Following his layoff as executive assistant to a nonprofit organization that provided assistance to homeless women struggling with substance abuse, McCants founded Proud Poppas United, a not-for-profit organization based in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 2008.
The aim of Proud Poppas United is to increase the number of active fathers in the community and build awareness among fathers of the important roles they play in their children’s lives.
“Growing up in the Bronx you hear so many stories about single parents,” said McCants, who received his diploma from Walton High School in Kingsbridge, Bronx, at the age of 16.
According to a 2007 report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, a little over a quarter of children under 21 are raised under the custody of single parents in the United States.
Though the organization is still in its infancy stage, support is slowly growing. McCants estimates that there are 50 active fathers in the organization. On Facebook, over 100 fathers have reached out to Proud Poppas United.
But McCants’ dream of establishing a nonprofit to strengthen the positive bonds between fathers and their children was not an easy one to reach. A father of four, McCants was attempting, at that time to find a working balance between his professional life and his life at home, as both a husband and a father to his young family.
The staggering statistics from studies he read of children reared solely by their mothers in relation to crime, youth suicides, homelessness, high school dropout rates, and teen substance abuse were disturbing and equally difficult to turn away from.
In one study, he discovered that 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions came from fatherless homes. McCants, who struggled in his own life without the guidance of a father, is convinced that such behavioral trends among youth stem “from fathers not being at home.”
While Proud Poppas United emphasizes the role of fathers in the development of children, McCants does not belittle single mothers who meet the challenges of raising their children alone.
“Mothers have been playing the mother-father role for four generations,” he said.
Though he notes that, undeniably, mothers are vital to their children’s development, he strongly believes that fathers are an intrinsic part of the equation as well.
“Mothers instill kindness while fathers teach sternness, discipline, respect, and responsibility,” he said.
He is looking to expand the organization, and is currently working on creating more workshops, focus groups, and healing groups to “therapeutically remedy the inner issues that some men have grown up with.” Many of these men, he explains, grew up without fathers.
McCants, who has a flair for photography, is also working on a photo project, which he began in 2009. The project, which captures the connections between fathers and children, also features their views on fatherhood and the “benefits of being an active father.” Harlem Arts Alliance (HAA), a not-for-profit organization, will showcase his work on June 24.
On Father’s Day, the organization will host its 2nd Annual Father’s Day Event at Prospect Park. The event, which will include morning yoga, games and activities for children and their parents, is intended to bring families closer together.
“Children are yearning for attention, love, and support,” he said.
To find out more about Proud Poppas and the Fahter's Day event, visit proudpoppasunited.blogspot.com.