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Education

Campaign Urges Black Men To Focus More On Their Children's Education

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

People looking out the windows of a Washington, D.C., school saw a group of men outside.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The gathering came yesterday at Ballou High School. It's well away from the Capitol or the main tourist sights. It's in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

INSKEEP: This is the neighborhood where fathers, grandfathers and other men gather to show support for the high school students. It's part of the Million Father March. That's a national effort to get African-American men more engaged in education. Here's Patrick Madden of our member station WAMU.

TYRONE PARKER: Good morning, young brother. We here for you. We here for you, young brother.

PATRICK MADDEN, BYLINE: The booming voice of Tyrone Parker greets students walking to Ballou High School.

PARKER: I love that lipstick.

MADDEN: Parker and more than a dozen other men are lined up in two columns outside the school. Students are met with high-fives, fist bumps and lots of encouraging words. For Parker, when the call went out for men in the community to help out, Parker couldn't resist.

PARKER: I thought it was an extraordinary opportunity. It keeps us young (laughter). No better place than to start in the schools because if we start in the schools, we can keep them from going into the streets.

MADDEN: Some of the students seem a little taken aback at first. It's not even 9 a.m. yet and, well, you know, teenagers. But as the students make their way through the columns of well-wishers, it's all smiles.

MALIK BURRELL: The morning is always rough coming to school, so just to have a little bit of energy and just a little bit of excitement added to the day, you know, it makes it easier to go in the classroom and be productive.

MADDEN: This is Malik Burrell, a 17-year-old senior.

BURRELL: Just to see a lot of leaders, you know, African-American male leaders, in the community coming to support the Ballou, you know, family is just really nice.

MADDEN: Trayon White says that's important in communities where many children are raised in single-parent households. He's a father and a community activist.

TRAYON WHITE: They don't see a lot of men in the community wearing suits, getting up every morning, going to work, coming home, you know, so it's a good chance for us to model what we want our young men to become.

MADDEN: The campaign to get African-American men more involved in schools isn't just happening in D.C. According to organizers, more than 500 cities across the U.S. are taking part this year. For NPR News in Washington, I'm Patrick Madden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.