This Black Dad Activist is Changing the Narrative Around Black Fatherhood, One Instagram Post at a Time
About four years ago, Sean Williams, dad of three—Davynn, 15, Cameron, 4, and Ethan, 3—was prompted to create the Instagram page @TheDadGang after a woman in his largely white neighborhood approached him and then baby Cameron. She congratulated Williams for sticking around to be a dad because, she said, “most Black men wouldn’t.”
“I realized she was just verbalizing what a lot of people were likely thinking,” says Williams. To change that narrative, he and a few other fathers began posting pictures of Black dads in action, and with that, a community found support.
Even if statistics show that more than half of all Black children live in single-parent families, it doesn’t mean more than half of all Black dads are out of the picture. “Fatherhood is a gift,” says Williams. “We’re breaking the stereotype that says we’re not active. You can be present and not live under the same roof as your children’s mother,” says Williams, who coparents with Davynn’s mom and is married to Cameron and Ethan’s mother.
Managing his Dad Gang brand and its many layers, including the website, is now the New York City dad’s full-time job. But the main goal? To cheer dads on. “Any man fortunate enough to have a child needs to treat fatherhood as if it’s the most special thing he’s got,” says Williams. That’s one reason The Dad Gang has “evolved to support dads really of any race. We’re trying to empower dads to be dope dads.”
Williams shares more about this vision for The Dad Gang and the impact it's already had.
Where do you think the absentee-Black-dad-narrative originated?
I think it was the media. Not just news outlets, but even television programming. I think a lot of people portray Black mothers as single moms. There's always a single Black mother, which is the first sign that the dad is completely missing in action. When I Googled fatherhood, a bunch of white dads showed up. When I Googled Black fatherhood, articles that said Black dads are MIA are the first thing that popped up.
Truly with so many of our Black men in jail, there is validity to that narrative in the sense that there are a lot of homes where the dads were taken due to systemic racism. We know how hard America has been on Black people—especially the Black family. With so many Black men being in jail, that means they're going to be absent. But the stereotype that we're trying to break is not about them being absent, it's about us not being active at all. You could be an active dad, and a present dad, and not live under the same roof.
Are you 24/7 Dad Gang?
I am as of this year. Founder and CEO of The Dad Gang is definitely a real full-time job. There are so many layers to The Dad Gang—event coordination, partnerships with a lot of brands, big content pieces. I pretty much manage the merchandise, sales, shipping, and the whole process of what it is to have a brand.
I manage the community too. We have a community of dads that need resources. We have to not only point them in the right direction, but really fact-check what we're telling them and make sure that all these dad tips really work.
Do your kids know what The Dad Gang is?
Since it's based around children and being a father, they've been with me to develop everything. I create most of the content with the kids. My older daughter will sit down with me as I edit the content. She's a part of our team meetings with my event planner, our marketing guy, and all the other dads. They come to all the walks; they come to the Google panels. So they're really a part of every single thing that goes on. They're getting a really close view of how we're developing The Dad Gang as a brand, business, and movement. It’s good that they know we started this from scratch.
What’s one of the things that’s surprised you most about The Dad Gang?
Early on, I didn't realize what I created was going to be so impactful to the Black community. I thought I was going to put these images out of myself, my friends, and any dads that wanted to join in on the hashtags. I wanted to share these images and hoped that they would start to normalize what it looks like to be a Black dad in America. What I didn't realize is that people were going to start contacting me for ways to get through their own parenthood journey.
Do you get any messages from moms?
We get direct messages (DMs) from single mothers saying, "Do you guys have advice for me as a single mom raising two boys? What can I do for them?" This might be challenging, but God put this in front of me for a reason. I owe it to these women to help. So I started answering all of these DMs, and it just became a thing to where now, we're really trying to figure out how to create a program, or a resource for single moms. Maybe it's for us to mobilize some dads in every city. Perhaps start taking names and emails of moms who might want to benefit from a group of dads stepping in to do fatherly activities with their sons. Perhaps just have some dads that are down to lend themselves as fathers to these children who don't have dads. That's what we're trying to work out now.
Have you started to see the narrative shift based on The Dad Gang?
Absolutely. People are starting to see the brand and associate it with Black dads. Us being amazing dads is starting to be a normal thing.
A version of this article originally appeared in Parents magazine's October 2020 issue as “#DadGoals” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here