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“Songs for Our Fathers” series celebrates fatherhood

Headshots of two men, side by side.
Suleiman Adan and Ben Weaver are the co-creators of the "Songs for Our Fathers" conversation and writing series.

A series of panel discussions and writing workshops this month will explore and celebrate the diverse expressions of fatherhood. 

Songs for Our Fathers was created by Ben Weaver and Suleiman Adan, who shared a desire to connect with other men over the joys and challenges of fatherhood. Weaver, a single father of three, pitched the project to Carolyn Holbrook, founder of the public conversation series ‘More Than a Single Story,’ in hopes to connect men and women over the experiences of single parenting. He says single parenting grew his admiration for women, who more commonly fall into this role when a separation occurs.

“I've raised one of my boys full time since he was five, without a co parent, in my home with full custody, and that's just been such a unique experience. I think that experience of raising him and having, in some ways, to be a father and a mother to him,  it just opened my eyes to how much there is that doesn't really get talked about,” said Weaver. “I've reflected a lot on what I learned. Not just about being a father, but also all the invisible work that mothers have been doing for so many generations.”

Currently in the United States, 80% of single parents are female. Holbrook, who raised five children as a single mother, says while she saw the value of connecting male and female experiences over this matter, she suggested the series stay with the focus of fatherhood. Not just single fathers, but male primary caregivers in general.

“Single fathers are not discussed enough,” said Holbrook.

The series is broken into three panel discussions: In Praise of Single Fathers. The Unsung Realities of Fatherhood, and For The Love of Our Grandfathers. Each is followed by a writing workshop on a similar theme a couple of days later. 

Holbrook says during an organizing meeting, she got to witness just how powerful a space for this kind of conversation could be.

“They just started reflecting on so many aspects of being a father, like the co-parenting aspect, and teaching their sons how to respect women… What masculinity means when it's not in juxtaposition to motherhood,” said Holbrook.

Headshot of a Black woman with silver dreads. She wears glasses and a black top and is smiling at the camera.
Carolyn Holbrook

While this series highlights the male voice, Holbrook says she believes the conversation can offer perspectives to both men and women. She says hearing about the panelists’ discussion regarding masculinity inspired her to consider the stereotypes she faced under the label of a single mom.

“There were a lot of perceptions of me, because I was a single mom. And then add to that, the stereotype of the Black single mom and feeling like I had to fight it… I wish now that I had maybe a stronger point of view that I don't have to fight a stereotype, just raise my damn children,” said Holbrook.

Weaver says regardless of gender, race, or class, the impact of loneliness faced by parents can be burdensome. He says he feels fortunate to be in the position to foster the community that he once needed. 

The first panel discussion takes place tonight (May 30) at 6pm. All of the events take place at the Highland Park Library in St. Paul, are open to the public and family-friendly. 

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