11 Jul Fatherhood 101: André Dandridge helps young men figure out fatherhood
Fatherhood 101: André Dandridge helps young men figure out fatherhood
(Written by Ammi White and Ilissa Gilmore for B.L.A.C. Detroit Magazine)
Being a father is a special job that André Dandridge doesn’t take lightly. In 1995, at the age of 21, the Detroit native became a father while a senior at Michigan State University. He quickly recognized a serious lack of resources for young fathers. So he created one.
“We all know what is present and prevalent in our society,” he says. According to Dandridge, now 39, there are men who want to be better fathers, but don’t know how. New Young Fathers works to reverse the cycle of absentee fathers.
It began as an eight-week program at a community center in Lansing. Since then, New Young Fathers has steadily grown, becoming a resource for young Black men offering advice and guidance through workshops, such as anger management and domestic violence programs, and online through NewYoungFathers.com. The organization has also partnered with Wayne County Community College District’s Eastern Campus to lead an ongoing series of events.
One way Dandridge has found to reach new members is through hip hop, having impromptu rap battles as an ice breaker at meetings. “It lets them know that: ‘These guys are OK; they can kind of relate to what we relate to,'” he says. “It’s been proven to break the ice and form a connection between us and their ability to receive our information.”
Last Father’s Day, the organization produced the CD “Fatherhood, The Soundtrack Vol. 1,” comprised of rap songs from a father’s perspective. The group plans to release the collection to a larger audience next year, with proceeds benefiting the organization.
The organization has also produced various educational materials, such as literature and documentary DVDs for dads. Recently, the group hosted a screening and discussion of “Real Talk: Life as a Young Father,” a documentary about six men who became fathers under age of 21, now 20 years older, sharing their experiences with the benefit of hindsight.
Earlier this year, the group also hosted a “Daddy’s Day at the Detroit Zoo” program, a collaboration between NewYoungFathers.com and the Detroit Zoo that allows young fathers and their children to enjoy quality time together. Following the event’s success, the group is looking to secure more funding to continue it.
As the organization nears four years, Dandridge says, “We’re moving full force.”