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Longing for a Fathers Day Celebration:
Dominque Jones, Daughters Beyond Incarceration
For thirty-seven years I have longed for an opportunity to wake up and tell my dad, Happy Father's Day. This year, it is different. My father's life is in danger due to covid19. I cannot visit him. I cannot hug him and most importantly, he cannot hold his new twin grandkids- Jamar Jr., and Justice Charly (yes, I named my daughter after my dad). Father's Day 2020 is one for the books. My dad lost his first cousin, my godmother, and had to attend the funeral via cell phone and listen while I read the obituary. This in addition to the covid19 massacre has re-traumatized me and now my kids.
Charles Brown, Jr (60) was convicted in April of 1982, seven months before I was born. The only time I have ever seen my father outside of prison bars was at his father's funeral. As kids, we rarely think about our parent's feelings. It is impossible to shake now. You have to make sure they are in the right mental space to parent from prison, especially around Father's Day. You see, my father has always been strong to me. How else can a man spend his life behind bars knowing there is not any evidence that connects him to the crime he is charged for? How else can a man watch his kid and grandkids move on with their lives while he is serving a life sentence behind bars? This Father's Day must be the toughest.
Before covid19, I was able to visit with my father and he was able to see me carry my twins. He was there to hold my hand while trying to sit, and he was there to pick me up when trying to stand during visits. He was able to feel and see the little kicks from his grandkids. His smile was beautiful. Those moments help build his strength. When the twins were born, our country was quarantined and have not had our meet and greet.
Being the strong father that he is, he still reminded me of how strong I am and that now, more than ever, he needs me to be stronger. So, while some people are spending Father's Day celebrating with their family, we take time to send my father a thirty-second video gram which costs 2 stamps ($15 gets you 66 stamps). Even when he is faced with severe obstacles, he still manages to motivate me to be my best. I try my best to honor my father by modeling behavior that makes him proud because failure is not an option. I do that, by teaching girls in Louisiana with an incarcerated parent how to find their voices.
In May of 2018, I started Daughters Beyond Incarceration, a nonprofit that works to enhance the lives of girls impacted by parental incarceration. My business partner and I both experienced parental incarceration and now we work with over seventy girls to help them overcome the obstacles children face while their parent is incarcerated. I must admit, it is an amazing organization! My father enjoys hearing people congratulate him on having an amazing daughter. I enjoy meeting formerly incarcerated folks that tell me I have an amazing father!
This year, my Father's Day gift to my dad and all incarcerated dads in Louisiana is the passing of House Bill 729. House Bill 729 creates a council, housed within the Office of the Governor, to investigate, analyze, and propose comprehensive reforms for children of incarcerated parents. We celebrate the passing of HB 729 by the Louisiana Legislature and create a state council to examine the experiences of children of incarcerated parents or caregivers and to propose systemic reforms throughout the state in their interest.
This guest blog is part of the series: Missing Dad Incarceration and the Difficulty of Father’s Day. We invite you to follow the link to read all of the contributions in the series.