Commentary

Saunders: This weekend, women and men need to get empowered

bsaunders@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2013 

  • If you go

    What: 2013 Fatherhood Conference

    Where: Sheraton, downtown Raleigh

    When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

    Cost: $20

    Details: 919-834-9300

At the same time Saturday that thousands of women will be getting empowered at Raleigh’s PNC Arena, some dudes will be getting empowered across town.

That, at least, is what Kim Best hopes they’ll be doing.

The annual Women’s Empowerment has been going on for 18 years and always features renowned speakers, entertainers and seminars to help women deal with issues they encounter. The daylong event has become a certifiable hit, attracting thousands from across the nation.

So why did Best, director of the Family Resource Center in Raleigh, schedule her first conference for men on the same day at the downtown Sheraton Hotel?

She said the center started planning its conference six months ago, before it knew the women’s event was scheduled for the same day.

“It wasn’t intentional, but then I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t so coincidental,” she said. “We’re trying to achieve the same things. Most of our programs are overwhelmingly geared toward moms, single moms and the problems of teenage pregnancy and high-school dropouts. We realize now that fathers are the missing link” in addressing the problems kids face.

Derrick Byrd knows that. That’s why he became a father. Byrd, a founding board member of the Family Resource Center, works at the Wake County Department of Human Services

He said the center “has given me an opportunity to use all of these things I’ve learned over the years in these parenting classes. ... I have had a lot of this parenting-type training since Moses parted the Red Sea, I guess.”

An exaggeration, although Byrd had indeed raised two godsons before adopting his two children, who are now 12 and 14.

Fathers who don’t have such extensive experience can learn a lot of the same stuff at the fatherhood conference.

I asked Byrd about the challenges of being a single parent, but he chose instead to talk about the rewards. “The best reward is when you put all of that work into them and see the fruits of your labor, when they’re doing well in school, and they’re mannerable, when you have other people compliment them and you on how well they’re doing.”

Celebrating dads

Best added, “This conference will celebrate fathers, because many times all you hear are the negative connotations, like ‘deadbeat dads.’”

Amen. Most men I know pay their child support. The ones who don’t – either because they can’t or because they’re trifling – seem to get all the attention. Seldom do dudes get attention for paying – nor should they, since they’re supposed to.

Still, Best said, “We want to promote and uplift fathers. We’ve invited fathers from all over to come and spend the day networking and becoming empowered.”

The guest speaker is Hall of Fame football player Rod Woodson, and workshops will deal with issues ranging from single-parenting to adoption to trying to be a good parent in a world where hip-hop reigns.

Far from being disappointed that her conference is scheduled for the same day as the larger women’s conference, Best now appreciates the symmetry. “If we’re going to do this next year and the year after, we’re probably going to shoot for the same day again.”

Hey. Women and me getting empowered on the same day – what could be better than that?

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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