The “100 Black Dads” project spotlights the loving, hard working, and nurturing side of black fathers
We all know the harmful and negative stereotype of black fathers: they have multiple kids, don’t marry the mothers, and abandon their children. Misleading statistics have done a good job of perpetuating this stereotype and stripping black fathers of honor they deserve.
This is the narrative that black fathers and families are up against. Between the damaging representations and horrific police brutality against black men – this is why a different conversation is needed now more than ever. In her photo series, “100 Black Dads,” Philadelphia-based photographer, Lucy Baber, is featuring the loving, hard working, and nurturing side of black fathers. She makes it clear that she is a white woman, so for her, the project is about really listening to these dads and supporting them.
“I’m a family photographer, I decided to use my art to provide a platform for black dads to share their stories, in the hopes that we could start to change the negative media stereotypes about black men,” Baber tells Scary Mommy. “The black dads I know are hard working, nurturing, and deeply involved in their children’s lives, and I wanted to create photos that highlighted those loving relationships.”
She says feelings surrounding the project are complex from the fathers (as you might imagine). Many who volunteered are eager to get the message out to a larger audience and break down stereotypes. One of the fathers in the project, Mengistu Koilor, says that being a black dad means providing love and strength for his children. “I think this country and the world we live in seems to have a bad representation of the black family. There are plenty of black families with fathers that are fully involved in their children’s life. I want to portray the visible black father that cares about being with his children more than anything in this world,” Koilor says.
Another dad, Derrick Johnson says, “Black dads have gotten a bad rap at times, whether statistically or perceived. It means a lot to be able to show people that we’re here; we’re raising our kids, loving our wives and are striving to be the best examples of men to our communities as possible.”
You’ve undoubtedly heard some version of these statistics: approximately 70 percent of births to non-Hispanic black women are to mothers who are unmarried. Here’s the problem with just spouting these numbers – the data is devoid of any social context regarding the inequalities that black men face. When people talk about these numbers, no one talks about how mass incarceration unfairly impacts black men (many of whom are fathers). No one points out that women (including black women) now are choosing not to marry even if they live with the father of their child. Where is all of that in the numbers? Where’s that story?
“It is important that my daughter sees me as a supportive, loving Black man, so she understands that this is the rule NOT the exception. …I hope that people will begin to realize that the images and social portrayals of black men and black fathers do not wholly encompass what we actually are,” Naim McCoy says. “We are not just statistics, or ‘angry animals’ in need of incarceration or death. That our presence is needed and valuable to the growth and development of our kids, that we can not and should not be so easily dismissed.”
McCoy hits on that other difficult aspect of being a black father. The police brutality in this country is horrific and there is a deep fear brewing in the black community, rightfully so.
“As a black man, it’s scary to know that I could do everything right and still be killed by the police,” Riley Ross says.
“Today, I feel like I must continue the tradition of ‘the talk’ that my mother had to have with me. I worry that my children’s lives could be taken away, while a state or non-state actor may get away scott-free,” Reginald Streater says.
“In this society, I could lose my life at the hands of a paid government official, on camera, with my daughter by my side, and still be blamed for it or have it justified, even when the story comes to light and it shows an accidental killing,” Kalif Troy says.
No one needs to look any further than the recent acquittal of the officer who shot Philando Castile in Minnesota, to understand what Troy means. That painful outcome is sending shock waves through the black community and is, quite honestly, terrifying.
The images and testimony in the “100 Black Dads” project is obviously powerful, and if it changes just one person’s mind, Baber would feel like her goal was met. “I hope to use this project to give a voice to the men out there who have to work twice as hard to protect their families from social injustice and racial profiling,” she says. “I’d be happy to know that my images were able to change just one person’s mind about the Black Lives Matter movement and about black men as a whole, but I also feel the urgency to keep giving this a bigger platform.”
She wants the “us versus them” mentality to be abolished and for the conversation to continue even after all 100 dads are photographed. She wants an impact that sends ripples through the hearts and minds of those that view it.
One of the fathers she interviewed summed up what he wants. It’s honest and emotional.
“I want people to see the faces of the fathers that are being killed. I want them to see how happy our children are with us in their lives and then be forced to imagine that same face finding out that daddy is dead. I want people sad. I want tears. I want change.”