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Houston Nonprofit Helps Lift Up Father Figures

Kevin Barnett’s nonprofit, CoolXDad, is helping Houston fathers.

By DeVaughn Douglas Published in the Summer 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

From left, John DeBerry, IV, Kevin Barnett, and Vinh Luong on the rooftop at POST HTX.

Over the past decade, there has been an increasing effort to change the narrative usually presented around Black fathers. Oftentimes, reports that are usually linked to systemic problems are dismissed by voices using anecdotal evidence. “I think what has happened is people are now starting to wake up and realize that the depiction and narratives that have been placed on us is not our fault,” says Kevin Barnett, founder of CoolxDad. 

“We are looking for all men in any stage of their fatherhood journey," he adds. "You could be a dad who is expecting his first, second, or third child. You could be a grandfather. You could be a proactive man who is thinking about fatherhood and has questions. You could be a man that is unsure about having children, but you want to come and network with a group of men that have a plethora of experience from all walks of life.” 

CoolxDad was created in March 2020 and has myriad avenues to help fathers, whether it’s dealing with financial literacy, mental health, or community outreach. At its heart, CoolxDad is an organization for father figures who want to build close relationships with their children and the community around them. Barnett works to expose members to entrepreneurship and educational opportunities, emphasizing that the nonprofit has hosted events like Colorbox, a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club to collect toys and donations during the holidays, and Cool History, a gallery highlighting moments in Black history.

“I stepped into this sector with no education and no experience, and a lot of what I saw was outdated,” Barnett says. “A lot of the same ineffective processes have been going on for years, and it gives the term 'nonprofit' a stigma, especially when they try to enter the territories, homes, and backyards of marginalized communities. It was very important to us to take an approach of curating experiences that are beneficial to our mentors and mentees.”

Kevin Barnett, founder of CoolxDad

Books like Josh Lev’s All In break down the commonly held misconceptions of fathers, pinpointing the rate of men participating in the family structure while critiquing society’s view of what it means to be an involved father. In the book, Lev debunks the myth of the absent Black father by looking deeper into the facts and figures given by the CDC. With only a slight difference in the data between Black fathers and other groups, the numbers indicate that the narrative that Black fathers are completely absent from the lives of their children is largely overblown.

Barnett’s group focuses on making sure that the original negative narrative continues to dwindle. “The truth is Black fathers have been in their children’s lives the whole time,” says Barnett. 

The ultimate goal is to raise money for the group and bring awareness to its cause, but Barnett wants to do so in ways that separate CoolxDad from other nonprofits, as well as help members get exposure to new opportunities. The myth that Black fathers are not involved in the lives of their children is gradually eroding, and a new image is being presented. With that come groups like CoolxDad, who are moving forward as well as reimagining ways to help the community. And while Barnett is proud of what the group is doing to help others, he always keeps in mind what CoolxDad has done for him.

“I’m always telling people I’m the No. 1 person that has been transformed by CoolxDad, because it has opened my mind and helped me face a lot of areas within myself in becoming a father," Barnett says. "Now I have a community of fathers to lean on. I have a community of fathers where I can be vulnerable and transparent.”

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