New Romford author speaks out about feeling 'invisible' as a black father

Cal-I Jonel

Romford father-of-two Cal-I Jonel wrote about his experiences of black fatherhood - Credit: Cal-I Jonel

A Romford dad has written a chapter in a new book about fatherhood which seeks to “start a conversation that challenges the traditions associated with masculinity”. 

Cal-I Jonel is one of 20 contributors to Dad, a collection of stories drawing from the parenting and lifestyle platform for men, MusicFootballFatherhood.com (MFF).

The book discusses men's experiences of postnatal depression, becoming a father during the pandemic, being a stay-at-home dad and other topics. 

Cal-I's chapter explores fatherhood, faith and identity, and he told this paper it felt “surreal” that the book is coming out. 

DAD cover

The book about fatherhood will be published on June 1 - Credit: MusicFootballFatherhood/ DAD

He has a nine-year-old daughter Ebony-Grace and an eight-year-old son Elijah, and after 10 years of working in schools, Cal-I retrained at Identity School of Acting and Maktub Theatre Group, and is also a singer-songwriter and playwright. 

Speaking about the book becoming available to pre-order, Cal-I said: “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, and so much of it was new for me. 

“This is about a collection of stories, and the actor in me really enjoys being part of something much bigger than myself.” 

In 2017, Cal-I got involved in MFF after reading about founder Elliot Rae’s experiences. 

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He recalled: “I remember feeling desperately tired and anxious when they were born, and felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about it in the workplace.” 

He added: “I felt invisible as a black father.” 

The 38-year-old praised the role of his wife Zara in supporting him, and said he could be vulnerable and his authentic self around her. 

“Home is my sanctuary,” he said. 

Book curator Elliott Rae explained Dad aims to highlight the importance of sharing stories in changing perceptions around fatherhood and masculinity. 

Elliott Rae

Elliott Rae founded men's lifestyle platform MusicFootballFatherhood and collated new fatherhood book, DAD. - Credit: MusicFootballFatherhood/ DAD

Elliott, who had PTSD after a traumatic birth, said: “Most dads have a story but we didn’t really have a way to start that conversation. 

“It is important for any dad to read this because I guarantee there will be something that resonates. 

“I just want anyone to pick it up and then start a conversation with their own dad, husband, brother, because I know there will be more to say.” 

Cal-I added: “This is not about taking away from women’s experiences, instead it should be complementary in the conversation around parenthood.” 

Dad will be published on June 1, with pre-orders available from May 4. 

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