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Black Brothers from the DMV Remember 1995: ‘We Were Part of History’

Local African American Men Share Memories of Million Man March, 25 Years Later

Chuck Hicks

“During the 1963 March on Washington, local Blacks were warned to stay away but we refused to do the same during the Million Man March. Black men came from everywhere because we understood that no matter where we lived, we were all facing the same challenges as Black men,” said Hicks, 75, whose father, Bob Hicks, was the founder for the local chapter of a group called The Deacons for Defense, who carried guns to protect their community and marchers from angry and often violent whites.

“Mayor Marion Barry, after hearing me talk about my father’s work and upon the advice of Ben Chavis, put me on the executive board for the March. I was then council president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees for D.C.’s government employees comprised of 22 locals representing 22,000 employees excluding police, firemen and teachers.”

“None of the major unions nationwide endorsed the March because Farrakhan and the Muslims were spearheading it. But because Chavis was in charge, our union chose to become the host union for union locals. Many locals who were predominantly Black came by the thousands from New York, Chicago, Detroit and California and it made a big difference.”

RELATED: Million Man March Director Ben Chavis Recalls Historic Event

“Black men identified that this was something for us. The important thing about the March was it brought one million Black men together without the help of whites. It made us feel like human beings, like men and good about ourselves. We got a lot of support from Black women who talked with pride about their men who attended. They stayed home so their men could have their day.”

“When I spoke at the March and saw military men, gay men, brothers in suits and college men, a wonderful feeling that came me – over everyone. It’s 25 years later but like that sign which was carried by sanitation workers in Memphis during their strike in 1968 which read, “I Am a Man,” Black men are still exclaiming the same thing – reminding one another, the nation and the world that we matter.”

MPD Officer Kevin Brittingham

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Kevin Brittingham, 51, arrived at work around 3 a.m. on the morning of the Million Man March.

“I just remember the atmosphere and a calming energy as hundreds of buses filled with Black men of all ages arrived and the love that was being spread. Now, 25 years later, I’m saddened about what has happened since that day. Minister Farrakhan got us to come together without incident. It was all about brotherly love. We need to recapture that spirit again.”

D.C. community organizer Scott Bishop

Scott Bishop, 72, worked with the D.C. Local Organizing Committee during the Million Man March. The father of three boys and two girls said he was still mobilizing people on the evening before the March.

“Marion Barry had us rounding up people and loading up buses for the March but by the time the sun had come up, folks were already coming into the city on their own buses. But the only way they could get downtown was by walking. It looked like two million people out there. The March changed my life and afterwards I opened a non-profit. It showed me that I could work in the Black community and gave me a sense of pride after seeing Blacks from all walks of life came to the event.”

Kyle McAfee

“There were hundreds of vendors at the Million Man March,” said McAfee, 66, from Temple Hills who was working as a T-shirt and button vendor and set up his merchandise outside of the Stadium-Armory Metro Station.

“It was worth it as hundreds of buses just kept coming. In my 40 years of vending and that includes big events like the Super Bowl, the Million Man March had the most people I have ever seen – it was the most prosperous event in my life. We sold out in record time and it looked like everyone was wearing something that we had provided.”

Alvin Thornton

In 1995, Prince George’s County Board of Education President Alvin Thornton had just become the chairman of the Political Science Department at Howard University and says the March was an unforgettable experience.

“I walked with a group of Howard students to the March and what you saw was an attempt to bring together Black men. It was a moment in the middle of the 1990’s that brought Black leaders together across the ideological divide so we could formulate an agenda to address the factors plaguing the Black male in America. After the March, the National Mall was spotless – not one piece of paper could be found. It showed me that Black male behavior and culture can be purified in our fight for social justice in a spirit of peace.”

The Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor, Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church

“More than 1,000 men from our church attended the Million Man March and it was a life-changing event. There no crime, in fact the crime rate went down. Gangs put aside their beefs. It impacted every aspect of their lives. It affirmed us as Black men and it was probably the most affirming moment in American history for Black men.”

“During the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, we hosted an ecumenical service with Minister Farrakhan and we were blessed as 600 Muslims and 1,000 Christians, men and women, came together in a sign of unity. Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley led the way. As for the first March, I don’t think that we will ever the likes of it again – one of the largest events in history and it was just Black men – all on one accord.”

Hamil R. Harris

“It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since that cool, October morning when I arrived and stood on the press risers at the U.S. Capitol. The sun rose over the National Mall as if God had pulled back the curtain and showed a warm sea of African-American men in a light brighter than we’d ever been portrayed on television, in the movies or on the nightly news. There was no need for the police or the secret service. The FOI (Fruit of Islam) were patting down everything moving while the women dressed like nuns and called the Vanguard were moving to their assigned places.”

“The managing editor of The Washington Post, Len Downie, said he didn’t think there’d be more than 200,000 people – the mark set during the 1963 March on Washington – but after writing stories for months leading up to the event, I knew better. Yes, there were a million men on the Mall that day. As legions of African-American men continued to arrive on a sea of endless buses, I called Downie and said, ‘Come see this for yourself,’ which he did. Black men from D.C. and from all over America marched across bridges, walked down city streets, came in cars, some even got here by boat and all I remember is my face swelling up with tears as a wave of emotions swept through me.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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