A three-day call for “All Black Men & Family” has been sounded for April 1-3.
The summons is to the One Million Black Fathers March being organized by Parenting With A Purpose, Inc., and Centurion Community Support Center.
“We need your help,” Centurion’s Cynthia Pulliam said when pitching the march recently at the Black Family Summit at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library. “We need you; not somebody else. We need you.”
Pulliam and Omar Baruti, founder of Parenting With A Purpose, Inc., are spearheading the multi-day event, which will be anchored downtown in Robert R. Church Park. It is envisioned as the starting part of an ongoing initiative.
“The problem we have right now in Black America,” said Baruti, who also spoke at the Black Family Summit, is that in 60-plus percent of “Black households there is no father. … Without the father as the foundation, our children are crumbling.
“The TV can’t be father. The video game cannot raise our children; neither can the cell phone. You’re the father. Your children are being exposed to all kinds of things that you have no control over. They think their real father is a gangster making money selling drugs and calling a woman a b—-. That has to change.”
Black men, said Baruti, “have to go back home where they belong and raise your children. If you got a divorce, you don’t divorce your children.”
The official march day is April 3 and features Dr. Umar Johnson as the guest speaker in Robert R. Church Park. The free event begins at 4 p.m.
Johnson, who refers to himself as Dr. Umar Ifatunde on his Twitter account, is by self-description, a doctor of clinical psychology, a certified school psychologist, author, Pan-Afrikanist, educator, a principal in the Fredrick Douglas Marcus Garvey Academy, a special education consultant, and associated with the National Independent Black Parent Association.
The weekend begins on April 1 with the Drum Major for Justice Parade, saluting Ekpe Abioto, an author and well-known local “edutainer” known to many for his prowess on African musical instruments, notably drums.
“It (the march event) sounds like a great thing,” Abioto said. “It is right on time, something that is very needed within the ‘village.’”
The parade is set for 10 a.m., with the Downtown route winding down Danny Thomas to Robert R. Church Park. The free event will include a health and job fair. Also scheduled is a Father & Child Tik Tok challenge, workshops, live music, food trucks and more.
On Sunday (April 2) the emphasis will be the Black Father’s March Gala at the Candle Light Ballroom, 3015 Park Avenue. Admission is $100, with tickets via Cash App. A silent auction is set for 6 p.m. onsite.
Baruti’s Parenting With A Purpose nonprofit dates back to 2020.
“It’s a group that was set up so we could go and help parents become more effective parents with their children,” said Baruti, who, along with his wife, was a foster parent for eight years to 30-plus children.
“We only took Level III children … with behavioral issues and criminal activity,” he said, adding that if the children were not matched with foster parents “they would be going to lockup.”
The foster parenting grew out of his experiences doing prison ministry, which dates back 30 years.
“I kept seeing younger and younger children come to prison. …That’s when I decided, ‘Let’s go to the child and see if I can put them back on track.’ Then when I started dealing with the children, I realized the child was misshaped by a parent….”
Determined to “change this paradigm,” he learned of an international initiative called Incredible Years and attended a program in Seattle, Washington.
“They had an incredible success rate. After we took the program, we realized that this is the solution. …”
The essence was a lot of role-play for parents, he said. “The other thing they were teaching was how not to expose children to things that are considered adult matters….”
Baruti met Pulliam during Kwanzaa observances two years ago. Later, they became board members of each other’s nonprofit. Centurion’s focus was providing a place to get children off the street and a place for seniors to get senior services.
As they got to know each other, Baruti began “telling her that the broken piece of the community decay is the father, he’s missing….”
Pulliam raised her two sons as a single mother. In 2020, her son Timothy was killed when four men robbed him at his barbershop.
“I already forgave him,” she said of the young man who shot him. “It took me two years, going on three, to get where I am right now and say I forgive him.”
As she worked through myriad thoughts processing her son’s death, Pulliam harkened to what he told her after she introduced him to his father when he turned 18.
“He said, ‘Mom, the worst thing you could have done was introduce me to my father.’ … That hurt me so bad. As a single parent, you love, you protect. I can do that as a mother. But I always thought he was missing something,” she said, explaining why she chose to tell her son about his father.
That exchange and her son’s murder crashed in on Pulliam, who began to wonder “where is all the hatred coming from.” Baruti, she said, told her to become familiar with The Million Man March, which happened on Oct. 16, 1995.
An action plan
Called by the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, The Million Man March drew a massive number of African-American men and supporters to Washington, D.C. The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr., the National African American Leadership Summit founder, was the march’s national director. Scores of civil rights organizations teamed up to serve on the organizing committee
Pulliam did her “homework” on the march and reasoned that reincarnation was needed. Baruti countered with the suggestion of the Million Black Fathers March, saying, “What’s wrong is that the father is not in his place.”
After learning that Farrakhan’s health precluded him from being the anchor needed, Dr. Umar Johnson’s name emerged as the person to build the march around. Pulliam called him. Johnson agreed.
“What I like about him is that he does not mind speaking truth, sometimes hard truth,” said Baruti, acknowledging that Johnson is labeled controversial. “People sometimes don’t like hard truth.”
Baruti said Johnson is being looked to foster an “action plan” to get Black men back in their rightful place to restore families.
“I want people to walk away knowing this is the action plan. How do we get him (the (Black man) to wake up and say ‘I got to go back.’”
Pulliam said the One Million Black Fathers March is being designed “to wake our people up. It’s time to get busy.”
(For more information, call 901-246-9659.)