TheBlackManCan is in New York for this next feature as we stick with Fatherhood for this week. We’re taking our first trip into the Prisons on this country. It only brings a smile to our face to present a Black Man who is actively promoting a positive Black Male image and not letting his current circumstances prevent him from being an agent of change. We bring to you a Black Man today who is impacting people and communities daily while incarcerated. We proudly present to you Bruce Bryan founder of www.BabyDaddies2fathers.com Bruce is on a mission to inspire and educate young men on the dynamics of being responsible, loving and proactive Fathers. Bruce was able to speak with TheBlackManCan about his personal motto, his own relationship with his father and plans to expand his movement.
TheBlackManCan: How was your relationship with your father affected your life choices?
BB: As a young boy growing up I’ve always saw my father as a man who was a giver. If he wasn’t giving to his children, he was extending himself to distant relatives from ANTIGUA West Indies. I recall me father was always being called upon to help resolve one issue after another. As a young boy I interpreted my father’s actions as a part of what men/fathers are meant to do.
I believe my relationship with my father is what has always motivated me to try and develop resolutions, and to not look outside of myself for answers to life’s issues. Even when my parents were struggling to provide for six children, my father was on some way helping an in-law or distant relative. Seeing this all of my life has instilled in me the importance of helping others as well as my community.
TheBlackManCan: What plans do you have once you are released from prison and how do you plan to expand your fatherhood movement?
BB: I am presently a member of The House of The Lord Church headed by world renowned Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry. Upon my release I plan on being involved in the youth ministry department of his church. I also plan on becoming a personal fitness trainer and pursing entrepreneurial endeavors in that field. I will expand the Baby Daddies 2 Fathers movement by forming a non-for profit 501(c) (3) organization and establishing chapters in urban communities all across the country. It is crucial that we encourage responsible fatherhood on a national level.
TheBlackManCan: What role do you feel prisons needs to play in deterring our youth from a life of crime?
BB: Prisons can begin to play a role of deterring youth from a life of crime by incorporating cultural-and value-based programs in all institutions. Prisons administrators also need to hire staff members who understand the history, culture and values of the incarcerated people in their care, and have a genuine interest in their development. In addition, prisons should allow inner-city-based organizations to regularly bring in groups of young gang members (and the most at-risk groups) into the prisons to be schooled by adult prisoners who have a first hand understanding of what youth are experiencing and can share with them the harsh realities of making bad decisions.
TheBlackManCan: Do you think programs like Beyond Scared Straight have a lasting affect on those who complete them?
BB: Programs like Beyond Scared Straight have the “potential” to have a lasting affect “if” the producers and cast establish ongoing, meaningful relationships with the youth that extend beyond the actual television program. There is also a need to have a value-added curriculum as part of the program that addresses the unique needs of Black youth. Black children have a unique history, culture and value system. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to which seems to be the position taken by the producers of Beyond Scared Straight. Black children in particular require a holistic, yet individualized approach to criminal thinking and behavior.
TheBlackManCan: At what point in your life did you realize that you have to initiate the change that you want to see in our communities as it pertains to men stepping up as fathers. Explain how Baby Daddies 2 Fathers came to be.
BB: While incarcerated at Great Meadows Correctional Facility in 2009, in update New York, I witnessed an influx of Black teenagers entering the system. It bothers me a great deal. I made it my business to begin interaction with many of these young men. I would ask them where they were from, whether they had a long sentence, and whether they were helping themselves by going to the prisons law library to work on their case. What I learned was that all of these young men came from poor communities of color, either from update areas Rochester, Buffalo, or Syracuse, or from the New York City area. One discovering this, I decided to conduct a survey to find out what else these young men had in common besides being Black and coming from poor communities. I found that 80% of these young men grew up without their biological fathers, or positive male figures in their homes and 70% were in gangs. It was then that I realized I had to initiate the change I wanted to see in our communities. Motivated to reverse the negative trend of fatherlessness, I created babydaddies2fathers.com as a vehicle through which to encourage responsible fatherhood and to provide an outlet for men and their children to discuss the importance of being a responsible father.
TheBlackManCan: What is your opinion of how Black men receive a fair and due process in the court of law?
BB: The overwhelming majority of Black men do not receive fair and due process in the court of law simply because institutionalized racism is alive and well. Additionally and significantly, Black men do not know even their basic rights as it pertains to the law and due process. Law enforcement in general and the criminal justice system in particular have always been controlled by whites. The relatively few Black men who do benefit from the so-called blind justice are those with money. No money, no justice especially if you are black.
TheBlackManCan: How important are programs like the Civic-Duty Initiative that you started?
BB: The Civic-Duty Initiative (C-D I) was created by Stanley Bellamy, William Holmes, Joseph Robinson and myself, all currently incarcerated men. The program was created in an effort to encourage other incarcerated people to take responsibility for the damage they’ve caused to society an develop creative ways of giving back to society. The Civic-Duty Initiative program encourages and cultivates community leaders, agents of change. It also changes the image that both incarcerated persons and society has of the “worth” of incarcerated persons…That is, that evolve from liabilities into assets: to themselves, their families, and to the larger society.
In some instances C-DI members call upon the inmate population to donate funds to a worthy cause. In other instances we would encourage inmates to offer their skill/talents to help develop the dysfunctional neighborhoods many will return to. C-DI is very important in that it helps inmates see themselves as having the ability to impact the world for the better. It also helps them discover talents that some never know they had. Our motto is that “we have an interest in public safety so we must contribute to the safety and development of crime ridden and dysfunctional neighborhoods.
TheBlackManCan: Tell us more about the Gun Buy-Back program you started in 2010?
BB: The idea for the New York State Prisoners Gun Buy-Back program (NYSGBBP) was spawned after I witness Reverend Charles Muller of Victory Christian Church in Albany, New York, on the news discussing the needs for funds to continue his once successful gun buy-back program. I instantly thought “what better way to give back to society than to raise funds via inmate organizations to help get guns off the streets. No one is more responsible for cleaning up our communities than those of us who helped destroy them.
I pitched the idea to the co-founders of Civic–Duty Initiative who thought it was a great idea. We wrote and submitted a proposal to the Superintendent of Sullivan Correctional Facility. Upon approval to raise funds we designated inmate representatives for each cell-block. The representatives were required to go from cell to cell and ask inmates if they were wiling to donate to the gun buy-back program to help get guns off the streets. Also, we solicited donations from the heads of inmate organizations. Donations were given through Department of Corrections (DOCS) disbursement forms, which allowed the facility’s business office to withdraw the designated amount from inmate’s account. One June 26, 2010 at an awards banquet I presented Rev. Charles Muller with a mock check in the amount raised; nearly five-hundred dollars.
TheBlackManCan: Your motto is “Where you are does not have to define who you are, nor does it have to determine who you become.” Why is important for people to have this mindset?
BB: It is important for incarcerated people to know that where they are does not have define who they are, not does it determine who they come because they are not their past, they are not their mistakes. Even while incarcerated they have the freedom to become better human beings and to do better. It is paramount that incarcerated people understand that they possess inalienable, redeemable qualities, that they can change the way they live by changing the way they think. They can become agents of change from behind prison walls. Two assets that incarcerated people have are their time and their minds. If they make a conscious effort to use both of these assets wisely, the incarcerated people can transcend the prison walls and have a positive impact on the lives of others…in prison and in society.
TheBlackManCan: What advice can you give to men who are incarcerated, but want to be proactive fathers to their children?
BB: I realize that being incarcerated and trying to be in your child(ren) lives can sometimes be difficult, especially if you and the child(ren)’s mother are not together. However, you must make a genuine and meaningful effort to reach out to your child; whether through family members, letter writing, sending drawings or post cards expressing your love and concern for them, ect. The point is to step up to the plant–as a man, and as a father. Keep a journal of all the times you’re written, the times you’ve heard from your child and how it made you feel. If possible, keep a record of your child(ren)’s achievements. It is crucial that you let your child(ren) know that closeness is not measured by distance. Indeed, in spite of the physical distance between you and you child(ren), you can still have a close emotional bond.
Our mission is to actively promote a positive black male image. Welcome to the Spotlight: League of EXTRAordinary Black Men. Here, we spotlight black men weekly who are having a positive impact in communities across the country. These men are actively promoting a positive black male image each and every day. If you know a man that should be spotlighted please send an email to email@example.com In that email please state who you are and why you are nominating this individual. Please leave your contact information and the contact information of the individual you are nominating.