Herdosia Bentum arrived on the National Mall at 5 a.m. Saturday to help set up a table in preparation for the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March.
Bentum, of St. Louis, Missouri, was among hundreds of early-risers to participate in the event being lead by Minister Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan called for one million men to converge on the nation’s capitol 20 years on the theme of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.
Bentum said black women must now step-up to help black men.
“We see that our men are being killed rapidly, especially going through this jail pipeline. As women, we stand with the men on the front line in this struggle for equality,” Bentum, 35, said. “Until we really see true freedom, African women might have to lead this movement to have the power to govern ourselves.”
As the sun rose above the Capitol building, people slowly walked on the mall with folding chairs, blankets and cups of coffee and hot chocolate.
To help heat up the chilly morning air, members with Farafina Kan of Mt. Rainier, Md., drew a small crowd while playing percussion instruments resembling the sounds of Africa.
“This is just dope. I came down for the weekend from school to be a part of this,” said Kweku Sumbry, 18, who played the conga drum and studies performing arts at the New School, a liberal arts university in New York City. Sumbry’s father, Diallo, manages Farafina Kan.
Michael Anderson of Fort Washington, Md., stood along a pole near the Capitol Reflecting Pool soaking up the early morning atmosphere.
“I was here 20 years ago. The one thing I see different is more women are here,” he said. “That’s a good thing to support a cause that should be peaceful on a good day.”