Written & photographed by Cesca Janece Waterfield
For LeMar Bowers, fatherhood is the heart of happy families and society. LeMar is Program Coordinator for First Things First, and helps lead innovative workshops for expectant fathers called “Boot Camp for New Dads.” Since launching, First Things First has held 35 Boot Camps and trained more than 450 new dads. The Camps are led by other dads, who at one time experienced the same excitement and apprehension. The focus is on early intervention to prevent the kind of problems that occur disproportionately in Richmond: The number of babies born to unmarried women in Richmond outranks both the national and state average. Nationally, the marriage rate among African Americans has been declining fast for more than forty years and reached an all time low in 2000, when it dipped to 28 percent.
Yet evidence consistently shows that a healthy marriage positively impacts individuals and communities. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, married women and their children are less likely to experience poverty. Children with married parents perform better in school, and are less likely to be victims of violent crime or get pregnant themselves. Married men earn more while fathers enjoy higher self esteem.
With wife Melanie, LeMar is also the father of Keziah, Joel, and Izaiah, ages 2, 8, and 9. “Strengthening the family is right at the core of addressing the social issues in our society,” LeMar says. “That’s what it’s all about.”