vehicle, and more importantly, my family. One day you just wake up and you recognize: I know there’s something better for me, that I should be doing better. I just wanted to be a better person. I was tired of living the way I was. With the drug addiction, I just stopped cold turkey. I decided: enough is enough. The motivation for that was my wife had decided to leave me and take my children. It was devastating. Losing my family was the impetus to cause me to want to turn my life around.
How long have you been involved with RFFI?
I have been involved since 2009. Once I moved here to Richmond and began to get my life back together, I recognized that there was something in my heart that yearned to be with more positive men—guys that I could look up to, guys that could begin to reshape and remold me into the type of individual I wanted to be. Men are in a way, kind of private. They don’t want other people knowing what their business is. They suffer silently. I wanted to not only help myself but help them at the same time. There’s a calling on my life to do this type of work. RFFI provided resources and training that were free and really instrumental to me beginning to build a foundation. I’m really grateful for the relationship.
What is it like to lead a fatherhood support group, and what do you enjoy about it?
The group provides a safe place for men to come and talk about the issues they’re struggling with. To me, the most rewarding experience is that at first, a lot of these young men are being made to come – they don’t want to be there, they don’t see the value of being there. They come in with very hard exteriors. Initially, they don’t really participate. But generally, by the time the workshops are over, through the diversity of our facilitators and the classes…eventually they get reached. And they begin to open up; you begin to find out who they are. They begin to smile. You see a totally different person than who comes in initially. To see their light bulbs going off, to see them getting an understanding, to see them release some frustration, just to see them empowered—it’s a better high than any drug.