By Lisa R. Muhammad

CHICAGO ( – It was a day established in God’s name, Min. Abdullah Muhammad told several hundred male detainees gathered in a gymnasium Oct. 16 at Cook County Correctional facility here. The detainees and several visiting clergy and guests had come to celebrate the Holy Day of Atonement, in observance of the 7th anniversary of the Million Man March.

“On that day there was total peace and harmony,” Min. Abdullah said of the nearly two million men that gathered at the foot of the nation’s Capitol building Oct. 16, 1995, declaring atonement for sins, responsibility to self and family and reconciliation with others.

“You need to understand that you are very valuable regardless of the condition you are in now. Many of the prophets were in jail,” he said.


Min. Abdullah, National Prison Reform Minister of the Nation of Islam, had invited Min. Ishmael Muhammad, assistant minister at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, and Fernwood Methodist Church pastor Rev. Al Sampson to the jail to share words of inspiration in observance of the Day of Atonement.

Min. Ishmael, in his keynote address, told the inmates that the Million Man March “was not a one day event,” but the first step in the right direction where Black men could begin the process and journey of accepting their responsibility and take their place in the world.

“It begins with acknowledging where we have gone wrong. When you disrespect yourself and not live up to the duty required of ourselves, we cannot fulfill our duty to others,” he said. “The Million Man March inspired Black men with a spirit and willingness to do what God has given us to do. If we can do that for one day, we can do it every day.”

Rev. Sampson, who was ordained by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and has traveled extensively with Min. Farrakhan, reflected on his recent trip to Zimbabwe during his message to the men, challenging them to think beyond the environments of where they live.

“You have a choice of being ‘Xpendable’ or ‘Xtra special’” explaining that Malcolm X came out of prison and became a great leader under the teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. “When you go to sleep tonight, you decide what you’re going to put in your head.”

Next, the ministers and pastors traveled to another division of the jail and spoke to women during a program that began with words from Sister Marilyn Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 2B and Sister La-Weeda Muhammad of Mosque Maryam. Working with Min. Abdullah, these sisters are the primary coordinators of the Muslim services held three times a week for the female detainees.

“The woman is the wind beneath the wings of every man who has ascended to greatness,” said Min. Ishmael to more than 400 women detainees.

Although, Min. Ishmael was the keynote speaker for the day, his sentiments were echoed by Reverends Maxine Walker and Al Sampson, pastors whom he referred to as “two of the finest in the city of Chicago in terms of how they represent the Word of God.”

“I apologize for all the men who have hurt, used and manipulated you. You must see yourselves as queens. It doesn’t make sense, when you see yourself as a queen, to mate with less than a king,” Rev. Sampson said.

With the spirit of love and compassion, Rev. Walker, publisher of Spiritual Perspectives newspaper, reminded the women of their sacredness and connection to the Creator of us all. “At some point of our life, we have all experienced some type of bondage. But, if you’re free on the outside and not inside, you’re in bondage,” she said. “You must let others know you are God’s child and He makes no mistakes.”

Throughout the lecture, speakers were interrupted by bursts of applause from the audience and statements acknowledging their firm agreement with what they were hearing from the podium.

(James Muhammad contributed.)