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Einstein's DadLab support group offers parenting resources for new fathers

When Marquise Dogan was searching online for parenting classes last year, he found DadLab, a free support group for new fathers offered by Einstein Medical Center.

“A bunch of things popped up and DadLab was one of those things that really stood out to me with their mission statement and what they want to accomplish in fathers’ lives,” said Dogan, whose 8-month-old daughter is named Mylan.

“I was just drawn to it. I’ve just been consistently attending their weekly online sessions and it’s been a blessing.”

Dogan has been participating in Zoom sessions on Thursday evenings where he and other parents share their parenting experiences and support each other.

“I’ve been getting a lot from DadLab,” said the 23-year-old West Philadelphia resident.

“This is a safe place for both fathers and mothers to come together and converse about parenthood and uplift each other and to ask those sensitive questions within partnering.”

He said the support group allows fathers to know that there are men who are willing to be in their children’s lives.

Dogan said he appreciates the various topics covered throughout the sessions, especially the ones addressing the importance of communication and co-parenting.

“We have to understand as parents, it’s all about our children,” Dogan said. “We have to learn how to basically put our pride aside and understand that we have to move accordingly in the best interest of our child and that is around education and extracurricular activities and just being able to have those open conversations.”

DadLab is open to new parents regardless of where their baby was born. The program, which has been offered by Einstein for the past two years, aims to help participants get off to a good start in their new role as a parent.

The sessions are run by Jay Cherney, a licensed psychologist, and Clarence Iszard, a health educator. About three to five couples have been participating in the weekly Zoom sessions.

“Getting dads more engaged as caregivers is a really big thing,” Cherney said.

“Besides looking at helping parents get more engaged with babies early on, we talk about communication and coordination between co-parents, which is a really important challenge within parenting.”

Cherney said that as facilitators they provide parents with information on ways to be a good parent, ways to bond with their baby and how to manage the emotional overload that comes with a new baby.

“We also really want to help people support each other and find their way of being a parent because it’s very personal,” he said.

“It’s a unique combination of parent and child and everyone has to find their own style and their own way that works for them.”

Cherney said DadLab also offers community resources to its participants.

“We listen to the needs of the parents that come,” he said.

“We want to tune into what are their particular challenges, what’s most interesting to them and what do they want to learn. So it’s very personalized in that way. We really try to make a connection and understand the particular need at the stage because becoming a parent for the first time is an incredible life change.”

For Jamal Peele, participating in DadLab has been a significant learning experience.

Peele said he was drawn to the support group because he wanted more structure for learning about parenting.

“It’s still been extremely helpful despite the fact that I have the oldest child in there,” said Peele, whose 4-year-old son is named Jaiden.

Peele said he wished he was able to attend the DadLab Zoom session that covered the topic of postpartum depression and the different ways it takes shape.

“I actually ended up missing that meeting and I was saddened by that because my child’s mother had postpartum depression,” Peele said. “We ended up talking about it in subsequent meetings.”

As a new father, Peele wasn’t aware that his child’s mother was going through postpartum depression at the time. The depression was manifested not just in her crying but in other ways and he thought she was stressed out over being a new parent. Peele said he would have responded differently had he known that she was coping with depression.

“If I had known what it was then, it would have been a lot easier to go, ‘Look, I got this,’” he said.

Peele said DadLab has offered insight on how to cope with the stress of parenting and the importance of finding moments to take time for yourself.

“We recently have gone over how to deal with stress as a parent because obviously having children is stressful,” said the 26-year-old North Philadelphia native.

“It’s a job that you can’t really clock out of.”

Peele appreciates the camaraderie stemming from engaging with other parents attending DadLab sessions.

“When I hear other people saying the same struggles that I’ve gone through, I say ‘OK, it wasn’t just me,’” he said.

“Even though we don’t really know each other that well we are all parents in general and that’s what we’re here to talk about.”

Black Americans laud Juneteenth holiday, say more work ahead

WASHINGTON — Black Americans rejoiced after President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday, but some said that, while they appreciated the recognition at a time of racial reckoning in America, more is needed to change policies that disadvantage too many of their brethren.

“It’s great, but it’s not enough,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City. Grant said she was delighted by the quick vote last week by Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday because “it’s been a long time coming.”

But she added that “we need Congress to protect voting rights, and that needs to happen right now so we don’t regress any further. That is the most important thing Congress can be addressing at this time.”

At a jubilant White House bill-signing ceremony on Thursday, Biden agreed that more than a commemoration of the events of June 19, 1865, is needed. That’s when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — some 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves in Southern states.

“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today,” Biden said before he established Juneteenth National Independence Day. His audience included scores of members of Congress and Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Texas woman who campaigned for the holiday.

Biden singled out voting rights as an area for action.

Republican-led states have enacted or are considering legislation that activists argue would curtail the right to vote, particularly for people of color. Legislation to address voting rights issues, and institute policing reforms demanded after the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black men, remains stalled in the Congress that acted swiftly on the Juneteenth bill.

Other people want the federal government to make reparations or financial payments to the descendants of slaves in an attempt to compensate for those wrongs. Meanwhile, efforts are afoot across the country to limit what school districts teach about the history of slavery in America.

Community organizer Kimberly Holmes-Ross, who helped make her hometown of Evanston, Illinois, the first U.S. city to pay reparations, said she was happy about the new federal holiday because it will lead more people to learn about Juneteenth.

But she would have liked Congress to act on anti-lynching legislation or voter protections first.

“I am not super stoked only because all of the other things that are still going on,” said Holmes-Ross, 57. “You haven’t addressed what we really need to talk about.”

Peniel Joseph, an expert on race at the University of Texas at Austin, said the U.S. has never had a holiday or a national commemoration of the end of slavery. Many Black Americans had long celebrated Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is important symbolically, and we need the substance to follow, but Black people historically have always tried to do multiple things at the same time,” Joseph said.

Most federal workers observed the holiday Friday. Several states and the District of Columbia closed government offices Friday.

Juneteenth is the 12th federal holiday, including Inauguration Day once every four years. It’s also the first federal holiday since the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was added in 1983.

Before June 19 became a federal holiday, it was observed in the vast majority of states and the District of Columbia. Texas was first to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1980.

Most white Americans had not heard of Juneteenth before the summer of 2020 and the protests that stirred the nation’s conscience over race after Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer, said Matthew Delmont, who teaches history at Dartmouth College.

He said the new federal holiday “hopefully provides a moment on the calendar every year when all Americans can spend time thinking seriously about the history of our country.”

The Senate passed the bill by unanimous agreement. But in the House, 14 Republicans voted against it, including Rep. Chip Roy of Texas. Roy said Juneteenth deserves to be commemorated, but he objected to the use of “independence” in the holiday’s name.

“This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin,” he said in a statement.

Added Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who also voted against the bill: “We have one Independence Day, and it applies equally to all people of all races.”

The sentiment was different in Texas, the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday.

“I’m happy as pink,” said Doug Matthews, 70, and a former city manager of Galveston who has helped coordinate the community’s Juneteenth celebrations since Texas made it a holiday.

He credited the work of state and local leaders with paving the way for this week’s step by Congress.

“I’m also proud that everything started in Galveston,” Matthews said.

Pete Henley, 71, was setting up tables Thursday for a Juneteenth celebration at the Old Central Cultural Center, a Galveston building that once was a segregated Black school. He said the Juneteenth holiday will help promote understanding and unity.

“All holidays have significance, no matter what the occasion or what it’s about, but by it being a federal holiday, it speaks volumes to what the country thinks about that specific day,” said Henley, who studied at the school before it was integrated and is president of the cultural center.

He said his family traces its roots back to enslaved men and women in the Texas city who were among the last to receive word of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“As a country, we really need to be striving toward togetherness more than anything,” Henley said. “If we just learn to love each other, it would be so great.”

Holmes-Ross recalled first learning about Juneteenth in church in Evanston, a Lake Michigan suburb just outside Chicago. Over the years, she said she made sure her three children commemorated the day with community events including food, dancing and spoken word performances.

She said it was about more than a day off for her family and expressed hope that it would be for others, too.

“We were intentional about seeking out Black leaders and things we could celebrate as African Americans,” Holmes-Ross said. “Hopefully, people do something productive with it. It is a day of service.”

Biden promotes milestone of 300M vaccine shots in 150 days

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden took a cautious victory lap Friday in his quest to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, announcing that 300 million vaccine shots have been administered in the 150 days since he took office.

Biden credited scientists, companies, the American people and his whole-of-government effort. The president noted that the widespread vaccination campaign had set the stage for most Americans to have a relatively normal summer as businesses reopen and employers hire.

“We’re heading into a very different summer compared to last year,” the president said. “A bright summer. Prayerfully, a summer of joy.”

But as Biden marks one milestone, he is in danger of failing to meet another: his target to have 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July Fourth, in a little over two weeks.

Overall, about 168 million American adults, or 65.1% of the U.S. population 18 years and older, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped significantly from a high of nearly 2 million per day about two months ago, jeopardizing Biden’s ability to hit the 70% mark.

The White House said its whole-of-government approach to the vaccination effort has put the virus in retreat, which in turn has brought COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths to their lowest levels in more than a year. But Biden noted in his remarks that some communities in states with lower vaccination rates are seeing cases and hospitalizations increase.

The administration is in the middle of a monthlong blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and the lack of urgency some people feel to get the shots, particularly in the South and Midwest.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday that she expects the delta variant of the coronavirus will become the dominant strain in the U.S. That strain has become dominant in Britain after it was first detected in India.

During an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” she told Americans who get their shots that “you’ll be protected against this delta variant.”

As part of the administration’s vaccination push, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta on Friday to tour a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor until his assassination in 1968. The current senior pastor is U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Harris also spoke at a COVID-19 vaccination mobilization event at Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black school. She told students they “have the power to end this pandemic” by giving people information about the multitude of resources, such as free car rides and child care, that are available to help them get vaccinated.

In Fulton County, Georgia, where Atlanta is located, 49% of residents have received at least one shot. Statewide, it is 42%, Harris said.

“Getting vaccinated is about building the power of community,” she said. “Getting vaccinated is about building the power of our country.”

The Biden administration insists that even if the 70% vaccination goal is unmet, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.

Biden wants to celebrate Independence Day as a “summer of freedom” from the virus.

Earlier in the week, the White House announced plans to host first responders, essential workers and service members and their families on the South Lawn for a cookout and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall.

More than 1,000 guests are expected for what will be one of the largest events of Biden’s presidency.