“Black fathers (70%) were most likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day compared with white (60%) and Hispanic fathers (45%),”
Country music artist Jimmie Allen and YouTube sensation Glen Henry are part of a club whose membership includes Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, former President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and music entrepreneur Jay-Z.
This club also consists of the Black men who live in your community, attend your place of worship and work in your office.
These Black men are fathers. And contrary to popular belief, Black fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than their white and Hispanic counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Black fathers (70%) were most likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day compared with white (60%) and Hispanic fathers (45%),” said a 2013 study conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, based in Atlanta.
With the constant barrage of media misinformation and societal misconceptions surrounding the role that Black fathers play in the lives of their children, Allen and Henry, both 37, are doing their part to reveal what it means to be a Black father in modern times. These two men are working against the lack of positive imagery surrounding Black men and their role in parenting, thus becoming part of a more significant movement to ensure that Black fathers have a seat at the table.
“Anybody who thinks they know about fatherhood, Black fatherhood, Black people, or Black lives, you have no idea because you have never lived it,” said Henry, founder and lead creator of Beleaf in Fatherhood, a popular social media platform.
As part of a campaign, #CelebrateBlackDads, Allen and Henry believe that we must turn the page on the old troupes that have maligned Black men. They think it is time to create a new definition that includes the fundamental role that Black fathers play in their children, their families, and community at large.
Allen describes fatherhood as being a lifelong “basic training” instructor for your children and “preparing them for life’s wars, survival, and the will to thrive in society.”
“Being a dad is about preparing my children to be successful and teaching them how to take care of themselves,” said Allen, father to Aayden, Naomi and Zara. “Beyond that, I believe it is my job to equip my kids with everything they need. Not just the tough stuff, but the love and compassion too.”
As the recipient of the 2021 Country Music Association Award for New Artist of the Year, Allen has learned to juggle his ever-expanding singer-songwriter career with his role as a father living at home with his children. And Allen isn’t alone. According to the same CDC report, 72% percent of Black fathers talk with their children about their day over the phone several times a week, whether or not they live in the household.
“It’s a constant conversation with my son, wife and daughters,” said Allen, whose father was a Marine. “I let them know I love them, and we’ll spend time together as soon as I get back.”
Moments together involve hugs for his daughters and father-son bowling with his son Aayden.
Documentary film producer Taroue Brooks believes that the mainstream media’s unwillingness to capture Black men spending time with their children and in their community dates back to slavery and has impacted the modern mythical portrayal of Black fatherhood.
“We must be mindful that since slavery, Black fathers have been removed from their homes, dismantling the family structure,” Brooks said. “This puts the women and children in harm’s way without their protector or provider.”
Brooks, executive producer of “What About Me,” a documentary that takes audiences into the minds of African-American men, continued. “Black fathers don’t get the respect for their role as protector and provider.[They] have endured trauma for being a Black man in America without adequate access to resources, opportunities, fairness or equity. The fact that Black fathers still show up is nothing short of a miracle.”
This is a miracle that Henry has decided to document as part of Beleaf in Fatherhood.
After Henry and his wife had their second child, Uriah, the skyrocketing cost of childcare pushed him to leave the workforce and become a stay-at-home dad. He described the role as one of his most challenging yet straightforward jobs.
“I just really thought it was going to be boring,” Henry said. “When I became the primary care provider for the two boys, Theo and Uriah, they just showed me how emotionally exhausting, overwhelming, and at the same fulfilling fatherhood can be”
While only being allowed to spend summers with his father, Henry says his journey as a stay-at-home dad was unique and different. So much so, he decided to document it on social media.
“This is just a unique experience many people have not seen,” he said. “We do not talk about stay-at-home dads, especially Black dads. We are perceived to be a myth in popular culture.”
According to Dove Men+Care, within the general population, more than a third of fathers (37 percent) have not seen any content related to Black fatherhood or Black men as caregivers on social media within the past month.
This void in representation has been a leading cause of Henry’s tremendous growth. Today, he has nearly 2.5 million followers on multiple digital platforms, including TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
Intending to be a reference point on, and not an example of, Black fatherhood, Henry believes that his platform shows Black men and boys that they too can be great fathers. Allen states that this blueprint had not been very visible in his neighborhood.
“As a Black father, it is my responsibility to show other Black kids how simple it could be and how difficult it is not to be a father,” said Henry, the father of four children, including Anaya and Uziah. “For the few that don’t see, they will never know that fatherhood is life-giving.”
Beyond just being a reference point, Henry’s platform also features a wealth of advice, resources, and a space for Black fathers to find community in a world in which their existence in the home is almost seen as a mythical phenomenon.
In 2013, the CDC exposed the truth: 2.5 million Black fathers live in a household with their children compared with 1.7 million who don’t. This fact is a statistical repudiation of the often overused talking point that most Black children live in fatherless homes.
Pushing out the truth is just one part of Allen and Henry’s campaign, To #CelebrateBlackDads, powered by Dove Men+Care. Allen, Henry and the other fathers who are involved are working to change how the world sees Black fatherhood and men.
Whether through packed crowds at a country music concert or popular YouTube videos, these two men are making it clear that Black fathers exist and show up for their children, whether or not they live in the home. The question remains, will society begin to see the spotlight on Black fathers?