By Diane Aisha Sears
Once upon a time we were a village. Now life was not perfect, but the village’s greatest treasures and most vulnerable members – its children and its Elders – for the most part, were loved, protected and respected. Parents, extended family members, educators, school administrators, religious leaders, health care professionals and providers, social services professionals and providers, the business community, legislators, and neighbors worked together to help positively shape the minds and souls of the children of the village. In their eyes, children were the “Promise of a New Day” and the “heart and soul” of the village. The village symbolized hope – it was a vibrant oasis. Today, a dark cloud of chaos and hopelessness hovers over the village as it grapples with chaos, fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and rising violence. It is difficult to feel loved, protected, and safe or to dream about and plan for your future in an environment that is besieged by chaos and hopelessness. Perhaps we simply need to rebuild the village. Perhaps it is time for the children who were once raised by the village to, in some way, raise the village.
Through a powerful two-tiered initiative – Fathers And Children Together (F.A.C.T.) – Mr. Sam Brown, the Chairman of Unity Community Action Network (UCAN) and Mr. Luis Gonzalez, President of the Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization (L.A.C.E.O.) at SCI Graterford are raising the village by helping the village raise its children. F.A.C.T. is the result of a historic collaboration among African American and Latino incarcerated men at SCI Graterford to resolve the key challenges of Fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, the “school-to-prison pipeline” and violence that serve as obstacles to living a happier, healthier, and longer life and helping our children – the Next Generation of Leaders, Husbands, Fathers, Wives, and Mothers – from maturing into purpose-driven, productive, and successful adults. Under Mr. Brown’s leadership, fathers at SCI Graterford are reunited with their children while mothers are simultaneously moved into the Fatherhood equation. The initiative is fully embraced and supported by Pennsylvania State Representative The Honorable Ronald G. Waters. F.A.C.T. is a national model to resolve Fatherlessness, intergenerational incarceration, and the “school-to-prison” pipeline that provides an orientation session and workshops for Fathers incarcerated at SCI Graterford and visitation with their children. The conclusion of the program is punctuated with a graduation ceremony where participating Fathers receive a certificate.