On Aug. 30, the Bev Smith Show conference took on the battle of the sexes with a panel discussion where African-American men were given the opportunity to address African-American women. While the panel had a mostly lighthearted approach, the discussion got to the root of the African-American family dynamic, relationships, and social stereotypes.
According to the 2010 Census, 29 percent of Black households are headed by a single woman. This statistic is often used to account for the poor conditions in many African-American communities, but the panelists said it is too often used as a crutch to avoid personal responsibility.
“I never felt like there was a man missing from my life just because my dad was missing,” said NNPA President and CEO George Curry, who served as the panel’s moderator and listed nearly a dozen prominent men you grew up in female-headed households.
“As men, we have to take serious responsibility,” said David Anderson, owner of Empowerment Radio Network. “You can’t just say, ‘oh my father wasn’t there so that’s why I’m not where I need to be.’ That’s a choice. These young men need to know they have a choice.”
Instead the men on the panel spoke of the power of African-American women. They shared examples of women working behind the scenes to shape and support powerful leaders while organizing coalitions like the Civil Rights Movement.
“I’ve been surrounded by strong women my whole life,” said Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project.
“Women have this powerful ability to influence. I just think there needs to be a clearer image of how you use your influence,” Anderson said. “If you want guns to stop and violence to stop in your community, use your influence.”
Despite the praise for women and female-headed households, the panelists also talked about where women can do better. In particular they said Black women need to be more supportive of their men and drew distinctions from women who are complicit in their partner’s criminal behavior.
“If a person is going in a negative direction, that’s enabling,” said Curtis Porter, chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny. “If the person is going in a positive direction, that’s support.”
Discussion of difficult topics like these was the goal of the Bev Smith Show Presents: A Challenge to African American Women conference. “The purpose of this conference was to unite. You have to know who you are before you can tell a man who he should be. I want to rebuild the relationship,” Smith said. “Women, stop telling your sons ‘you’re just like you’re no good daddy.’ Women we must accept some of the responsibility for the way some of these men are.”