When you hear the phrase, “Be the Change”, you will picture a person such as, Timothy. Timothy [Tim] Fields is currently a resident of the Bootheel Area of Missouri. He is an active, compassionate, and powerful father who has worked to advocate for communities within his region byway of his experience as a state employee and other recognized nonprofit organizations, but he also admittedly continues to find ways in activating healing within his own life.
Tim is on a personal journey in shifting from wanting to be “office-political” into becoming more “socially-political”— a more pointed focus on the narratives that rest in the individuals of the community as a way to change the outcomes of each person. He also sees this method as a journey that is full of reflection and healing. With this internal growth and healing, he hopes to reflect this to his community through awareness, resources, and changes within policies through empathy.
Within Missouri, the Bootheel is the poorest region in every category—health, economics, education, and crime ratios. Tim has recognized the historic patterns of those who have been in advantaged positions capitalizing on the miseducation and despair of their surrounding communities. This leads the community to not having the tools to discern for themselves what they need and fall into a cycle of being enabled by those in leadership positions. Tim is passionate about bringing humanization to the often misunderstood and labeled “super-thug” and “sassy-bossy” –unjustly hung narratives on young men and women who develop and emerge from communities with lower economic conditions.
The Road to Activist
Tim was heavily influenced by his hometown, especially the people he lost and the tragedy he most recently endured — the passing of his brother from being shot at a gas station. He mentions that it could be falsely all blamed on the streets and drugs, but he recognizes that people do not do this on purpose and that it comes from lack. Therefore, he saw a calling to give tribute to the history that the area holds. Starting in 2013, Tim learned in school about the socioeconomic relationship of poverty and crime and was able to quickly apply this to the different losses in his community. This made him more empathetic to the rise of crime in impoverished communities because of these findings, and this led him to bring awareness towards the perspective of the human beings living in these conditions to both the inner community as well as the outside community.
Tim gave attention to numerous parallels that exists in the Bootheel. Crime is higher in poor communities, but poor communities have less resources, so they may commit “crimes” to survive. Poor communities have less medical coverage but more medical needs. Poor communities are more likely to have diabetes but less likely to have access healthy food. Gas stations sell alcohol and cigarettes, but there is less access to mental health services, so those become the only vices to cope which leads to substance abuse.
Therefore, he sees the urgent necessity to give awareness towards the perception of behavior and crime in this area, as well as change policies to match the actual experiences of the community, specifically on youth and discipline. He charges that there is more understanding of the family dynamics and how that directly impacts the behavior of youth outside of the home. For example, the parents often work a lot, so they may not be available as much when the child is at home; therefore, the child may act as class clown to seek more attention at school because that is needed, developmentally. Additionally, young boys may struggle with male coaches because they are not psychologically used to this level of male authority when not having a present father in the home. Tim seeks to help leaders to study, understand, and address the social and psychological patterns within the family and community structure to truly help bring healing and change.
Relationship with Dad
When reflecting on the relationship with Tim’s father, he originally didn’t know if he was truly missing something from this relationship because “he didn’t know what he didn’t know”. They had an estranged and distant relationship as he only saw him 5-6 times before the age of 9. Because he lived so far away in Virginia, he didn’t even recognize that his birth father was not in his life as he was primarily raised by his stepfather until age 10. At age 13, he moved to Missouri, which helped to then strengthen the relationship with his father. The relationship continued to grow stronger as Tim became a man and actively searched for answers from him and as he winged off from the dependency of his mom.
Tim was intrigued to know his dad outside of the person that he was in the streets. He wanted to personally connect with his father, and reflected that this actually happened by re-creating, re-manifesting, and putting himself in the same ideas and concepts as his dad instead of connecting in a father-son relationship. Tim reflected that his father was conclusively not a bad person at all.
Tim was angry at his father quite often when he was younger, but he realized that his anger was pointed at the wrong person, and that he did not fully understand what his father went through, yet. Once Tim became a father, he noticed that the “culturally-common fatherhood scenarios” were something that he and his father could deeply connect on and help to gain more perspective on the full story of his father’s absence while growing up. This led to forgiveness of his father because he was able to personally empathize with experiences based on the situations that Tim has experienced as a father.
Tell me About Your Relationship with Your Son, Adrian?
“Oh my goodness, I love him!”
Tim and Adrian
Tim mentions that his son has activated healing for himself, and it was without forcing Adrian to mirror him as a person. He was awakened to provide things for Adrian that he never realized that he personally needed when he was a child. Some of this includes consistent attention, a nurturing voice, and patience. He recognized that if he had those things, he may have been a more confident and healthier man, but even so, he doesn’t blame his parents. Fatherhood awarded him the opportunity to forgive his parents, for not always having the time or emotional capacity to be those things to him and to daily heal himself so that his son won’t have to heal at all.
Tim believes heavily in discipline, but he never chooses to put his hands on him because he realizes that he is still just a kid. Tim reflects that he feels that too many whoopings to a child can be due to redirected frustration, so he ensures to take initiative in talking to Adrian and ensuring everyone else in his life does the same.
Tim also makes sure to instill the importance of being a giver to others and to show manners, especially towards women. He teaches him to open the door and hold it open, to not yell loudly, and other practices to mold Adrian into a respectable person. Tim reflects that part of his motivation is to give his son a different life than he had, especially with helping him to learn about owning your own things (houses, businesses, real estate, etc.). “I don’t want my son to see that his dad didn’t try.”
Empowering Black Fathers and Black Families
Tim is passionate about redirecting the narrative of black fathers and black fatherhood. He recognizes that society has called black fathers “deadbeats”, but rarely gives credit to the men who passionately fight to be a father. Tim sees that in media it is easy to talk down on black fathers, even if they are doing their job, so he wants to encourage black fathers to be present and continue to advocate for being in the life of their child.
Tim also hopes for more awareness on the legal journey of black fatherhood and to provide more resources and support upon that so black fathers are able to understand the journey that they may endeavor upon. He recognizes that by abusing the lack of knowledge in this process, it can drive a distasteful wedge in the black community that is already fueled from systemic structures. Therefore, he really encourages fathers to do what is necessary to show they are committed and passionate on being in their child’s life.
“Take her to court, bro.”
On the other hand, Tim strongly highlights how important, beautiful, and successful co-parenting can be, and he works extensively to create a positive and healthy co-parenting environment so that his son can have the best outcome in life. He mentioned that he is so glad that Adrian has a great mother, though they may not always agree, and he is glad to work together with her to raise Adrian.
With this foundation of collaboration and advocacy, Tim empowers men to hold a standard in prioritizing their kids and to make sacrifices. “Do what you have to do, set a goal, persevere, and make a plan for things to come together, and do not complain until you tried every option.” Tim reflects at a time where he went 19 days without water and electricity, worked as a janitor at his university, ironed his clothes in an apartment basement, showered in another facility, charged his phone in the car, but still smiled as he went to school and work to save up for a family lawyer & never let many know or notice that anything was wrong. “You have to make it where you don’t look like what you’re going through.”
What’s the Best Thing About Being a Black Father?
The best part to Tim is beating the stereotypes, and even more, realizing that the stereotypes are not statistics—they were either over-exaggerated or under-perpetuated perceptions.
Tim also sees it as an honor to be a part of such a strong group of human beings, and to have the opportunity to give back to humanity because, “who we raise will determine what the future will be.”
“I forgive you. I now understand you. And because I now understand you—thank you.
Thank you for the knowledge you bestowed on me in the past few years. The long talks, the knowledge, the assistance, helping with lawyers when I was over-charged. Thank you for the memories with my son that you missed with me for whatever reasons. Thank you for how you exemplified manhood when you had to bury your own son. Thank you for showing me how to be strong. I love you.”