Roland Martin and Washington Watch traveled to the Potter’s House to talk about the fatherhood crisis in the African-American community.
In this segment Roland and his panel discuss what it’s like to grow up without a father. Roland’s guests: Perri’ Camper, whose parents divorced when she was just a year old; Jo Patterson, whose father was never a part of her life; Cassandra Malone, whose parents divorced when she was five years old; and Michael Moore, who didn’t even meet his father until he was 17 years old.
MR. MARTIN: One of the things that we’ve often heard when it comes to divorce for the couple is that it’s considered a living death, if you will, because you split up. You’re still having to see that particular person, see children, and then you’re apart. But folks also say that those who are most impacted really are the children, and so going through that, what was it like having to deal with parents divorcing? Did you feel left alone? Did you feel as if someone abandoned you, as opposed to abandoning the whole family?
MS. JO PATTERSON: I wasn’t allowed to – to really recognize the need of a father in my household. I was told very –
MR. MARTIN: What do you mean by that – “wasn’t allowed to recognize” it?
MS. PATTERSON: Well, it was painted to me that he didn’t care. He wasn’t there. “Get over it,” and, “This is your life. This is the way it is. I’m Momma. You get everything you need from me. And your dad has done nothing for you, has never cared about you.” That’s the story that I was told.
MR. MARTIN: But your mom said, “Get over it,” but you didn’t.
MS. PATTERSON: No, because I mean I ha- — I – I – I always say to a lot of people I’m – I’m really a – a true romantic. I’m very nostalgic, and I had images in my head of family from television, from friends of mine – and what a marriage looks like, what a family looks like, and that’s what I believe I – I deserved.
MS. CASSANDRA MALONE: My father left when I was five years old. I was somewhat confused as to why he was in and out. Sometime[s], he would be there. Sometime[s], he wouldn’t be there. Sometime[s], we would go places – maybe to the zoo, or whatever – but he wouldn’t stay, so I didn’t understand that.
So, when I was 17, my father was shot and killed on my graduation night, and that left me – because we didn’t really have a relationship, it left me somewhat confused, empty. I just – I – I didn’t understand why, you know, he had to die. So, it –
MR. MARTIN: Now, was he at your graduation –
MS. MALONE: No, he wasn’t –
MR. MARTIN: — earlier that day?
MS. MALONE: — at my –
MR. MARTIN: He wasn’t –
MS. MALONE: — graduation.
MR. MARTIN: — there. So, on – on y- — on that night –
MS. MALONE: On that night.
MR. MARTIN: — you found out he was killed.
MS. MALONE: Yes, at a party. I was actually running from one end of town to the next end of town, trying to get there, and I didn’t make it in time.
MR. MARTIN: Michael, they talked about parents divorcing; but for you, you didn’t see him for 17 years, so you had no memories at the ages of two, three, four and five.
MR. MICHAEL MOORE: Right.
MR. MARTIN: When you first met him, what was it like? How did it happen?
MR. MOORE: Well, I – I always knew who he was. I just didn’t have a relationship with him, and so when I was 17, he reached out to me. And that first week when he reached out to me, I, you know, went through the same adolescent – I probably cursed him out, or whatever, and – for a whole week. Then that second week, I listened to him a little bit – what his explanations were. And by the third week, we – we were just – you know, we were going to lunch and dinner, and – and it was over with.
MR. MARTIN: Now, he reached out to you, but in those 17 years –
MR. MOORE: Um-hum?
MR. MARTIN: — did you make any effort to reach out to him? Did your –
MR. MOORE: No.
MR. MARTIN: — did your mom allow –
MR. MOORE: No.
MR. MARTIN: — was it a matter of you [were] not allowed to, or you said, “I don’t want to”?
MR. MOORE: I didn’t want to. Af- — after ten years old, I didn’t – I – I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, because I’ve always been – you know, “You’re going to be like your dad.” “You’ll be like your dad – nothin’!” you know. Just like that. So, I didn’t want to reach him, anyway. So, when I was sevenee- [sic] — when I was seventeen, the story changed. He was – he did actually want to be in my life. He just wasn’t allowed.
MR. MARTIN: Now, when people say that – “You’re going to be like your father” – how does it make you feel? Because also, we’ve heard men say, “Your daddy left. You’re going to be a sorry man,” and we’ve even had some mothers you have been – who have literally belittled that man so much, where that child says, “Wait a minute. I have no worth” – “no sense of worth.”
MR. MOORE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I was that s- — I was that child. I was just full of just rejection the whole time. I was rejected – even when he wasn’t in my life, I still felt rejected, where the – whatever the reason was, it was still rejection from your father – and rejection from your mother, because everything bad was him.
MR. MARTIN: Was it a struggle for your mothers, the extended family, trying to care for you – beyond just trying to provide for material things, but also that love, being able to hug, being able to share with somebody, having the level of intimacy with a dad that men and girls – men and – men – sorry – boys and girls both need?
MS. PERRI’ CAMPER: It was a struggle for me, because my mom – she’s not an emotional person. I’m very emotional, so I can say “I love you” all day –
MR. MARTIN: Now, when you say “emotional,” I mean some people are emotional to the point where you’re like, “Okay, you need to calm down.”
MS. CAMPER: Oh, no! [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: Bu- — bu- — but –
MS. CAMPER: I’m not overly emotional –
MR. MARTIN: — but you –
MS. CAMPER: — no.
MR. MARTIN: — in terms of –
MS. CAMPER: But –
MR. MARTIN: — loving, hugging –
MS. CAMPER: — exactly.
MR. MARTIN: — things along –
MS. CAMPER: I’m very –
MR. MARTIN: — those lines.
MS. CAMPER: — right, intimacy with her. Ex- –
MR. MARTIN: Lack of intimacy – exactly.
MS. CAMPER: — exactly. And so, therefore, she was so strong and so independent, to where we didn’t share that intimacy when I was younger.
MS. MALONE: My father abused my mom, so I think, to – at some point, she didn’t know how to feel. So, I – I never really felt loved – loved by her the way that, you know, a – a mother would love her daughter, and I believe it was because of the abuse.
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