Children’s book dispels myths about Black fathers

“I Love My Daddy” by Juanita Banks Whittington includes illustrations by Ananta Mohanta and celebrates what Whittington calls “the unique and special bond between a father and his little girl.”

For centuries, there’s been a false assumption that Black fathers are absent, apathetic and uninvolved in their children’s lives.

The stereotype of the absent Black dad remains quite ubiquitous in popular culture. It often takes the form of a dysfunctional family unit, but in recent years, studies have proven that the stereotype is nothing more than a myth.

That legend is further vaporized in the new children’s book, “I Love My Daddy,” by Maryland social worker and military veteran Juanita Banks Whittington.

The 27-page book, complete with beautiful illustrations by Ananta Mohanta, celebrates what Whittington calls “the unique and special bond between a father and his little girl.”

It follows a father and his baby girl, who play together in parks, and the doting dad reads bedtime stories each night to his beloved daughter.

For Whittington, the book opens her home to readers. It reveals the camaraderie between her and her husband, Ian, and his routine of doting on their daughter, Zuri.

“My husband reads to my daughter every night,” explained.

She said her husband helped inspire her to write a children’s book about the relationship between a Black father and his child. “He kept telling me he wasn’t seeing Black fathers in children’s books,” Whittington said. “There was always the grandmother and child, or the mother and the child.

“So, I went to friends and family members, and they said they liked the idea, and I went forward and found an illustrator that I liked.”

She noted that it was a must that the illustrator could relate. “And he was everything I was looking for, especially in the illustration to portray all the things that go on in my household,” Whittington said.

A military veteran and social worker, Whittington is the founder of  Nehi Cares, a consulting, foundation and wellness business that focuses on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. The organization promotes wellness by encouraging individuals to practice healthy habits daily to attain better physical, social, emotional and mental health outcomes.

Whittington holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore and a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Her friends and loved ones said Whittington has always displayed a passion for helping, which comes across in “I Love My Daddy.”

“I wanted to make sure that I did [the book] right,” Whittington explained. “I wanted to make sure that it was something that other families could relate to. So many people have said they wanted to write a children’s book after seeing and talking with me, so I wanted to portray something positive.”

She continued: “Many times, in our community, there’s this negativity about Black fathers, so I wanted to make sure that, regardless of their race, people could pick this book up and say, ‘It’s awesome. I could relate to this, and I want this for my child.’”

“I Love My Daddy” retails on for $14.99.

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