Interview with Brandon Hay
By: Rhodes Thompson-Chase
I had the pleasure to interview Brandon Hay, founder of the Black Daddies Club.
Black Daddies Club sprung from Hay’s own experiences learning that he would be a father at 24. Like many other young men, Hay did not grow up with a consistent fatherly presence, and worried about his own abilities to be a father to his three sons. Hay founded BDC in response to the isolation he felt as a new Black father as well as to the lack of spaces for Black men to talk about parenting issues and concerns facing the Black community. The main goals of the organization are to change the image of the “absent Black father” that is prevalent in the media and to assist young Black men to become better fathers.
BDC’s Mandate/Guiding Principles are:
Develop a continuous support system for Black men and fathers to share their challenges and/or experiences.
Work with Black fathers and the community at large to address issues facing Black fathers, children and families.
Work with the media to provide alternate images of Black fathers, and assist in the creation of our own media that depicts Black fathers in a positive light.
One way Hay works to change the image of Black fathers and men is through examining Black masculinity with the men who engage with his programs. For Hay it’s about “normalizing talking and sharing”. The BDC Barbershop sessions create a safe space for Black men to discuss issues like safety in community, healthy relationships, parenting and homophobia.
BDC grew from barbershop discussions to collaborations with other organizations to provide family programming through BDC’s Daddies and Me initiative. Daddies and Me hosted free events with Toronto Raptors, the AGO and Cirque du Soleil to bring fathers and their children together. BDC has also embarked on research back in 2013 about the issues, associated with Black fatherhood in the city of Toronto. The research project titled, Gathering Our Voices sought to inform current literature on the, challenges associated with Black fatherhood in the City of Toronto from the perspective of Black fathers themselves, their partners, family members and friends. Family law professionals should take note of the report’s findings on black father’s perspectives of family court.
Hay has also taken advantage of the digital space to connect black fathers as well. He created Sunday Dinners, a monthly gathering for Black men, a safe a place where they can practice showing vulnerability with other Black men. The importance of gathering as Black people for Sunday Dinners resonates deeply with long existing cultural practices across the diaspora.
The Black Daddies Club will be celebrating its 15th year anniversary this November 2022, and they will be launching their new initiative entitled Black Families Un-Conference, which is a three-day gathering for families who identify as Black or Racialized to take part in a camping experience for the entire family that will take place in one of Tim Hortons Camps in Ontario, at no cost to the families that attend. The purpose of this Un-conference is to promote connection amongst Black and racialized families in green space and for these families to take some time to rest and create positive memories with each other. This initiative is a partnership with Justice Fund, Toronto Community Housing Corportation (TCHC) , Tim Hortons Camp and The Black Daddies Club.
In conversation with Hay, it is clear that he is taking a transformative approach through anti-racist and decolonial practices that enrich the lives of not only black men and fathers, but countless families and the community at large.