African-Americans rally for self help in Washington
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Thousands of African-Americans
rallied on the National Mall on Saturday to commemorate the
tenth anniversary of the Million Man March and kick off a new
effort to mobilize help for each other.
This year’s march, known as the “Millions More Movement,”
was a stark contrast to 1995, when only black men were invited
to participate to promote black self-reliance and
responsibility. On Saturday, women and other minorities were
invited, attended and spoke to the crowd.
“For a few years it was good for the men to come out for
themselves — to atone — but now we need to come together,”
said Jamillia Lawrence, 35, of Atlantic City.
“This march, particularly, it was for families. It just
came from a need. This is what the need is, to have more unity
in our families,” she said, citing gang violence and black
children going astray, with no structure in their families.
Outspoken and controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis
Farrakhan, who organized the 1995 event and has also been
dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, was supposed to address
the crowd but was more than an hour late to appear on stage.
“We must begin to work together to lift our people out of
the miserable and wretched condition in which we find
ourselves,” he said in a statement ahead of the rally.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, a former Democratic presidential
candidate, on Saturday called for a change in course away from
violence and for millions to fight against poverty, illiteracy
and the kind of suffering that befell the poor in New Orleans
after Hurricane Katrina.
“Don’t imitate the violence, racism, anti-Semitism,
anti-Arabism, gay bashing,” he told the crowd. “We need …
millions more to build a multi-racial coalition, we need not
battle alone to fight poverty and greed and war.”
The event appeared smaller than the Million Man March, with
crowds dispersed between the U.S. Capitol steps across to the
grassy Mall. A decade ago hundreds of thousands stretched from
the Capitol to the Washington Monument, although just how many
actually attended that rally remains in dispute.
There has been renewed attention on race relations in
recent weeks, after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New
Orleans and devastated the lower Ninth Ward, which was largely
populated by blacks and the impoverished.
“We saw Katrina coming,” Jackson said, blaming a barge that
should not have been there for breaching the levees that
flooded the Ninth Ward. “We’re not victims, we’re survivors,”
Crowds walked down a closed section of Constitution Avenue,
where vendors hawked everything from CDs to meat pies, T-shirts
and nail polish. Many wore T-shirts reading “I’m One in a
The event also included musical performances, including one
by hip-hop performer Wyclef Jean, who called on participants to
“stand up” and call for U.S. troops to come home. The money
spent on the Iraq war should, he said, go to feed the poor.