ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Pencil sketchings adorn the working space of Rashakim Abimiliech Hudson’s Brighton apartment where he does his most passionate work.
From there, Hudson hosts a podcast on parenting. He draws what he calls “his dreams.” They are fantastic, surreal scenes of characters that are part human, part not, that express the thoughts that run through his mind as a father of nine.
And he parents, not just for his children and wife. And not just as a family advocate for the Mental Health Association. He creates, to break the routine of parenthood, and along the way it changes him each day.
“You could be a good provider, but you are dead inside because you’re not alive,” said Hudson. “You just go to the routine. You just drag your knuckles. Someone say hey, you wanna talk about kids? And you’re like, nah nah nah nah, I don’t want to hear about that. Fathers may embrace it and even love it, ‘this is what I wanna do,’ but they have no idea about how to go about doing it.”
The most common parenting lesson Rashakim promotes is one he learned from a six-week course he took through a Rochester human service agency.
It is one reason he and many other fathers, young and old, commit to 24/7 Dads, a six-week program from the Healthy Baby Network’s Fatherhood program.
“You have young fathers that are 18-19 you have fathers that are 50-55, and they learn from each other,” said Jamone Alexander, the program’s leader.
Alexander and Hudson represent the majority of men engaged in the program; they arrive without a father figure in their lives.
In Alexander’s program, there is a curriculum, but no magic answers. Participants realize that to be a dad, you have to show up every day for your family, and try.
They also learn that through brotherhood, like the kind found in 24/7, fatherhood can get better.
“There is no one person over the team or the class,” said Alexander. “We’re all in this together and I think that pitch, it resonates with everyone because they’re so comfortable.”
As comfortable as Rashakim feels teaching his daughter the family’s baked chicken recipe.
Like many fathers who come to the program, Rah did not grow up with his father. His father’s choices led to prison. Rah fathered to atone for his dad. The lack of a relationship had always left him angry about fatherhood. That changed after Rah and his father shared a life-changing moment.
“And the one thing he said to me that killed all the animosity that I had was ‘I am sorry that I took your father from you and I apologize and I want you to forgive me because I don’t want you to hurt and I now see a lot of things that happened,'” said Hudson.
Turning corners for dads isn’t always that dramatic, but finding them isn’t easy either. That’s why Jamone goes into schools to bring young men into the Healthy Baby Network program.
“What we do isn’t new, but it’s different because we’re right on the ground level, we’re walking with them instead of in front of them,” said Alexander.
Referrals come in from churches and human service agencies. Jamone also knows that all of this dad help helps him too.
“It allows me to check myself a lot more,” Alexander said. “So when I say we support fathers becoming better fathers, me and my team, we include ourselves.”
Count Rushakim among the converted. He believes in sharing the ride of fatherhood with other dads.
“Before it was a norm, right?” said Hudson. “You provide, you love, you teach, you mentor, you discipline. Now it’s a sense of honor, you know more of an honor to say ‘yes, I am a father right. And I accept my mistakes, my rights and my learning.’ It’s a beautiful thing because there is no one way of fathering.”