Students in Prince George’s County were greeted with high fives, fist bumps, and warm welcomes from dozens of Black men on their first day of school Sept. 6. And it was all thanks to an initiative that county Del. Angela Angel started.

“I wanted to do something… that would be a lasting impression, and really empower and encourage kids to come back to school,” Angel told the AFRO.

Roger Keeton and other Black men in Prince George’s County greet students as they go to school on Sept. 6. (Photo by Micha Green)

The Dap Day initiative provided more than 30 schools, including Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School and Barack Obama Elementary in Upper Marlboro, Md., Academy of Health Sciences in Largo, Md., and H. Winship Wheatley Early Childhood Center in Capitol Heights, Md., with Black men greeting students as they walked into their respective school buildings.

With almost 80,000 Black children, accounting for 61 percent of the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ student population, Angel said it was integral for her to have Black male representation on the first day of school.

“Scores and other things have rebounded when you have the presence of Black men…All students, not just boys, but girls, respond to that,” the delegate said.

Some of the male volunteers came from organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, Concerned Black Men of Prince George’s County, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, the U.S. Army Reserve, Prince George’s County Police and Sheriff Departments, and local companies like barber shops.

Having worked in the school system since 2011, the delegate said she launched Dap Day in 2016 after noticing that there was a need for students to see men supporting youth.

Going and visiting Back to School Nights…PTA/ PTO meetings…there’s always been a note, ‘we need more men there, and we need more male involvement in our schools,’” Angel said. She said she also noticed the need for male involvement through her now 10-year-old son.

“There was a point in time, after my husband left, we didn’t really have any male interactions with any of my children,” she said. “My son had this Redskins coat… He used to wear it all the time… I began to realize whenever he wore the coat, men came up to him, and they would give him dap.  They would give him high fives.  They would recognize him. I realized his love of the coat, and even his love of the team — having never seen a game — was strictly because of the fact that men acknowledged him in his coat.”

After attending some of the Dap Day events and seeing the amount of participation from Black men, Angel said she believes the event will have a lasting positive influence on students in the county.

“I heard some man being like, ‘You look like a straight-A student. Right there, that’s a straight-A student,’ and to hear that from a male figure… has just a significant difference for our children,” the delegate said. “It makes a world of difference in encouraging them and empowering them to know and to recognize the greatness that’s within them.”