There is an Allstate Insurance TV commercial that makes me want to scream. A black man is shown giving up the keys to his sports car, attending a father-baby gathering, sitting in the basement with his wife and two kids and later shopping for a minivan at a dealership. And all the while he looks miserable.
"Parenthood isn't going to change me," the voice-over says. "I'll still see the guys every weekend and rock out in the basement. Please. It's not like I'm going to get a minivan."
The announcer says, "Life can surprise you."
The commercial is titled "King of the Castle," and it is all about the man having to give up things he loves because he is now a husband and father.
I can't help but wonder why the man wasn't focused on the good he had gained instead of what he had lost.
After speaking with the men who are promoting the Save Our Sons Night in Lexington on Feb. 6, I realized that image of a miserable family man is what David Cozart, Frank X Walker and Patrick Mitchell want to wipe out.
Those men have put together a program meant to empower young boys and the men in their lives to show how important those relationships are. Being a parent is challenging, no doubt. You have to sacrifice a lot, no doubt. But what parents or caring adults give up isn't as profound as what young people gain.
That should bring us joy, not misery.
Save Our Sons Night is part of a national movement started by Fathers Incorporated, a non-profit corporation based in Atlanta, that promotes responsible fatherhood.
Cozart, director of Fayette County Fatherhood Initiative, said the event emerged from the national outcry and grief stemming from the recent controversial deaths of black men.
"After the ink has dried on the court documents and the protests have ended and the banners are gone, what then?" Cozart said.
In Lexington, he said, Save Our Sons should be the start of something much bigger, more meaningful and longer lasting. He foresees the start of monthly or bimonthly meetings with individuals and organizations so that the coalition will be "perpetually poised to protect and respond as opposed to what sometimes could be knee-jerk protest and react."
"When we have our stuff together," he said, "we will be informed of what others are doing and we will be sharing resources and networks."
Mitchell, a photographer and actor who co-founded Message Theatre, said he joined Cozart and Walker in the event because he wants the evening to be a catalyst for ongoing programs that engage young men, fathers and families.
"Young men are becoming an endangered species," he said. "Walk-away fathers are becoming contagious. We need to address the reasons specifically."
Mitchell will perform a monologue that evening and will be "speaking about my role as a father, and actor and being back in Lexington."
The program, at William Wells Brown Community Center, will start with a reception at 6:30 p.m.; speakers will begin at 7 p.m. They include members of Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence, a short public service announcement created by students at the Richard Wright Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., a performance by hip-hop artists and community activist Devine Carama, and Walker.
"We are trying to build a new way to organize what already exists," Walker said. "In Lexington, one of the weaknesses is that so many times the left and right hands don't know what the other is doing."
"If we are all on the same page, we can do more together and have more of an impact," Walker said.
One idea could be to build a master calendar so that individuals can have a greater chance to participate in trips to theater productions or museums with young boys. Tight family budgets prohibit those outings sometimes, Walker said.
But traveling is essential. "If you never leave home, you are kind of in a prison," he said. "I'd like to see a large number of young black men in public doing something that is not connected to sports."
The three men cautioned that the Feb. 6 event is not the final product. It is simply the launch of what could become a bridge to help groups communicate better.
"If we are all here in the same space, that's another feather in our cap," Walker said. "Lord knows we need more feathers."
Cozart agreed. "Advocacy and keeping issues before folks is very important," he said. "It doesn't take but five to 10 of us black men to be in one place in unity to draw some attention. If it is not a football game or a fight, then people will start asking what is going on."
A lot of people should be asking that on Feb. 6 and after.