Flint, MI—While many Midwestern fathers were preparing for Sunday’s Super Bowl game, a group of local dads gathered to work on something else: their children’s hair.
The “Daddy Do My Hair” event on Feb. 12, 2023 was put on by InvolvedDad (ID), a Flint-based organization that strives to create strong families through fatherhood engagement.
“I just know a lot of the challenges I had personally,” Shon Hart explained of why he founded ID back in 2015.
Hart said his own father had been present in his life but not very involved, and when he later worked in a prison, Hart also saw the toll a father’s absence has on his children from another vantage.
“So I said, you know, I will impact these children through fatherhood engagement, right? Helping fathers to learn better skills, removing some of the barriers that’s preventing them from showing up and being the father that they desire to be or that their children need them to be.”
While ID runs more holistic services—like IMPACT, a 15-week program that provides men strategies to better co-parent and safe, supervised visitation space, among other supports—Sunday’s event was focused on the basics.
“What we realize with some of our dads is, when you have this whole co-parenting piece, a lot of times when dad finally gets child… he’s like, ‘Man, I have this child for a limited time. I don’t want to mess this up,’” Hart said.
Fathers may only get to see their child every-other week or weekend, Hart noted, and therefore they may not have the confidence or skills to best care for their little ones.
“So what happens is he becomes this ‘fun’ parent. He doesn’t know how to be his authentic self, right? He’s always performing,” Hart said.
Therefore, Hart worked with local barber Dwayne Harrington Sr., who goes by “Wayne the Barber,” to host the Feb. 12 workshop to teach dads how to take care of children’s hair.
Hart said the event is meant to accomplish two things. First, Hart said he hopes it shows fathers how easily they can create memories with their children—something especially meaningful for Jacolby Bratcher and his daughter Khloe Williams. Khloe’s mother passed away in January 2021, Bratcher said, and he wants to learn how to do Khloe’s hair to fill that role.
“It’s been rough, but hey, I gotta keep it going,” Bratcher said. “Her and her little brother keep me going for sure.”
Although Khloe has Angelman Syndrome and does not communicate verbally, she’ll run up to Bratcher and tap her hair when she wants to her hair done.
“She loves getting her hair done,” Bratcher said. “I just can’t do it. So when I’m able to, I would love it.”
Growing up without his own father in his life, he explained, has shown him the importance of the role he now embodies for Khloe.
“It’s very important for a dad to be in a kid’s life because it brings structure, responsibility, love, strength,” Bratcher said. “It’s a lot of things that a mother can’t teach a kid, and it’s a lot of things that a father can’t teach a kid that a mother can. So both relationships are important. I don’t think no relationship is more important. It’s all equal. They just need to be there.”
Aside from memory-building, Hart told Flint Beat, ID events like Daddy Do My Hair also offer fathers a practical skill.
“A lot of times these dads have their children for the weekend, and they struggle like, ‘Okay, well, what am I doing with my child’s hair? How do I do this?’ So we want to at least give him some of the basics,” Hart explained. “So now you’re understanding the different textures of hair. You’re understanding why this is important. If mom needs you to take [your daughter’s] braids out, this is the correct way to do it.”
That was the case for Tae Jackson and his only daughter Taelor Jackson. Jackson has always been interested in hair, he said, cutting and styling his and his sons’ hair. But before this event, he didn’t know how to do the same for his daughter.
“Especially about the products, about putting it in her hair, I learned I was putting the wrong products in,” he said. “And that can damage their hair.”
Meanwhile, Taelor excitedly braided a mannequin’s hair in one of the event’s demonstration stations, smiling the whole time. Jackson wants to turn his passion for hair styling into a business eventually, he said, and seeing his daughter’s enthusiasm for it only boosted that.
“It’s something rarely seen and done,” he said. “This field right here, we can both be hands on. I like it, she like it.”
Hart was happy to report that Sunday’s event had sold out well before the barbershop doors opened, but ID will continue to host events like it alongside its other cohort programming.
“The biggest thing is that, you know, strong fathers create strong communities,” Hart said, noting that when dad is not present, his child is at greater risk for poverty, mental health issues, low self-esteem and criminal behavior.
“So we’re trying to break the generational strongholds that has been plaguing some families when a father is not present,” he said. “We are intentional about that.”