On April 9, our weekly club speaker was Keith A. Lewis, Jr., co-founder of I’m A Father F1rst. The goal of I’m A Father F1rst is to “Rebrand the Man” in every way. In 2017, Keith and Jermaine Clarke began a movement to show the world that their drive, commitment, and passion stemmed from one central thing – being a father first! That was the genesis of the organization I’m A Father F1rst, which works within the Atlanta community to help young men in need step up in leadership through the most important leadership role most men will experience – fatherhood – with spillover effects bringing the village concept back to our communities, starting with the men and fatherless families.
Keith grew up off Metropolitan Avenue (formerly Stewart Ave.) in the Perkerson Park neighborhood. Booted out of Mays High School for marijuana and then sent to Westlake High School, Keith’s meanderings from the straight and narrow path included being shot twice in the chest and a stint in prison for drug charges. Early struggles enabled Keith to see systemic obstacles that black men needed to overcome. Ultimately, Keith realized that prison and past missteps did not define who he or anyone else was, that he could walk upright despite any previous, perceived setbacks. Keith found his path and sense of self and purpose through good works in the community and fatherhood.
I’m A Father F1rst is just over three years old as an organization. Throughout the year, it organizes various programs that provide for the fathers and young men in Atlanta communities. These programs include:
- Meals of Love – This program launched in March of 2020 and has been giving meals out five days a week ever since. It has served more than 400 families. Provided aid to more than 950 individuals (including 120 senior citizens). Delivered food 5 days a week.
- Cuts of Love – This program has cut over 2000 heads of hair. A haircut, a new polo shirt, and a fresh pair of shoes can make a young man look and feel sharp, and help shape a whole new outlook.
- Corner Boys – This program is a youth entrepreneurship curriculum that provides engagement in a learn-by-doing, real-world setting. Participants learn and apply business start-up concepts to projects they're passionate about as they build, test, learn, and embrace the cycle of experimentation. They work in teams and are supported by I’m A Father F1rst mentors.
From a $3,300 credit card loan from Keith’s father in 2017, I’m A Father F1rst has increased its donations, including a $1 million donation from former Senate Candidate and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, and set a fundraising goal of half a million in the next year.
I’m A Father F1rst is receiving recognition for its successful programs as well, including as a 2019 Rising In Community Excellence (RICE) Award nominee and as a recipient of a proclamation by the Mayor and City Council of the City of South Fulton for the performance of extraordinary acts of service and overall benefit to the City of South Fulton. Keith was excited to announce that I’m A Father F1rst will be featured on the upcoming Friday, April 16th Today Show.
Keith told everyone on the Zoom to celebrate their victories because everyone has overcome challenges of some kind. Find a motivating cause and ignore or don’t be discouraged by the noise. Stay diligent. Stay consistent. Stay steadfast. Pray. Push through to honor your purpose. Keith wants to teach young men and boys, from middle school age and up, to recognize his earning potential and compare and contrast the different life paths that are options before them, and make the right choice. When you are ready to find out more, visit the I’m a Father F1rst website.