This year marks the 26th anniversary of the historic Million Man March, which drew nearly two million Black men to the Nation’s Capital for a day devoted to Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility. It was unlike any other day in the history of this country and said something about the time in which we live and the times coming ahead.
Predictably, there has been a purposeful effort to recast, reduce and erase the Million Man March and the man through whom the call for the March came, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, out of history. This is important far beyond any vain taking of personal credit, but how can you deny the one and lie on the one through whom the vision came and main person who worked to make it successful? Is it right to lie and claim credit for that which you did not do?
The March was opposed, derided, mocked, blocked, condemned and called impossible from its inception. One newspaper article in 1995 noted that for one million Black men to be in the same place at the same time, one in every eleven Black men in America would have to be present. Jewish organizations condemned the March plans and politicians, major Black pastors, civil rights organizations, women’s groups and “respectable negroes” sharpened their knives and gleefully joined in the attack.
Negative media reports hammered away at the idea and the man who brought forth a beautiful call that was felt by millions. When it became apparent that the March might be successful, the call to “separate the message from the messenger” went forward. How can you separate a call that galvanized men and women and reached into the souls of Black folk from the one who put forth the call?
It was a divine and inspired call, but it came through a man that Black America loved and trusted. Even if you did not like Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, you could be sure no one was pulling his strings. And with the thousands that flocked to see him in venues across the country despite lies, condemnation, government surveillance, infiltrators and outraged White people, there was something about this special spokesman whose words found a place in the hearts and minds of Black folk.
The October 16, 1995 Million Man March followed the unceremonial and shameful disinvite of the Minister from the 1993 commemoration of the March on Washington. Following that debacle, Black leaders and politicians pledged at a Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference that they would no longer be divided and would have no outside permanent friends, just permanent interests. The words were strong but they didn’t last long.
So during a speech in New York one fateful night, the Minister spoke words saying he would like to take a million men to Washington, D.C. There was no money, no polling, no research, no plan, no organization, no media campaign. There was only an inspired word—and that inspired word followed by hard work and action was all it took. So the Believers, Muslim, Christian, Nationalists, and others went to work.
The Black Press went to work. The small pastors, filled with commitment and spirit, went to work. Activists went to work. Ordinary men went to work planning and organizing themselves to be present. Black women went to work and inspired the men in their life and their sons and nephews to seize this time. And God Himself went to work culminating in an incredible victory 26 years ago.
“No nation has assembled this number of men to make Atonement to God, to others we may have offended, to reconcile differences in our families, differences in our communities and to accept responsibility for our actions that have sown division, hurt and pain among us,” Minister Farrakhan wrote last year as we marked the 25th anniversary of the Million Man March.
He continued: “October 16 was the beginning of a process of healing. The day represented a high point in our development achieved through the Guidance of God and the fellowship of men and women, brothers and sisters from many different walks of life. We came with different ideologies, religious beliefs, and political aspirations,” he said.
“Men at the March took a pledge to be better fathers, better men, community and world builders, respecters and protectors of their women and children and non-violent with one another, except in self-defense. We registered people to vote and studies found an additional 1.7 million Black men participated in 1996 national elections and decided the outcome of that election.
They were motivated and inspired by the Million Man March. Black organizations, churches, mosques and synagogues increased membership as I asked the men to go home and join an organization involved in our struggle and a house of worship of their choice. I thought for the whole, acted for the whole of our people and everyone benefitted.
“In my suite, I was asked by the bishop of the AME Church whether I was going to proselytize my faith. I gave that bishop my word that every church would benefit, every mosque would benefit, every organization would benefit. SCLC had to hire staff because of the increased number of people joining. But the SCLC, the NAACP, the National Urban League, the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, the Nation of Islam and the World Community of Al-Islam under Imam W.D. Muhammad and other groups benefitted.
“Though it was a gathering of men, never has an event taken place that honored women as women were honored on the day of the Million Man March. Look at those women that were on the rostrum. Look at those women who spoke. Look at the woman who was the mother of that March, Dr. Dorothy Height, a legendary leader in the civil rights struggle. Mrs. Rosa Parks, Dr. Betty Shabazz and daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, humanist and poet Maya Angelou, Cora Masters Barry, Atty.
E. Faye Williams, Mother Khadijah Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, wife of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Mrs. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rev. Barbara Skinner, C. Delores Tucker, Black nationalist matriarch Queen Mother Moore and Dr. Delois Blakeley and then 10-year-old Tiffany Mayo participated or spoke at the Million Man March. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Rep. Cardiss Collins, and Rep. Barbara Rose Collins were among political leaders at the March.”
In the Holy Qur’an, the book of scripture of the Muslims, Allah (God) promises to perfect His light though the polytheists are averse. Allah (God) perfects His spiritual light when working through special men that do extraordinary work in His name and by His power and permission. Can there be any doubt that God worked through Min. Farrakhan for the success of this day and the subsequent gatherings that have kept us on the path to true freedom, justice and equality?
So to deny the man, to reject his message, to discard his guidance is to disavow the blessings of God Himself. Take it or let it alone. But today we celebrate one of the miracles of the 20th century and sign of the deliverance of us as a people. Hold on to the March, the Man and the Message; in it is your and my salvation and success.
—Naba’a Muhammad, editor in chief, The Final Call