D.C. Rally A Tribute to The Passion Of a Million

The Million Man March created a
The Million Man March created a "spirit of unity," one rallygoer said. (1995 Photo By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Cameron W. Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Millions More Movement, yesterday's commemoration of the Million Man March on the Mall a decade ago, was part political and part festival.

For much of the day, rallygoers stood around impromptu drum circles, endured long lines at food stalls for jerk chicken and funnel cakes or contemplated the purchase of a T-shirt or ribbon-shaped car magnet.

Many people sat contentedly in folding chairs, taking in the cavalcade of speakers who appeared on the Jumbotrons before them, words sometimes echoing disjointedly from dozens of loudspeakers around the Mall.

But the casual atmosphere belied the seriousness of the day and the electrifying memories of the 1995 event, which changed lives, if not society as a whole.

"We have come back to resurrect what we left on the Mall" in 1995, said Dee McCrae, 50, a postal clerk from Newark -- resurrect a "spirit of unity" and a newfound conviction to become more organized and more politically engaged.

McCrae said the event 10 years ago was an unqualified success "on the lawn" but only partly successful in its aftermath because people sometimes failed to turn personal renewal into broad-based action.

This time, speaker after speaker promised to create organizations or bolster existing ones to promote such change.

The blue-suited and blue-uniformed members of the Nation of Islam added a sense of formality that matched the grave commentary on U.S. domestic and international troubles that emanated from the stage.

To supporters of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the day was his. "You can't find another black man that can call these people together for one common cause: the betterment of his people," said Janice Muhammad, 55, a nearly lifelong Nation member from Flint, Mich.

She participated in the Million Mom and Million Family gatherings and said Farrakhan's events have profound effects on the lives of those who attend. "You have a sense of worth," she said. "You go out and you make something happen for self."

Attending the Million Man March changed the life of Clinton Muhammad, 49, who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica 29 years ago. Muhammad -- no relation to Janice -- said the 1995 event inspired him to join Farrakhan's denomination and to open a restaurant in Queens, N.Y., heeding Farrakhan's call at the time for blacks to open their own businesses.

Yesterday's event, Clinton Muhammad said, was "to galvanize the organizations together" and to promote a sense of unity that can transcend the divisions people sometimes perceive. "You and I, we're of different ethnicities and different cultures," he said to a reporter. "But your views and mine are basically the same. You want to do better in life, you want good for this country, you want good for all people. So do I. Some people don't understand that."


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company