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Dedicated fathers step up in the lives of youth

Tatyana Bellamy-Walker | 9/12/2013, 4:28 p.m.
Fathers walking at the Million Father March Jocelyn Deloney

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Dancers at the Milllion Father March

“Fathers with one mind taking care of our kids on the front line,” chanted the dozens of fathers in the streets of America. These parents are making each step count as they take their place in their children’s lives.

The Million Father March is sponsored by the Black Star Project, an organization committed to improving the lives of minorities in Chicago. Executive Director Phillip Jackson hopes to use the march to impact the lives of students.

“You can’t wait until these young boys become fathers and then try to teach them how it is to be a father; you have to start early,” said Jackson.

In 2004, in the basement of Chicago’s St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church, 10 Black men devised a plan to incite men to step up in the lives of their children.

“Research shows that children whose fathers take an active role in their educational lives do better in school,” stated Jackson in a press release.

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Fathers posing at the Million Father March with their signs

On Aug. 5 to Sept. 10, African-American men pledged 10 hours of community service, providing not only an opportunity to show their commitment to their communities, but to the lives of their children as well.

“When fathers volunteer for 10 hours a year, they get hooked,” Jackson told the AmNews.

Having been raised by his grandmother, Jackson can fathom growing up in the absence of a parent.

“You imagine your father to be this larger-than-life man that can do anything and would do anything to help and protect you, and I missed it,” Jackson said.

“As a male, you need somebody you can relate to. When I was young, I didn’t have anybody to throw the football with or play catch with,” said Jermaine Robinson, 17, a student at Copiague High School.

“Every girl needs a father figure in her life … in different ways, it plays a part in what you grow up to be,” said Shayna Jackson, 16, another student at Copiague High School.

For Jackson, fathers not only play an important role, but present hope to youth.

“If a million fathers take their children to school today, then we have a million new heroes,” said Jackson.

Since 2004, the Million Father March has been in more than 623 cites and has impacted the lives of over a million participants around the globe.