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From the Hub City Newspaper…
EDITOR’S NOTE: After reaching out to every radio and television personality he could think of, coupled with non-profit organizations and community leaders with not a single response back, 36-year- old single father Daryl took one last gamble and sent a tweet to writer and columnist Jasmyne Cannick asking her for her email address. While it wasn’t easy for him to do, Daryl agreed to meet with Cannick and share his story paving the way for this special Thanksgiving story meant to shed a light on the help that is desperately needed and the hope that is fading.
Five years ago, Daryl could not have predicted that in 2010 he and his two sons ages nine and 13, would be living in a motel with plans to eat Thanksgiving dinner at the local Carrow’s Restaurant, courtesy of a gift certificate by way of sympathetic school counselor. But after being laid off from Home Depot in 2008, exhausting his available dis- ability monies, and unable to secure employment elsewhere, the single father of two, has found no other recourse or help for single fathers struggling to make it with children.
Daryl, a Gardena High graduate (‘93), who is a young man just 36-years-old, loves his two sons. So much so, that he’s been their primary caregiver almost all of their lives after taking their mother to court for custody when it became apparent that she wasn’t ready or pre- pared to raise two boys. Daryl didn’t want to leave to chance that his two sons would escape the harsh realities of life that await young Black males in South Los Angeles on every corner. He wanted better for his sons.
To say that sharing his story was hard to do would be an understatement according Daryl. He didn’t want a woe is me story. Daryl says that while his current situation is dire, when he became the primary parent for his two sons, he was employed, had an apartment, and the income necessary to raise his children.
But that is in better and more prosperous times when Daryl, who had enjoyed gainful employment, was working for Southwest Airlines as a ramp agent, a stable job he’d held for five years before eventually winding up at Home Depot in Gardena. But after a serious back injury, which took him off the floor as a display artist at Home Depot, a job he’d gotten through a contract- ed agency, he found himself on the receiving end of a pink slip when that company was bought out. It’s been downhill ever since.
If it was hard to find a job before the most recent economic depression, it’s practically impossible today, especially if you’re a Black male with a felony.
“I mean, what do you do,” Daryl questions. “If you don’t check the box and you are hired, it’s only until your back- ground check comes back and if you do check the box, the immediately discount you. I feel like it’s a lose-lose situation.”
Daryl is like thousands of other Black men and women who have served their time and paid their debt to society only to have the same system that incarcerated them, almost seemingly ensure they never work again and are forced back into a life of crime-therefore legitimizing the rate of recidivism but more importantly the taxpayer dollars used to fund it. Daryl refuses to be a statistic. He has not been in trouble with the law since acquiring his felony conviction and in better economic times earned a living for a time as longshoreman at the Port of Long Beach and a forklift operator for Sony’s warehouse in Carson.
But even though Daryl’s felony is more than ten-years- old, committed when he was 26 and considered to be a white- collar offense, it gives prospective employers the excuse they need to disqualify him from the applicant pool.
Today, after dropping his two sons off to school, he goes to the public library to access the Internet and browse local jobs to send his resume to. He has received no calls back. When the 14-day motel vouch- er given to Daryl by the county of Los Angeles was near to expiring, Daryl knew that he had to reach out for help-for the sake of his sons, who since moving to the motel, have not missed a day of school. With just $690 in aide from the County and $230 in California Fresh electronic benefits to feed them all, it’s become impossible to save money after paying $59 per night where they are currently staying.
To add to the frustration, Daryl says that as difficult as it is to ask for assistance in the first place, it’s devastating to be told over the phone that certain social services are available for women with children only.
“More and more fathers are raising their children,” Daryl explains. “It’s not unusual for the father to be the primary parent in a single household.”
And while that may true, the services and shelters who allow children, oftentimes are for women with children and not fathers. Daryl says that he was even turned down for assistant through the W.I.C. (Women, Infant, and Children) program even though he has two children he’s caring for, he’s not a female.
Daryl hopes that by sharing his story, he can shed a spotlight on the numerous flaws that make it almost impossible for fathers with children to take advantage of certain social services when they are the primary parent as well as the continued employment discrimination faced by well meaning ex-convicts try- ing to compete in the job marketplace.
“I’m aware of the stigma attached to people like me who have been convicted of a felony but that’s a small part of who I am. It was ten years ago and I accepted responsibility back then. But it seems like I am still being persecuted for the same crime over and over again every time I apply for a job. When I get turned down for a job it’s not just me that the employer is saying no to. They’re also telling my two sons no. No you can’t have a place to live. No you can’t have a fighting chance in life,” he said.
Daryl’s story is an all too familiar story in the Black community where according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, out of 316,229 inmates in 33 state prisons, 40 camps, and 12 community correctional facilities, 29% are Black, with a return rate as a parole violator up to 51%.
Blacks make up only 6% of the state’s total population.
However the similarities begin to differ with Daryl when you take into consideration that despite his current situation he has had no other run-ins with the law. Amazing, considering a newly released report by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that details California’s recidivism rate to be among the highest in the country at 67.5%. In the report, men between the ages of 18 and 19 are the most likely to reoffend, and mostly for stealing cars and for failing to regularly report in to a parole officer. Parole violations are the reason the majority of parolees return to prison.
The most important role to Daryl is being a father to his two sons who are considered gifted students. Interested in mathematics and science, when not in school both Daryl hone their artistic skills by sketching various designs.
Project Fatherhood, a Los Angeles based non-profit organization at Children’s Institute, Inc. that works to re-engage low-income fathers, particularly in urban settings, in the care and upbringing of their children. Through therapy, sup- port, parenting education and other services, Project Father- hood helps fathers learn to be more loving, responsible parents and active participants in their childrens lives and make it easier for fathers to care for their children.
Alan-Michael Graves, director of the Project Fatherhood Resource Center, has been actively involved in President Obama’s Responsible Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, part of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships that is bringing national aware- ness to the role and importance of fathers in their children’s lives. Through their work, they have identified that additional support is needed to assist fathers raising their children.
“The same resources made are available for mothers and children need to be available to fathers,” Graves explains.
“We need to ensure that government agencies, teachers, and doctors are educated on how to engage with fathers who are the primary parent. A lot of teachers and doctors are not used to engaging with father because our society is so used to mothers being the point of contact for children. But more and more fathers are taking an active role and there are teachers and health professionals who need professional development on how to effectively communicate and engage with them in the same manner that they would a mother,” he added. Daryl worries that if something doesn’t change soon, that they same system that once incarcerated him and is now seemingly punishing him for having gone to prison and being a single father, might try and take his children away. An all too familiar happening in Black families that is unwarranted and usually the result of some well-meaning but completely off-base teacher or other school professional.
Something Daryl is fighting to keep from happening.
But as it stands, there are no employment prospects in his immediate future and with the holidays here and his son’s 10th birthday approaching, it’s get- ting harder and harder for this single father to keep hope alive.
But Daryl says that he must for the future of his two sons.
“I just want to work and raise my children,” Daryl says. “I’m not looking for a handout. I just want to be able to earn a living and provide for my two sons.”
The writer would like to thank Daryl for allowing his story to be told in hopes of shedding light on this ongoing crisis in our community.
How to Get Involved
To date, $300 has been raised online to help Daryl and his sons find permanent housing and keep them off of the street.
To contribute to the fund for Daryl and his sons, please click below to make a secure donation online.
For those who would like to contact Daryl directly, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (310) 213-6132.