Dope Black Dads: Navigating fatherhood and the black British experience

Becoming a dad is a monumental, life-affirming experience for many men – but it isn’t without its challenges. Particularly if you also have to deal with stigma, stereotypes and institutional bias.

This is exactly why Marvyn Harrison set up the Dope Black Dads podcast, almost exactly one year ago. His aim was to shine a light on the specific challenges of black, male parenthood, and to create an inclusive community for black dads.

‘It started on Fathers Day last year,’ Marvyn tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I had a great morning with my family and, similar to 3 pm on Christmas Day, it felt like it was over and I wanted to feel a greater connection to Fathers Day and other dads.’

Marvyn initially created a WhatsApp group called ‘Dope Black Dads’ and added 23 fathers he knew. It began as an appreciation of other fathers and soon became a source of support around the intersection of being black, male, and a parent.

What Marvyn hopes to achieve is an attitude shift. He says that the problems facing black fathers are largely ignored by wider society.

‘Many fathers still struggle with access to their children,’ says Marvyn.

‘They also struggle with the guilt of trying to provide in an environment which can be institutionally bias and at times racist.

‘Parenting is still a matriarchal-normative environment. Having now become a father on two occasions, I have seen how the whole process is seen through the eyes of the mother, and also intentionally excludes fathers’ perspectives at times.’

Marvyn says this can make it hard for dads to form connections and can result in ‘disconnected’ or ‘broken’ families.

‘Many of our dads find the first two years of fatherhood extremely testing and little support is given.’

Marvyn believes that there are preconceptions about black fathers both within and outside of black communities. He says these preconceptions are connected to the perception of black men and the default roles of mothers and fathers.

‘There is a lack of space and acceptance for emotions from fathers,’ says Marvyn. ‘The presumption of absenteeism and the presumption of anger or aggression as a default emotion for men.

‘Masculinity is complex and when it intersects with someone you love more than anything (your child), whilst navigating the black British experience, results do vary. It’s unfortunate, but a truth for many of our members.

‘We want the podcast to be a bat signal to black fathers so that they join our private Facebook group, attend our monthly dad meetings, and hear the stories affecting fathers so they know they are not alone.’

For Marvyn, creating his own platform was vital in order to give these topics the space they needed to be discussed thoroughly – he says it’s time to properly delve into the issues affecting this underrepresented group.

‘Our episodes on the Dope Black Podcast are a chance for us to be heard in long form,’ says Marvyn. ‘We live is a soundbite world and issues around masculinity, parenting and race are difficult to digest and explain in short segments.

‘We can really deep dive and discover things about ourselves and our brothers in real time. I have known some of these men for 15 years and never knew some of the things we unearth on the podcast.’

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