by Abisayo Muhammad, @abisayo_o
On the 27th anniversary of the historic Million Man March, commemorations caused me to think about the continuing influence of this march and what it has produced.
As a result of the call from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, nearly two million Black men gathered in Washington, D.C., in front of the U.S. Capitol in 1995 for atonement, reconciliation and responsibility. It was on that day Min. Farrakhan declared October 16th as the annual holiday now known as the Holy Day of Atonement, recognized as a day to atone, and reflect on God, self and others.
Many “million-themed” marches would soon follow—attempting to garner a similar response—including the Million Woman March, Million Moms March, Million Youth March, and so on. Many of those marches reached a substantial level of success.
Under the guidance of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Min. Farrakhan called three more successful marches, the Million Family March in 2000, the Millions More Movement in 2005 and Justice or Else (10-10-15). They were all life-changing events, but it was the Million Family March that my husband Marcus Muhammad and I were blessed to work, attend and recite wedding vows given by Min. Farrakhan. So, five years after the initial Million Man March, I had the honor and privilege of being among 10,000 other couples who participated in blessing or renewing our marriages in front of the world.
It was exciting to travel to Washington, D.C., with my mother, sister and cousin while my husband’s father, stepmother and brother prepared to enjoy this unique occasion along with us. The Minister required every couple to have a marriage license prior to the event. So, though we had a wonderful, small ceremony prior to the march at Mosque Maryam in Chicago by our marriage counselor and officiator, Student Minister Amin Muhammad; every year in addition to celebrating the Holy Day of Atonement, we also honor this day as our official wedding anniversary.
Married couple Gregory and Sheryl Muhammad also remember the renewal of their vows on this special day. This couple celebrates 48 years of marriage and has a rich history in the Nation of Islam. Bro. Gregory Muhammad remembers that the march was a special day but says he could not have been there without acknowledging another impactful day back in 1972.
“We had no plans of getting married because we were just close friends and college classmates. I invited my friend Sheryl to the ‘Black Family Day’ celebration at Randall’s Island in New York. There we witnessed the beauty of a man who expressed the importance of family, the love, respect, and protection for the Black woman. That beautiful man was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. In fact, the speech was so invigorating that we were encouraged to get married seven months and one day later, on December 28, 1974,” he said.
The influence of Black Family Day led them to the Million Family March 26 years later. There, during the vows ceremony, the Minister shared with all couples about the faith necessary to endure the trials of marriage as we strive to keep our word to God and each other. Then each woman and man repeated vows he shared with one another.
“The words in the vows the audience was requested to repeat gave us a true meaning of marriage. It was also a blessing to be embraced by the true spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood,” said Bro. Gregory Muhammad. Today Brother Gregory and his wife recognize the Million Family March as a renewal of their faith and belief in Allah (God).
Another important result of the Million Family March was the development of The National Agenda: Public Policy Issues, Analyses and Programmatic Plan of Action 2000-2008. Min. Farrakhan commissioned several scholars and organizers to draft the document. The book was developed as a guide on how to successfully move forward after the gathering by various scholars, including the National Director of both the Million Man March and Million Family March, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and his wife Cora Masters Berry and others.
The book is a guide of what the future will hold if we follow the directions so carefully constructed by those scholars. Min. Farrakhan states in the foreword, “At some point, if the American people are not awakened they will wake up to find themselves under authoritarian, dictatorial rule masquerading itself as a democracy. Therefore, an agenda that comes from the people that is in the best interest of the people must be crafted so that the people are empowered to take the country back from the greedy merchants of death who now hold sway over the American government and its people.”
National Deputy Director of all four marches, Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, who also served on the Drafting Committee of The National Agenda, shared her memories of the Million Family March. “Primarily, the Million Family March was a symbol of unity for man and mankind. To come together, unite and build as a community, Black, White, Hispanics, Native American, Asian, everyone from all over,” she said.
The Million Family March also represented the human family who was present to answer the call of Min. Farrakhan. This showed the world how humanity can exist and unify based on principles of truth under God. The Minister also explained to attendees the importance of making a demand on us to improve ourselves. He also encouraged us to mobilize politically and revamp education.
“Oh Brothers and Sisters, look how beautiful you look! When you leave here today, on your way back home, think about family, act like family. And when you see other members of the human family, on the road, be kind, be courteous, be respectful and let’s see if we can show the world what The Kingdom of God looks like when human beings act like we are supposed to act, as those created in the image and likeness of God,” Min. Farrakhan said.
Allah (God) has shown us the blueprint of what the new world looks like through the direction of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the example of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. It’s up to us to work hard to follow it. Long live the spirit of the Million Family March!
Sister Abisayo Muhammad, a former Final Call staffer, is an entrepreneur, a mother and first lady of Benton Harbor, Mich. Sister Space is devoted to amplifying the voices of women as well as telling their stories and highlighting their accomplishments.