GREENSBORO — Their voices broke and some cried as girls discussed being fatherless during a community forum Saturday afternoon.
The group I Am a Queen and the International Civil Rights Center & Museum teamed up to present the Fatherless Daughter Community Forum, which is intended to bring fathers together to empower young girls. Six men took questions and discussed struggles girls and fathers face.
Shannon King, a board member for the nonprofit I Am a Queen, set the tone. She discussed her dysfunctional, abusive family — particularly her father.
King said she wanted her father to tell her she was his princess — his queen. But that never happened.
She witnessed his constant drinking. She saw him argue with and abuse her mother.
And when she was 13, he finally visited her, but it was to molest her, King said.
When she was 20, he killed her mother and himself.
She drank, did drugs and entered a relationship with an abusive man.
“He called me names, so this must be right,” King said. “I’m living what I’d been taught.”
And listeners had been there. too, she said.
“You might not have been everywhere in my story, but you’re somewhere in my story,” she told listeners.
Now 31, King said she still has issues. But she knows where her pain comes from.
The story is too common, said Bobby Patterson, one of the panelists and the owner of Slight Edge Business Consulting.
King is fortunate because she has “come through,” he said. She has been delivered from a tragic cycle.
“Deliverance is available, but you have to receive it,” Patterson said. “You don’t have to be stuck where you are.”
Fathers need to be the first person to tell daughters they are beautiful, he said.
And fathers have to be providers — more than just financially, according to panelist Christopher Woods. Woods, a pastor, said fathers have to provide love, support and protection.
“Sometimes we’re there to provide a shoulder to cry on,” he said.
Symone Perry, a junior at the Middle College at Bennett, said that when her father arrived in her life recently, it was a shock.
Perry, a client of I Am a Queen, which provides mentoring programs to help girls develop into leaders, asked panelists why she should forgive the man who abandoned her family.
The forgiveness isn’t only for him, they said.
“When you forgive, you get your power back,” Woods said.
And be prepared to ask difficult questions of your father, panelist Shawn Dulin said. There has to be a dialogue in which tough questions are asked.
He said they can ask those questions if they do it respectfully.
Many audience members wondered how to recognize if they were getting involved with a boy or man who might be misrepresenting himself.
Panelists said if girls want to meet the real person, find out what he does when she says, “No.”
“If they don’t talk about their family, that’s a red flag,” panelist Demetrius Brown said. “Don’t look for your father in that man.”
Dating is about collecting data, panelists said. Girls should ask the boys about their fathers, mothers and the rest of their families.
The process should be less about dating and more about courting, said James Penn Jr., a member of the audience. Girls should take the potential date to talk to a father figure in their lives.
“A lot of people want to rush into what they perceive as love,” Woods said. “Don’t rush it.”