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Million Man March still resonates 15 years later

By Brian E. Muhammad and Eric Ture Muhammad Contributing Writers | Last updated: Oct 22, 2010 - 11:21:13 PM

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Thousands turned out to hear Minister Farrakhan in Tampa, FL. The crowd responded enthusiastically to his message. Photo: Richard B. Muhammad
TAMPA, Fla. ( - From Muslims and Black men who gathered on the National Mall October 16, 1995 to those who have only heard tales of a magical day of peace and women proud of changes seen in husbands, fathers, sons, grandfathers and cousins, the Million Man March and the spiritual messages of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility and practical community building remain valuable.

Black men stood in ranks, two million strong 15 years ago and defied negative expectations, stereotypes and mis-portrayals as thugs, criminals, gangbangers and irresponsible “Menaces II Society.”

The Historic Million Man March, 1995
Did you know?
The 1995 Million Man March was the first ever public march to provide an independent Financial Audit of its operations. View audit report.

"The Million Man March not only served as an international wake-up call, it also spawned the Million Woman, Million Family, Million Moms, Million Youth, Million Workers and Million Reparations marches in an unprecedented succession of grassroots calls for action."
-Rev. Willie F. Wilson


Very little is known about the women who played major roles in making the Million Man March a huge success. From the vision statement to the program to everything in between, contrary to popular opinion, women were right there from start to finish.

The call for Adoptions
Following the 1995 Million Man March, The National Association of Black Social Workers reported a flood of 13,000 applications to adopt Black children.
The political impact
One and a half million Black men registered to vote in the months following the March, leading David Bositis of the Joint Center for Economic Studies to remark, “In reviewing the sharp increase in the black male vote, I might find it highly implausible that there was another factor that rivaled the Million Man March in bringing about this change.”
Despite hostile media, harsh criticism and mockery at the time, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the man blessed with the vision of the gathering, and Black men and women from different political, religious, social and geographical backgrounds inspired by his call, organized the largest public gathering in American history.

The value of the Million Man March includes the images, the memories and documented impact—which include beating back the 1996 Republican onslaught on Congress and reelection of Bill Clinton because of a huge Black male voter turnout; lower crime rates; increased Black adoptions; more engagement in neighborhoods and entrepreneurship—as well as greater appreciation for spiritual values and increased pride and unity.

“You have to understand the purpose of the Million Man March, then you will be able to study the results better,” said Minister Abdul Bey Muhammad, a Nation of Islam pioneer who served for years as head of the Miami mosque. The march was a vision granted to Minister Farrakhan by God designed to have Black men show unity and brotherly love without drugs, violence or negativity, he said.

“Black men have taken more responsibility than ever before. The Honorable Minister Farrakhan should be commended for such an idea,” Min. Bey Muhammad said.

In 1995 Min. Farrakhan also introduced an eight step atonement process designed to heal and foster healthy relationships.

“The Minister taught me that it is a 365-day-a-year process and when we have offended someone else, we should allow them to point out the wrong,” said Student Minister Abdul Haffeez Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York. “We should acknowledge it, confess it, repent or show remorse then do something about it—that's atonement. Then we earn stage 6, which is forgiveness and then stage 7 which is reconciliation and it gives birth to a new perfect union between two individuals.”

“Many churches within the Black community adopted issues and agendas that came up from the Million Man March,” said Holy Day of Atonement 2010 attendee Ameenah Muhammad. “Sometimes people want to see instantaneous change but just as we're taught in nature, seeds are planted and then over time the seed will grow.”

“The Minister always uplifts and inspires us,” commented Andre X, of the Jacksonville, Fla., Local Organizing Committee for the Million Man March, who traveled along with other committee members to Tampa for the Minister's Oct. 17 address. “The message of unity amongst us as Black people is most important especially, at this time. Our continued sojourn here in America—coupled with today's economic conditions and what we can see coming in the near future—makes it that more critical to learn to have unity and do something for ourselves and not be dependent on others to do for us.”

The organizing efforts to bring people to the Tampa area for the speech has inspired the Jacksonville committee to hold a town hall meeting dealing with emergency preparedness and recommit to taking to the streets to save Black youth, men and women. Special invitations have gone out for a Nov. 5-7 meeting in Jacksonville, Andre X added.

“Today brought the Million Man March and every principle we learned at the march into sharp refocus,” said Student Minister Jamil Muhammad, who in 1995 served as a master of ceremonies for the gathering. “The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is even sharper today than he was then. I would pray that the brotherhood, all men and all women around the planet would become sharper according to the principles of God's teachings, His way, and His life.”

Muslims promote Holy Day in Tampa.
Peter and Annette Blackerby heard the Minister in Rosemont, Ill., earlier this year. They were excited about his coming to Tampa. “I am here obviously, to help support Peter, but after listening to the Honorable Louis Farrakhan I too, am very impressed with his message and what he wants to do for his people,” Mrs. Blackerby said. “It is just amazing how much love he has for his people. I am awed by that.”

“To be honest with you I grew up around Black consciousness,” said Shombay Azekiel of Tampa, standing with his mate Cheryl.

“I never got an opportunity to see Farrakhan speak and I wanted to be able to say that I saw him at least once in my lifetime. I was in my freshman year at Miami-Dade Community College during the Million Man March and I didn't have the means of getting there. But I remember the energy around it and the momentum built around it and how everyone came back uplifted. It was huge for our community.”

Darcey and Jessica Collingsworth offered thoughts on the Minister's anniversary message. “I think he is a great speaker and what he has to say is for all of humanity. I really enjoyed it,” Mrs. Collingsworth said. “The fact that he talked today about the atonement impressed me most. If you have problems with somebody resolve it as soon as possible,” her husband added.

“How can you serve God and be ignorant?” Professor Griff of the legendary hip hop group Public Enemy said, reading a direct quote from dozens of pages of notes taken during the lecture. “That resonated in me,” he said.

Jakyra Brown, 12, from St. Petersburg, Fla., helped out during the weekend with her mother. Photos: Ansar El
“I am looking at the message and mission through the eyes of hip hop, arts, entertainment and culture. And I say to myself, man if we just took this message, Lil' Wayne wouldn't be in jail. T.I. wouldn't be in jail, Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim would not have gone to jail. Artists are being locked up left and right. The spirit of the Million Man March is needed, especially in the arena of arts and culture,” he said.

“The Million Man March, first of all, represents on the spiritual level what our Christian brothers and sisters would call a miracle. Two thousand years away from the Bible, 1,400 years away from the Qur'an, we are able to see the divine intervention of the creator in the affairs of man. The test for us is can we see it in our own lifetime,” said Ava Muhammad, a student minister and attorney.

“This is nothing short of a miracle and we may not recognize in the wake of that the numbers of adoptions, the numbers of marriages, the numbers of men, who prior to that, did not see themselves in the role of protector and provider but now, do,” she said.

“Everywhere this man (Min. Farrakhan) goes, if I can get there I am there. People think I'm a Muslim but I just love this man. He speaks the truth and it's sad that so many of us don't get it. I brought my wife and children with me to hear this. I'm never disappointed. We need love and unity now more than ever. This DVD needs to be required viewing for students everywhere.

Maria Gomez told The Final Call, “My friends had told me about Minister Farrakhan for years and I liked what they said. This is my first time hearing him in person and I see what they were talking about.I just don't understand why the media makes him out to be such a monster. This man speaks peace and unity. What's wrong with that? I liked his message and bought a DVD for my grandmother.

“I grew up hearing my dad and uncles talk about the Million Man March. I wish I could have been there.They talked about the unity, the love and the brotherhood they felt in D.C.They told me they've never experienced anything like it and nothing since. I want that feeling for myself and my son.That's why I came today.I liked the message I heard today.I know we can do better. I want to take this back to my church and let my pastor hear this.We can change our community now,” said Roland Smith.

(Nisa Islam Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad contributed to this report.)