My father, George Sazama, taught me about competing. He taught me that I should try for goals that many might think would be unattainable. My dad, who loved sports and was a good athlete, had five daughters and a son. No matter, he taught us all how to play baseball and keep score, we played flag football and we all knew how to shoot a basketball before Title IX. (For those who were in high school before 1972, women had limited opportunities to compete in sports.)
It was through my father and other male mentors that I was encouraged to take math and science in school, that I did stand-up comedy across the country when there was still only a handful of women performing, and that I started refereeing soccer (thanks to George Wolfberg’s support). It goes without saying that former Palisadian-Post editor Bill Bruns, who served as my mentor, helped me find my calling. He continues to guide me today.
Recently, I saw former NFL all-pro defensive end Marcellus Wiley on a FOX Sports show, “Speak for Yourself,” speak about the mission statement of Black Lives Matter. He asked how many people had actually gone to the site and read it.
Wiley said, “I did, and when you look at it, there’s a couple things that jump out to me.” He was particularly upset about its goal to “dismantle the patriarchy” and “disrupt the Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.”
I had not gone to the site, so I did. Part of the mission statement is: We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.
We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
Wiley further commented, “My family structure is vitally important to me. Not only the one I grew up in, but the one I’m trying to create right now. Being a father and a husband — that’s my mission in life right now. How do I reconcile that with what I just told you with this mission statement that says ‘We dismantle the patriarchal practice… we disrupt the Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement’?
Wiley said that growing up, he observed friends who didn’t have intact family structures and they “found themselves outside of their dreams and goals and aspirations.”
He cited data backing up his observations about children raised in a single-parent home: “[They] are five times more likely to commit suicide, six times more likely to be in poverty, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, 32 times more likely to run away from home.”
Wiley added, “I’m a black man who’s been black and my life has mattered since 1974 and this organization was founded in 2013, and I’m proud of you, but I’ve been fighting this fight for me and for others a lot longer.
“So, I understand and I respect your space, I respect what you’re protesting for, but will you respect others who don’t support the same protest?” he asked.
I had assumed that the founders of Black Lives Matter were mothers and fathers that had lost a child. I was wrong. None of the founders — Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors — have children.
This does not make the cause any less valiant, but it does remind all of us to go beyond slogans, no matter who says them. Thank you to Marcellus Wiley for his insight and thank you to my dad for helping my mom raise six children. And my husband for helping me raise our three children. Men and fathers matter.