Life could have taken a much different path for Damarqio Williams. Growing up in Ypsilanti, he didn’t have the positive influence and inspiration a good dad can provide a son. Yet, with the love from incredibly strong women who raised him, Williams found his voice. And now a very involved dad himself to 4-year-old Jenesis, Williams, 28, is using that voice to smash stereotypes and inspire other dads.
“That’s something that I’ve kind of had to heal and grow and learn how to do, because growing up I haven’t had that,” he says.
At the same time, he’s also on a mission to change the narrative about raising a family in the city of Detroit, filling his social media feeds (@DetroitFather) with big smiles and lots of happy moments with Jenesis and his wife, La’Nyce.
Like many parents during the pandemic, he juggled working from home as business program manager for Rock Central. When he began noticing dads missing from the influencer space, he launched Dad Influencers this year, a virtual effort to support dads that grew to more than 500 dads around the world nearly overnight. “It’s bigger than me. It really is powerful bringing together everyday dads to have a safe place, to have community.”
He also is the founder behind Detroit Social Circle and co-founder behind Joining Forces with King, created to change the image of Black men and the narrative around them in Detroit. Now he hopes to take those efforts to cities across the country.
How did you find the drive to break out of the typical “fatherless” stereotype:
“For me, I think the theme of my life, the word that I always go to, is purpose. Always knowing there was a bigger purpose for my life, for the life that I would live and lead that would not just be something that I would be proud of, or something that would just impact me, but that even as a child, thinking I’m going to influence and inspire the world. That was always the drive, the motivation. Almost a way to get back at those who may have rejected me or didn’t want to be around me. It was always that drive that I’m going to be someone that people want to be around. That’s always been the gas in my wheelhouse that keeps me going. But always determined, always trying to lead by example, even from a young age.”
What do you think of dads’ roles I their kids’ lives:
“For me that’s a very heavy question. You would say there’s no dad in the picture, how do you get where you are without a dad. For me, I’ve had to live that example and gone back to having very strong women. For me, the importance of fathers is to be that leader, the one who not only just provides – I think that’s the easy task for dads, you go to work and bring home the bacon. It’s very important that you are in tune with the family and that you’re leading the family, walking alongside the family and doing that through your emotions and doing that through your mental state. For me it’s important for fathers to just be present and active.
“… That’s for me the biggest chunk that I was missing in my childhood, not having that sense of identity, not knowing who I was and who I could be because I didn’t have that father in the home. There was a lot of searching and figuring that out.”
What’s it like to be a Black dad, especially in these times:
“It’s hard. That’s the easy way to say it. It’s very hard to be a person of color in general in the time we are living in, especially in America. To me it’s a pandemic as well. It’s more important than ever for me to show my daughter the importance of different cultures and different background and how we are all humans. It’s more important than ever for me to explain that to her and to not pass down hatred for other races because of my own history with racism, to limit the impact of that generational trauma and hurt. … You know that racism is real, that there is this problem that just because of the color of your skin that you are going to be treated and looked at differently, but you don’t want that to just kind of be passed on as acceptable and the norm. You want to be able to say, ‘that is not right, but don’t let that change who you are.’ For us as parents, both my wife and I, it’s important that we share that with her, but we also show her the validation of the beauty of who she is. It’s always important to keep those reminders in front of her: Don’t be defined by those stereotypes and individuals who can’t see your beauty, you own your beauty, you own who you are.”
Fast Talk with Damarqio Williams
What you do to unwind:
Watch a good TV show, especially a good documentary. Learning about someone else’s life is like the best for me. My wife hates it, but I love it.
Advice to other dads:
Be intentional and be present.
Favorite game to play with your daughter:
Sing-alongs. We make up a song about anything. (Note: When they play Barbies together, Jenesis always makes him be the dog!)
Jamaican Jerk chicken wings. Jenesis asks for them once a week.
Follow Metro Parent on Instagram.