You ever meet someone by chance and you can’t help but know their story? That sentence is the absolute description of my experience with Ryan, an author, speaker, host, father, and founder of Black Fathers Rock!. This local spotlight is all about a local non-profit organization that started as a dream, turned into an event, and is growing as an organization. This organization’s mission is to disprove and dismantle the stigma around black fatherhood.
You may be asking my connection and interest in this movement, right? Well, I don’t actually know my dad. An organization willing to help fathers in the community re-unite, better, and connect themselves with their family is something I definitely can get behind. Ryan put it perfectly when he told me, “You often overcompensate as an adult where you had an absence as a child.” and although he was primarily connecting this to fatherhood, I believe it’s a blanket statement for life.
Do I have your attention? I hope so because this story is not one you’ll want to skim over. Growing up as the oldest of two boys with a single mom, Ryan came from a household in Ohio that was filled with his mother’s love, but absent of his father’s presence. Growing up with no longing for kids, he now has a baby boy and adorable daughter to dote over as his wife continues to grow her career. Then life hits you. Imagine the summer of 2017 and having an overwhelming feeling come over you that just inspires you to build an event. An event comprised of two and a half pages of notes that come to life the following year. Then once that event is over you receive a large donation from someone outside the community that pushes you to start an organization. Literally within a year, the course and mission of your life has changed and grown. That is the synopsis of Ryan’s story.
From a small black book; that he carries around to this day, to building an event almost 150 people attended and extending six awards to deserving fathers in the community, and to now having a non-profit to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the community. While also being able to support and assist fathers in building success stories- all the while ensuring you’re growing and balancing your family life. That’s Ryan.
When you meet Ryan, the conversation comes easy and you can tell that the mission he has for his organization comes from the fire in his belly. He has lived his mission full circle. This year’s award celebration for Black Fathers Rock! will consist of six fathers in the community being recognized as well as two performances. It is this coming Saturday, January 19th at 6pm. This award celebration will actually be the LAST event at Pease Auditorium, so if you would like to experience this amazing event, make sure you buy tickets!
As I pulled information from Ryan, I couldn’t help but ask him what’s next once Saturday passes and he didn’t disappoint. He mentioned that he has two book concepts he will be working on, the organization will be aiding the initiative to place changing rooms in men’s bathrooms, and there will be a lot more programming being built for the community. He mentioned his wife will be helping and leading the programming, so we can expect to see some events coming up like “Donuts with Dad”, a parenting workshop, and a Fatherless Forum.
Ryan has big goals for Black Fathers Rock! this year. He described the organization as a necessary movement and explained that he hopes to see more success stories this year; at least one a month. 2018 treated Ryan well and the organization even better, when he told me a success story that made this all just a little more real for me. An honoree from last year was able to reunite with his children after a custody hearing, with the BFR award being a part of his story. These men that are being honored are fathers that take that title seriously and continue to find ways to better themselves in order to be their best for their families and community.
Truly, if you have the time to dig into your community and find organizations with great stories, take the time to listen. That’s what this series is all about! Not only is this organization starting a conversation and a movement, but it’s giving back to the community in so many ways. I couldn’t have picked a better Local Spotlight for this week.
2019 Award Recipients are below as well as how to follow Ryan and the Black Fathers Rock! organization. A link to donate can also be found on each of these pages.