By// Avis Weathersbee
Have you signed on for the Million Father March yet?
The educational and community outreach effort calls on dads across the nation — and beyond — to escort their children to school on the first day. The Million Father March began in 2004 after a group of 10 men met at a Chicago church and brainstormed ideas for creating a special event for going back to school.
Phillip Jackson, executive director of the non-profit The Black Star Project, U.S.A., was one of those men, and his organization has been working to broaden the reach of the program ever since. Jackson says two ideas surfaced at that seminal meeting – one was “to build on the concept of the incredibly successful Million Man March led by Minister Farrakhan in 1995,” the other, he says, was to play off of a South American tradition where men from the villages go to the schools on the last day of classes to thank the principals, teachers, janitors and other school staff for all they do.
“We combined the two ideas,” Jackson says. And the rest, to coin a phrase, is history – in the making.
Says Jackson, “The first year we had 20,000 men… last year we were in 609 cities and we had 800,000 men taking their kids to school. He notes that their biggest turnout in 2010 was in Broward County, Fla., where 39,000 fathers participated in the event.
This year, the expectation is that the million mark will be met. Already, 722 cities have committed to the effort. And though the 10 who came up with concept were Black men on Chicago’s South Side, Jackson says that this year the Million Father March is sweeping communities in states like Idaho, New Hampshire, Alaska and Vermont, as well.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, Mayor Mark Mallory has implored fathers to join in the effort. “This is a great way to get fathers involved in their child’s education,” Mallory said in his call to action. “There is a strong connection between attending school on the first day, active involvement by a father, and high student achievement.”
This year, a little friendly rivalry has broken out among cities over who will get the biggest turnout, Jackson adds.
Happily, though, it’s a competition where everybody wins — especially the kids.
Which takes us back to the original question, have you signed on for the Million Father March yet?
To find out how you can bring the campaign to your city visit The Black Star Project website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (773) 285-9600.