By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
DETROIT–Alverda Muhammad, a Nation of Islam pioneer from Muhammad Mosque No. 4 in Washington, D.C., facilitated a riveting dialogue with men and women who journeyed to the historic 1995 Million Man March called by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
They detailed how the march and subsequent commemorations, including the Million Family March and the Millions More Movement, have touched their lives.
Bert Dearing, owner of Bert’s Entertainment Complex, hosted the Muslims and their guests in his bistro on October 13. His grandfather and Minister Farrakhan were very good friends, he told the rapt audience. “The Million Man March to me was very, very important because I was able to take my father, my two sons,” Mr. Dearing stated. In fact, they took a whole busload of men to the march, he said.
“Just the bonding with my father and my two sons was more important than anything else, and then getting to Washington, D.C., on the bus, just talking or whatever, the energy, the power that you get being with Black folks, is something that you can never describe, but it’s once in a lifetime,” he said.
Malik Rahim took time off as an educator to attend the Million Man March. He drove with five others. People needed to hear Minister Farrakhan at that time, because the world and Blacks in particular were in a whirlwind, he said.
“We lost the structure of our families, but the speech that he gave … helping your community, just seeing all our people there, the brothers, some of the sisters, it was like a big family, like being at home,” said Mr. Rahim.
They returned home from the Million Man March with plans to develop a mentorship program for youth. “At that time our young people were into drugs, killing each other, getting expelled from school for 180 days, not going anywhere. They were just sitting at home,” said Mr. Rahim.The march participants worked and were effective in getting students facing drug charges authorization to still attend their special school, according to Mr. Rahim. “We taught them there, and they were able to pick up their grades. Those were the D and the E students, and they wound up being the B and the C students. Some were As,” he stated.
That expanded to developing family services, coaching and academic programs, such as hosting Black engineers to speak to youth.
Claudette Marie Muhammad, former national protocol director for Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, drew three rounds of rousing applause when she expressed many wonderful things resulting from the march that lifted women.
First of all, there was the Nation of Islam’s First Lady Mother Khadijah Farrakhan and her daughters, Maria, Betsy Jean, Donna, Fatima and Khallada, and the First Lady of Washington, D.C., Cora Masters Barry, who coordinated the registration committee for the march.
“We had Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, who was the mother of the Million Man March, and she did so much in bringing women all over the country,” Claudette Marie Muhammad stated. “Now, we didn’t come to the march per se, but the women did so much. Dr. Betty Shabazz, Dr. Maya Angelou and I’m so very proud to announce that Dr. Angelou did a poem with words added by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” she continued. Applause rang out again when she shared how her then 10-year-old granddaughter Tiffany recited the poem at the march.
Clarence Driver attended the march with a group called 40 Acres and a Mule, headed up by the late, great historian, scholar, author and comedian Dick Gregory. They were separated, more seasoned, adult men on one bus and youth on another, he said. He worked as a businessman at a factory, was separated from his wife, and raising two children and a grandbaby at the time Minister Farrakhan called for one million Black him to meet him in Washington, D.C. His life was pretty good.
“The most thing I remember is I was like 45 and there were two buses, and they kind of separated the young guys on one bus and the elders on another bus, because they were playing music and games and all kinds of stuff the whole way up there,” he recalled, smiling broadly the whole time.
He wanted to ride on Mr. Gregory’s bus and made his way during a bathroom break in the ride, he said. He was cleared to switch and that had a lasting impact on his life, he said.“I learned a lot about 40 Acres and A Mule, because I didn’t really know too much about it and everything, and how they were going there, and spoke to Congress; the meeting they were having with the president, the meeting they were having with Louis Farrakhan. I was able, since I switched buses, to slide in there and get to go to some of those little meetings and things, so it was a great experience for me,” Mr. Driver told The Final Call.
“It shows that there is a lot of unity if you want it to be, if you want to stick together. Being a child born in the ’60s and coming up, it meant a lot. Because today’s age, you don’t have a lot of being raised by the village as we were,” he said. “Everyone is more singled out than it was as a village, so being in an environment where everyone was one was great!”
He said Minister Farrakhan’s returning to Detroit was great, as it always has been. “It’s just a course. It’s what he does,” Mr. Driver said. “Just being a part of it. I was at the original, the 10 year anniversary. I’ve been at this one, so it’s just been a path since the first day.”
Paul Taylor of the Million Man March Alumni Association of Detroit shared how not only did the men who traveled with him to the march take the pledge issued by Minister Farrakhan, but they also pledged on the bus not to let what they experienced die.
The alumni have been actively involved in meetings and providing programs and services for 23 years, he said. “One of our projects that we pretty much promote all around town is that everywhere is the premise that if you want to help lead the people, you gotta help feed the people,” he stated.
They’ve developed a food co-op program that serves quality, fresh foods including fresh–not canned–fruits, vegetables and other items to the community.
“It’s been a mainstay of our program since 1995 when we came back from the Million Man March,” Mr. Taylor stated.
Before commenting on Minister Farrakhan’s return to Detroit or the first commemoration of the Million Man March in the historic city, Nation of Islam pioneer Cornelius Muhammad, remarked that he’s still in awe about the first Million Man March.
He was blessed to make the trip by bus from Detroit in 1995. “It was awesome the way that we were respected along the way! From the toll roads to rest centers, we were a force, he shared. “White people just stood back. They haven’t seen so many brothers, that looked so good and acted so good and just so respectful. That was quite an honor to be a part of the first Million Man March,” the farmer, also known as the “Messenger’s barber,” told The Final Call.
“The lasting effect is that we got to stick together. We have to work together, plan together, because together we stand. Divided we fall.”
The Million Man March lives on, he said, reiterating the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s teachings of unity.