Marvyn Harrison is best known as the founder of the Dope Black CIC…
an educational and healing platform designed to improve the outcomes of black people. Reaching people in the UK, USA, and African continent, his work continues to inspire. He previously worked as a consultant, and his previous experience in this field provided the know-how to create such a successful platform.
He was awarded Influencer of the Year at the Black British Business Awards in 2021, and he runs the Webby award-winning podcast ‘Dope Black Dads’, in which he has candid discussions with his guests about Black fatherhood.
He has two books coming out this year: the illustrated children’s book I Love Me!, and Dope Black Dads: Life Lessons on Fatherhood.
We spoke to Marvyn about how his life has changed in the last few years and his upcoming work…
Please introduce yourself?
I am Marvyn Harrison, raised by my Jamaican mum and Gran and I am the founder of the Male parenting platform Dope Black Dads.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
My life right now is peaceful and fulfilling. I took a work-life balance assessment and I spend more time with my children since then life is more fun and fulfilling.
The Dope Black Dads community grew from a group chat you made on Father’s Day in 2018. Could you have imagined then what the Dope Black community has now become?
Not at all, I was very much focused on my own work and never considered it would become more or mean anything to anyone else. It is great that it has been able to support so many but since 2020 the focus has been squarely on me and my family and my wellbeing as a Black man navigating the experiences this country throws at you.
Your podcast has a wide and varied listenership. What types of responses have you heard from both fathers and people who aren’t fathers about the podcast’s impact?
I think the Dads are silent listeners and they will tell me when they see me in person – I get a lot of support from mothers, aunts and sisters who are trying to help the men in the life or understand Black men better. I can feel how much Black women especially love the men in their lives and want them to do well.
With over 250,000 members globally, there is clearly a demand for the type of work that the Dope Black community does. What do you think is key to creating safe spaces for personal and frank discussions?
They need to be safe, they need to be a place you can share imperfect thoughts and observations without judgement and so they can learn from the collective. It’s a tough space to hold and we have had to remove people we have respect and admiration from because they violated the rules repeatedly, we also moved Dope Black Men and Dads to Facebook Groups as a priority to ensure better tools to manage the community like anonymous posting, easier removal of content, temporary blocking etc.
I can imagine that you have come to terms with and learnt so much since opening up Dope Black Dads as a channel for discussion and continual growth. What have you recently learnt or discovered that has shaped how you live and parent?
Just more about me. I have so much more work to do such as being caring, loving and forgiving. Leadership is lonely as hell, there is so much you know but can’t share and at times no one can hold space for you even if they want to, so now I have had to practice boundaries and self-care more intentionally.
Your new book, I Love Me, is an empowering children’s book, filled with positive affirmations. How did the idea for this book come about, and why do you think that it is important to empower young people in such a way?
My superpower as a dad is coaching and so I use all the tools that I have learned in my later life, so affirmations, yoga, meditations and channelling your internal power and this book is the code. It works on adults too.
What was your experience of writing a children’s book like? How did you find working alongside the illustrator Diane Ewen?
The process was the most fun and also challenging because I speak often in complex ways to adults for a living so making this concept digestible for 3-6-year-olds was special. Diane is a superhero and nailed my children in a way that brought so much emotion. I am indebted to her for bringing the vision to life with integrity.
The Dope Black Dads book is coming out in June. The book contains your writing on your experiences as well as testimonies from other black dads, including Tinie Tempah and Sean Fletcher. How did you find the writing process? Did anything surprise you about yourself whilst reflecting in this way?
This was much harder as it was during a process of separation from my wife, heightened race tensions, COVID, launching 2 businesses and my own health challenges. I left every piece of me available in that book (in a good way) and so I hope it lands with people in the way it is intended. I very much dedicate it to all the Dads around the world and Nina for her love, patience and support while writing it.
Congratulations on everything in the past few years, and good luck with the book launches. Lastly, is there anything else that you are excited about this year?
I am excited about sharing the books with people – I see them as a gift to the world and all of the proceeds are going to non-profits, children or back into the work we do. The next phase is a bigger focus on masculinity and so I want to see how it pans out but overall I am just grateful for all blessings.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
A book you have to have in your collection?
I wish I knew this sooner, Toni Tone | The Mastery, Robert Green | Polysecure, Jessica Fern
A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?
Jill Scott, I need you | Giveon, Stuck on you | Joao Gilbert, S’ Wonderful
A film/TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly?
Eat. Pray. Love. (We need a Black male version)
The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, or concert)?
Barbershop Chronicles – Seeing Black men being them is transformative
What has made you sad, mad, and glad this week?
Sad – How Black people were treated in Ukraine
Mad – The Black girl who was strip-searched brought me to reflective silence. I think that’s worse than when I yell
Glad – Anytime a Black person wins on anything – Lewis Hamilton acknowledging his mothers maiden name