How does your family celebrate Father’s Day? Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice spoke with dads about the day, spending time with loved ones and the importance of fatherhood in a growing and diverse country.
When Gepao Moua celebrates Father’s Day on June 16, there will be plates of Larb – a Laotian dish of minced meat infused with fish sauce, lime and cilantro – as well as pizza and hot dogs at his relative’s potluck in Fresno.
Angel Galvez of Tucson might head to his mom’s house with his teenage son for a three-generation family day and a home-cooked meal of chili.
DaVonte Poole has no grand celebration planned, other than spending quality time in Chicago with his 6-year-old and 4-month-old daughters.
In the Orlando area, Ewan Wolff and his husband are thinking about taking their kids to a park or museum.
The United States is home to more than 72 million fathers – 1 out of every 5 people in the country. This Father’s Day will be commemorated in a variety of ways, as the definition of family expands in a growing and diverse country.
For some families, the holiday will be painful because of immigration-related detentions, deportations and the plight of mass incarceration. Some immigration-reform advocates in Florida are planning rallies on June 16 to say that families belong together.
Some parents are living apart from their children, making it difficult to be together in person. And some grandparents are guardians of their grandchildren.
But Father’s Day can still remind us of how and why we should support dads and families during the other 364 days of the year, said Sheldon Smith, executive director of The Dovetail Project which offers parenting and life-skills classes.
“Fathers are role models for our children,” said Smith, a 30-year-old parent who founded the Chicago-based organization. “If we don’t support [dads] … what does that mean? We should clap for dads every day.”
From coast to coast, other dads echoed similar sentiments. Equal Voice News spoke to four dads about how they’ll celebrate Father’s Day.
Fresno, California: A Hmong American Celebration
Gepao Moua, a refugee father of five children, expects about eight families – totaling as many as 80 people – at his uncle’s Father’s Day potluck in Fresno. California’s Central Valley is home to many Hmong Americans from Laos who earn a living as farmers.
For years, the 55-year-old was separated from his family, who moved to the United States. Moua remained in Laos to work.
In the 1970s, his father worked for the CIA, fighting against communist forces in Laos. That conflict, known as the “Secret War,” also involved operations in North Vietnam.
Working for the U.S. government enabled the family to leave Asia. His father also escaped persecution by communist forces in Laos.
“My father was a soldier whose duty was to be responsible,” Moua said, speaking in Hmong. “Now, in whatever role I have, I am committed to finishing it and doing it successfully.”
Moua’s words were interpreted by Porchoua Her from The Fresno Center, an organization that works primarily with Southeast Asian refugees and Latino families on community empowerment and self-sufficiency issues. Her, a program coordinator, helped Moua and his family apply to become U.S. citizens.
Moua and his wife run a store selling cosmetics and small gifts. They also work as tailors.
Moua said some of his greatest joys as a father are small things: Taking his three daughters and two sons – ranging in ages from 6 to 16 – to school or running errands for his family.
“Kids bring you happiness,” he said. “You’re helping them become successful. The things you didn’t get to do, now, you’re helping your kids do.”
His father passed away in 2005 when Moua was in Laos. On Father’s Day, as Moua does every year, he will take a bouquet of flowers to his dad’s gravesite.
Tucson, Arizona: A Father and a Teen
Angel Galvez, 45, has a 15-year-old son who is already as tall as he is. The two enjoy spending time watching movies, and Galvez tries to impart life lessons during those moments: “Stay in school. Respect women. Become something in life.”
When his son is not home, Galvez worries about the teen’s safety: “I just like him being around. I like listening to his voice.”
Galvez is Native American and a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. He is taking a class at the Tucson Indian Center that provides walking tours of the Southwest city, and instructors remind participants of the importance of exercise and healthy eating.
When opportunities arise, Galvez enjoys working outside on landscaping jobs. He also is learning life lessons from his son.
“He is really friendly with a lot of people,” Galvez said. “I like to keep to myself. He makes me think about myself.”
For Father’s Day, Galvez offers these insights for other dads: “Learn from your kids. They’ll teach you something. You just have to be patient and listen.”
Chicago, Illinois: A Fatherhood Initiative Thrives
In 2017, DaVonte Poole was riding Chicago’s red-line subway when he spotted a flier for The Dovetail Project, which offers parenting classes for dads. He thought someone at the office might understand his life, and he called the phone number.
“You rarely hear of a fatherhood initiative,” said Poole, 27, who lives on the East Side of Chicago. “That resonated with me. It was operated by African American men, a majority who are single fathers, whom I could relate to.”
He added: “I knew I wanted to become a better man and a better father for my daughter.”
He completed The Dovetail Project’s eight-week course for fathers that year. He learned life and parenting skills, and he gained a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system.
He built such strong bonds with his classmates that they remain in contact. “We knew that we wanted to stand for something greater,” said Poole, who now speaks to young fathers in Dovetail Project classes.
His job as a banker keeps him busy. “I cherish every minute I can be with my daughters,” he said. “My legacy is to leave two amazing women on this Earth who will have an impact.”
Since The Dovetail Project started in 2009, the program has graduated nearly 480 fathers between the ages of 17 and 24. Many of these fathers’ own dads were not always present in their lives.
That was the case for Poole, who at the age of 18 had the opportunity to reconnect with his father.
“I received the closure that I needed as a man,” Poole said. “I asked questions that I needed answered. He gave me a lot of wisdom about being a man and being a father.”
Young fathers enroll in The Dovetail Project because they want to learn. One U.S. government report released in 2013 showed that many African American fathers have a high level of engagement with their children.
“Parenting is a lifetime job,” said Sheldon Smith, who has a 10-year-old daughter and started The Dovetail Project.
Orlando area, Florida: A Family Enjoys Freedom
For Ewan Wolff, his husband and their children, June 16 will likely start with breakfast at a favorite café in the Orlando area.
After that, they might head to a museum or park and enjoy the freedom of being a family. Their two children are young enough that the dads don’t expect any gifts besides Father’s Day cards.
Wolff, 39, is genderqueer. His husband is transgender. The two have been married for 17 years, and they’ve been a couple for more than two decades. One of their two children is non-binary.
“We’re just people,” Wolff said. “We joke about the fact that our gay agenda means that we get the lawn mowed and the dishes done. Our agenda is taking care of our kids and making sure they have a good education and live in a happy home.”
While Father’s Day brings happiness, teachable moments about parenting have surfaced in past years. One included letting his children’s school know there is no need to send a Mother’s Day card home for his husband.
Wolff, a veterinarian, is interested in expanding his support of social justice. That might lead him to volunteer with The National LGBTQ Task Force, which has offices in Washington, D.C., New York City and Miami Beach. A longtime friend works for the organization, which supports equality, justice and freedom for the LGBTQ community.
“It’s important to be the people we are and not the people that others want us to be,” Wolff said. “That makes us better parents. Our focus is on making sure that our kids understand the difference between right and wrong.”
Brad Wong is communications manager at Marguerite Casey Foundation. He has written about the Earned Income Tax Credit, voting rights in Florida and rural organizing in North Carolina. Equal Voice is Marguerite Casey Foundation’s publication featuring stories of America’s families creating social change. With Equal Voice, we challenge how people think and talk about poverty in America. All original and contracted content specifically created for Equal Voice can be reproduced for free, as long as proper credit and a link to our homepage are included.