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So often we talk about the effect not having a father has on young black boys, but black girls aren’t immune to the consequences of having an absentee father. Documentary filmmaker Janks Morton is exploring that effect in a new doculogue titled, “Dear Daddy.”
Last summer, Morton had eight girls from a Boys & Girls club in DC that he works with write one-page letters to their fathers and then read them on camera for his project. In the trailer for the film, we see 18-year-old Jasmine Bowden reads of a list of things she hates about her father not being there—the fact that she can’t turn to him for help when she has a problem, the fact that her dad has never offered to help her mother raise her, and the fact that he only comes around when he needs something.
Nearly a year later, Jasmine appeared on NPR yesterday with Morton and Jonetta Rose Barras, author of Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl? to talk about what happens when black mothers are the only ones around and it was still difficult for the teen to talk about how her father’s absence has affected her. She told Michelle Martin of Tell Me More that her father still isn’t around and that:
“If I had my dad around I really think I probably would’ve made some good choices in boys.”
From the young women he worked with, Morton said the pain girls experienced was the same no matter what circumstances led to their fathers not being around.
“What I saw, it doesn’t matter. The deserter, deceased, the disenfranchised, the whatever the circumstance, it doesn’t matter. The trauma that these girls – these 1.8 million, 18 to 24-year-old black girls, 1.8 million – are carrying on their heart, it’s not been given a voice. And what I found is that this arc, it goes through a woman’s life. It just manifests itself in all these different ways that I think, that if we can get this generation, you know, an opportunity to purge themselves of this trauma, I think there are some greatness that can begin to happen in the relationship dynamic in blacks.”
Though that pain may be the same, it can manifest itself in different ways, though mostly it’s seen with women believing they can’t depend on men, and sometimes depending on other things to cope.
“What I’ve seen with these young women specifically is that this kind of cultural construct we, or this mantra we have of, you know, all the women, independent, stand on your own two feet – which leads to all those great workshops that Jonetta talks about. They’ll give you all of these great things, self-worth, identity, financial literacy, all of these things to deal with all of the secondary manifestations. But to get to the pathology of where the pain hurts, where it starts, I don’t know what it is but that thing is off the table in our community. And this film is, what I’m trying to do, I think that really, if we start here a lot of this other things, you know, abusing your body with drugs, abusing your body with food, all those other workshops get put out of business if we deal with father absence and void vacancy at this juncture.”
Check out more of Morton and Jasmine’s interview on NPR here along with the trailer to his film below. What do you think about this doculogue?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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