Gay Dad Family Stories

How Gay Dads Celebrate Black History Month

As February comes to an end, we're celebrating Black History Month by checking in with our community to see how they mark the occasion with their families.

February is Black History Month — an annual celebration of African American culture, history, and Black folks who have left an extraordinary and undeniable mark on our lives. To add to this month of celebration, we spoke with some of the amazing Black gay dad families in our community to hear about how they honor Black History Month - throughout the year - how they celebrate theirs and their family's Blackness, and what it means to be Black and a gay man in America today.


"Teach them about the culture and about all the amazing African Americans that have helped shape American policy and creativity"

LJay and Matt Ramirez have two adopted children through foster care, and live in Milpitas, California.

As a parent, how do you provide opportunities to celebrate your / your family's Blackness?

LJay: "This is something we do daily. We like our kids to understand both of our culture so we ready different books and they have toys that reflect the Mexican and Black culture."

What do you think is the most important thing you can do for your children to encourage them to be proud of having a Black father?

LJay: "Teach them about the culture and about all the amazing African Americans that helped shape American policy and creativity."

How would you describe your experience as a Black gay dad in America?

LJay: "It's very mixed, sometimes I feel hated by my race because I'm in an interracial relationship, and I have Mexican kids."

***

"When I was a kid in Rochester, New York in the 80's, my Blackness was not something we celebrated; in fact, to me, it was something that was looked at as 'in spite of'" 

Joe Reid and Francois Manival became dads through surrogacy. The family of four recently moved back to the states and have settled in Redondo Beach, California.

How do you celebrate Black History Month with your family?

Joe: "As the kids are older now, I've tried to incorporate more books around Black History and Black Excellence. Civil Rights leaders, authors, poets, singers, etc. It's important for them to know their lineage, and for them to understand, as much as 5 year olds can, how race and ethnicity play a part in their own lives, as well as the lives of millions of others, throughout history.

As a parent, how do you provide opportunities to celebrate yours and your family's Blackness?

Joe: "I can't say that we have anything in place that specifically celebrates our blackness, other than an open dialogue about it. When I was a kid in Rochester, NY in the 80's, my blackness was not something we celebrated, in fact, to me, it was something that was looked at as "in spite of." Now, whenever I can, I try to remind our children how beautiful blackness is. Whenever we see different shades, or hair styles, I try to highlight them, and show how our differences are beautiful. I want them to know that whether their blackness is seen or hidden, it is part of who they are, and that part is a descendant of Kings and Queens, and we should own that part of us with pride and distinction."

Please share with us something that makes you feel proud during Black History Month?

Joe: "Sometimes I take it for granted, but one thing I'm proud of, are my parents. My dad is black and my mom is white, and they got married in 1972. Five years after it became federally legal for a white person to marry a black person. In Black History Month, I am reminded of the struggle of black people throughout history for equality, to be seen as human beings, to be free. Those freedoms were hard fought for, and to think that I am the child of two people that didn't let others dictate their love, that didn't choose fear, that knew people might give them a hard time, and did it anyway!? That makes me proud. I hope my children might look at me like that, some day."

***

"We don't just look at the history as a one month celebration. We embrace our heritage all year"

Chase Turner and Terrance Beard began their road to foster then adoptive dads early in their relationship. After two years and three kids, they adopted their son. The Atlanta couple are planning their wedding for summer 2020. r birthdate:

How do you celebrate Black History Month with your family?

Chase: "We first we don't just look at the history as a one month celebration. We embrace our heritage all year. Together as a family we've gone to visit Martin Luther King's home, the Civil Rights Museum and the Center for Human Rights Change. We talk about what it means to be Black in America, the positive things that our ancestors have done and the areas where we still need growth.

How would you describe your experience as a Black gay dad in America?

Chase: "I'd describe it as natural. Our racial background or sexuality doesn't define the ability for us to be fathers. We are dads because it was natural for us to take on this role. It's what our hearts desired. In being gay, we face the same challenges any LGBTQIA couples face with being parents. Things such as finding your circle of supporters, ensuring we have a voice in our child's school and community, dealing with rejection or non-acceptance by those who don't believe a gay man or two gay men can raise a child. We are always going to be Black and we were Black prior to becoming dads. If there is love and acceptance because of that great, but if there is discrimination based on color or being gay, for me it's all meshed together. We see it we address it when needed and other times we choose not to let one's ignorance define our happiness."


Who is one of your favorite Black role models that you celebrate during Black History Month, and why?

Chase: "It's not just a celebration during BHM as I've stated previously we celebrate being who we are year round. If there was one individual whom we mention it would be President Barrack Obama. We talk about his greatness often in our household. He has set an example for many in overcoming barriers, leading others and staying true to who he is and being a loving husband and father."

***

"We spend Black History Month as a family by lifting up those who continue creating history every day" 

JaRel and Aaron Clay live in North Bethesda, Maryland, and became dads to Aaron's nephew through legal guardianship. They've been together for 7 years and were married in May 2015.

How do you celebrate Black History Month with your family?

JaRel: "We spend Black History Month as a family by lifting up those who continue creating history every day: the youngest Black man becoming a judge in Pennsylvania, a former NBA superstar unapologetic in his support of his transgender child, the incredible chart-topping music coming from Black people, the incredible people of color demanding a voice in our political system, and the list goes on. We celebrate these accomplishments in real time, especially when they are untold by those who wish to limit their impact on society. Our history gives us a blueprint to move forward with purpose, adopting our ancestors' experiences and improving our own lives as a result. For us, BHM is 20% about reflection, and 80% about how we move forward."

What do you think is the most important thing you can do for your child(ren) to encourage them to be proud of being Black / having a Black father?

JaRel: "The most important thing I can do for my son is model the life I want him to pursue: a life that will not be phased by the discrimination and bullying he will endure as a result of his parents being Black and gay, while growing up in a society that will force a biracial child to only acknowledge his proximity to Whiteness because of his skin color. I don't envision a world where I have to proactively encourage him to be proud of having a Black father. I did not grow up thinking, "I'm so proud to have a Black father." I was just proud I had *a* father. My son's pride will be rooted in who he is holistically. His multiracial identity and his parents' gayness are a part of that, and it's why we continue to actively connect him with other Black, gay families in the Washington, DC area. It helps to have a community of people who understand, uplift, and celebrate your family's unique composition."

How would you describe your experience as a Black gay dad in America?

JaRel: "My experience as a Black gay dad in America is complicated. From the usual "where's mom" / "are you giving mom a break" questions all gay fathers get at doctor's visits and the grocery store, to White heterosexual parents calling the police on me for thinking I kidnapped a white baby at the playground, our society's ignorance often determines how I move through life as a Black gay dad. As frustrated as I get about certain situations, I always remember that my child is watching. He is watching and modeling how I respond to ignorance and discrimination. He is mimicking how I respond to praise and admiration. He is witnessing whether I respond with anger, arrogance, humility, embarrassment, courage, or pettiness. With each encounter, he is learning how respond when he is alone and approached with the same bias."

***

"My parents taught me to be proud of my heritage so I am trying to instil those same values in my children" 

Eric Johnson is dad to two biological brothers through foster care. He lives with his now adopted sons in Philadelphia, PA.

How do you celebrate Black History Month with your family?

Eric: "We read books, watch movies and documentaries on African Americans. We also discuss famous African Americans."

What does Black History Month mean to you, and has that meaning evolved since becoming a parent?

Eric: "It means to me, that this a time for people of color to be proud of their heritage. It seems that society tends to forget that people of color have made many accomplishments that have changed they way we look at the world. I want my children to understand that they come from great people whose culture has influenced people of all races."

As a parent, how do you provide opportunities to celebrate your family's Blackness?

Eric: "My parents taught me to be proud of my heritage so I am trying to instil those same values and traditions in my own children."

Please share with us something that makes you feel proud during Black History Month?

Eric: "I am proud that the children have an opportunity to learn about the great accomplishments the people of color have made since the beginning of time."

***

"I am proud to be an African American gay man given the opportunity to love who I want and to raise African American boys with such a strong support system" 

O'Brian Banner and his husband Daryl Fields have been together 14 years and married since June 2012. They became dads to their twins through adoption. The forever family of four live in Maryland.

What does Black History Month mean to you, and has that meaning evolved since becoming a parent?

O'Brian: "Black History Month has always been a time of reflection and re-evaluation to me. A time to analyze where we've come as a people and where we're headed. Being an African American man and now raising African American men, I have a duty to ensure our heritage is never forgotten and that is reflected in the rearing of our Young Kings."

Please share with us something that makes you feel proud during Black History Month?

O'Brian: "I'm proud to be an African American gay man given the opportunity to love who I want and to raise African American boys with such a strong support system. We are literally living out another chapter of history!"

What do you think is the most important thing you can do for your children to encourage them to be proud of being Black and having a Black father?

O'Brian: "Constantly reinforcing their gifts and instilling as much confidence as possible. There will always be people who can't see past their skin color, so our job is to give them the tools they need to combat that when it happens."

Who is one of your favorite Black role models that you celebrate during Black History Month, and why?

O'Brian: "Maya Angelou because of her love of words and reading. Her collection of books were very influential in my life growing up."

***

Brian is the proud dad of one son through adoption whom he co-parents with ex. The duo live in Houston, Texas.

What do you think is the most important thing you can do for your child to encourage them to be proud of being Black and having a Black father?

Brian: "To ensure that he grows up proud of his own identity, I value education (museums, documentaries, books) that touch on historical and current events and his ability to always ask questions."

Who is one of your favorite Black role models that you celebrate during Black History Month, and why?

Brian: "Barack Obama's love for his family is the reason I celebrate him. He is a remarkable black man but he is also not shy about showing his love and adoration for his family, which is needed from more black men."

As a parent, how do you provide opportunities to celebrate yours and your son's Blackness?

Brian: "Celebrating Blackness is one of the things that I struggle with. Growing up there were no opportunities to do this so now I am learning from those I have connected with ways to ensure my son has a totally different experience than I."

***

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