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Million Father March Movement Draws National Attention

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By Natasha Simone Ferguson

Street Positive C.E.O. and Million Father March Organizer, Terry Boykins announced recently that the 2012 Inland Empire Million Father March will be hosted by Bishop Lacy Sykes Jr., and Cross Word Christian Church on Sept. 8, 2012 kicking off at 8 a.m.

The 2012 Inland Empire Million Father March theme; "I Am My Child's Superhero", will pay special tribute to active duty and veteran military fathers as the nation's largest campaign encouraging fathers to take their children back-to-school, gets underway. The procession will begin at Cross Word Christian Church located at 14950 Riverside Dr. next to the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., led by those fathers who have distinguishably served in the U.S. military. The proposed march route is approximately 2.2 miles. However, the march is not just open to fathers but single mothers are also expected to join the event and are welcome.

The goal of the campaign is for a million fathers nationwide to be involved in their children’s education, beginning the first day of school. Boykins states, "The choice of Cross Word Christian Church is both symbolically and logistically practical given the goals and objectives we have set with this year's march. Those participating will truly be part of the kind of history their children's children will speak about one day. So, participants definitely want to make sure they bring their cameras and walking shoes. On-lookers will truly see the power of fathers moving as one, in support of their children's education." A petition will also be circulated for fathers to sign in efforts to secure key resources from both state and federal agencies to support more fatherhood engagement in early childhood education. According to statistics, children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor (U.S. Census Bureau).

Dr. D.C. Nosakhere Thomas and son Kamaal Thomas, who was recently awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship and featured on ABC Channel 7’s ‘Cool Kids’, will serve as father-son emcees for the event. Dr. Thomas, a renowned community and youth advocate, stated: "I am elated to join Bishop Sykes, Street Positive and the Black Star Project in a movement that encourages fathers to take their children to the first day of school. I will be taking my son Kamaal to his first day of college at UC Davis in late September. So, sharing this opportunity with him as he prepares to leave home and begins manhood is truly a special moment for me as a father."  Street Positive CEO, Boykins says he will take his daughter, Genevieve (Dean's list), back to school at UC Berkeley and then join Million Father March organizers and supporters in time for both the Inland Empire (September 8th) and Los Angeles (September 29th) marches.     Boykins, who since early 2007 helped organize the national outreach effort founded by Black Star Project's Phillip Jackson in 2004, says he and Bishop Sykes have met and discussed the importance of father involvement on numerous occasions. Sykes has spoken widely on the subject and routinely interacts with "Men of Valor", a church ministry at CWCC, to progress those who are fathers and those who one day will become fathers. In addition to providing the welcome and greetings to attendees, he will also conduct the event's annual "Back-to-School" prayer.  Another instrumental community partner involved in bringing the Million Father March to the Inland Empire is Pastor James Baylark of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Perris, Calif. Pastor Baylark is slated to speak on "The Church and the Streets."

Important topics covered during the 2012 Inland Empire Million Father March will include mental health, academic achievement, child safety, student violence, incarceration, parent-teacher partnerships, graduation rates and goals, college and trade-school support. In addition, the event will also feature special guest speakers, panel discussions, open mic, entertainment, and other important resources.

A commemorative, "I Am My Child's Superhero" t-shirt will be available, as well as a book entitled; "A Fragile Child's Cry" by author H. L. Stampley to promote literacy. Stampley participated in the 2009 Million Father March, which was dedicated to fathers of disabled children. Participation and attendance is expected to be significant. An east coast/west coast movement has been stirred up between the Detroit Million Father March organizers and the West Coast organizers on the challenge of having the largest number of fathers to participate in this initiative of fathers taking their child or children to school on the first day.

Exhibitor space is limited and will be available on a first come-first served basis. To request an application contact Ms. Jessica Garcia at 909-556-4650. For additional updates and information regarding the Inland Empire Million Father March, visit  HYPERLINK "http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=&msgid=0&act=11111&c=18240&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.streetpositive.com" \t "_blank" www.streetpositive.com.Those wishing to volunteer for the 2012 Inland Empire Million Father March should contact 909-880-9427. Additionally, efforts are also being made to collect canned goods and bottled water to support youth and families in transitional living facilities.

Note: The Los Angeles Million Father March will be hosted by the Los Angeles Father Million March Organizing Committee (LAMFMOC) and held at Mona Park in Compton, Calif. on September 29.

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