Black Love Matters 2017 Un-Conference

“We need [Black] communities that we can bring all parts of us to, and not just some parts of us.”

– Syrus Marcus Ware, Black Lives Matter Toronto, 2014


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Black Daddies Club (BDC). When I started BDC in November 2007, it came from a need in my lived experience as a Black father. Living in Malvern, in the east end of Toronto, I was constantly being told that there weren’t any resources or programming for Black fathers in my neighbourhood. I also recognized that the majority of media outlets in Canada, when speaking about Black fathers, spoke primarily of negative stereotypes, painting the spectrum of Black masculinities with broad strokes, and stigmatizing Black men as “deadbeat dads” who are irresponsible, criminal, dangerous, and un-human.

Over the past 10 years, there have been many beautiful people who have supported BDC in a multitude of ways, through sharing their narratives as Black parents in our research projects, or in various documentaries that BDC has co-created with folks in the Black community. We have forged meaningful partnerships that have created fortifying experiences for Black families and community members over the years.  Significant is the fact that BDC has never applied for government funding for any of the over one hundred activities produced over the last decade. We have worked with community partners, volunteers and community members to make this work happen. To all the volunteers that have put in their time, sweat, money and love…the folks at BDC wish to convey our profound gratitude.

I have learned a lot over the past 10 years, and I am still learning a lot about myself.  I earned a Master’s degree by taking my community work into academia and interrogating Black masculinities and Black love. I have made some really dope friendships along this beautiful journey. I have also found, while doing this community work, that it has been difficult to find communities and spaces where I am able to un-mask myself—to take off my armour and be vulnerable—which is such a necessary part of being able to sustain this work. I have gone through depression, and worked multiple odd jobs to sustain the community work that I am doing with BDC. I have been through burnout more times than I can count, and learned that this work requires self-care and self-love.

I have met some awesome people and heard many incredible stories. I have found myself feeling hopeful, as well as hopeless, doing this work. I feel hopeful because I have had the opportunity to witness social activism, in response to anti-Black racism, become more mainstream. Groups, such as Black Lives Matters Toronto (BLMTO), are furthering the Black liberation work in Toronto—work started by groups such as the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC). However, my feeling of hopelessness comes from speaking to elders who came to Canada in the 1970s, faced issues of erasure and oppression attending high school, and now have grandchildren facing similar issues in their school system in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It makes me wonder, is anti-Black racism declining or increasing, on a systematic and political level, in Canada?

For our 10-year anniversary, BDC is celebrating Black love, unapologetically declaring that 2017 is the time for Black folks to love ourselves completely, and more than ever before. As we look at Canadian statistics they show that Black communities are showing up in various Canadian research findings in the areas of criminal justice, unemployment, subsidized housing, children’s aid services, and many more.

In an era in Canada where we see police murder Black people and get no jail time; an era where we see that the intersection of mental illness and Blackness can be deadly; in an era where we see racialized and marginalized communities become erased in the name of revitalization and gentrification—from Africville to Regent Park; in an era that teaches Black children to grow up hating themselves or not seeing themselves as human beings. We, as the Black Canadian community, must push back and resist those racist ideologies. We must re-imagine our Black future here in Canada, while recognizing this is stolen land. It is important for us to do the work of collaborating with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the original caretakers of this land.

Black Daddies Club will be celebrating our learnings of the past 10 years through the Black Love Matters 2017 Un-Conference. This un-conference is a series of events building awareness about our distinct ways of engaging with each other, as Black people. We began in 2016 with Breaking Bread brunches, where we engaged with the Black community across the GTA to start shaping the conversations the community would like to engage in at the un-conference. After a year-long process of community consultations, requests were put forward that the following elements be a part of the Black Love Matters 2017 Un-Conference:

  • build in an intergenerational focus
  • engage our community in different spaces across the GTA
  • frame food and the arts as part of the community-building process
  • position folks attending these spaces as co-teachers, as well as co-learners—giving
  • and receiving knowledge.

Some of BDC’s upcoming events in 2017 are:

  • A Jamaica Mi Come From (July 1 st , Canada Day)
  • Black Daddies Club Family and Friends Summer Hikes (June 25 th , July 23 rd , August 13 th )
  • Black Love Matters course, York University (co-facilitated with Nigel Barriffe and Urban Alliance on Race Relations, September to November)
  • Un-Masking Black Masculinities, Part Two (Fall, date TBC)
  • What can we learn about Black Resistance and Love from the Black LGBTQ Ballroom communities? (Fall, date TBC)
  • Dating While Black in Toronto (Fall, date TBC)
  • Gender, Blackness and Work Symposium, (Fall, date TBC)

We hope to see you at the Black Love Matters 2017 Un-Conference

– Brandon Hay, MES (Founder of Black Daddies Club)