ENGLEWOOD — About 100 fathers stood side-by-side with their sons Friday at the fifth annual Father's Day program at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men High School in recognition of what on student called a daunting task.
"Raising children in Chicago is not easy, especially if they are black," said Julius Olalusi, a senior and president of the Student Government Association at Urban Prep, who said he will be attending the University of Pennsylvania this fall. "I would not be the man I am today if my father was not involved in my life. I stand here today proud to be his son."
Other students at Urban Prep, an all-boys charter school, said they were glad the school thought enough about fathers to honor them in advance of the Father's Day holiday June 16.
"Tomorrow is not promised. God could call any one of us home to his kingdom at any given time. That's why it is important to tell a person how you feel about them while they are here," said Kendall Pruitt, a junior at Urban Prep. "My father has always told me that a dad is someone who makes babies and a father is one who raises, love and supports his children."
Urban Prep Founder Tim King credited his father for instilling education and leadership in him when he was growing up. The school has three campuses on the South and West Sides; the majority of its students are black, King said.
"There's no way to measure the impact my father, Paul King, has had on me and through me," added King. "Thanks to my father, I am the man that I am and therefore Urban Prep is the institution that it is."
Each year Urban Prep sponsors a prom for seniors only and a Mom's Prom for all students. At the Mom's Prom students bring their mothers as their date. The purpose, said King, is to show young men that they should treat all women with as much respect as they would their mothers.
And fathers, who said they were excited to be honored by their sons, were presented with a gold tie that their sons tied around their necks as a love gesture.
"I don't want to cry but it's hard. If you knew how my son was when he was little and to now see him grow into a young man, you would understand my tears are full of joy," explained Kenneth Chapman as he hugged his son, Fazson Chapman, a junior. "I love the man he has become and the part I had in that."
The keynote speaker at the program was John Fountain, a columnist for the Sun-Times. He spoke about his childhood growing up in the North Lawndale community on the West Side, memories of his father and why it is important young, black men succeed in life.
"I have two unforgettable memories about my dad. I remember seeing him led away from our home in handcuffs by the police and I remember him spending time in jail in Mississippi. That's about it," Fountain said. "Stereotypes exist for all people but it exists more for young black males. Do not feed into those stereotypes of going to prison, dying on the street or abandoning your children. Go the opposite way and let's break this cycle of fatherless children and irresponsible men in the black community."