By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Michael Lundy says the barbershop is historically the man’s cave, where no subject is out of bounds.
“It’s an opportunity to come and talk,” said the president and CEO of the Housing Authority Birmingham District, “and feel free to talk about socioeconomic issues, talk about political issues, to talk about everyday life.”
HABD is taking advantage of the sanctity of the barbershop by using it as the venue of its annual Fatherhood Initiative. Officials of the housing authority and others met for two hours Tuesday at Jimmy’s Barber & Style in Crestwood Festival to have a frank conversation with the men and boys who were there.
Lundy said he wants youngsters to know the importance of having strong character and obtaining a solid education. To the adults present, he wanted to convey a simple message: Be Responsible.
“Too often, we allow the mothers to raise the kids and we allow the government to financially support our children,” he said. “We have to, as men, take on that responsibility. For too long, fathers haven’t been in the lives of their children. You don’t necessarily have to be married to the mother, but you need to be in the life of your child, of your children.”
The Rev. James Mason, pastor of the Church of the Way International in Woodlawn, was among the speakers. He reminded the men there that “you are what God has called you to be.”
“Every man in this room has made some kind of mistakes,” he said. “Can’t nobody point the finger at anybody because all of us are sinners. We’re just here to help each other.”
Mason urged the patrons to be men of love, not men of hate. He added that fathers should follow the example of God, adding “God is not an absentee father. He is not a deadbeat dad.”
Other speakers Tuesday included Raymond Howard, author of “From Crime To Christ,” and Eldridge Knighton, who recounted his experience of being robbed and shot twice in the head 12 years ago.
“As men, we have a responsibility to our children to give them a family,” said Knighton, president of the Morton Simpson Residents Council. Morton Simpson is located in the Kingston neighborhood.
Galvin Billups, director of resident services for HABD, said the two-hour event also serves as a kickoff for other housing authority efforts. Those include midnight basketball play and a job fair.
The Fatherhood Initiative began in 2011 as a Father’s Day event promoted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HABD in 2014 expanded the local initiative to include sessions on parenting, life skills, job training and job referral. This year’s six-week initiative includes the barbershop sessions, a jobs and resources fair and a celebration luncheon. The resources fair will also include recreational activities for fathers to share with their children.
Additional barbershop talks are set for July 12 and August 9, each at Jimmy’s Barber & Style. Also, a Fatherhood Resources Fair is 10 a.m. on Friday, June 17, at Smithfield Gymnasium and a Fatherhood Luncheon will be 12:30 p.m. at Morton Simpson Community Center.
All events are free and transportation is provided. For more information, call (205) 521-0769.