As co-creator of the hit OWN series Black Love with his wife Codie Elaine Oliver, celebrating Black folks in our most important life moments has become a specialty for Tommy Oliver. Just as inspiration for Black Love came from his own marriage, his month-long deep dive into Black fatherhood with Father Noir comes from his own experience as a father. “I created the site as a visual representation of what Black fatherhood looks like to me—being present, being loving and leading by example,” he explains.
Presented by SheaMoisture Men and supported by Lexus, the Father Noir site puts a spotlight on Black fatherhood through intimate conversations and moments with a variety of Black fathers, including comedians Wayne Brady and Bill Bellamy; music producer Warryn Campbell, who is the husband of gospel music princess Erica Campbell; and American Black Film Festival founder Jeff Friday, among others.
“This idea [for the ptoject] started after my wife and I met the photographer Erik Umphery at The Blackhouse at Sundance 2020,” Oliver recounts. “While shooting our portraits, he shared that he was a brand-new twin dad, to which my wife promptly responded, ‘so, why are you here?!’ After a few good laughs about how I also had to fly out two weeks after we had our first child, a new friendship was cemented. A few weeks later, we all got together, talked about the importance of fatherhood, how necessary it is to see images of Black fathers. And, then I shared my nugget of an idea about what a Father Noir campaign could be. We started putting the campaign together, but the pandemic prevented us from executing in 2020 and, as soon as we realized we could pull it off in 2021, we started making calls to some of our favorite dads.”
Growing up, Oliver’s dad was not around, and that experience deeply shaped him. “It’s always been wildly important for me to be the father I wished had been there for me. This was true before I had kids and is true now that we have three incredible boys,” he shares.
For Oliver, Father Noir is very much aligned with the vision he and his wife share for their breakout series, Black Love. “The show, for my wife and I, has always been about all aspects of Black love— marriage and partnership, parenthood, self-love, etc. These are all incredibly important to witness and experience,” he explains. “The way we raise and love our children creates a foundation for how they love themselves and, ultimately, their partners.”
For Oliver, using the show and platform to highlight and amplify Black fatherhood is a necessity for the morale of our community. “The reality of Black fathers is that they are there much more than they are given credit for according to the media, and it’s important that we correct those damaging and outdated narratives.”
Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of “Black American History For Dummies.”