More than 1 million men are set to take to city streets this week, and they’ll be bringing their children along with them.
The annual Million Father March is scheduled to hit the streets in more than 600 cities across America as fathers take their children to their first day of school.
The march intends to encourage fathers and men to take children back to school and become involved beyond the first day of classes, said Phillip Jackson, executive director for the Black Star Project, which puts on the march each year.
Jackson, along with David Johns, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and other parents and community members, plans to go door-to-door this weekend in Chicago to encourage fathers to take part in the march and their children's education.
The Million Father March, which began in a church basement on Chicago’s South Side, is now a national event scheduled in 610 cities across the country including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, Memphis and Washington D.C.
Monday marks the start of Chicago Public Schools' new school year and Jackson expects tens of thousands of Chicago men to escort children to their first day.
Last year, Jackson said more than 1 million men participated nationally.
“[Researchers] have found that when fathers and men are at schools children learn better and faster, have a higher GPA, higher test scores, better attendance,” Jackson said. “So we know that fathers working with schools is a major part of this solution.”
Jackson also said this year’s Chicago march emphasizes safety as parents and CPS officials prepare to help children through new routes as a result of school closings.
Last week, several hundred workers expected to stand guard on Chicago Public Schools' "Safe Passage" routes gathered at the Lindblom School to get training tips from police and other experts.
Some 600 people will be spread out over 50 new "Safe Passage" routes released earlier this month. The workers said they know they face a tough battle helping kids cross gang lines in some cases, but they are energized.
Jackson said adding fathers to the mix will help curb the violence.
"It will absolutely help," he said. "The more fathers we can get engaged, the lower the crime will be."
Men who are not fathers are also asked to join in the march as mentors.
“It can be a biological father, uncle, surrogate, big brother, mentor,” Jackson said, “we just need to get everyone engaged and involved in the educational and social lives of children.”
Fathers are also being asked to sign up to volunteer at least 10 hours in their children’s schools this year.