When it comes to television programming for Black people, we all know that it’s difficult to find something on the screen that has been made for us, by us, that stars us. This isn’t to say that in recent years Hollywood hasn’t done its due diligence to diversify programming both in front of and behind the camera, but one demographic that has been left by the wayside just so happens to be Black children. Glen Henry is focused on changing that. Besides being very open about his life as a stay-at-home dad, Glen is making sure that he changes the narrative for Black people, one YouTube video at a time, which is why he is developing educational content that speaks to children of color through music and puppeteering on the show Frank Puppet. A former DJ himself, Glen has referred to this show as Mr. Rogers meets Dr. Seuss meets Black Thought with music production by Timbaland. The goal is to benefit the community as a whole with this rich content that isn’t available anywhere at this point in time.
The Black Love team spoke to Glen about his mission, what inspired him to develop a series for young children of color, and how you can help his dream come to life.
BL: What and who inspired you to develop a series for young children of color? And what age range are you targeting?
GH: The vision of Beleaf In Fatherhood (the parent company) is to equip fathers, give hope to mothers, and inspire children. I think we do a pretty decent job with the mothers and fathers via the YouTube Channel, but we were missing the mark with children. Initially, kids would enjoy the content, but they would be uninterested after a while when my wife and I were on the screen. They just wanted to see the chocolate babies (my children). So there I saw a demand.
When I try to find content with black or brown main characters for kids, there’s only one channel that pops up. That is really frustrating being a black father watching your children be entertained by people that don’t look like them. I slowly picked up on my oldest son’s affinity toward non-black things. And you can’t help but feel guilty. I remember being a kid and having an affinity toward white people too. I’m just trying to give kids more options.
The target is for kids between the ages of 2 – 7.
BL: How did you come up with the idea to mix puppeteering and animation?
GH: Puppeteering is something I’ve always loved, and animation is the medium with the least amount of limits.
BL: Hip-hop is a huge part of Black music history, but why did you choose this genre to work with in the series instead of R&B, soul, or other historically Black music genres?
GH: Hip-hop is what I’m most familiar with. I spent most of my years as an adult touring, DJ’ing, writing, and emceeing. I know the rules of hip-hop and I have the most favor in that community. I have no intention to limit the show to just one genre of music. I’d love to expand all over. I hope to give kids an experience that transcends their community and helps them understand things like the art of sampling.
BL: What are some themes that you’ll be exploring in this series that will resonate with children of color?
GH: The theme that I want them to know most of all is that WE ARE BEAUTIFUL. Whatever the shade. Also, that we have a right to be joyful and it’s okay to be angry. We are solutionists and problem solvers.
BL: What programs inspired you while developing this show?
GH: So many programs inspired this show, but the top two were Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
BL: How do you hope this changes the landscape of children’s programming?
GH: I hope to be strong competition to all the other things fighting for our children’s attention. I just want to do this right! And to do it right we need to be able to compete which means we need funds. But if we can be good competition, then we can fund other projects like our own and balance out platforms like YouTube.
BL: You document the fact that you’re a stay-at-home dad, how rewarding has that full-time job been for you and what inspired you to share your journey with the world?
GH: I think the best thing it did for me was that it helped me realize the power of being present. Like to really be there with your children. It allows you to learn; not teach, but learn. Children have a whole lot to teach us if we pay attention.
Before I became a stay-at-home dad, I thought stay-at-home moms just kind [of] chilled all day. But in the middle of the week, I cried so hard because it was impossible to keep up with two boys at the time (3 months and 18 months). They would cry and cry, and then I would just cry too [laughs]. I’ve been inspired to share my journey because spouses of SAHP don’t understand what the other spouse is going through; as a man, I can paint the picture better to other men.
BL: How have other parents reacted to your initiative?
GH: Every parent, guardian, uncle, aunt, and grandparent I’ve met have been very hopeful about the project.
BL: What’s your biggest hope for this show?
GH: My biggest hope for this show is that it serves the intended community and that it adds balance.
BL: Please tell the Black Love community where they can donate, subscribe, and support you.