Men support youth with Million Father March
Some were on their way to work while others had just gotten off. Some were dropping off one child with another in tow, but dads made their presence known Monday at Hillside High School’s Million Father March.
Many fathers came out and marked the first day of school with a renewal of their commitment to their children as well as others in need of a strong male figure in their lives.
“It’s really important for men to be involved in their children’s or in a child’s life,” said Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats. “I am glad to see the level of turnout that we have.”
Becoats was at Hillside High early Monday morning and said that he had the opportunity to speak with one man who came to the high school from Greensboro to support his niece on her first day.
The Million Father March began on the first day of school in 2004 and recognizes and celebrates the impact of men’s involvement in the lives of children and their educational success.
The 2012 Million Father March was in 600 cities across the U.S. As of July 26, 608 cities registered for the Million Father March including Durham, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, Elizabeth City, Hickory, Lenoir, Raleigh, Southern Pines and Black Mountain.
In the Hillside theater, the fathers and role models came together to pledge to continue to be a positive influence in the lives of young people throughout the community.
“Fathers, I want to thank you for coming out this morning,” said Timothy Primus, dean of students for the Hornet Academy at Hillside. “I want to thank you for being a part of the first of any school in the state to do this. Just your presence alone has set precedence.”
Primus asked the men to encourage students to be active in the world around them as well as their own lives.
Attorney Frankie McLean began his keynote address by pointing out statistics that prove the importance of having a positive male role model in the lives of youth.
“Thirty eight percent of kids who grow up in a household without a dad will grow up poor,” he said. “Kids who grow up in a home without a father are five times more likely to drop out of school.”
McLean pulled from his own experience, noting that he didn’t have his father in his life as a young child and that he later did when he was 11 years old.
“None of my friends had their dad, so if you had a dad you were rich. That was an anomaly,” McLean said. “I did not think it affected me. It wasn’t until I was 40 that it hit me, that I realized how much I missed the fact that I didn’t have a man in my life to say he was proud of me. It makes a difference.
“Be engaged in the life of not just your child but one more child,” he continued. “Show them what a good man looks like.”
McLean said that he wants to work to establish a group at Hillside composed of fathers. Tossing around the names Fathers on Patrol and Fathers of Hillside, McLean wants members of the group to be present at all school events, making sure that there is a father behind every student at the school.
“It’s about the potential for being the best you can be.”
Hillside High School Principal William Logan said that the men who participated Monday morning are among those who will be needed to fill the gap.
“There are sons and daughters in this building who don’t have a father figure,” Logan said. “It’s non-negotiable that you be in this building for any time that we celebrate our students or discipline our students. We need you here.”
Logan said that students come to his office confessing that they joined a gang because they wanted to belong or that they became teen parents because they want to be better parents than their own.
“It pities me when I see so many mothers struggling with their sons,” he continued. “The village concept has deteriorated, especially in the African-American community. So many parents say, ‘Don’t look at my child that way or don’t talk to my child that way’ but if I can’t and you don’t, who will? It’s easy to dismiss folks when the parents aren’t involved.
“There has to be a healthy balance to create the whole child,” continued Logan. “We have to collaborate if we want to see our sons and daughters be effective Hillside High School students and members of the Durham community.”
Mike Hargrave was at Hillside Monday morning after bringing his nephew to school. About to take his 3-year-old daughter to daycare, Hargrave said that he understands the importance of male involvement.
“It’s important to be involved in the kids’ lives, especially being a positive role model in the community,” he said. “I had to show my nephew that I do support him.”
Jody Jenkins is a student himself at Durham Technical Community College but he was sure to make time to bring his oldest daughter to school.
“I’m here because I know it’s important to be an active father in the community. I had to be here. I’m here because it let’s them know that they are loved. Love conquers all. Love and support.”