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Apr 22, 2022

Hakim Bellamy: Poetry (And Fatherhood) In Motion

Heidi Stevens

Hakim Bellamy was honored to be included in a fatherhood summit organized by President Barack Obama’s White House as part of the Strong Fathers, Strong Families initiative.

Bellamy is an activist, author and poet—the inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque, in fact—and father to 14-year-old Keylam, who Bellamy calls his miracle. Of all his titles, dad is the one Bellamy cherishes most. So he was thrilled to discuss and elevate fatherhood on a national stage, with other dads from around the country.

“Instead of faulting the dads, what if we said, ‘Hey, how do we better support fathers in our community? What does that look like?”

But a part of him longed for the conversation to move beyond what fathers don’t do and toward what fathers don’t receive.

“So often we talk about the crisis of fatherhood,” Bellamy said. “And that generally means fathers’ absence—physical or psychological. But instead of faulting the dads, what if we said, ‘Hey, how do we better support fathers in our community? What does that look like?’”

Through the White House initiative, Bellamy met Allan Shedlin, a long-time educator, advocate for dads and former advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education. Shedlin invited Bellamy to join a group called Reel Fathers that works to shift media narratives around fatherhood. The two men struck up a deep friendship, and when Shedlin launched his own Dadvocacy consulting group, he invited Bellamy to serve as a “dadvisor.”

Bellamy contributes poems and blog posts to the Dadvocacy site and works to expand the range of roles and emotions that dads feel comfortable embracing. So many fathers, he said, feel consigned to be breadwinners, disciplinarians and little else. They feel trapped by an expectation of stoicism and frustrated by a culture that prizes productivity and earning power over time with family.

Bellamy recently completed a stint as Albuquerque’s deputy director of cultural services under Mayor Tim Keller, who Bellamy was proud to see champion paid parental leave for city employees. Keller signed a bill in 2018 granting 12 weeks of paid leave to full-time employees when they, their spouse or domestic partner have a baby or become adoptive or foster parents.

“We talk about what that extra time to bond does for the child,” he said “But let’s also think about what it does for the dad, what it does for the relationship between the mom and the dad or the dad and the other person in the relationship. We talk about family values. What’s more family values than that?”

“When we talk about dads, the narrative is often a deficit narrative—how bad they are, how absent they are,” Bellamy said. “I’m not saying we need to give them a participation trophy either. But it would be great if society were more grateful for dads, if dads were more grateful for themselves, if we did more to help dads be present for their kids.

“It sometimes feels like the only emotion dads are allowed to feel is pressure,” he continued. “Do more, bigger, faster, harder. But if you believe that you’re enough, that being a dad is enough, then maybe you don’t give into that noise that you need to be more.”


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