Millions More Look to Washington

It drew more marchers to the Mall in Washington D.C. than even Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Ten years ago this fall, over two million men, mostly African-American men, descended on Washington D.C. to draw attention to the message expounded by The Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan. Minister Farrakhan, one of sixty speakers that day, called on Black men to “clean up their lives and rebuild their neighborhoods.” He advocated “unity, atonement, and brotherhood” and for participants to “take responsibility for their lives and families, to commit to stopping the scourges of drugs, violence, and unemployment.” It was a call to action and a message of hope, and of introspection.

To a certain extent the 1995 March was successful. Religious and civic memberships in Black communities skyrocketed after the march. The adoption of black children increased dramatically, and over a million and a half new African-American voters registered before the 2004 presidential election.

This year, on October 15, black men and their families are again called to The National Mall in Washington to learn from one another, to evaluate where they have been, and to forge a path for the future. Named the “Millions More Movement,” the three-day event, from October 14-16, will feature more than 60 speakers, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and civil rights pioneer, Dorothy Height. Former president Bill Clinton has endorsed the event and is expected to be a speaker. The anniversary event is more than just a march. Participants are asked to observe a “Day of Absence” on Friday, October 14. They are asked to stay away from work, school, businesses, and sports and entertainment venues to “look inward and focus on the meaning of spiritual and ethical grounding in our families, communities, and organizations,” according to the official literature. A mass assembly is planned for Saturday, October 15, on the National Mall, with the program beginning at 10:00am. An interfaith church service is planned for Sunday evening.

There is still work to be done. The 2000 census figures show that, in California, one in every 17 African-American men was incarcerated. That compares to one in every 114 White men. The Twenty-First Century Foundation, a Black philanthropic organization based in New York City, found that in 2002, one in four African-American males had been unemployed for over a year. Says Minister Farrakhan in a speech this spring to the National Council of Negro Women, “We have more entrepreneurs, more college graduates, more persons holding political office, more Black mayors, city councilors, aldermen, state representatives, city managers, more corporate executives, yet the masses have not been empowered.” He continues, “The masses of our people are on a ‘Death March’ into the oven of social deterioration, broken homes, broken marriages, broken minds, broken spirit.” He calls for unity, financial and intellectual, and says that unity “will solve 95 percent of our problems.”

Families are encouraged to come to Washington and participate in the activities. Organizers have also reached out to gays and to women and to those of every faith and race. The Millions More March “will be a coalition of national leaders working to create a framework that goes beyond just marching to actually making fundamental changes, ” says Millions More Movement spokesperson, Chae Carrier. She continues to say “the movement recognizes that there are issues facing people all around the world that require the talents of men and women of any race, religion, and political philosophy.”

The Millions More March has gathered some important supporters. The Congressional Black Caucus as well as the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women have spoken out in favor of the event. NAACP spokesman, John C. White said, “The fact that the (NAACP) board has endorsed it (the march) means that the NAACP thinks it’s a good idea.”

Several airlines, hotels, and car rental companies in the Washington D.C. area have extended discounts to those attending the Millions More Movement. Featured hotels start at $72 per person per night. In addition, if you make your travel arrangements through the official website (www.millionsmoremovement.org), a portion of each travel dollar will go to support the Millions More Movement cause.

While in Washington, getting around town is easy on the clean, efficient, and affordable metro subway system. Parking can be difficult and expensive, making driving a hassle. The Metro stops right at the Mall. Any destination is just a few steps and a few minutes away. Metro fares are $1.25 one way or you can buy a day pass for $6.50 allowing you unlimited travel during the day. Discounts are offered for seniors and children.

While visiting Washington, participants might want to visit The Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History, a part of the Smithsonian Institute and just a short subway ride from the National Mall. This museum is free to the public and currently featuring exhibits on African-American murals and on African-American Muslims in early America. Also of interest are the Smithsonian’s other museums, most of which are located along the Mall. The National Aerospace Museum features Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” as well as the Wright Brothers’ plane. The American History Museum houses everything from Fonzie’s jacket to the First Ladies’ inaugural gowns, and the new National Museum of the American Indian is a celebration of Native American culture and its contribution to America. Like the Anacostia Museum, all of these museums are free.

Washington D.C. is alive with history. The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial are awe-inspiring and within walking distance of the Mall. Groups can arrange tours of the Capitol Building and the White House by applying in advance to your congressman. These tours are also free.

Come to Washington D.C. on October 14-16 and be part of historyâÂ?¦and the future. Bring your family and stand up and take Minister Farrakhan’s pledge. Stay a couple of days and experience the rich history of our nation’s capital. You’ll be glad you did.

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