Fathers, particularly black fathers, have a bad reputation around the world. The narrative around black fathers tends to be negative and focuses on absentee fathers or fathers that bad role models. Whilst some of this is true there are countless examples of amazing black fathers. Marvyn Harrison, founder of Dope Black Dads, is an entrepreneur who believes that through leveraging these good fathers in the community and crowdsourcing knowledge we can educate black fathers on how to be better parents who raise “healthy adults not just good children” which will ultimately change the narrative around what it means to be a black father.
Harrison has had a long career in advertising spending over 10 years in the industry. He started out in music helping artists such as Drake and Ed Sheeran get their first shows in London and later went on to work with Manchester City Football Club where he was instrumental in helping them to set up their branded content division. Today he is Head of Content Strategy for Hogarth Worldwide, a WPP owned creative production company. This career path differs from his parents which means, like many other second or third-generation immigrants he is facing different problems being a father than his parents may have faced. Realizing a number of him and his peers were going through this, on Father’s Day 2018 he decided to send a text to a closed group of his friends expressing that he was thinking of them and appreciated what they were doing as fathers. “The response was overwhelming” Harrison recalls and this was the point where he realized that he wanted to do something to help black fathers, like himself, be better.
Formalizing Dope Black Dads
Shortly after, Harrison went about turning the Whatsapp group into more formal meetings structured around a variety of topics from managing finances to disussions about some of the problems your child may encounter in school. The “branding was very flippant and throwaway” Harrison says but it managed to catch on and they began selling t-shirts and other merchandise as the brand’s presence grew via social media and press coverage. As the brand started to generate revenue and the membership base grew they continued to expand the remit of the events by having guest speakers who ranged from successful entrepreneurs to politicians sharing their knowledge.
Realizing there was an opportunity to expand this peer to peer learning experience outside of black fathers in the UK and after receiving a number of inbound inquiries they went about expanding the organization setting up a US brand, Dope Black Men for men who are not yet fathers and Dope Black Mums, an open forum where black mothers can discuss many of the topics that are specific to them. The founder of each segment makes up the board of the company and is responsible for managing their arm and members who come from places as far as South Africa.
The Future For Dope Black Dads
Looking ahead the future for Dope Black Dads looks bright. A lot of my conversation with Harrison has been focused on him emphasizing that they are building something accountable to the community “the goal is that everything we generate goes back into the community to create more” he says. However, sustainability is extremely important “given supporting fathers through raising children is a long term workstream we need to ensure we are financially secure and not reliant on donations which can be cut” he emphasizes. They intend to do this through their events where they have partnerships with organizations such as Facebook, merchandise and in the coming months will be releasing a book which will help them to amplify their message.
Harrison is very positive on the “shift as a black middle class emerges where people are taking their role as fathers more seriously” he says. His contribution to providing safe spaces where people can have these discussions will almost certainly change the narrative and ensure being labelled a black father doesn’t become a self-reinforcing negative thing but a positive force that can “raise healthy adults not just good children” which will have a lasting impact for generations to come.
This article is part of a series featuring diverse people making a difference. You can find more articles (click here) and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released message/follow me on Twitter @TommyASC91