Inspired and led by the Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Minister Louis Farrakhan, more than a million Black men gathered in Washington, D.C. to declare their right to justice to atone for their failure as men and to accept responsibility as the family head.
On that day, Monday, October 16, 1995, there was a sea of Black men, many who stood for 10 hours or more sharing, learning, listening, fasting, hugging, crying, laughing and praying.
The day produced a spirit of brotherhood, love and unity like never before experienced among Black men in America.
All creeds and classes were present: Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, Agnostics, nationalists, pan-Africanists, civil rights organizations, fraternal organizations, rich, poor, celebrities and people from nearly every organization, profession and walk of life were present.
It was a day of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility. And, it was a day that Philadelphians pulled together.
“In 1995, according to what we've got, there was somewhere between 180,000 to 200,000 from the metropolitan area here at the Million Man March. Philadelphia was number one hands down in sending the largest contingent,” said Minister Rodney Muhammad, the Delaware Valley Regional Minister of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Minister of Muhammad Mosque No.12 in Philadelphia. “In addition to that, Philadelphia had one of the strongest organizations. I remember back to when the Honorable Minister Farrakhan came to Philadelphia in 1995 before the march, and had a meeting with union leaders, Black elected officials, Black clergy and many of the civic and grass roots leaders, a number of whom made up our local organizing committee for the march, at that time to organize and mobilize people for the march.”
Congress shut down that day and President William Clinton was “out of town.”
Mainstream media in America and media outlets from around the world were watching. The world did not see thieves, criminals and savages as usually portrayed through mainstream music, movies and other forms of media. On that day, the world saw a vastly different picture of the Black man in America.
“To go right to the heart of it, because every camera in every nation opened up their channels so that they could watch that march,” Muhammad said. “They didn’t believe that the March would come off the way that it did. Forty-eight hours before we got to Washington, in 1995, 15,000 National guardsmen were sent in. They were really expecting something a lot more riotous and out of control. But, it was one of the most organized and peaceful gatherings in the history of Washington D.C., according to the marshals.”
The world witnessed Black men demonstrating the willingness to shoulder the responsibility of improving themselves and the community.
There was neither one fight nor one arrest that day. There was no smoking or drinking. The Washington Mall, where the March was held, was left as clean as it was found.
Two of the best descriptions of the Million Man March include the word “miracle” and the phrase “a glimpse of heaven.”
The negative images, particularly out of Hollywood and the movie cinema, that depict and export negative images of Black men through movies such as ‘Boyz in the Hood,’ ‘Menace II Society,’ all of the Black exploitation films, we didn’t realize it, but they are shown globally, so there is an image the world has of us.
So watching the Million Man March, within 24 hours Black men had given a death blow to the distorted image of Black men with the global community over this 400 year period that we have been in America. 1.7 million young people registered to vote after the march. According to the FBI, crime went significantly down the last quarter of ’95 and the first quarter of 1996.”
For months leading to the march, Farrakhan -its convener and visionary- galvanized and addressed the problem and reformation of the Black male in a series of “Men Only” meetings themed “Let Us Make Man.”
Farrakhan had diagnosed the problem of the Black man as rooted in the crises of identity — lacking knowledge of self, God and the adversary of God — and stressed the critical need for a new way of thinking as the beginning of a new way of living for the Black man.
“One of the attributes of Allah, The All-Wise God, Who is the Supreme Being, is knowledge. Knowledge is the result of learning and is a force or energy that makes its bearer accomplish or overcome obstacles, barriers and resistance. In fact, God means possessor or power and force,” Muhammad wrote in “Message to the Black Man.” “The education my people need is that knowledge, the attribute of God, which creates power to accomplish and make progress in the good things or the righteous things.”
The Greater Philadelphia Local Organizing Committee will host the 16th Anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March on Oct. 7 - 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The October event will focus on hunger, street violence and political accountability and those attending the main event, or the “Holy Day of Atonement,” on Sunday, will be asked to bring at least one non-perishable food item for donation.
For more information including ticketing for Farrakhan’s keynote address at 2 p.m. on Sunday and the weekend’s schedule of events, visit www.http://noi.org/hdoa2011/ or call (215) 228-6044.