- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

Aaron Kenner, a Capitol Hill homeowner, knows firsthand the dangers of growing up without a father.

“I learned how to be a man in prison, and I don’t want any other youngster to go through that,” said Mr. Kenner, an administrative assistant and outreach worker for the Alliance of Concerned Men.

“I didn’t have a father to support me and guide me, and I took a road that I thought would be beneficial but in the long run almost ruined my life,” said Mr. Kenner, who attributes the rising homicide rate in the District to “no father figures or no male supervision.” The alliance, headed by Tyrone Parker and Rico Rush, has joined forces with others working to curb juvenile violence in the District, such as Kenny Barnes Sr. of Reaching Out to Others Together (ROOT) Inc., David Bowers of No Murders DC, Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers, Survivors of Homicide and the D.C. chapter of Parents of Murdered Children to call a “Moratorium on Murder” this Father’s Day weekend.

Mr. Barnes is asking for “a murder-free Father’s Day weekend this year in honor of the slain victims and their families.” Last year, the organizers said, only one homicide occurred during their moratorium.

In 2002, the District had 262 homicides. In 2003, there were 248. As of June 15, there have been 84 homicides this year, with 46 victims younger than 25 and 15 younger than 18. The organizers note that most of the victims were male.

The series of events planned for the “murder-free weekend” include an all-day working seminar at the University of the District of Columbia today on the “Dynamics of Murder” and a “Man-to-Man” conference tomorrow at Ballou High School. The antiviolence program will culminate Sunday at the second annual Father’s Day Rally at Freedom Plaza that will commemorate the lives of District youths lost this year and honor outstanding fathers.

Mr. Barnes, whose ROOT organization will kick off its “Guns Aside Campaign” during the weekend, has said that the more people become aware and get involved with youths, the greater the opportunity of a life being saved.

Both Mr. Barnes and Mr. Parker lost their only sons to gun violence.

After his son’s death, Mr. Parker established the acclaimed Alliance of Concerned Men with fathers like himself who were absent during their children’s formative years because of incarceration. Mr. Kenner pointed out that with the antiviolence programs’ success with gangs such as the Simple City Crew, they have become leaders in getting other black men involved with troubled youths.

At 55, Mr. Kenner has never been married nor fathered a child. His biggest prayer, however, is to get married and have children because, “If a man is a good husband and father, then everything else falls into that, and he’s going to be responsible.” Mr. Kenner, a native Washingtonian and lifelong friend of Mr. Parker’s, said his father was a role model and a good provider until he was in the third grade when his parents divorced because his father had become an alcoholic and “took her through so many changes.” Mr. Kenner eventually robbed a bank and spent 12 years in the old Lorton Reformatory, which is why, he said, he “missed out” on having children. Still, “I feel fortunate to be alive and be free.”

He is concerned that too many youths, especially black youths, are without fathers and raising themselves and “by that trial and error, they are coming up with bad values like no value for life, which is why there are so many homicides.”

“I’m not going to take nothing away from the sisters because black women have done a remarkable job raising children themselves, and there are a lot of success stories about black single mothers,” Mr. Kenner said. “But children being raised without a father are in crisis and at risk to living a troubled life.”

Mr. Kenner, who volunteered with the youth-mentoring Alliance of Concerned Men before he was a paid employee, said he hopes that out of this murder-free Father’s Day rally, people from all walks of life, especially fathers, will get the message: “Let’s be responsible, let’s make certain that our children are headed in the right direction, but we have to be positive role models, and we’ve got to guide them.”

Let’s hope that more mature, responsible men like Mr. Kenner will step up and make this pledge their Father’s Day gift to all our children.

For more information, log on to www.rootinc.org or call the Alliance for Concerned Men at 202/986-6200.

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