Cora Masters Barry, former first lady of Washington, D.C., holds her cell phone so Dr. Dorothy Height, president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women, can speak to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan during the meeting of women in support of the Million Man March�. Seated next to her are Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, wife of Minister Farrakhan, and Rev. Mary Wilson, wife of Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Photo: Nisa Islam Muhammad

WASHINGTON, D.C. ( – Very little is known about the women who played major roles in making the Million Man MarchTM 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.

They gathered again in the nation’s capital to begin preparation for the 10th Anniversary commemoration of the Million Man Marchâ„¢. The meeting February 11 was hosted by the city’s former first lady Cora Masters Barry and represented women young and old who were for the march 10 years ago and those who weren’t.

Others gearing up for the 10th Anniversary of the Million Man MarchTM are those who organized and planned the Million Woman March that was held in Philadelphia, Penn., Oct. 25, 1997. These women have written to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan expressing their support and requesting a meeting with him in order to find out how they can help mobilize. These are women who the minister has said did the work and captured the spirit of the Million Man MarchTM. A meeting is scheduled for early March.


The meeting in Washington, D.C. February 11 was a coming together of women who want to see the rise of their people and understand the significance of this event.

“I’m having a déjà vu experience,” said Mrs. Barry. “Ten years ago a group of us got together for this same purpose. Then it was for the men. This time it’s for all of us. We’re making history.”

“It is really good to see Christian and Muslim sisters coming and working together. I was asked by Minister Farrakhan to convene women so he could hear from us so we can be full and equal partners in this process.”

Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner reminded the group that, “We were front and center in everything that took place. It was so compelling. If Black men were going to atone, we wanted to be there.”

The highlight of the meeting was hearing from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, who called in via speakerphone to speak to the group.

“I am honored that so many brilliant women have gathered together. Words are inadequate to express my joy. The Million Man Marchâ„¢ was what it was. This is more than a march. It is a call for the mobilization of our people to address our needs and concerns. The masses of our people are suffering greatly. The suffering will increase under the president’s budget cuts.”

“The world will see a new people coming up from 400 years of slavery. We will reenergize the entire world on how men and women work together. It is not often in history that a moment comes when men and women have an opportunity for immortality.”

The group seemed to be captivated by the Minister’s words and listened intently to his guidance.

“Should God bless us to plan for the development of our people for the next 10 years, this significant moment will go down in history as the turning point. What you will accomplish today will be most significant.”

This gathering was another in a series of meetings that have been held around the country galvanizing support for the 10th Anniversary of the March. It was the first that focused on rallying the women for their involvement. While many saw Rev. Benjamin Chavis out front in organizing the Million Man Marchâ„¢ and the Million Family March, Claudette Marie Muhammad, Nation of Islam Chief-of-Protocol was the Deputy Director that worked right along side of Rev. Chavis.

The previous four meetings were held in Chicago, New York, D.C. and Los Angeles.

Min. Farrakhan announced at the meeting in D.C., January 15, that one of the biggest differences between the mobilization planned for this year and the 1995 March will be the participation of women.

“I was going to call the men back,” Min. Farrakhan said, recalling that Rev. Willie Wilson pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church had written him a letter. “He said to me in his letter, ‘Brother Farrakhan, as you went across this nation teaching Black men how to act and they did not disappoint you at the Million Man Marchâ„¢, if you will permit our women to come (this time), we will go across the country, and guide our women in their behavior. They will not disappoint us either. I will be much more energized if women are present.’”

“Reverend, I read your letter,” Min. Farrakhan continued. “I heard what you said. Yes. Yes. Yes. Our women must be there!”

“We are being called by God to do something big,” the Muslim leader said rhetorically. “Now, 10 years later, what do we have in mind? What can we do?”

On December 17, he told the audience in Los Angeles that was comprised of political, spiritual and street peace leaders, businessmen, educators and civic representatives, “The brilliance that is among our leaders is vitally necessary to help our people do what must be done in this hour. I am deeply concerned about the condition that I may leave our people in, if I and you don’t collaborate. It’s bigger than the Nation of Islam as the Nation is currently structured. It’s bigger than the NAACP, the Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade, or US.”

The Minister explained to the women at the meeting that this work was an example of the power of unity. “If we practice this behind closed doors, we’ll come out and see a new people. We’ll show Black men how they should relate to Black women. Beginning now we can break down biological barriers.”

Dr. Julianne Malveaux, author, columnist and economist, told the group that she didn’t support the Million Man Marchâ„¢, but she was encouraged by the Minister’s words.

“I will hold you to your promise to go around the country and spread this message,” she told the Minister.

“Hold me to my word and if my word fails, I expect correction,” the Minister said.

Dr. Malveaux authored the document Mobilization of the Masses: Necessary Ingredients and Lessons From the Decade A Reflection and Suggestions. It was sent to the Minister and outlined her concerns that motivated her opposition to the Million Man Marchâ„¢ and where she thinks they should go in the future.

The Minister was impressed with the document, assured her that everything in it would be discussed and thanked her for writing it.

During the meeting the Minister announced that he had asked Rev. Wilson to be the Executive Director for the 10th Anniversary commemoration. The Minister said that he was looking for a female to be the Co Executive Director and asked the group for recommendations.

Dr. Dorothy Height, president emeritus for the National Council for Negro Women told the group about her experience 10 years ago at the march. She explained how she saw the need for their work today.

“We are the ones to be the voice of our people. We must help our people get a sense of what they have to do. It is building on what was done and then advancing it. Women know how to get things done. We have to get out the message.”

“This is not just about legislation, but helping people know their rights. We have to use this as an opportunity to get the message to the poor, to the people least likely to get it. We are the people who know our neighbors. We must sharpen our senses. The march comes at the right time.”

Khadijah, wife of Minister Farrakhan, echoed those sentiments. “It was a great honor to be here and be on the same platform with Dr. Height and Rev. Mary Wilson, wife of Rev. Wilson. I felt a beautiful spirit here. We are coming together. We need more of this. I am happy because out of this our whole family will prosper. The struggle is not over.”

Attendance included Denise Rolark, publisher of the Washington Informer, A’ishah Muhammad, National M.G.T. & G.C.C. Captain, Dr. Linda Boyd, Tamara Masters, Saadiqa Muhammad, Eastern and Mid-Atlantic Regional M.G.T. & G.C.C. Captain, Maria Farrakhan Muhammad and Donna Farrakhan Muhammad, daughters of Minister Farrakhan.

“Thank you for convening us,” A’ishah Muhammad said to Mrs. Barry. “Thank you for your spirit and your energy. I’m happy that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan saw fit to convene this meeting. I’m happy to be a part of this. There is no coincidence.”