PHILADELPHIA (FinalCall.com) – The cold, rainy weather did not stop the spirited celebrations marking the 10th Anniversary of the Historic Million Woman March (MWM), October 25-27, in the city of “Sisterly” love.
The dream and vision of MWM organizer Sister Phile Chionesu, coupled with the hard work, sacrifice and determination of Black women all around the country, came true on October 25, 1997, where conservative estimates stated that 2.5 million women gathered to walk, sing and even dance along the march route.
“The creator blessed me with this idea. I fasted and prayed about it for months. Then in 1996, a few months after the Million Man March, the Million Woman March National Organizing Committee began its formation,” Sis. Phile told The Final Call.
“The MWM–and now its Universal Movements–was divinely given, spiritually envisioned and greatly inspired by the African ancestors to strengthen and uplift Black females from all walks of life to obtain harmony, balance and their rightful places in society and the world,” she said.
For many women who were there, the experience was indescribable. Where else could you find millions of Black women of all hues, religions, education, incomes from coast to coast displaying nothing but happiness at being together? Where else could you see powerful women in our society, such as Nation of Islam First Lady Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, freedom fighter Winnie Mandela, activist/actress Jada Pinkett-Smith and author Sister Souljah on the same stage?
The Million Woman March of course.
“The MWM Sistahood is designed to connect Black females to the principles of Unity, Honor and Integrity, while establishing a progressive solution oriented and holistically powerful nation-building apparatus,” explains Sis. Phile.
“Its original theme of Repentance, Resurrection and Restoration remains a major part of the movements foundation and mission along with numerous platform issues, that specifically affect Black females, but many that also impact the Black family and community at large.”
Ten years later, the Movement has expanded into two fronts: One that focuses on the work of Black women in Philadelphia and the other on taking the message to Black women in Africa.
“This weekend we are officially launching the International Million Woman March movement. We plan to do it in Liberia. We said we would go global and we are. We will be addressing the global issue of HIV and AIDS for women and girls. We want to be a watch dog over the drugs that come in,” said Sis. Phile.
In the heart of Philadelphia, the Sistas of the Million Woman March (MWM) are still working hard.
“We’ve had a lot of progress, but our problems haven’t ceased. With all the killing going on in our communities and will all of the health issues we face, we are focused on saving our babies and being supportive of our men,” Asia Coney told The Final Call. She was a co-chair of the march in 1997.
“We have a family affair going on now; 10,000 of our men are taking to the streets to bring peace,” she said.
This group received a resolution from the city council on Oct. 25 at a morning meeting.
“We’ve received a fantastic response from the community about our work. We’re having town meetings and organizing women around the key issues. We are offering women vouchers for mammograms. You can’t do anything unless you’re healthy and your mind is right,” Paula Pebbles, one of the five Sistas of the MWM, told The Final Call.
“I came back to the parkway to see the unity and to make a change,” said participant Sunny Craig to The Final Call. “Many of our causes are still the same. If it keeps falling, you have to keep building it back up. Sometimes you have to use new materials and new approaches to remodel.”
Mayor John F. Street came to the celebration and presented the group with a proclamation dedicating Oct. 25 as Million Woman March Day in Philadelphia.
“I’m so proud of the Sistas of the Million Woman March. They are serious about family, children, neighborhood and city. All the things we hold so dear, they’ve been in the struggle for a long time. They started doing this work when they were very young, and they’re not tired yet,” said Mayor Street.
“There are some things only a city can do for a community and there are some things only communities can do for themselves. I’m so proud of this community. I know how much you care and I’ve seen the constructive activity you’ve done over the years.”
“I was here 10 years ago,” Odessa Milton told The Final Call. “I marched with my husband [who] was living then. It was so wonderful. We enjoyed it. People came from as far as California to be here.
“I’m back 10 years later because we need this. I want to remember what we did in 1997. We need more peace in this city to prevent the violence.”