Each issue of STAND features profiles of #MENMAD. That is, men who are making a difference.
Today we introduce:
42 years old
The Brown Gothamite
I write about fatherhood, and I do what I call dadvocacy work through my writing, consulting, and media appearances focusing on topics such as paid parental leave and at home fatherhood.
What inspired what you do?
I’ve always been someone who has been socially active. My mother is an activist. Some of my earliest memories of her are from her at women’s organizations, pushing for equality for women. Her willingness to expose me to her causes is the true foundation for all of my work. In addition, I spent almost a decade working as a Director of Diversity at an independent school. That work revolved around creating a safe and inclusive community for every constituency the school served. It was challenging, but also extremely rewarding. I left that job to stay home with my then one year old daughter, not expecting that I would be doing similar work again so soon. But, being an at home dad led me to encountering exclusion and ignorance. I started to document my experience in a blog, and eventually connected with the wonderful NYC Dads Group and National At-Home Dad Network. It became clear that I could use my voice to represent the experiences of so many fathers who feel voiceless across the country. This has become a responsibility that I value. I am proud that organizations have valued my voice and perspective enough to seek my help or give me a role within their organization. I am equally proud of the fact that I have become a writer who has crafted material that has resonated with people. I want to model the importance of doing good, meaningful work to my daughter.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face (or have faced)?
I continue to battle multiple stereotypes. I speak often about being a father, specifically an at home dad of color. There still exists a perception that fathers are inept. People question my methods and constantly offer unsolicited advice. Being an at home father is a novelty to many. I’ve encountered people who don’t value fatherhood or discussions about it. Parenting is still mainly about mothers. I deal with men who have an antiquated view of masculinity, and I don’t fit into that box. I’m also a Black man, which leads to a level of fear and assumption for people. This manifests itself in a variety of frustrating ways for me. Social media is one of those ways. People use it as an outlet for hate and anger, so sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your work is impactful when you’re confronting these stereotypes. Sometimes, it’s just plain tiring. But, thankfully, I have always been able to find resolve.
What have you learned about yourself as a result of this work?
Personal reinvention. When I decided to stay home with my daughter and leave my career in education, I looked at my time with my daughter as temporary, a sort of sabbatical. I never imagined that I could change my career and become a writer. I didn’t envision gaining a new purpose: discussing the competency of the father. I never had the confidence to even try this kind of transition to be honest. But, through my increased willingness to challenge my personal status quo and the support of my wife, I have been able to create a new career as a writer and fatherhood advocate. And it feels good.
Are there any men (past or present) you particularly admire or who have influenced you?
I usually start with two of my middle school teachers. One who unwittingly influenced my journey into a career in education. The other provided for me a much needed father figure, helping me embrace my racial identity. I also have great admiration for Arthur Ashe, who spent his life as an athlete and activist redefining courage and purpose. Finally, I look at President Obama with much admiration. Here is the President of the United States who was raised by a single mom, just like me. He is a truly accomplished politician, a loving father, and dedicated husband.
What’s the last great book you read or great movie you watched?
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke to me on so many levels. It’s a book written by a dad to his child about race. There are so many things he shares that I know I will have to share with my daughter sooner rather than later. Ryan Coogler’s brilliant Creed was a film that really affected me. The first time I saw it, I literally cried the entire movie. Now, I’ve certainly cried watching movies before, but never like this. Adonis Johnson’s personal struggle is proving he wasn’t a mistake. I grew up without my father around, and I often felt I had to prove something to everyone. I’m not sure I’ve had a film speak so clearly to me.
What advice would you give to other men interested in doing what you do, or otherwise making a difference in their community?
If you have a passion, learn as much as you can about it, so that it becomes a cause. Then, do not be afraid to lean into any and all discomfort you might encounter when fighting for that cause.
How can others learn about you, get in touch, or support your work?
Photo credit: STAND Magazine