In 2011 the documentary “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” was released. Created by entertainment industry veteran Kobie Brown and featuring familiar faces such as gospel artist Kirk Franklin, Dr. Steve Perry, and Rev. DeForest B. Soaries, the film focuses on the cause and effect of fatherlessness in the black community and figuring out a remedy. Three years later, the film has gone above its documentary status and become a viral movement that has found success beyond the Father’s Day holiday. Kobie Brown took some time out to speak with UrbanFaith about the success of the documentary and movement.
A conversation with a Morehouse classmate lead you to create this documentary, what was the crux of that conversation?
“That was the last I saw of my father and the last I saw of those pants,” when my classmate pronounced that he received a pair of pants that his father promised to alter on his 6th birthday, and never seeing either again, a mission was established. That mission was to use film to raise the level of awareness and discussion around how we are creating families and developing as people.
How did you select the featured artists for this project?
While there were people who I picked up the phone and called based on personal relationships, Rev. Buster Soaries, Kirk Franklin, Dr. Steve Perry; I’d like to think all of the participants chose the film, and its numerous spin offs. They see it as an important topic. Additionally, as an independent filmmaker, it was God who used those relationships and others to connect the project with its necessary outlets. In many ways I was merely his co-pilot. I know what it means to be “used” for his purpose.
How did your relationship with your father influence you in the work you’ve done with the documentary and beyond?
I feel fortunate that my father and mother instilled in me a great sense of compassion and a connection to my community. An understanding that I belong to and have benefited from a legacy that existed before me, and will continue long after I am gone. Both have allowed me to find examples of Black men in particular; whether Nat Turner, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X or Dr. King, who have contributed to humanity as well as the race and community into which they were born. I try to apply this ideology to all that I do.
What are your views on faith and fatherhood?
Faith is the opposite of fear. My experience with faith has taught me not to be fearful; understanding that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Some experiences and struggles inform our perspective and prepare us for the future and the ways we invest our time and talents create a great future. My sense (I am not a father) is that many of the absent fathers and women who voluntarily choose to forego or deny a father’s involvement in a child’s life, have in common a certain absence of faith.
Many men are fearful of becoming fathers – some rightfully so – because they are not prepared, or have not had to engage their faith and trust in God in other areas of their life.
Many women make the decision to become mothers – often with men who are in no position to be good fathers – as a knee-jerk reaction resulting from an absence in faith that God will deliver the right type of man to them.
Some of this behavior is obviously learned, but at its core are a lack of examples of quality relationships involving a certain degree of faith.
This documentary has circulated for three years and it doesn’t seem to be losing any steam, did you intend for this to be timeless and viral in the way that it is now?
The project’s ability to grow from a 9-minute clip into a feature documentary film that has aired on Aspire & OWN speaks to the dearth of media content around something that, whether good or bad, all people can relate to; the relationship between father & child. The goal is to continue to grow the brand and spread the message in a way that makes us all a bit more aware and committed to the development of healthy families, relationship and communities. Much of the dysfunction, poverty and pain we see in the world (racism, sexism, ageism) stems from failed relationships. From Fatherless to Fatherhood is just one piece of The KObie Chronicle’s overall objective to restore a culture of healthy relationships.
What are some of the lessons you learned during the making of the documentary that you still refer to now?
If you build it, they will come. As it relates to the creative process I’ve learned the importance of making sure you’re creating a product that will serve more people than you can ever possibly meet. As for fatherhood, I’ve grown a greater appreciation for the need for examples and an understanding that we must inspire one another to become better people.
There is an institutional version and a full-cut version, what are the responses you are getting from both?
The institutional version is intended for churches, schools, prisons and organizations. It’s 42 minutes long and is used as part of town-hall events. There’s a set of core questions to accompany that version and it’s been used by those such as Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago; Morehouse and Spelman College; the Eagle Academy Foundation and others. The full film is 82-minutes long and both speak for themselves.
Is there a particular response(s) to the film that has resonated with you—whether it be from someone from one of the institutional screenings, a testimonial someone has sent, etc?
There’s profundity in the shortest of responses. In particular, a gentlemen approached me after a screening in Charlotte, NC. He didn’t appear to be conservative or fit the mold of a traditional dad. His comment, “I’m about to call my kids and tell them how much I love them”. It was that statement that affirmed that genuine fatherhood isn’t about appearances, money or level of education. It’s predicated upon genuine love and sense of purpose.