For Thaddeus Miles, Father’s Day is usually a holiday filled with sadness, not celebration.
“I never had a relationship with my father, like so many other brothers out there,” said Miles, the director of public safety at MassHousing.
“And that pain never leaves you.”
But this year, the day was different, he said.
Miles, along with 100 others, mostly men, dressed in rain slickers, marched through Roxbury Sunday morning to celebrate Father’s Day and call attention to the importance of strong male role models.
Miles, who walked with his son Laquan Miles, 24, said this year was his best Father’s Day yet. He received a card and freshly baked cookies from his son before the 8 a.m. walk and he got to show his support for a cause he is passionate about.
The walk, cosponsored by Boston police and MassHousing, sought to promote community leaders. Participants walked a 2-mile loop, starting and ending at the intersection of Humboldt Avenue and Seaver Street, an area often associated with violence and gang activity.
“We want to go against the stereotype that men of color don’t care about their children,” said Boston Police Superintendent in Chief William Gross. “So many fathers are great. We need to acknowledge them.”
As the group walked, many carrying brightly colored umbrellas, residents shouted “Happy Father’s Day” from their windows, and some even left their homes to join the walk.
Miles and Gross, two of the event’s organizers, said that they hoped to counter negative stereotypes about fatherhood, with images of love and support.
“You have people walking through the torrential rain here today, that is powerful,” Miles said.
Jorge Martinez and his 5-year-old son, Ojani, dressed in a Buzz Lightyear raincoat, walked the route together, before returning home to eat s’mores in celebration. Martinez said he came to support the men and women who are working hard to raise their children “the right way.”
“Having a family is important,” Martinez said. “It makes a difference.”
The walk caused many men to reflect on the meaning of being a father. Jeb Davis, 53, of Dorchester, trod the route with his father-in-law and his friend. He has four children, but they were all at home sleeping, he said.
“A father’s support gives you parameters, so you’re not a wild child running around in the streets,” he said. “You need guidance. That’s what it’s all about.”
Boston police Superintendent Randall Halstead said he hoped the walk called attention to the importance of a partnership while parenting.
“There is the idea that mothers are the background of the family, the support system, and fathers are the breadwinners that go to work and then come home to sleep,” he said. “That’s well and good, but really, you are a team. There are things my wife couldn’t teach my son, important things, about being a man.”
Halstead said that especially in the black community, fathers are absent. But that is not to mean these children must grow up without a father figure, they can rely on their coaches, teachers, and other community leaders.
“Just talk to a kid, lend a sympathetic ear,” he said. “That can make all the difference.”
Halstead and Miles said this issue is an important one, that has been ignored for too many generations.
In Miles’s case, the change began from within his own home.
“I could never hug my dad because he chose not to be in my life,” he said. “I make a point to be there for my son, so he’ll never have to feel that pain.”