October 16, 1995
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Bob Franken
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hundreds of thousands of African- American men came to the Washington mall -- some searching for meaning, some to make personal statements. There may have been as many messages as there were participants. Self-help and self-respect were constant themes but it was the man who conceived the march, Louis Farrakhan, whose words electrified the crowd. "God called us here to this place at this time for a very specific reason and now I want to say my brothers, this is a very pregnant moment, pregnant with the promise of tremendous change in our status in America and in the world," Farrakhan said to the marchers ( 203K AIFF sound or 203K WAV sound).
Earlier statements by Farrakhan calling some Jews and others "financial bloodsuckers" attracted much negative publicity in the days prior to the march. But entertainer Stevie Wonder spoke Monday of the common suffering of Jews and blacks. "We cannot act as if we don't hear nor see. Like in the holocaust of six million Jews, and 150 million blacks during slavery. All for one, one for all," said Wonder to the massive crowd.
The rank and file of marchers explained why they felt the need to be in this place at this time. "Minister Farrakhan has some very strong viewpoints on certain issues. We may not agree with everything, but we thought this was larger than just Minister Farrakhan," said one marcher.
"This is not just for today, this is a beginning. Keep carrying on. All the genocides, drugs in our neighborhoods. This is powerful, black men together, and I love it," said another man.
One of the purposes of the march was to raise the consciousness of black men and it was a stirring site to see hundreds of thousands of donated dollars being held overhead, a tangible symbol of change. "This is money that the crack man will never get," said supporters passing a collection box. "You purveyors of death, you'll never get these dollars, but we will use these dollars to build a life for ourselves and our progeny."
More poignant moments were seen during the day. The voices of young people calling for the changes they desire to insure their future. "Your sons and daughters will no longer need to belong to gangs because they do belong. Our youth will no longer be seeking drugs as an escape because there will be outlets in our society to develop themselves," said Ayene Baptiste ( 152K AIFF sound or 152K WAV sound).
Authorities worried about the logistics of handling up to a million marchers. But these men were focused. Trouble and violence were not on their agenda.
The marching orders at the end of the march were "go back home". What happens back home will determine whether this massive event had a lasting effect, or was just an emotional celebration that lasted no more than one day.
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