Black ExperienceBlack HistoryHamil R. Harris

Organizers Reflect on 24th Anniversary of Million Man March

Two decades after more than one million men left the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol and returned home after making a pledge to be better husbands, fathers and community leaders, organizers of the Million Man March say it would be hard to duplicate an event like that again but nothing is impossible.

On October 16, 1995, America awoke to the sight of more than one million men filling the Mall in a warm sea of brotherhood that flowed from the steps of the U.S. Capitol to the grounds of the Washington Monument. Among them was Rev. Benjamin Chavis, the MMM National Chair, who said is was a day he will never forget.

“The spirit of the Million Man March is needed today, for not only Blacks but all people can learn from that event,” Chavis said in an interview with the Washington Informer. “We pledged to be better spiritually, economically, socially, culturally and socially.”

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan issued to the call for the Million Man March and the Holy Day of Atonement, which concluded with Farrakhan asking men to pledge to change their lives when they returned home.

In unison, the crowd said, “I (Say Your Name) PLEDGE that from this day forward I will strive to love my brother as I love myself. I (Say your name), from this day forward, will strive to improve myself spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically, and economically for the benefit of myself, my family, and my people. I (Say your name) pledge that I will strive to build business, build houses, build hospitals, build factories, and enter into international trade for the good of myself, my family, and my people.”

Even though he didn’t attend the march, on Tuesday, Professor William Clay, PhD., hosted a special program at Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, Maryland where educators, fathers and community leaders gathered to offer encouraging words to a library full of young men and teenagers.

“This event shows the importance of men coming together to enhance the social, emotional and academic development of our students,” said Clay, a guidance counselor at the school. “Today, across the board about 80 percent of the teachers are women and these young men need role models.”

Rev. Willie F. Wilson, pastor emeritus of the Union Temple Baptist Church in southeast Washington, who was the executive producer of the march, said, “The same issues that were the focus of the Million Man March in 1995 are the same today…that was a kairotic moment in history.”

Wilson said the event was special because so many leaders, male and female, came together. “Dr. Height called it operational unity. She taught me that you don’t have to agree on everything but find out what you do agree on and unify around that.”

Last month an artist unveiled a statue of Reverend Wilson as a warrior on a horse in that coincided with the 400 years of slavery. Wilson said that the Million Man March was special, but it would be hard to reproduce because so many people instrumental in organizing that event have died.

But on that he said, “God showed us that despite our differences we can come together.”
Special Correspondent Isaiah Harris contributed to this report.

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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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