News

February 2024

Father-daughter dance ‘the crown jewel’ of Black Girl Dad Week, Feb. 12-18

By Belinda M. Paschal
Columbus Dispatch

When Kevin Grove describes his 10-year-old daughter, Kyndal, the gleam of admiration in his eyes is as powerful as his glowing praise.

“My favorite thing about Kyndal is she’s one of the smartest kids I have ever been around and how witty and spontaneous she is … how she just lights up a room,” Grove said while relaxing at their Pickerington home.

“I just love her personality, her way of being present. ‘Engaging’ is the word I’d use to describe her.”

Kyndal’s charisma and ebullience are part of what made it a joy for Grove to accompany her to last year’s Black Father-Daughter Dance, which drew hundreds to COSI, where Grove enjoyed watching his youngest daughter “cut loose around her girlfriends.”

The duo is excited about attending the event again on Feb. 17. The sold-out dance is part of Black Girl Dad Week (Feb. 12-18), the brainchild of Jewel Woods, clinical director of Male Behavioral Health, and is presented in partnership with the Columbus Urban League.

“It’s the crown jewel event, but it’s more than just a dance, it’s also education and awareness of the importance of men and boys advocating for women’s and girls’ issues,” Woods said.

“From a mental health perspective, it’s a two-fer: We know all the benefits of having a father engage in girls’ lives, but it also helps men make better choices, they live longer, and it helps them to be a good, active father.”

Grove, whose blended family with his “better half,” Evita, includes three daughters and two sons from ages 5 to 23, said the dance is an opportunity to do something special just for Kyndal.

“I do a lot of ‘guy stuff’ with my sons. This is important because it’s not too often that we get to dress up, take our daughters out and do something that’s just for us,” he said. “It’s important for us to do more things with our daughters.”

Grove’s dedication as a father who’s never too busy for his children is a quality Kyndal said she loves about her dad. “He will always find time to do things we want to do,” she said.

“When he doesn’t have work, he doesn’t think twice about taking us somewhere to have fun. And even if he is busy, he’ll still stop to play a game.”

Grove, a special agent for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the dance also is significant because it acknowledges the contributions of Black fathers and father figures.

“It highlights the men who are doing something (for their children) and shines a positive light. This event not only highlights but puts emphasis on that,” he said.

Having had a strong male role model in his own father, Grove strives to be the same kind of parent. “Being a father was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “My dad was great. I’m always trying to one-up him.”

Both father and daughter ranked “seeing friends” high on the list of things they’re looking forward to at the dance. Kyndal also expressed her hopes that the menu will include last year’s delicious cake. “The dancing and the food are two of my favorite things,” the Toll Gate Middle School fifth-grader said.

“At the dance, you can’t help but feel happiness for all the men there showing up, saying, ‘I love you,’ and ‘I love kicking it with you’,” Grove said.

The chance to dance — and dialogue

In addition to spearheading Black Girl Dad Week, Woods is also a father who’ll be returning to the dance a second time with not one, but two daughters. Last year, he took his younger daughter, Aba, now a 13-year-old who Woods said jokingly “dominates him.”

“She’s super-excited, she enjoys it and she’s a serious dancer,” Woods said of Aba, a member of the Dance Elite Performance Academy (DEPA) and an eighth-grader at Gahanna Middle School South.

“She and a lot of her friends came last year, and they really enjoyed themselves.”

Joining them this year will be older daughter and big sister, Akua, 21, a senior political science major at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The opportunity to raise the girls has changed my life,” said Woods, who also has a 30-year-old son and is married to Dr. Cynthia Woods, an anesthesiologist.

“Being a father of girls and understanding women’s issues has been the thing that’s changed me more as a man than anything else.”

On its face, the Black Father-Daughter Dance is a chance for men to “let their hair down,” Woods said, but it also serves a greater purpose: opening the door to bigger conversations about issues such as “the state of African American parents, with single parenthood as high as 70%,” a figure supported by the Centers for Disease Control’s 2023 National Vital Statistics Report.

“We need to talk about the importance of fathers and father figures in the lives of women and girls. Black males don’t know what their roles are because we don’t have a tradition as men knowing what women’s issues are,” Woods said. “Black Girl Dad Week is creating a space for that and conversations for that.”

Other Black Girl Dad Week events

Ahead of the Feb. 17 dance, daily events are scheduled during Black Girl Dad Week. Other highlights will include:

“Our Culture, Our Community!” fireside chat with journalist Roland Martin and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, 7 p.m. Feb. 12, East High School, 1500 E. Broad St. Free, but registration required at blackgirldadweek.com/monday-politics-day.

“A Call to Men,” a community conversation led by author, educator and activist Tony Porter, 7 p.m. Feb. 15, New Birth Christian Ministries, 3475 Refugee Road. Free, but registration required at blackgirldadweek.com/thrusday-community.

“Black Love & Relationships,” featuring bestselling author Terry McMillan, whose works include “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” 7 p.m. (reception at 8:30 p.m.) Feb. 18, King Arts Complex, 835 Mount Vernon Ave. Single tickets cost $30 and couples tickets cost $50. VIP reception tickets, which cost $75, include meet-and-greet with McMillan and a signed book. Buy tickets at blackgirldadweek.com/sunday-relationships-day.

To learn more about Black Girl Dad Week and its other events, visit: blackgirldadweek.com.

Read full article at Dispatch.com

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