It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago. Americans have frequently gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC to commemorate, celebrate and to express community concerns. Through speeches, and song black men met to express and re-dedicate to self-help, self-defense, family and community. Called for by Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam and organized by The National African American Leadership Summit a collaboration of civil rights groups, the Million Man March was historical.
On October 16, 1995 we met on the clear cool day. Black men converged on the Capitol City coming from all parts of the United States. Traveling by bus, car, and train the numbers of men swelled rapidly that morning. No one wanted to miss a single speech. We got there early traveling all night. The feeling was electric and to some the anxiety of the possibility of unwanted and negative events was unbearable. Even littering was frowned upon. Proud moments seemed to build. Smiles, hand shakes, positive greetings and new friendships, raised our spirits. We needed a “good” march.
Community support from the local churches and civil groups were essential to the logistics. Where to park, eat and rest. Fortunately, we were blessed to be assisted by the women of a church just walking distance for the center of the Mall. Many enterprising residents and travelers took the opportunity to profit from one of the largest crowds to ever descend on Washington. Selling T-shirts, food, drinks and anything people standing for long periods of time may need.
Pre-march fears effected the crowd. Everyone was consensus of the effect negative incidents would do to the movement and how it would tarnish the March. The rest of the country, the media and detractors had already expressed concerns in the weeks and days leading up to the March. Self-policing was the “order of the day”.
Icons of the black community spoke to the crowd. Many leaders spoke to remind everyone of the importance of the black male in our community and the American society. Atonement, responsibility and healing were major themes. A crescendo began to be evident and the day drew to an end. A happiness that seems hard to describe, welled in the men, especially those standing in the middle section still in eye site of the podium.
Being one in a million was not only a historic event, it was a mission, an accomplishment, a proud moment that links the participants for the rest of our lives. Its possible for marches like that one could happen again, but the one in 1995 was something to behold.