September 15, 1995
From Correspondent Brian Cabell
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- To critics, he's an anti-Semitic demagogue. To increasing numbers of supporters, he's a fresh and powerful voice for black America, a man who can draw several thousand African Americans wherever he appears. Now, Louis Farrakahn, the leader of the Nation of Islam, says he wants 1 million black men to march in Washington on October 16.
"We stand before the world to say to the world, the image you have of black men is not the image of who and what we are," Farrakahn said (116K aiff) or (116K wav) Friday during a speech in Washington, where he announced plans for the march. Farrakahn, with the aid of deposed NAACP leader Ben Chavis, is calling for black men to atone for their past sins and to assert their moral and political strength.
Chavis and Farrakahn have compared the so-called "Million Man March" to the 1963 march on Washington, which attracted 250,000 people.
The park service says for now, it's planning for 1 million demonstrators. "We have received that estimate from the organizers and we have to accept that at face value," said U.S. Park Police Capt. Tom Wilkins.
Farrakahn is promoting the march from coast to coast and is finding at least qualified support from those who have held him at arms length in the past. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he plans to attend, but there are still details to be worked out. Jackson wants assurances that the march will be ecumenical and have a broader political agenda.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery said his Southern Christian Leadership Conference is still deliberating over its participation in the march.
Farrakahn, for his part, has been mending his fences with the traditional civil rights community. He recently laid a wreath at Martin Luther King's tomb and spoke at a Baptist Church in Atlanta. Dexter King, Martin Luther King's son, said Farrakahn seems to be "reaching out to a broader constituency, so that's a positive sign."
It's so positive, that numerous black Christian leaders across the country have endorsed the march. The Rev. Gerald Durley of the Concerned Black Clergy is one of those leaders. "I'm here to state out position because the principles that are important to us are black men coming together around a common goal, bonding, where they can see us in a united front."
How many black men can Farrakahn and others mobilize on October 16? A million might be unrealistic, but a 100,000 or more seems possible. Those who can't make it, Farrakahn said, should stay home from work that day.
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