“They Call Me Dad” Explores Dimensions of Black Fatherhood

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

“They Call Me Dad” Explores Dimensions of Black Fatherhood

— February 28, 2021 —

Seeing yourself on television, with your family, during Black History Month, on a network created by Oprah Winfrey is surreal—even for a public relations professional like me accustomed to the cameras that come with publicity.

Last week my wife and I sank into the comfort of our living room sofa, clicked over to the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and watched the season premiere of “OWN Spotlight: They Call Me Dad,” a one-hour special that profiles Black fathers as they as they navigate the joys and fears that come with fatherhood.

There I was at the 36-minute mark, clad in a shawl collar sweater, speaking directly to the camera about my journey as a father raising an autistic daughter, my words punctuated by cherished family photos and home movie footage.

The stories presented in “They Call Me Dad” matter because they shift the narrative on Black fatherhood which has long been distorted in media.

The three-minute vignette was one of several showcased between achingly compelling stories of four celebrity dads that explored the dimensions of Black fatherhood: chef G. Garvin; actor Glynn Turman; rapper Tobe Nwigwe; and journalist/activist Bakari Sellers.

I’d been invited to participate in the series last December, but hadn’t received a sneak peek ahead of the Feb. 23 premiere. I was just as surprised as my friends were by the beautifully produced segment about my family which resulted from a two-hour interview.

My wife and I got a little choked up. On Facebook a friend exclaimed, “It was so heartwarming…What a wonderful thing to see the beauty, joy and pride of Black fatherhood illuminated!” On Instagram, autism advocate and author Florence Bracy commented, “Great interview. Thanks for putting a new face to autism.”

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a poster child for Black families affected by autism, but have shared my story to encourage acceptance and used my voice to encourage parents to have their children screened for autism early and seek a diagnosis if needed. That’s because I truly believe early intervention works.

 

 

Florence’s remark, however, lingers in my mind because it echoes an observation I made about the Disney/Pixar film “Loop” which broke ground by placing an autistic girl of color at the center of a story:

“Too often in popular culture children on the spectrum are depicted as young white boys even though autism affects children in countries across the world. And while it’s true that in the U.S. boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls…, [director Erica] Milsom’s decision to broaden the visual representation of who is affected by autism is a breakthrough worthy of celebration.”

By including my story in this edition of “They Call Me Dad,” the show, executive produced by Oji Singletary and Critical Content, helps to normalize neurodiversity and expand the picture of what a family affected by autism looks like.

Representation matters.

It matters because it raises awareness and shows other families they are not alone.

It matters because it validates experiences and lifts aspirations.

But beyond autism, the stories presented in “They Call Me Dad” matter because they shift the narrative on Black fatherhood which has long been distorted in media, fueling negative perceptions about Black families that haunt the American mind. The latter has real-world effects as noted in a still-relevant 2011 study conducted by The Opportunity Agenda on the impact of media representations on the lives of Black men and boys.

In his 1952 novel “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison famously wrote: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”

That’s the power of “They Call Me Dad”: its ability to hold up a mirror that affirms the humanity of Black men.

 

Father on,


— Disclosure: This is an unsolicited review.

— Banner image courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Network




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773 words

2.28.21

Johnathon E. BriggsHusband • Dad • Autism Advocate • Aspiring YA Author • On @GoodMenProject • #BlackDadMagic • ΑΦΑ

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 43. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Dispatches from the Parent Hood™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email (fatherhoodforty@gmail.com) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 43. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Dispatches from the Parent Hood™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email (fatherhoodforty@gmail.com) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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