By Natasha Simone Ferguson
The Inland Empire Million Father March commenced this past Saturday September 8th at Cross Word Christian Church. The theme was, "I Am My Child's Superhero", and this national campaign’s goal is to encourage fathers to take their children back-to-school. Organizer and Street Positive C.E.O. Terry Boykins (www.streetpositive.com) welcomed everyone and Bishop Lacy Skyes opened with prayer. City of Riverside Mayor Ronald Loveridge and Moreno Valley Mayor Richard Stewart were among the many special guests present. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors provided a proclamation officially recognizing the event.
Participants were able to enjoy light refreshments prior to and after the walk. A variety of organizations were also on hand as exhibitors with various important materials available.
The Inland Empire Million Father March paid special tribute to active duty and veteran military fathers. The processional was led by these military fathers who were distributed American flags which they proudly waved as they marched. The route was approximately 2.8 miles and drew a huge line of enthusiastic walkers with Moreno Valley police escorting along the route. Immediately following the march, participants were ushered into the main sanctuary of the church for a panel discussion. Mayor Stewart greeted the audience and shared a witty personal story relating to fatherhood. The Masters of Ceremony and moderators were father and son team Dr. D.C. Nosakhere Thomas and Kamaal Thomas. Kamaal is a recent recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship and was also featured on ABC Channel 7’s ‘Cool Kids’. Before the introduction of the panelists, a powerful poem about fatherhood was shared by Richard O. Jones.
Keeping in line with the theme, “I Am My Child’s Superhero”, the keynote address was given by motivational speaker and military veteran Keith “Sarge” Gibbs (www.sargescommunitybase.org) who received a standing ovation for his powerfully motivating speech. Following Gibbs was RUSD student, Ashlee Lopez, who shared her heart-wrenching personal life story and weighed in on why daughters need their dads. The panelists consisted of dynamic men representing varied backgrounds and beliefs, who were each given topics to address: James Ochoa (discipline), Mars Serna (parent resources), Pastor James Baylark (the church’s role and the streets), Joe Montenegro (mental health/gang members), Cornell Ward (child abuse), Rudy Brown (reckless endangerment of incarceration), Terry Boykins (economic legacy), Imam Terry Major (my son’s not going back to school) and Jatori Harris (foster youth). Each panelist gave a brief introduction of their backgrounds and expounded on the importance of fathers taking part in their child’s life.
Panelist Brown, who spent 21 years in prison for a non-violent offense spoke about having to parent from prison and how he currently mentors on this important issue to men who fall into this unfortunate circumstance. Montenegro, who is an ex-gang member, emphasized the importance of time spent with your child. Boykins emphatically shared his views on the significance of a father leaving behind a legacy (both monetary and namesake). Panelist Ward said, “Mentoring is a lifestyle, I do it daily!” Panelist Serna said that we need to make the commitment to dedicate our time to mentorship. This hearty discussion touched on some very important points including the consequences of fatherlessness and statistics were also shared.
The Inland Empire Million Father March host Bishop Sykes said he was pleased to participate in this worthy cause. “Fathers are important especially considering the statistics that approximately 75 percent of men African American and Latino grow up in a home without a father. It is therefore important to engage in education and the general upbringing of a child’s life.”
Terry Boykins, the event organizer, stated "The collaboration of this effort by Inland Empire organizations and residents demonstrated the region's true capabilites to lead the nation in fatherhood engagement. No longer can the "IE" be looked upon as simply a place for affordable housing, but rather as a collective community that employers will look to that is capable of delivering total social impact." The Million Father March movement was launched in 2004 and founded by the Black Star Project. The Los Angeles Million Father March takes place on September 29th hosted by the Los Angeles Father Million March Organizing Committee (LAMFMOC) and held at Mona Park in Compton, Calif.
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