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Brandon Hay – Black Daddies Club – Breaking the Cycle – TEDX


welcome to Actidad the awesome dad show Brandon I am really excited to chat with you tonight

how you doing? I'm good mark really excited to be having me man I'm really honored to have you on the show and I think you've got a great message to spread I saw your TEDx Toronto presentation and I thought it was phenomenal so I'm really looking forward to hearing more about your story okay so Brandon I'm gonna start I'm gonna go into your backstory a little bit but I want to start here with the black daddies club how rewarding has the black daddies club been to you as a father I mean it's it's been really rewarding man like I think as we were sort of talking about a bit before the call or the interview you know I think the black daddies Club really selfishly was for a gap that I see my own life like a need that I had a need that I didn't see in Toronto in terms of supports for black fathers and and to be honest there wasn't much space is for black fathers and general guardians of culture or race but I think a space where a just by black men and black fathers gathering you're sort of demystifying this this myth that black fathers don't exist or not you know taking a role in their kids life so being in a room full of folks or being in a barbershop full of folks of men talking about the lived experience and also seeing bits and pieces of your own stories within these these these narratives are super key for one part you realize I cannot isolate it you realize you're not going through stuff alone and more importantly as you touched on you I get to learn a lot I got to learn a lot from different men different and even moms and different guardians or whatever like different stories that I'm able to put into my own toolkit my own arsenal to like parent my kids community is incredibly important I think forever whatever your goals are but for fathers especially okay so let's kind of back let's kind of let's backtrack a little bit alright going back to to your your upbringing you're born in Jamaica yeah which beautiful country by the way I got a chance to visit it a couple years really wonderful got to see not only the the touristy places got to travel up man I don't know how you guys drive on those roads though they're pretty gnarly going up the mountains and people are calling yeah it's crazy but Brandi so tell me a little bit about your upbringing in Jamaica and how that's impacted the way that you're fathering now yeah I mean I think the relationship with my dad growing up like I was one of seven kids he had with different moms so you know it was a it was a lot hard for him to sort of split himself so to speak to be there for all that all of his children equally yeah sure um and I think I think what I took from that was I think growing up it was a lot of like you know not just broken promises but there's a lot of like hurt in terms of like shit like you know not really spending as much time as you want with with them and then sort of like when you do spend time you try to like the seemed like it went quickly you know too quickly right and and I think once it wrapped you knew that you didn't know when the next time you're gonna connect um which was challenging um and I think taking that in terms of like into my own children um when my first son was born I was sort of like super like oh I want to be engaged I want to do the the diaper changing I want to make sure my partner I'm sleeping and I will take turns so like have my kids sleep in my tent like my chest on the couch and then you know you go you know you you go through the fuck up stuff like you're waking up Midway seeing your kid on the ground falling cuz they roll up your stomach because like you know you know it's like this just it's like there's no there's no guideline there's no blueprint in terms of this thing but all I knew was that I wanted to change just this this cycle that was happening my own lineage right and then on the flip side it was like I grew up there wasn't in terms of the media it wasn't that many um shows up or imagery and that showed black fatherhood in a positive light with the exception of The Cosby shows right so I mean the Cosby's show now or Bill Cosby now has a different set of meanings than when it did when I was growing up right like I think the Cosby shows and obviously there's certain you know it doesn't necessarily capture the reality of like the majority of black men not all bad men are doctors and wives or lawyers but I think this idea of like the father being present co-parenting and up this positive way was really important for me to sort of say okay this is something that I want to sort of like emulate but then as a young father at 21 like that I realized like I was nowhere near the Cosby's or Bill Cosby so it was important for me to sort of create a space where there was more like more realistic space where black fathers could talk about what we're going through you know and support each other absolutely so I think you hit on something that's really important the media in general what you see on TV it doesn't always show fathers in a in a great light black father's white father's Hispanic what-have-you they're always kind of like the doofus or they're kind of like second to mom like mom takes care everything up all the mess ups that dad has I found that to be a very destructive message to fathers in general and to children growing up like okay now I'm a dad I guess I've downgrade in my life when it's it's really not like that at all and I really got to commend you for breaking the cycle I think that's something that that we really need to focus on was there it was there any reason in particular Brandon why you decide hey I want to really be engaged I really want to be involved was there something that why did you make that decision well I think this there's a couple things right I think the first reason of like how black that is club really came about it's you know in 2004 my father got murdered in Jamaica by an 11 year old kid that two weeks later he was murdered by the same people who hired hired him to kill my father you know and going back to Jamaica for the funeral but also to speak to the police officer that was handling the case he said something that like struck a chord and he was like in this sort of normlessness this sort of like nonchalant way that this is normal like this fact that this young kid killed my dad and then was killed later on was normal and for me it was sort of that was really disturbing you know um that that he was normalizing this thing but and I think for me the the the lightbulb was the fact that that there's a normalization of crisis within black communities regardless if it's in Jamaica or if it's in Brooklyn or missing here in Toronto and I didn't want to just be apathetic anymore right I wanted to like do something because up to that point I was sort of you know in my own bubble here and I'm saying I would work go home watch news and be like god that's messed up and then go to sleep you know and then when this happened I was like looking for this public outcry but it wasn't any um and realizing like I want to be a part of the solution I don't know what a solution looks like but I didn't want to just kind of stand on the sidelines and just just whatever you know what I'm saying um and it black that he's come didn't come right away I think it came around like six years later a few years later because you you know I had to go through whatever grieving process I needed to go through but I think what was coming up for me was that I was looking for I got wanders things happening as a young parent as a young partner transitioning from boys um to manhood to fatherhood but not really having your father to go and talk to you know I'm saying I remember going to get married and wishing you know us sort of like hoping in this weird way like I was missing this this the talk like I would picture I would have my kids with when they're gonna get married off you know that that talk the father has with the son to say yo you're going over to this next chapter and you got to step it up and whenever whatever and I have to sort of like talk that to myself and sort of like imagine what he would it would have been like if he was there you know and I think for me it's like having three black sons is it's not for them to have a similar experience for their experience around fatherhood me being president to be normal you know I'm saying where sometimes you know when I was growing up or when these guys are growing up and I was like go to the park or um you know do little things like for me this DS were like very big moments you know what I'm saying but they're like normal things they're very normal things um I think that's really the the purpose um allowed this what I do with black daddies Club it's it's mimicking my own life and it's it's informed by my own life and it's selfishly it's it's about looking how to improve myself as a father you know well it's kind of like iron sharpens iron right you get with other people that are like-minded because because the problem is this right you grow up without having a father like really they're teaching you all these different things and then when you finally make that jump to fatherhood yeah he's not there because he's tragically taken from this world so you can't say hey what do you think about this what do you think about that so where do you go what ends up happening I think in a lot of places not just in black music in all communities is kids turn to who's who's the cool kid guys selling the drugs or the guy see on TV and they're not always the ones who are living up the best lifestyle sure but I mean you know the interesting thing is I think my mom being a single mother cuz like when we migrated to Toronto she had this the the this task of like okay how do I teach my my only child who's as a young man how to be a man and as a woman right so I think what she did was she exposed me like you know I have some uncles that's here in Toronto so she would like in them for March break or summer break I would go and spend time with her brothers my uncles and one of my uncle um for me he was sort of like the first like not just like not just one this one particular uncle but I think a lot of my uncles are like those of them these like um it was really important I think to sort of see these different types of masculinity so for example this one particular uncle raising boys himself him and his wife you know all three of them like he was very involved like he would I would wake up and he's making porridge you know for everyone to eat and it was like yo you know like I'm seeing him in the kitchen cooking and like it's this is simple but like to see a man cooking was very like what's going on here and this was like dope you know what I'm saying and you know he would coach his kids soccer teams and drive them to practice all three of his kids went to divisional to Division two universities for scholarships in the states and I think for me it was I had this the fact that I didn't I wasn't raised with my pops in the home it was a blessing and a curse in some ways right it was a first in a sense of like you know not having that energy that masculine energy on call on will however the the blessing was I was able to sort of pick and choose different aspect of masculinity or masculinity that I found that worked I didn't have to download everything from one person say this is the archetype that I have to follow but it gave me agency to be like you I want to be a pop that cooks I want to be a pop that is involved and then I was also influenced by certain men who were on the Block you know and I'm saying that we're like doing some of the stuff that some of the men were like yo I'm some guys who were whether they're selling drugs or whatever they they took ownership of the community like out if they saw you um skipping school these were men were like yo what are you doing get back and back into school you know what I'm saying like so it was this a bit of a piece of sort of like the school of hard knocks and and also like this also just traditional or non-traditional views of maleness that is able to sort of create like a hodgepodge of sort of like I was able to make my own and make my and define my own masculine which I thought was dope and really important it sounds to me like your mother made a very very smart choice to say hey how can I put my son in a position to succeed I think a lot of people so I don't want it I don't want to generalize but I think it's sometimes when there's a relationship that's so broken for whatever reason or something horrible happens the mom or the dad say oh I'm gonna do it all myself but I think kids growing up they they really need to have that male that positive male role model so I mean do you ever think about hey what would have happened if my mom hadn't put me in a position to be around pause America don't know I mean you know it could have ended that in a different direction because I do see you know I've seen the different examples when um certain certain folks or doesn't have that energy you know but I also recognize that there's been different men throughout throughout my life that's been like instrumental so one of my best friends in high school his pops was like wasn't like a regular kind of dad you know like he took a real interest in his friends and his sons friends who came to the home to their home like you would treat us like we're extension of his family you know and I thought that was really really dope you know so I mean by that is you know we would come over to his house after school and he would comment even like hey Brandon what's going on how's school going he had a moving company and I did I wasn't working at the time this is like great ninth grade ten and he's like one side is like hey do you wanna come do a job with me you know what I'm saying and I went did the job I damaged this person's wall that we're moving in but he still paid me the full amount and you know like it was really it was really it was it was a good X was this nice it was he didn't have to do that but I think he he understood um that parenting is more than just about parenting your own household you know what I'm saying it's sometimes it means current thing the community of kids that is congregating with your own children you're smart you know and I took I take that same approach to my kids friends so like you know I'll you know introduce myself or I'll I'll talk to them and this when you know the same will ask my kids if they've done their homework their friends are around and ask them if they're doing the same thing right not to like overstep but let them know that they're cared about you know what I'm saying that they're not invisible essentially which i think is important very I mean it's extremely important because it's kind of funny as we're talking here you can pinpoint certain certain stories in your life that had a significant impact on you and recognize that and say okay how can I fill in that gap for the next generation how can I make a change so I want to ask you something that I that I heard on another talk that you've done and it's a little bit about masculinity right right now I think a lot of kids growing up they they see the musicians with the with the in the women and the money in in the in the guns in the in the strengths right that's what it means to be a man okay but you had mentioned that you went to see a movie with your with your young son and you asked him after the movie camera like yes yeah and you asked him what does it mean to be what a smash can you mean and he said it is a performance yeah like we went to see the film and I was a bit hesitant around seeing the film just because it's that the storyline is dealing with homosexuality in the black community right which is sort of like taboo great film and you know there was some scenes that came up I was like fuck like my bad parent for exposing my kid to this and am I you know all these different things and afterwards we went to go and grab a bite to eat and I was like well what is black masculine do to you how would he define it it was like it's a performance and for me that was like this great moment for me as a parent because I realized that my son at 14 was more evolved than I was at his age and really into my twenties you know um I think for me it's for me one thing I want my kids to take away is that I don't see I see masculinity as something that's plural right so masculinities that you know whether you're a trans man or you're a gay man um you're still a man essentially right and there's it's okay to have different entry points into your into your maleness and it's also important for my kids and my kids say oh um I'm gay or I'm a trans woman or whatever that they know that they're still loved right I've had I've done workshops with men and women and asked the question how would you respond if you came home and you saw your daughter engage in a relationship with a woman versus how would that be different if you came home I saw your son being engaged in a romantic relationship another man and you know you know 82 percent of the response on both sides would be that you know I'd be upset if I saw my daughter but I would talk with her but usually when it's around their son there's like some real violent stuff like real literal violence that comes up and that's like their response it's like they can't go past that yeah if you go past the violence if you get me in 2011 black daddy so we did uh we do a series of different discussions or different events and we did we did this taboo dialogue called queer as black folk and the idea behind it came from talking to a black father who was gay in Tirana at a time and he was like I'm sort of living this double edged sword were from the black community I'm being ostracized because of my sexuality and then from the predominant gay community or gay village I'm sorry because of my race so there's no for him he was like I have no real place I can call community you know what I'm saying um and we had a discussion we worked with this is dope woman here in Toronto called Kim Crosby and now Kim Crosby Milan who moderated the panel but we went into this it's a we went into a equip space called bqi called it's black where youth which is it's held out of this health center in Toronto called sherbert health center and it was a lot of young black LGBTQ youth that were at this session and we're sort of just having like a conversation a couple takeaways the first takeaway that I took away from that session was they were like you know we're really surprised that they were like straight black men in this space because usually when there's dialogues around LGBTQ and the straight community there's expectations that the black LGBTQ folks have to go into straight communities not other way around right so the fact that we're going in to this space that wasn't like ours that sort of shifted a power and helped the dialogue the other piece that I found most interesting was hearing these folks talk about or the people in the room talk about their own experience with their own father's and how traumatic a lot of those experiences were because of the church or just because of like cultural or societal sort of upbringing for me that struck a chord I was like nah like I didn't want my kids to to be in a similar similar space and talking about that you know what I'm saying that makes it says to have a similar experience right so and this is kind of goes back to the point that you're saying is like doing this work it makes it makes you become a better parent you know I'm saying on a better human being straight goods and I think the approach doing this work is lifelong learning you know yeah well I think that's that's definitely commendable and so so it's kind of back it up you said something there I really it really resonates with me and that you made it you made it a parenting decision to go see this movie and have this conversation talk to your kid and whatnot and then you question yourself like is this something I should be doing what I'm so how instrumental was the black daddies club or how did you decide how did you kind of come through the other side and say you know what this is the right thing to do because I think a lot of parents are gonna ask themselves that question am I making the right decision right I mean you know to be honest I think that's the question that's continually I think I don't know if that stops asking that question to be totally honest cuz up to this day for different reasons to ask myself those particular questions you know what I'm saying um when when my middle son was I think seven we're in the car waiting for his grandmother to do like Finnish grocery shopping and he was like you know what pops and this was the first time that I was engaged to this question I mean it's like you know I'm paraphrasing buddies like I saw two guys kissing what's up with that and I was just sort of like I wasn't expecting that I was just doing the the sad day chores using a back seat and I remember like really being scared at my response because I felt that the next thing that I said whatever my response is gonna be it's gonna sort of like shape who this person is gonna be you know his mom is a Christian I'm not necessarily you know I'm spiritual but not in the church so my views are different into that aspect um he goes to a Catholic school um so it's like all these things are going in my head and I'm also thinking about how to respond in on the way that he's gonna understand at 7 years old and I remember you know tell him something on the lines like you know what some men like women and some men like other men but it's all love and it's okay and he was like okay cool you know and I think sometimes it was parents we make we shut we shun from answering some questions because a we don't have the answer and we're scared to sort of like me we don't know what to say so we choose not to say anything and I think that could be more harmful than not because then they're going to seek those answers out and they may go to and you know unless more reputable source ie wonder friends um and it you know then bended recycling bad information amongst them right so I think it's okay to have conversations and I think recognizing that like that one conversation doesn't have to be the end of the conversation it could be a starting point and then we continued at a different point I'm trying to find like different teachable moments so to speak so like whether it's like driving and you know driving in the car with my kids and a hip-hop song will come on and they're singing the lyrics and there may be like questionable lyrics and like what is that what's happening here what is that person staying in the lyrics and I think having these like opportunity like conversation to conversate I think going up in my in our era or my era compared to my parents era I have social media or I have the internet that I can I put into my into my my Arsenal my parenting Arsenal so what I mean by that is I will use you know use a lot of media in terms of like movies or YouTube YouTube clips to sort of like just to get the conversation going and then be briefed on it you know what I'm saying um I think those things are sort of good just because it it it gives them an engagement or an entry point that you know and in a medium that they're comfortable and I forget what I'm saying versus like you know well versus like well son let's talk about the birds and bees right now that they may be like what you know or just get turned off or whatever you know but I don't know um yeah I think that my takeaway is it's like it's important to have that conversation and he's trying to start the conversation yeah I definitely agree with you Brandon I think that that's probably one of the most important things that we as fathers do is helping our children process all this information from all these outside sources like you said we're kind of like the first generation of fathers who are dealing with the Twitter age in the Facebook age and the Instagram age and the TIC beginning all these messages from all these different places can sometimes be extremely toxic you know both to the way that they that they engage with others around them but the way that they feel on the inside to whether it's being bullied or not feeling secure maybe they don't have the right filter they don't have the six-pack abs I mean I'd be remiss if I didn't make mention as a black parent you're also dealing with having conversation with your sons and your daughters about anti black racism right so you know seeing stuff like Eric garner or Trayvon Martin and then like you know I remember walking in home from I think I was at school or work and I came in one night this is years ago and I saw this is when the night that Eric garner got shot and it was like on CNN but how it was happening it was it was like I wasn't rebels like real it was a movie but I was there like fully triggered as this thing was happening because I'm a bit I'm a black man in a big body that's sort of like you know I you know like looks Eric garner esque or bigger tamarisk um and it's just like realizing that like you know teeth like raising black boys is that like society's not it's not it's it's it's society is not shaped to love black men you know what I'm saying if anything it's really it shows it's showing a constant showing of the hatred of black men and how black men are sort of enemy estate and I think it's it's important to like you know love like I have to show maybe it's over conversation but I have to like show my sons extra love this has to be like ground zero in terms of like I see them and it's like a hug and a kiss under four it doesn't matter how old or tall they get because I know outside this space that they always have to sort of put on this mask sometimes on performance just sort of survive out there you know what I'm saying I think I think it mean to cut you off but I think it's hard for for me as a white man growing up in America with a three-year-old daughter I'm never gonna have to have that conversation about that you're gonna have to have with your kids about you know hands up and whatnot and it I think it's also extremely difficult to put ourselves and for me to put myself in your shoes I'll never walk in your shoes I'll never know exactly what it's like and I've definitely had questions about about that like well how much of this is just a media trying to trigger us how much of this is just the Facebook algorithm just trying to get us all worked up but time and time again when I'm speaking to black fathers they consistently have this message of hey you know this is this is a real problem this is something I feel on a regular basis and so I mean in Toronto you know and what I see in the state's you know anti black quiz maker ISM anti black racism is real I didn't as their systemic racism in its real like we see it in the school system we see it in the criminal justice system like in Toronto you know black and indigenous men are filtered at the school system at our lahrman race and I filtered into the prison system at alarming rates and the same thing for black women and indigenous women um when we look at you know in the school system like I see it with it within my three sons like first of all the a lot of the administration and the teachers don't look like my kids they're not necessarily even the same community and so when they come in at a certain age my kids you're like cute and you know they're babies in the kindergarten stage and it's like great but then as they grow up into adolescents and they're developing like any other kids are doing at their age the response is a lot more punitive it's a lot more you know suspension or extent to the office or send in a class at like different rates compared to like the white counterparts right so I think it's like you have to have conversations with your kids and advocate for your kids and also try to talk to your kids about how they can try to advocate for themselves and it's it's tough because I sometimes you're like you know it's I can see sometimes it's easy for parents it may be easier for a parent to be like okay can you not give as much trouble in the class and they're like oh I wasn't doing this or understand before that kids are gonna say you know whatever to like Matt whatever but because of you know because I was also in the school system I know how that can play out right um you know I see it we're dead if for a while they're having discarding just discarding situation we're in areas where there's like high shooting Zoar just whatever that you're doing like a carding situation where basically what that means is that it could approach any citizen and ask them to produce ID for without cause and so they can pull you over and you're driving or be just standing up and you look like a suspect or you look suspicious they could come and approach you however when they did the data or the broke down that or seeing like eighty percent of the people that they're pulling down were black right um so I think we have to be like it's important to teach your kids to be critical because then if you don't you just take your children and your black children to be critical or to have critical thinking then they start to internalize that racism and then they start to believe that they're shit or that they're bad that they're negative you understand I'm saying and I think the work that we're doing with black daddies Club and the work that as as a black father with regardless of the club it's really around trying to instilling hope it's a stirring love and also around instilling healing um not just you know children but in ourselves the NSA I'm saying because like we're also dealing with the same trauma we're dealing with the old trauma rather and try to parent on top of that you know what I'm saying so um yeah it's it's it's it's yeah it's just like being mindful that you're not necessarily setting up your kids from feeling to be you know to be scared of living like leaving their houses but they have to be aware because if something happens and and and and I and I didn't do the job of like talking to them then I didn't do my job yeah I mean really really deep stuff here Brannon definitely I mean we could go on for hours and hours talking about this and how we can try to improve it one of the things that really scares me is when you start looking at the prison populations and the number of black men that are in the prison populations who believe kids at home who grow up fatherless and then and you know being involved in violence and poverty and opiates and it's it's alarming it's something that there really needs to be addressed and and I'm glad that you're out there trying to be a positive influence putting yourself out there making yourself available to the community and growing things like that's really commendable Brandon thank you it's really awesome so thank you so much for being on the show before I let you go I've got some quickfire questions for you okay couple quick fire questions so favorite story to tell your kids what's your favorite story um to be honest the the stories that I do with my kids a lot of it is impromptu a lot of it is inserting the names into the stories and it's sort of like to see themselves because that and that came about not not having enough I didn't know about enough stories that like centralized black you know blow boys like themselves into like you know positive figures if that makes any sense I'm doing wrong there's a whole bunch of books out there just wasn't connected to the bookstores when I was younger age you know so and I also found of fun like that's making up stories and they seem more engaged when I was making up stories of you know young Elijah jumping on a rocket ship like that was more interested in jacking a beanstalk for them you know so I think that was yeah that that's it like stories that included them made their names and all that stuff very cool I was it's funny it's why you mentioned that Brandon because I was doing the same thing with my daughter today though another story another story I've never done it before until today Wow how did you take it oh she loved it she I mean I end up being it's just telling her stories for a half hour she just wanted to hear more and more and more that's that's a really I like that a lot that's a cool one movie favorite movie my own personal movie yeah what comes to mind is coming to America that may change tomorrow asking the same question but right now coming to America the first one came to mind Eddie Murphy awesome what about favorite vacation favorite place that you you've got to go to with your kids we did the cruise the last couple years we did the cruise and I think we went to Turks and Caicos but it was this island awesome but one of the bomber bombers island was just kind of cool where it was sort of like just being by the water has been yeah I think anywhere in the water in this hot is good awesome awesome favorite musical artist who we listen to right now um Dennis Brown Bob Marley but Dennis Brown I would say Dennis Brown I can't go wrong with Dennis Brown which is for folks who don't know old reggae artists google him but foundation music I really like reggae I don't do Dennis Brown it so I'm gonna look him up Matt Maura will do all right final question here you can sit down and talk to anyone in history who you talk to I think right now be my pops definitely my dad to have that conversation check it powerful I love that brain and once again thank you so much you guys got to check out Brandon Hey all over the place you can find the black daddies club com you

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