Documentary emphasizes fatherhood, success

Film highlights male influences impacting students’ academic progress

By Sean Austin, Advocate Staff

Lessons of integrity, quality, work ethic and humility passed on by fathers to their children were viewed by students at an event titled Black Male Leadership held in the Fireside Hall on Feb. 15.

Athletic Director John Wade coordinated the annual event held to reach young black men on campus in hopes of preparing them for academic advancement for the future.

“Act like where you’re going,” Wade said to a full room of mostly football players seeking to move on to four-year universities after attending Contra Costa College.

A 50-minute film titled “Daddy Matters: A Conversation On Black Fatherhood,” produced and directed by Jermaine Morris, chronicled the lives of 14 men who discussed the impact of fatherhood on their upbringing.

These individuals either had a father in the home, didn’t have a father present, or were currently a father themselves.

The documentary focused on the influence their own fathers had on their lives both in childhood and as adults.

It also examined how those experiences shaped the way each of them went about raising their own children.

“I’ve never seen a picture of him,” one of the participants interviewed for the film, Jermaine Vertrum, said. “He could be in the room, right now. I wouldn’t even know what he looks like.”

In 2014, census statistics showed that 28 percent of African-American children grow up without any father represented in the home.

“I didn’t realize that there was something missing in my life until I was a grown up,” documentary participant Glen Smith said. “I think that it’s just something that is natural. There’s a yearning, a desire that comes with having that emptiness in your life.”

With the lack of a biological father in the home, some children are fortunate enough to have other male influences in their lives, such as uncles or older cousins to fill that void.

A father-child bond can be built even before birth.

Sean Destin, a father featured in the documentary who grew up with his dad at home, spoke about conversations that he had with his son while he was still in his mother’s womb.

“I would set the camcorder up, and have these discussions with my baby,” he said.

When Destin’s son was born and heard his father’s voice, he turned his head toward him.

“Even though he (his son) can’t convey or communicate that he recognizes the voice, you can tell that he knew exactly who I was,” Destin said.

After the film, a pair of current and former CCC students spoke to attendees about how life changed for them after becoming a father. They also discussed the challenge of balancing their goals in school and in life.

DeAndre Russell, a member of the CCC 2015-16 basketball team, talked about hard times he faced after losing family members and having to leave school short of graduating. Russell had to manage being a man to his grieving family, while preparing to become a father to his now one-year-old daughter.

“Being a father can change you instantly,” he said, simultaneously entertaining his daughter while speaking to students about the rigors of fatherhood.

Primarily raised by his mother, Russell’s father left shortly before he was born. Russell’s lasting example of overcoming life’s obstacles was him finally walking the stage at CCC’s spring 2016 graduation ceremony — with his daughter in his arms.

Comet football player Jakell Tyrell, 19, spoke about his experiences as a father.

Tyrell explained the difficulties in trying to be a student, a hard worker and a good son and how adding his own daughter on top of that can be heavy.

“Being a parent doesn’t mess things up, but it slows you down,” he said. “Having a daughter changes your life as a man.”

He envisions the lessons he will have to share with his daughter in the future, as well as the challenges he will face in the future, like learning to treat her in a way that ensures that she will not grow up to let other men mistreat her.

“A daughter will always take the examples of her father throughout her walk through life,” he said.

“Go hard with everything you do and when you have a child, double that.”