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15 August, 2007

A CHAT WITH MR. PHILLIP JACKSON, FOUNDER OF THE MILLION FATHER MARCH

I grew up in a world in which the Men in my community -- in their own unique way -- empowered and strengthened not only their family, but every family in the neighborhood. And in doing so, they strengthened and empowered our communities and our world. Their words and deeds helped to shape my generation’s perception of the world that existed beyond our immediate environment. Their words and deeds fueled our imagination and made us believe that we could transcend boundaries. Much has changed since then. Despite those changes – a great number of which have devastated and continue to devastate our communities, my heart and soul tells me that in the Millennium, Men continue – under the most difficult set of circumstances – to quietly and unceremoniously go about the business of empowering and strengthening our families, our communities and our world.

Although I cannot see them and do not know who or where they are, my heart and my soul tells me that they continue to exist.

One man in particular would be Mr. Phillip Jackson, located in Chicago, Illinois.

Through words and deeds, he is inspiring our children to transcend boundaries.I first learned about Mr. Philip Jackson, The Black Star Project and the 2005 Million Father March through an e-mail communication forwarded to me by Ms. Bridgett Hollingsworth, the Publisher and Editorial Director of Bahiyah Woman Magazine. “Thought you might be interested in this,” her note read.

“Interested” was an understatement. I was enthralled. . inspired . . . and curious! Here was a man calling for a 2005 Million Father March in which Men – Fathers – throughout the country would escort their children to school on the first day of the 2005-2006 academic year. Here was a man asking employers throughout the country to pay fathers for the two to three hours of time that they would spend away from work escorting their children to school on the first day of the 2005-2006 academic year. And here was a man who is facilitating and offering through the Black Star Project, programs for students and parents such as The Student Motivation Program; The Toyota/Black Star Parent University; and The Silas B. Purnell Destination College Program.

So, who is Phillip Jackson? Who were his role models? What motivates him? And what is the Black Star Project and the 2005 Million Father March all about?

Mr. Jackson took time out of his very developing schedule to talk about himself, the Black Star Project, and the 2005 Million Father March.

My dialogue with Mr. Jackson began with asking him to identify the role models he had as he made the journey from childhood to adulthood.

“I did not have role models when I was growing up. I saw many men, but few that I wanted to be like. Older men like my grandfather and my uncle most influenced me. I grew up in ghettos and public housing where strong, positive men were few and far between. Boys need to see models of the men we want them to become. That is why I created our Student Motivation Program that brings strong, positive men and women into schools for children to see and to be motivated by,” Mr. Jackson responded.

So what motivated Jackson to create the Black Star Project? What is the project’s mission?

“I was motivated to create the Black Star Project because I could not find an organization doing this work. Agencies and organizations were doing other work but not this work. The Black community needed a 24 hour/7day a week organization dedicated to the education of Black children. Our mission is to successfully educate low income, inner city children with the partnership and support of the parents, families and communities,” Jackson carefully explained.

I noted that the Black Star Project has launched a 2005 Million Father March which not only encourages fathers to accompany their children on the first day of the school year for 2005-2006, but calls for employers to give fathers paid time off for the two to three hours fathers will be away from work accompanying their children to school.

I asked Jackson to elaborate his reasons for the project as well as the response from the public, in particular, the employers of the fathers who would take off to escort their children to school on the first day.

He offered the following:

“A father who actively participates in the educational and social developmental life of a child is invaluable and irreplaceable! Research shows that children whose fathers take active roles in their educational lives earn better grades, get better test scores, enjoy school more and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Additionally, children have fewer behavior problems when fathers listen and talk to their children regularly and are active in their lives. A good father is part of a good parent team and is critical to strong family structures. Strong family structures produce children who are more centered, academically proficient and socially developed. As a result, they become a valuable asset to their communities. Better parents produce better communities, better schools and better students. Many employers feel that when men take children to school for a couple of hours in the morning, they come back to work with more energy and higher morale that causes more productivity for several days. They support this effort and give fathers time off under the guise of community service.”

The Black Star Project offers a myriad of comprehensive services to students, parents and the community in which the students and parents live. So, how is Jackson able to offer such a variety of comprehensive services? What is the success rate for some of these programs?

“In essence, we only offer three programs,” says Jackson. “One: Our student enhancement programs that include our Student Motivation Program, our Destination College Program and other efforts to engage youth in their education. Two: Our parent-and community empowerment programs, including our Parent University, our Fathers Club and our Community Forums for Educational Excellence. Our Million Father March falls into this category of programs. Three: Our advocacy programs that work with communities and schools to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap. We have provided services to about 100,000 people since we were founded in 1996. If anyone wants to learn more about who we are and what we do or is interested in helping us with our mission, I encourage them to visit our website at www.blackstarproject.org. And they can contact me by e-mail atblackstar1000@ameritech.net."

What tools do we need to provide for our children – especially our young males -- to enable them to successfully compete in a global marketplace? Whose responsibility is this? Is it solely the parent’s responsibility? Is it the responsibility of the educational institutions? Is it the responsibility of the religious institutions? Is it the responsibility of the business community?

“Young males need social, academic and technological skills to succeed in the global marketplace. The old skills are obsolete. We must develop new skills. It is the parent’s, the community’s and the school’s shared responsibility, including faith-based organizations, businesses, government and social service organizations,” Mr. Jackson observed.

What tools do we need to provide for our children – especially our young males – which will assist them in maturing into well-adjusted and responsible adults? Whose responsibility is this? Is it solely the parent’s responsibility? Is it the responsibility of the educational institutions? Is it the responsibility of the religious institutions? Is it the responsibility of the business community?

“Young men need to be mentored. We must develop a culture of excellence for these young men. We must create and maintain high academic standards for these young men. They have been taught by us how to fail. We taught them very well,” Jackson replied emphatically. “Now we must re-teach them how to succeed. It is everyone’s responsibility, including the young men themselves.”

Are we adequately preparing our children for their future roles and responsibilities as spouses and parents? If not, what should we be doing?

Jackson did not mince words:

“We are preparing Black children for government dependency, street corner hustling, illicit activities, unemployment, prison and death. The Black Star System of Child Development teaches and develops in children physical and emotional health; communal consciousness and responsibility; strong spiritual and moral convictions; academic proficiency and intellectual curiosity; affirming one’s culture and ancestry; financial, economic and entrepreneurial literacy; effective parenting and responsible sexual behavior; technological literacy; personal leadership development; and exemplary global citizenship.”\

When I asked Mr. Jackson to discuss the type of information we should share with our children about male-female relationships and to identify the appropriate age at which we should begin sharing this information, he had this to say:

“We need to start teaching four- and five-year old boys and girls how to relate to members of the opposite sex positively. By the time they are eight and nine, they have learned bad habits that will poison relationships for the rest of their lives.”

So, what’s next for Phillip Jackson?

Mr. Jackson summed it up in one word: “Rest!”
Labels: A CHAT WITH MR. PHILLIP JACKSON, FOUNDER OF THE MILLION FATHER MARCH

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