Umar Kankiya is a lawyer based in Thurrock, Essex, and part of the Dope Black Dads podcast, digital safe space for fathers who wish to discuss their experiences of being black, a parent and masculinity in the modern world. The podcast has been featured on BBC 1 Xtra and can be found on BBC Sounds.
The podcast grew out of a Whatsapp group set up by London-based strategy consultant Marvyn Harrison on Father’s Day, 2018. Harrison added 23 friends who are also dads to the group, and told them that they inspired him to be a better father.
The chat group soon became a community that would talk about everything they were going through, including co-parenting, marriage, fatherhood, blended families, and more. As 2018 went on, the growing group became a community of knowledge-sharing and support. In 2019, during Black History Month (which falls in October), the Dope Black Dads podcast was launched as a safe space for Black dads to discuss issues they face.
In 2020, the podcast continues to grow and strike up conversations about Black parenting that we should all be listening to, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Umar spoke to Pod Bible about which Black parenting podcasts we should be listening to.
Backtalk, by the Successful Black Parenting Magazine, is first on his list, as it offers a valuable American take on Black parenting. “Raising Black kids in America has some similarities to raising children here in the UK,” says Umar, “but I think there are also those big differences. We’ve seen recently everything that goes on with the police and just generally how African Americans are viewed and treated.” In June and July this year, after the footage of George Floyd’s death went viral, and Black Lives Matter protests began in the US, the podcast published two episodes on the complex subject of talking to children about race.
Next on Umar’s list is Chronicles of Black Parenting Podcast, which has just launched. In the first episode, host Chidinma Okorie, talks about being a Nigerian immigrant in America who became pregnant at the age of 17. The second episode also features a teenage mother, and the advice she has for the future grandparents. The podcast is engaging with traditional ideas of parenting, and as Umar’s family background is Nigerian, he is interested in the perspective of a young Nigerian parent in America. As Umar puts it: “There’s definitely a shift in terms of how we parent. With our generation, I think parenting has become a lot more equal between mothers and fathers. It’s not just left to the mum, as it traditionally is often done in Nigerian households.”
Shades of Black: Parenting Podcast “is for Black British parents, and those who are parents of Black children,” says Umar, “and I guess it is a bit more relevant to me as it gives the Black British experience.” Season 2 of the podcast has just launched, and the latest episode rounds up how hosts Sam and Ola have got through “Brexit, a pandemic, Lockdown, homeschooling, protests, heatwaves and sadly, bereavements.” This is the podcast Umar goes to for another view on “things that we often will talk about in the community; how we’ve coped with the pandemic; how we’re dealing with that and adapting to homeschooling, and so on.”
Dope Black Mums has just celebrated its first anniversary, and acts as a sister podcast to Dope Black Dads. “It’s great to hear the Black mum’s perspective,” says Umar. “I get to have more of an insight into what life is like for Black mums. There are times when I’ve listened to the podcast, and I go speak to my wife about the issues they’ve brought up.” A recent episode on race and maternal care digs into the horrifying statistic that, in the UK, Black women are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, and the hosts bring their personal experiences to the discussion. Other recent must-listen episodes include Dear Dope White Mom – “an emergency response to the state sanctioned murder of black men – which we have all witnessed yet again with the filming of George Floyd”; The True Colour of Colourism, in which the hosts “unpack colourism and the cost it has on [their] children’s wellbeing”; and Racism is a White Person’s Problem. RIP George Floyd.
For his fifth choice, Umar has gone for his own podcast, Dope Black Dads. In 2020, the conversation around Black parenting has grown ever more important, with the pandemic disportionately affecting people of colour, and the huge growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Recent episodes include a recording of a segment on the BBC’s primetime The One Show, on talking about kid about race, and The Mental Health Impact of Racism with Dr Roberta Babb. The podcast has also recently tackled issues brought up by cultural events, such as Will and Jada Smith’s Red Table Talk, Kanye West’s recent bid for the US presidency and Dads: Should we bring Back Football during the Lockdown?
“What I love about what we do with Dope Black Dads is the fact that we’re trying to shift the narrative, what those headlines have said about us. We’re trying to change how people perceive a black father,” says Umar. “People have a certain viewpoint on what a Black father can be, it’s the idea that Black fathers are absent, or they’ve got multiple baby mothers. Actually, that’s a very small minority.” Umar himself is married, and has two children aged five and two – and he knows many others like him, who don’t hit the headlines because of their stable, ordinary lives. “There’s a majority of Black fathers who are very much present in their children’s lives, who play an active role in the running of the household and the upbringing of the kids,” he concludes. “We need to tell our stories, and we need to educate people about us and what we go through.”
Suchandrika Chakrabarti is a freelance journalist, podcaster and comedian from London. She makes Freelance Pod, which is about how the internet has changed creative jobs. It was shortlisted for a Lovie Award for Best Host in 2019.