In 2001, Brandon Hay (MES ’16) discovered he was going to be a dad for the first time. After visiting community centres seeking out help for Black fathers, he realized there were no resources available for him. While working at his factory job overnight, Hay came up with an idea in response to the isolation he felt as a new Black father as well as to the lack of spaces for Black men to discuss parenting issues and concerns facing the Black community as a whole. He wanted a place where Black men could go to discuss their emotions and struggles in a safe space. In 2007, that’s how The Black Daddies Club (BDC) was born.
“At first, we created small events with community agencies where we could gather for free, like the Malvern Library, my friend’s hair salon in Brampton, and Uprising in Kensington Market. And people started gravitating towards us,” said Hay. “That’s when I realized there were a lack of spaces for Black folks to talk in the city.”
It was 16 years ago that Brandon’s own father was found murdered in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Experiencing a cycle of anger, sadness and regret, Hay struggled with believing it could be real, and likens it one of the hardest things he’s ever experienced. Raised by a single mother and without the presence of a consistent father figure, he was filled with anxiety and fear about his own ability to be a good dad. The main goals of BDC 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. In so doing, the organization aims to support Black children, families and the larger community.
After the creation of BDC, Hay brought his insights and experience to York. In May 2013, Hay, along with Dr. Carl James, Senior Advisor on Equity and Representation to the University at York, and Dr. Lance McCready at the University of Toronto, began a unique research project to collect information about the issues, challenges, roadblocks, opportunities and successes associated with Black fatherhood in the Toronto. The project, Gathering Our Voices, was designed to address the scarcity of information on the lived experiences of Black fathers in Toronto.
“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.”
Hay, who now has three sons, has also served as an instructor at York. In 2017, he started the Black Love Matters 2017 Un-Conference course along with Nigel Barriffe, president of Urban Alliance on Race Relations, with a series of critical thinkers, educators, artists, agencies, institutions and many others to co-create a curriculum that is relevant to the Black and African Canadian community in the GTA. The workshop explored the field of planning from an anti-oppressive, anti-racism and inclusive lens, in investigating and harvesting various narratives within Black communities.
Since the creation of BDC, opportunities and gatherings have included “Daddies and Me” events where fathers take their children to events like Cirque du Soleil and the Annual Family and Friends BBQ, and their Breaking Bread program has expanded to several locations. They discuss topics like “Is love important?”, “Why does fatherlessness equate to more violence in our communities?”, and “How safe do you feel in your community?” It has provided programming and community where, for Hay, there wasn’t any.
“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.”
For more information on Black Daddies Club, visit the website.