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I recently took a DNA test.

While I have always been extremely proud of my Jamaican heritage, there is a whole other part of my history that was stolen from me and erased. I am in diaspora; part of a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale. While I have always been aware of the fact my ancestors were trafficked from Africa and forced to labour under brutal conditions entirely for the benefit of the British Empire, who they were and where they came from has always been completely unknown to me. I, like so many other individuals of African descent, suffer from a disconnected sense of identity.

The DNA test was as much about finding out where my ancestors came from as it was an attempt to reclaim a connection to the hidden parts of my identity that were stolen away long before I was ever born.

Lewis Persaud recently penned an article titled, “Griots: The importance of documentation” (click here), where he writes about the crucial role they played in preserving the history of many West African societies. He argues that it was this very connection to their rich history which helped to maintain these ancient cultures, and as people of African descent, it is through “retaining a sense of self in a world designed to strip you of it…” that we begin the process of building a strong and stable community.

Lewis and I recorded this episode at the end of last summer in the wake of the global outrage which erupted following the death of George Floyd. Several other extrajudicial killings of black people and racially charged incidents prior had stoked the flames of discontent for many and kickstarted a wave of Black Lives Matter protests all over the world. One of those incidents was the slaying of Ahmaud Marquez Arbery who was hunted down and executed in the street of a suburban Georgia neighbourhood by three white men. It took 74 days for his killers’ arrest, and only after the video of his killing went viral.

It is now exactly one week shy of a year since Ahmaud was killed, and his family continue their wait for justice.

It also currently happens to be Black History Month in the United States. And with the recent news of one Utah school originally agreeing to parents’ demand to exempt their children from taking part in Black History Month learning before backtracking after a backlash on social media, the question I ask is, what happens now that the protests have ended? What do we need to do as a people to move this fight forward?

I think the beginnings of an answer lies in first grounding ourselves in a strong sense of identity, because as Marcus Garvey once exclaimed and as illustrated so beautifully by Lewis in his article, a “people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”.

On this episode, Lewis and I talk about reclaiming our identities, the true nature of racism and what is required in dismantling the structures it has built.

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In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

I’m not an activist, and I don’t have any socio-political agendas here. I’m aware of the connotations a statement like, “dad lives matter” has, so why did I think it an appropriate moniker for my Twitter page (@dadlivesmatter) and the title of this blog post? Let me take a step back and tell you about my own journey into fatherhood because any self-respecting dad blog deserves a decent fatherhood origin story to help kick things off, right?

My wife and I found out we were expecting our first child on Christmas Eve in 2017. It seems so far away now that I write it out loud… The news wasn’t wholly unexpected, but it didn’t quite sink in for me immediately. I remember feeling very hesitant to talk or think about the pregnancy in definitive terms, almost like I was half-expecting someone to say it was just a joke. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted this pregnancy, and I was happy about it. I was just a little afraid to believe it I guess. I’m not sure when it did, but I was fully on the pregnancy train by the time morning sickness was in full swing and my wife was puking multiple times per day.

During my wife’s pregnancy, I began to notice just how few products featured images of only dads with their babies. It also struck me for the first time just how much of the imagery used to market baby products feature families that don’t look like ours – it’s a sobering moment when you realise yours is not the picture of a wholesome family unit.

As with any expectant parent, you start to think about all the hopes and dreams you have for your child. I thought about how my wife and I would work to mould and shape this little human into a resilient, intelligent and ambitious individual – vivacious and full of boundless curiosity. I also thought about what it would mean to be a black father raising a black daughter in a country where we are minorities. How would she feel if someone tried to pet her hair because they wanted to know how her tightly bound and textured coils felt to the touch? Will she have access to the same opportunities open to her otherwise non-black peers? Will she feel a connection to her African and Caribbean heritage, and that of her parents and grandparents? Will she feel empowered and confident enough to express her natural and authentic black self – and if she did, will it be threatening to others?

Marvel’s Black Panther film last year was a cultural phenomenon and a huge hit at the global box office. It was significant for my wife and I however as it was where we publicly announced to our friends that we were having a baby. We took a picture at the cinema to mark the occasion.

Pregnancy Announcement Feb 2018

Whatever you think about the film, it is important for one key reason. Representation matters. It matters that my daughter is surrounded by depictions and imagery she can relate to, and to let her know that she is not an ‘other’. It matters that black dads are seen to be present and positive influences. And it matters that dads in general are considered competent and trusted caregivers. I am in enough dad groups on Facebook to know that dads can often feel underappreciated, disconnected from their partners, and inadequate parents. I also know that some of these dads don’t feel as though they have anyone in their lives to speak to and therefore, I think it’s important to recognise that dads find parenthood difficult too.

I don’t want to for one minute diminish the magnitude of the responsibility mothers have on their shoulders or the challenges they face, but I do want to endorse and recognise that dads matter and I hope you will too.