On most weekdays, Jama’l Chukueke (pronounced Ja-mel Chick-a-wake-e) rises at 3:30 a.m. to work on his passion project: his podcast Diversity Dad. In 15-minute increments, he focuses his attention on various tasks, from writing his weekly blog to updating Twitter. At 5:30 a.m., he’ll switch to getting his 2-year-old daughter, Simone, ready for the day. Or if it’s his wife Lindsey’s turn for that duty, he leaves for the gym before heading to his day job as the new director of recreation and wellness at the University of Washington-Bothell.
Chukueke launched Diversity Dad in August 2015 to create a conversation between dads and other parent figures about how to be the best role models they can be. “I wanted to leave a legacy for my daughter. [The podcast] is about putting this positive message into the world and providing value for others,” he says. “I wanted to show my creativity, be courageous and go after my dreams, so my child and future children know they can follow their own aspirations.”
Chukueke is also a new co-leader for the Families of Color Seattle (FOCS) Dads’ group together with author J.L. Cheatham II. “We’re looking forward to supporting [Chukueke’s] growth in the parenting world while connecting him to more fathers of color as we work to really amplify black dad voices in Seattle,” says Amy HyunAh Pak, FOCS founder and executive director.
To learn more about that goal and Chukueke’s other work, ParentMap spoke with the Seattle dad.
Why did you create a podcast that’s about supporting dads in all parenting situations?
Around age 10, I realized my dad wasn’t around on a consistent basis because [comparatively] my best friend’s dad was home every time I went to his house. My dad lived in New York City, but I lived with my mom in Syracuse. My mom did her best, but she couldn’t fill this void at an age when I started forming opinions about my self-confidence, racial identity, masculinity, etc. I started the podcast because I wanted to be there for my daughter. I bring on guests that can help me and share that knowledge with others. It’s like therapy to me.
What parenting advice from your podcast has really resonated with you?
[Episode no. 48] may be the best one to date. Jeremy Maynard, cofounder of The Furthering Fathering Corp. [a worldwide nonprofit focused on fatherhood and community], gave me so many nuggets, it was ridiculous. He said, ‘Move from a mind-set of burden to a mind-set of blessing. I think when it comes to being a father to your kids, it can be challenging at certain points, but they are blessings.’
Maynard also said, ‘Through a multitude of counsel, a purpose is established.’ That also speaks to me because Diversity Dad is about seeking the counsel of other dads.
Why tackle this on top of a 40-hour workweek, marriage and parenting your first child?
For years, I would just ask myself, ‘Who am I?’ I am this person who’s worked in higher education administration for 13 years. Working with college kids is amazing, and I have learned a lot, but I needed to have my own creation. I’m a caretaker and I’m good at inspiring people. When my wife was pregnant and I transitioned to working at a college, I thought, ‘Shoot, man. I can monetize a podcast and help and inspire people at the same time.’
Whom do you admire?
Dr. Dre. He just puts out this quality music; just listen to his beats. And P. Diddy. He’s a marketing monster; he is unstoppable. I’ve been following him on Snapchat, and his message is about spreading love. Yes, he’s made his mistakes, but focusing on those is just going to slow a person down. What are you going to learn from a situation? That’s easier said than done. I still get down on myself, but I tell myself to keep going and learning.
I’ve stolen one thing that P. Diddy says: ‘It’s just God’s work — don’t worry and just let it flow.’ I’ve taken that in and learned to just be true to myself. For example, at work, I used to hide that I love hip-hop. I look like I’m 18 and I’m a black male, so I acted a part because of some portrayals of young, black males. It took me a long time to just be me, but now I let people know that I love hip-hop.
Do you feel it’s important to put your voice forward as a young black dad?
Yes, I feel that it is important that I put my voice out here as a young black dad to provide inspiration to other black men. I am happy to represent young black dads out there as someone who has something creative in their heart and is going after that aspiration. There are many of us ‘black dads’ out here that are trying to do the right thing by their family. But I feel our story is not as prevalent as it needs to be on the surface level of what needs to be shown within a person of color in the parenting community.
Where do you see the podcast leading? What’s your ultimate goal?
To own my own TV network and put out diverse programming that speaks to the whole Diversity Dad movement. I understand this is a long journey; I am in this for the next 40–50 years. I’m 38 and I’m just getting started. I have a long way to go, but it’s all right. I’m ready! I’m ready!
Hear from Jama'l
The Seattle dad shares the inspiration behind Diversity Dad.
Right now, I’m working on a new project called Diversity Love that I hope to launch in late summer. Through online video interviews, I want to capture the gray areas of raising a child that most adults never really want to talk about. I’ll speak with fathers and mothers that have had a unique upbringing or are currently going through tough situations, and I’ll showcase their artistic talents, too. I want to provide our community with parenthood resources and help strengthen bonds between parents and children.
I’m not worried about the next five or even 10 years. If I keep providing value and creating resources for dads while being my authentic self, I’ll reach my goals. If you have a voice, there’s a market for you. Don’t worry and just keep putting out good shit, and it’ll happen. Obviously, you gotta work until your eyes bleed.
Where does your patience and work ethic come from?
My daughter. I’ve had nights where I look at [how many people have downloaded an episode] and you know, there’ll be seven downloads. But it’s just like learning to be a father: Success isn’t going to come overnight. It took time for me to learn how to swaddle my daughter. … I’m not afraid to put in the work when I really want something. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I trust the process and just put in the work.