AJC: Fathers poised to walk their children to school

Fathers poised to walk their children to school
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, September 3, 2009

For years, metro Atlanta fathers have been turning out en mass to participate in the Million Father March.

The walk to their children’s school is both symbolic and purposeful as thousands of fathers, grandfathers and uncles make a public commitment to their children, families and communities.

On Tuesday, National Take Your Children to School Day, they will do it again, joining an estimated 800,000 men in more than 500 cities.

“The march is a one-day event but this is a million father movement,” said Phillip Jackson, executive director of the nonprofit Black Star Project and creator of the effort. “Fathers who become involved with their children’s educational lives help them do well academically and to mitigate negative factors such as violence and drug abuse.”

Angel Payne, a 48-year-old mother of three school-aged children, said she’s hopeful “Atlanta will step up.”

Payne said she learned of the effort in June and is busy promoting the march in her College Park neighborhood.

“A lot of things are going on in schools, increased gang activity, bullying and low student achievement,” Payne said. “The very presence of men cuts down on gang and criminal activity.”

Payne said she’d be there to take pictures while her husband, Richard Payne, gets involved.

Because the first day of school varies across the country, Jackson said the Million Father March will play out on different days through October 2. Tuesday’s event, however, is a chance for fathers to unite around the cause and show support not only for their children, but for education in general.

John Hammond, an Atlanta father of two and CEO of 100 Black Men of America, already made the march to Mary Lin Elementary where his two sons attend.

Hammond said, however, that his organization has had a fatherhood initiative for some time and supports the effort.

“A lot of what we do in the communities we serve is about helping young people live productive lives,” Hammond said. “We see this as a natural expansion.”

Although geared toward African-American men, Jackson said that all men are encouraged to take their children to school and come back to volunteer throughout the year.

“When a father gets involved everything changes,” Jackson said. “It’s almost like magic.”

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