Fathers Alive in the Hood (F.A.I.T.H.) is a community-based organization of fathers of color whose aim is to address the problem of gang and gun violence across New York’s five boroughs.
Kenny Carter, F.A.I.T.H.’s president and the father of a 10-year-old son, started the organization after a series of violent incidents in which he noticed a lackluster community response, particularly by black men.
The first incident was in August 2006 when a friend and beloved community member, Jason Tyson Smooth, was struck and killed by a bus.
“At his vigil, everybody got together on the block, they burned candles, they drank liquor, bust their bottles, you know, in his memory,” said Carter. “But my whole thing to them was, ‘What are you all doing for his kids? He has a daughter. This is over $600 of liquor and ain’t nobody give a dime to his kid, yet y’all talking about you love him and you miss him.’”
So Carter started an organization called The Shining, and began to raise money for his friend’s daughter. Local organizations donated money and food. He even was able to get the support of an executive at Washington Mutual Bank, who helped pool all of the money raised into a CD for the victim's daughter.
“I was like, this is the type of work we need to do. This is how we need to take care of each other.”
A few months later, when Sean Bell and two other men were shot fifty times by NYPD officers on the morning of Bell's wedding, Carter was outraged. He joined the crowds of people protesting police treatment of young black men.
But he noticed something again: “There were so many protests going on for days and days. But every other day, in the news, there were more stories of young black boys killed, but they were killing each other. And I was like, ‘Yo, ain’t nobody marching, ain’t nobody protesting about this.’ Nobody was saying anything about the black-on-black violence.”
A year passed, then another, and still the same thing: More violence, no community outcry. He felt it all tied back to the lack of positive male role models and community participation.
As a resident directly impacted by all of the violence, Carter felt he had to take another first step. So in 2010, he started Fathers Alive in the Hood, a coalition of community members, fathers and other organization leaders ready to do something about the violence in their neighborhoods.
He pulled in Taylonn Murphy, whose daughter Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy was killed during a gunfight on a basketball court in September 2011, as vice president of the F.A.I.T.H. Murphy then brought on Frank “Sha” Francois, who had lost his son in 2004 to gun violence, as well as called on several other men who had lost their children at hands of gun violence and who were ready to go to work.
“Our motto is ‘Enough of us killing us!’” said Murphy. “That’s pretty much our battlecry.”
In just one and a half years since its formation, F.A.I.T.H. has grown leaps and bounds, with members in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The men say they make regular visits to high-crime areas, pass out flyers, to build membership of people who are tired of the violence, want to get active and make a difference.
“We engage the parents on the streets; we invite them out,” said Carter. “We plead with them, If you do not condone what is going on in your community, come out with us. What, are you going to wait until one of your relatives are harmed before you do something to better your community?”
With a bullhorn in hand, the men of F.A.I.T.H. have been known to walk through Red Fern, Astoria and other housing projects yelling, “Wake Up! We’re Father’s Alive in the Hood! We’re Here! Join us to make change!”
The men meet regularly to help build a support network, counsel each other, reinforce the value of fatherhood, share information and learn how to be a conscious role model for other young men.
“We’re committed to showing the community that we can work together,” said Francois. “Egos are set aside. We stay on each other, we help each other and keep each other strong.”
“The uniqueness about F.A.I.T.H. is that you have regular community members, but you also have all these different organizations under this one umbrella, and a lot of the members are the founders and presidents of other organizations,” said Murphy, who grew up in Bed-Stuy. “So that’s the beauty too, because if you’re able to lead, you should be able to follow.”
According to Murphy, F.A.I.T.H. recently secured a contract with the D.O.E. to visit 68 schools in high crime areas of the Bronx to talk to the kids about the importance of education and becoming a conscious role model.
They also do vigils and walks in the community to pay homage to those who have been hurt or slain by violence.
Their next walk is on Saturday, June 21, at 383 Pulaski Street, in Bed-Stuy-- the building where in the leg two weeks ago during a gun fight. Beginning at 12:00 p.m., F.A.I.T.H. will lead a march down Lafayette Avenue, to Von King Park.
To learn more about Fathers Alive in the Hood, visit their Facebook page.