President Barack Obama – Father’s Day Speech – June 2008 on his campaign trail.
For Brandon Hay, the founder and Executive Director of the Toronto-based men’s support community, the Black Daddies Club (BDC), a typical day goes a little something like this…
“I get up in the morning sometime around 5 a.m. to drive my wife to work, get home and check my email for 15 minutes. Get my kids in the bath, prepare breakfast and lunch ,get them dressed, drive them to school and daycare get home around 9 a.m., return emails and phone calls, at 11am I then pick up my middle son from school and bring him to daycare.”
“ I head out to do any BDC related business such as meetings, speaking engagements, drafting press releases, phone calls, etc. until 3 or 4pm (depending what part of the city I have to go), I then pick up my wife, then my kids from daycare or school. I take my kids to the library then play in the park (if its summer), do homework with my oldest sons, Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays my eldest son plays football with the Scarborough Thunders from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. I make dinner, get them ready for bed and do the whole thing all over again the next day.”
To the unassuming spectator, it would be hard to fathom this devoted family man was once a young vulnerable man, who at the tender age of 24 once experienced fear, anxiety and trepidation upon hearing the life altering news that he would be a Father. Raised in a single parent home without a strong male father figure during his formative years – Hay wondered if he would be man enough or even know how to be a “Dad”.
His mental fortitude, ingenuity and desire to be the father he never had, led him on a mission to seek out help and resources to prepare him for one of life’s most important roles, especially as a black father.
“I went to a family resource center in my neighborhood (Malvern) to find materials or community support for fathers (resources that were culturally relevant to me as a black father); however they only had resources for mothers’ grandparents, and guardians but nothing for fathers not to mention black fathers.” Hay discovered there was clearly a void. There were no spaces, forums or specific groups available to discuss parenting from the perspective of black fatherhood and the critical issues facing the black community as a whole on a consistent basis. After speaking with other young black fathers in the community and hearing similar issues and concerns – this was the confirmation Hay needed to birth this initiative.
Today, Brandon Hay has transformed his uncertain circumstances into a powerful movement – becoming a change maker, community organizer and supporter of the idiom “it takes a village”. The Black Daddies Club (BDC) formed in 2007 has become a lighthouse in the black community. BDC is empowering and challenging black fathers and families to be engaged, have the courage and resolve to participate in forums and community initiatives discussing issues and challenges within the black community that are hindering our children and families success . He has facilitated creating a public voice, safe space and fraternity for black fathers.
To shatter and abolish the often cited neglectful images in the media which continually perpetuate absentee black fathers as the norm, is a fundamental goal of the organization. The BDC has been featured in the Toronto Star, CFRB Radio, CTV News, 100 Huntley Street, Global News and The Globe and Mail and is realizing this mandate.
Black Ink Magazine, had the pleasure of speaking with Brandon Hay for an in-depth interview to learn more about this movement that is transforming fatherhood in the black community and to commemorate and celebrate Fathers Day, honouring the plethora of black fathers who have nurtured, protected, educated and loved their families and have had the courage to raise their children.
BIM: What is the mission, vision, and/or mandate of the BDC?
BH: The mandate and guiding principals of the BDC are to:
- Develop a continuous support system for black fathers to share their challenges and or experiences
- Host events featuring various speakers both high-profile and “everyday” people who can inspire and encourage positive practices for black fathers and community members generally
- Work with the media to provide alternate images of black fathers
BIM: What are some of your programs and initiatives?
BH: Holistic Integration Programming (H.I.P.): Which is a 3 step module (1) Prison-working with the young men that are incarcerated (2) Community- working with these men when they are released, (3) long term community, making sure these men are independent to navigate through the systems to acquire the help if needed.
Each one -teach one model: BDC will be looking to re-start the very much needed mentorship module for our young black youth that are in need of such programming.
Civic engagement initiatives – 2010 is an election year for the City of Toronto, and BDC feels that it is very important for the youth and the individuals who live in Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods to play more of an integral role in the election process. Currently we don’t feel that these individuals are apart of these candidates communication.
Daddies and Me- To celebrate Fathers Month (June), BDC will be taking a group of Dads out with their children to Ontario place to promote bonding amongst father and child.
Fathers Day photo exhibit fundraiser- On Sunday June 20, 2010, BDC will be holding its Fathers day event/ fundraisers. Come out and see over two years of BDC photos, bring the entire family
2nd Annual Orono Family Picnic: A strong community begins with strong families, BDC is honoured to be one of the partnering organization to produce this great one day event (August 2010), that welcomes families from around the GTA to come and spend the day with us; last year we had over 500 families that came out
BIM: What is the demographic makeup of your membership and supporters?
BH: Essentially our target are black fathers, however membership have black women, white fathers as well white women; our intention is not to cut any one out, all we ask is that you care about the cause and are willing to be apart of positive change within your community
BIM: What are some of your membership benefits?
BH: Free entry to BDC-related events such as Daddies and me, discounted prices to events and a BDC T-shirt (designed by Toronto visual artist, Mark Stoddart).
BIM: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in running the BDC?
BH: Lack of funding, finding the right individuals to partner with and
Locating dedicated volunteers (which also goes back to lack of funding). People want to give back and volunteer but to get long-term assistance without paying someone is hard, people have lives and families.
BIM: What are some of the challenges expressed by black Fathers dealing with fatherhood in your forums and community initiatives?
BH: We are preaching to the converted, in the sense that we get a lot of men that support BDC however these are the men who have made the change already, there is a need of getting those men who are not playing a role as involved parents with their kids. But to that I say that is an opportunity for BDC to become more creative in our outreach.
BIM: What are the long-term plans for the BDC?
BH: We plan on doing more work with young men in conflict with the Law; a large population of black men are in conflict with the prison system. Doing more taboo discussions and workshops targeted to the black community.
BIM: How has being a father changed your life?
BH: It has made me more motivated and focused in terms of my life and my business. It has made me more sensitive, loving and more caring to the feelings of others, it has made me more community minded (that if I want my sons to do well, then the kids that they play with at school or in the community should also do well), it has made me see the importance of leaving a legacy and a foundation for them to build on when they get older and leave for my grand kids and so on. I am more patient because of them and one can’t take them self too seriously with kids. I am also a better listener and more tolerant because of them.
For more information on the Black Daddies Club’s events and initiatives, please visit their website at www.blackdaddiesclub.com
By: Associate Editor – Dawn Vernon