Black Daddies Club - new support group aims to empower black fathers
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Brandon Hay wants black daddy data.
The founder of the Black Daddies Club — a support group for black fathers that he started in 2007 — has his application approved last summer for a $50,000 grant from the City of Toronto’s Access, Equity and Human Rights Investment program.
The application met all the city’s criteria for funding, says Denise Campbell, director of community resources for the City of Toronto. There’s a distinct “knowledge gap” about black fathers in the city and this project could help fill that gap and “create better services for black fathers and their families,” says Campbell.
Stereotypes are something facing all black fathers, says Hay, who’s married and the father of three sons, Elijah, 6, Julian, 8 and Tristan, 10. “There’s the stereotype that we don’t exist, that we don’t want to play a role . . .”
Through BDC, Hay has organized innumerable events throughout the city, sometimes at popular gathering spots like barbershops, where men can feel comfortable talking and sharing their experiences. He’s held adult-only forums, with tough topics like “Monogamy: is it relevant?” and organized events where dads and their kids can play and network for support.
Hay, 33, felt there was a need to get data on black dads in Canada and the issues facing them. He wants to “take out the guesswork” and believes a transition is underway in society about the role of black fathers. Even the attention the Black Daddies Club has engendered is indicative of this.
“I don’t think that an agency like Black Daddies Club would have gotten as much attention in my dad’s or granddad’s period.”
In Canada, “I definitely think we are ahead of a lot of places. But we’re definitely not where we want to be . . . we have fathers who want to be financial providers but can’t find that long-term work for whatever reason. We have dads who are parenting but can’t be fully engaged. Sometimes there are issues around employment and housing.”
He understands how young fathers, if they didn’t grow up with their own dads, can feel insecure or unsure of their parenting skills.
He was that way himself. Hay immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1990 and was raised in Scarborough’s Malvern community by his mother. In 2004, his father, who owned a bar near Kingston, was murdered by an 11-year-old boy. The latter was slain two weeks later himself.
As many as 500 black fathers from all over the city, age 14 and up and from all types of backgrounds, are being interviewed for the project.
One of them is Mario Murray, the 31-year-old father of a 10-month old boy, Saava. He’s actively involved in his son’s upbringing, even though he lives apart from Saava’s mom.
Murray knows Hay and his work with the Black Daddies Club and he wanted to get involved with the project because he hadn’t heard of any research or statistics about black fathers in Canada.
“It makes sense to get some hard data,” says Murray, who came to Canada from St. Lucia 12 years ago and works as a facilitator. He’s familiar with some of the stereotypes about black fathers. “One of the major ones is that black fathers don’t care and they’re not around. I would beg to differ.”
He knows how important fathers are to their children because he grew up in St. Lucia without his dad, who was from Guyana.
“I wouldn’t allow my son to grow up without his dad,” says Murray.
Hay says there will also be discussions with mothers and children which will play a role.
The research project will also be inclusive of different sexual orientations.
“We’re going to get the LGBT community involved, as well as straight fathers,” says Hay, who’s the leader of the project and will be working with researchers, including University of Toronto OISE associate professor Lance McCready and York University professor Carl James.
Currently, there is no Canadian research he’s aware of that “looks specifically at black fathers and their experiences,” says James, who’s also the author of a book, Life at the Intersection, Community Class and Schooling (a look at what it means to grow up in the Jane and Finch area) and co-author of Jamaica in the Canadian Experience, A Multiculturalizing Presence.
The BDC project will document the wide range of experiences black fathers have and “we will see how they are grappling with issues . . . Some of those issues, of course, are stereotypes like being a father and not having much concern about their kids. But there’s much more than that. We need to understand the social and probably economic conditions” that are also involved, said James.