Dad who sparked 'Squat for Change' diaper movement on raising 3 Black sons: 'I have to be transparent with them'

Florida dad Donte Palmer started the "Squat for Change" movement to demand diaper-changing stations in public men's rooms. (Screenshot: 3boys_1goal/Instagram)
Florida dad Donte Palmer started the "Squat for Change" movement to demand diaper-changing stations in public men's rooms. (Screenshot: 3boys_1goal/Instagram)

The creator of a popular campaign that called for baby-changing stations in public men’s rooms isn’t stopping with diapers — he wants fathers to embrace every inch of parenthood.

“This is deeper than changing tables,” Donte Palmer, 33, tells Yahoo Life. “I found my passion, which is helping parents.”

You might remember Palmer, the founder of the global campaign “Squat for Change,” from a viral Instagram photo taken in 2018 by his now 13-year-old son Isiah, showing the father of three squatting in a Texas Roadhouse restaurant bathroom to change his baby’s diaper. “This is a serious post!!! What’s the deal with not having changing tables in men’s bathroom as if we don’t exist!!” wrote Palmer. “Clearly we do this often because look how comfortable my son is. It’s routine to him!!!! Let’s fix this problem!”

The photo and his hashtag #SquatforChange inspired the former teacher to create a nonprofit with the same name. And last year Palmer joined Pampers’s “Love the Change” campaign with singer John Legend and seven NFL players to help place 5,000 units in men’s rooms across North America by 2021. A spokesperson from Pampers tells Yahoo Life that 2,000 Koala Kare stations have been installed to date.

With his boys growing quickly, Palmer is treading on weightier subjects: The national protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota Black man who died in police custody. “People ask me how I feel being a father to three Black boys with everything going on,” Palmer tells Yahoo Life. “I have to be transparent with them.”

“[I tell my sons] there are good and bad cops — years ago I wanted to become one myself,” says Palmer. “We have a love for the police, but we can still stand for our beliefs. I want my sons to feel protected and liberated, not walk in fear.” He adds, “My oldest knows that he doesn’t need to seek approval, and if he needs love and advice, to come home to his family.”

Palmer wrote a spoken-word poem titled “#Hashtag,” a list of life rules for his children: Don’t play with toy guns, turn down your music, keep your hands on the steering wheel, be polite and smile, remove your hoodie before entering an establishment and “Don’t die, even if you can’t breathe.”

On Father’s Day, Palmer is hosting a street barbecue with his neighbor Brian Maddern called “Black or White. Relax and Have a Burger.” The two friends hope to feed fathers and discuss racism.

Encouraged by a winter event he hosted that raised $35,000 for diapers, toys, haircuts and other gifts for 20 fathers in need, Palmer tells Yahoo Life, “I want to fill a stadium for a three-day conference on fatherhood and childcare. For keynote speakers, I’d invite Dwyane Wade, John Legend and Barack Obama.”

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