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‘There’s This Narrative Pushed By the Media…’: YouTube Vlogger on His Role In Apple TV’s New Film ‘Dads’ and the ‘Magic’ of Black Fatherhood

Glen Henry, known as Beleaf to the supporters of his YouTube channel “Beleaf In Fatherhood,” shares the joys and tribulations of parenthood alongside his wife Yvette, primarily through vlogging from their San Diego home. The YouTube channel has grown rapidly in recent years to an audience of more than 260,000 subscribers. Several of the videos on the channel have gone viral, gaining upwards of four million views. A dad to four young children, Theo, 7, Uriah, 6, Anaya, 3, and Uziah, 1, Beleaf seeks to produce content purposed with equipping young men for fatherhood. Importantly, the channel challenges pervasive negative stereotypes about Black fatherhood by providing an example of a present and intentional Black dad.

Apple TV’s new documentary film “Dads,” a cinematic celebration of fatherhood, was released just in time for Father’s Day. The original film explores the joys and challenges of parenthood by providing a glimpse into the lives of six dads from around the globe. The film, directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, was released on Friday, and features prominent celebrity voices, including Will Smith, Jimmy Kimmel, Kenan Thompson, and Neil Patrick Harris, among others. Beleaf, one of the extraordinary fathers featured in the film, spoke with Atlanta Black Star about his experiences working on the project.

The couple’s four children (from left) Theo, Uziah, Anaya, Uriah. (Photo: @beleafmel/Instagram)

“I didn’t know if it was real or not,” Beleaf said of the moment Apple’s team first reached out, asking him to join the cast of the feature film. “Three months later they showed up at my house ready to film, and I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it,'” he added in a statement to Atlanta Black Star.

After an initial conversation with director Bryce Howard about how society often sells dads short, Beleaf recognized how much the world needed to a see a film that challenged the most common assumptions about fatherhood. “I identified with a lot of what she was saying. In the home sense, we aren’t as expected to fill in any role or help at all. We’re just kind of like, ‘go to work, come home, discipline.’ I really thought the film could shine some light on fatherhood, and help both men and women.”

The Henry Family. Photo credit: Beleafmel/Instagram

Beleaf’s passion for affirming Black fathers, and providing a realistic example for what intentional parenting looks like, is identifiable in every aspect of his career. In addition to the YouTube channel, Beleaf also puts the spotlight on fatherhood as a music artist. In his 2017 album “In Fatherhood,” he makes regular references to his child-rearing and parenthood. He and his wife Yvette, a former teacher, also host a podcast together called “How Married Are You?” that centers on topics related to love, family, and relationships.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Beleaf says that as an influencer he “absolutely” feels a responsibility to counteractive negative stereotypes about Black fathers with positive narratives. There’s “not enough evidence” of present Black fathers in the media, he said. “There’s this narrative pushed by the media that’s like, Black fathers aren’t around, we’re deadbeats, we’re savages. … It’s like ‘Nah, actually, none of that is true. That’s what you guys promote,'” he said before making reference to the massive number of Black fathers who are present in their homes and communities.

Image captured from “Dads.” (Photo: Apple TV)

The foundation of “Beleaf In Fatherhood” is built on the key belief that “family is the most important unit in the world.”

“What we do is we guide men into fatherhood, equipping them to love and lead their families into eternity. It’s almost like magic when we do it, because of what’s been perpetuated,” Beleaf said of Black fatherhood in particular. “When you see a Black man minding his business and loving his family … no one can stop watching. It’s more emotional than anything else. I can’t explain it but I think everyone feels it when they see it.”

In the wake of a recent string of police killings, awareness of Black men as the target of racial violence and abuse has increased. Beleaf explained how the death of Philando Castile — who was shot to death by a suburban Minneapolis cop while reaching for his license during a traffic stop in 2016 — contributed to the origin of “Beleaf In Fatherhood,” saying, “If I die, I want my children to have more than photos. I want them to have movies to watch so I don’t die and become this hashtag.” He compared his collection of family-oriented home videos to a library his great-grandchildren will be able to use to find out who he was, saying, “It’s all about telling people who you are so they don’t make up something about you.”

On a recent episode of Spotify’s The Window podcast entitled ‘The Joys and Challenges of Black Fatherhood‘ Beleaf reflected on the parallels between his earliest memories of police violence, and the impact of George Floyd’s death on how he’s raising his young sons. He and his wife recently sat down with their seven-year-old son Theo, to have a serious conversation confronting the harsh realities of being Black in America. This particular generational burden seems to be cyclical in nature: In the episode, Beleaf shared that he was about Theo’s age when the beating of Rodney King sparked racial tensions and caused changes in the way he interacted with police. The father of four also stressed the need for Black people to continue “fighting for our children,” as the struggle against racial injustice continues.

“Dads” is available now on Apple TV+.

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