(by Brian DeBose, Aug. 22, 2005, Washington Times.com) – Cities across the country are calling on a million fathers to take a little time out of their busy morning routine, get to work a little late if necessary, so they can walk hand in hand with their children to the schoolhouse doors on the first day.
The Million Father March, a pro-family and fatherhood initiative created by the Chicago-based Black Star Project, a black family advocacy group, is entering its second year, with 100 cities participating — up from 25 cities in 2004, said Phillip Jackson, the organization’s executive director. The marches began in Atlanta on Aug. 8, the earliest first day of school in the country and will continue through Oct. 1.
“This has already had national implications, and it will get stronger and stronger and stronger; everybody is looking for the magic bullet in education, and this is it — fatherhood support and involvement,” Mr. Jackson said. “And there are other cities doing their own unrelated marches like one in St. Louis.”
Two marches will take place locally in the coming weeks, one in Prince George’s County today and one in the District next Monday.
Walter L. Dozier, education liaison for Prince George’s Executive Jack B. Johnson, said the countywide “Embrace Our Village” march will involve parents, students and volunteers at nearly all 199 public schools in Prince George’s County.
“It appears that Prince George’s is the only march being led by county government officials and the school system,” Mr. Dozier said.
The march starts at 7 a.m. with a rally at William W. Hall Elementary School in Capitol Heights, led by interim superintendent Howard Burnett.
“We want our parents to be engaged, informed and empowered,” Mr. Johnson said. “The education of our children must be a community partnership and commitment.”
Mr. Dozier said the county government has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce, the paren-teacher association, more than 200 churches and other community groups to organize and recruit volunteers.
“We’re very excited but we’re still in the process of organizing, so we’re not sure what the final count of volunteers will be,” said Steve Martin of the Ark of Safety Christian Church in Oxon Hill. “We have 200 churches in Clergy United, and all of the pastors have asked their members to help, so we are sure we will have a good solid number of volunteers out walking our children to school.”
In the District, Abeo Anderson, 25, an education policy associate with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, said her efforts to organize enough men are going well. She found out about the march through her work with Mr. Jackson.
“This weekend, we are going to send out an invitation letter, organizing tips for school principals to organize, and a flier to post at various locations in D.C.,” Miss Anderson said.
An American University graduate student and native Washingtonian, she said she could not turn away from an opportunity to “take on a leadership role in emphasizing the importance of fathers and parents as a role model for youth.”
She said she was inspired by her father, Kamau Anderson.
“As one of seven children whose father has played the biggest role model for us, I see that fathers need to take a leadership role in the education of their children; it just has to be done,” Miss Anderson said.
That was the same type of inspiration that inspired Mr. Jackson to move forward with the fathers march two years ago.
“We want to give homage to Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Million Man March … but what inspired us was a tradition in South America where fathers every year take off work to go to school and thank the teachers for teaching their children,” he said. “We thought what would it do and what would it be like for black men to take control of the education of their children, and this is a part of that mechanism.”
Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. Who is Phillip Jackson? What does he believe is the key to improving education for black students? (para. 3) Do you agree with his statement? Explain your answer.
2. How many cities across the country are participating in the Million Father March this year? What does the Million Father March want fathers to do?
3. The Million Father March calls on fathers to become involved in their children’s education. Why do you think that county, community and church groups are recruiting volunteers to walk kids to school?
4. –Many school districts and teachers unions call for more funding and lower class size. There is no stress on parental (specifically a father’s) involvement in a child’s schooling as necessary to improving education in America.
–Prince Georges County (D.C.) has partnered with community and church groups to recruit volunteers for the Million Father March.
Which is the more effective strategy? Explain your answer.
5. Many American families today (black and white) do not have two-parent households. Many people believe fathers have become marginalized in our society. Why do you think this is? What can we do about it?
To read about two groups that are helping men become responsible fathers, click here and here. Describe some of the ways they are helping men to become involved in their children’s lives.