Fathers promise to take children to school
Published: September 3, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Pastor Lennox Zamore wanted to put some fight into fathers and their children Saturday afternoon at Tutu Park Mall.
Zamore led a karate demonstration for the fathers, youths and families gathered in the mall's atrium for the V.I. Fathers March rally. Zamore and other speakers at the rally pressed the event's central theme, urging fathers to take a more active role in the lives of their children.
In its fourth year, the rally capped off a one-hour walk featuring the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School marching band from the Four Winds Plaza to the mall.
For Zamore, who is also an administrator for the V.I. Human Services Department, one of the event's sponsors, one way of getting fathers more involved is getting them to play with their kids.
"No one ever showed them how to use their bodies," Zamore said. "We need men to step up, even if it's just walking or going to the ball field to throw a ball around."
Zamore showed a handful of volunteers several karate moves, then moved into a self-defense demo and a sparring exercise.
"It's discipline first, not fighting," Zamore said afterward. "It actually keeps them from physical violence."
St. Thomas-St. John Insular Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry urged those gathered Saturday to make sure when students go back to school Tuesday, they do not go alone.
"The role men can play in the lives of these children can make a difference," she said.
Scott Bradley, who often works with high-risk youths through his nonprofit My Brother's Workshop, said fathers play a key role in a child's upbringing. About 85 percent of incarcerated youths and 85 percent of youths who are substance abusers lack a father figure in their lives, he said.
"It's crucial," he said. "There are so many statistics. It's an epidemic everywhere, not just here."
Rafael Ortiz was at the rally with his family and led the group in a prayer later on.
"We just want to encourage young people to go on in their education and especially the fathers to motivate the young people to pursue their education," he said.
Ortiz was one of the dozen or so men who stuck around until the end of the rally to take a pledge promising to take their children to school on the first day of class and remain involved in their children's education throughout the school year. V.I. Superior Court Judge James Carroll III administered the oath.
Carroll, one of the event's organizers, said the V.I. Fathers March began in 2009 and was modeled after the nationwide Million Father March.
"Since we don't have a million fathers here, we wanted to tailor it to the Virgin Islands," Carroll said.
He said the rally is meant to build momentum before a prayer day and the march on the first day of school, when fathers are encouraged to take their children to school.
"The whole idea is to emphasize the importance of the impact fathers make in the lives of their children," Carroll said.
Carroll said a "huge majority" of the criminal cases he sees involve defendants who have not finished high school or come from broken homes.
"That's a prescription for disaster and for poverty," Carroll said.
Carroll also said the most notable crime trend in the past five years in the territory has been the increase in gun violence, which changes the nature of fighting.
"It's no longer just a guy that gets beat up and winds up in the hospital, but lives are lost," Carroll said. "We're trying to do what we can to reverse that type of violence."
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.