The commission charged with assisting males in Washington, D.C., to become more productive citizens has started deliberations, and the public is encouraged to participate.
The first meeting of the Commission on Fathers, Men and Boys convened Feb. 17 at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center in Ward 8. The meeting’s objective was to organize, update commissioners on programs and initiatives and adopt a meeting schedule.
The commission was established in 2014 by the Council of the District of Columbia to address fatherlessness, disparities in educational and economic opportunity, health and well-being, and public safety issues that adversely impact fathers, men, and boys in the District. The 12-member body, consisting of professionals from various fields, will explore ways to assist males to be all that they can be.
“We will focus on males in underserved and overlooked communities,” said Tony Dugger, executive director of the commission. “We will focus on studying and solving the problems of employment, poverty, and fatherlessness of males in the city.”
While the commission’s scope covers all males that live in the District, its primary focus will be young males of color. Dugger quoted national statistics showing that while 6 percent of America consists of Black men, 43 percent of the country’s murder victims are Black males and 37 percent of all inmates in state and federal prisons are Black.
He also said that two-thirds of Black men live in a home with only one parent and Black men are six times more likely to go to prison than White males for the same or similar crimes. Dugger said that while those statistics are national, they accurately reflect the dilemma of Black males in the District.
The D.C. commission is a product of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which he launched in February 2014 with the charge of improving the education of young males of color and helping them avoid the criminal justice system. The leadership of the commission, appointed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and approved by the D.C. council, are Chairman George Garrow and Vice Chairman Ed Davies. The members are retired D.C. Superior Court Judge Arthur Burnett; entrepreneur Brett O. Greene; Dr. Ivory Toldson, executive director of the White House Initiative on Blacks Colleges and Universities; Dr. Elsie Scott, founding director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University; Frank Malone, a community activist on issues relating to males in the District; and Tristan Wilkerson, a former aide to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) who helped Norton organize the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.
Commissioners awaiting confirmation are Silas Grant, a former chairman of the Ward 5 Democrats who owns a leadership boot camp for young men ages 13-21; Don Smith, the founder and principal owner of the Hard Light Consulting Group; and Jelani Murrain, an expert in regulatory law and health issues.
Dugger said this year the commission will focus on researching and writing a comprehensive statistical report on males in all of the city’s wards, supporting the Empowering Males of Color initiative, reviewing District government operations on how males are being served, and setting up a Fathers First program.
“The Fathers First program will include a fatherhood training component, co-parenting courses, and looking at how behavioral health effects parenting,” Dugger said.
The commission will operate under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity.
“The terrible incidents of police brutality can happen to our sons, brothers, and fathers,” Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden said. “But we don’t want to focus on just that. We want to amplify major stories of success and encourage pathways to the middle class.”