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."
Jimmy Covington, 54, of Greensboro, N.C., said he stayed away from the 1995 event in part because of a wariness of Farrakhan. But now Farrakhan appears more like a unifier than a divider, Covington said. Also, his son, Stacy, 28, was determined to come to Washington to hear Farrakhan.
Covington said he'd planned to participate in a golf tournament this weekend, but his wife and daughter convinced him it was a good chance to bond with his son. Covington said he worked the evening shift for much of his career -- "I really wasn't home all that much."
Some came out of a sense that they had missed history by not attending in 1995. "I have regretted every single day since not coming," said Rollin Clayton Jr., a jazz percussionist-turned-social worker from Akron, Ohio. He sat holding his camera, saying he was looking for an image to take home to the boys he counsels at a charter school.
"I'm seeing love, joy, togetherness, harmony, people coming together, people of different religions coming together," he said as he surveyed the crowd near the pool at the foot of the Capitol.
He missed the 1995 event because he was raising his daughter alone after the death of his wife. Although he was sorry to miss the Million Man March, he cherishes his involvement in his daughter's life. "I want to let men know we need to get involved and stay involved with their families," he said. His daughter, he added, "turned me into a good dad."
The essential quality of yesterday's event was "togetherness of people," said Clayton, 52. "We need to be organized enough to sit at a table and say this is what we need."
When Keith Lorenzo Holmes walked onto the Mall in 1995, he realized he had never felt so comfortable. "It was like an army, and it was so beautiful," he said of the hundreds of thousands African American men gathered that day. "For once in my life, I felt like I didn't have to worry about a thing."
Yesterday, Holmes, 44, was sitting on a stool, selling posters that display his poems. A radio engineer and former Army captain who lives in Columbia, Holmes said he was eager to contribute to Farrakhan's movement, although not as someone who stands at a podium or in front of cameras.
One of his poems is called "Seeking." On one of the posters Holmes offered for sale yesterday, the verses appear above a picture he took of the 1995 gathering. The first line is: "Day after day, we must all seek our goal. Believing in ourselves heart, mind, and soul."