While experiences surrounding Black fatherhood are not monolithic, there are often narratives about Black men that portray them as absent fathers. Entrepreneur and empowerment speaker Harold Leffall is on a mission to dispel the myths about the involvement of Black men in their children’s lives and paint a different portrait of Black fatherhood through the podcast Black Talk: Conversations with My Son.
Leffall—an Oakland, California native—says his own experiences with his father inspired him to create the podcast. He grew up in a single-parent household and his neighborhood was plagued by violence, drugs, and crime. His father had several stints in prison and battled a heroin addiction; ultimately creating a frayed relationship between him and Leffall. “The only entrepreneurs that we saw were involved in the street life,” he told NewsOne. “I didn’t want to be like those I saw around me.”
Instead of falling into the detrimental cycles of his neighborhood, Leffall used the lack of positive male representation and the strained connection with his father as motivation to do something positive with his life. He ended up stepping into entrepreneurship. After experiencing business success, Leffall penned a book titled Brother CEO: A Business Success Guide for African American Men that served as a blueprint for Black men who came from similar circumstances and wanted to become business owners. The book led to several speaking engagements which allowed him to connect with different audiences, but one, in particular, left an indelible mark on Leffall and would influence his decision to create the podcast.
In July 2019, he traveled to a California prison to do a workshop with 100 men who were serving life sentences. After delving into the life experiences of the inmates—many of whom were Black—a lot of them expressed how the lack of positive male role models in their lives led them down the wrong path. “For me, it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. A lot of them shared what led them to do what they did. They shared a lot of details about the abuse and trauma they experienced when they were kids,” he said. “Some expressed how their fathers weren’t there or treated them badly. One of the prison administrators shared with me that most individuals who were doing life at the correctional facility came into the prison system when they were 16. Many of the men committed crimes at a critical age where so many teens are looking for validation.”
When he returned home from his trip Leffall’s 22-year-old son—who he has been raising on his own since he was 10 months old—had questions about his experience. They filmed the candid Q&A and after seeing how impactful it was, decided to launch a podcast.
Black Talk: Conversations with My Son was created as a platform to foster conversations and connections between Black fathers and their children. Through the podcast, Leffall and his son Zaire want to empower Black men to be vulnerable and open about their experiences so they can delve into how past encounters have shaped their perspectives on different topics. The father-son duo plans on covering topics that include childhood trauma, wealth in the Black community, love and relationships, race and politics. He also wants to highlight different examples of Black fatherhood. “If you look at the portrayals of Black men in the media, you would think that Black fathers are absent from their children’s lives. I’ve been a single dad since my son was 10 months,” he said. “I know so many other men who are single parents that are taking on the role and responsibility of raising their children alone. There are also a lot of men who aren’t biological fathers who are stepping up to the plate to be an influence in the lives of fatherless children.”
The podcast—which is slated to launch in January 2020—will be available on Spotify, iHeart Radio, and Radioline. After launching the podcast, they plan on doing a 10-city tour to host workshops for parents and their children. Ultimately, Leffall wants to use the podcast as an avenue to foster healthy conversations. “My son and I have different perspectives. He helps me to grow,” said Leffall. “Through this platform, we want to open up conversations about some of the ideologies that are more harmful than helpful to our community.”