[INTERVIEW] Kenneth Braswell Uses Local Barbershops to Change the Buzz About Fatherhood

Kenneth Braswell

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come I can’t do it?”  

We know that he’s the President but the challenge is here’s the busiest man in the world and he still makes time. You don’t need a whole lot of money to be a good day. Support and money is necessary but in the end children want presence. So the message is take time to be a dad today. So I think that for these fathers, they learn so much more from President Obama as a model than what they hear him say. That is the transcending model from the lowest levels to the highest levels we find something we can relate to in him, whether it’s being fatherless or growing up with dysfunctional family members, we can find a space in his life that allows us to be able to connect with who he is and feel like we can do what he’s done too – if you’re in the midst of the right support and services, which is what we’re trying to provide.

EBONY: You’re a father of four yourself, and like you said, have been working with men and fathers for over twenty years. What made you want to get involved with fathers at this level?

KB:  Well, I always say I’m the director of this program and a client.  I had a very bad relationship with my first child’s mother and became estranged from my child as a result of that. But it was when I had my second child where it came to me that parenting and co-parenting should not be this hard or this stressful. So I made a pact with myself and with my God and I said I’m going to do everything I can to be a good dad and there for my children.

A year and a half after my second daughter was born, her mother and I broke up, but my attitude at that point had taken a 180-degree turn. I said to her “I will never give you a baby daddy drama story that you can sit in the midst of your girlfriends and talk negatively about me.”

It was my driving force and in the midst of that statement, as we were going through custody of our child, I was sitting in the court and [my child’s mother] was sitting on the other side and our daughter was running back and forth between us and she didn’t really understand where her loyalties lie and I saw other kids in the court doing the same thing and I just thought, “this has to stop.”  [At one point] I was on a couch contemplating ending my life and while I was sitting there God just gave me a message, “Your mission and purpose in life is to speak to the hearts of men.” That was in 2004, and today the story continues.

EBONY: How where you able to heal and turn away from the thoughts that had you contemplating ending your life?

KB: You know, I think my daughter at the time was probably my saving grace. Because as much as I can contemplate me not being here, there was one thing I couldn’t stand the thought of, and that was my daughter being here without me. So fortunately, that feeling was stronger than my feelings about myself. I’ve always loved my children more than myself and that’s the key.

I tell my guys when I talk about the difficulties of being a co-parent, [my first daughter’s mother and I] we were at each others’ throats for more than 4 or 5 years. We couldn’t even speak to each other cordially. Today, our relationship is one of the best relationships that I can describe. When we talk to each other now, we’re laughing and joking to the extent that when I just got married a year and a half ago, she came to my wedding. I have a picture from my wedding where my current wife and her were actually talking together and hugging in the middle of the church and I was just watching them with tears in my eyes. My pastor saw it too and came up to me she just said, “Wow. Wow. You don’t see that every day.” But I worked very hard for that.

EBONY: That is awesome. So the key, you said, is loving your children more than yourself. What other tips can fathers take to get along better with the mothers of their children?

KB: You have to walk it out every day. You have to be mindful of the fact that the best thing you can give your child is a healthy relationship with that child’s mother. It has to be healthy nurturing and loving, no matter if you’re married, separated, divorced or broken-up. You have to show you respect that child’s mother regardless of how you