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This past weekend we had the honor of celebrating Juneteenth and Father’s Day all in one, and it was the perfect timing for the Fourth Annual Black Fathers Rock Awards dinner in Charlotte. A scaled down intimate take on the usually large celebration was exactly what these dads needed after a long and hard year. 

“I didn’t want to skip a year,” said event and organization founder Ryan Jor El. “I wanted to let people know that we’re still watching. Like no matter how little you think you’re doing, you’re making an impact on someone. Tonight was much different than any other ceremony. I think it really gave us a sense of hope.”

The eight men honored this year gathered for dinner with friends, family and event sponsors to share their trials and triumphs together with each acceptance speech more powerful than the next. The People’s Choice Award winner, Ron Tate, was humbled to be recognized after overcoming the loss of his wife and learning to navigate the world as a single parent.

“It’s inspirational. Sometimes you wonder if people notice and there can be a sense of isolation as a single parent. So the fact that people give you a shout means a lot. They want you to keep on going,” Tate shared. 

Ron Tate Jr.

This same sentiment was shared throughout the room. “Y’all don’t even know. This night is special to me. I told Ryan (Jor El) it’s therapeutic,” exclaimed Comeback Father of the Year Derrick “Fly Ty” Jacobs.

Fly Ty Jacobs

The mission of Black Fathers Rock is to “change the narrative of what it means to be a black father.” The honorees are not only making an impact in the home but also in their respective communities. The perfect example of a man on a mission was Activist of the year Mitch “DJ Blessed” Patterson who was so busy out making a difference in his community that he had only recently realized he was being honored.

“Lives. That’s my passion,” Patterson answered simply when asked about why he did what he did, “I’m all throughout the community every weekend. We did the Census, we did voter registration, we did peace walks, stop the killing walks. We’re doing everything we can to try to keep our communities safe.”

“Lives. That’s my passion.”

– DJ Blessed

Many local professionals and businesses are just as passionate about celebrating black fathers. Prominent lawyer Rhonda Patterson, aka “the Queen of Custody”, Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy, Smile Savvy Cosmetic Dentistry, LuLu’s Maryland Style Chicken & Food, and Oakhurst Legal group are just a few of the organizations that support Black Fathers Rock to make the awards possible each year.

Founder Jor El believes that the message is finally starting to take flight in the mainstream media. “I think the world’s watching now. We’re making some noise now and I think that it’s taken a while but I’m glad that we’re in that wave. So now let’s continue that wave. Let’s continue to push out positive black imagery, push out positive black fatherhood and BE beacons of fatherhood for, not just our kids, but for other kids around.”

Overall the night of comradery, encouragement and celebration seemed to be just what each person in the room needed to go out and lead the Charlotte community to inspire the leaders of tomorrow. The event is set to be back in full force next year as the BFR organization continues to make the following known:

“Black Fathers Exist. Black Fathers Deserve to Be Celebrated. Black Fathers’ Stories Need to Be Told. Black Fathers Rock!”

For more information about Black Fathers Rock and how to get involved you can visit and follow @blkfathersrock on Instagram. Here is a full list of the 2021 Awards and honorees:

Father of the Year – Johnathan Hill, Sponsored by The Queen of Custody

Dapper Dad of the Year – Wayne Woodbury

Activist of the Year – Mitch “DJ Blessed” Patterson, Sponsored by Oakhurst Legal Group

Entrepreneur of the Year – Preston Gray, Sponsored by Ivy Rehab

Surrogate Father of the Year – Dr. Keith Cradle, Sponsored by Hera by Him

Elder Statesman of the Year – Randy Freeman

Comeback Father of the Year – Derrick “Fly Ty” Jacobs, Sponsored by Lulu’s Maryland Style Chicken and Seafood

People’s Choice Award – Ron Tate Jr., Sponsored by Smile Savvy Cosmetic Dentistry

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