Sunday Reading: The State of The Family in America

            There comes a time when students, family members, and professionals must come together to discuss the problems that directly affect the family structure, and answer the question, What is the State of The Family in the 21st Century? On Thursday January 31st the Theta Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., brought these groups together in the annual panel discussion, State of The Black Family.

            Panelists included, Liane Robinson, a Senior Communications Major with a minor in Sociology, and the current music editor for CLE Magazine; Dr. Marcia T. Caton, educator who has served as an adjunct faculty member, full professor, and assistant dean at LaGuardia Community College, and Co-founder and President of the Caton Foundation; Malik Goodson, a proud father of a newborn baby girl, a member of Alpha, and Senior Project Manager for the Port Authority of NY and NJ; Jodi Cox, the Director of Campus Activities at STJ, and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Timothy Pettaway, a Finance Major, licensed insurance agent, and President of Haraya (The Pan-African Students’ Coalition); Sean Jefferson, Legal Studies major with a  minor in Sports Management, the President of the Theta Epsilon Chapter, and Treasurer for the STJ Chapter of NAACP.

Discussion questions tackled how domestic, community, and mainstream systems affect the family structure. One of the main problems that were raised during the discussion was the influence single parent homes have on the children within the family—specifically the lack of a father figure.

These are the conclusions that were agreed upon:

A child who grows without the influence of a strong family in his/her own home may walk with a disability that follows the child as he/she starts a family.  When the domestic family fails, the child looks towards the direct community for examples of a family—this includes the church/religion, educational system, and organizations the child is exposed to.  If the family structure is not quite present in these groups then the child looks toward mainstream for influence; this is the media, trends, entertainment, and dominant ideal depictions of family. If the media portrays fake and degraded family structures, or the dominant ideal structure is not something realistic to the child, then there grows a large disconnect between the ideal structure the child sees and who the child is. Cut off from these three systems of development, the child continues a path of dysfunction and plants these seeds of dysfunction in his/her family.

As the panelists noted, in order to destroy a strong group, one must attack the source of that strength.  Naturally if one divides a group, the group can be conquered.  The family that sticks together, undivided, can become a strong family. If only the parents, who are the strength of that family, stop dividing themselves.  Whether the issues are depression, financial instability, substance abuse, or boredom; the family must deal with these issues together, and overcome them. Condemnation, hate, condescension and neglect, will only exacerbate these issues, and cause splinters in the relationship.

Humbleness and strength in the face of struggle will heal a splintering home. These must be practiced adamantly.


Through wisdom and education—and not necessarily post-secondary education—but the wisdom and education that comes from relatives, friends, elders, experienced people, and community organizations. The family must constantly be in a state of education, where family members genuinely want to learn more about themselves and the structures around them. This must be sought out.

In today’s world, with women gaining more and more opportunities in the job market, which helps generate more household income, and the Obama’s setting the ideal family structure for Americans to follow, there is no reason Black, White, Spanish, Asian, Indian, Caribbean, and all other races in America cannot continuously succeed. In order to do so, the source of strength, the family, must remain resilient and intact.