When Bryan Jackson first arrived at his dorm room in Teachers College’s Whittier Hall, someone in the housing office realized that a standard-sized twin bed mattress and a six-foot, four-inch student were not a good fit. A substitute was procured from the stockpile of mattresses that Columbia University sets aside for members of the Lions’ men’s and women’s basketball squads.
It was a relatively small act of kindness, but it reverberated in big ways.
“I appreciate now that the instance of that mattress led me to consider how to be a father,” says Jackson (M.Ed. ’03), who earned his degree in TC’s Department of Curriculum & Teaching. “It showed me that if my son needs something, I’ll go get it. And, regardless of his size and his color, he will always know he is meant to be here.”
That anecdote has yet to air on Dad Genes: Exploring The DNA of Healthy Fathering, the podcast that Jackson and co-hosts Dedan Bruner and Harris Tay began taping in February — but in time it probably will.
Dad Genes occupies a unique space among the scores of podcasts dedicated to parenting.
We felt it was important to develop a platform to see positive images of Black fathers loving fathering because there aren’t many of those narratives out there.
“We felt it was important to develop a platform to see positive images of Black fathers loving fathering because there aren’t many of those narratives out there,” says Jackson, a former award-winning elementary school teacher who founded and currently serves as CEO of Attach Consulting, a race equity-based organization that customizes services to meet the unique needs of nonprofits, for-profits and schools.
[Read a story about Jackson receiving a Golden Apple Award in 2012 when he was a third-grade teacher at The Latin School of Chicago.]
[Follow the Dad Genes Podcast on all podcast platforms and on Instagram @dadgenespodcast.]
Almost no topic goes untouched as Jackson, Bruner and Harris delve into the concerns they bring to therapy sessions, the division of household responsibilities, child discipline and — a frequent focus — “dad failures.” Sometimes serious, sometimes sublime, the podcast generally trends toward the practical.
“I highly recommend that you look at a diaper bag that you can open with one hand,” says Jackson in Episode 11, offering a “pro tip” to future fathers. “Because a bag is useless if you’re holding a baby in one hand and cannot pull out a diaper, changing pad and wipes with the other hand.”
We are very intentional about making listeners understand that we aren’t experts, we are basically three fathers having conversations at a backyard barbeque.
Critics may say “duh,” or, conversely, “too much information.” Jackson’s response: “There are not a lot of healthy spaces for Black men to talk about fatherhood. As a result, we are very intentional about making listeners understand that we aren’t experts, we are basically three fathers having conversations at a backyard barbeque. But we feel it is important for us to be vulnerable, reflective and not afraid to share our failures and fears.”
The series grew out of, attachMENt an informal new father’s group that Jackson started in Northern Virginia (a companion to a new mother’s organization that Jackson’s wife, Faiza, joined following the birth of their son, Nas), which eventually provided him with an introduction to Bruner, an attorney and creator of the “On Fathering” website. Bruner, in turn, introduced Jackson to Tay, a national United Methodist Church official with a background in podcasts.
I highly recommend that you look at a diaper bag that you can open with one hand.
Dad Genes was launched with the support of 202Creates Residency Program, an initiative of the Washington, D.C. Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment that promotes creative and entrepreneurial enterprise. Drawing inspiration from milestone events in Jackson’s life — the passing of his father in 2016; the birth of Jackson’s son in 2018 — it immediately drew listeners. But this past summer, when the police killing of George Floyd prompted Jackson and his co-hosts to focus on social justice in addition to the trials of parenting in a pandemic, the series, in its first week, leaped to the number 17 ranking among all parenting podcasts. In one episode, Faiza, a clinical therapist, leads a discussion on the “Adultification of Black Children.”
Soon, though, a happier topic will be introduced to the conversation: Bryan and Faiza Jackson are expecting their second child, a girl, later this year.