John Fountain: A new challenge that involves reading — and men

SHARE John Fountain: A new challenge that involves reading — and men

Photo by John Fountain

Follow @csteditorialsIn this age of “Ice Bucket,” “Mannequin,” “Harlem Shake,” and assorted Facebook challenges, I’d like to issue a new challenge. Call it: The “Face-in-a-Book Challenge.”

What’s that? Well, it’s pretty straightforward.

I’m calling all available men in the vicinity of south suburban Matteson Elementary School (or beyond) to show up on a Thursday morning, to put your face in a book and simply read to “our” children.

Moreover, I challenge you to join me and a small band of faithful men who have gathered for the last 1½ years to read to the now 470 students — kindergarten through 3rd grade — to share the gift of literacy. To become a community partner with a good neighborhood school that aims to give our children the educational wings to reach their dreams.

To be a positive male influence in the 30 minutes we read each week, which just might make a lifetime of difference for a child. To become the sealant that helps stop the flow of black boys through the schools-to-prison pipeline.


Follow @csteditorialsI challenge you to step up and assume the critical role in the “village” that it takes to raise a child. To not be one of those men who just sit on their duff, moaning and groaning about how “bad” these here young folk done become, nowadays; how life sho ain’t like it used to be.

I challenge you to put up and step up. Or else shut up. I challenge us as brothers to be the change we want to see.

It seems that 21 years after the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., too many of us went back home and sat down. It appears that we caught a feeling but not the vision for healing ourselves. Still have not come fully into the knowledge that within our own hands is the solution to build a kinder, gentler, greater generation. “Yes, we can.”

Photo by John Fountain

Photo by John Fountain

Except too many of us are invisible. Untouchable. Too many preachers are unavailable without a speaker’s fee or absent at least a swift pass of the collection plate.

Or maybe, as men, you’re busy with your jobs, with the day-to-day grind of life. I know. Me too.

You have your own children to raise. Yep, me too.

You’re already carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and your schedule overflowing. Me too. But I can’t afford to whine — the stakes too high.

If not now, when? If not you, then who?

I am grateful for all the men who showed up over the last 18 months — for the core group of relentless guys. But our effort is tainted. … Frankly, it tain’t enough of us.

So I’m calling out the men of New Faith Baptist Church, Believers Church, and Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson. I’m calling out every man who is a public official, even the local school official who assured me recently that it really is about the children.

State Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, we need you, bruh. Sen Dick Durbin, D-Ill., if you’re ever in the neighborhood, come through.

I’m calling out the men who sit in Starbucks, chewing the fat for hours every morning. The brothers I sometimes sit with at the cigar shop. The Benjamin O. Davis VFW Post 311. The men who live in Matteson.

We need you to show up. Black or white. Young or old. Even for just one Thursday. Bring a valid state ID and your best reading face — 7:45 a.m. at 21245 Main St., Matteson (Phone: 708-748-0480).

We can be the difference. No ice buckets, mannequin posing, or Harlem shaking necessary.

Who will accept the challenge?


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Tweets by @csteditorialsJohn Fountain will be reading from his new book, “Son of the Times: Life, Laughter, Love and Coffee,” at 3 p.m. Sunday, at the Park Forest Public Library.

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