Thousands of black fathers have formed a virtual community where they can support each other with advice and encouragement, as they simultaneously work to shatter stereotypes and empower African-American communities across the country through "the brotherhood of fatherhood."
"I felt isolated as a father," Matt Prestbury, the founder of the private Facebook group Black Fathers, told ABC News. "I really wanted to create something that was, as I like to say, the brotherhood of fatherhood."
The father of four founded the group in 2009 following his divorce, during a time when he was seeking support and felt he had no one to turn to. Nine years later, Black Fathers has grown to become a virtual community with over 30,000 members.
In addition to providing a safe haven for men to reach out to each other for support, Prestbury said the group is also blasting misconceptions that he says many black fathers face.
"It’s important that we work to shape people’s perception," Prestbury said. "Because perceptions shape reality."
'A lot of times it is thought that we are not in our children's lives'
One member, Andrew Skinner Jr., the proud father of three, told ABC News that as a black father, "a lot of times it is thought that we are not in our children's lives."
Tyrone Walls, also the father of three added, "When I go out with my kids it’s like people are staring in amazement, like I’m some kind of unicorn."
Member Daric Abbott said that "black men in particular" can be mislabeled as "selfish or just immature" in society, saying that in his experience, "I don't find that to be the case."
JayQuan Till, another member, said that he identifies as the "biggest supporter and cheerleader" for his three children.
Jennifer Dulski, the head of groups and community at Facebook, told ABC News that the group helps reveal "the truth of what black fathers are."
"Which is loving, caring fathers for their communities," Dulski said. "They are a group of black fathers who deeply love their children, and share those experiences together."
'It's said that we don’t support each other as black men, but this is false'
Member Gary Scott said he reached out to the group for support amidst going through a bitter custody battle that left him feeling discouraged.
"I reached out to Black Fathers, and I told them it wasn’t a good day for me, and the level of support I got from those guys, I thank everyone of you brothers for being there for me," Scott told ABC News. "The friendships that I have developed within that time, it's been a godsend."
"I’ll never forget it," Scott added. "It was over 400 comments on the post, it was the most support I ever received on Facebook."
Fellow member Angelo Simms reached out to Scott directly after reading his post.
"He sent me his phone number and I gave him a call and man we talked for like an hour," Simms told ABC News.
The group also offers workshops and provides legal advice for members pursuing custody or visitation rights in family court, according to Prestbury. Providing a platform for black fathers to support other black fathers, however, has been one of the most important aspect of Black Fathers.
"A lot of the times it's said that we don’t support each other as black men," Skinner told ABC News, "but this is false."