Black Daddies Club founder Brandon Hay was featured in Toronto Caribbean Newspaper for the work he has done in creating the Black Daddies Club more than 14 years ago, you can read the full article at the link provided below
Using a Dialogical approach with Black Men
Thinking about the book “Between Person and Person: Toward a Dialogical Psychotherapy (1993)” by Richard Hycner reference to this idea of the “between” and the importance of the interhuman relationship has made me think about the relevance of the Black Daddies Club (BDC) Sunday Dinner monthly online gatherings for Black men that takes place on the Zoom platform on the last Sunday of each month. The idea of this initiative was planted in my head, when I had a conversation with a friend of mine in 2017, whose name is Ajamu and is a gay Black man from England who is a renowned photographer and educator. He spoked to me about a conversation series he hosted in London, England in the 80’s and 90’s which was aimed at Black men who identified as straight, gay and bi-sexual. He spoke about the impactful conversations that took place from these face-to-face gatherings that took place and the learnings that these men who attended these events walked away with. The idea of doing something similar excited me and also terrified me, because I was worried for things that I couldn’t control, such things as homophobia or people feeling traumatized by something that was said in a conversation, is it even possible to create safe spaces for these kinds of conversation is something I wondered?
Importance of I-IT and I-Thou relationship in working with Black men
In November 2020, during another lockdown created by the Covid-19 pandemic in Toronto, I decided to launch the first Sunday Dinner online gatherings for Black men from various entry points on the Zoom platform. Since we started last year, I have noticed that over the past 5 months of delivering the Sunday Dinners online gatherings, I have seen some connections to some of the ideas that is written about in the book “Between Person and Person: Toward a Dialogical Psychotherapy (1993)” by Richard Hycner. Taking a dialogical approach has been important to Sunday Dinner gatherings as one of the goals has been to co-create the space with the Black men that attend these sessions, meaning that the agenda for the most part is created with the men in the space. Using a dialogical approach, we are able to utilize the shared wisdom, brilliance and lived experience that each person brings into the space, rather than speaking down to the attendees or “objectifying them using I-It relationship” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.7), we have implored to using the approach of “I-Thou relationship which begins with a turning of our ‘being’ to our partner” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.6). There is a necessity in both the I-It and I-Thou when it comes to dialogue to experience the fullness in human interaction, this taken up by Lynne Jacobs in their chapter entitled Dialogue in Gestalt Theory and therapy, from the book The Healing Relationship in Gestalt Therapy: A Dialogic/ Self Psychology Approach (1995) by Richard Hycner and Lynne Jacob. In the chapter they state, “The I-It mode is vitally necessary for survival, the I-Thou for the realization of personhood. As Buber stated, ‘Without it a human being cannot live. But whoever lives with only that is not human (1970, P. 85)” (Hycner & Jacob, 1995, p. 52).
Utilizing technology to decrease the isolation Black men face
Another goal of BDC Sunday Dinners online gathering is to decrease the isolation of Black men who are navigating the aloneness that can come with this pandemic, so by creating an online space where these men can be in dialogue with each other has been deeply impactful. Also utilizing certain functions on the Zoom platform and using the approach that I have learned through my classes at Gestalt Institute of Toronto during the pandemic, by going in-between the main room and breakout rooms for deep conversations. These men have given feedback on how much these breakout rooms have been useful for them to connect with each other. The dialogical approach has been useful for connecting Black men who identify as straight, gay, trans-men, bi-sexual and non-binary, who are open and willing to locate the place of connectedness that lays between them. This is highlighted by what Hycner states in the following:
“Genuine dialogue can only emerge if both persons are willing to go beyond only an I-It attitude and truly value, accept and appreciate the other person. Ultimately, this requires a transcendence beyond our separateness. It means a willingness to acknowledge and enter into what Buber describes as the realm of the Between.” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.8).
Making space for the vulnerability of the organizer
This dialogical approach also gives me the space as the person who is organizing the Sunday Dinner discussion sessions to enter into these conversations revealing my own vulnerabilities and insecurities as a Black man. I have come to believe the dialogical approach helps me from sitting into a power dynamic of only observer or the objectification of the other Black men who are in dialogue in the online space. Hycner found that there was “no theory which adequately addressed in an integrated manner what was going on within (the intrapsychic), between (the interpersonal), and beyond (the transpersonal), the therapist and client.” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.34), this tells me that there has to be a meeting between myself as the organizer of Sunday Dinner and the meeting between the Black men attending the Sunday Dinner conversations. The Interhuman experience that happens between Black men is necessary for true contact to be made in a dialogical conversation, as Hycner recalls his understanding of Martin Buber’s writing on the interhuman sphere.
“In accordance with this, it is basically erroneous to try to understand the interhuman phenomena as psychological. When two men converse together, the psychological is certainly an important part of the situation, as each listens and each prepares to speak. Yet this is only the hidden accompaniment to the conversation itself, the phonetic event fraught with meaning, whose meaning is to be found neither in one of the two partners nor in both together, but only in their dialogue itself, in this ‘between’ which they live together. (Buber, 1965b, p.75)
Personal Challenges with Dialogical approach
The book also made me think about some challenges with the dialogical approach to interhuman interaction in therapy, let me be clear the challenges are not in the theory themselves, but more the challenges with myself in my current phase or stage of personal growth being able to perform these aspects of the approach. The first thing I found challenging was trying understand this concept of the “Art of psychotherapy”, and how is it achieved? Hycner speaks about the importance of the therapist being able to balance being connected and disconnected while in this process with the client, he stated: “This perhaps the most demanding aspect of the profession- it requires the therapist to simultaneously integrate the art, as well the science, of psychotherapy. The neglect of either is a disservice to the client.” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.14). The other idea I found challenging is the idea of the “wounded healer” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.15, meaning that the therapist is also navigating their own wounds and trauma while they are supporting their clients navigate their own baggage’s of trauma and wounds, Hycner states “It is a paradoxical profession because the therapist has to confront issues in other people’s lives which the therapist may not have resolved in his own life” (Hycner, 1991/1993, p.15. This was one of the main reasons why I chose to come to Gestalt Institute of Toronto, the idea of the first two years of the program was focused on working on myself, and some of my blind spots was extremely attractive and it still is. However, I have realized that It will take a life time to do this work and this emotional work around personal growth will be a continuous and life-long journey. This book brought up some anxiety in realizing to do this work in this way, there will be a need for true vulnerability between the therapist and client, which kind of burst this idea of therapy being a power imbalance between the therapists and client, this notion that the therapist is all knowing, or that they do not have any dents in their armour is released which in some ways brings relief that in this approach there is not an emphasis for the therapist in performing to be inhuman but rather the emphasis is placed on both the humanity of client and therapist.
Theory versus Experience
Navigating through my journey in Gestalt therapy over the past two years, I have been struggling with this inner tension of imposter syndrome due to the fact that I didn’t have any psychotherapy theory in my toolbelt prior to coming to Gestalt Institute of Toronto. In contrast to a lot of my classmates, who have done work in their past as a counsellor, therapist, wellness coach, etc. or some have gone to other post-secondary institutions for psychotherapy. Where I arrive to this work is from an experiential location, my lived experience as a Black man in a big body, through the Black Daddies Club working to create spaces for other Black men to see themselves in the between with other Black men. I am constantly working through this tension of my lived experiences of my humanity and theories of psychotherapy and how the two intersects, in the book “Beyond individualism: toward a new understanding of self, relationship & experience, by Gordon Wheeler, 2000, the tension of using only theory for this work, he states:
“Why do the theories we have now seem to so unable to serve this purpose, so incomplete? Worse, why do we experience them so often as divorced from the applications they are meant to ground and support, or from any wider picture of human functioning and experience – as if theory were one thing, and practical reality something else entirely (in which case why bother with theory)? Again, why is there is no unified field theory of psychology and human nature, hardly even the quest for one any longer—an integrated picture of who we are and what we need, that would join self to the world of other selves, behaviour to experience, and context and purpose to meaningful, effective action in the domain of real living?” (Wheeler, 2000, P.7-8)
In closing there is a richness in a dialogical approach which allows for the humanity to exist with each other, which promotes learning and connectedness, this is becoming increasingly important as humanity navigates isolation brought upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Hycner, R. (1993). Between Person and Person: Toward a Dialogical Psychotherapy. The Gestalt Journal Press, Inc.
- Hycner, R & Jacob, (1995). The Healing Relationship in Gestalt Therapy: A Dialogic/ Self Psychology Approach. The Gestalt Journal Press, Inc.
- Wheeler, G. (2000). Beyond individualism: toward a new understanding of self, relationship & experience. GIC Press.
By Brandon Hay (MES) April 2021
What are Black Men saying about Black Daddies Club co-presents Sunday Dinner Monthly online gatherings?
- “FJ”: Love the space. Keep providing the opportunities for us Black men to connect…
- “MB”: We should continue this and have a space where men can be vulnerable and connect with each other. Keep it going and am looking forward to meeting in person and keep this going
- “FC” (São Paulo – Brazil): I loved the plurality of this meeting and also the dynamic. Was a great challenge.
- “DS”: I like the one to one break out room discussions.
- “LL”: I like how welcoming it is and connecting with other black men
- “DS”: I like the diversity of the men in the group.
- “J”: I like access to true and transparent conversations.
- “PJ”: It is great to hear the different views, ideas and perspectives. No judgement, just support and love expressed by being vulnerable.
- “Q”: Such a beautiful space. Grateful to have been a part of this.
- TKO (He/Him/They) 🇨🇦: I love most about this space is the coming together of Black men.
- PRH (England): Listening to the brothers and actually feeling their pain. Being black is not only a privilege but also a blessing. Being able to associate with things that may have happened in my past or what I’m currently going through is quality which I have no doubt will grow…
(Feedback from various men who have attended Black Daddies Club Sunday Dinners between November 2020 to March 2021)
The next Black Daddies Club, co-presents Sunday Dinners online monthly gatherings for Black men, will take place on Sunday, April 25th, 2021 at 5pm to 7:30pm. The theme for this month session will be around the question: “What did you learn about sex as a child or teenager that has informed how have engaged with sexuality as an adult?”.
The need for communal spaces for Black men from various entry points to connect with other Black men is something needed and desired by Black men globally. The Black Daddies Club co-presents Sunday Dinner monthly virtual gathering has validated this idea as we have seen the attendance of Black men from Toronto, Ottawa, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, California, Brazil and England over the past few months. These Black men have been able to bring in their plurality and their multiplicities as Black men, whether they are straight, gay, trans-men, bi-sexual or along the binary; these men have been able to bring themselves into the space and in doing so, Black men in this space are learning from each other as well as teaching each other about their lived experiences.
Visit here to register on Eventbrite for the next Sunday Dinner online gathering, taking place on Sunday April 26th 2021 from 5pm to 730pm. The event is free to ensure that the space is accessible to all those who could potentially find the space supportive can access it.
Thank you in advance,
I came across this really dope video by brothers at Beleaf In Fatherhood and they gave some good strategies around teaching our children how to ride their bikes. As a father of three boys, who are now young men and teenagers, I have been through the process of teaching them how to ride their bikes and I think this video is a really interesting approach to teaching your children how to ride a bike and something that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“What does it mean to shed the parts of masculinity that do not serve you any longer? How is this work done? What does it look like for Black men? What is the role communing with other Black men in this deep and personal work?”
The Black Daddies Club, Co-presents Sunday Dinners: Gathering for Black men, monthly virtual gathering will be engaging with the theme of “Growth and Shedding” for the upcoming discussion, which will take place on Sunday, March 28th 2021, from 5pm to 7:30pm (Est. time zone), register here.
The Next Sunday Dinner is scheduled for Sunday, March 28th, 2021 from 5pm to 7:30pm
The purpose of the Sunday Dinners online gatherings is to co-create brave spaces where we encourage Black men to bring all of themselves into the space or as much of themselves that they feel comfortable in doing. The Sunday Dinner space is for Black men to connect with other Black men, for us to talk and connect with each online during a period in time, where connecting in person can be challenging.
Register for the March edition of Sunday Dinner conversation at the eventbrite link below.
We are two months into the new calendar year of 2021, and we are gearing up for the Black Daddies Club, Sunday Dinners online gathering for Black men series, which takes place Sunday, February 21st, 2021 from 5pm to 7:30pm.
There have been a few instances over the new year that I have missed having a space to connect with other Black men to talk about some of the things that have been impactful and I know I am not alone in this sentiment.
You can register for this free event on Eventbrite.
What: Sunday Dinners, monthly online gatherings for Black men
Where: Zoom platform
When: Sunday, February 21st, 2021 from 5pm to 7:30pm
Actions: If you are a Black man register on Eventbrite, if you are not a Black man, please share with those that maybe interested
Eight years ago (2013), The Black Daddies Club partnered with Dr. Carl James (York University), Dr. Lance McCready (University of Toronto, OISE) and the City of Toronto do a research project called Gathering our voices (report can be found on the report tab on the Black Daddies Club website). In our conversations around marketing and promotion for the research project, in where we wanted to capture the voices from Black fathers in the Greater Toronto Area. We landed on the idea of creating a series of video montages in where we would speak with various Black fathers in Toronto about some issues that we wanted to talk about in the research project and hear what they would have to say. The result was three videos that was created and edited with Toronto photographer Steve Carty.
The videos are still relevant 8 years later, and the issues that Black men were navigating in 2013 are still issues a lot of Black men are still navigating in 2021. The fact that we are navigating a pandemic with Covid-19 and we are not able to gather in our usual spaces and be able to speak freely with other Black men (i.e. barbershops), we have to think of innovative ways of creating spaces where Black men have the freedom to speak authentically and most importantly a space where Black men can resonate and even see themselves in the words that are said by other Black men.
One of the outcome from the research project, was that Black men in Toronto repeatedly said they wanted more spaces to connect with other Black men, for them to talk about various issues that they are navigating amidst other Black men and also to share their experiences as Black men and listen to other Black men’s experiences that mimics their own or that they can learn from. The Black Daddies Club has continued co-creating various spaces for Black men and the Black communities as a result of the recommendation from the “Gathering Our Voices Research, 2013”. The newest Black Daddies Club initiative Sunday Dinner, is creating this virtual space for Black men (Straight, Gay, Trans, Bi-sexual and Non-binary).
The Black Daddies Club co-presents Sunday Dinners, are monthly online discussions for Black men that takes place on the Zoom platform, these conversations takes place on the last Sunday of each month. The next Sunday Dinner will take place Sunday, February 21st, 5pm to 7:30pm. You can register for this free event on EventBrite
York University Alumni, Brandon Hay was featured in York University’s Alumni newsletter which came out in February 2021. Here is an excerpt from the article.
“I think barber shops have been these traditional spaces for Black men to talk and to get therapy, and it’s good for Black men to talk – but your barber is not a trained therapist. And we were suffering in silence. I think the struggle is definitely ongoing, but BDC has been an immense change in the way I parent. My children are definitely informed. Over the 14 years there have been a lot of changes within the community, but also a lot of changes within me. The saying really is right – it takes a village.”
Read the remaining article here.
Going to visit a therapist has been a bit of taboo for myself and for other Black men, or atleast amongst the Black men I grew up around. The idea of unmasking in front of a stranger and sharing all your deep secrets, seemed terrifying to me. This changed four years ago, once I began going through a separation from my 16 year marriage and found that I needed to find a space that I could speak honestly about what pain and shame I was navigating.
After deciding that I was going to visit a therapist, then came the issue of finding the right therapist for me, as I wanted to find someone who l would feel comfortable with, and someone who looked like myself, a Black man. I went to see a few different therapists, until I came across Gestalt Therapy. Even though non of my therapist has been a Black man, i have found spaces where I can share more than i can in the “regular world”, it has also made me go on the journey of becoming a Gestalt therapist myself, as I have been attending the Gestalt Institute of Toronto for the past 2 years apart of their 5 year program.
The work Black Daddies Club has been doing for 14 years has been focusing on creating safe spaces for Black men and Black folks to speak unapologetically about their Blackness and their perceived positionality in the world that we live in.
Take a listen as I speak to Talia Singer, PhD RN RP (She/Her) Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Podcast Host for WhateverWorks about my journey to become a Gestalt Therapist, listen to this episode on Spotify.