The women of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. on Sunday hosted their fourth annual tribute to fathers. A chapter of Theta Chi Sigma Alumnae, the sorority’s event took place in Oak Park at The Carleton of Oak Park Hotel and Motor Inn, 1119 Pleasant.

 The well-attended celebration included special guest speaker, Philip Jackson, founder of The Black Star Project, an advocacy group for black and Latino communities. They also advocate for the roles of fathers.

The morning event began with a buffet breakfast whereby all men were served first. The emcee was Lester Moody, Sr., father of Sigma Gamma member Shana Scott-Moody.

“I was so profoundly touched with the idea of honoring fathers,” he said. “My daughter, Shana, said we will be honoring dads, and I just love her to death. I said, ‘I couldn’t believe it. They are really going to honor the fathers.’ Even today, I was kind of shocked that we got in line first, but indeed, it is a pleasure.”

 The Theta Chi Sigma Chapter, which is located in Oak Park, was chartered on March 6, 1999 by 30 professional women. Chapter President LaToya Brown said, “This is our fourth annual Royal Tribute to fathers. The event started four years ago as an offset to our chapter awards banquet that we would have annually. We decided that, traditionally, most sororities, as well as other organizations, honor mothers for Mothers Day, and there were really not a lot of organizations that were having celebrations for Fathers Day. And so we decided to create this event to actually honor the men in our community.”

 In his remarks, the always passionate Philip Jackson, who founded Black Star in 1996, noted a headline on the front page of that day’s Chicago Sun-Times-This is not the wild, wild west.

“Now, that was (Police) Supt. Jody Weis, after yesterday’s shooting of two young men at Dusable High School. Jody Weiss went before the cameras and said, ‘This is not the wild, wild west.’ He’s right. The wild, wild west was a lot safer than what Chicago is today.

“We have had 39 children killed,” Jackson added. “I see all the young people in the room. I don’t even like to talk about this in their presence. We have had 595 of your children shot in the past 20 months. Since the war in Iraq started, we have had 13 soldiers from Chicago killed. I don’t like that, and I feel for those men and women who died. Thirteen killed since 2003 when the war started. During the same period, we have lost 270 children in the city of Chicago. Where are we at war and who are we fighting?

“The role of fathers is so critical in this,” Jackson stressed. “A boy or a young male without a father is dangerous to the community. Ninety-percent of the young men in Cook County Jail- right now as I speak- don’t have a father in their lives. We have under-valued the role of fathers in the family and in the society.”

 But Jackson insisted that he came to the event to build up, not knock down.

“I want to congratulate all these strong sisters for carrying this load for all these years…What we need, if we’re going to fix the problem in our community – we need families. Everything that is important in life; it rings right through the family. Did you notice that when the break down of the African-American family started happening, everything bad in our community started happening? The incarceration started going up. The school failure rate started going up. The unemployment rate started going up, as the family broke down.”

Jackson said the family is the most important teacher of children.

“Now, I’ve worked for the Chicago Public Schools, and some of you worked for Chicago Public Schools, and so I have much love and respect for the Chicago Public Schools. But the first, best, and most important teacher for any of those kids is their family. And those who work for the schools know that. Because of the good work you do in that little five hours you get with those kids a day, it will be undone in an instant unless the family supports it.”

Jackson’s theme for his talk was “Educate or die.”

“If we don’t take control of the education of our children and our people, this game is over. We have under-valued fathers. We’re not mad at nobody-it is time for us to fix it.”

Jackson ended by reading his Educate or Die poem, ending with:, “My people, my people; much love, but I tell you no lie. We only got two choices in this world-we will either educate or die.”