Today, some 64 percent of African-American children live in single-family homes in Georgia.
The same is true of just 24 percent of white children and 39 percent of Hispanic children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and National Kids Count.
Dr. Gregory Farngalo and his wife Deborah Farngalo want to see fathers more involved, an issue that has gotten attention nationally thanks in part to President Barack Obama speaking about it.
The Farngalos are founders of Restoration Breakthrough Ministries in Gainesville, an organization Deborah Farngalo founded 15 years ago to help local residents create a better future for themselves.
“We really focus on reaching out and helping people better themselves more than just trying to teach them about the Bible,” Deborah Farngalo said. “We use the Bible as a guideline to help them better serve here at home on earth.”
Gregory Farngalo, who was born in Liberia and later paid his way to the U.S. for college, has taught special education in Georgia schools for more than two decades. He said he regularly sees children suffering in school because of problems at home.
“What saddens me is that when the wife loses everything, I see too many crimes,” he said. “Studies have shown that because of a lack of male presence, children suffer from symptoms of abandonment and rejection.”
Learning ‘how to be a man’
Fathers Inc. is an organization based in Atlanta dedicated to increasing responsible fatherhood, particularly in the African-American community. Executive director Kenneth Braswell said fathers play a critical role in their sons’ lives.
“We learn the intimacies of how to be a man from our fathers,” Braswell said. “Whether it is a successful and healthy one or a dysfunctional and unhealthy one, we still learn how to be men from the men in our lives, for good or bad.”
Gregory Farngalo said his own father was an educator and taught him those values.
“Because of him I wanted an education after high school and valued my education,” said Farngalo, who now holds five degrees.
“I tell people, ‘They can take away your house and your cars, but they cannot take away your knowledge,’” he said.
His son from a prior marriage, Zuri Farngalo, followed in his footsteps, and recently graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree.
“I see my son, and my desire is to see more young men like him with a desire to graduate high school, graduate college, move out and stay out of the system,” he said.
He also said most students he sees in special education are African-American males, and their learning or behavioral issues reflect directly back onto their fathers.
“They have behavioral disorder, educational behavioral disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder,” he said. “Because of the absence of their fathers, these children are venting their anger through aggression. It’s plainly displayed in the schools.”
Parents have to lead by example, according to Deborah Farngalo, who founded Restoration Breakthrough Ministries shortly before meeting her husband. She said she believes children today suffer because they have little or no respect for authority.
Braswell agreed with Deborah Farngalo, saying boys must have male role models to emulate.
“If we want to ensure boys carry on a certain legacy, we must ensure a certain kind of men are in their lives — men who respect women, men who have compassion and sympathy and empathy for those less fortunate for them, and men who understand the importance of protecting and providing for their children and their families.”
Gregory Farngalo said he believes children are also affected by today’s technological, fast-paced society.
“Children today don’t believe in delayed gratification,” Gregory Farngalo said. “They want the cellphone, the iPad, the sneakers. And they’re not willing to wait, to go to school, to get a degree, to get a job, to earn that. They want it immediately.”
Gregory Farngalo said he believes young people today are given the things they want too easily. Simple practices like learning to wait for a paycheck or working hard for good grades aren’t valued anymore, he said.
But the children who are willing to do these things and see an example of it in their fathers are more likely to succeed in the future, he said.
“Children who are getting an education are in pursuit of something,” he said.
The solution: Save Our Sons
On Feb. 6, the Farngalos were hosts of the first Save Our Sons Night in Gainesville. The event was spearheaded by Fathers Inc. nationwide.
“They asked for groups of people such as religious leaders, preachers, mentors, to step up to the plate,” Deborah Farngalo said. “They sent out a nationwide calling asking people to host an event in local areas that could make a difference, and Dr. Gregory has such a passion for helping young boys anyway so we thought, ‘You know, this is a good thing to do here, especially in Hall County.’”
The purpose of the event was to bring concerned men forward who could provide words of encouragement to their sons and other African-American boys in the community.
Braswell said he was overwhelmingly surprised by the participation nationwide in the event. More than 110 organizations held a Save Our Sons Night, he said.
“The idea came from me watching what was taking place around the country with Ferguson (Mo.) and Michael Brown, Staten Island, Chicago and other places,” he said. “Knowing from an organizational and programmatic mission, that we weren’t going to march in the streets. Instead, I asked myself, ‘What can I do to help the image of black boys around this country?’”
Braswell said he wanted to recognize, support and encourage the African-American fathers and sons around the country who are doing the right thing.
“I wanted to give another narrative to that story,” he said.
The Gainesville event was small, but the Farngalos already have plans to make next year’s bigger.
This May, they will also host Save Our Daughters Night, which will again invite men in the community with their daughters, stepdaughters, nieces and granddaughters.
Gregory Farngalo said they believe everyone is given a life with purpose and no one is on earth just to exist.
The key to helping boys and girls today become strong men and women in the future, Deborah Farngalo said, is providing an environment in which they can succeed and giving them role models to admire.
Men in Hall County need to be there for their sons, she said.
“We’ve got to put our feet on the ground,” she said. “We’ve got to go out, we’ve got to knock on some doors and we’ve got to say, ‘This is what we’re doing and we’d like you to allow us to help you help your son.’”