By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Asking all the men in the church to come to the altar, Father Michael L. Pfleger Sunday honored the fathers for “stepping up to the plate” and raising their children with the kind of love only a dad can give.
Speaking to dozens of fathers who encircled the altar, Pfleger thanked them for being the “real fathers who love us, who sacrificed for us, who fought and patrol the streets for us,” he said as the congregation stood and applauded them.
Telling the fathers “we have disrespected you,” Pfleger apologized “that we have not honored you. We apologize when we let society continue to take you down instead of being the one who said ‘no….’”
Pfleger said the fathers have made a great deal of sacrifice for their children. “Often times we take for granted the sacrifice of men and what you men continue to do every day and a society that continues to try to destroy the Black male today.”
“We honor all the men who have stepped up to the plate to raise their Children and show them a Father’s love…whether the children were your own or not. Thank you for your Love, your witness and your strength….”
Pfleger thanked the fathers for their sacrifices and in a very special way he wanted to “lift up all the fathers who lost their children to violence.
“We often think only of the mothers, but you too have had your heart broken and often were forgotten, and to the fathers who may be distant from your children, reach out to them. You’re still alive don’t miss your chance. Happy Fathers Day,” Pfleger told fathers.
Earlier, award winning Chicago Sun-Times columnist John Fountain, who is also a professor at Roosevelt University and once the Chicago Tribune’s chief crime reporter, delivered a Father’s Day message at Saint Sabina.
Raised on the West Side, Fountain, who was raised in both the Catholic and Church of God In Christ churches, said while his mother gave him so much love but she could never be a father.
He has only two memories of his father once when he was 4 years old “and he was being led out of our third floor apartment in handcuffs by police because she [his mother] was afraid he would hit her again.”
The second time was when he was 18 in Alabama standing over his casket. He died on impact. He had been drunk and hurled through the windshield. Standing over his casket, Fountain didn’t cry. “My anger wouldn’t let me cry for a stranger.”
Despite his father’s absence, Fountain said, “I am as even some of you are standing here today as living testimonies that God still hears the cries of a ghetto boy; that he will strategically place good men in your life…that you don’t have to become a statistic because you were one of unfortunately countless number of children abandoned, forgotten or neglected by your father…. We celebrate you, fathers….”
Fountain said the true gift of fatherhood is the love of their children “not just as somebody’s baby’s daddy but as a true father to impart a lasting legacy.”
Saying there is a crisis in our community, Fountain said referring to the killing of our children. “Man down, so man up,” he said referring to a military term and likened to SOS, a plea of help. Explaining, Fountain cited crime statistics from 2001-2015, in Chicago, there were 7,384 murders. “I shout, man down.” He said over the last 10 years, with an annual average of 2,000 to 3,000 shootings, there have been tens of thousands of people shot in the city mostly in black and brown neighborhoods.
Citing statistics from the U.S. Justice, Fountain said from 1976 to 2010, a 34-year period, the number of murdered Black males 14 and older was 243,996. The number of murdered Black females over the same period was 51,897 for a combined number of 295,893. “To grasp the greatness of this human tragedy, imagine the United Center, Wrigley Field, US Cellular Field and Soldier field” lined with their bodies. “Man down,” he said.
Referring to economic violence, Fountain said 45 million people in America live below the poverty line and that “some of our public schools have become weapons of mass destruction” through the miss-education of the Negro.
And, he spoke of other social and economic barriers like the “environmental racism” like the poison water mostly of Black citizens in Flint, Michigan, 7 out of 10 African American children born to single mothers, half of young Black men out of school and out of work, systemic racism.
Saying fathers, who provide, to protect and to produce, “are absolutely essential. They are the connections to our beginning,” he said.
“Man down…too many of our fathers MIA, missing in action…too many of our sons DOA or dead on arrival. Man down; yet there is hope if we choose to man up….”
Too many times, Fountain said fathers are put down and stigmatized. “Based on our past, this much should be clear no matter how dark and dismal it may look, we can still rise. Therefore, the only response to the distress call of man down must be a resounding man up. In other words, step up. Get up. Life up. Stand up. Rise up and lift our people up.
But, Fountain said the revolution would not be televised. “In case you don’t know, the Calvary ain’t coming.” “We cannot expect an unjust, unrighteous, ungodly system designed to oppress us to voluntarily up and set us free. Man emancipates, but God liberates.”
“Any hope and plan for our uplift must begin with us and also with our faith” with God he says will always be our deliverer.
“We must educate, celebrate and elevate,” said Fountain who said we must teach about the importance of God. “We must teach our children the commandments of God among them…Thou shall not kill…that no man has the right to take a human life…that life is precious and fragile and a gift from God.
“We must teach our children how to live, how to love for if we don’t even if they get jobs, they will still shoot, kill and cannibalize each other. We must teach them that education plus salvation equals transformation. We must teach them what the bible says that a man’s life consist not in the abundance of things that he possesses. There are worse things than dying poor. The greatest thing you can give your children as a father is not your presents as in gifts but your presence as in being there, functional and sound,” he said.
“We must also educate them about the past…teaching them who and whose they are that Emmett Till was not a pro-football player. That was Emmett Smith…that the Underground Railroad was not an actual train but it was no less a freedom train…that if we as a people can come up from slavery, there is no limit to where we can collectively go to what we can collectively achieve if we decide we are going to do it.”
Fountain said we must also teach our children about the future “teaching them there is a proven plan and strategy for success. It doesn’t happen through osmosis. It requires hard work, education, faith and persistence…that there is no retirement plan for drug dealing…only the prison or the grave.”
Fountain said they must celebrate fatherhood “seeking to restore this institution to its rightful place as being among the most sacred of life’s callings.” He said fatherhood has been denigrated especially in the black community. “I understand as a son who was abandoned who watched my mother suffer…a son who went without. I understand the anger and bitterness over men who have deserted their children and I make no excuses for that.
“Yet, a call to responsible fatherhood without condemnation is what is needed to seek to redeem those men who have vacated their vocation as their children’s paternal guide, to help restore those fathers who have fallen down on the job and to raise up a new generation of fathers who break the generational curse.”
He called on all men to “man up” and become better fathers for our children. “It might be man down right now, but there is power in the blood… Keep on marching. Keep on praying…because the fix is in…the King of glory….”
Fountain ended his sermon by giving each father a copy of his new book entitled, “Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood.”