Thousands of sunworshippers, fair weather athletes and Sunday fun seekers jammed area parks, beaches and open areas yesterday in the 86-degree sunshine. Last week's rainy spell made the weather seem extra special.
Two Washington area parks were closed to vehicular traffic in midafternoon, other parks in the area were filled to near capacity and Sunday night traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was the heaviest so far this year, a spokesman at the bridge said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Park Service said that Fort Washington Park in Maryland and the Anacostia Park in Southeast Washington were closed late in the afternoon when access roads to those parks were jamed with vehicles, many idling for minutes at a time in the bumper to bumper traffic.
The spokesman said this was the first time this year that the Park Service had to close access roads to incoming traffic.
Meanwhile, conditions at several other parks became so congested that park officials considered closing them as well.
For many, Sunday was a day of release, a day to get rid of tensions, to ride bicycles, jog, picnic and "just to be outside."
It was in this spirit of "nothing special to do," that Larry and Nancy a young Washington couple strolled in Anacostia Park. They did not know that a Malcolm X Day celebration had been planned there. But that did not matter. Both said Anacostia Park is the place where Southeast Washington residents can escape on good days.
"This park has always been crowded on good days like this," said Larry, who didn't want his last name used. "People come here to hear a little music, a little conversation - it's just the thing to do."
Larry paused to listen to the beat of conga drums, a snare drum, an empty Wild Irish Rose wine bottle beaten with a stick and a tombourine, that five men played. Several area bands later entertained an estimated crowd of 4,000 well into the evening. Four of the five men wore their hair in knotty twisted ropes called dreadlocks - a style worn by Jamaican Rastafarian holy men.
As Larry and Nancy moved on to find the perfect grassy area to unfold their picnic blanket, others came in carloads, on foot and on bicycles to hear the Malcolm X Day celebration, an event that organizers had planned to capture the community spirit, and, as one organizer said, "to give them something extra."
As Malik Edwards, ex-Black Panther, now coordinator of the Malcolm X Cultural Education Center, explained, the "something extra" was the appearance of former Panther leader Bobby Seale. He reminded the audience of the struggles for civil rights during the 1960s, and the struggle that he said still continues in the effort to give minorities the same economic benefits as whites.
"Many of these people out here don't know what went down in the 1960s," said Edwards, a coordinator of yesterday's event. "We're going to try to reeducate them, to get them to register to vote here today.If we can tap that creative energy of all those people, using all that raw material, we can use it to our (minorities) advantage.
"This day has been planned to hook into these people's natural life style - the music and the fun - and then to add something extra to it," Edwards said.
Edwards attributed his own training "to the trinity of the Baptist Church, the Marine Corps and the Black Panthers."
When Bobby Seale addressed the crowd, he spoke about strength being in the ballot box, not the gun.
"You see blacks on television, you see black reporters in the news media, you see black police lieutenants, and all that came about because of what was done in the 1960s," said Seale.
"Malcolm used to say that the struggle in the '60s was not for civil rights, but for human rights. We should clean up our minds and accept ourselves for what we are - first class human beings," Seale said.
D.C. City Councilwoman Wilhelmina Rolark (D-8) who also spoke at the celebration, said "You can raise your fist (in defiance), but I want you to use that fist to sign your name on the ballot. And we're going to let the people know we are cultural out here, too."