Royal Harris: dad, grandfather, hero

This Father's Day, we want to share the voice of Royal Harris, father of five and grandfather to one. He is the program coordinator for Multnomah County's Healthy Birth Initiative, which provides access to health care and ongoing support to pregnant African American women and their families before and after birth. In his role, he builds stronger communities of African American fathers.

Royal Harris with his late father

“I became a grandfather this May. It got me thinking about the continuum of parenting—moving from parent to advisor. We often think of motherhood this way, but somehow compartmentalize the role of fathers. It’s a life long journey.

Father’s Day falls on the anniversary of my father’s death this year. He passed away a couple years ago. I learned so much from him that I use with my family and in my role working with fathers as part of Multnomah County’s Healthy Birth Initiative.

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career working with and in support of Portland’s African American community. My journey has always centered around health. When I think of the impact that I can have through HBI helping fathers get engaged, stay engaged and help support their growing family, it blows me away. There is a lot of talk about health disparities and racism plays a big role in that.

The fact that one of the best predictors of maternal health, child health, and economic resilience is having an active, engaged father during this critical period from conception to two-years of age—it gives me hope and purpose and the drive to do more. It’s also a lot of fun to build a supportive community for fathers.”

-Royal Harris, father of five, grandfather to one