This past weekend, inside Denny Moe’s superstar barbershop in Harlem, New York, a bespectacled Judge Greg Mathis—host of the syndicated courtroom show, Judge Mathis—smiled big as he stood before a growing crowd of excited locals for the “Fatherhood Buzz: Safe and Successful School Year” event, which supports President Obama’s Fatherhood Initiative.
Mathis teamed up with the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) to not only support and provide resources for fathers, but to ensure a successful school year for their children. Mathis and HFRC director Kenneth Braswell hosted the campaign. “One of the biggest challenges in our community is the lack of father figures or involvement with our young people,” Mathis told ESSENCE.com. “I think one of the most valuable things we can do is help fathers become the type of men that children will look up to.” Mathis used the opportunity to present a lucky father, Edwin Mejia (pictured), with a $3,000 barber scholarship—an announcement met with praises from the growing Harlem crowd.
Addressing the packed shop, Mathis, a high school dropout who rose to become the youngest judge in Michigan’s history, spoke candidly about fatherlessness in the Black community. “I don’t want us to be confused, we weren’t born to be fatherless men,” he explained. “That’s not a gene that we carry, there are some root causes to that.”
Mathis referenced unemployment and being deprived economically as root causes. The father of four surely wasn’t making an excuse for absentee fathers. He encouraged them to combat these challenges by fighting back against any oppressive systems “prepare yourself with a skill and an education,” he said. Mathis also advised to find a way to fight back, “just as many of us find a way to survive on the street, use those same street smarts to try and survive within Corporate America, within government and within our education system.”
Mathis also reflected about the events in Ferguson. “I think justice will be served,” Mathis said confidently of the recent killing of Michael Brown in St. Louis, Missouri. “The attorney general, Eric Holder has assigned over 100 agents to that small town like that, they are going to come up with some justice there.” In the meantime the 54-year-old urged the community to continue to let their voices be heard “we need to keep the pressure on the justice system and every stage of government to make sure that they are held accountable for police misconduct.”
Season 16 of Judge Mathis premiered this past Monday, September 8. Check your local listings.