The creator and CEO of the National Saving Fatherhood Foundation, Alfred El-Amin, was born on September 22, 1977 to Ophelia Wheeler and Fredrick Green. Ophelia worked two jobs to support her three children, and settled in Stoughton, Massachusetts where she felt Stacy, Brenda, and her youngest, Alfred, would have more opportunities as they grew up. Fredrick lived in Brockton, Massachusetts, and he was absent from much of Alfred’s childhood. This absence had a profound impact on Alfred during his impressionable youth, and fatherlessness permanently scarred Alfred, affecting much of his adult life as well. However, growing up and living with this trauma also fostered the passion that led to Alfred’s creation of NSF Co. His experience demonstrates why the work that the National Saving Fatherhood Foundation does is vital to the strength of families, communities, and our children’s collective future.
From a very young age, Alfred saw his parents engage in constant arguments. Fredrick was not faithful to Ophelia, and he simultaneously alleged that Ophelia had continuing interests in Stacy’s father. Fredrick’s infidelities and accusations sowed consistent turmoil in his relationship with Ophelia. Alfred saw his parents openly quarrel directly in front of him, in the courtroom, and sometimes, in the streets. His parents fought over issues ranging from child support payments to the amount of time Fredrick was spending with Alfred. At one point, Alfred’s father even kidnapped him in response to these disputes. These exchanges normalized conflict for Alfred as early as ages four and five.
The implications of his parents’ constant feuds quickly appeared in Alfred’s behavior. Already a mischievous child who frequently caused trouble for his mother, Alfred began acting out severely. No adult was willing to babysit Alfred, and family and friends assumed that Alfred suffered from a psychological disorder, stereotyping him without any medical basis. As Alfred began formal schooling, he had trouble connecting with other children. Even at family gatherings and at the playdates his mother set up, he always felt like an outsider. This experience became more painful for Alfred because his social isolation intersected with several other inhibiting factors. His father continued to be absent throughout his childhood, both of his sisters lived outside of the home, and his older brother (Fredrick’s other son) was in the United States Air Force and out of contact until later in Alfred’s life.
As early as age four, Alfred began to compensate for his general sense of disconnection by constantly watching television. This hobby became so excessive that Alfred would forgo bonding with family at cookouts and other group events in preference of the escapism he found by watching more television. Alfred’s disconnection rapidly devolved into an internal experience of emptiness. He felt misunderstood, and more devastatingly, he felt unloved. Alfred endured traumas common to children who grow up in a fatherless home. From preschool to high school, he wondered what was wrong with him and struggled to find his identity. Like so many, adolescent Alfred concluded that he was responsible for his father leaving, that there was something about him that made him unlovable to his father.
Cumulatively, Alfred’s self-esteem, the continuing absence of his father, and his social isolation derailed his focus in the classroom. His teachers assessed him, and they concluded that he was dyslexic and would always struggle with reading. Being classified as having a learning disability can deliver a heavy blow to a young child’s self-esteem on its own, but when coupled with the preexisting notion that he was inadequate, the dyslexia label only reinforced Alfred’s negative self-conception.
For a few years beginning when Alfred turned five, Fredrick tried to spend more time at home, but arguments with Ophelia continued to flare up. Even just the mention of Stacy’s father was a constant point of contention between Alfred’s parents. Amid these fights, young Alfred wanted to create his ideal family so much that he labored to set up nice dates between Fredrick and Ophelia. Yet, the psychological damage that Alfred had internalized in his very early childhood maintained his general sense that he was unwanted and that he was the cause of his family’s discontent. Even when Fredrick paid for Alfred’s housing during his later teenage years, Alfred’s insecurities sustained the emotional void of his childhood in his life, and Fredrick’s help did little to ease Alfred’s yearning for fatherly love. Though Fredrick tried to live with Alfred and Ophelia, eventually, he left their home and began to live separately again.
As Alfred grew into his preteen years, he continued to struggle with his self-esteem, and his behavior only worsened. Ophelia labored to find a solution for Alfred, and she thought mentorship might offer a viable route. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America showed promise, but Alfred was waitlisted, and Ophelia’s effort to sign Alfred up became a huge point of contention with Fredrick, sparking more conflict. Alfred showed some signs of change when his mother was able to register him for the Boy Scouts at age ten. He began to learn some new skills, and Alfred took comfort in exposure to the perspectives of others as the Boy Scouts relieved a small portion of his isolation. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts only provided a temporary reprieve. Nonetheless, in the continuing turmoil of Alfred’s daily life, he began to show an open-mindedness towards new perspectives and ideas.
When Alfred was able to spend time with his father on the weekends, Alfred applied his newfound open-mindedness as he listened to his father recount stories of his own life and of their family’s ancestral heritage as people of African descent. As troubled as Alfred’s relationship with his father was, he admired Fredrick’s background as a businessman, something that Alfred himself would emulate later in life. Fredrick was the first independent, black television repair professional in Boston, Massachusetts, and he ran his own shop on Blue Hill Avenue. Fredrick chronicled the times that Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali visited his repair shop. In his limited time with his father, Alfred heard these stories and learned about the Civil Rights Movement. Fredrick described his experience of traveling to Africa, he communicated some of the core tenants of taking pride in blackness, and he told Alfred that his ancestral lineage descended from the kings and queens of the African past.
Still a child, Alfred was mesmerized by these stories, as they seemed to offer potential answers in his struggle to find his own identity. However, Fredrick’s communication of casual stories during the weekends that Alfred could see his father could not remedy the reality of a broken home and years of psychological damage. Given that Alfred had already developed behavioral issues, he glossed over the ideals of black intellectual liberation in Fredrick’s stories, and instead, he fixated on the act of physical rebellion.
Fatherlessness left Alfred completely unsupported and lost as he grew into a teenager. By the age of thirteen, Alfred’s self-destructive behavior had escalated to the point that he was arrested for the first time, and consequently, he was thrown out of his home. For a while, he was homeless. Seeking identity and a sense of belonging, he tried to engage in gang activity. Fatherlessness triggered an uncontrolled spiral of issues fueled by ongoing trauma and the lack of a role model to demonstrate that Alfred’s actions were both unacceptable and markedly dangerous.
Alfred’s life continued along this track for another three years, culminating in one of the defining turning points of his youth. One day, after being directly threatened in school, Alfred made his way to Brockton, Massachusetts to settle the score with several other kids in what was undoubtedly set to be a violent altercation. In Alfred’s life, a fight involved far more than a black eye. These were teenagers who intended serious harm to others, and they put themselves in significant peril in the pursuit of that aim. However, Alfred’s trajectory was intercepted in a moment that changed his life.
On his way, Alfred met a man in uniform on the street who was holding a newspaper. To this day, Alfred remembers the words that stopped him in his tracks. “I know what you’re getting ready to do. I can see it in your eyes.” The man followed up by asking Alfred what was wrong. Alfred responded by explaining the difficulty of his life, the fact that the kids in Brockton who he had considered friends wanted to kill him, and that his plan to join the United States Army did not work out. At the mention of the United States Army, the man recommended that Alfred consider an alternative, the Fruit of Islam. Founded in the United States in the 1930s, this brotherhood is an elite wing of the Nation of Islam, an organization significantly influenced by celebrating and empowering blackness. The man took Alfred out to eat and invited him to a meeting of the Fruit of Islam, where he was welcomed with open arms. Not only did Alfred’s encounter with the uniformed man on the streets of Brockton effectively redirect him from what might’ve been an incredibly violent and potentially fatal experience, it also fundamentally redirected his life.
For two long years, Alfred studied Islamic tradition through the Nation of Islam, reforming himself into a more disciplined, responsible, and motivated person. At first, he was instructed to read a book, and he struggled due to his dyslexia. Nonetheless, he finished it and moved on to his second reading assignment. Marcus Garvey, an early, but prominent black nationalist intellectual, authored the second book Alfred read. Alfred was struck by a passage wherein Garvey declared that reading is the most powerful tool that black people can utilize for self-empowerment. Alfred took this sentiment to heart. While dyslexia still impeded his efforts, he pushed through his learning disability, and he read every single book he could get his hands on.
Alfred’s family denounced him for converting to Islam, but he was already estranged from them, and he found comfort with his brothers in the Nation of Islam. During his two years of study, Alfred learned fundamental life skills, he learned a core sense of responsibility, and he learned how to conduct himself with respect and honor. As a child, Alfred was drawn to the act of physical rebellion in his father’s description of Malcolm X and other black nationalists. However, as Alfred emerged from his studies at the age of eighteen, he finally understood and ascribed to the most important aspects of this movement. Having fundamentally shifted the way that he thought about the world and his place in it, Alfred Green became a full member of the Nation of Islam as Alfred X. After living a childhood amid nearly constant chaos, trauma, and the crushing sense that he was fundamentally limited, Alfred found the drive to lead a life of confidence and purpose. Yet, it was not always easy. In the time since he turned eighteen, Alfred continued to face great hardship. No amount of devotion to Islam, therapy, or hard work could undo the kind of traumatic, fatherless childhood that Alfred experienced. Fortunately, what Alfred learned through the Nation of Islam allowed him to live a respectable life despite those wounds.
Regardless of his painful childhood, Fredrick was still family to Alfred, and Alfred never let go of his admiration for his own father’s achievements as a businessman. After receiving training from the Nation of Islam, Alfred started out selling newspapers, much like the man in Uniform that he met on that life-changing day in Brockton. Over the next twenty years, Alfred founded numerous businesses including one selling incense and oils, one providing shoeshine services,
and he even opened a poetry café and started a cleaning company. In 2014, he was ranked as one of the best salespeople in the Nation of Islam for Mississippi.
Nonetheless, throughout these decades, Alfred continued to experience hardship. There was no escaping the fact that growing up fatherless often correlates to growing up in poverty, and by default, those in poverty have less resources to help them break free of that state. Moreover, the sales world can be very volatile, and a successful period can end in an instant. When faced with obstacles, Alfred typically compensated with creative solutions. For example, while traveling, Alfred would pack some of his oils and incense and, if necessary, sell them at gas stations until he earned enough to buy gas for the rest of his trip.
The Nation of Islam taught Alfred to treat women with dignity and respect, and he was determined to avoid the mistakes that his father made in marriage, but fatherhood still proved an arduous endeavor. When Alfred moved to Mississippi to start his own family, he was given poor fatherhood advice, and he did not have a suitable role model. His first attempt at fatherhood followed a trial-and-error method, except that Alfred did not have any outside guidance to limit the number and severity of mistakes that he made. As Alfred has more recently realized, he married someone that he was not compatible with, in part, because he so desperately wanted the perfect family that he never had as a child. His childhood trauma informed his decisions, and unfortunately, this initial effort in creating the model family that he wanted ended in divorce.
Later, again, subject to extreme poverty, Alfred found himself in Maine, homeless. It was in this moment that he conceived the idea for the National Saving Fatherhood Foundation. Alfred desperately wanted to see his children, but he was not allowed access to them because he was homeless. In the pain of this forced distancing from his children, all of Alfred’s experiences aligned in his thoughts, giving him clarity. He had endured the trauma of fatherlessness and the physical and psychological scars that such a childhood inflicted upon him. Furthermore, he had felt what it was like to not have a clear understanding of his responsibilities as a father, to not have the skill sets to carry out those responsibilities, and to not have a support system to turn to for advice. Alfred had realized that he possessed a lived basis for understanding both what it is like to be fatherless and what it is like to be a struggling father, and he knew that this knowledge put him in a perfect position to design programs and provide support for fathers and families in need.
Alfred was eventually able to climb out of homelessness, and he has since remarried. He has found peace with his wife and two children. He is currently helping his thirteen-year-old son start his first business, and he assists his daughter with her general schooling, as well as her study of Islam. Alfred’s commitment to being a better person through the Nation of Islam has sustained him to this day. He has proven himself hardworking and community oriented. In the past decades, he has read a vast array of books covering a plethora of subjects, and he developed a passion for offering therapeutic support to those struggling with substance abuse and unemployment. Now a model father, Alfred works tirelessly towards growing the National Saving Fatherhood Foundation in order to support his community in Sanford, Maine, as well as fathers across the nation. He is also active as an Imam with his local Islamic cultural center, and he serves as a licensed chess teacher. As NSF expands, Alfred hopes that he can be a source of optimism and inspiration for struggling fathers. Most of all, he hopes that the National Saving Fatherhood Foundation can provide those fathers, their families, and their communities with direct relief via one or more of its excellent programs.