It all began in a humble church basement, on the south side of Chicago. Nine men, eight of them Black and one Latino, got together and wondered how they could help their children. They combined two ideas. The Million Man March and a tradition in many South American villages. Traditionally, in many South American villages, the fathers take their children to school on the last day, to thank the teachers, the principals, the janitors, and anyone else who had a role in teaching their children. Those nine men in that church basement in 2004 combined those two ideas and the Million Father March was born.
The Million Father March has grown out of recognition of the power of male involvement in the education of Black students. A father who actively participates in the educational and social development life of a child is invaluable and irreplaceable. The Million Father March is an opportunity for Black men to show their commitment to the educational lives of their children on the first day of school and throughout the school year.
On the first day of school each year since the March began in 2004, Black fathers, relatives, men, and significant male caregivers are asked to take their children to their first day of school across the country and around the world. Fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, big brothers, significant male caregivers and friends of the family participate in the event. While this event was created for Black men, men and women of all races, nationalities and faith backgrounds are also encouraged to take children to school on this first day. This was designed to be a community-driven event. Public schools, private schools, community organizations, government agencies, eclected officials, local businesses, faith institutions: all members of the community are asked to participate and support The Million Father March.
The Black Star Project's Million Father March takes place from the homes of children to their schools with fathers and men accompanying their children and aims to post Black men near the front door at schools with sizable Black student populations to create an honor guard of strong, positive men supporting all children at that school. The Million Father March is the beginning of a year-long commitment of men to children educationally, socially, financially, emotionally and spiritually. While we coordinate the March and our Chicago office serves as its headquarters, the March takes place across the country, with city coordinators overseeing the event in each participating city.
In 2005, with the generous support of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the second annual Million Father March recruited the support of eighty-three cities nationwide, including one international city: Auckland, New Zealand. This participation of these nearly 100 cities led to an estimated participation of 200,000 men, women and children in the March to the first day of school to show their commitment to the education of our children. In addition, all 167 school districts in Connecticut were informed about the "Fathers Take Your Children to School Day" as an extension of the Million Father March and on September 29, 2005, many schools in Connecticut reported significant numbers of fathers and men who brought their children to school. In Chicago alone, between 25,000 and 35,000 fathers participated in the Million Father March 2005 and contributed to a record 92% first day attendance for Chicago Public Schools. Attention to this figure, which determines the amount of funding received by CPS from the federal government for the school year, is important in securing the funding and programming necessary for students most affected by the racial academic achievement gap. Since the Million Father March was established in 2004, the first day attendance has increased 3%, providing a total of nearly $100,000,000 in additional funding over two school years for the Chicago Public Schools.
Since our humble beginnings, The Million Father March as grown into a national phenomenon. Most recently, we coordinated the Million Father March 2015 in 581 cities nationwide (and worldwide!). The March included the participation of over 1 million men, women and children, including between 30,000 and 40,000 in Chicago alone.