WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – For the third year in a row the Peaceoholics organized a month of atonement activities in celebration of the Million Man March with a March for Unity through the main street of the poorest community in the nation’s capital.
It was a gathering with a message for youth, many of whom were only toddlers or preschoolers when more than a million men gathered on the mall October 16, 1995.
The march concluded at the Union Temple Baptist Church parking lot where a rally featured the Rev. Willie Wilson and Dr. E. Faye Williams, who were co-chairs for the Million Man March, and social activist and satirist Dick Gregory.
“It was 13 years ago that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called us together for a celebration of our unity. Thirteen years later we are seeing the fruits of that labor,” said Dr. Williams, who is president of the National Political Congress of Black Women.
“The new cool for men is Barack Obama and the new cool for women is Michelle Obama. We will be celebrating our unity January 20, when we can say, ‘Yes we can!’ ” said Rev. Wilson, pastor of Union Temple. He told the crowd about meetings at his church in preparation for the men’s march.
“For 24 hours, for the final three days leading up to the Million Man March, we developed the program bringing together leaders from around the country. At 5 a.m. on the day of the march we got word that there were over 300,000 Black men already on the mall,” he recalled.
“By the time we got there, there were well over 1.5 million men there. Why did God bless us like that? To create a new energy in our community! Promote life so together in our unity we can make a difference and we can be the difference. Keep the spirit of love alive!” he urged the crowd.
Make a difference, be the difference
The year was 1995 and Ronald Moten was returning to his community after incarceration. He got involved with the District’s Local Organizing Committee and began to work on the Million Man March. He was a vibrant and energetic 25-year-old looking to make a difference.
While organizing youth for the Million Man March, he met Jaguar Abraham and together they founded the Peaceoholics, people addicted to peace.
“All of this started with me organizing for the Million Man March,” Mr. Moten told The Final Call. “This work is about teaching the children about their power. For many, they think their power is with a gun. Many feel hopeless so they use drugs and do things to raise their self esteem. This is about giving them hope and power.
“Look at our Street Commission. We take young men who are part of the problem and give them a blueprint for success so they can go back to their neighborhood and teach the young people that follow them. We have to take these leaders and show them how to be successful so they can make change.”
A rally for unity and change
Muhammad Mosque No. 4 assistant student minister Rory Muhammad told the rally attendees that on October 16, 1995 there was no division among Black men.
“There were no fights, no arrests, and no violence. There was nothing but love, nothing but peace. Bloods and Crips were hugging that day,” he said.
But it was the words of Dick Gregory that brought a hush over the crowd and had them listening intently. “We got no help from NBC, CBS or ABC that day yet all the hotels were full for a 100 mile radius. Only two people were arrested that day and one was a White boy who called in a bomb threat and was stupid enough to stay on the line until they came and arrested him. The other was a Korean who was selling hot dogs without a permit,” said Mr. Gregory.
“Nobody will tell you but the planet hasn’t been the same. Obama didn’t just happen. The seeds were planted. But look at what we do. Parents take their children to Disneyland to see a rat, but they couldn’t have been able to do that without the work of Dr. King. We don’t even take our children to see his grave. We have to remember where we came from,” he said.
The crowd was full of students from Frank W. Ballou and Paul Lawrence Dunbar high schools who had marching bands in the parade.
“The Peaceoholics are making a difference in our lives,” said Ashley Roberts, a student at Ballou. “I’m in the Saving Our Sisters program and I’m learning how to be a young lady. You can learn more in this program than you can in the D.C. public schools. It’s about more than just squashing beefs.
“It’s about giving young people the strength to stand up and say I’m not participating in any more street beefs. We can make a change and we can bring peace to our community,” she said.
“I was right there in the midst of it all,” said Henry Logan, recalling that crisp October day on the National Mall. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, all those brothers together. I’m not a Muslim, I go to church but that Min. Farrakhan did a hell of a job getting us all together. We need that unity today.”
The Peaceoholics partnered with various city organizations such as the Roving Leaders, the Nation of Islam and the Washington Informer newspaper to put the word about their month of atonement.
It started with a kickoff press conference and included voter registration drives and a community basketball game. It will end with an ex-offenders week, a reviving fatherhood forum and a rally against police brutality.