In this installment of Our Stories, young father, Kevin Harris talks fatherhood and delves into how his organization offers support to young fathers in Jamaica. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Meet Kevin Harris – Founder of Prevailing Fathers
Fatherhood comes with loads of twists and turns and Kevin Harris certainly isn’t backing down from these challenges despite becoming a father at an early age. Kevin grew up without much of his father’s influence and has also observed how devastating the consequences of fatherlessness are. In an effort to effect change, he founded Prevailing Fathers, an organization which seeks to empower fathers and highlight those who are setting real examples for their children and for others.
- What was life like growing up?
Life was challenging while growing up due to the fact that my mother was the one who was the primary caregiver and supporter for my younger brother and I. She would bend backwards to ensure that we were well fed, taken care of and wore bright shimmering smiles on our faces. Below the age of 15, I watched her go beyond the call of duty and even fulfilling the role my father left blank because he was away. At that age, I was susceptible to crime, violence, and alcoholism and drug abuse not having a father figure to help to mold me into a positive product of society.
- Wow! What role did your father play in your life, if any at all?
Well, on frequent conversations via phone I must commend him for encouraging me to be independent and treating women as queens because I came from one.
- Apart from phone conversations, was he physically present in your life?
Honestly, my father was quite scarce during my childhood years. Though we would speak on the phone on a few occasions, the physical father figure I needed; being susceptible to all the wiles that had existed, was not there. Drugs began to look enticing and alcohol now became my new muse. Hence, conversations on the phone were not adequate to steer me aright.
- At what age did you become a father?
At the age of 21.
- Wow! At 21, fatherhood must have come as a surprise, did it?
Learning that I was going to become a father at 21 was bittersweet. Bitter because I was afraid I’d get caught up with fulfilling financial duties and becoming a slave to my job without [having] enough time for him and make the same mistake my father did. Sweet because I couldn’t wait to do all the things that my dad didn’t do and the things that I longed for like for him to have spent time with me, hugged me, showed me what love felt like, made a safe environment to take down the bravado of toughness and roughness and just be the real me; not what society has predestined me to be.
- Describe the relationship you shared with the mother of your child.
She is truly the apple of my eyes. Our relationship has been strengthened significantly since Legend came into our lives. Though we are young, she has truly epitomized Proverbs 31. I praise her for remaining steadfast and have also helped to mold the man and father that I’ve become and am growing into day by day. All relationships including ours get rocked but together we’ve managed to steer the ship aright for Legend and ourselves.
- Seems you’re a great father and partner! Can you highlight what Jamaican fathers are doing well?
To the ones who are present in their children’s lives; working tirelessly to ensure the basic amenities; food, clothing, shelter are provided, teaching life lessons such as reverence for God, having a deep level of Respect for God who created them, excellence, not settling for mediocrity but aim for the Utmost Highest, discipline, displaying consistency, perseverance even when one stumbles upon defeat; working assiduously until the desired outcome is achieved. There are fathers instilling these lessons in the lives of their children day by day and they are also what Prevailing Fathers seek to highlight and encourage other fathers to emulate.
- Fascinating! What do you think the Jamaican fathers are lacking?
To be honest, the fathers in Jamaica are lacking the dedication required to mold children for the future; the dedication to stick by them when the world turns their backs. The time which should be used for spending quality time with children is being invested into parties or work and other time-stealing endeavours. The commitment is lacking too, hence we see whenever Mother’s Day comes around it is always the mothers who are highlighted the more because they go above and beyond the call of duty especially in the field of commitment, unlike the fathers.
9. Such keen observations! What year did Prevailing Fathers begin and why did you start the Organization?
Prevailing Fathers officially began in the year 2018 and I started the organization because well, I recognized that a significant fraction of crime and violence was invoked by teenage boys who, upon research, I found had little to no father figure influence in their lives. Prevailing Fathers aims to re-socialize fathers and the male species on a whole to take a paradigm shift from ‘machoism’ to actually getting in tune with feelings and how to channel all that energy to make a positive impact in not only the lives of their children but others. Not only is it geared at strengthening the father’s impact but to highlight and commend the dads who are actually doing a great job.
10. What are some of the activities that Prevailing Fathers carry out?
Prevailing Fathers has carried out a few projects like community talks with fathers where we try to come up with suggestions as to how to be better fathers and encourage those who are falling back in their role to step up to the plate. We’ve also partnered with youth clubs and community development centers to put on fun days and sports competitions (where talks with the males are kept) geared at bringing the community together.
11. Sounds great, Kev! What makes Prevailing Fathers different from other organizations?
Prevailing Fathers seeks to transform those dads who have become negligent and absent into ‘Number One Dads’. Its mission is to not only attract but to keep the fathers engaged and willing to learn new and fun techniques on parenthood and becoming a better well-rounded individual whether it be in fatherhood, ‘husbandhood’ or otherwise.
12. Excellent! Where do you see Prevailing Fathers two to three years from now?
I see myself as the renowned motivational speaker I had always wanted to be, travelling, getting people to believe in themselves and achieve their dreams. I see my family expanding of course and Prevailing Fathers will be reaching much wider audiences with more involved and engaged fathers to the point of even seeing a 10% reduction in matrifocality and violence will be present due to the patriarchal figures assuming and carrying out their roles in a positive manner.
13. You spoke quite a bit about matrifocality. What is your concern about matrifocality and raising children?
The Famous Jamaican phrase ‘One hand can’t clap’ speaks volumes to the fact that one parent, the mother, in particular, may be unable to manage all the duties of child-rearing. Though some children have turned out fine with only the mother. Statistics have shown that crime and violence perpetrators are products of homes with only mothers whose lives were characterized by poverty. Unfortunately, stereotypes, in this case, prove true. Given that there was a male figure, setting positive examples in these persons’ lives, perhaps the results would be more favourable. This is one of the many wrongs Prevailing Fathers aims to make right.
14. For those fathers who are at a standstill and don’t know how to contribute positively to their child’s life because they did not get the attention and love they needed from their fathers. What is your word of advice for them?
My word of advice is [to] stop, go back to your memories and remember what you wanted your dad to do for you; what you wanted him to be for you and with that same memory, do the same and be the very same for your child because the person may change but the need remains the same.
We are so grateful to you for taking the time out to share your passion and aspirations with us Mr. Harris!