by Phillip Jackson
July 5, 2007
Father's Day was a severe disappointment in America's Black communities this year because census figures show that 70% of Black children are born into single-parent, female-headed households. Congratulations to the 30% of Black fathers who do live in households with their children; however, this small number of fathers who maintain homes for their children is not enough. Even with fathers who live in the household, many are not spiritually, emotionally and socially connected or involved in their children's lives.
This late summer and fall of 2007, Black fathers, and fathers and men of all races, get a second chance to celebrate Father's Day. This "Real Father's Day" is the time for fathers and men to take their children to school during the 4th Annual Million Father March, sponsored by The Black Star Project in Chicago, Illinois, and throughout this nation. In 200 cities in America and around the world on the morning of the first day of school, more than 500,000 men and women of all races are expected to take a "short holiday" from work to march with their children to school.
What is the value of a connected, caring father in the social and educational developmental lives of children? Data from the National Fatherhood Initiative show that girls and boys who have nurturing, caring fathers in their lives in meaningful ways earn better grades and higher test scores, and have better attendance and higher graduation rates from high school. With strong father connections, these children are less likely to be suspended or drop out of school, engage in violent behavior, or experiment with drugs, alcohol or pre-marital sex. A key solution to fixing problems in the Black community, or any community, is the constructive involvement of fathers in the lives of their children. The solution begins with "The Real Father's Day," the Million Father March!
You only need to visit a nearby jail or prison to see the sociological impact of father absence on the lives of young boys and young men. From 60% to 90% of the Black men in a jail or prison grow up in father-absent homes. And as most of us realize, fathers are needed in the home, not prison, to help mold the positive growth and successful development of their children. Fathers anchor healthy families. Fathers and strong positive men are the brick and mortar necessary to create viable communities. Fathers matter in the lives of our children.
The problem of fathers who are absent in the lives of their children does not belong exclusively to the Black community. Many other fathers also fall in this category. In the Black community, however, more Black families are in extreme distress, which means more Black children are suffering in ways that other children do not suffer. For these defenseless, neglected, suffering Black children, as well as all children in similar situations, there is the Million Father March.
The Million Father March is a first step for men who have not been substantially involved in the lives of their children. It is an opportunity to transform their roles as fathers from absent or disconnected to loving, nurturing and mentoring fathers who help their children grow into strong, positive, principled men and women. A good father is part of a good parent team, and a good father is critical to creating a strong family structure. Strong family structures produce children who are more academically proficient, socially developed and self-assured. Such children become adults who are valuable assets to their communities, to their country and to their race.