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On MLK Jr. Day, The Father’s Group in Bend addresses need for change in Central Oregon schools

Nonprofit calls for greater community engagement, more steps to curb bullying

(Update: Adding video, comments from The Father's Group President David Merritt)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Father's Group sheds light on needed change in Central Oregon's schools and community.

The Bend-based nonprofit organization was founded in 2018 by several black fathers who were concerned about the experiences their children had in school and in the community. It has been making strides to bring greater social awareness and solidarity in the Central Oregon community.

The group has recently been presenting a film series, with its most recent an airing of Selma on Saturday. The historical drama highlighted the civil rights accomplishments of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., only days before the federal holiday that bears his name.

"What we wanted to do was start generating conversations, tough conversations that we don’t have enough," The Father’s Group President David Merritt said Monday.

The group strives to strengthen community by leadership and education.

“Our focus is permanently on children, and that means betterment in all areas of life," Merritt said.

With their focus on student development, Merritt addressed the school arena and how it has affected many kids of color, including his daughter.

“She had a lot of problems in school, as do most of the black children that I know that go to school in Central Oregon, and that’s due to racism, being called the n-word, and bullying," Merritt said. "I mean, there are just so many incidents that don’t go on the record. A lot of teachers, a lot of people, are not prepared to handle those situations in school, so a lot of these times they go unnoticed.”

Because these experiences can turn into trauma, Merritt said it’s important for schools to take progressive steps against bullying.

The Father's Group has made various contributions in the community, including handing out 16 youth scholarships, and back-to-school drives.

“We have the Ujima program- the after-school program that is dedicated to teaching our youth and any youth that wish to learn about our culture, our history, from our perspective," Merritt said.

The nonprofit meets every first Thursday of each month and invites others to join their meetings.

They also offer volunteer opportunities for those that would like to get involved.

Merritt said one thing he's hopeful to see more of is greater community support and engagement.

Author Profile Photo

Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.



  1. How many stories about king do we need to have here? Your just trying to stir up trouble. These people need to follow his mesage and fit in. Be happy with what they have and stop always wanting more

    1. I know, right?! Just like there are too many stories about Santa Claus and Jesus on Dec 25th, and too many stories about America and Freedom on July 4th, and too many stories about soldiers on Memorial Day. But hey, at least with all these stories and subsequent comments like yours, we can easily identify racist slack jaw yokels that live in Bend.

    2. Spoken like a true orange for life!!!! Dedicated to an orange make up and hair dye wearing New York City trust fund baby!!! Did you attend his awesome realestate school!!!! ROTFLMAO!!!!

    3. Barney, I’m not criticizing your call to air the thoughts of Bend’s wanna-be Grand Wizzard, but it seems like a good time to explain which types of offensive material will be published

    4. The demographics of this country have changed and continue to change. Fortunately the next soon to be voting generation doesn’t fear change and respects a healthy diverse United States.

      1. Your hope for the future based on the next generation fails to take into account the current threat to free elections. Unfortunately, voting without fear of change doesn’t matter if a state legislature can overturn any result they don’t like. The laws being passed by Republican state legislatures right now do exactly that. And when free elections die, listen for the death rattle of our democracy.

          1. Meaningless votes that can be ignored with the current laws being passed. It’s called a sham election. Tucker, etal.,must support this since they admire the dictators who use it to stay in power. Sound familiar?

    5. Non whites can’t fit in because racism is systemic in this country, wanting representation, equality and justice in ones own country is understandable and worth supporting. We will be stronger and more respected as a country when that exists.

    6. Trump4 ~ here’s a quote from MLK ~

      “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”

    7. “Be happy with what they have and stop always wanting more”

      If only you had the self awareness to realize you’re incapable of following your own advice.

    8. If you stand behind your screen name, you’re obviously not happy with the democracy you have and, for some irrational reason, you think you’ll get more with a Trump dictatorship. Maybe you should examine what message you’re following – perhaps the teachings of George Lincoln Rockwell?

  2. We can and should all love each other. Remember we are different. different food, cultures, speech, many differences. We will never be as one, we were all made to be different. Not robots We were all raised to think what we think. But we should all love each other.

  3. Sounds like a good group doing good things. The lack of fathers in black communities is probably the thing that does the sigle most damage. Of course, growing up without a father is a huge problem to any child of any race, but the problem seems to be more prevalent in black communities.

  4. As long as understanding and anti-bullying remains the focus, who could have an issue,or fail to support this group. If the mission changes to start the Critical Race Theory reverse discrimination nonsense, they will find support rapidly vanishing. This group would be well advised to steer clear of the peacekeepers and their ilk. Keep up the good work Father’s Group! No one deserves to be bullied or made to feel second class.

      1. I knew someone would bite. I’m surprised you beat some of the other usual plaintive posters to the punch. If one wants to understand CRT, they must look to all the stunning success of Marxism. That is CRT in a nutshell. Substitute minority
        for working class in any Marxist propaganda, and there you have it. If you voice any disagreement with the racist theology prepare to be labeled with “white fragility or “white supremacy, among other ludicrous titles. Look into leaders of the cult that created this screed in the 1990s. There you will find the true roots of this fairy tale nightmare. Contrary to current popular opinions, one does not need to buy into this snake oil to acknowledge this countries racist past, and to disavow racism. Quite the opposite really. If one believes in equality, one cannot buy into CRT.

        1. Another way to look at crt is that it is an agnostic religion: believe otherwise you are an evil sinner despite its many contradictions and fallacies.

        1. I don’t see those to terms as inclusive or exclusive. They are not related. You can have an equitable outcome with or without diversity. You can have diversity, and it neither guarantees, nor prohibits equality of outcome. Nothing guarantees equality of outcome. There is no free lunch.

  5. Well it’s no secret Bend is predominately white. Nothing to be apologetic for, it’s just that black kids could be going through some things others don’t get. Good on the dads for bringing some awareness for those willing to listen. Happy MiLk day.

  6. I grew up in school in 2 states in the 1980’s, 1990’s and college into early 2000’s. I did not witness racism anywhere nor reports from any one of my many friends of color (not that it didn’t occur somewhere, just like anywhere else in the world). I find it hard to believe Marcus Legrandes claims that its occurring to the degree he states. Never once in any of the things I’ve read from him does he depict an actual occurrence. “Racism” is being kept on life support by the left. Show me where it is to the degree you claim? I’ll wait.

    1. The difference, those who study such things say, between overt racism and systemic is … well, there’s lots of examples out there to no doubt be picked apart, such as:
      (I’m sure such data can be “explained away”…)
      Not sharing my views, just… some context.

      1. It is easily explained away. That poverty rate is based on household income. The incidence of single parent families is dramatically higher in black communities. It is tough to get by on two incomes. With one, you are likely doomed. When you put white kids in single income situations, they fare no better than their black peers. The group of gentleman that this article is based on are doing things right, and their children are much more likely to have positive outcomes because of it.

        1. Yes, but why is it higher in black communities? There are 1,000s of Catch 22s in there, but those who just wash their hands with “it’s their own responsibility” don’t agree the deck is stacked against them to a much larger degree due to anything systemic or more subtle than an epithet or the signs on the doors of long ago. Cause and blame and defensive and offensive, etc. etc. Were it ever thus.

          1. Whatever you do, don’t blame it on cultural issues, that would be begging to be labeled a racist. In my culture, it is border-line unthinkable to be a deadbeat dad. Definitely disgraceful. You can blame the judicial system, I can point to crime rates, and at the end of the day, it settled nothing. I’m happy to see the children of these gentleman having parents that care, and are involved. Statistically speaking these kids are likely to do well.

    2. Ever hear a joke about a minority without objecting to it? Ever admire a statue of a Confederate? Ever fail to chastise a friend for using a racial epithet? Ever use or defend generalizations or myths about an ethnic group?These are just some examples of systemic racism that people like you don’t notice but can be hurtful to so many. It’s not just blatantly being called the N word. Subtle racism is everywhere.

      1. You can’t admire a statue? What if it is stunning artwork? Because someone fought for the confederacy, they are racist? You are racist by proxy if you like a piece of artwork? How far do you take the? What percent of the confederates owed slaves anyhow? The civil war was largely a referendum on slavery, but not exclusively. I’m not sure how you get to be the arbiter of racism?

            1. I was not defining racism, comically broad or otherwise. I simply gave examples of just a few things that can cause POC to experience a negative reaction. It’s usually a case of thoughtlessness or ignorance of the racial undertones. But it is symbolic of the undercurrent of racism that is entwined with our daily lives, no matter where your skin color falls on the spectrum.

              1. I do think it is important to be courteous and kind. Being careful what you say and how you say it costs nothing. Some folks go looking to be offended, as some go looking to be offensive. Neither are good character traits. The statue thing just rubbed me wrong.

  7. I am all for helping kids no matter their color however I wonder how I would be received in North Portland in a school that’s over 70% “People of Color” if I got 7 white Fathers together and told the news channel and the whole community us white folks are picked on. Then I would see how teaching “people of color” white culture and history would go over. Helping Children to understand why to stop bullying shouldn’t be presented by one race… black or white.. man or women. I am sure these fine men have great intentions but it kind of smells of racism in of itself.

    1. First you’d have to find 7 white fathers whose ancestors were brought to this country in chains and held as slaves before you can even come close to claiming equivalency, which you can’t.

      1. Everyone has ancestors. No one in a civilized society pays for the sins of their fathers. I don’t believe you will find any people whose father’s took part in our nations darkest institution. It was 165 years ago. It was terrible. It was an abomination. It is also over. You can’t bemoan slavery without acknowledging the civil war, the civil rights movement etc and the terrible price paid by those who liberated the slaves. No one reading this post owned any slaves. No one reading this was forced to pick cotton. Being a bully or being bullied knows no racial boundaries. It’s unacceptable regardless of where it comes from or where it is aimed.

    2. “White culture and history?” Which white culture? German, Slavic, Norse? Is there a superior white history that you prefer over another? Would a Polish American have a right to object to Russian history as it affected Poland? Maybe George Lincoln Rockwell followers would object to any lesson that mentions the holocaust. History is a compilation of facts, the good, the bad, and the ugly- resulting from “human” interaction – ALL humans. Your comment reflects the white victimhood so many have adopted out of fear and ignorance and smells of racism in and of itself.

      1. You are correct and are arguing their point, not against their point. They are making an equivalent argument and substituting “white” for the oft used “black”. You obviously don’t like the “white culture” just like common sense is saying, but you won’t argue against the concept of “Black Fathers”.

  8. The rich white liberals that live in Northwest crossing will be creating committees crowing about racism until the cows come home to address this “systemic racism”. But remember none of them would ever live in the same neighborhood with minorities ever. The hypocrisy and absolute lack of self awareness of the rich white lib never ceases to amaze me…

  9. I agree…lots of racism in these school. Blaming white people for everything saying white people aren’t allowed to use certain words. Leftists pushing for segregation under the guide of safe spaces. Not to mention the eugenics programs where they don’t need parental consent or informing them even to give the children medical procedures. Social dissociative disorders created by the mask mandates. They don’t care about the kids they just want compliance. Heil the Democrats!

        1. Riots are never stabilizing, but you ignore the multitude of peaceful demonstrations across the country that were in support of BLM and police reform. Even the riots we all find abhorrent never were an attempt to or got close to overthrowing our government.

          1. Maybe they were not successful, but were these riots/protests/people doing things not composed of at least some self-proclaimed anarchists? Were govt buildings and institutions repeatedly targeted and attacked? Does that sound like someone supporting our democracy? Do I attribute the violent riots in Portland and Seattle exclusively to anarchists, or were there many beliefs represented in the groups, with many different, yet loosly aligned interests? I do not believe that the Jan 6 idiots were any closer to overthrowing our government than the idiots in Portland. Not can I (or you) speak to everyone’s motives and beliefs in that crowd, any more than I can about the Portland bozos. These riots/protests are incredibly disjointed and scattered. Everyone gets to claim every attending loudmouth or observer as a true soldier for their cause. Never mind the fact that every cause under the sun is there at the same time airing their particular grievance. Saying that either party has the moral high ground is foolish. Attributing the worst qualities of either group to all of those aligned even peripherally is myopic and intellectually lazy.

            1. If a federal building or several federal buildings in Portland and elsewhere fall, our government still stands. If the Jan 6 insurrectionists had succeeded, a much worse scenario affecting the entire world would have occurred. Minimizing the significance of that difference is truly myopic and intellectually lazy.

  10. “What about the children?”. Isn’t it hypocritical to fight against racism by falsely accusing others of being racist? Where’s the evidence that outweighs intrinsic cultural issues as a better explanation for black children not doing well? What about the blatant anti-white rhetoric we now see in daily life, like being on time and getting good grades as being “too white”?

  11. The word racist has lost it’s meaning. Over used by politicians and the media with no proof that the person they are calling that is in fact racist. Many are called racist to end a losing debate or conversation. Like the boy crying wolf, the over use, and mis use is hurting the true meaning.

    1. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and that people are being discriminated against and denigrated because of skin color, gender identity, and/or country of origin, and now even party affiliation can be added to the hate list.

        1. There is none. If you choose to discriminate against another human being, you’re saying you are superior to the person you’re discriminating against. We know that can’t be true, right?

  12. morgan freeman says the way to end racism is stop talking about it.
    he’s black and i respect his opinion.
    my kid’s BFF is black – they are in school together here in bend. i’ve asked him if he hears the N word, etc. and he says no. maybe he’s lying.
    from my view – the kids in our schools at least in middle just do not see race.
    maybe that’s just my kids school.

    1. NYC is perhaps the most diverse city in the US, and the problems it has are equally diverse. A look at growth in Bend since the last census is evidence that it will take several decades to turn Bend into NYC, barring any natural catastrophe that results in a mass migration, which isn’t entirely impossible. But Bend being a destination in that situation would be improbable due to limits of resources which will become more acute as time goes by.

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