Byron L. Potts and Nathaniel D. Jordan II are both very active, senior, members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. In fact, they have known each other since they were teenagers and roommates at Bowling Green State University more than 42 years ago. In talking about Jordan, Potts says, “Oh I know him! We bunked together, laughed together, cried together, and planned our futures together during our college days. The two men are ‘Line Brothers’ meaning they pledged and became members of their fraternity together. Potts calls Jordan a marketing genius. And Jordan, admires the razor sharp mind of Potts and his ability to succinctly present complex issues in layman’s terms. Attorney Byron Potts is one of the most well-known and successful lawyers in Columbus, Ohio. Nathaniel Jordan II has been involved in organizational management and leadership for over 38 years and is currently the Executive Director of the Fatherhood Matters Program for the Columbus Kappa Foundation.
So, what do these two men know about infant mortality and why are they so persistent about reducing the rate of infant deaths throughout our community, the state, and the nation? Allow me to first put this very serious health issue in an historical context. As early as 1899, W. E. B. Du Bois published The Philadelphia Negro where he used social science methods to describe social and economic conditions that shaped the quality of life and health status of African Americans. Du Bois documented how the poor health of Blacks was directly related to the conditions of poverty, social and sanitary degradation.
Booker T. Washington made a direct link between the economic progress of Blacks and the negative impact being caused by premature death from disease. Therefore, it could rightly be posited that Booker T. Washington started the minority health movement when he launched the Negro Health Improvement Week in 1915 which focused on the dissemination of modern public health hygiene to Blacks living in poverty in the rural south. The program grew into a year-round campaign across the nation and became so successful that around 1932 it was adopted by the U.S. Public Health Service as part of the new federal office of Negro Health Works. Fifty three years later the author of this article, while serving as a Member of the Ohio House of Representatives, created the Governor’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health and in 1987 he was the chief sponsor of an amendment to the State Budget Bill (H.B. 171) that created the Ohio Commission on Minority Health– the first such Commission of its kind in the nation.
Please note, many people have been working on the issue of eliminating health disparities, in an organized manner, for more than 119 years. Why have we not succeeded in any measurable way. Yes, there are successes here and there, but gross racial disparities continue to exist in every major City and State in America.
Each year in the United States, more than 23,000 infants die before reaching their first birthday. White, educated American women lose infants at rates similar to mothers in America’s peer countries. Most of the burden of the higher mortality rate here is borne by poorer, less educated families, particularly those headed by unmarried or Black women. Across the United States, Black infants die at a rate that’s more than twice as high as that of White infants.
So, what does this lawyer and this former corporate manager know about this critical issue. They, and their fraternity, firmly believe that the key to reducing infant mortality is the active engagement of fathers within their families, and at every step of the birthing process from gestation to delivery and thereafter. Fathers Matter is their mantra, and putting fathers back in the family is their goal.
But what qualifies Nate Jordan, Byron Potts, and the Columbus Kappa Foundation to engage themselves in this serious issue? Further, are fathers the key in reducing the tragic rate of premature death of African American babies? Consider the following–here is what I heard as I interviewed these two men:
First, their approach to this issue is in large measure anthropological. They know and love the target population. They know their culture, habits, hopes and dreams. They hurt when our families hurt. They die a little more each day when our babies die. There is no separation between them and the families they are trying to help. In summary, they are not visitors to this issue. They know it. They feel it. And they are strong enough to force needed change in this critical area sanitarily called minority health disparities.
Second, they are men. Well adjusted, successful, hard working men. Before they were men, they were boys, and active young adults. When they say fathers matter, it has gravity. They know the critically important role that fathers should play in the family. And they both know the loss of not having a father present in every phase of their life.
Lastly, they understand the mandate to serve. They know the power of the fraternal bond. They are mature enough to reach across superficial fraternal boundaries. Both Byron Potts and Nathaniel Jordan II understand that this issue is about saving lives, not self-aggrandizement. They are visionary enough to look beyond themselves to the greater good which is best addressed organizationally. Both men are marketing geniuses. And both care deeply about their community.
The Columbus Kappa Foundation, and Nathaniel Jordan II, in particular, are to be heartily commended for their engagement in saving our children’s lives. The Nurturing Fathers Program is brilliant and will undoubtedly save some young boys lives and teach them what it means to be a man, a responsible citizen, and a father.
There are many great organizations and individuals working to substantially reduce infant mortality in our community: Thomas L. Battles, Jr.,The Grand Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Dr. Stacy Scott, Founder of the GISS Center, Dr. Augustus Parker, Dr. Arthur James, Senator Charleta Tavares, Dr. Pat Gabbe, Erika Clark Jones, Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Angela Cornelius-Dawson, Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, Dr. Janice James, Dr. Kevin Dixon, Marlene Miller, Heart of Ohio Heath, Gayle Saunders, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., PrimaryOne Health, and most of our Black Greek Letter organizations. With all of this talent and resources we should be able to work cooperatively and significantly save our babies lives. What could be more important than that?
Finally, we want to sincerely thank Attorney Byron Potts, Nathaniel Jordan II, and the Columbus Kappa Foundation for their strong results-oriented leadership and their unwavering commitment to our community.
From: The Columbus & Dayton African American News Journal, June 2008 Edition