Raised in East Orange, New Jersey, Kobie Brown was instilled with a strong sense of community and purpose. Raised by a mother who was an educator and artist, and his father, a financial analyst who spent his younger years as a member of SNCC (Student’s Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Kobie learned early on that the talents and gifts that he was given should be used to impact and change the world.
Brown formed bonds with local New Jersey hip-hop stars including Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature and The Fugees. While studying English at Morehouse College, he parlayed his relationships into a job working at Flavor Unit Records and Management with Queen Latifah and her business partner, Shakim Compere where he was involved in everything from marketing to producer management and A&R. After leaving Flavor Unit, Kobie went on to work with the legendary musical duo, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis before returning to school to complete his studies and eventually continuing his career as a music executive at Jive Records.
Brown’s love for film comes from the potential of marrying the elements of narrative, music, and motion picture. But more importantly, it comes from his upbringing and understanding that “God has gifted each of us with unique talents and resources that should be used to breed ideas, opportunity, success, comfort and life that advance community and humanity.”
The path to his first documentary, Fatherless to Fatherhood, began in the summer of 2008 when Brown began to toy with the idea of compiling a book of testimonials from friends and associates. His first interview was with a Morehouse college classmate. As the discussion turned to fatherhood and his friend gave his recollection of the pain resulting from his absent father’s shortcomings, Brown began to consider the pervasiveness of father absence and its socioeconomic and emotional implications. It was then that Kobie realized that a documentary film might be an effective way to address the challenges that many face, but most have the tendency to ignore.
Here, in his own words, Kobie explains what inspired From Fatherless to Fatherhood and what he hopes to accomplish with the film:
“This film was inspired by what I have seen and experienced, during my journey from a child to man. I believe who we are, the lives we lead day-to- day, the opportunities that we have and all that we have is largely, determined by where and how we were raised.
I was raised by two wonderful parents, who not only worked hard every day, but were active in the Civil Rights movement; strong advocates for higher education; self awareness; and, personal responsibility. After encouraging me to attend Morehouse College, they also supported my dreams, including my desire to temporarily withdraw from school to join Flavor Unit Records and Management during my junior year.
What I discovered along the way was that my two supportive African-American parents were the exception and not the norm. In fact, I learned that upwards of 72% of Black children– including many of my own friends –are born to single mothers and grow up without a solid or stable relationship with their fathers. For me, this film was a labor of love designed to explore the journey of manhood, especially the importance of taking personal responsibility in general, but as a father in particular. Mainly, the film is a positive story about the significant role a positive male figure is in the life of a child and a young adult.
I’d like to accomplish several things with this film. The first is to encourage boys and girls who are growing up without their fathers. Growing up without your dad doesn’t make you inferior, or mean that you are trapped or defined by your current circumstances. This film also encourages single mothers and other adults raising fatherless children to put their sons and daughters in settings where they are around positive men who provide examples of quality living that will be learned through observation and repetition. Additionally, From Fatherless to Fatherhood offers absent dads examples of identifiable men, their peers, who are active in the lives of their children, to the point that an absent father will hopefully realize that whether he has been absent for ten days or ten years, he can start being a father today; and that whenever he starts, it matters.
Every week social media is set ablaze with comments and discussions about reality shows, most of them centered on Black men and women behaving as if they hate themselves and one another. People may not like when I say this, but that fact can not be denied. At the center of this film are Black people who are doing the complete opposite. The greatest effect that I want this film to have is for people to engage in conversations, followed by action around the importance of quality manhood and fatherhood.
Breaking the cycle of fractured families must be led by men, like those in the film, who provide examples of what it means to love and rear their children. Because here’s the point: to the extent that men become better fathers, children will do better in schools that aim to serve them; children will feel better about themselves and will be better prepared for productive lives; fewer children will become entangled in the criminal justice system, meaning that fewer of our people will go to jail; more children grow up to create healthier unions; we stabilize the economics and safety of all neighborhoods, and lastly, we increase the talent pool for American industry.
Responsible men and fathers play an invaluable role in advancing and shaping their children, communities and humanity.