WEBER COUNTY (ABC4 News) – A Father’s Day photoshoot organized by the Northern Utah Black Lives Matter chapter aims to break down stereotypes and change the negative image of Black fathers. The project included more than a dozen families across the valley.
One of the fathers who participated was West Valley City resident Marlin Lynch III. He is the father of two daughters, KaNiyah and Kennedy and told ABC4 News he absolutely loves being a “girl dad.”
“Fatherhood is the greatest gift from God. Just to wake up in the morning and to see someone that God has trust me with brings me joy, peace, and perseverance,” said Lynch. “I am the example of their first king and they will rely on me as they make their choices on who they date and potentially marry.”
But he explained that being a father as a Black man has come with a number of challenges, such as the stigma of being aggressive or irresponsible.
“One of the big stereotypes is absent fatherhood. Society thinks that a lot of Black men are absent from their home or they don’t play a part in their child’s lives,” he said.
That’s why Jacarri Kelley, organizer of the Northern Utah Black Lives Matter chapter partnered with local photographer Mark Seawell to work on the Black Fathers Matter photo project.
“Black fathers in particular have a bad reputation. But I know for a fact, there are way more good than bad. So I wanted to recognize them for that and highlight the good versus the bad,” Kelley told ABC4 News via e-mail Monday.
She went on to write, “I needed these Black fathers to know that I see that the system was there to tear you down. But I’m here to lift you back up.”
Seawell is also a Black father himself, who took on his love for photography while serving in the military. He retired after 20 years and now serves as a civilian at Hill Air Force Base in Layton. On Sunday, he and another photographer donated all of their time and services to participants of the shoot.
“Our country faces some unique challenges, so my role in this project is just my small way of supporting a cause that I think will benefit everyone. I want the American people to see that Black men are responsible, Black men do raise their children, Black men do stay and support their families,” said Seawell.
Lynch explained the bittersweetness being at the photoshoot, thinking about George Floyd and the other Black fathers who have lost their lives in racially-charged incidents in recent years across the country.
“Being around other Black fathers interacting with their children and seeing those smiles was very refreshing,” he said. “But it was also hard for me, thinking about those who are spending today without their dads.”
Lynch and Seawell hope positive images of Black men like these will help break down the negative stereotypes and labels.
“I can be one of the examples to society that shows their negative perspective is not true at all. Don’t look at the color of my skin, look at my heart and see that I love my family, I love my kids, I love my wife, and I love my community,” said Lynch.
“The media tends to stigmatize Black men and I want to push back on that. From Jim Crow on, we have been presented as dark bodies of threat,” said Seawell. “By doing this, it gives people the opportunity to see that we’re all human and the divides are mostly artificial that we create in our own minds.”