This Calendar year of 2020, will make the 13th anniversary of Black Daddies Club (BDC), and I had to ask myself do I have the capacity to steer the direction and grow the organization of how we should grow moving forward. Over the past 13 years, I have dealt with burnout, depression and isolation more times than I can account for, navigating personal issues such as navigating the separation of my marriage and learning how to co-parent from outside of the home, has been a really challenging, guilt-ridden and isolating process for me, many times not feeling like a “good” Black father myself (whatever this means).
During the years of 2017- 2019 I decided that I needed to limit the number of events Black Daddies Club took on and really focus on working on myself, really try to figure out how to heal myself and learn how to co-parent after a separation. During this process of my separation from my marriage, I started to seek out a Black Therapists and ideally wanted it to be a Black man, as I wanted to bring my whole self into the conversation without feeling like I was being Judged. I couldn’t find a Black male therapist, but I found a great Black therapist who was a woman and she helped me move some emotional blockages by supporting me to discover some unhealthy patterns that I had grown to normalize.
However, I still felt distant in my conversations with my therapist and what I desired was a space where I could see myself in the other person I was engaging with, and what I wanted this to look like was connectivity by the other person sharing of their own experiences, and for our experiences to intersect; what I was seeking was not feeling like I was alone going through this process of my marriage separation and figuring who I was as a Black father and Black man. I had experienced this type of confluence in barbershops discussions as well as dialogical spaces that were co-created through the Black Daddies Club, and I feel it is important moving forward to be intentional to put work into co-creating more spaces for Black conversations in Toronto.
In 2019, I decided that I wanted to take a more pro-active step towards healing myself, so I went back to school to become a therapist at the Gestalt Institute of Toronto for their five-year program. With that, the understanding that the first two years of the program was to focus on working on myself healing and then the remaining three years was focusing on how I could support our people in my community on their own path towards healing. Before I can do any kind of therapeutic work, I must heal myself first and have a better understanding of myself and how to support myself in the process.
This brings me to the direction that I want to take Black Daddies Club over the next few years which will be to focus on co-creating healing spaces for Black fathers, Black families and the various Black communities in the Greater Toronto Area. I wanted the work that Black Daddies Club would undertake in the year 2020 and 2021 to be grounded in research that we have done through the Gathering Our Voices Research Project in 2013. The research that was a collaboration between York University, University of Toronto, The City of Toronto and The Black Daddies Club, captured the voices of Black fathers in living in Toronto and produced several themes that BDC will be delving into deeper over 2020 and 2021. I wanted to create a framework of Collaboration, Co-Creation and Innovation to determine the future work that BDC will undertake moving forward after 2021. This process will be steeped in collaboration, how I define collaboration in this sense is that it should be win/win, potentially long term, and cross-sectorial.
Collaborating from the roots versus collaborating from the branch, which speaks to working together from early in the process versus collaborating later on in the process. Our goal for this work is to be mechanisms for transformation, with that being said, our hope is to change or strengthen existing policy, decrease isolation in our communities and moving towards a more collaborative approach to limit the work done in silos that I have been seeing popular due to non-profit industrial complex.
Our first collaborative project of 2020 will between Ryerson University research project WeSpeak and The Black Daddies Club. The WeSpeak project is research looking at Black men in Canada living with HIV and hired Black Daddies Club as consultants to produce three community based dialogues in the months of January to March 2020, which will take a look at issues around dating and healing from Black men perspective.
We hope you can join Black Daddies Club in 2020 as we plan on continuing to co-create relevant initiatives with the support of community members as yourselves.
Brandon Hay, MES (Bus.)
Founder of The Black Daddies Club