October 17, 1995
Web posted at: 6:50 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Paul Vercammen
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Show business celebrities were among the hundreds of thousands of participants in Monday's Million Man March.
Stevie Wonder led a chorus of African-American male voices, singing out for unity. "It's bigger than any one man, it's part of God's plan," said Wonder.
The celebrities on hand joined in a call for black men to atone for destructive behavior and control their own destinies. "It's mind boggling. I'm just so glad my three sons are here to share this because it's almost something you can't describe. If you are not here, there is no English language, no nothing language that can tell you about this," said comedian Dick Gregory.
"My personal agenda is to wage war on illiteracy. Our inner cities are ridden with illiteracy, as a result of that we have crime, we have disease, we have drugs, we have murders," said singer Isaac Hayes.
The rally's key figure, controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, has been called an unrepentant bigot by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and criticized by some in the black community.
But one record company executive said Farrakhan should receive credit because he brought so many African-American men together. "I give credit to Louis Farrakhan. He did call this march, despite whatever the press wants to say...but it signals for Clarence Avant that it's now time for black Americans to learn how to count... when you learn how to count, you learn how much power you've got," said Clarence Avant, Chairman of Motown Records.
While the turnout from the entertainment industry was not overwhelming, some performers, such as comedian Eddie Murphy, expressed through their publicists they could not attend because of scheduling conflicts.
The rapper Hammer stressed celebrity status is secondary. "I'm here as a man who has seen the conditions up close, who has around the world. Has dined with royalty and seen the world from a different perspective and I'm saying yes and it's very true that we need to unite and step forward and say we are going to make a change in our community and that's why I'm here," said Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Burrell.
Maya Angelou was one of the few women at the rally that was aimed at black men. Angelou addressed the black community as a whole in her speech. "We have been a people in pain but we will rise," said Angelou.
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