News

February 2023

Black Girl Dad Week to promote family fun, community conversation

Ernest Levert Jr. kisses his 16-month-old daughter, Zamya, on the cheek while watching a children’s show in their Columbus home on Feb. 3. “We just want to give her as many tools and opportunities to learn about herself and her gifts, and to discover who she wants to be,” Levert said.

By Erica Thompson , The Columbus Dispatch 

February 8th, 2023

If you see new father Ernest Levert Jr. around town, chances are his 16-month-old daughter is with him.

“Zamya’s with me when I’m doing a workshop, when I’m leading a chess meetup,” said Levert Jr., 32, of the East Side, who runs the Royal Oak Initiative, a mentoring nonprofit that uses chess to build community. He also heads the Columbus branch of the Black Men Build community organization.

“I took her to City Hall one day and everyone was like, ‘Oh, we definitely knew she was there; she lifted her voice,'” Levert continued. “I love having her out with me. I love everyone in the community seeing her with me. I want my child be very involved. I want to make sure that she learns about the world and she knows that she has a voice.”

That type of father-daughter relationship will be celebrated during Black Girl Dad Week, which Levert Jr. plans to attend. The initiative includes a series of events that will take place from Monday to Feb. 19 in Columbus.

The schedule includes free virtual and in-person panels and conversations about supporting Black women and girls’ education, career paths, leadership development and more. There’s also a sold-out Black Father Daughter Dance at COSI.

Some of Tucker’s advice for Black fathers includes getting to know their daughters’ teachers and administrators, and making their voices heard. But she is especially interested in hearing directly from dads about obstacles that prevent them from being more involved.

“What are those barriers and challenges that you go through?” Tucker said. “We just want to start that conversation there to see what we can we do to help you.”

Fathers will learn how to nurture their daughters as future entrepreneurs and leaders during the week. For example, on Wednesday at noon, Rawlings-Blake will lead a Zoom discussion, “Madam President: We See You & We Support You,” which encourages Black men and boys to advocate for Black women in politics.

Levert, the new father, said he’s excited for the opportunity to be part of discussions like this.

“I love how a lot of the country is recognizing the importance of making space for unapologetically Black dialogue,” he said. “There’s this narrative that Black men aren’t involved in the lives of their daughters. There’s narratives that Black men are causing a lot of harm. And both of those things may be true to some degree, but I don’t think it’s healthy or helpful to continue to perpetuate that stereotype unless you’re having a constructive dialogue about celebrating what’s good and getting nitty-gritty with the solution.”

Fostering health, having fun and creating memories

Part of Black Girl Dad Week will involve diving into deep-seated issues with a conversation on “healthy masculinities” led by author Tony Porter and Bishop Timothy Clarke of First Church of God on Columbus’ Southeast Side. The event will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ohio State University’s Fawcett Center.

Laymon, the author, will lead “Healing & Reconciliation Day” at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 via Zoom. He will discuss Black parenting and trauma, among the topics covered in his critically acclaimed book, “Heavy: An American Memoir.”

As a reprieve from those heavier discussions, Woods included opportunities for families to have fun during the week, too. He is encouraging fathers to take pictures and videos of themselves taking their daughters to work with them on Monday and to school on Tuesday. They can share them on social media using the hashtags #blackgirldadwork and #blackgirldadschool, and submit them to blackgirldadweek.com/gallery.

Other fond memories will be created at the Black Father Daughter Dance on Feb. 18, which excites COSI President and CEO Frederic Bertley, an honorary co-chair of Black Girl Dad Week.

“As a Black man that has a Black daughter, the idea of celebrating, recognizing and elevating the importance of that relationship just resonated with my very DNA,” he said. “On top of that, the fact that we can do that in a space that recognizes and loves science for me is an extra layer of goodness.”

Woods said he hopes Black boys and men will see that fatherhood is not just about roles and responsibility; it fills one’s life with meaning and purpose.

“This unique opportunity that we have as fathers and father figures to raise our children, particularly our daughters, is what life is about.”

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