United We Father looks for community 

United We Father started in 2021 with four fathers in Newberry.
United We Father started in 2021 with four fathers in Newberry.
Courtesy of United We Father

In fall of 2021, four fathers sat in a booth at Stone House Neighborhood Grill. Each had concerns for the state of discipline, family, and neighborliness in modern society. Specifically, they were concerned for their own children, growing up in a culture where bullying slipped by unnoticed because families did not live in community. 

The men felt that the boys they were working within camps and schools were getting out of control and needed more guidance from men in their lives. 

“If I had time in the day, I’d put together a group,” Newberry City Commissioner Tony Mazon remembers Mayor Jordan Marlowe saying. 

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Marlowe, who is also a teacher at Newberry High School, said the hours in his day were packed full, but his words resounded with Mazon and the others at the table. 

Mazon said Marlowe mentioned the idea of something like a “fathers united” group. 

“We were thinking the same thing,” Mazon said, “which is crazy, and then we came down, sat, and he spit it out.” 

Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon riding on a fire truck.
Photo by Suzette Cook Newberry City Commissioner Tony Mazon.

Two years later, the group has grown to 52 men who want to bring fatherly presence into the schools and community around Newberry. Its name has warped and solidified into the more patriotic United We Father, but its mission remains broad, covering all the areas where the men could be more involved in their children’s communities. 

“We’re trying to not reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to fill those gaps,” Marlowe said. 

Each of the men brings a different set of giftings to the table, according to Marlowe, and there are already many area programs in which they can be involved. United We Father exists for encouragement, community and accountability to push its members to get involved in a variety of programs, then stay involved even after their own children have moved on. 

Donald Long is not a father, but he is part of 100 Black Men, an organization that aims to bring male role models into boys’ lives. Long said Marlowe asked him to be involved, and he joined the group because he is passionate about empowering kids to see what is possible for their futures. 

Long said his favorite part of 100 Black Men is teaching boys “how to be men” by showing them how to use tools, change oil and provide for themselves, and also teaching them rules and morals to live by. This element of 100 Black Men, on a broader scale, is what Long hopes to bring to United We Father. 

“People don’t become nothing if they don’t have a vision of what it is,” Long said. “So give them a sight of what they can be, and you’d be surprised.” 

One of the most important parts of that vision is simply being present, according to Long. He said boys especially need to be reminded that they can do more than play sports. 

Marlowe agreed, saying that United We Father is designed loosely so it can display a full range of male role models. 

“Generally, dads get stereotyped into coaches,” Marlowe said. “And that’s fine, that’s a great way to mentor. We need coaches, but we also need dads just to come in, sit down, and have lunch and show these young men how to be men and how to treat each other.” 

United We Father is about creating a positive community in Newberry, according to Mazon. He said he wants children to recognize each other’s fathers, and for the fathers to know each other’s children. That way, the dads can have a network of support, and the children will be less likely to bully each other because they know each other’s families. 

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe speaks at a city commission meeting.
File photo by Suzette Cook Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe.

“I’m more excited to see the kids coming together in the school system as well as outside the school system,” Mazon said. “Hanging out, having fun. Seeing bullying decrease in the area and knowing that Newberry is going to be the center point of it happening.” 

Early on, the fathers discovered an unexpected perk of having community for themselves. According to Marlowe, the men were sitting around a table at Stone House in the first official meeting, and they began talking about the difficulties of raising their children. 

“I think in our society, we don’t generally like to acknowledge that men have emotions and they need to talk,” Marlowe said. 

Mazon said it was like there were two sets of fathers at the table that night: those with questions, and those with answers. The result was an openness and vulnerability of discussion that he said is difficult to find in men these days. 

Until now, the group has remained in this sphere of informal community and support, but Marlowe said they have also been in talks with the school district, working for approval of things like having lunch with kids. He said they plan to have t-shirts made, so they will be recognizable. 

Sometime in the fall, Marlowe said the group is planning to have a kickoff field day with food trucks and games to bring families in the community together. 

“My excitement rests on the hope that this grows beyond Tony and I and takes a leg of its own and becomes a legacy that outlives both of us and just reminds people in this community that dads have to play an active part,” Marlowe said. “I think that it will become something that is not ‘it’s a Commissioner Mazon project.’ It’s a Newberry project and this is just what happens in our community.” 

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Sarah Harrison

This is fantastic! Thank you for reporting it.