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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Everybody Get On Board

By Allan Shedlin

Grampsy and Founder, DCG and the Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)

Justin Roberts and Inez Barlatier play Wolf Trap's Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods, 7/26/23, PHOTO: Scott Beller

Fifteen years ago, in New York City, I conducted my 89th one-on-one daddying interview. The dad I interviewed was 104 years-old, his name is Roy R. Neuberger. Since then, I have conducted 116 additional interviews with fathers from 20 countries. Roy remains the oldest dad I’ve interviewed.

Roy lived in a different era with different social and role expectations for fathers. Despite that, and the fact that Roy was orphaned at 12 years old, the joys he felt as a father of three were consistent with what I’ve heard from so many other men: his children enriched his life.

Presenting the inaugural Roy R. Neuberger Prize to Justin Roberts, 7/26/23

Roy was a financier and art patron. He developed a passion for supporting contemporary artists after he learned that Van Gogh, like so many other artists, lived in poverty and misery. And so, it seems fitting that the Daddying Film Festival & Forum's (D3F) inaugural Roy R. Neuberger Prize for Best Dad-Created Short Film, worth $500, and determined by Festival audience vote, has been earned by another talented artist, Justin Roberts.

A five-time Grammy Award-nominated musician and daddy to 4-year-old Eli, Roberts is a Chicago-based, American singer-songwriter of children's music as well as a writer of children's books. You might remember seeing some of his published work included in our annual Books to Read with Your Kids Holiday Gift Guide (you'll likely see more in this year's edition!). Last year, Justin not only provided a guest post for the blog just before D3F opened in June, but also a welcome greeting and a few of his daddying-themed music videos for the Festival.

For 2023, Justin decided to submit something for Festival judges and attendees to actually consider for an award.

His 2023 Atticus Award-winning short film, the official music video for “Everybody Get on Board” (from the 2022 Grammy-nominated album Space Cadet), is an homage and plea for tolerance. Its lyrics include:

“It doesn’t matter who you’re here to love, we’re all standing under stars above.”

These words, universally truthful, rang in my head as Daddying blog editor Scott Beller and I strolled beneath the natural canopy of Wolf Trap's outdoor Children's Theatre-in-the-Woods this week to listen to Justin perform yet another uplifting, toe-tapping, and culturally-diverse setlist of tunes for kids and their adults. He shared the amphitheater stage with his recent touring and songwriting partner Inez Barlatier, an accomplished children's musician in her own right, who hails from Miami's "Little Haiti."

Happy campers on their way to hear Justin and Inez perform at Wolf Trap.

The duo's lyrical visions were already so in-sync when they met for the first time a year ago at a musical residency in Iowa, they quickly bonded and were able to write their first two songs together. One of those songs, "Bright Stars," echoes some of same messages as "Everybody Get on Board," and they played it this week at Wolf Trap to a packed crowd of little kids and big kids, all making slow, rhythmic "starbursts" with their hands as instructed by the adept entertainers harmonizing on stage.

Together. Everybody on board.

Roy Neuberger died at age 107, three years after receiving the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. Roy would have been pleased that the special Atticus Award named after him was presented to a contemporary artist whose sensibilities were very much aligned with his own.

Like Justin's Atticus Award-winning video and song, D3F urges everybody to get on board. Everybody. Daddy on.


Allan Shedlin has devoted his life's work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the Daddying Film Festival & Forum to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.


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