CHICAGO —The Black Star Project is preparing for its 10th Annual Million Fathers March as a new school year begins for Chicago Public Schools on Monday.
The idea is for men to take their children to school and become involved with it beyond the first day of classes, said Phillip Jackson, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Black Star Project.
"Research has shown that when fathers take their children to school, there is a less likelihood of violence occurring," Jackson said. "The march was designed to get men involved in the lives of their children."
The Chicago effort is part of a nationwide plan, Jackson said.
"The Million Fathers March is a national trend that has been reproduced in school districts across the country," he said. "Last year 1 million and 50 thousand men participated nationally and 18,000 here in Chicago."
Men who are not fathers also are encouraged to help mentor children.
"All those responsible men out there looking for an opportunity to help our young people, we certainly want to hear from you," the 62-year-old Bronzeville resident said. "And because so many grandparents are raising children, we want to include them, too."
In many black communities Jackson said negative factors, such as drug dealers, have influenced children to do everything but go to school.
"America is in trouble when gangs and drugs are the largest mentoring group available to children," Jackson said. "Violence goes down when men stand up. This holds especially true for schools."
A second Million Fathers March is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 10, which is National Fathers Take Your Kids to School Day.
The idea for the march derived from the Million Man March in 1995, when thousands of black men gathered in Washington, D.C. at the urging of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as a symbol of peace among men.
The new year for Chicago Public Schools students begins with changes: dozens of underutilized elementary schools were closed by the district n June. As a result, many children will be attending new schools this school year and will take designated "safe passages" to and from their new schools.
Jackson, who served as chief of staff from 1995 to 1999 under ex-CPS boss Paul Vallas, said the best safe passage for children is when a father takes them to school.
Greg Miles, a husband and father of four agreed.
"I try to take my kids to school every day. That's the type of father I am," said the 35-year-old Roseland resident. "My 14-year-old daughter is going to high school this year and will take the bus on her own, but I will continue driving my other three kids to school."
Miles, whose 12- and 7-year-old daughters and 5-year-old son attend Johnnie Coleman Academy in West Pullman, added that children get treated better when "people know they have a father around."